Pop culture can move pretty damn fast—if you don’t stop by The A.V. Club every day, chances are good that you’ll miss something. Around this time of year, we slow down just a little bit and bask in some of the best stories we published. This is by no means a comprehensive list, and really, you owe it to yourself to just scroll back through every single piece of content from 2013. But if you don’t have time for that, here are some things we’d recommend you start with, in no particular order. (And yes, there’s a lot more than this—try the feature jump if you just want to bounce around.)
We launched a new feature called Expert Witness, in which we got inside information from a Price Is Right winner and a sign-language interpreter for concerts, among other people. Each had fascinating stories to tell, only one about Plinko.
We also continued the vaguely controversial HateSong feature, in which we ask some of our favorite people to put aside their niceness and detail why certain songs drive them crazy. Some picked obvious targets—like Brian Posehn, who already “felt like the fat girl at every party” before hearing Katy Perry’s “Firework”—and some attempted to slaughter more sacred cows, like Kumail Nanjiani, who hates the video for R.E.M.’s “Everybody Hurts” at least as much as he hates the song. Oderus Urungus of GWAR fumed over Billy Ocean…
And then, after the fuming, GWAR further destroyed the song by performing it—along with a surprise rendition of another song—for A.V. Undercover. Other highlights of this year’s Undercover series include The Melvins battling children at an ice cream truck, Wang Chung covering Modest Mouse, Basia Bulat bringing the mellow to Bruce Springsteen, and METZ covering The Damned.
In our other big video series of 2013—season three of Pop Pilgrims—we visited some places that were important to our pop-culture histories, including the house where The Replacements’ Let It Be cover photo was taken (with special guest Tommy Stinson!), various Back To The Future and Breaking Bad locations, the logging town where Twilight was made, and even the flower shop where Tommy Wiseau from The Room said hi to a doggie. Oh, and the Caddyshack golf course!
Speaking of Breaking Bad, you all read along with Donna Bowman’s fantastic reviews of the final season, creating a community that watched and commented with a passion and sincerity rarely seen on the Internet. (You fancy yourselves cynics, but we know that you have love to share.) You can re-read all of Donna’s pieces here, stretching all the way back to the first season.
In our infrequent but excellent Memory Wipe feature, Jason Heller wrote about the “sad, misogynistic fantasy of Xanth,” while Todd VanDerWerff went in the opposite direction with a heartfelt appreciation of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, perhaps the greatest television show ever made.
In our catch-all For Our Consideration feature, Heller wrote a personal essay about the importance of pop-culture mentors; John Teti—our new-ish Senior Editor, whose Gameological site is now part of The A.V. Club mothership—wrote about why network news is so bad at apologizing for itself; and Sean O’Neal considered the “buffoons, jerks, assholes, and rednecks” that defined comedy in 1993. O’Neal also wrote an excellent piece on David Bowie, the comeback kid of 2013. And in consideration of dead formats, we ran Heller’s piece on the vinyl revival, and David Anthony’s on the rise of cassette culture. And Todd looked at both sides of the “new golden age of TV” arguments.
We once again reached deep into Hollywood history for Random Roles, asking (mostly) character actors about some of their best and worst experiences: A non-traditional Random Roles with Tatiana Maslany. Donal Logue. Ron Perlman. Jonathan Frakes. Jon Cryer. Stacy Keach. Tom Sizemore. Mae Whitman. Eric Roberts. RuPaul! (And so many more.)
In more traditional interviews, we once again spoke to Bob Odenkirk and David Cross—still crushing on each other after all these years—and had great chats with Man Of Steel’s Michael Shannon, Game Of Thrones’ Jaime Lannister (yeah, he’s got a real name), and Shane Carruth of the inimitable Upstream Color. Aziz Ansari spoke very candidly to us about love and relationships, and we imagine some of those thoughts will make it into his upcoming book as well.
In Gateways To Geekery, we offered starting points for Frank Sinatra, Rush, and more; and Gateways’ older brother Primer took more in-depth looks at Belle And Sebastian, The Replacements, and comics legend Jack Kirby, among others.
And how has it taken this long to get around to the prolific, incisive hilarity of Newswire, ably spearheaded (and mostly written) by Sean O’Neal, who boils the joy and pain of pop culture into trenchant insights about the silliness of it all. He wrote you an Entourage script. He covered the correspondence from an angry man married to a My Little Pony character. And he wrote the smartest response on the entire Internet about Miley Cyrus and twerk-gate (“World stunned by girl in underwear at MTV Video Music Awards”), then let FCC complainers help him flesh the story out even further.
Over at Gameological—whose stories will be migrated over here at some point—John and his crew condemned the technological arms race that fuels the console industry, and pondered why there will never be a Roger Ebert of the video-gaming world. On a less serious note, Matt Kodner explored Chuck E. Cheese’s through his adult eyes.
In new series land, recent A.V. Club addition A.A. Dowd, who joined us as Film Editor in April, launched a pair of excellent features: Palme Thursday examines the big winners from Cannes, one at a time, while Run The Series digests entire franchises in one giant gulp. Jason Heller, meanwhile, is taking a close look at ’90s punk (and its offshoots) in Fear Of A Punk Decade. We also began the descent into Home Video Hell, which is a very deep place.
In the world of Inventory, we took stock of Oscar nominees who made weird TV guest appearances, TV shows that usurped their filmic inspirations, and product placement that probably wasn’t that welcome. We also examined TV characters that weren’t supposed to live, and TV characters that we can’t believe are still alive. That’s just the tip of a very deep Inventory iceberg, so feel free to go for a chilly swim.
Also: Game Of Thrones. Todd VanDerWerff once again guided the experts—those of you who’ve read the books—through the HBO series, while David Sims held the hands of the newbies. Tasha Robinson wrote an excellent essay on the dreaded Red Wedding, and to clear our palates from that horror, Marah Eakin reported on a Craigslist Casual Encounter request for a man who looks like Robb Stark.
Elsewhere on TV, recent full-time AVC addition Sonia Saraiya wrote this blistering takedown of the repellent Ready For Love, as well as a contemplative take on the divisive Here Comes Honey Boo Boo. Caroline Framke covered the Orphan Black finale. Brandon Nowalk represented our love for Enlightened. Carrie Raisler loved Switched At Birth’s “Uprising” episode, and Zack Handlen hated Netflix’s Hemlock Grove, calling it “wretched.” (Scott Von Doviak was not much fonder of the Under The Dome finale.) Ryan McGee examined the phenomenon of Scandal, comparing it to House Of Cards. Rowan Kaiser engaged with Babylon 5 on some kind of molecular level.
Other random things: Kyle Ryan wrote a great piece about a classic Bob Newhart album—and Newhart made Kyle’s day by sending him a handwritten note in response. We told you about the robot Twilight baby. We distilled a bunch of TV shows down to 10 episodes. Internet Eating Sensation Dave Chang returned.
And oh, there’s so much more. Why not just spend a few days starting with All Recent, and working your way back through it all? We’ll be shotgunning all the TV shows, movies, and books that we didn’t have time to partake of during the course of business, and thanking Santa Claus that we get to do this for a living. Oh, and thank you, sincerely, for continuing to visit—for making The A.V. Club something more than the sum of its stories. We’ll see you next year.