(Re)discover the best of The A.V. Club with our 2012 highlight reel
To everything (turn, turn, turn) there is a season (turn, turn, turn), and an A.V. Club article to match. The world of pop culture had some fine times in 2012, and we enjoyed sharing our opinions with all of you, and listening to your opinions in turn. Because we tend to publish a lot of stories, things can get lost in the shuffle, especially for more casual readers. So in the interest of extending the life span of some of these pieces, here’s a totally subjective link-orgy of things we wrote about in 2012, many self-selected by the authors as their personal favorites.
Our Random Roles feature, in which an actor flips through his or her career like so many playing cards, stopping to offer anecdotes about each, found pockets of gold once again: Kelly Lynch told Will Harris an amazing story about Bill Murray telephone-harassing her husband that got picked up all over the world. In other Random Roles, Steve Heisler spoke with the always-charming Mel Brooks about his technique for playing Hitler, and Nathan Rabin talked to A.V. Club pal Patton Oswalt about giving life advice to Dane Cook. Also: Lily Tomlin, Brooke Shields, LeVar Burton, and so many, many more.
Nathan Rabin’s My World Of Flops continued its dramatic dissection of failure, culminating in a lonely day spent watching one of the biggest bombs of all time, The Oogieloves In The Big Balloon Adventure. The Flops also visited with some lowlights from the history of Saturday Night Live and good ol’ Britney Spears. Nathan also launched a new feature called Money Matters, in which he speaks to comedians and actors about that most taboo of subjects: cash. Paul Gilmartin was a particularly illuminating interview. And then there was the sex-filled book that was on everyone’s mind this year: Peter Criss—a.k.a. “Catman” from KISS—wrote a tell-all, and Nathan read it for us. All was not schadenfreude for Mr. Rabin, though: He also visited the Gathering Of The Juggalos and reported back.
Meanwhile, TV Club captain Todd VanDerWerff launched a new feature called Nerd Curious, in which he explores the even-nerdier things in life: His deep dive into Dungeons & Dragons was especially illuminating. Todd also rankled plenty of commenters with his For Our Consideration piece on the excellent Girls; he hopes to make people angry all over again by linking to it here. (Did I make you mad by calling the show “excellent” just now? Good.) Elsewhere in the world of FOC, Jason Heller tackled both the controversial world of loving Lynyrd Skynyrd and the not-controversial world of appreciating Ray Bradbury.
Jason also wrote a Memory Wipe column about his days as a misguided straightedge kid and another about an altogether different subject, L. Ron Hubbard’s Battlefield Earth. In other Memory Wipes, Erik Adams looked at the sadistic Home Alone movies again and Steve Heisler revisited Magic: The Gathering as a grown-up nerd.
Over in Sean O’Neal’s magical world of Newswire, our very own Walter Winchell went ahead and wrote an Entourage movie script. He also wrote something about Terrence Malick and TMZ that you sort of need to read to comprehend, and even then you might have some trouble. Also: He took Cinemark to task for their dumb-ass texting policy, and wrote perhaps the greatest headline of the year, with “Concept of love dies as Amy Poehler and Will Arnett separate.” If you’re not reading Sean O’Neal every day, you’re not reading.
Noel Murray’s A Very Special Episode columns continued apace, with an excellent piece about Morton Downey, Jr. and another about the almost-unbelievable rape episode of Too Close For Comfort. Noel also welcomed you to the world of power-pop with an exhaustive Primer on the subject. In other Primers, Keith Phipps and John Semley examined the history of James Bond, while Jason Heller dove deep into prog-rock. Another: Steven Hyden and John Semley’s guide to Leonard Cohen.
Scott Tobias took the New Cult Canon out on the road for screenings of Black Christmas and Bad Santa, and he got to pal around with special guest Terry Zwigoff. In the column itself, he covered everything from Dazed And Confused to Cabin Boy to Memento.
In a new feature called TV Club 10, we look at 10 representative episodes of a particular show, from Kyle Ryan’s assessment of The Simpsons (you’ve heard of it, right?) to Todd VanDerWerff’s recent Buffy The Vampire Slayer piece. And we expanded our TV Roundtable discussion series to include all manner of TV episodes centered on specific themes; our series on adolescence led us to think about S-E-X along with Friday Night Lights, and the subject of competition outed all the secret Friends fanatics in our ranks. We also continued to lovingly dissect TV shows past and present with our in-depth showrunner interview series The Walkthrough, including Genevieve Koski’s massive five-part talk with Paul Fieg about one-season wonder Freaks And Geeks.
In the world of video, we brought you another season of Pop Pilgrims, our pop-culture travel show. The highlight of this season was probably our visit to the Houston-area high school where a good chunk of Wes Anderson’s classic Rushmore was filmed. We also dropped by the ranch where a different Anderson—Paul Thomas—shot There Will Be Blood.
Over in the Taste Test laboratories, we tried some weird powdered hamburgers from Japan and lived to tell the tale, and sought to determine whether that vilest of Halloween treats, the candy corn, could ruin our beloved Oreos.
For the third season of A.V. Undercover, we landed a ton of great names, including Young The Giant, who lovingly rendered R. Kelly’s “Ignition (Remix)”, and Punch Brothers, who brought the bluegrass to The Cars. And no one around here will soon forget the season-ending GWAR performance.
And of course we launched Parameter, a short-film competition that received so many great entries that we nearly got misty. The winner turned out to be the excellent “Ballad Of Oscar Homeslice.” But really, we were all winners.
And man, there’s so much more. But I’ve already given you a lot to click through, and there’s no way this thing will ever be complete. Apologies to both writers and readers if I left your favorite piece off—feel free to use the comments below to bring attention to other things. And please make use of the tiny “Feature Jump” button in the upper-right of nearly every page. It’ll lead you down various rabbit holes.
Finally: In last year’s Highlight Reel, we noted the insane ridiculousness of a Community piece that had a then-record 5,500 comments on it. You took that as a challenge, and the number of comments on the third-season finale now stands at 140,313. You are the wind beneath our wings. The crazy, crazy wind. Here’s to 2013.