Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

An ’80s sitcom, a striking new album, and some charitable peanut butter

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Newhart, season three
If you’re at all a fan of multi-camera sitcoms and/or the retooling of shows that don’t quite work, then the third season of Newhart, newly available on DVD from Shout! Factory, is a must-buy, if only to see one of the best possible defenses of both concepts. In its first two seasons, Newhart, Bob Newhart’s ’80s sitcom (or, alternately, the one where he runs an inn), didn’t really work, but producers undertook a frantic and thorough retooling process, and by the time season three rolled around, the series had reimagined itself as a show about a bunch of small-town lunatics and the married couple that waited uneasily for everybody to get their shit together. Newhart is the rare show where it’s possible to argue that each season is better than the one that preceded it, but season three is the first where the show as it was best known—and at its best—first took form. Peter Scolari joins the regular cast as über-yuppie Michael, and woodsmen Larry, Darryl, and Darryl are promoted to regulars as well. It’s a finely tuned sitcom machine—it just took two seasons to get there. [Todd VanDerWerff]


Good Spread peanut butter
For the past couple months I’ve been participating in an inner-office sandwich club, and though it started with the intention of making deli-quality sandwiches in-house, it quickly devolved into us hastily putting together peanut butter and jelly sandwiches several times a week. The unending flow of PB&Js has proven cost-effective, and with a few different jams and jellies subbed in and out, it’s allowed for variety even when its elemental core remains the same. Recently, The A.V. Club’s associate editor Marah Eakin placed a call on Twitter for products to be submitted for Taste Test, and one of the results was the folks at Good Spread sending us some of their all-natural peanut butter. Though I maintain my allegiance to a chunky spread, the Good Spread’s creamy concoction fits right in to the tastes of the sandwich club members. Good Spread’s peanut butter is infused with organic honey, giving it a sweeter taste when consumed on its own, but it’s never saccharine. The added plus of Good Spread is that for every jar purchased, the company sends an equivalent amount of therapeutic food to malnourished children the world over, and at $5 a jar Good Spread is a worthy competitor to other all-natural peanut butters, only with the added social-consciousness you just can’t find at the Wal-Mart around the corner. [David Anthony]

White Hinterland, Baby
White Hinterland—the name under which singer-songwriter Casey Dienel has recorded and performed for nearly a decade—hung at the periphery of my musical tastes for years. I vaguely recall seeing Dienel play a solo set at SXSW in 2008; after I spent most of the following year wrapped up in the dizzying highs of St. Vincent’s Actor and Dirty Projectors’ Bitte Orca, I remember reading that White Hinterland’s 2010 effort Kairos would be an appropriate comedown. And yet I didn’t follow up on any of that until Dienel’s latest LP, Baby, started causing rumbles at the beginning of April. I’m glad I finally did: Four years in the making, Baby is a spellbinding, rhythm-first listen, combining the mutant R&B of Bitte Orca with the choral lushness of one of my 2013 favorites, Julianna Barwick’s Nepenthe. I’ve written elsewhere that Baby is the follow-up I wanted from Dirty Projectors’ Swing Lo Magellan, but that’s underselling Dienel’s DIY approach here, which found her forging her own dusky, glitchy path in a basement studio. Her production techniques strike some great bump-in-the-night notes on Baby’s 10 tracks (see: the digitally scarred Fiona Apple-Jon Brion throwback intro to “Sickle No Sword”), but the record never strays to far to the voice-and-piano spine of White Hinterland’s sound. “Ring The Bell” is the type of song I can see soundtracking many humid nights this summer—though part of me wants to see what unpredictably catchy directions Dienel heads in if I forget to listen to her for another six years. [Erik Adams]