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

Larry Fessenden’s podcast, a celebration of Spy Vs. Spy, and holiday ice cream

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Jeni’s Splendid Holiday collection

We’re all big fans of Jeni’s ice cream here at The A.V. Club, and we’re honestly not just saying that because sometimes they send us coupons for free scoops. It’s just the best ice cream, straight up, all smooth and creamy, and laden with local produce and bad-for-us fats. But Jeni Britton Bauer has really outdone herself with her new holiday line of flavors, which includes stunners like Churro, Dark Chocolate Peppermint, and Sweet Corn Spoon Bread. While with other ice cream companies you’d hear “Churro ice cream” and think “oh, that’s just cinnamon-sugar flavored,” Jeni’s has somehow managed to take it far beyond just that, packing the ice cream with bits of pastry that somehow still manage to hold their crunch. Dark Chocolate Peppermint is the dairy equivalent of a York Peppermint Pattie, all bracing and mentholated, and Sweet Corn Spoon Bread is like eating—well, it’s like eating really good cornbread, but it takes on whole new levels when paired with other flavors like a strawberry sundae sauce or some Brambleberry Crisp ice cream. Other options include Sweet Potato Pecan Praline and Buttercup Pumpkin With Amaretti Cookies, both of which are just as decadent and delicious as they sound. Take some home to your family this holiday—or order it online. At $12 a pint, it’s not cheap, but it’s worth it. Your family will still be talking about it next Christmas. [Marah Eakin]


Tales From Beyond The Pale

Larry Fessenden lives and breathes horror. Besides writing and directing a box-set worth of his own indie scare fare, he’s also acted in any number of fright flicks, mentored young horror mavericks like Jim Mickle and Ti West, and worked on the screenplay for this year’s slasher-movie-inspired video game, Until Dawn. One of his most interesting contributions to the genre, however, is the horror podcast Tales From Beyond The Pale, whose third season premiered on Black Friday. Produced and developed by Fessenden with regular collaborator Glenn McQuaid, the series resurrects the radio drama of early last century: Each episode is a one-act horror play, gamely performed by voice talent both recognizable and not, and written/directed by various artists of the genre, with Fessenden dropping in before and after to play old-school host. The content varies in quality, but especially in tone: Some episodes aspire to the creaky theatrical style of an old Boris Karloff segment, while others are distinctly modern in adult subject matter and language. What links them all, beyond uniformly excellent sound design, is an earnest interest in using pure audio techniques—foley effects, dialogue, creepy music—to elicit unease and create a whole world within listeners’ ears. The best of the bunch, such as season one’s unnerving surgery story “The Conformation,” serve as good reminders that what you can hear and imagine is sometimes much scarier than what you can see. It’s not surprising that Fessenden, a one-man champion of all things frightening, would understand that better than most. [A.A. Dowd]

Spy Vs. Spy: An Explosive Celebration

The playfully nihilistic hijinks of Mad’s Spy Vs. Spy comic strips—150 of which are collected in this new compendium—were borne from the Cold War, but they exist in a world independent of politics. The loyalties of White Spy and Black Spy are irrelevant (if they even have motivations beyond mayhem) as the cartoons are less Ian Fleming than John Le Carré. The strips’ real focus is the inherent madness of a profession, spycraft, that is founded on paranoia. But where Le Carré’s stories are tales of nuanced psychological warfare, Spy Vs. Spy creator Antonio Prohias built a world of circuitous yet elegant cartoon violence, where every apparent victory is merely the prelude to a zany defeat. Black may defuse White’s bomb, but then White climbs out of a hidden compartment to clobber Black with a knobby club, the spies’ blunt-trauma weapon of choice. Spy Vs. Spy: An Explosive Celebration distinguishes itself from past Spy Vs. Spy collections with colorized versions of old strips that manage to enhance the action without muddying Prohias’ clean and energetic linework. A couple dozen entries from current Spy Vs. Spy artist Peter Kuper are included, too, plus “posters” by other cartoonists and an illustrated introduction by Mad mainstay Sergio Aragonés. [John Teti]