It’s the time of year to make a list of all the loved ones you need to buy presents for, then go about the arduous task of trying to figure out what they’ll like. The A.V. Club is here with good—nay, great—gifts for the pop culture lover in your life. We have books, comics, board games, movie and TV paraphernalia, and toys for kids and adults alike. There’s even two Twin Peaks items on our list! Even if you’re not a fan of David Lynch’s bizarre series, you’re sure to find something in our guide.
Why is it great? What better way to promote family bonding than with a board game where you can destroy another player with a flamethrower if you suspect them of being an alien? Based on John Carpenter’s 1982 snowbound horror classic, The Thing: Infection At Outpost 31 combines the team-based element of Pandemic with the deception of Werewolf, as players take on the personae of characters from the movie and team up for missions in which they try to escape the Outpost 31 of the title.
Throwing a wrench (or an axe or a petri dish) into the proceedings are the “Blood Sample” cards issued to each player, at least one of which informs that player that they’ve been infected with an alien virus. The game gets significantly harder as it goes along, and in a recent match, members of The A.V. Club staff were literally jumping out of their chairs and yelling at each other by the end, which is one way of saying that this game is really fun.
Cost: $48.45 for the standard edition [Katie Rife]
Why is it great? Fourteen years after the quick demise of beloved space Western Firefly, the inside jokes and iconic moments are still selling—this time, in the form of talking toy dinosaurs. Any Firefly fan worth their salt knows the scene from the original two-hour pilot in which Wash (Alan Tudyk) plays with a toy Stegosaurus and a theropod (variously identified as an Allosaurus, Tyrannosaurus, or Ceratosaurus). ThinkGeek has taken all of Wash’s dino dialogue and packaged it up into two talking toys that will, when you “firmly squeeze [their] underbelly,” re-create the scene from Firefly. For 30 bucks, it’s a pretty fun gift for your favorite sci-fi geek.
Cost: $29.99 [Laura M. Browning]
Why is it great? Anyone who watched this year’s Twin Peaks revival could tell you what a big part music played in the revitalized show. Each episode ended with a different woozy act rocking the Roadhouse, from Nine Inch Nails to Sharon Van Etten. Add those tracks to the show’s atmospheric Angelo Badalamenti score and Twin Peaks’ musical landscape is about as important to the show as Dougie’s complete lack of self-awareness. And while you can always revisit the series’ tunes by rewatching the episodes, you could also make it easy on yourself by picking up Rhino’s new Twin Peaks LPs.
The score mostly features tracks by Badalamenti, though there’s a David Lynch jam on there as well. The soundtrack, on the other hand, is a double LP packed with tunes from those who appeared on the show, like The Paris Sisters and the aforementioned Nine Inch Nails, and those who didn’t, like Otis Redding. There’s a Julee Cruise track on there, too, of course. It wouldn’t be a Twin Peaks soundtrack without one.
Cost: $15.99 for the score LP, $29.94 for Music From The Limited Event Series [Marah Eakin]
Why is it great? If you ever wish you could see the original Star Wars trilogy for the first time, look no further than its concept art. Ralph McQuarrie’s original designs for the series feature now-familiar elements like Darth Vader’s helmet, newly drawn with a sort of bug-eyed, alien menace. As great as those films look, McQuarrie’s artwork casts them in even more dramatic and colorful arrays. This set of 100 postcards gives anyone you send one to an instant, tiny wall-hanging of unimpeachable nerd cred, but less charitable parties might just keep the whole pack to themselves.
Cost: $24.99 [Clayton Purdom]
Why is it great? At this point, we’ve all seen enough commercials for smart speakers to have become convinced that, heck, we need one, too. And while Google Home Minis are $29 and Amazon’s slinging a whole range of Alexa products, if you want to get something that’s useful, well-designed, and sonically sound, you’re going to want to opt for the Sonos One. Sonos speakers sync with your phone to play music all over your house. Similarly, if you want to wake up in the morning, ask Alexa to report on the weather and then play your favorite podcast, and then move to the kitchen to make coffee, you can maintain your audio stream—provided there’s another Sonos in your kitchen.
It’s the lowish cost equivalent of having in-wall sound installed all over your home. You can adjust levels for each room, and when you install your Sonos, you’ll set the speaker’s perfect sound balance for where you put it in the room. It’s super dorky, but if you’re the kind of person who likes having a gadget to play around with at the holidays—and someone who’s interested in testing the powers of Alexa—then a Sonos One is a great option.
Cost: $199 [Marah Eakin]
Why is it great? This 3-D pen is the closest thing we have to a replicator right now, barring access to a government lab somewhere. With the 3Doodler’s kits and a steady hand, you can whip up a communicator or phaser (which you should immediately set to stun for safety purposes). It takes just a minute to warm up and powers down on its own after a short period of inactivity. And whether you give the Vulcan salute with your left or right hand, the 3Doodler has you covered.
Cost: $99.99 [Danette Chavez]
Why is it great? Because the 1977 blockbuster is still a high-water mark for director Steven Spielberg and for Hollywood sci-fi spectaculars in general—and because it should be enjoyed in the best format available. This deluxe Blu-ray edition contains all three versions of the movie (theatrical, Special Edition, and Director’s Cut), restored in 4K for the 40th anniversary. There are plenty of special features, including a couple of making-of documentaries and a glossy booklet of production stills, and those who still make the Spielberg awed face at gimmicky packaging will love the button that makes the box glow and emit that iconic alien lullaby.
Beyond the bells and whistles, though, the real gift here is still Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, whose otherworldly reds and blues probably haven’t shined this bright since the original theatrical run. It’s a movie so majestic you’ll want to abandon your family and fly off into outer space in a UFO built from its timeless pleasures.
Cost: $48.59 [A.A. Dowd]
Why is it great? Things get a bit more terrifying with the all-new second edition of Mansions Of Madness, the Lovecraftian horror board game for those of us who like some elder gods in our gaming. A big expansion from the first edition, this one features new monsters and upgrades of all kinds, as you navigate the streets of Innsmouth and the Arkham facilities as investigators doing your best to put a stop to evil. Best of all, no dungeon master needed: The accompanying app aids in setup, narrates the story, and provides the requisite creepy sounds as you fight for your (and other peoples’) lives. It’s a perfect night for anyone like us who enjoys vicariously living out creepy-crawly nightmares.
Cost: $99.95 [Alex McLevy]
Why is it great? From the moment it was announced, Santa’s Husband, a kids’ book about the two Mr. Clauses and their happy life at the North Pole, seemed designed to poke the “War On Christmas” set in the belly like so many bigoted Pillsbury Doughboys. And it succeeded spectacularly on that front, based on the frothing threats author Daniel Kibblesmith—a writer for The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, and, full disclosure, a former ClickHole co-worker—gleefully shares on Twitter.
But beyond just a winking act of self-conscious liberal propaganda, the book is also a sweet, child-friendly love story with a heartwarming message of acceptance that posits, “Maybe Santa Clauses can come in all shapes and colors and sizes, just like the families Santa Claus visits all over the world.” But we’re thoroughly in the pocket of George Soros, according to the people who hate this book, so don’t take our word for it.
Cost: $16.99 [Katie Rife]
Why is it great? Muscular, powerful, and confounding, Powdered Toast Man was Ren & Stimpy’s superhero of choice. Everyone wanted to know where they could get a pair of undershorts like his and just what gave him such a fine, powerful butt. We may never know, but at least we can celebrate his heroism this holiday season with this, our very own Powdered Toast Man action figure. Keep him in the box and put it on a shelf, or take him out to fly around. He’s majestic and sturdy, and his see-through blue gloves and boots are a nice touch.
Cost: $49.99 [Marah Eakin]
Why is it great? The Halloween Simpsons episodes are iconic, and now your nerdy desk can evoke that same sense of wonder at just how often Kang and Kodos show up. Blind-packaged to create that nerve-jangling sense of excitement or stress, depending on your constitution, each box contains 12 of the more instantly recognizable characters, from doughnut-head Homer to Vampire Mr. Burns. Live vicariously through a collection of 3-inch figurines, and feel free to shout “Woo-hoo!” or “D’oh!” following the opening of each individual character.
Cost: $11.99 [Alex McLevy]
Why is it great? Chris Ware is one of the great innovators of the comic book medium, and this gigantic art book chronicles his artistic development over the decades. The book’s ambition is as big as its dimensions, offering a deep dive into the cartoonist’s mind as it presents personal anecdotes that illuminate the works within.
Cost: $60 [Oliver Sava]
Why is it great? A comprehensive look at the expansive career of “Weird Al” Yankovic, Squeeze Box is the kind of box set that makes record collectors pee their pants a little. Each of Yankovic’s 14 records have been remastered, from his self-titled 1983 LP to 2014’s Mandatory Fun. (If you’re an LP person, it’s worth noting that this is the first time six of the records have been pressed on vinyl.) Equally impressive is Squeeze Box’s packaging, which is a charming replica of Yankovic’s signature accordion. There’s an album packed in each turn of the bellows, and a 100-page book full of previously unseen photos and memorabilia stuck to the back. It’s not the most practical box set, album-playability-wise, but for collectors and Yankovic enthusiasts, it’s a must-have.
Cost: $299.98 for CDs, $399.98 for LPs [Marah Eakin]
Why is it great? Patrick Rothfuss’ fantasy trilogy is going to be the next big thing, with its screen adaptations coming by way of Lin-Manuel Miranda. If you haven’t read the source material yet, you’d best start now before the slated films, TV show, and possible video games come and either blow us away or tank spectacularly. This 10th anniversary edition of The Name Of The Wind, the first in the series, is a beautiful object to contain one of this century’s best fantasy works.
Cost: $40 [Caitlin PenzeyMoog]
Why is it great? The designers at Dorothy specialize in richly detailed, elegantly illustrated prints, creating gorgeous maps and diagrams, but they’re at their best with their deeply nerdy pop culture infographics. The hip-hop blueprint is impressively comprehensive, with over 700 contributors to the culture dating back to Gil Scott-Heron and up through Chance The Rapper. The largely unimpeachable organization, smartly connecting region, era, and influence, doubles as a diagram of a turntable. Pair it with Dorothy’s similarly dense, well-curated histories of electronic and alternative music and you’ve got yourself a home office.
Cost: £35 (about $46.75) [Clayton Purdom]
Why is it great? Practically speaking, this 3-D puzzle of the famed Game Of Thrones citadel makes for a fun, engaging (read: time-consuming) family activity for the holidays. Forget caroling or baking—gather the kids to build a fortress to ward off the army of the dead instead. It’s also not nearly as messy as attempting to construct one from gingerbread. But most important, fans of the show will appreciate capturing the Iron Throne with no bloodshed (we hope).
Cost: $29.99 [Danette Chavez]
Why is it great? Several hundred entries into Funko’s signature line of caricatures, it’s not enough to simply render a beloved character in kawaii proportions and call it a day. The dwindling shelf space of the nation’s collectors demand detail, and like Little Nero’s, this Home Alone-inspired set delivers. Fast-forwarding to the holiday favorite’s booby-trap-laden climax, the Kevin, Harry, and Marv figures painstakingly replicate the tools and consequences of the young McCallister’s DIY home-security efforts. Kevin has a little iron, and there’s an iron print on mini-Daniel Stern’s face! And Harry’s torched scalp doesn’t just pay tribute to a classic slapstick gag—it also immortalizes one of the finest cinematic remixes in YouTube history.
Cost: $27.90 for the set, $10.97 individually [Erik Adams]
Why is it great? This new box set is for the Buffy fan whose media storage is disproportionate to their fandom. It’s a streamlined set, despite containing all 144 episodes on 39 discs. There’s cover art for each new season, which prominently features Sarah Michelle Gellar with one of the many dudes undeserving of her lurking in the background (talking about Angel and Spike here). It’s not entirely utilitarian, though—the embossing on the black, red, and silver foil means you can probably skip the gift wrap. Look, we can’t all save the world from vampires, so we might as well try to limit our carbon footprint.
Cost: $129.00 [Danette Chavez]
Why is it great? Although streaming services are designed to give you the illusion of endless choice, for cinephiles looking to watch something made before the Reagan administration, the options are limited, and getting more so all the time. Enter FilmStruck, the speciality streaming service that’s the independent video store to Netflix’s Blockbuster Video.
Like those ragtag retail operations of yore, FilmStruck is curated to offer customers the opportunity to take deep dives into genres, directors, and/or performers they might not know much about, backed by the Criterion Collection and Turner Classic Movies’ impressive catalogs. Current collections include “Jim Henson: Playing With Reality,” an assembly of the Muppets creator’s experimental work; a collection of Toshiro Mifune’s career-defining samurai films; and the wonderfully specific “How The Future Looked From The ’70s.”
Cost: $6.99/month for the basic tier, and $10.99/month for the premium tier, which includes the Criterion Collection. Through December 31, the company is offering a free Roku Express with the purchase of a $99 gift subscription, which is good for a year’s worth of the premium-tier subscription. [Katie Rife]
Why is it great? Everyone knows Clue. You’ve got Professor Plum, Colonel Mustard, the rope, the candlestick, the whole nine yards. And while that game is fun and everything, couldn’t it use a little more senior citizen sexuality? Or, for that matter, a little more cheesecake? That’s the gist of The Golden Girls Clue, which pits players against each other to figure out who ate it, where, and what piece of evidence they left behind. Was it, for instance, Rose on the Lanai, with a rattan chair? Or Stan, in Blanche’s bedroom (scandal!), with a feathered slipper? It’s great fun for both Golden Girls obsessives and Clue fans alike, and it should keep even the most prone-to-bickering family content this holiday season.
Cost: $39.99 from ThinkGeek [Marah Eakin]
Why is it great? Stand out at your next middle-management meeting, bypassing your laptop or tablet for classic (and classy!) paper notebooks. If you have a “no screen” meeting rule at your place of business, don’t be the guy who comes in with scratch paper or yellow legal pads from the supply closet. To ratchet up your primitive note-taking, we recommend timeless Moleskines—and not just any timeless Moleskines. Last year, the company chose to honor The Beatles with some limited-edition Yellow Submarine patterns. This year, The Rolling Stones are the focus, with notebooks featuring the band’s iconic logo. Choose a denim-like finish or a harder-rocking black: Both will signify to your white-collar coworkers that you have much cooler things to do than be at this lame meeting.
Cost: $25 apiece [Gwen Ihnat]
Why is it great? David Lynch and Mark Frost’s return to Twin Peaks was both stranger and more experimentally groundbreaking than even the most committed Lynch die-hards could have imagined. Happily, the folks behind the series have joined up with Showtime to put together a Blu-ray collection that does justice to the immense scope of the creators’ vision. More than six hours of bonus footage accompany the release, a treasure trove for fanatics of the series. Sure, there’s the full 2017 Twin Peaks Comic-Con panel and a three-part featurette exploring the runaway success and rapid disappearance of the original series.
But the real treats include a pair of behind-the-scenes docs that depict the filming of the red room sequences; A Very Lovely Dream: A Week Inside Twin Peaks, which showcases the cast and crew’s return to the original Snoqualmie and North Bend shooting locations; and then Impressions, a series of 10 (!) roughly 30-minute documentaries that investigate different aspects of making the follow-up to such an iconic show. It’s a cliche to say it, but this is a must-have for Twin Peaks and Lynch fans alike.
Cost: $55.92 [Alex McLevy]
Why is it great? There’s nothing odd about wanting to take one of the best movies of the year home, but this Logan combo—which boasts James Mangold’s film in three formats—is especially desirable for its “noir” version. That black-and-white version, which got its own theatrical release, isn’t a mere bonus feature. Its starkness perfectly suits this wrenching neo-Western send-off to the Wolverine character and actor Hugh Jackman. And yes, it will probably make some of your cinephile friends take your superhero movie a little more seriously.
Cost: $18.99 [Danette Chavez]