Photo: Allison Corr

Every year The A.V. Club office is inundated with items promoting new TV shows, films, and the occasional book and video game. It’s an assortment of random stuff (mostly from TV shows—those studios must have big budgets for slapping their show’s names on crap). Here, we’ve collected some of the coolest stuff we received, from a cranky water bottle our assistant TV editor actually uses every day to a very creepy “finger” our news editor received after reviewing the cannibalistic coming-of-age film Raw.


A Raw cake finger

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Any day we get sweets in the mail is a good day at The A.V. Club, for like all office-bound workers, we get unreasonably excited at the prospect of eating something fattening to break up the monotony of staring at computer monitors all day. But honestly, we didn’t even realize that the “severed finger” we got in the mail encased in a plastic specimen bag, itself encased in a classy black gift box with the title of the movie Raw embossed on it in metallic red letters, was edible at first. With Raw being a horror movie about cannibals, we probably should have put it together sooner, but what can we say? Despite that particular viewing experience, we’re still not inclined to just stick things shaped like human body parts in our mouths. Once we did figure it out, we realized that the “finger” was made of red velvet cake surrounded by a thick layer of fondant, the same combination that was used to mimic human flesh in the movie. That’s pretty cool and also increases our admiration for star Garance Marillier’s performance, because fondant is, objectively, not all that tasty. [Katie Rife]

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A Tick hoodie

Photo: Allison Corr

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Promotional hoodies are a dime a dozen, which is probably their going rate at any resale shop in any neighborhood with a high concentration of entertainment journalists. And while this particular item passes the sole rubric for free-sweatshirt wearability—“Is it soft?”—it also sets itself apart through a pair of flexible antennae. Raise the hood to engage in some frugal cosplay, thanks to an internal wire structure that sits comfortably on the crown of your head. Sadly, those cranial appendages preclude this sweatshirt from performing its civic duty of hanging on the back of an office chair, lying in wait to beat back the scourge of aggressive workplace air conditioning—but that didn’t stop it from getting some covetous looks from our co-workers. [Erik Adams]


A Resident Evil VCR

This item was used exactly once, but was such an impressive gimmick it qualified for the year-end list. With no accompanying explanation, we received a fully functional VCR in an unlabeled box, along with a worn and warped VHS tape. After tracking down the necessary outdated cords and plugging it into the TV in the office, what initially looked like a blank cassette flared to life, as a minute-long sequence of found-footage recording displayed what seemed like someone pleading for help. After several ragged attempts to communicate their desperate plight, it ended—no advertising copy allowed. After a long internet search, we think it was viral marketing for Resident Evil VII: Biohazard. More importantly, we now have a way to play these old bootlegged VHS copies of complete Beavis And Butt-Head episodes. [Alex McLevy]

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A Curb Your Enthusiasm water bottle

Photo: Allison Corr

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There’s probably very little promotional swag that Larry David would sign off on—something makes us think he doesn’t like the word “swag,” period—but we think he’d like this water cup with the words “half empty” emblazoned on it. The gag is, the cup says “half empty” regardless of how many of the cup’s potential 24 ounces it’s currently holding. Okay, maybe he’d be opposed to the idea of a gag, too, but at least the size cuts down on water cooler visits. This would feel on brand for me regardless of the show, a feeling I think a lot of my co-workers share, given how many times I’ve noticed them eyeing it in the lunchroom. [Danette Chavez]


A Samurai Jack letter opener

Photo: Allison Corr

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Representing the legendary weapon that Samurai Jack must use to destroy the shapeshifting, megalomaniacal demon Aku, this is hands down the handiest office supply that we’ll ever be stabbed to death with. The vorpal blade makes quick work of any envelope, regardless of material, and is just sharp enough to break the skin of your index finger if not properly handled. In its time, it has freed many TV and film screeners from their paper and plastic prisons, and could probably liberate a fatal amount of blood from a jugular vein. Please don’t murder us with this Samurai Jack letter opener. [Erik Adams]


A Stranger Things costume box

Photo: Allison Corr

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Stranger Things is fabulous for many reasons, but its wardrobe doesn’t really stand out like, say, The Crown’s does. Still, Netflix sent us a fun box of series-related clothing items, with facsimiles of Eleven’s pink dress, Barb’s glasses (sob), Lucas’ badass camouflage bandana, a much-coveted Palace Arcade T-shirt, Mike’s calculator watch, decidedly ’80s knee-high tube socks, and a replica of Dustin’s hat, complete with Stranger Things logo. Many of these offer the opportunity to immerse yourself in the Upside Down landscape while just walking around your apartment. One kid we know wore the hat to middle school to impress his like-minded, Stranger Things-admiring friends and now refuses to take it off. [Gwen Ihnat]


A KFC Turntable

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In what may be the biggest waste of promotional spending we’ve ever borne witness to—even in a year when we got that working VCR in the mail—KFC sent us a Crosley turntable and a pair of Colonel Sanders-branded, fake-Beats headphones, just so we could listen to their new commercial. Fred Armisen performed two new jingles for the increasingly Adult Swim-inspired fried chicken franchise (“C-O-L-O-N-E-L” and “Nashville-Centric Boogie”), which explains the very Portlandia-minus-the-irony packaging of sending them out on limited-edition, lathe-cut vinyl, complete with the faux-vintage system on which to play them. But really, there’s no accounting for all the money KFC burned just to lure us into writing up a couple of ads you can stream for free on Spotify—which is where we had to listen to them anyway, seeing as, in the ultimate irony, the vinyl they sent was defective. Nevertheless, the turntable worked, and it’s since been put to good use playing actual music. [Sean O’Neal]

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Orphan Black nesting dolls

Photo: Allison Corr

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Orphan Black packed so much into its storylines that, in hindsight, it’s hard to believe it was only with us for five seasons. But it went out strong this summer, and these Matryoshka dolls are a genius commemoration of its closure. The way each doll gives way to a new one—Sarah leads to Helena leads to Cosima, and so on—nods to the show’s core narratives of mother- and sisterhood, and leaves us with one last reminder of the infinite iterations of Tatiana Maslany’s talent (as if we could ever forget). Of course I want to display this on my desk every day. [Kelsey J. Waite]


Superstore Halloween costume

Photo: Allison Corr

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The Halloween costume that says, “The Halloween costumes are in aisle five,” this smock and cap arrived with a screener for “Sal’s Dead,” the spooktacular seasonal Superstore installment in which the employees of Cloud 9 find the corpse of a former colleague who became trapped between the walls of the big-box establishment. It’s a Poe-esque manifestation of the feeling that runs through every episode of Superstore, and you too can get the sensation by wrapping yourself in a garment whose light weight belies the crushing disappointment of a life that didn’t pan out the way you pictured it. And even if your name isn’t “Erik,” you don’t have to mind the customized team-member name tag: It’s just added authenticity in the tradition of Amy (America Ferrera) and her ever-changing ID tags. (Divorce subplot and will-they/won’t-they relationship with Ben Feldman sold separately.) [Erik Adams]


A Deuce camera

Apropos of its subject, HBO gave away The Deuce-branded Polaroid instant cameras at the TCA summer press tour this year. David Simon’s newest drama tracks the legitimization of pornography in New York City, including all the racy nickelodeons and stalls in bookstore fronts. The camera is just like the revamped instant cameras that are now being hawked by Polaroid and Fuji; the quality of the snaps is solid, but the printed pictures themselves are much smaller than my own ’80s holdovers. Something else remains the same: No matter what Outkast says, don’t shake ’em. [Danette Chavez]

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The Happy “badvent” calendar and plush

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Based on the graphic novel about a disgraced cop and the magical friend who helps him solve a kidnapping at the most wonderful time of the year, Happy! announced itself to the TV press with something straight out of Santa’s sack: a plush version of the show’s eponymous flying horse and a branded “badvent” calendar. What the stuffed Happy lacks in Patton Oswalt’s madcap charisma, it makes up for in cuteness and desk-appropriate dimensions; the badvent calendar boasts the run-of-the-mill chocolate of its wholesome counterpart, wrapped in pieces of questionably wholesome Grant-Morrison-and-Darick-Robertson-inspired images. It’s almost enough to justify the explosion of blue feathers that occurs whenever you open the box it all came in. [Erik Adams]


A personalized Tomb Of Annihilation moleskin journal

Photo: Allison Corr

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Wizards Of The Coasts’ “Stream Of Annihilation” event this year was 24 hours of melees and mayhem, gathering some of the nation’s most prominent RPG players, including Joe Manganiello. During a break from a meat grinder session of Tomb Of Annihilation, several players received these gorgeously embossed, leather-bound journals, in which we were encouraged to track initiative and spells. Mine remains blank, but I’m about to start a new, off-module campaign with my family, which means it’ll be filled with curses soon enough. [Danette Chavez]