Good morrow, cousins! I know you're not all my cousins but I did just watch West Side Story and then spent a lot of time thinking about Baz Lurhman's Romeo + Juliet, so that's what I'm saying now. And really, aren't we all cousins...in LIFE? Yes. No. I don't know. It's too early in the morrow for this. Anyway! Like I promised to my three readers, this is list post. A massive ol' retrospective on 2021: an adieu to the good, a bird flip to the bad! OK, in all honestly this is mostly a list of podcasts I enjoyed and a few other categories I made up while watching Henry Cavill and his big big arms do some swash buckling and tender fathering on season two of The Witcher. But I had fun writing it, and will even tentatively suggest you will have fun reading it. Let us begin!
Best Podcasts Where the Hosts, Preferably Two Best Friends, Discuss Pop Culture and Life, and Sometimes Cry a Bit
I realize this is a rather specific podcast category but it's also almost exclusively the only kind of podcast I listen to now. True crime? No thank you! Daily news? Hard pass! Long form narrative? Congratulations, you've invented books - PASS! But catching up with two good friends who sincerely love and support one another, and just want to make each other laugh? The dream. And these are the top 3 podcasts that made that dream come true this year!
Las Culturistas. I was late to the Las Cultch fandom, only discovering them earlier this year, but I quickly became a Matt and Bo evangelist. Nobody made me laugh harder than these silly boys this year, and this one is the only podcast episode I've ever listened to three times over. And while there are many more laughs than tears, I challenge you not to be moved by the true affection expressed in Bowen's tearful tribute to Conan O'Brien, or to take genuine cues on how to care for your friends from the way Matt supported Bowen through his self-proclaimed serotonin-deficit summer. Las Culturistas is that perfect mix of stupid and smart, and I treasure it so!
The Deep Dive. Some people have mantras they repeat to themselves in times of strife, I have the opening monologue to The Deep Dive. June Diane Raphael and Jessica St. Claire have created a warm, cozy, wonderful podcast where they swing wildly from gutting examinations on grief and loss to loopy and hysterical observations on life and love, often within the span of several minutes. I love these two ladies, and am delighted to consider myself a Deep Diver. Give me a sconce or give me DEATH!
Maintenance Phase. Alright, this is a bit of a cheat because this one has a clearly defined focus that differs a bit in the framework I set out above: Maintenance Phase hangs it hat on debunking the bullshit around diet fads and wellness culture - but! That often overlaps into pop culture and many, many other areas of life. And while Aubrey and Michael are acerbic and sharp witted, Aubrey especially is also open-hearted and vulnerable in drawing from her real experience as a fat woman in a society that has not yet reckoned with all the ways we continue to oppress fat bodies. It's a podcast that feels vitally important, and is still a delight to listen to.
The runner ups:
Keep It! Ira Madison III and Louis Virtel (and Aida when she's not on hiatus) talk about pop culture, politics, and general internet nonsense - less crying, but still sharp and entertaining.
I Hate it But I Love It: Their tagline is succinct and perfect so I won't mess with it: Best pals Kat and Jocelyn talk about all the pop culture you love and hate simultaneously. And our first Canadian entry! About time, eh?
Pop Chat: Another export from Canada! This is one is helmed by Elamin Abdelmahmoud and his two co-hosts (Kevin and Amil), and together they tackle the "cultural drama blowing up the internet." The conversions are always fun and thoughtful, and Elamin is an excellent guide.
The Popcast: The veteran on this list! I've been enjoying Knox and Jamie's pop culture-infused repartee and raillery since...2017? They end every episode with their own personal red lights and green lights for what to avoid and what to watch next, so you always leave with enjoyable homework.
Ok! As you can clearly tell, I have a type. Is that type born out of a lack of real-life friendship in a Covid-fragmented world and is perhaps actually a cry for help? Maybe! But this meme has been ubiquitous for long enough now that I know I'm not alone:
So thank you to all these podcasts for making me feel less alone this year 🥲 .
(...Oh damn, this feels like a fitting end to this post, and yet I promised many more categories??? And already made the graphic for this post??? So I have to write them because otherwise you'll all wonder what Pepperidge Goldfish had to do with it???? Ok! Rapid fire rounds coming up!
Best Television Show That Actually Felt Like it Had Something New to Say About Female Friendships
Insecure. I won't spoil anything for those not caught up on the final season, but it's no secret the heart of this show has always been the friendship between Issa and Molly, and over Insecure's run that relationship was giving more depth and nuance than any show I've seen before it. Gosh, I'll miss it.
Hacks. The words "cozy," "comforting," and "warm" do...not apply to this show at all, and would rarely be used when discussing the central friendship between Ava and Deborah. In fact, it takes most of the season for there to even be a friendship. But that makes it all the more rewarding when the walls do come down, and I'm hard pressed to think of another show that even features a friendship between two women four decades apart. Let's hope we get more shows like this, and that they're even half as funny and smart as Hacks.
Pen15: I'm cheating here because I'm not caught up on Pen15's final episodes, but Maya + Anna 4-Ever!!!!
The runner ups:
Every show in the Mindy-Kaling-Televisual-Universe. Both Never Have I Ever and The Sex Lives of College Girls gave us heartwarming flesh-out friendships, set against the raunchy and raucous backdrops of adolescence and college comedy, forever dispelling the myth that you can't put those things together. I hope Mindy makes a million more shows.
Best Kids Snacks that Have No Business Being as Good as They Are
Birthday Cake Bear Paws.
Pepperidge Gold Fish.
Babybel Cheeses that come in that fun little wax circle and are so pleasing to unwrap.
Best Intensely Nerdy Adaptions to Which I Have No Connection to the Source Material and Therefore Just Had a Great Time!
Yes, I've been the girl on the message boards arguing about how they did Eowyn dirty in Lord of the Rings movies. But that is not this day!
Wheel of Time: I haven't read one single word of the (from what I understand)...85? books on which this show was based, and that means I have absolutely no opinions on what they did right or wrong, and simple got to enjoy Rosamund Pike being severe and beautiful while surrounded by lots of magic gobbledygook!
The Witcher: Same deal here. I know nothing of the books OR games that serve as the source material, and know only that Geralt could probably pick me up like a baby bird in his giant tree trunk arms, and that man the bard has some hits.
Dune: This is another cheat because I haven't actually seen Dune yet, but I have seen what Oscar Isaac looks like in Dune, and can therefore be assured I'm gonna love Dune.
No one, NO ONE, had a better year than alcoholic seltzers. I can't explain it, and I don't hate it (...I am also having regrets about this category if I'm honest but it too is in the graphic so I gotta).
White Claw: The basic B, the boring boyfriend, the classic for a reason. Don't resist it. They have new flavours now!
Ace Hill Raspberry: This was going to be #1 but sometimes they run out at my local liquor store, and I take that personally.
Smirnoff Vodka & Soda White Peach Rose: This one is going on the list because the sense memory I have to the original Smirnoff Ice is so intense (I'm 19, at a bar called The Ranch, and my hair is full of mousse), that I have to congratulate Smirnoff on growing up and getting real job. She's sugar-free, moved out of the dorm room, has her own cute apartment and frankly, I'm proud of her!
Best Instagram Account
I was going to do a whole list here but honestly, Caitlin Reilly takes this by a mile. Plus I've written like 1500 words, and that's about 1000 more than I intended. Congratulations Caitlin!
Whew! There you have it - an incredibly random and non-sensical smattering of things that really, truly gave me joy this year. Of course there was more - I didn't mention a single book, and failed to come up with a category where I could list both Midnight Mass and Only Murders in The Building, ("Best Show Where People...Die?" Needs work.) Anyway, thank you sincerely for reading this far, and if you have a podcast that fits my niche that I haven't somehow already discovered, let me know!
Happy New Year, all, and may your riches be as plentiful as the seltzers in my fridge!