To quote Abed from NBC’s Community, “It was a dark year.”
Setting aside the Tokohu earthquake, the Arab Spring, the Bin Laden killing, the Norway Massacre, the London riots, and Occupy Wall Street, let’s concentrate on the trivial entertainment culture that, sadly, I pay just as much attention to.
In April, the dark superhero comedy Super premiered. It mixed comic book motifs with gritty realism. The Crimson Bolt was a strangely sympathetic character, screaming in rage against a world that won’t fit his worldview.
The Spielberg pastiche/ alien-encounter comedy Paul landed in March, celebrating nostalgia and escapism.
The second half of 2011 saw new episodes of the inspired TV comedies Wilfred, Louie, Futurama, Community, Adventure Time, and An Idiot Abroad. They will undoubtedly appeal to fans of clever and surreal television.
The Colbert Report was quite active outside of the studio this year. To mock this loophole in congressional campaign finance law, Colbert created his own political action committee, or super PAC. He also organized a ballot initiative in South Carolina. It asked the public: “Are corporations people, or are people just people?” I hope the creators of The Colbert Report continue to bridge the gap between entertainment and political action into 2012. I truly admire the effort.
Other notable shows last year include Parks and Recreation, Archer, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Workaholics, Regular Show, Breaking Bad, Dexter, Weeds, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Bored to Death, 30 Rock, Onion News Network, Onion Sportsdome, Portlandia, and Life’s Too Short.
Movies You Should See and Judge John Hodgman were the funniest podcasts of 2011. The Sound of Young America, The Nerdist, Fitzdog Radio, The Mental Illness Happy Hour, and WTF with Marc Maron were all replete with penetrating interviews. Stuff to Blow Your Mind, Stuff You Missed in History Class, and The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe challenged my perceptions. WNYC’s Radiolab and Freakonomics Radio were the best of them all. They showed me how much I have yet to learn.
In 2012, The Sound of Young America has become Bullseye with Jesse Thorn, and the first episode is a great one. It includes the AV Club’s picks for the year, as well as an interview with Chris Lilley. His show Angry Boys began on the first of the month, and looks promising.
So long to this past year. For most of the world, 2011 was pretty harrowing. But for those of us who can still afford shelter and a computer, 2011 was fantastic for pop culture.