A List of Lists
According to a scientific poll that I just made up, 99.4 percent of all people love lists. We love thinking about and debating the best this and the best that of all time, or the worst this and that, or the most overrated and underrated. And the end of a year makes us happy because that’s when we get an avalanche of lists, lists, lists.
NPR has a great interactive list of the best books of the year, and the staff of The Atlantic picks their favorite books too. The magazine also lists their 50 favorite podcasts of 2017. There are approximately 9 million best-of TV lists, including these from David Bianculli at NPR, The New Yorker’s Emily Nussbaum, and Vulture‘s Matt Zoller Seitz. The New York Times has its list of the best movies, and here’s USA Today’s list.
Looking for “worst” lists because they can be the most fun to read? The A.V. Club picks the 20 worst films of the year, Time has the 10 worst songs of the year, and TVLine has their picks for the 10 worst TV shows. Matt Zoller Seitz isn’t going to be happy that the show he picked as the very best of 2017 is one of the worst on TVLine‘s list.
My favorite Post cover of the year is on the November/December issue, and it’s actually from 1957.
In 2018, I Will …
There’s only one thing more annoying than people who tell you what their New Year’s resolutions are, and that’s the people who tell you that they don’t make New Year’s resolutions. Apparently these people live golden, flawless lives and don’t need to make any changes.
I get it. You don’t want to make resolutions because it’s a lot of pressure, it’s too formal, too cliché, and besides, “everybody does it.” But isn’t it natural to take stock of your life at the end of a year, to look back at what has happened the past 12 months and think of what the new year holds? It’s the end of December and you’re organizing things for January, planning, hoping. Even if you’re not consciously thinking “these are my resolutions” and writing them down, you’re still thinking of making changes in the new year.
What do you think is the most popular resolution for 2018? You might think it’s to lose weight, save money, or exercise more (hey, those have been my top three every year since 1997!), but it’s actually something else, according to this Marist poll.
If you want to know how you can stick to your resolutions, Fast Company has some tips. Hint: It actually does help if you write them down.
The X-Files Is Back (Again)
The X-Files reboot from last year was met with a mixture of excitement and (ultimately) disappointment. A couple of the episodes were good, but I think overall, fans wanted something a little bit more or even different. Judging by this trailer for the new season that starts January 3 on Fox, the show knows that. Looks pretty good!
RIP Rose Marie, Dick Enberg, and Dominic Frontiere
Rose Marie was a star for 90 years (!), since she was a little girl, singing and dancing and acting on stage and in movies as “Baby Rose Marie,” but she’s probably best known to TV fans for her role as writer Sally Rogers on The Dick Van Dyke Show. She had a critically-acclaimed documentary about her life released this year titled Wait for Your Laugh. She died yesterday at the age of 94.
Dick Enberg was a legendary sportscaster who covered 28 Wimbledons, 10 Super Bowls, Major League Baseball games, and endless college football games. He died last week at the age of 82.
Dominic Frontiere composed many themes for classic TV shows, including The Outer Limits, The Rat Patrol, The Flying Nun, The Invaders, That Girl, and Vega$, as well as many movie themes. He died last Thursday at the age of 86.
The Best and the Worst
Best: My favorite stories of the week both involve letters from World War II.
In Greenfield, Massachusetts, Francesca Passiglia found a love letter inside the walls of her home while it was undergoing renovations. It was dated April 19, 1944, from a man named Walter to a woman named Betty. Passiglia asked the Greenfield Police Department to help her solve the mystery of Walter and Betty and the department (of course) turned to Facebook. They found out who Betty was, but they’re still looking for Walter. It seems Betty dated two Walters in the ’40s.
And CBS News Sunday Morning had a great segment on Donna Reed and the letters that overseas soldiers wrote to her during World War II. After Reed died in 1986, her daughter found them. There were 350 in all and Reed had saved them for 40 years:
Worst: The worst (and oddest) news of the week? Nestl\0xE9 has announced they’re getting out of the chocolate business! That’s like McDonald’s announcing they’re not going to sell cheeseburgers anymore. The company has decided to concentrate on their other products, including bottled water, coffee, cereal, and frozen foods.
This Week in History
Vincent Van Gogh Cuts Off His Ear for Some Reason (December 23, 1888)
Why did the artist do that? Turns out, nobody really knows the answer. He could have gone crazy, been mad at a rival, or maybe he simply didn’t like having two ears. A more recent theory claims that Paul Gauguin (yes, the artist) lopped it off with a sword during an argument, and that van Gogh claimed to have done it himself to protect his friend. With friends like that …
Rod Serling Born (December 25, 1924)
Did you know that there’s a new Twilight Zone coming next year? You’re going to have to pay for it, though, as it will join Star Trek Discovery on CBS’s All Access streaming service.
This Week in Saturday Evening Post History: More Snow? (December 29, 1951)
We’ve all been there — maybe you are there this week — in that moment when we finally finish shoveling the walkway and we notice it has started to snow once again and we’re going to have to shovel again in a few hours. This George Hughes cover captures that moment.
A Lot of People Are Saying This Right Now
Please, no more leftovers. pic.twitter.com/iXPk2K81Lm
— PEANUTS (@Snoopy) November 25, 2017
National Champagne Day
It makes sense that December 31, New Year’s Eve, is also National Champagne Day, since it’s probably the one day of the year that most people drink Champagne. In many countries, you can’t use the word Champagne on bottles unless the grapes were produced in the Champagne region of France, though there are some exceptions.
Esquire has a list of 11 great Champagne cocktail recipes, including the French 75, the Black Velvet, the Atomic Champagne Cocktail, and Ernest Hemingway’s Death in the Afternoon.
Happy New Year!
Next Week’s Holidays and Events
National Hangover Day (January 1)
If you celebrated National Champagne Day just a little too much, here are some remedies for the way you’re feeling, including eating a big breakfast, getting plenty of sleep, and staying hydrated.
The top suggestion on that list is “limit your alcohol intake,” but if that were the case, you wouldn’t be reading that list.
College Bowl Games (January 1)
If you haven’t been watching college football the past couple of weeks, you’ve missed the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl, the AutoNation Cure Bowl, the Cheribundi Tart Cherry Boca Raton Bowl, the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, and the Starbucks Listerine National Bowl. Okay, I made up that last one, but the others are real.
Here’s a list of the games you can watch on New Year’s Day.
The Year in Review
So here we are at the end of the year, and that’s the time for list, lists, lists! Everyone likes lists! The best this, the worst that, the biggest this, the most disappointing this and that. Here’s a quick wrap-up of what pop culture writers liked and didn’t like in 2015:
TV: The New Yorker’s Emily Nussbaum hates doing top 10 lists like I do, but here’s her list of the best shows of the year; Robert Rorke at The New York Post hated True Detective (like a lot of people); Vulture’s Matt Zoller Seitz picks the best shows, episodes, and performances of 2015; and Entertainment Weekly has the best and the worst picks from Melissa Maerz and Jeff Jensen.
Film: Over at The Chicago Sun-Times, Richard Roeper picks his best and worst; New York Times critics A.O. Scott, Manohla Dargis, and Stephen Holden give us their lists; and Entertainment Weekly’s Chris Nashawaty picks the 10 best (and 5 worst) films of the year.
Books: The staff at The Atlantic picks their favorite books of 2015; Laura Miller at Slate picks hers; the writers at The Millions go over their Year in Reading; and here’s the Best of the Year from the critics at The New York Times.
Music: Wow, reading these lists of the Best and Worst Albums of the Year makes me realize … I’m now too old to know anything about current music. Tyga? Jamie xx? Father John Misty? Tame Impala? Hey, I’ve heard of Adele!
It’s hard to list all of the well-known people who pass away in a single year. There are just too many people and you simply can’t list everyone. But two outlets do a great job with their annual video tributes. The best is probably by CBS Sunday Morning, and another good one is courtesy of Turner Classic Movies:
And since those tributes were completed before the end of December, we have to add people who passed away this past week, like Harlem Globetrotters star Meadowlark Lemon, actress Patricia Elliott, and Twilight Zone/Star Trek writer George Clayton Johnson.
An IMDb member has created a list of people in show business who passed away in 2015, and it has over 3,500 names!
Rules for Holiday Gift Returns
It happens to a lot of people at Christmas. There’s that one gift you get that you don’t like or it doesn’t fit or maybe you broke your arm using it or it exploded and caught on fire. This is the week that everyone returns the gifts they don’t want, and there are rules to follow.
Money has the five rules of holiday gift returns, and most of them are common sense. You should return the gift as soon as possible (don’t wait until Valentine’s Day), you should check to see if a website return policy is different than an in-store policy, and please note that Amazon doesn’t let you return wine. (Also: Amazon sells wine.)
I got mostly gift cards and cash, and, well, I’m not returning those.
Tonight: The Return of Sherlock!
I mentioned this several weeks ago, but this is a quick reminder that Sherlock returns tonight at 9 p.m. Eastern. The PBS series has been gone for a while (and the fourth season doesn’t even start filming until this spring), but this special episode has the master detective and Dr. Watson solving a mystery in 1890s London. And no, it’s not a dream sequence or time travel, they’re just going to be in 1890s London.
Predictions for 2016
We’re still trying to figure out what happened in 2015, but some are making some predictions about the year ahead.
Fortune looks into their crystal ball to make some predictions about the worlds of business and technology; Newsweek makes five completely random predictions for the year; and USA Today has 52 goofy and serious predictions for the world of sports.
I’d make a prediction about who our next president will be, but the way this election season is going I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s Trump, Clinton, Sanders, Mitt Romney, Mark Zuckerberg, the ghost of William McKinley, or the kid who bags my groceries at the supermarket.
Hangovers and Resolutions
DID YOU IMBIBE TOO MUCH LAST NIGHT? Sorry, I’ll lower my voice. Did you imbibe too much last night?
Note: The Saturday Evening Post cannot verify or endorse any of these remedies. I mean, if you want to try eating a deep-fried canary to get rid of your hangover, you’re on your own.
As for resolutions, I think I found a way to make sure I stick to at least one of the resolutions I make. I simply resolve to not stick to any of the resolutions I make. That way, I don’t have to stick to any resolutions, but I’m guaranteed to feel good about the one I actually did stick to. Though I guess by actually going through with that resolution I actually am sticking to one resolution, which destroys the logic of the whole exercise. Oh well.
Upcoming Events and Anniversaries
President Theodore Roosevelt dies (January 6, 1919)
The Saturday Evening Post Archives Director Jeff Nilsson lays out an alternative of World War I and what would have happened if Roosevelt had been re-elected in 1912.
Common Sense published (January 9, 1776)
You can read the entire text of Thomas Paine’s pamphlet at USHistory.org.
Baseball adopts the designated hitter rule (January 11, 1973)
Here are the pros and cons of the controversial rule, debated by Aaron Rimstadt and Kelsey Roan.
Batman TV series debuts (January 12, 1966)
It’s the 50th anniversary of the Adam West/Burt Ward series. My mom told me that my first word wasn’t “mom” or “dada” or even “binky.” It was “Batman.” Probably from watching this over and over and over.
Jack London born (January 12, 1876)
London wrote 18 stories for The Saturday Evening Post before dying at the age of 40. Here’s “A Goboto Night”.
Stephen Colbert vs. Bill Maher
You ever watch an interview on TV that makes you squirm a little bit? I don’t mean on the cable news networks, where arguments can sprout like mold on an old bagel. I mean on a show where you don’t expect to see something uncomfortable. You’re looking for laughs and skits and music and you get a serious discussion.
That’s what happened on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert on Monday. Colbert had Real Time host Bill Maher on his show, and along with the laughs there was a sense of realistic tension too. And this wasn’t one of those fake things, like when David Letterman conducted that weird interview with Joaquin Phoenix that turned out to be a prank. This was a nuanced, realistic kind of tension. Here’s the entire interview, including footage not shown on TV because of time restraints:
It starts amiably enough, but then about two minutes in Maher makes a comment about Nixon being the type of person Colbert would have voted for, and it’s odd from there. Though Colbert remains amiable enough throughout the entire interview, and it’s not the type of wall-to-wall tension where you think they hate each other, you can see Colbert disagrees with Maher on a few things, including religion. It’s almost as if you can look inside Maher’s brain and see he’s thinking, “But Stephen, you’re liberal! How can you believe in God and be serious about religion?!” You can also see that Maher wasn’t particularly thrilled when, at the very end of the interview, Colbert takes over the bit and Maher doesn’t get to finish his joke.
The interview has a lot more bleeps than you’ll usually see on television. But isn’t it interesting that Colbert’s Comedy Central show moved over to CBS largely intact? There’s a lot more political humor and serious discussion of current events than I thought would happen when Colbert took over for Letterman, and when you have that you get nights like this.
By the way, at the start of this episode, Colbert’s band, Jon Batiste and Stay Human, performed the French National Anthem as a tribute to France and the people lost in the terror attacks last week (and we send our thoughts out to the victims and their families as well):
A Very Murray Christmas
Netflix has released the trailer for their new Bill Murray holiday special A Very Murray Christmas, which debuts on December 4. It features a cast list that can only be described as “irreverently epic”: George Clooney, Amy Poehler, Jason Schwartzman, Miley Cyrus, Rashida Jones, Michael Cera, Paul Shaffer, Chris Rock, and Maya Rudolph. How is Tina Fey not in this?
Judging from the trailer, A Very Murray Christmas serves as both the title and also a description of what the special will be like:
These Are a Few of Oprah’s Favorite Things
Every year Oprah Winfrey gives us her list of Favorite Things. This year she’s teaming up with Amazon.
I won’t list of all of the things that she likes that most of us wouldn’t want to spend money on (Okay, I’ll mention one — the rose gold iPhone 6s for $839.00), but there are some nice gifts here, including some that, oh, I don’t know, you might want to buy for a Saturday Evening Post columnist. I mean, who wouldn’t want an Elvis cake?
And This Is One of My Favorite Things
TV criticism — and I can say this because I’ve been doing it for 21 years — is often terrible. The writing is terrible, the observations are weak or obvious, and if you read enough of it you realize that just because there’s more of it doesn’t mean it’s better (we’re currently drowning in TV reviews and “hot takes”). But when TV criticism is done right, when it’s done by a good writer who not only loves television but can write about it with a mixture of wit and thoughtfulness, it can not only be important, it can rise to the level of art.
And that’s what you’ll find in the new book Mad Men Carousel by Vulture writer and RogerEbert.com editor Matt Zoller Seitz. Matt’s one of the best critics around today, and this book is filled with his perceptive, detailed reviews of every single episode of the show, along with a historical time line of things mentioned throughout the show’s run, poems by Martha Orton at the start of each season, and some great illustrations by Max Dalton.
This book is not only the perfect gift for the Mad Men fan on your Christmas list, I think that Lionsgate and Abrams Books should make some deal to make sure it’s included with every single Mad Men complete series DVD set that is sold.
Wait. Did I mention above that I wanted an Elvis cake? I meant to say the Mad Men complete series DVD set. (And an Elvis cake.)
Christopher Kimball Has Left America’s Test Kitchen
Imagine O, The Oprah Magazine without Oprah. Imagine Turner Classic Movies without Robert Osborne. Or imagine The Daily Show without Jon Stewart (and judging by viewer reaction to new host Trevor Noah a lot of people don’t want to). That’s how I feel about Christopher Kimball leaving the company he founded and the company’s magazines, including Cook’s Illustrated. Kimball couldn’t come to an agreement on a new contract with the new people in charge at Boston Common Press, so he’s out. Kimball will also be giving up his hosting duties on the TV cooking shows America’s Test Kitchen and Cook’s Country (Kimball will still be seen as host of the 2016 seasons of the shows because production has already finished on them).
And to drive home the fact that this move is EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY, Kimball’s blog is already gone from the America’s Test Kitchen Feed site.
There are plenty of talented cooks on the TV shows, and they’ll probably find a new host that’s “fine,” but it’s going to be very, very weird not to have Kimball as host. He set the tone and the style for the show. You think of the show, and he’s the person on it you think of. You can’t just throw a bow tie on someone else. It just won’t be the same.
Memento Is Being Remade, For Some Reason
You ever notice that books don’t get rewritten? You never see a publishing company issue a press release that says they’ve hired a writer to rewrite A Tale of Two Cities or The Great Gatsby or The Bonfire of the Vanities. Sure, there might be other books in a series featuring the same characters or sequels or prequels or new writers hired to continue a series after an author dies, but you never hear a publishing company say they’re going to remake a novel.
I know I went off on a little tangent there, but it’s just my way of saying that doing a remake of Memento is a really dumb idea.
If you wanted to eat what was served at the first Thanksgiving, you could have clams, venison, mussels, and plums. But it’s 2015 and we have a lot more options than they had in 1621. Besides, try explaining to your family that, hey, this year, instead of turkey, we’re having boiled eel!
If you want a one-stop for all of your Thanksgiving cooking needs, you probably can’t do better than The New York Times’ Thanksgiving headquarters. You’ll not only find recipes there, but also a complete guide on how to plan the day and how to not freak out during that planning. But I’d also add some recipes from The Saturday Evening Post archives, including Red Rice Stuffing with Dried Fruit, a Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cake with Spiced Glaze, and Spritz Cookies.
You could also be like Marilyn Monroe. Cooking-wise, anyway. Here’s her recipe for stuffing that was found among her personal letters. If the instructions are a little confusing the New York Times made it and lists the ingredients and instructions on their site a little more clearly. Note: There’s no eel in it.
Happy Thanksgiving everybody!
Upcoming Events and Anniversaries
President Kennedy assassinated (November 22, 1963)
Boris Karloff born (November 23, 1887)
Lee Harvey Oswald killed (November 24, 1963)
Millions of people watched Oswald get shot by Jack Ruby on national television.
Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species published (November 24, 1859)
You can read the entire text of the groundbreaking book for free at Literature.org.
National Hockey League is formed (November 26, 1917)
The NHL replaced the NHA, the National Hockey Association.