Favorite Things of 2014

322014.

Great year? Good year? So-so year? God awful year?

Who knows. I sure don’t. Can we really make a call on what kind of year it was so close to it ending? Like really, I just decided 2006 was a pretty good year. So 2014? I have no clue. How will this year even be remembered? What will be it’s lasting impact, it’s images, it’s quotes, it’s figures? It has to be known for more than just the year we saw Kim Kardashian’s badonkadonk, right?

Again, no clue. Points for honesty!

Yet while I can’t decide what kind of year 2014 was, I can lay out what my ten favorite things of the year were. I can even lay them out in order.

Giddy Up America’s Favorite Things of 2014

10. Chris Christie & Bridgegate

There were three constants in the Back to the Future Trilogy.

  1. Someone calling Marty McFly yellow…or coward…or chicken
  2. The presence of the clock tower
  3. A member of the Tannen family getting their comeuppance

I think about number three when I think about Chris Christie. Why? Because seeing a Tannen, whether it was Biff, Buford or Griff, get their ass handed to them and subsequently put in their place was always one of the best parts of the Back to the Future movies. We love seeing bullies get knocked down, for the little guy to finally stand over them and have the last laugh. And this is exactly why I enjoyed Bridgegate so much. For what seemed like the first time, Chris Christie, the loud-mouthed, pervasive dick and obnoxious blowhard governor of New Jersey, took shit. No more yelling at school teachers, no more condescending dismissing of legitimate concerns he didn’t agree with, no more I’m right and you’re wrong bluster. No. For once the spotlight was pointed square in his direction, accompanied by the criticism he had manged to duck, dive and dodge for so long. I don’t care that he’ll probably avoid any punishment for it; I don’t even think he was that involved with the whole thing. But I did love seeing him finally getting some shit thrown in his direction.

9. Spotify

For the longest time Spotify on your phone, if you were like me and not a premium subscriber, was a waste of time. All that was available was the radio. That’s it. But then in January, they changed their policy. Now you could stream music on your phone. You had to do so in shuffle, but it was better than nothing. Hey, good looking out, Spotify.

8. True Detective & Fargo

In this guy’s opinion, these were the two best shows on television this year- essentially 1A and 1B because I can’t pick one over the other. Although Fargo is 1A and True Detective is 1B because, well I guess I do like Fargo slightly better. Regardless! These two shows came in like gang busters and for their brief runs, owned television. True Detective became a legitimate Thing, owning that quiet time of year between Christmas movies and Game of Thrones. If you weren’t on board from the get go, you were eventually. Everyone was. Even the President watched True Detective. Unfortunately all of this attention kind of worked against the show, as speculation and expectations became bigger than the show itself. People started treating the show like it was Lost, eventually wanting it to be Lost. But the show was called True Detective. It was at it’s core a cop show, albeit one surrounded by some crazy, weird shit. Any mythology was background noise. It was ultimately going to be about the case. And that’s the kicker, it rocked as a cop show. All that weirdo fluff was great, but it was just that, weirdo fluff.

Episode four of True Detective was the game changer, thanks in large part to the six minute, tracking shot it featured. It destroyed Twitter, dominated water cooler conversations, was dissected tirelessly. Why? Because dude, it was awesome and more importantly, it didn’t feel like television. It felt bigger than that; felt bigger than television and not just because it featured two movie stars as it’s leads. The tone of the show, the way it was shot- it seemed important in a way the best parts of The Sopranos felt important. And it had an ending in sight all along, which I definitely think was part of the appeal. It would be eight episodes- a start and then a finish. There wouldn’t be a monster in the shape of a cliff-hanger at the end. There would be an ending. There also wouldn’t be any opportunity to over stay it’s welcome (i.e. Boardwalk Empire.) Eight episodes. In and out, looking super fly in the process.

Fargo ran on a similar track, one story in one season. It was loosely based on the Coen Brothers’ movie of the same name, but that movie was less of an inspiration that it was a jumping off point. The tone was there, as was the location and the accents. But the story was fresh and original and only grew stronger with each episode. Fargo missed out on some of the hugs and kisses that True Detective got largely due to timing, coming in while Game of Thrones and Mad Men were still on and dominating TV conversation. And that’s a shame because a lot of people missed out on some really quality television.

7. Dude, Joffrey’s dead!

And speaking of real quality television, Game of Thrones just kept on being effin’ awesome this year. They waited all of one episode to crank things up and they did it with style- they killed Joffrey. Yeah, Joffrey. Him. Just like that. One minute he’s about to get hitched to Margaery (side note: way out of his league) and the next minute he’s choking on wine and poof, dead. Dead, dead, dead. Oh Game of Thrones, you tricky bastard. I didn’t even realize how boring or stale the show was on the verge of becoming until Joffrey died because once he was dead, chaos reigned and shit got all sorts of crazy. It was perfect and think about it, how long could Joffrey’s bat shit crazy reign really last before it got boring? He had gone from zero to psychopath so quickly that he had essentially flat-lined or at the very least was on the verge of flat-lining. Only we hadn’t really noticed because Game of Thrones is awesome. It is so awesome that it fixes a problem we didn’t even know was a problem yet. Well played, Game of Thrones. Well played. Now it’s time to do something about Daenerys. Chop, chop.

6. “Uptown Funk”

I love everything about this song. I love how it feels so retro, but feels so fresh. How it’s almost exploding with energy. I love that it seemingly won’t ever get old. And I love how I’m bound to forget about it for a little while in January only to have it come bounding back in my life in February when Mark Ronson’s new album comes out.

Here, let’s take a quick break and just dig on this for a few minutes…

Cool, game on.

5. The Spurs Win the NBA Title

In 2013, I had become a LeBron James’ fan. It had become impossible not to be one. He was amazing, the real deal- we were witnessing something amazing and it’d be downright foolish to ignore it or downplay any longer. Go LeBron, go.

However, LeBron’s team, the Heat? No, eff those dudes. Dwayne Wade is goon, Chris Bosh is an unfunny cartoon character, Mario Chalmers is a despicable front runner. I rooted for the Spurs in 2013 and I was damn sure rooting for them again in 2014. Plus, if the Heat lost, then who knows what would follow and where LeBron might land the following summer in free agency (Spoiler: Cleveland.) For multiple reasons I wanted the Spurs to win. Three games in, I want total annihilation. Miami looked lifeless and defeated in the Finals and I sat on my couch, pleading for them to deliver the death blow to a purely fraudulent team. And it was never even close. The Spurs won in 5 games; should have been four. But five was fun. I’m a sucker for a good sports story and the Spurs winning the title, a year after losing a heart breaker, a fitting (possibly) ending to their unbelievable run of success was gold, Jerry, gold! I wholeheartedly enjoyed every minute of it.

4. Jon Oliver’s Last Week Tonight

I already professed my love of Oliver and his HBO show when he finished in second place in the Summer of 2014 MVP race, so I don’t really feel the need to get into it again. So here, just enjoy this clip instead.

You’re welcome.

3. Bachelor in Paradise Sonic Highways

Up until yesterday, Bachelor in Paradise, also known as the Best/Worst Television Show Ever, was a lock in the three spot. How could it not be? It kept me wonderfully entertained all summer and taught me once and for all what love really is. I mean, all along I thought love was finding a lasting connection with someone who you couldn’t envision life without. Love is much, much, much simpler than that. Love is apparently just locking eyes with someone while buzzed on Rum Runners on an isolated beach in Mexico. I had been so, so wrong all along.

And I had apparently been wrong about who should be number three on this list because sadly, it was not Bachelor in Paradise. Number three would be a far better television show- Sonic Highways, the Dave Grohl curated and driven HBO mini-series. Lasting only eight episodes, each one took place in a different city, a city with a rich musical history, as well as a personal connection to either Grohl or another member of the Foo Fighters. And in each city the band would record a song for their album Sonic Highways in a city’s iconic recording studio. They went to Chicago, D.C., Nashville, Austin, L.A., New Orleans, Seattle and finally New York City and it really was mesmerizing to watch, especially for someone like me who is equally obsessed with music, musicians talking about music and U.S. history. Sonic Highways had it all.

The Seattle episode is what sealed the deal for me. It not only brought back so many memories for me of discovering grunge, falling in love with Pearl Jam, Nirvana and Soundgarden and how it all lit the fuse of my desire to make music of my own, but it also was beautiful in the way the episode discussed Kurt Cobain’s death.* They didn’t overdo it or belabor the point. It was smooth and tactful- really well done. The whole series was really well done and after finishing the series, I immediately wanted to go back and watch them all again. It also helped me re-discover the Foo Fighters and pointed me in the direction (or back in the direction) of bands & people like the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Queens of the Stone Age, Gary Clark Jr., Nirvana, Soundgarden and Cheap Trick among others. I really can’t wait to watch it again.

* It made me think about where I was when I heard Cobain died and I’m pretty sure I was in an airport, headed to Florida on school vacation and caught a glimpse of a headline on a newspaper. That would have been the day after, which is wild to think about now, finding out something happened almost twelve hours after it did.

2. Serial

Oh man, Serial. Talk about something coming along and effin’ sweeping the nation like a G-D hurricane. I kept seeing things on Twitter about it, but you see a lot of things about a lot of things on Twitter so it’s easy to miss something. Then Elyse mentioned it, I made a joke about it being a podcast about cereal, she ignored said joke and later that day on the way home I gave it a listen. A day later I was four episodes in and all I could think about was Hai’s murder, did Adnan do it, did Jay do it, did Jay help Adnan, what if Jay and Adnan were the same person, can we learn more about Mr. S? For someone who listens to podcasts on a regular basis, it was a breath of fresh air. And so smart! How had no one thought of doing a serialized podcast before? And what the shit, we’re essentially going back in time here, where we all huddle around the radio listening to a radio program. But that’s so cool. And Serial is so cool.

My Serial Finale Prediction?

Nothing clear-cut is resolved, but enough doubt is cast about if Adnan really did kill Hai that it will make the whole thing worthwhile.

Do I think Adnan killed Hai?

No.

No?

Nope.

Then who did?

I feel like Jay was involved.

So Adnan wasn’t involved at all?

If he was then he got Jay to do it, offered to pay him to do it. But then when he didn’t pay him enough money, Jay tried to make it seem like Adnan did it as revenge. But Jay is an idiot and somehow left himself in the story, which makes no sense.

1. The 2014 World Cup

My MVP of the Summer was the U.S. Men’s National Team and it’s goalie, Tim Howard. But the World Cup as a whole was easily my favorite thing that happened in 2014. Every match, every goal, every save- everything was what sports are meant to be- so much flippin’ fun. I loved the momentum that the U.S. team built and how with every match, excitement grew, even among people who could care less about soccer. It was a wave, people wanted in.

USA_0

Huge viewing parties, dipping out of work to watch, running home to watch- it all became par for the course as the Cup went on and even after the U.S. was eliminated and as a country, we publicly disavowed Belgium waffles, the Cup was still interesting all the way up to the final when eventually Germany prevailed. I love when sports becomes something everyone can talk about because I love the shared experience of sports. When I lived in Philly, nothing was better than when the Phillies were winning because the whole city got on board and everywhere you went were people more than willing to talk about it. The we’re all in this together quality of sports is truly magical. I love it.

And I loved the World Cup.

And I haven’t had a Belgium waffle since.

Also in the Running…

New albums by Tom Petty, Ryan Adams, Spoon and the Black Keys

Chef

The final episodes of Boardwalk Empire

Twitter killing it as a news outlet

The second seasons of The Americans and The Bridge

The New Girl’s turn around

Bruno Mars’ Super Bowl Halftime performance

Mo’ne Davis

Stay Tuned for My Least Favorite Things of 2014…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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