While 2016 has by-in-large been a 365-day long swift kick to the nuts, there have admittedly been some bright moments. For instance, above all else (and excluding much of the summer season) it has been a good year in cinema. This being a movie blog, I will of course be sharing my personal favourite movies of the year. However, I thought now, in the twilight of the year, would be a good opportunity to pay homage to some of the non-film favourites of 2016. These selection might not have been on the big screen but they helped to make the year that much better for me.
Game of Thrones Season 6
Game of Thrones has always been an annual stand-out since its first season premiered. I was immediately sucked into the world and have been hooked ever since. I devoured the book series and am a full-on fanboy at this point. While I haven’t always liked the direction the show has taken, I remain glued to it each season for 10 weeks and then agonizing over its return. This season was a real winner in my eyes, uping the stakes, the production and taking some huge steps towards concluding the whole story. The “Battle of the Bastards” episode will go down as a major television achievement for years, but in my humble opinion, there was no TV moment this year that topped the opening 10 minutes of “The Winds of Winter” finale episode.
Whenever Game of Thrones is on break, I search for the next addictive show I can obsess over in the meantime. I hoped that Westworld would fill that void and, for better or worse, it did. I found the first episode of Season 1 so enthralling and opened so many possibilities for where things might go that I couldn’t begin to guess how it would all play out. As the mysteries built and more questions were coming than answers, I began to fear a Lost-type letdown was coming. But there was still plenty to keep me riveted week-in and week-out. Despite its flaws Westworld was a television event and it gave us the year’s best television character in Thandie Newton’s Maeve. Hopefully Season 2 and beyond will focus more on the morality tale of the world and less on the “mystery box” storytelling method.
This one is a bit of a cheat. While a new season of the acclaimed British series did in fact premiere this year, I didn’t watch it. Instead, the buzz about Black Mirror Season 3 convinced me to check out the first two seasons. What a brilliant show this is. By the end of each episode, I am speechless. The concepts and ideas they introduce are so clever and complex, they could base a whole show on just one of the stories, but the anthology storytelling is so effective and perfect for the current binge-watch culture. Yet the concepts never get in the way of the storytelling and a few of these episodes really take you on an emotional marathon. Needless to say, I’m excited to catch up with Season 3 in the new year.
Norm MacDonald’s “Based on a True Story: A Memoir”
Norm MacDonald has been one of my favourite comedians for many years with his absurdly stripped-down jokes and bone-dry delivery. I was interested to see what his first book would be like, and while I don’t care for celebrity memoirs, I knew he would at least do something new with it. Well I was right and I was wrong. In truth, he didn’t write a memoir at all but instead wrote a novel with only hints at his real life rise to fame. The book is funny, obviously, but it’s also just a brilliant story of a downward spiral. The art of the novel reflects the great storyteller MacDonald has proven to be in his comedy, and for an extra treat, take a listen to the audiobook to enjoy that special Norm MacDonald delivery.
Seth Myers’ “A Closer Look”
I used to be a late night fiend, but as I grew older and no longer enjoyed staying up that late, I drifted away from the culture. I can’t say I miss it given the flood of new faces, but in the year of Trump, one voice rose above the rest as a biting commentary of the orange-faced buffoon; Seth Myers. I know, I was surprised too. Although perhaps I shouldn’t have been since Trump kicked off his campaign by getting eviscerated by Myers at the White House Correspondent’s Diner. His “A Closer Look” segment was an almost nightly continuation of that roasting as Myers expertly attack the inconsistencies, the lies and, most concerning to Trump, the ego of President-Elect. While other late night hosts were being viral hits by singing in cars and tussling Trump’s hair, Myers dedicated 10 minutes a night to fact-checking a dangerous man. Of course, the segment did nothing to stop Trump, but it warms my heart even a little to know Myers will be there, not giving Trump an inch for the next 4 years (dear God, please).
Adam Baldwin’s “No Telling When (Precisely Nineteen Eighty-Five)”
This pick might be a little too inside since it is mostly known within the Halifax music scene, but Adam Baldwin, former right-hand man to Matt Mays, gave the perfect summer soundtrack with his full-length album debut. While Baldwin’s 2014 self-titled EP was a gem, this is his first big success. It’s a fun throw-back album that combines up-tempo rock tracks, with remorseful ballads of lost love and a fair amount of anger. Just a taste of what we’ll see from Baldwin in future I’m sure, but it certainly helps cements his reputation as Halifax’s Springsteen, plus a good bit of his own unique flavour.
Colin Quinn’s “The New York Story”
Colin Quinn has been one of the greatest living stand-up comedians for years and it’s time that people outside of New York City started to realize that. Ironically, the show that might help with that is all about the Big Apple. Not that you need to live there to appreciate Quinn’s hilarious words of wisdom on the city’s ever-changing culture. I’ve visited a few times and have only a cursory knowledge of New York’s history but so much of his observations rang true. While some comedians lean on stereotypes as a crutch, Quinn uses them to tell a well-informed story. He’s so confident in his material that he moves from joke to joke, daring the audience to keep up with him. It’s nostalgia without having disdain for today, it’s insulting without putting anyone above others, and it’s fucking funny.
The World Cup of Hockey
I know, I’m a Canadian cliche. I can’t get through a list of pop culture without mentioning hockey, but this was just fun to watch. I’m still unsure what the future of the World Cup of Hockey holds, but Team Canada put on a god damn clinic this year. It was something special to see players like Crosby, Marchand, Thorton and Price, usually enemies on the ice, work so flawlessly together. The tournament helped cement Sid the Kid as today’s greatest player and a born leader. And after think-pieces about Canada no longer being the paramount of the hockey world, this talented group shut those critics up but good.