Thanksgiving is a time to reflect. And eat. But mostly reflect. While eating. You can do both. And you should. Both are worthwhile endeavors.
The Uproxx staff and crew of contributors did just that this week, reflect in between fits of eating. And we’ve put together this list of the things from pop culture we were thankful for this year. The list is not comprehensive. There’s plenty more to be thankful for. None of us mentioned The White Lotus or the thing where Jason Momoa played a character in Dune whose name was Duncan Idaho. We are thankful for those things, too. But here’s our official list for this year. We did it for you. Please enjoy and then get back to the eating. Or enjoy while eating. You can probably handle that level of multi-tasking.
Here we go…
The ongoing petty feud between Vin Diesel and The Rock
Two things are true of the world in 2021:
- There are so many shows, everywhere, on so many different outlets, spanning all genres and formats, featuring A-list stars and creators galore, making it almost too easy to find a piece of entertainment that’s been created to match your exact sensibilities and tastes
- No television show has brought me as much joy over the last few years as the constantly simmering feud between my beefy dads, Vin Diesel and The Rock
The history is well-documented, sometimes by me, because, again, the joy. I love that they hate each other this much and I love that it just keeps going. The Rock making jokes about Vin in his various projects and responding to Vin’s comments line-by-line while sipping tequila. Vin hopping on Instagram and calling The Rock his little brother. It’s honestly incredible. I don’t want it to end, ever, in part because it fuels my petty soul and in part because it’s just outrageously silly that two of our biggest musclebound action stars refuse to stop fighting on the internet like junior high enemies. I will be so sad if they ever squash this beef. Like, really, truly sad. It’s very healthy and normal. — Brian Grubb
Patti Harrison crushing small appearances
Patti Harrison only appears twice in season two of Netflix’s monolithically funny I Think You Should Leave, but one of them is my favorite sketch of the entire series. The Shark Tank parody is also great (Harrison’s “wine… and popcorn!” is an instantly iconic line reading), but I’m not sure I’ve watched anything as much this year as “Tables.” It’s technically listed as “Driver’s Ed” on YouTube, but c’mon, we all know it and love it as “Tables.” It takes a simple premise — a driver’s education teacher shows his students a video about the dangers of distracted driving — and makes it absurd. Why is the character in the movie so worked up about her tables? And why are they so dirty? And what is her job exactly? “TA-BLES!” Tim Robinson yelling is always good for a laugh, but it’s Harrison and her over-the-top anguish about her tables that steals the sketch — and the season. Also, f*ck Eddie Munster. — Josh Kurp
The Great being, well, kind of great
This holiday season, one thing I’m thankful for is the return of The Great on Hulu. The Great, a fictionalized comedy about the rise of Catherine the Great of Russia set in the mid-1700s, is pretty close to the show I would make in a fantasy world where I had both the clout and the talent to make a show. I’ve been obsessed with European monarchies basically since I was 12. The idea that entire societies were controlled by the most venal, messy, grasping families of inbred psychopaths among us is endlessly entertaining (incidentally, this is also basically the root idea behind Game of Thrones and Dune). In The Great, The Favourite co-writer Tony McNamara (The Great is basically The Favourite as a series, which is wonderful) basically turned that into an absurdist comedy. It turned out exactly as I always dreamed something like this could, while avoiding nearly all of the pitfalls. The language is kitschy and fun, without turning every joke into “it’s funny because the olden times people are using web slang,” the actors are perfect (chiefly Elle Fanning and Nicholas Hoult as Catherine and Peter) and the sets and cinematography are very bit as eye-catching and opulent as you might expect from a show set in the golden age of Czarist Russia. Again, it’s basically the show I’ve always wanted and I’m so glad that it exists. — Vince Mancini
Michael Clayton, still and always
The 2007 legal thriller Michael Clayton has been one of my favorite movies of all-time for years — one of those movies that I can’t resist watching if it’s on one of the cable channels — but it somehow seems to be just getting better and more relevant with age. Written and directed by Tony Gilroy and starring George Clooney, Tilda Swinton, and Tom Wilkinson (all were nominated for Oscars, btw; Swinton was the only one to win), the film centers around the fixer (Clooney) at a big, fancy corporate law firm that does legal work for an evil agricultural products conglomerate trying to cover up the fact that its products have been giving people cancer all over the place. As I mentioned previously, it’s long been a favorite of mine, but I’ve been watching it even more this year as it just hits different in the post-pandemic, late-stage capitalism f*ck pie we’re all currently existing in. And I know that I’m not the only one who feels this way, thus the growing popularity of this yard sign. So what are you waiting for, Michael Clayton is streaming on Hulu. You should watch it! — Brett Michael Dykes
DOG HEAD MAN
I am thankful for Dog Head Man. This season of SNL, somewhat liberated from having to be a social commentary every week on the state of the United States federal government, and at least seems to be leaning into just dumb funny sketches again. I’m all for this. I like to laugh. (And even when Trump shows up, James Austin Johnson’s version is much more surreal and absurd.) Also, I happened to be at the debut of Dog Head Man in January of 2018, when Sam Rockwell hosted SNL. Which, now, in retrospect, I feel like I saw Michael Jordan’s first game in person. Thank you, Dog Head Man. — Mike Ryan
The old and the new converging together in our brains and streaming services
Like everyone, I spent a lot of time over the last 18 months in the embrace of comfort TV, or to be more specific, rewatching things I have seen 5 or 11 times before. All the staples have been hit – The Office, Cheers, Parks, Schitt’s, and most recently Seinfeld. But while it’s been nice to check-in with old friends, mouthing the lines as they’re being said and remembering forgotten punchlines, I’ve also felt this growing sense that the time spent near exclusively swimming in a pool of nostalgia might be causing me to miss out on a bunch of new shows and films. And I have taken this feeling and used it as motivation to ween myself off the classics more and more, trying to strike more of a balance. And so I’ve had the time to watch Maid and a long list of films that I would have missed, like How It Ends. And on and on. It’s a balance everyone attempts, but I’m especially thankful for it. Being wholly nestled in the warm of old things is as damaging as if I had gone the other way and ignored the classics and their influence. Devour all content old and new is I suppose the message and a pursuit to be thankful for because it gives us the fullest understanding of how things evolve and how timelessness speaks not only to insanely clever things but to a thread that connects us generationally. — Jason Tabrys
The Witcher getting fan service right
So many things could have gone wrong with The Witcher on Netflix. The casting, obviously, ended up being more perfect than anyone (including showrunner Lauren Schmidt-Hissrich) ever could have imagined. Not only did she make the bathtub canon, but the show’s adopted a fan-forward-but-still-realistic perspective from the beginning. Henry Cavill (who bested literally hundreds of other candidates) came by the role honestly though, given that he’s a straight-up nerd who played the games and swallowed the books and embodies all that is wonderful (and yes, there’s a lot of goodness) about passionate fandom.
The first season ended up being better than it had any business to be, and the enormous audience reception led to the swift greenlighting of more seasons, an anime movie, and a prequel series still in the works. Heck, things went so well that the Witcher-Con happened this year, and Season 2 will include another monstrous banger, yet it must be noted that the show doesn’t go too far to bend over to fan demands. The show’s not afraid of switching up the equation for a less grumpy and more personable Geralt, even though the fans do love the grump. Instead, this give-and-take between fans and art is what this franchise does best. Some might even say that it’s, you know, destiny. – Kimberly Ricci
Steve Martin risking life and limb for a laugh
Only Murders in the Building was a blast. Just an absolute hoot from beginning to end, with Martin Short giving the full Martin Short and Selena Gomez cussing a lot and Nathan Lane playing deliciously devious and Jane Lynch showing up as a character named, I swear Sazz Pataki. But my favorite part, I think, was Steve Martin, decades into an iconic career, flopping himself on the floor and twisting himself into a pretzel for a short piece of elevator-related physical comedy.
He did not have to do this. People would have understood if he hadn’t, or really wouldn’t have even known to miss it. But he did it because he’s a professional. A massively silly professional who will risk bodily injury for a laugh even today, at age 76, but still, a professional. Please do not take this for granted. — Brian Grubb
The extremely specific way Jackie Daytona says “Tuscon, Arizona” on What We Do in the Shadows
There are all sorts of ways to deal with stress. I really like breath work. Surfing. A day at the K-Spa. The list is infinite because we are at the exact moment in culture where literally everything you’ve ever liked has been listed as a stress release and everything that’s ever annoyed you is considered a stressor and we are all just on this planet to induce and reduce stress with varying degrees of efficacy, apparently.
Like everyone, some of my habits for managing stress are life-giving and some are… not as great. But make no mistake, I consider watching Matt Berry as Lazo Cravensworth as Jackie Daytona say, “Tucson, Arizonia” to be among my most healthy habits. It’s just such a great moment. A dumb joke that could also be heavily analyzed (after all, it implies that a vampire who has been alive for centuries has never actually heard anyone say “Arizona”, which is a flyover state slam on par with Jessica Walter saying “I’d rather be dead in California than alive in Arizona” on Arrested Development).
Please, right now, listen to that enunciation of “Arizonia” — it’s truly a perfect line read. You can hear Lazlo’s insecurity. You can see him try to cover it with Jackie Daytona bluster. You get this lilt at the end like he’s thinking of adding even more flair to the word. Or perhaps he’s practiced it at home, just to prepare for being questioned, and he’s caught himself adding a syllable. (Another great AZ dig is the fact that this answer is accepted at face value.)
There’s an old interview about the Simpsons movie where the writers said that they just did table reads for days on end until every joke seemed boring and then they cut all those jokes and just kept the ones that still worked after 100 table reads. I love that idea and think of this joke as the epitome of that philosophy. It’s never not funny. On par with the JB Smoove-Larry David “flip it” conversation. A blissful moment during tumultuous times.
And I should know, I’ve watched it probably 30 times already this month. — Steve Bramucci
The Ocean’s movies just being available to watch all the time, like magic
One of the great things about the streaming era of TV is that, if you do the right searching, you can find a place that has your favorite shows or movies from the past and watch them over and over. Sure we could all just buy DVDs of these things, but that’s a lot of effort and planning. I just want to, whenever the mood strikes, be able to fire up one of the Ocean’s movies – all four of which are on HBO Max; 11, 12, 13, and 8 – which I do about once a month for comfort like a warm blanket on a cold winter’s day. Everyone has their own version of this, whether it be The Office or The Sopranos or Survivor or what have you. Me? I just want to watch Danny, Rusty, and the boys (or Debbie, Lou, and the girls) pull off elaborate heists and then send my likewise Ocean’s obsessed friends texts that just say, “Soft opening, grand opening. When the Flamingo opened, one day it was closed, the next day it was open.” — Robby Kalland
Metroid Dead, baby
While for many Metroid Dread was their long-awaited return to one of Nintendo’s most beloved series, for me it was my introduction to the wildly cruel and endlessly fascinating world of Samus Aran — and what a fantastic introduction it was. Despite previously shying away from the Metroidvania-style games out of fear they’d live up to their notoriously grueling reputation, something about Metroid Dread compelled me to give it try and I’m so thankful I did. Admittedly, it was frustrating, but it was the kind of frustrating that only made each of my little victories and strokes of cleverness all that much sweeter — the kind of frustrating that inspired growth and change. Through Metroid Dread, I discovered my love of an entirely new genre, my love for one of video game’s most iconic female protagonists, and even a bit about myself. — Jess Howard
Five simple letters here. P-E-T-E-Y. He’s an incredible songwriter that hits on the things I love about aughts-era indie and emo (he cites Modest Mouse as a big influence, which is a good jumping-off point for exploring his sound). But, as is crucial in this social media age, he’s also a breakout TikTok star thanks to an absurdist comedy account that does scripted skits that have very little to do with his music.
As much as the tone of both the comedy and the music can feel at odds, they work together to form a sort of expanded universe — the PCU? Surely no one has ever used that acronym before and I’m not gonna Google it to find out — where nostalgia and sentimentality can sit comfortably next to bizarre humor about eating paint chips. Poignant tunes and belly laughs? Yeah, that’s something to be thankful for. — Philip Cosores
Succession, in all its fun and evil glory
At a time when real-life villains occupy some of the most powerful positions in our society, and the class divide has never been more pronounced, watching a family of wildly obnoxious spoiled white (adult) “kids” desperately vying for their father’s attention might seem like the last thing you’d want to watch in a post-Trump Presidency world. Or, at the very least, redundant. But whether it’s a case of good ol’ masochism or immersion therapy at its most effective, there’s an undeniable joy in watching Brian Cox’s Logan Roy force his children and other lackeys to bend to his often sadistic demands (Boar on the Floor anyone?). The two years between seasons was a tough slog for Succession fans, but season 3—which picked up right where season 2 left off—has been well worth the wait. UTIs be damned. — Jennifer M. Wood
Kathryn Hahn, just generally, but also specifically
Every few years, another Hahnissance occurs. Like an eclipse, it happens just rarely enough to be a fascinating spectacle for fans too young to remember the last awakening and a welcome return for Hahn stans who have been patiently hosting Emmy summoning circles in the shadows. What I’m trying to say is this: Kathryn Hahn is a damn delight, a national treasure, but one we only collectively appreciate every so often, when she delivers a commanding, scene-stealing turn in a piece of pop culture that finds a home on our timelines. Luckily, that’s what WandaVision was – a wonderfully weird bit of superhero nonsense that gave Hahn the chance to do what she does best, A.C.T. As Agatha Harkness, she transformed from a nosy neighbor delivering perfectly-timed one-liners to a villainous with puppeteering the residents of an idyllic suburb, offing pooches, and churning out certified bangers. 2021 knew what we didn’t: It’s been Kathryn Hahn all along. — Jessica Toomer
Guy Fieri’s social team really understanding the assignment
I don’t remember when, exactly, it started happening, but sometime in the last year or two, the Uproxx Sports staff — all of whom consider themselves members of the Flavortown community — started keeping an extra keen eye out for whenever Guy Fieri would post stuff to Instagram. Now, Guy isn’t usually the one posting the things that catch our eye, because he almost certainly spends a lot of his money on a small army of professional posters, but the stuff they end up tossing onto his IG rules. There are so many photoshops putting Guy into stuff. Some recent examples: Guy on the Old School and Accepted posters as part of an ad campaign for Flavortown University, a remix of the “All I Want For Christmas Is You” album art (above) that has Guy and the words “All I Want For Christmas Is Food,” a bunch of Guy/Drake photoshops. It is unclear to me exactly why any of this exists, but I am glad it does, and really, what else can you ask for? — Bill DiFilippo
The dancing scenes in Titane
Julia Ducournau needs to do an all-out musical. Justine dancing in front of a mirror is one of the more striking scenes from her first movie, the cannibal masterpiece Raw, and many of the most memorable moments in her Palme d’Or-winning follow-up, Titane, involve music. There’s Alexia, a pregnant serial killer who pretends to be the missing son of a firefighter after having sex with a car (tale as old as time), being spun around the living room by her fake-dad while “She’s Not There” plays. And the eerily lit sequence set to Future Islands’ “Light House.” And who could forget when she makes her male co-workers squirm with her sexually provocative dancing during a rave. Did I mention there’s a song called “Car F*ck” on the soundtrack? It’s not too late to get Ducournau to direct Wicked. — Josh Kurp