Pop Culture Hopes and Dreams for the New Year

Sherlock

Before the new year loses its new year smell, here are a few of my pop-culture hopes for the next 358 days. Let’s reconvene in 12 months to see how many of these came to fruition, shall we?

I hope that the third season of Sherlock is every bit as delectable as the first two.

Not much more to say about this riveting series of mini-movies. Love Cumberbatch. Love Freeman. Love the cliffhanger. Bring it on, PBS. January 19th can’t come soon enough.

I hope Jimmy Fallon’s transition to The Tonight Show is smooth and hassle-free.

Fallon

After watching the two-hour retrospective on Sunday night, I feel even more confident that Fallon has the chops and broad appeal to carry The Tonight Show, a relic of a bygone era, into its uncertain future. People just don’t watch late-night television like they used to, but Fallon has proven well-suited to producing the kinds of morning-after viral moments that draw attention to his silly, optimistic show.

Of course, the looming specter of Jay Leno is a concern. We all know what happened the last time Leno “retired” from The Tonight Show. (Short version: after migrating to an ill-advised primetime show, NBC engineered a deal that brought Leno back to Tonight at the expense of Conan O’Brien, whose low ratings could have improved if given more time.) If Fallon’s ratings drop precipitously from Leno’s, it’s unclear whether NBC will be able to lure Leno back and repeat the cycle, which would be a major PR disaster for a network that’s had its fair share of PR disasters.

If Leno decides to move to CNN or another network, as has been rumored, these speculations might be moot. Nonetheless, for the sake of letting the strange world of late night proceed in peace, I hope Fallon gets the time he needs – and the opportunity to produce musical comedy at the level of History of Rap and Joking Bad.

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I hope Cecily Strong gains a following as Weekend Update host on SNL.

Cecily

With much of the focus on Seth Meyers’ exit from the Weekend Update table just in time for his move to Fallon’s vacated hosting gig on Late Night, Cecily Strong has quietly established herself as a winning presence, delivering jokes with ease and developing impressive banter with a few of the recurring guest characters. Speculation suggests Strong will have a new partner once Meyers leaves, but for now, she’s acquitted herself well and adapted quickly. With a little more time, she could be a classic Update host-in-the-making.

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I hope Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar is every bit as mind-blowing as Inception, and preferably not as inconsistent as The Dark Knight Rises.

Christopher Nolan

With an incredible cast including Matthew McConaughey, Jessica Chastain, Wes Bentley and Anne Hathaway, Nolan’s latest original sci-fi film Interstellar has promise. I’m hoping that it deviates from the doom and gloom of his previous features for a more varied tone. I also hope to stay as in the dark about it as possible – I don’t know any plot details, and I’d like to keep it that way. I found The Dark Knight Rises impressive but very flawed, especially in comparison to the excellence of The Dark Knight. Interstellar is Nolan’s chance to reassert himself as a commercial and creative force to be reckoned with.

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I hope that HBO’s True Detective avoids the modern tropes of the serial-killer drama and encourages more networks to take chances with unconventional television structures.

True Detective

Television critics have been raving about HBO’s first entry into the newly hot anthology game, a grim police thriller headlined by two of the biggest movie stars on the planet. If the show’s ratings are high enough, HBO will renew the show for a second season of eight episodes featuring a new setting, a new cast and a new storyline. This model is effective from a commercial and creative standpoint, allowing networks to court bigger stars and better actors for shorter time commitments and keeping the quality of the storytelling fresh and contained.

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I hope that huge pop stars will follow the Beyoncé model and seek innovative ways to promote their content.

Drunk in Love

If 2013 was the year of experimental PR in pop music, with artists ranging from David Bowie and Justin Timberlake to Jay Z and Kanye West exploring new ways to create hype for their new music, 2014 ought to be the year of a resurgence for the music industry. Credit Beyoncé with proving that marketing innovation coupled with a fully formed artistic creation can attract attention. Some of the major artists set to release new albums in 2014 include Taylor Swift, Adele (maybe), Kanye West (again) and U2. I’ll be excited not only to hear the new music, but also to see how I find out about it.

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I hope Justin Bieber makes a comeback…or at least steers out of the skid.

Justin Bieber

Yes, I’m serious! It’s no fun watching a teen sensation devolve into a trainwreck, especially when that teen sensation has talent and potential. He’s no Michael Jackson or Usher whether people want to claim he is or not, but his commercially unsuccessful “Music Mondays” series contained at least three or four songs (“Confident,” “All That Matters,” “Roller Coaster”) that, from an artist with less personal baggage, could have turned into decent-sized hits. If Bieber’s not going to pull himself out of his recent antics, I have no interest in following his trajectory. But if he takes a break and comes back re-energized and ready to avoid the missteps of his past, I’d welcome the comeback.

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I hope there’s more diversity, and more conversations about diversity.

Sasheer Zamata

The year already started with a tentative step towards racial diversity on Saturday Night Live with the hiring of new cast member Sasheer Zamata, the show’s first black female cast member since Maya Rudolph left in 2007. But my hope for this year is that the industry acknowledge that issues of diversity aren’t problems that can be solved with tokenism. SNL isn’t off the hook for its lack of diversity. It won’t be off the hook even if the show’s writers give Zamata opportunities to shine. The problem has been addressed, but this step ought to be the first in a series of efforts. The same goes for other areas of the industry: representation of women in action blockbusters, LGBT characters on television, appropriation of black culture in pop music, just to name a few of 2013’s sticking points. Let’s keep talking about these issues. If we want them to “go away,” we can’t be passive.

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I hope that the year brings unexpected triumphs and myriad delights.

There’s plenty to complain about in the world of pop culture, but every year brings plenty to celebrate as well. Here’s to rewarding quality and seeking out the best that entertainment has to offer. Happy New Year, everyone.

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