Pop Culture Hopes and Dreams for 2015

Force Awakens

Last year at this time, I published a post with a series of hopes and dreams, big and small, for 2014. I’m happy to report that some of those hopes came true. A quick rundown:

I hoped that the third season of Sherlock is every bit as delectable as the first two. It wasn’t. The seams started to show, despite great moments. Oh well.

I hoped Jimmy Fallon’s transition to The Tonight Show would be smooth and hassle-free. Given NBC’s track record, this hope seemed far-fetched, but Fallon’s ratings are through the roof, and the qualities that made him a success on Late Night remain intact in the higher-profile timeslot.

I hoped Cecily Strong would gain a following as Weekend Update host on SNLAwkward.

I hoped Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar is every bit as mind-blowing as Inception, and preferably not as inconsistent as The Dark Knight RisesMind-blowing? Yes. Consistent? Not so much.

I hoped that HBO’s True Detective would avoid the modern tropes of the serial-killer drama and encourage more networks to take chances with unconventional television structures. A tentative yes to the first part, a definitive yes to the second part. The show’s final three episodes revealed that Nic Pizzollatto’s narrative goals were less revolutionary than they initially appeared. But the show made great use of its anthology structure, attracting actors who would have balked at a longer-term commitment and cultivating a signature aesthetic with the sure hand of Cary Joji Fukanaga at the helm. And indeed, other networks have followed suit with shows like Fargo. 

I hoped that huge pop stars would follow the Beyoncé model and seek innovative ways to promote their content. Well, this happened. Sometimes hopes manifest in unexpectedly annoying ways.

I hoped Justin Bieber would make a comeback…or at least steer out of the skid. Nope. Nope. Nope.

I hoped there would be more diversity, and more conversations about diversity. Yes! As I said last year, the conversation doesn’t end just because networks and studios move in the direction of diversity, but 2014 saw several positive steps.

Now that the dust has settled, here are my hopes and dreams for 2015.

***

I hope Fargo and True Detective follow up their enticing debuts with second seasons that stay true to the established brand while pushing each show in new directions.

Fargo

I loved the first season of Fargo and liked the first season of True Detective. Casting announcements for the second season of the former (Ron Swanson! Sam Malone! Landry Clarke! Mary Jane Watson!) have me salivating for more Midwestern crime hijinks. Casting announcements for the second season of the latter have me wishing the Hollywood trade publications would find something else to report on. Nonetheless, I’m staying open-minded and hopeful that Fargo creator Noah Hawley and True Detective auteur Nic Pizzollatto don’t just repeat themselves with new characters and a new setting. FX and HBO respectively have given these creators to go anywhere and say anything with the backing of an established and popular brand. They should take advantage of it.

***

I hope to see great new TV shows with unknown leads and supporting players.

Gina Rodriguez

The list of movie stars or has-been movie stars who will be making big splashes on TV in 2015 is positively dizzying. Terrence Howard, Anthony Hopkins, Ed Harris, Jack Black, Tim Robbins, Jay Baruchel, Rachel McAdams, Vince Vaughn, Colin Farrell, Stanley Tucci, Michael Gambon, Peter Sarsgaard, Zachary Quinto, Uma Thurman, Sharlto Copley and more will grace the “small screen” on new shows this calendar year, joining the likes of Viola Davis, Kevin Bacon, Kevin Spacey, Eva Green and others who have already abandoned movies in favor of the more elastic medium of television.

I love movie stars as much as the next guy, and many of those actors are superb and involved in very interesting projects. Nonetheless, I’m holding out hope that all of these A-listers won’t drown out the up-and-comers that often come out of nowhere on TV’s most interesting shows. A year ago, names like Andy Daly, Gina Rodriguez, Aya Cash, Chris Geare, Abbi Jacobson, Ilana Glazer and Raul Castillo were unfamiliar to me, and now I can’t wait to see what they’ll do next. Movie stars are great, but I hope the breakout TV star isn’t a dying breed.

***

I hope Kanye West finds a way to change the conversation from “pulling a Beyonce” to “pulling a Kanye”…preferably by releasing a great album.

Kanye

Last year in this space, I wrote that I was excited to see how Beyonce’s surprise album drop would affect major stars like Taylor Swift, Adele, U2 and Kanye West as they released new music in 2014. As it turns out, Taylor dominated the market with old-fashioned savvy, Adele punted, U2 whiffed and Kanye…teased and teased but failed to deliver. Yeezy fans anxiously awaited for their rap god to rain down surprise new music on a significant date – the day of Taylor Swift’s album release? the day of the Grammy nominations? Christmas? the last day of the year? – only to leave 2014 empty-handed. But the tide turned on New Year’s Day as Kanye released “Only One,” his long-awaited collaboration with Paul McCartney. The song, a sweet ode to Kanye’s daughter North from the perspective of Kanye’s mother Donda, suggests a new and less confrontational direction for the man whose last album included such modest turns of phrase as “Hurry up with my damn croissants” and “I am a god.”

***

I hope “Untitled Cameron Crowe” is the actual title of “Untitled Cameron Crowe.”

Cameron Crowe

This movie has a mystifying premise, a killer ensemble and a lot of negative advance buzz as a result of critical emails that leaked during the Sony hack. I’m excited to see it, no matter what it ends up being. But the fact that it has no title four months before its release should be a warning sign of some kind. I hope it’s some kind of postmodern meditation on the modern movie culture of anticipation. (Either that, or the Sony staff is too busy plugging the holes. One or the other.)

***

I hope Pixar returns to form.

Pixar

After a rare year without a new release from the legendary animation studio, 2015 will bring two original Pixar movies: Inside Out, which takes place inside a girl’s mind, and The Good Dinosaur, in which the dinosaurs are very much alive. Pixar’s last original movie Brave was solid but failed to reach the heights of WALL-E and The Incredibles. Amid accusations of laziness, these two movies could change the conversation and introduce two innovative animated classics.

***

I hope people critique Star Wars Episode VII – The Force Awakens like they would critique any other movie…because that’s what it is.

Force Awakens

I don’t know if this movie, directed by the reliable franchise kickstarter J.J. Abrams, will be good. But I’m willing to go into it assuming that everyone involved in making it had good intentions and a sense of the fans’ devotion to the series. Whether the world needs more Star Wars movies is moot. They’re coming. Hype doesn’t tell the full story. See the movie, react accordingly.

***

I hope Larry Willmore gets attention and Stephen Colbert gets a chance.

Larry Willmore

Stephen Colbert left his Comedy Central perch in a blaze of glory on December 18th. In less than two weeks, former Daily Show black correspondent Larry Willmore will take over Colbert’s timeslot with The Nightly Show. The buzz for the new show seems muted, perhaps because Colbert cast such a long shadow over the late-night landscape, or because Willmore isn’t already a household name like Seth Meyers or Jimmy Fallon were when their new shows started. But Willmore is a funny man, whether appearing on The Daily Show, popping up on Happy Endings or shepherding Black-ish to ABC sitcom success. He’s primed to bring a fresh perspective to the predominantly white late-night roster.

Meanwhile, Stephen Colbert has his own big shoes to fill. David Letterman has been a fixture in late-night for more than 30 years, and Colbert has almost never appeared in public sans outsized conservative persona. Nonetheless, Colbert’s immense talent is likely to translate well to the more conventional format of a network late-night talk show, but he’ll have room to inject some of his own personality into the proceedings.

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