9 Pop Culture Things I’m Looking Forward to in 2016

It’s that time of year again: when various culture sites and blogs crank out Year in Review articles, usually beginning with “it’s that time of year again.” Most are focusing on what the last 12 months had to offer when it comes to books, movies and games, which is all well and good if you like remembering things. Me, I didn’t get to experience nearly as much as I would have liked to this year (although I did take in a lot more contemporary television than usual), so I’m jumping ahead to 2016. Here’s a few things worth getting excited about, along with the appropriate level of excitement included with each.

Cautiously Optimistic: The American Gods TV Series

Between this and Ash Vs. Evil Dead, we may be living in an age where we can no longer afford to not give a shit about Starz. This show has been a long time in the works, and could very well get pushed to 2017 and beyond, so I’m not going to get too excited until we see some cold, hard trailers. Still, this has the chance to be a more fully fleshed-out adaptation than any film would be, so let’s see what materializes. With the jillions of characters and leisurely road trip pace of the novel, a show will be a good chance to watch Gaiman’s European-deities-abroad tale unfold, so here’s hoping they do it right.

Uncautiously Optimistic: Venture Bros. Season 6

Despite it’s peaks and valleys, Venture Bros. still remains compelling, probably because it has felt increasingly like the coming of age story of two recognizable teens in a colorful world of dysfunctional parodies of pretty much every pop culture phenomenon of the 20th century. Venture Bros. may have a punishingly slow release schedule compared to other, “normal” shows, but the low quantity is almost always balanced out y high quality once stuff finally gets released. Last year’s special, “All This and Gargantua-2,” was a sweeping, emotional roller coaster that tied up some loosed ends and set the stage for another sweeping story arc. This year’s trailer has very rapid editing, demons and Nathan Fillion discharging web in his pants. Bring it.

Surprisingly Interested: Doctor Strange and Captain America: Civil War

I haven’t been a big MCU person, despite enjoying the comics, merely because I hadn’t actually seen more than a handful of the films until the last two years. In fact, I still have big gaps in my Marvel movie knowledge, ones which will probably be filled in later this year thanks to someone I happen to be close to who’s a bigger fan than I am. Benedict Cumberbatch wouldn’t have been my first choice for Sorcerer Supreme: his movie is actually most notable right now for it’s supporting cast, including Tilda Motherfuckin’ Swinton, who has been great in recent movies, even terrible ones like The Zero Theorem. And even if Civil War is just a bunch of setup for the next five jillion Marvel movies, I’m far more interested to see how it’ll play out than I was a year ago. Maturity or lack thereof? Don’t answer that.

Stoked and Not Afraid to Admit It: the new Ghostbusters

I know we’re not supposed to compare the all-female core cast of the next Ghostbusters film to the originals too much, but the thought of Kate McKinnon as the new Egon gets me genuinely super-excited. Egon was great, McKinnon is great, the cast is perfect and little else really matters. As long as we’re in for movie after movie of zombified brand management, let’s at least inject a little bit of life in there with some new ideas every once and a while. And maybe Ernie Hudson can finally play a version of Winston Zeddemore closer to his original character in his obligatory (but highly anticipated) cameo.

Stoked And A Little Afraid to Admit it: Gorillaz Phase 4

Hey, remember Gorillaz? The animated band of dysfunctional humanoids who were really a cover for anyone who wanted to hang out and jam with Damon Albarn? Music critics seem embarrassed to have to mention the concept behind this “virtual” group, but the sense of an ongoing drama in its fictional universe was always a unique part of Gorillaz, coloring the experience without having any direct impact on the music at all. Albarn makes concept albums where the onus is on you to piece together what’s going on, and reports are that there’s something coming up on the horizon. Since it’s been half a decade since The Fall, it’s high time to see what Murdoc Niccals and the gang have been up to after abandoning Plastic Beach. Even moreso, the word is they’ll be collaborating with David Bowie, the logical next step in their attempt to bring in every single famous person ever into the their fold. I’m sure it’ll be depressing and dancey, always a delicious combination!

Not Holding My Breath: Umbrella Academy: Hotel Oblivion

Once upon a time, in the misty epoch of 2007, Gerard Way, the guy from My Chemical Romance, created a quirky, inspired and brilliantly dark riff on The X-Men by way of The Royal Tenenbaums. It featured time travel, family conspiracies and some very creative (and twisted) superpowers, like a guy with a portal to an eldritch realm in his stomach and a woman who can make anything happen by saying she “heard a rumor” about it. There were two volumes, and the third, Hotel Oblivion, got endlessly delayed to the point where it’s now not sure if it’s ever coming out. Way is supposedly working on it but there’s no real reason to believe it’ll come out in 2016, or any other year for that matter. It’s really just on this list as a kind of baseless hope, and what are we without our baseless hopes, I ask you?

Please Be Not Terrible: Red Dwarf XI

Red Dwarf X,  the last full season revival of this I-Can’t-Believe-It’s-Still-On sci-fi sitcom epic, was very aggressively “meh”: not quite as bad as some previous seasons but definitely a pale version of its former self. The show has always walked a fine line balancing its setup-punchline format with its grander, darker saga of a desperate crew stranded millions of years in deep space, and the 2012 episodes, despite some stellar moments, felt like a much less inspired show than Dwarf had been in its glory days of the 80’s and 90’s. There were chuckles and a few major plot revelations but no major returning characters or continuity nods outside the regular cast. Judging by the obsessive coverage at fansite Ganymede & Titan, the upcoming episodes are going to go in some welcome new directions, including a reappearance of Starbug and a long-awaited story centering around the Cat, whose character has been grievously ignored in recent season. I guess that’s good news, so let’s hope that this is at least watchable. Because all the goodwill and nostalgia in the world can’t shake the feeling that this isn’t a show that can survive endless rebooting and sequelizing: right now, it’s living off of the backs of its (admittedly talented) cast. There’s actually a season XII coming, too, in 2017, so looks like we better buckle up, smegheads.

Please Actually Come Out Already: Kentucky Route Zero: Act IV

So, Cardboard Computer, makers of the surreal interactive fiction series Kentucky Route Zero claimed that the fourth of five “acts” would be out “soon” in November. I started playing this game a year ago, back when we were told the game would be complete sometime within a year. That doesn’t seem to be happening, but I’ll take the next chapter instead. When we last left morose truck driver Conway and his friends, they were just starting to get to the really interesting bit of their odyssey through an ominous pocket universe in the Deep South. Though this could still technically get released before 2016, I’m guessing it’s either not going to or will come out so close to the end of the year as to make no difference. And since Act III was the longest, richest and weirdest so far, here’s hoping that the successor will give us plenty of cell-shaded strangeness to chew on. Also, Junebug is awesome. More Junebug.

Brand Evangelist: El Ministerio Del Tiempo, Season 2

I was going to dedicate a whole entry to my hope that Steven Moffat will finally leave Doctor Who next year, but that would be ranty and there are plenty of places you can go to get that kind of thing (plus, there’s about as much chance of that as there is of Hotel Oblivion finally coming out). Let’s instead talk about something positive, a totally different European time travel show, just as outlandish as Who but also thought-provoking, fun and mature in a way the Doctor just doesn’t provide anymore. The premise sees three individuals from different periods in Spain’s history welcomed into the secret Ministry of Time, an agency designed to protect interlopers from interfering with the past. See, Spain is apparently rotten with time portals, so it’s up to the title agency to police them. There’s so much I could say about this show that I’ll probably save it for its own post.

Yes, it’s Spanish Timecops and it’s great. The show is very much not pitched to an outside audience, which makes it difficult for an American to understand sometimes but also a great opportunity to actually learn something about another culture. There’s a lot of great jokes about the mundane realities of a government-sponsored time travel agency, particularly one that can barely afford to pay its employees and has terrible security. If you are dorky enough that you like watching shows that prompt you to do some research later, like me, this is the program you didn’t know you needed. Alonso will be your new best friend. Moreover, it’s a real drama, centered on character motivations and relationships, as well as the question of what makes someone “historically significant” (or, in this case, truly “Spanish”?)

Unfortunately, watching it is a good news/bad news thing for us in the States: it’s all available online for free streaming from Spanish channel RTVE, but there’s currently no English subtitles. Assuming you’re not planning on messing around with illegal downloads, your best bet is to either rely unhealthily on Google Translate or watch it with a Spanish speaker. It’s work, but trust me, it’s worth it. I think.