Best ___ Of 2016: Some Really Specific Superlatives

Well folks, here we are. The flaming dumpster fire that was 2016 is over, and we’re all here in 2017 hoping it can’t get worse than last year. But there were some good things that come out of 2016, and just like last year, we’re highlighting a few super specific things we loved from 2016, that don’t necessarily fit into any general Best of categories.

Best 2000s television reunion of 2016: Gilmore Girls

Ironically, Gilmore Girls also made our Best of 2015 Superlatives list, but this time it’s for an entirely different reason. The show made a big splash in pop culture ever since the revival was announced back in 2015, and the hype was at a high this year, crawling back into the zeigesit in the weeks leading up to ThanksGilmore (we were guilty too). But as OG Gilmore fans, we had been waiting nine years to find out how Amy Sherman-Palladino wanted to end her series the way she truly wanted. When the four episodes dropped that fateful Friday, we were transported back into the world of all things Gilmore – where the town weirdo runs a janky Ooober service, the locals have to hide a secret bar from the selectman, and the phrase “I smell snow” elicits very real emotions that induce crying. For us, this feeling of comfort – of feeling back how in Stars Hollow – was what we wanted from the revival. While it did produce the perfect example of Your Fave Is Problematic #RoryGilmore, overall, we were so glad to have those adorable Gilmore girls back in our lives once again.

Best Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life Cameo of 2016: Parenthood Cast (as a whole)

Speaking of Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, there were many a cameo throughout all four mini-movies that made me squeal with glee. But none more so than three very special appearances from Lauren Graham’s other TV family, the Bravermans. First, we knew her Parenhootd daughter Mae Whitman was going to be in the revival, but seeing her interact with Lorelai Gilmore and not Sarah Braverman made our hearts explode, but the fact that she always interacted with Rory?! Our brains explode too. And then came summer, when I lit’rally screamed out loud after seeing Jason Ritter pop up as the park ranger. MARK CYR FOREVER AND ALWAYS. And THENNN Peter Krause aka Adam Braverman aka Mr. Lauren Graham as park ranger two?! I DIE. I DIED. Thanks, 2016.

Best Ham4Ham performance of 2016: The Hamilton Mixtape

I feel like it’s unfair to call this a #Ham4Ham, but the Hamilton officials called it that, so we’ll go with it. HamFams have been waiting about a year to hear the mixtape that Lin had been promising, and boy it did not disappoint. In the most epic release party, they held a #Ham4Ham inside the Richard Rodgers, with a few artists from the mixtape doing live performances of their Hamilton covers. AND it was live streamed for the interwebs. The Roots, Regina Spektor, Andra Day and Ashanti and Ja Rule + more – it was “LIT AF” as the kids say. I got emotional (like I usually do) watching it, realizing that this joining of forces between contemporary artists singing Broadway covers on a Broadway stage opens the doors for so many more people to be introduced to theater in a brand new way. It’s the way life and art should be – accessible and enjoyed by every one.

Best Hamilton Happy Trails of 2016: July 9th, 2016

Hamilton may have opened in 2015, but it reached a fever pitch in 2016. A month after winning 11 Tonys, four of the OG cast members, Phillipa Soo, Leslie Odom Jr., Ariana DeBose and the maestro himself, Lin-Manuel Miranda, took their final bows. Saying goodbye to one OBC actor is hard enough, but four is even more difficult if you’re HamilTrash. Luckily, a live stream was provided and we were able to watch as their tears synced with our own. The kicker? Alex Lacamoire stealthily adding in The West Wing theme for number one fan Lin (I lit’rally just rewatched that on mute and I’m STILL crying over Chris Jackson pushing Lin back out to take his own bow).

Best Beyonce Live Performance of 2016: MTV VMAs

Beyonce was one of the shining lights of 2016 thanks to her kind of surprise album drop with Lemonade, but what made it epic was the entire HBO movie special she made as a vehicle for the new music. After going on her Formation tour (equally epic), she blessed us with a 20 minute performance of Lemonade on the VMAs. God. Is. Good.

Best Michelle Obama Speech of 2016: Democratic National Convention

We’re really going to miss all the Obamas, but Michelle has been such an inspiration to all women (and humans) during her reign as first lady. She is poised, classy, articulate, smart, compassionate, caring, funny, etc. etc. And while giving her speech at the DNC this summer to show support for HRC, she yet again left us in awe and tears, but mostly left us with something to aspire to – when they go low, we go high.

Best Carpool Karaoke of 2016: Adele

In what is arguably his best carpool karaoke yet, James Corden’s ride along with Adele has raked in over 143 million views since it was released last January, and it’s obvious why. Maybe because I’ve accounted for at least 43 million of those? Nah, probs because Adele is a badd ass bitch who raps Nick Minaj better than Nicki Minaj.

Best Political SNL Sketch of 2016: Hallelujah

The Worst Week of 2016 aka Election Week ended with the great Leonard Cohen dying (because #2016), and in what was reminiscent of the way they handled the first ep back after 9/11, SNL knew exactly how to bring meloncholy and levity to homes across the U.S., by having the wonderful Kate McKinnon, as Hillary Clinton, sing Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. Cue the tears.

Honorable MentionsMelaniade, Hillary Actually, Voters for Trump, Black Jeopardy with Tom Hanks, A Day Off (KellyAnne Conway)

Best SNL Non-Political Sketch of 2016: Haunted Elevator

Any questions?

Honorable Mentions: Christmas Candle, Crucible Cast Party, Wells for BoysTidal, Supermarket Spree (Cut for Time – ft. host Melissa McCarthy)

Best Mannequin Challenge of 2016: Black Lives Matter

I’m over the mannequin challenge (I was never under it), but this one was worth all the other silliness from everyone else.

Best Obama Girls Moment Of 2016: The Ryan Reynolds Double Thumbs Up

In this moment, I am somehow able to imagine what it would be like to be both a teenager attending my first state dinner and talking with a handsome male movie star, and the big sister of a teenager attending her first state dinner and talking with a handsome male movies star. Meet our era’s Schuyler sisters.

Best Bill Clinton Moment of 2016: Bill and Balloons

Forget what came after for a moment and just focus on Bill Clinton, the man who served as leader of the free world for eight years, still getting a kick out of balloons … and even more of a kick out of his wife’s presidential bid.

Honorable Mention: When you could see Bill mouth the words “that’s my girl” during Hillary’s concession speech, or his death grip on Chelsea’s husband during Chelsea’s speech at the DNC. You know what? They’re all winners.

Best Olympics Moment of 2016: Michael Phelps’ One Last Timerio-olympics-michael-phelps-39d4425bd7852cb5

It feels like so long ago now, but 2016 was a Summer Olympics year, our favorite TV/sporting spectacle and feel-good obsession. Nobody made us prouder to be Americans that golden boy Michael Phelps, who did his last Olympics right by earning his 23rd gold medal.

Honorable Mentions: So many! The Final Five’s overall brilliance – how much do we love Simone and Laurie?! – and Katie Ledecky’s astonishing performance, and the US and NZ runners who helped each other finish after crashing on the track … we could keep going.

Best children’s movie for adults of 2016: Zootopia

Zootopia was great: funny, clever, touching, and with a really beautiful and necessary message. I went with kids, but I would have gone as a single adult just as proudly.

Honorable Mention: The Secret Life Of Pets

Best new Netflix series – drama of 2016: Stranger Things

Stranger Things gripped audiences nationwide with its loving tribute to the 80s horror/children’s adventure film, but it did it in a singularly modern way as a short, streaming series. The series spawned memes, catchphrases, national sweethearts (Barb!), a whole lot of Halloween costumes, and the coolest troop of child actors around.

Honorable Mentions: The OA (possibly my best, but I’m only halfway through it); The Get Down

Best new Netflix series – documentary of 2016: 13th

It’s not exactly a secret that Ava Duvernay is a fantastic filmmaker, but she did something really special with 13th. She took an issue most Americans who are paying attention already knew about – the consistent and disproportional incarceration of black men used as a type of modern servitude in the prison industrial complex – and presented it in a clear, gripping, impossible-to-ignore way.

Best New TV Series That Your Mom Would Like Too of 2016: This Is Us

We love This Is Us. So do most of our friends (30-somethings). So do a lot of older baby boomers we know. This series appeals to the nostalgia of young(-ish) adults who grew up in the 70s –  90s, as well as their parents who were raising kids at that time. It’s not a cheap nostalgia trip, though. This Is Us is a relatable and incredibly touching family story for anyone who has siblings, or parents, or feelings. Plus, let’s not forget how they hooked us all in with that twist in the pilot.

Best Silly Meme of 2016: Arthur Fist 

Speaking of relatable, Arthur’s balled-up fist is relevant to as many life situations in 2016 as it was when you were 10.

Best of 2016: The Brangelina Relationship As Told In Rachel Green GIFs

One of the most shocking things to rattle the world last year was the (kind of) unexpected split between Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. Or rather that they went through with it and there were allegations of child abuse. But there was no solid evidence of those rumors, so maybe just the fall of Hollywood’s foremost A-list couple.

Naturally, Jennifer Aniston sympathizers celebrated the end of a Brangelina era, and we decided to tell the story of Brangelina’s romance through Rachel Green GIFs. Because in the end, we all just want Jen to be happy.


The Brangelina Relationship As Told In Rachel Green Gifs

2004: Brad and Angelina meet and fall in love on the set of Mr. and Mrs. Smith.  Brad is married to Jennifer Aniston.
March 2005: Jennifer Aniston files for divorce: irreconcilable differences.

2013: Amid cheating rumors, a spate of magazines have cover stories about Brad declaring “I made a mistake”

2015: Rumors (possibly unfounded) of brad cheating begin to circulate.

September 20, 2016: Angelina Jolie files for divorce, citing irreconcilable differences.

Best of 2016: Hamilton’s Cabinet Battle #1 (As Kanye Rant Tweets)

We all know Kanye West isn’t afraid to hold back from saying what he wants both in life and on the Internet, and it was no different when he went on a rant against Wiz Khalifa – his ex Amber Rose’s ex. Naturally, we combined this Twitter rant with our recurring series Hamilton Explained, where we break down tracks from the hit musical’s soundtrack to give more background and insider info on the lyrics. Oh Kanye, history has its eyes on you, even a year later and years to come.


Hamilton Explained: Cabinet Battle #1 (As Kanye Rant Tweets)

Welcome back to Hamilton Explained! It’s been a minute. When the Hamilton soundtrack was released all of these historical and musical references were jumping out at me and I wanted to start unpacking some of them here. I wasn’t counting on a whole community of people doing this very thing over at Genius. Instead of duplicating the efforts from Genius (check out their annotations if you haven’t!) here’s Cabinet Battle #1, explained through tweets from Kanye West’s epic January 27, 2016 rant against Wiz Khalifa.

Stand with me in the land of the free
And pray to God we never see Hamilton’s candidacy
Look, when Britain taxed our tea, we got frisky

7th I am your OG and I will be respected as such

— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) January 27, 2016

Imagine what gon’ happen when you try to tax our whisky

6th don’t ever come out the side of your neck at me

— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) January 27, 2016

WASHINGTON:
Thank you, Secretary Jefferson. Secretary Hamilton, your response

HAMILTON:
Thomas. That was a real nice declaration

Welcome to the present, we’re running a real nation
Would you like to join us, or stay mellow
Doin’ whatever the hell it is you do in Monticello?

Best Of 2016: We’ll Never Love Anything As Much As Rosie O’Donnell Loved…

We loved The Rosie O’Donnell Show. We loved it because it was in large part a show about the little things and big things Rosie LOVED, like Entemann’s and Tom Cruise and Barbra and Happy Meal toys. That is an attitude that spoke to us as children but also as adults. That’s why we devoted a whole week to the Rosie O’Donnell show this fall, marking the 20th anniversary of its premiere. We love a lot of things, but possibly not as much as Rosie O’Donnell did.


We’ll Never Love Anything As Much As Rosie O’Donnell Loved…

Entemann’s

M: Entenmann’s baked goods reminded Rosie O’Donnell of the Long Island mom-types during her childhood playing bridge or whatever it was that Long Island moms did in the 60s. And now, Entenmann’s baked goods remind me of Rosie O’Donnell. I don’t know her position on TastyCakes.

T: I do know her position on Ring Dings, because audience members got that and milk before the show.

Koosh balls

T: There are few talk show hosts who can get away with launching rubber balls into the audience and make it look cool. Just imagine Oprah doing this for a second. And that’s OPRAH. When Rosie flung these into the crowd, it suddenly became an interactive show and added a sense of innocent fun unlike any other talk show on TV. It became so synonymous with her show that Koosh sold a special Rosie O’Donnell Show version of their Koosh Fling Shot, as seen here and the one sitting at my home collecting dust.

M: I got one of these at the store after the NBC tour, c. 1998. I don’t keep things so I got rid of it sometime in high school, but I sort of wish I still had it.

Tom Cruise

T: If there’s anything you took away from watching Rosie in the 90s, it’s that she had an obsession with two people: Tom Cruise and Barbra Streisand. If you recall, Rosie had a soundboard that played audio clips next to her desk, and anytime she’d talk about her deep love for her celebrity crush, she’d play “Tommy, can you hear me?” a line from a song of the same name by The Who. She campaigned for him to be on her show, and when he finally made it, it was like watching Jim and Pam kiss for the first time. Rosie invited fans into her life by sharing personal anecdotes that made it seem we had been friends growing up in Commack, Long Island, and we were cheering her on as she lived out life long dream. I mean, while rewatching this clip, I legitimately said out loud (to no one), “THIS BRINGS ME SO MUCH JOY!” Especially if you forget about all of Tom Cruise’s persona.

M: When we were doing our Rosie Week research this summer, we were both floored by how quickly into the show’s run Tom appeared (plus a few others, like Donny Osmond). The buildup was so huge that at the time, it felt like years before “my Tommy” was a Rosie guest.

… See the rest of the post here.

Best of 2016: Scary Things About Making A Murderer Other Than The Murder

Let’s take it way back to a simpler time: exactly a year ago. Everyone was talking about Steven Avery, small-town Wisconsin justice, and a really horrible 2005 murder thanks to the Netflix series Making A Murderer. We were amazed that out of this whole basket of deplorables (to borrow an expression), a grisly murder wasn’t the only terrifying aspect of the story.  (By the way, when we were discussing this post last week, we also realized that these scary Manitowoc County people were also exactly the people who voted the next president into office … so there’s another spooky aspect to this whole story.)


Scary Things About Making A Murderer Other Than The Murder

Winter in Wisconsin

I live in one of the snowiest cities in America (100 inches/average). We get 12 inches of lake effect snow and school isn’t even cancelled the next day. The average high temperature last February was 12 degrees Fahrenheit. And I am a total wimp compared to the hardy Wisconsinites in this series. Didn’t it feel like every exterior shot, no matter what time it took place, was crammed with piles of snow everywhere? But nobody complained or even looked cold? Manitowoc County is like the North Pole except that it’s a workshop for unspeakable violence and judicial corruption instead of toys.

Scare Scale: A White-Knuckle Drive On An Icy Expressway – 2/10

The Land That Time Forgot

Based on the hair and wardrobe of the various townspeople, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Making A Murderer was filmed in 1986 or 1998, but it was actually well into the 2000s. I know plenty of small-town residents, rural folks, and Midwesterners who look completely normal, so the frozen-in-time aesthetic really added to the feeling that there was something just off about every single one of these people.

Scare Scale: The moment when Rip Van Winkle awakes – 3/10

Two Nice Lesbians In Possible Peril

The filmmakers behind Making A Murderer, Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos, were a very young, chill lesbian couple from Columbia University when this project began. Although there are tons of intelligent, free-thinking people in the rural northern Midwest, the particular crowd that was featured in this documentary seemed… um… not that way. Not to mention, Ricciardi and Demos probably didn’t exactly blend into the Land That Time Forgot. They never mentioned being made to feel at all uncomfortable, but I still found myself wanting to call in a welfare check when I realized they were alone with some of those people (ahem… Steven’s terrifying mother).

Scare Scale: That Time When TLC Showed Michelle Duggar’s Lesbian Sister & I Imagined The First Time She Met Jim-Bob – 5/10

See the rest here.

Best of 2016: Things From Rent I Didn’t Understand As A Tween

This year in “We Are Much Older Than We’d Like To Believe” news, Rent celebrated the 20th anniversary of its Broadway debut, and we celebrated by dedicated an entire week to all things Rent, a musical that changed our lives as tweens.

But as tweens, we didn’t fully comprehend every line and plot until we were adults, which can change your perspective on the show as a whole. Here are some things we missed as 12 year olds but definitely get now.


I Should Tell You: Things From Rent I Didn’t Understand As A Tween

Everything about Contact

T: I believe I was 13 when I saw Rent for the first time (full disclosure, I’ve seen it 8 times in total), and true story – I went with my church youth group. I didn’t go to a super progressive church, however I did go to a United Church of Christ, which used rainbows in all their logos for a while because they were pro-equality and stuff. Anyways, it was a group outing sans parents, and it was a majority of my friends and like two of our cool youth group leaders. However, when it came time for Contact, a scene which simulates sex, I was uncomfy to the max. I looked down at my program, attempted to stare at other non-condom looking pieces on the stage, but I mostly just blocked it out of my first Rent experience. I even skipped over the song when I listened to the soundtrack (I know, #prude). It took me a while before I could listen to it for what it actually was, and why it held importance to the story as a whole. Stay safe out there, kids.

Falling Quickly

M: In sixth grade, it didn’t occur to me that Jack and Rose’s epic romance was actually a few days of pre-dating infatuation. At the same age, I also missed that the whole first act of Rent is just Christmas, pretty much. Which means that Angel and Collins go from zero to I’ll Cover you real, real fast. Of course there’s more immediacy when best cast scenario you’re about to get evicted and worse case scenario, you have AIDS, but for some reason I thought everyone knew each other longer.

Best of 2016: The Margaret Abbott Awards For Baffling Treatment Of Female Olympians

Welcome to Day 2 of our Best of 2016 (wherein we pretend good things happened in 2016). But seriously, on our very short list of great things about 2016, the summer Olympics are near the top. As always, we were inspired and amazed for two weeks and became mega-fans of athletes we hadn’t even heard of weeks before. But 2016 had to be 2016, so there was still some weird sexism stuff, because of course there is. Our reaction: the Margaret Abbott Awards, highlighting baffling treatment of female olympians (and named in honor of first female ‘medalist,’ Margaret Abbott. And yes, medalist is in quotes because they gave her a bowl instead).


The Margaret Abbott Awards For Baffling Treatment Of Female Olympians

(click on link for full post)

Dan ‘He’s Responsible’ Hicks

Longtime NBC commentator Dan Hicks hit headlines after the 400m individual medley in swimming, when Hungarian swimmer Katinka Hosszu won the gold but also shattered the previous world record. During the program, he noted that Katinka’s husband and coach, Shane Tusup is “the man responsible” for making his wife the swimming champion she is today. Viewers were quick to take note of Dan’s wording, because, homegirl just killed it in the pool, yet this dry dude on the sidelines is “responsible” for the gold medal? OK. Dan Hicks later clarified his comments, saying, “It is impossible to tell Katinka’s story accurately without giving appropriate credit to Shane, and that’s what I was trying to do.”

There’s also more of a backstory with this couple, because apparently Shane’s poolside enthusiasm can turn scary, with other swimmers noting his extreme anger, calling it “inappropriate” and “not OK”. But again, Dan Hicks has an interesting view on his hard love, “It’s been a little disturbing to some of the other swimmers who have observed it,” he said on-air, according to the AP. “But he has turned her into a tiger in the pool.”

Dan Hicks is awarded… The GOLDEN ABBIE

Perfect for: The blood, sweat, and tears of Katinka, Shane Tusup in mini-form to stay afloat for all eternity

“Female Michael Phelps”

Katie Ledecky, 19 years old,  won four gold medals and a silver in the 2016 Olympics. She set a world record for the 400-meter freestyle … then she broke it herself. She finished the 800-meter freestyle so quickly that she had 11 seconds to cool her heels before the silver medalist even reached the wall. All of this is enough for the Daily Mail to name Ledecky the “female Michael Phelps.” For its part, NBC commentator Rowdy Gaines remarked that “some people say she swims like a man” before telling us why that’s false. Few things here:

A.) “Some people say” is a tired vehicle for introducing opinions a journalist or commentator doesn’t want to own (see also: “some people say women aren’t funny” in any interview with a female comedian).

B.) “Some people” need to stop saying a woman does something “like a man” when she does it well. Clearly Katie Ledecky swims like a woman since she, you know, is one.

These Male Rita Skeeters are awarded… The SILVER ABBIE

Perfect for: Serving alphabet soup so they can figuratively eat their words.

Best of 2016: Things I’m Willing to Believe About Lin-Manuel Miranda

Today we’re kicking off our two-week Cookies + Sangria series, “Best of”, where we look back at our posts from this year and think, “Hey, we’re pretty good at this blogging thing!” We’re starting with one of the people that has contributed to the most content throughout the past year – Lin-Manuel Miranda. If there’s anything we can be super grateful for in 2016, it’s the rise of this literal genius to mainstream pop culture.

In continuation of our series “Things I’m Willing To Believe About…”, we focused on Lin, and came up with fake facts that we totally would believe if there were deemed true. How do we know so much about this man anyways? We’re straight up #HamilTrash, that’s why.


Things I’m Willing To Believe About Lin-Manuel Miranda

  • His wife had to request that he stop writing raps to “help” her study for the bar exam (States unchecked can get a little messy/ All rise, Marshall court in Hunter’s Lessee/ State powers subject to diminution/ Cohens. Virginia. You ratified the constitution. / Put the steamboat on the river – okay, New York, it’s Interstate. Gibbons. Ogden. Congress gonna regulate. /And legislate -plus stipulate/ that no militia’s solely state/ When sought, they fought. Martin. Mott.  ) (…may or may not be an excerpt from my Marshall Court review rap for Con Law, c. 2009.)
  • Has more novelty/pop culture-themed t-shirts than dress shirts
  • At least once every couple weeks he wakes up with a start in the middle of the night. By now, his wife just mutters “yes, you remembered to say goodnight to Twitter” and tells him to go back to sleep.

  • Was the runner-up for Most Likely To Succeed, and the winner of Most Earnest, in his senior yearbook.
  • He’s also composed a verse or two for his favorite delivery guy and bodega lady. Not to get free stuff out of it. Just because he cares.
  • Those ex-girlfriends can testify that he’s had that comma game in his arsenal since long before playing our dearest, Hamilton.
  • Really (secretly) prolific on tumblr. Runs your favorite blog.
  • Was a competitor in one of those quiz bowl public access-type shows featuring kids from different schools in NYC. His team won.
  • Attended a LARP-ing summer camp when he was 13