It Wasn’t All Bad: Our 16 Creative Silver Linings Of 2016

This year wasn’t all bad. In fact, in movies, TV, music, and more it was one of the most creatively robust stretches in recent memory.

It Wasn’t All Bad: Our 16 Creative Silver Linings Of 2016

This year has been such a massive–okay, yuuuuuge–bummer in so many ways that it’s now even a bummer to complain about what a terrible year it’s been. Except when this guy does it. So don’t expect us to harp yet again on all the shite business that’s gone down ‘lo these past 12 months. Instead, we’re here to take our national collective frown and turn it—well, if not entirely upside down, then at least into a semi-satisfied smirk. At this point, that passes for abject mirth. Join us, won’t you, in celebrating the very many (16 to be exact) shiny, happy people, things, and events that bobbed to the crappy surface of 2016, like so many delicious apples in a sea of sucky.


Alec Baldwin went all Trump-y. The presidential campaign and election were brutal. But Alec Baldwin helped many of us get through it with our wits somewhat intact by taking to Saturday Night Live and playing his Trumpiness in all his squinty, jowly, Creamsicle-y ridiculousness.

Jesse Williams’s crushed his Black Lives Matter speech at the BET awards. The Grey’s Anatomy actor, who had been active in the Ferguson protests of the shooting of Michael Brown, was given a statue for humanitarian work at this year’s BET Awards. Then he showed the world exactly why with a beautiful, blistering speech about the condition and treatment of African-Americans in the U.S.

David Bowie’s last record inspired the world. Bowie was among a long and tragic list of beloved artists who died in 2016. But unlike so many other celebrities, he somehow left us exactly on his terms: by delivering a last and lasting record, Blackstar, his final deep and soulful meditation on what it means to be human in an often inhumane world. “His death was no different from his life,” said Bowie’s friend and producer, Tony Visconti. “A work of art.”

The imminent return of Twin Peaks stoked the internet. Before we landed atop #PeakTV, there was Twin Peaks TV. The strange and dark and funny and surprising series ostensibly about a murder investigation paved the rain-soaked way to the Golden Age of Television in which we now live. So news that the series’ episodes are due to start streaming this month and new episodes will debut on Showtime in 2017 qualifies it as something to celebrate in 2016. Grab a slice of cherry pie and get psyched.

Bagging on “Oldchella” was a thing. Coachella used to be cool. But you know what’s cool now? Making fun of Coachella.


Twitter defended Leslie Jones—eventually. You might recall that when a new all-female Ghostbusters was announced, folks got a tad–how do you say?–excited. Even our president-elect weighed in. (Okay, yes, low bar there.) Soon, things turned ugly. Racist, even. Led by Breitbart’s Milo Yiannopoulos. For once, however, during this bad year for good people, justice arrived when Twitter banned Yiannopoulos from the social platform. Which, now that we think about it, may be closer to a reward than punishment.

Fleabag washed ashore. We feel your pain: There is far too much television to keep up with all the must-see shows. So consider this a PSA: Watch Fleabag. Just. Watch it. We won’t give too much away, in part because the element of surprise is rich and rowdy here, but know that the six-episode series based on writer and actor Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s one-woman show, is far from just another show about just another adrift 20-something in the city. Laughs and pathos collide in each happily frenetic episode of a show that began on the BBC before Amazon picked it up.

Spotify’s Discover Weekly proved that not all algorithms are created equal. That’s one thing we learned from this masterful service from the dominate digital music platform. At least one song every week, but more often two or three, was so good I added them to my favorite playlist, the better to hear again and again. Some weeks it was downright eerie how Spotify was playing to my mood–like when the song “Summon Satan” by Advance Base was delivered unto my phone.

John Oliver’s Drumpfinator Chrome plug-in made reading fun again. If you simply can’t stand to see the president-elect’s name in pixels, you’re in luck: You don’t have to!

Bill Murray slung cocktails in Brooklyn. The legend of Bill Murray, the un-celebrity who reportedly has an 800 number but not an agent, and who has been known to show up at seemingly random weddings, or kickball matches, or karaoke parties runs long. The latest chapter found him tending bar one September night at his son’s joint in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. If that alone doesn’t push your lips into smile formation, maybe his signature drink will—it’s called the Depth-Finder.

Moonlight showed why film will never die. Beautiful, painful, best watched in a dark theater with strangers—this was a relatively small movie in terms of budget, but made with gigantic heart. That still matters. A lot.


James Cordon’s Carpool Karaoke had everyone singing along. Enjoy laughter, song, love, and delight? Then, check this out. No, actually, this. And maybe this, too. Oh, and definitely thhhhhiiiiiiiiis.

Leonard Cohen did it right. First came David Remnick’s glorious and perfectly timed profile of the spiritual, sui generis singer and writer of intensely moving, soul-waltzing songs like “Marianne,” “Suzanne,” and, perhaps most famously, “Hallelujah.” Then just a couple of weeks before he died, Cohen, creating new music up until the end came at 82, left the world with one more magical recording, You Want It Darker.

Noam Chomsky Day became our new favorite holiday. No, it’s not a real national holiday—but maybe it should be. Especially if it can be celebrated as it was in the off-the-grid love letter to anti-capitalism that was the indie flick Captain Fantastic. The idea–activated by the rugged, struggling Cash family patriarch played by Viggo Mortensen in the movie–was borrowed from writer and director Matt Ross’s real life. “Basically I bribe my children with a piece of cake or some sort of sweet, because that draws them to the table,” Ross once explained. “Then we blow out candles and everyone is required to read a passage or two of their choosing from anything Noam has written. It can be about linguistics or politics or anything.” Noam Chomsky Day just passed on December 7 (also the Day That Lives On in Infamy), but it’s never too early to plan the fun for next year!

A major brand picked exactly the right music for a campaign. Very sorry to follow the post on you, Noam, with one celebrating a side of consumerism. Truly. But when Apple used the brooding anthem “In a Black Out,” by former Walkmen singer Hamilton Leithauser and his bandmate Rostam, the resulting short film pimping the iPhone 7 became haunting and poetic, even. Take a look for yourself–and then be sure to take a listen to the two albums Leithauser and Rostam have done together for more essential romantic interludes.

Strand of Oaks saved rock ‘n’ roll–again. The 2014 record by Timothy Showalter and the gang, Heal, was arguably the best pure rock record of that or any other recent year. So when the band’s new single “Radio Kids” exploded into the world at the end of the year ahead of a new album arriving in February 2017, it was suddenly possible to imagine that next year might not be so bad, after all. Yeah, yeah. we know. But a guy can dream!