“The one-hit Wonders… It’s a very common tale”

—Tom Hanks as Mr. White in That Thing You Do!

In the fall of 1996, Tom Hanks, hot off Forrest Gump and Apollo 13, cemented his role as America’s rose-colored glasses with That Thing You Do!, a directorial debut that looked at the music of the 1960s through the sanitized filter of a fictional pop band called The Wonders. Like the group’s titular hit single, That Thing You Do! floats in a strange, alternate version of the decade completely unmoored from the actual culture that defined it. It’s a world where seemingly no one’s worried about trying to compete with The Beatles, even though everyone’s trying very hard to sound like them.

That Thing You Do! takes place in 1964, but it just as easily could have been about the year it was released—a year similarly crowded with fun, forgettable music that may as well have been made by fictional characters, so fleeting was its impact. It’s a year when the biggest song in the world was Los Del Rio’s “Macarena,” proclaimed this century by VH1 to be the “greatest one-hit wonder of all time,” which dominated Billboard charts, FM radio, and the teachers’ portion of school talent shows for 14 straight, interminable weeks. In everywhere but America, its reign was challenged only by the Spice Girls’ “Wannabe,” a hit that heralded reclamation of the proudly commercial, pre-packaged pop that the rise of “alternative rock” had so briefly seemed to snuff out.

But 1996 was also the year that this so-called “alternative” music began to produce plenty of its own versions of The Wonders, playing equally disposable songs that sounded like facsimiles bleeding in from some alternate universe. The faux-graffitied writing had been on the wall for alternative rock’s attenuation into corporate-engineered dross since approximately two weeks after Kurt Cobain’s suicide, right around the time Live’s Throwing Copper was released. But as much fun as it would be to lasso the corpse to Ed Kowalczyk’s dumb ponytail braid, the truth is it was making its guttural death rattle for many months before Live’s album of melodramatic, faux-introspective anthems for the arena of one’s own ass. And 1996 was the year it finally growled its last.

Keep reading: In 1996, alternative rock died a messy, forgettable death


Eileen will stop at nothing to win the Christmas choir competition and gives the coveted Christmas choir solo to their newest member, Brett (Sean Grandillo), to Kenny’s dismay, while Jimmy is tasked with spying on their toughest competitor, Sheila Demars (Angela Kinsey). But, when Kenny attempts to sabotage Brett’s role, he finds a potential love interest. Meanwhile, Shannon accidentally gives Pat the wrong impression about a Christmas present she plans on giving to Ethan

Anyway, for all our delightful late-night japes, it’s important to remember that nearly every actor who has stepped into a Batman film—from Michael Keaton to George Clooney to Heath Ledger—has faced this same sort of knee-jerk ridicule, and only occasionally deserved it. Also, that Ben Affleck is an increasingly mature actor who has by now earned the benefit of the doubt that he may surprise, no matter what’s asked of him. And it’s also important to remember that, ultimately, you are powerless before the machine, your voice a mere mewling in the dark that will be inevitably silenced either by acceptance or grudging acquiescence, because you know damn well you want to see what happens when Ben Affleck plays Batman.
—  Sean O'Neal, “Ben Affleck is the Batman you deserve right now,” The A.V. Club
“The comedy in the past 10 years prior to our show had an edge to it. It was satirical. There was a cynicism about the comedy,” Baer adds, thus delineating New Girl from the Swiftian morbidity that has characterized series such as Modern Family and Parks And Recreation, which trade in the blackly hollow laughs born of the paralytic horror of terrorist attacks. Baer concludes, “What our show came along at the right time for—this weird alchemy that happened—is that we were willing for the first time to go, It’s okay to feel again.” (“Is it okay to feel again?” a tremulous, wide-eyed nation asks Siri, to which she proudly avers, “Yes, it looks like it’s okay to feel again.”) Indeed, it’s been a long 11 years, but the tiny porcelain hand of Zooey Deschanel has finally pulled us from the ashes. [via Vulture]

- Sean O'Neal, The AV Club

Seriously, the funniest blurb writer on the Internet.

Full article here.
Helium sings a lullaby for a baby that wants to kill you

In Hear This, A.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well—some inspired by a weekly theme and some not, but always songs worth hearing. This week, we’re picking our favorite songs with the word “baby” in the title.Before supplying extra guitar snarl alongside Carrie Brownstein in Wild

Fox News says The Walking Dead is brainwashing Americans, Without Irony

Always out to decry brainwashing in any form that doesn’t directly serve it, Fox News has exposed yet more TV making viewers witless and single-minded in the wrong way by arguing that The Walking Dead is “seriously hurting American society”—that bumbling assemblage of oafs who are always but one unsavory pop culture moment away from killing each other and having sex with the skulls. Fortunately, the more healthily paranoid Fox News audience have received early warning to don their protective anti-skull-sex helmets from Fox Health News senior managing editor Dr. Manny Alvarez, whose years of experience as an OB-GYN has made him expertly qualified to handle babies.

“Hate me all you want, or call me paranoid and misinformed,” says “Dr. Manny,” instantly predicting and therefore negating all criticism, “but there is one common theme that is pervasive in American pop culture today: violence. Even more specifically, zombie violence. The idea of a zombie-infested world inspires fantasies of monsters possessed by an uncontrollable rage to kill, and viewers get a thrill imagining what it would be like to participate in this new world order.” And, he argues, those daydreams of an ominous, monster-filled “new world order” only serve as distractions from the other, slightly less monstrous new world order Fox News would prefer you focus on.

“With this country heading towards a socialized system of government, in which officials don’t want you to think or focus on what is important for your own personal growth, I’m sure they’re more than happy to let you obsess over something as stupid as zombies. And in turn you ultimately become the zombie,” said Alvarez of this nefarious attempt to cloud a dulled and impressionable public’s thinking with nightmares of imaginary bogeymen coming for their very lives, which only draws attention away from worrying about how Obamacare will end freedom. Alvarez implicates everything from zombie video games to “Zombie Runs” to the National Institute of Health’s “how-to guide on dealing with a zombie outbreak”—a guide that was actually created by the Center for Disease Control, as a successfully publicity-grabbing way of getting otherwise-disinterested Americans to learn about disaster preparedness—as part of this system shamelessly indoctrinating the public with imagination and useful information.

“Give me a break. As a doctor and scientist, I know one thing for sure: When you’re dead, you’re dead,” writes Dr. Manny, providing the kind of blunt, tell-it-like-it-is truth Fox is known for, and which can only be achieved after a career of studying vaginas, then correctly identifying which one belongs to a dead person. “Our brains should be less focused on imaginary zombie hordes and more focused on harnessing the tools that we need in order to enhance our lives, whether it be music, education, science or the classics. Entertainment should help us soothe our brains so that we can ease our minds of some of the stress from our daily lives,” he concludes.

Alvarez then returned to work at the one channel entirely devoted to stoking panic about faceless groups of enemies, in between spreading fear and distaste for culture, education, and science.

The main offending scene—which involves Brenda Song dressing up in a ‘sexy Asian schoolgirl’ outfit/Sailor Moon costume we’re not really supposed to call ‘sexy’ in polite society—will remain, with network executives responding by saying that, eventually, ‘You will see that Brenda Song’s character is a strong, intelligent, empowered young woman who basically runs the company, and who almost always gets the upper hand.’ Even when she’s asked to be a living erotic manga-based masturbatory fantasy for laughs, and she makes the empowered decision to comply. (Because how else will she get the upper hand, unless all the lower hands are busy?)