TV Lists

The 6 Best New Year's Eve TV Specials

Here to help ease our collective yearning for companionship are some of the best New Years' Eve parties on TV.


What are your plans for New Year's Eve this year?

It's likely you don't have any, which is okay, but obviously a little bit depressing. To help ease your sadness this NYE, why not ring it in vicariously through some of TV's best NYE shindigs?

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TV Features

Binge-watching Challenge: Start a Show at Season 3

It's possible to spare ourselves the slog of shows when they're just starting out.

Quarantine: when jobs have either been lost or relegated to the living room, wherein social functions are limited to Zoom, wherein the 24-hours in a day can really be felt.

With less to physically fill the time, the time remains unfilled. Fortunately, sequestered humans have never had such a bevy of entertainment options available to them. But that kind of freedom can be paralyzing. Never has there been a better time for binge-watching, but what are we to binge? And how?

Since all this free-time demands discipline, here's an unconventional suggestion: Pick one of the all-time great shows, something you've always wanted to watch but couldn't find the motivation nor time to do so, and start not at the beginning, but at season three instead. Whether it's a comedy or a drama or simply something you've put off watching because the plot is too involved or the show is too hyped, ignore the first two seasons entirely, and fall into a world that's already in motion. Using our knowledge of television in general, and by tapping into the cultural conversation of characters and references, we can spare ourselves the slow starts of seasons one and two, and get right to the meat of the matter. Why sit around waiting for a show to find itself? Why settle for less than the best?

First seasons are often uneven or uncertain, anyway. Second seasons are often better and more compelling, but shows that make it to season three emerge with a clear tone and complete characters: two necessities for any show with long-term success.

Examples abound of shows finding themselves in their third seasons. Arguably, the greatest comedies of the 21st century are The Office and Parks and Recreation, though contenders such as It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia and Curb Your Enthusiasm are important to the discussion, as well. As for dramatic examples, look to the Olympic podium of TV's Golden Era: Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, and Mad Men.

Mad Men Season 3 Promo Photo

A weighted-review aggregation site like Metacritic is not the law, but it is useful. The numbers almost universally favor third seasons and beyond. Parks and Rec improves in score from a 58 in season one to an 83 in season three, a change signifying an ascension from "mixed or average reviews" to "Universal Acclaim," in the critics' words. The Office's highest overall score is season three's 85. Breaking Bad starts solidly with its first two season garnering scores of 73 and 84, but in its final three earns marks of 89, 96, and 99, an unprecedented run of greatness. Game of Thrones' two highest marks of 91 and 94 are for seasons three and four, respectively. Mad Men is the lone outlier of the bunch, as its second season outscores its third by a single point. However, its fourth season, ruled a 92, is the series' high-point. Why? Shows generally hit their strides in season three.

First, character development peaks at season three. First seasons tend to be myopic about their characters, hoping that closeness will lead viewers to love them. Season two is the experimentation room, wherein worlds shift, and season three is the fruit of that labor, with confident characters and expanded worlds.

By season three, the main characters have been poked and prodded for two full seasons, experimented on until their truest selves have been revealed. How? Conflict. Characters are made complete, in mold and mindset, through consistent conflict. They are built through what are essentially a series of thought experiments: How would x react if y? A byproduct of such conflict is a fleshing out of a show's world. Conflict requires fresh subjects to be placed before a character, be they fresh faces, strange circumstances, or unfamiliar situations.

For instance, two of Parks and Rec's most iconic characters, Ben Wyatt and Chris Traeger aren't introduced until the very end of season two, where they immediately begin foiling Amy Poehler and Rashida Jones, the series leads. Breaking Bad's first two seasons lack the series' big bad, Gus Fring, creator of the fictional restaurant, Los Pollos Hermanos, the logo of which adorns the show's most popular merchandise; yet, it's only introduced in concept at the tail-end of the second season. The Office changes dramatically in season three, adding mainstay Andy Dwyer, flirting with a young Rashida Jones, and cementing Jim and Pam's relationship, which was until then a typical will-they-won't-they situation. Once resolved, it formed the literal backbone upon which the show is built.

Once they got together, Jim-and-Pam as a concept burst outside the confines of the show they were in, taking up real-estate in the general pop culture consciousness. The great shows, the all-timers, the ones you really should be watching in this quarantine time, share this Jungian trait. One doesn't need to have watched Seinfeld to understand the terms "shrinkage" or "close-talker." "We were on a break," is just part of our dialect.

Though this principle doesn't inform our viewing of many great shows, it does so with some of our touchstone comedies, like the aforementioned It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia and Curb your Enthusiasm. Shows of this format don't have one cohesive story pulling them along; it's possible, if not normal, to jump around to the great episodes through seasons, without care for continuity. Once it's known that the characters in Always Sunny are narcissists who work at a bar, it's easy to understand any episode, to jump in without further background. Ditto Curb, where Larry David is culturally understood to be an off-putting schmuck, and that's all one must know for maximum enjoyment.

Because the DNA of these two shows, and their dramatic brethren like Grey's Anatomy and NCIS, is accessible via collective unconscious, we culturally understand that it's unnecessary to sit and watch every single episode in a row. We know enough from our general human wanderings that we can skip the fluff and enjoy the standout performances and pieces, allowing superfluous details to slowly fill themselves in, as they always do.

Grey's Anatomy Season 3

Which of the truly great shows don't also already exist in our cultural consciousness? Nobody goes in blind to any piece of art nowadays, so it's hard to think of even one. Everyone knows Tony Soprano is a gangster in therapy. Lost takes place on an island post-plane crash. Jon Snow in Game of Thrones is a bastard, and if that isn't abundantly clear, they'll say it five or six times an episode.

No show is ever entered into truly blind. Between our bevy of previous cultural knowledge and the practice we've had in consuming other content en media res, it's possible to spare ourselves the slog of shows when they're just starting out. We've just never strayed from the unimaginative formula that shows are best began at the beginning. But that's clinging to tradition alone. Shows in season three will contain characters at their most compelling, jokes at their most pointed, worlds at their most alive. The show itself will be easier to enjoy, and that enjoyment will come quicker. Is that not the point? Maximum enjoyment, minimum commitment.

And when it's all over, when you love these people desperately and want so bad to live in their world for just a few minutes more, you can rejoice! For there are two more seasons for you to watch, saved, untouched. Their growing pains will seem quaint, their iffy characterizations cute. And the exercise alone will make you feel powerful, able to ground yourself in a world in movement.


You Can't Change My Mind: Jon Hamm Can't Act

No one else sees it, and I feel like I'm taking crazy pills.


There's a well-known line in George Bernard Shaw's Man and Superman, in which a character claims, "Those who can, do; those who can't, teach."

Incidentally, did you know that Jon Hamm taught drama to eighth graders before he got into acting? In fact, before his breakout role as Don Draper in Mad Men, he thought of teaching as his safety net—a fallback position in case acting didn't work out. It would obviously be unfair to use that fact alone as evidence that Jon Hamm can't act, but I feel like being unfair, because no one seems to agree with me on this point.

jon hamm making a face

I've searched for validation on this, but googling "Jon Hamm bad actor" turns up pages of results about how great he is. And he certainly was great on Mad Men. That show was really well cast, and Jon Hamm can play a stoic, performative thinker as well as anyone. He even won an Emmy for it—along with dozens of nominations for every TV award on earth. So, somehow, I have to account for the fact that, unlike seemingly everyone else on Earth, when I see Hamm in anything besides Mad Men, he just seems like a guy doing some acting. I must be wrong, and yet…

jon hamm eyebrows 30 Rock

He's not awful by any means. He can sell a line and he has good comedic timing, but there are all these small details—in his smile, in the way he uses his eyebrows, in the way he looks at his co-stars—that seem so intentional that I can't believe him, even when his line delivery is on point—and I'm not saying it always is. As Don Draper, it worked. Don was a performer himself—always pitching something, butting up against other male egos, and just generally living his life as an impostor. But am I really alone in finding his mannerisms jarring in his other work? The only explanation, as far as I can tell, is he's just too charming and sexy for anyone else to notice.

jon hamm being sexy InStyle

He's not just good-looking. That wouldn't be enough. He carries himself with a quiet self-assurance. He's calm, confident, unflappable, sexy. Most of us spend half our lives trying or pretending to be charming and sexy. When people see Jon Hamm doing it so effortlessly, they must misinterpret his natural abilities as a successful performance. That's the only explanation for the fact that all his little comedic cameos get so much praise, despite being the least convincing parts of whatever he's in.

jon hamm awesome

I'm not saying that Jon Hamm has to go back to teaching. If we're going to keep putting him in movies because he's charming and sexy—and honestly seems like a really nice guy—I can totally live with that. I just want the rest of the world to acknowledge that that's what we're doing so I can stop feeling like I'm taking crazy pills.

Otherwise, I'll eventually have to face up to the fact that I'm the one with the problem. That maybe the reason I can never find Jon Hamm convincing is that I just find it hard to believe that someone so charming and sexy could really exist, when I spend half my life badly failing to be those things. Please, God, no.


Brands are Not Your Friends

Attempting to reach a younger demographic, fast food chains have started tweeting about having chronic depression.


If you've spent any time on Twitter, then you already know Wendy's has the coolest social media presence of any company ever.

Their Twitter account is renowned for its sharp-wittedness and "savage" roasts targeting both competing fast food chain and its own consumers. Amidst pushing Wendy's classic "fresh, never frozen" mantra, jokes about users' physical appearances never seem out of place. As such, they've gained a massive following on Twitter (3 million plus users) along with a good deal of street cred amongst meme lords.

Their prominence on social media has translated into massive revenue for the company. Unsurprisingly, tons of other brands are now striving to emulate Wendy's voice on Twitter with the goal of attracting the coveted 18-24 demographic, a group that typically has no interest in brand interactions. This is the result:

SunnyD, the kind-of-orange drink brand, tweeted "I can't do this anymore," eliciting 346,000 likes, 152,000 retweets, and "concerned" responses from MoonPie, Pop-Tarts, Crest, Corn Nuts, Uber Eats, Wikipedia, Healthline, and Pornhub.

On one hand, the notion of a children's drink brand experiencing an existential crisis is funny. It's funny in the exact ironic way that memelords love. SunnyD accomplished exactly what it set out to do with its Tweet.

On the other hand, SunnyD isn't depressed. MoonPie isn't concerned. It's not one guy on social media talking to another guy on social media through corporate accounts. It's multiple teams of social media professionals curating ironic brand voices to sell products for a massive parent organization. It's the humanization of brands, capitalism's final frontier.

The Changing Ad-Scape

Historically, advertising has largely been focused around selling consumers an experience. This product will make you look cooler. This product will make people like you. This product will make your life easier. This product will bring you joy.

A good example of this is the famous Carousel scene from Mad Men, which shows marketing master Don Draper pitching Kodak on how to best frame their newest product.

Mad Men - The Carousel (Higher Quality)

Draper paints a picture of nostalgia for Kodak. Consumers aren't buying "The Carousel." They're buying a portal to their favorite memories. While marketing methods are always adapting, for decades, brands were focused on selling experiences like these.

But things have changed. Millennials, and to a greater extent, Gen Z, don't trust brands like older people do. Not only do younger generations have way more options, but many of them dislike large corporations on principle. Considering their massive buying power as a market segment, major brands have struggled to keep up.

For a while, irreverent humor seemed like the way to go. Brands like Old Spice created strange, funny commercials to draw in younger audiences with the hope that if they didn't respond to the product, they would at least respond to the comedy.

Old Spice | The Man Your Man Could Smell Like

This worked very well, but in the advertising world when something works, everybody tries to get a piece. Soon, irreverent comedy in marketing became hackneyed and try-hard, with every other company aiming to be "funny." American Express went so far as to convince Tina Fey to do the least funny thing in her entire career:

Tina Fey’s Guide To Workout Gear | American Express

Which leads us to the present. Irreverent humor no longer seems to be a legitimate strategy. If brands want to connect, they need to connect on Gen Z's home turf: social media.

The Danger of Viewing Brands as Human

Today, brand voice is everything. On social media, brands can't just be impartial advertisers if they want to stand out from their competition. They need a personality.

Some, like Nike and Gillette, aim to be political in an effort to appear more socially conscious.


Campaigns like these generate a lot of social buzz, but come off as disingenuous considering many of these companies also utilize slave labor. After all, no matter what they say in their campaigns, the ideal large corporations hold dearest is that of maximizing profits.

The other far less controversial option is to meme. This makes sense considering the prolific nature of meme culture across social media. Provided they have a savvy, young team of social marketers, curating an ironic, savage™ brand persona is a surprisingly easy way for brands to connect with their target audiences. It humanizes them and makes them seem cool in a way that shoehorned social justice campaigns cannot.

But, therein lies the problem. Ironic brand voices are just as inauthentic as corporate-sponsored social justice campaigns and to pretend otherwise is to buy into a marketing ploy.

To clarify, there's nothing wrong with liking a brand, enjoying it's marketing, and spending your money on its products. If you realize Wendy's savage brand voice is all an attempt to get you (presumably someone in their teens-early 30s) to buy burgers, awesome.

The danger is not understanding that you are being blatantly marketed to and pandered to in the same way that Don Draper panders nostalgia through Kodak. The means may have changed, but the mission is exactly the same.

Go ahead, enjoy the hilarity of Wendy's burns. Enjoy SunnyD's depression. Enjoy MoonPie's whatever the hell this is:

Because it's funny. Just remember, it's all marketing. It's all intended to make you spend your money. It's not really ironic. It's capitalism in a funny outfit.

Dan Kahan is a writer & screenwriter from Brooklyn, usually rocking a man bun. Find more at

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Employers could learn something from AMC's Mad Men. But why should they?

AMC drama tackles sexism in the workplace and the growing concern for women's rights

Employers could learn something from AMC's Mad Men.

By: Kate Harveston

When AMC's Mad Men premiered in 2007, there was an undeniable attraction to the artistic direction and methodology of the show. Somehow, AMC — a network new to original programming — produced one of the defining dramas of the Golden Age of Television. Made of equal parts sophisticated cinematography and grimy realism, the shows historical setting was steeped in the nostalgia of 60s Americana.

Despite the historical backdrop, with every passing season of Mad Men the themes and character drama grew more familiar to its current day audience — especially the consistent themes of sexism in the workplace and the growing concern for women's rights. Creator and show runner Matthew Weiner used the advertising industry as a way to display the trials and tribulations professional women struggled with during the mid to late 1900s, and still even struggle with today. While the show has a historical setting, there are benefits in viewing Mad Men as a current day case study for workplace ethics and gender discrimination. From an analytical view, employers can benefit from watching this show and facing the realities of what discrimination and sexism look like. This is accomplished especially well through the experiences of one of the main leads of the show, Peggy Olson,who is played by Elisabeth Moss.

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Examining Peggy's character and experience serves as a wonderful encapsulation of the women's rights struggle in the professional world in the 60s, the 70s and even the current day.In the first episode of the first season, we meet the character Peggy Olson on her first day at the Sterling Cooper ad agency. She is portrayed as the virginal waif of the office and new secretary for main character Don Draper. We begin to repeatedly witness chauvinistic and sexist interactions between the male staffers and the female employees through Peggy's freshman lens.Throughout the first season, we see her discover her "place" in the office, which is pre-ordained due to her gender and accepted by her fellow secretaries; but her unique drive and creativity sets her apart and brings her to the attention of her boss. The importance of this relationship as it progresses into the following seasons of the show becomes significant, not just for further character development and story drama, but for women's rise in corporate America. At season four of the show, Peggy's character has gone from the freshman secretary of the office to grown copywriter. As the first female writer at the firm since World War II, Peggy struggles to prove herself as a contributing member of the creative team. Even the men in the office who are technically beneath her rank are a constant threat to her input, authority and self-esteem.

Episode seven of season four serves as a wonderful portrait of corporate America of that time. Peggy desires recognition for her ideas and intellect, not from her boyfriend or family, but from the man who best represents her path toward professional success — Don Draper. Her loving and attentive boyfriend attempts to surprise her with a birthday dinner at a restaurant with her family, but when Don, played by Jon Hamm, calls her in to work late on a pitch idea, she cancels on the dinner and ends up breaking up with her boyfriend. During the work session, Peggy and Don immediately begin raging at each other, spilling out four seasons of resentment and bottled up emotions, but she does not leave.The episode seems to visually dramatize the effect work and success has had and continues to have on professional men and women. Both Don and Peggy become very emotional while working together through the night, but when daylight arrives and the world returns to normalcy, Don's shown refreshed and neat, prepared to face the business of the day, while Peggy still has the vestiges of their dramatic work session on her face.Conceptually, the visual of Peggy and Don at the end of this episode serves as a perfect representation of what it costs a man to succeed in the business world in relation to a woman. While men are expected to succeed and seemingly rise effortlessly, women are forced to struggle and prove themselves consistently.The demands of their professional ambition include personal and emotional sacrifices for the same reward.

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By season seven — the final season of the show — women's rights have vastly improved from how they were in season one, and Peggy's position in the new agency serves to illustrate this. While not spoiling too much of the final season for new viewers, Peggy essentially becomes Don's professional superior. She has grown into the new head of the creative department and has achieved the position and success that she always desired. Meanwhile, Don Draper has been reduced to the role of cheerleader and subordinate— what was historically a woman's role.

But in episode six, we see that despite this demotion in his official status, Don still benefits from the advantages of his gender. He's still the choice the agency makes when it's time to land a major client, despite Peggy's proven ability, casting her right back into the familiar and frustrating role of a background player.The episode allows a glimpse into the frustrating cycle of advancement and demotion women have experienced in corporate America — no matter how high you rise, no matter how able you prove your self to be, as a business woman you have to face the possibility of being society's second choice. The episode does allow for a glimmer of hope to shine through. Rather than tearing Peggy down further and advancing his own agenda, Don embraces Peggy's growth and takes a mentorship role to help her rediscover her confidence as a professional.The ending of the episode shows that while society can reduce women despite their accomplishments,the individual acknowledgment women receive as equals will continue to push necessary change forward.

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For this reason and many others, employers should be eager to watch Mad Men and absorb its message,especially in the divided world we are facing today. The more that we can push change forward, the better. Nowadays, there are stricter guidelines for employers to follow in regards to workplace discrimination, which is great. However, recent cases of discrimination coming to the surface, such as the controversies taking place within the company Uber, show us that we still have a ways to go.There were plenty other female characters in Mad Men, such as Joan Harris, who served as brilliant representations of women's issues in society and business.

The show has also been criticized as not being intersectional enough. This meaning that the show did not include a strong enough depiction of racial issues, which surely is a problem since we know that women of color still systematically make even less than white women (who already make less than what a man makes). However, there are some takeaways that anyone can learn from this show, and it's a great watch for anyone who would like to have a better understanding of the various ways the discrimination presents itself in the workplace, even when it's subtle.

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Frontpage Popular News

NEWS | Obama slams Trump for moving to end DACA

Click here to read the full statement

"Ultimately, this is about basic decency."

WASHINGTON (Popdust) - Quick recap: today Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Trump's decision to rescind DACA, the Obama-era program that allowed undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children to remain in the country.

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And basically everyone from Mark Zuckerberg, to celebrities like Lauren Jauregui, to politicians (both democrat and republican) responded being like, "that's mad f*cked up, bro."

But the response people were really waiting for was Obama's, because back during his last press conference as president, Obama warned that he would be vocal if Trump threatened the 'DREAMers.'

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So it wasn't a huge surprise when hours after the announcement, Obama released a written statement via facebook. And while Obama fails to call Trump out by name, the letter is a clear, calling the Trump administration's decision "cruel," and "self-defeating."

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Below, we've provided the full B.S. (Barack statement), without commercial interruption, for your reading and self-informing pleasure.

Immigration can be a controversial topic. We all want safe, secure borders and a dynamic economy, and people of goodwill can have legitimate disagreements about how to fix our immigration system so that everybody plays by the rules.

But that's not what the action that the White House took today is about. This is about young people who grew up in America -- kids who study in our schools, young adults who are starting careers, patriots who pledge allegiance to our flag. These Dreamers are Americans in their hearts, in their minds, in every single way but one: on paper. They were brought to this country by their parents, sometimes even as infants. They may not know a country besides ours. They may not even know a language besides English. They often have no idea they're undocumented until they apply for a job, or college, or a driver's license.

Over the years, politicians of both parties have worked together to write legislation that would have told these young people -- our young people -- that if your parents brought you here as a child, if you've been here a certain number of years, and if you're willing to go to college or serve in our military, then you'll get a chance to stay and earn your citizenship. And for years while I was President, I asked Congress to send me such a bill.

That bill never came. And because it made no sense to expel talented, driven, patriotic young people from the only country they know solely because of the actions of their parents, my administration acted to lift the shadow of deportation from these young people, so that they could continue to contribute to our communities and our country. We did so based on the well-established legal principle of prosecutorial discretion, deployed by Democratic and Republican presidents alike, because our immigration enforcement agencies have limited resources, and it makes sense to focus those resources on those who come illegally to this country to do us harm. Deportations of criminals went up. Some 800,000 young people stepped forward, met rigorous requirements, and went through background checks. And America grew stronger as a result.

    But today, that shadow has been cast over some of our best and brightest young people once again. To target these young people is wrong -- because they have done nothing wrong. It is self-defeating -- because they want to start new businesses, staff our labs, serve in our military, and otherwise contribute to the country we love. And it is cruel. What if our kid's science teacher, or our friendly neighbor turns out to be a Dreamer? Where are we supposed to send her? To a country she doesn't know or remember, with a language she may not even speak?

    Let's be clear: the action taken today isn't required legally. It's a political decision, and a moral question. Whatever concerns or complaints Americans may have about immigration in general, we shouldn't threaten the future of this group of young people who are here through no fault of their own, who pose no threat, who are not taking away anything from the rest of us. They are that pitcher on our kid's softball team, that first responder who helps out his community after a disaster, that cadet in ROTC who wants nothing more than to wear the uniform of the country that gave him a chance. Kicking them out won't lower the unemployment rate, or lighten anyone's taxes, or raise anybody's wages.

    It is precisely because this action is contrary to our spirit, and to common sense, that business leaders, faith leaders, economists, and Americans of all political stripes called on the administration not to do what it did today. And now that the White House has shifted its responsibility for these young people to Congress, it's up to Members of Congress to protect these young people and our future. I'm heartened by those who've suggested that they should. And I join my voice with the majority of Americans who hope they step up and do it with a sense of moral urgency that matches the urgency these young people feel.

    Ultimately, this is about basic decency. This is about whether we are a people who kick hopeful young strivers out of America, or whether we treat them the way we'd want our own kids to be treated. It's about who we are as a people -- and who we want to be.

    What makes us American is not a question of what we look like, or where our names come from, or the way we pray. What makes us American is our fidelity to a set of ideals -- that all of us are created equal; that all of us deserve the chance to make of our lives what we will; that all of us share an obligation to stand up, speak out, and secure our most cherished values for the next generation. That's how America has traveled this far. That's how, if we keep at it, we will ultimately reach that more perfect union.

    - Barry-O

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