The Best Pop Culture We Caught Up on in 2021

The Best Pop Culture We Caught Up on in 2021
A few more catch ups to cross off our list. (Image: Studio Ghibli, The Folio Society, and Disney)

Not everything about looking back on the year behind us is always about the things that were new. In the past few years in particular, we’ve been able to take the time to step away from the contemporary pop culture cycle and check back in on the things we missed out on, or wanted to catch up with. Here’s what was on our 2021 to-do list.

Kiki’s Delivery Service

Screenshot: HBO MaxScreenshot: HBO Max

I have no idea why but Hayao Miyazaki’s oeuvre was a complete blindspot for me growing up. This year I decided to rectify that. I went for broke and watched My Neighbour Totoro, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Spirited Away, and Howl’s Moving Castle in the span of a week. They were all quite enjoyable and perhaps even more quirky than I expecting (it was nice to finally have some context for all those No-Face cosplays I’d seen at cons) but it was Kiki’s Delivery Service that most captured my attention. That I am both a lover of witchy stories and a cat lady probably helped steer me in this direction. It’s a classic coming-of-age tale about responsibility, friendship, and believing in yourself, and I really wish someone had introduced me to the story when I was a young girl so I could have had many more years to appreciate it. – Jill Pantozzi

Gargoyles

Screenshot: DisneyScreenshot: Disney

Gargoyles completely passed me by as a kid — to be fair, as a child of the ‘90s, there was more than enough animated goodness, Disney or otherwise, to keep me occupied. Bizarrely enough, it wasn’t even the show itself this year that got me to finally try; it was watching my friends and half the internet lose its shit over NECA getting its hands on a licence to make a mighty fine lookin’ Goliath action figure over the summer. It was maybe the first time a merch-to-show pipeline has lead me to a new favourite binge-watch rather than the other way around. Gargoyles’ mix of oddball goofs and surprisingly serious and charming character work makes for a compelling adventure, and it does admittedly help that it feels like Keith David is leading half of the Star Trek: The Next Generation cast around, which blows my mind far more as an adult that it would’ve as a kid. – James Whitbrook

Ghosts

Screenshot: BBCOneScreenshot: BBCOne

Ghosts’ unassuming title and its (admittedly familiar) premise about a couple unknowingly moving into a house full of ghosts who’re uninterested in having guests made it an easy show to miss when it first premiered on the BBC back in 2019. Though CBS is banking on American audiences tuning in to its new adaptation on a weekly basis, it can scarcely hold a candle to the original, which has spent its first three series (and a Christmas special) following as the living and dead residents of Button House come to realise that cohabitating with one another is actually something that they all enjoy once they let themselves. – Charles Pulliam-Moore

Dune

Image: AceImage: Ace

The Dune books have been around all my life but it wasn’t until the new Denis Villeneuve film that I finally cracked them open. Watching this film, as opposed to the David Lynch version, was just the right visual primer I needed to break through Frank Herbert’s incredibly vast, detailed imagination and fully embrace his story. And wow am I glad I did. I’ve now read the first two books in the series and am in the middle of the third, and I feel almost ashamed that this vast, complex sci-fi universe had been at my fingertips for so long and I just ignored it. The life of Paul Attrides touches on so many things that not only was Herbert dealing with when he wrote the book, but that we still deal with now: political scandal, religious fanaticism, economic disparity, and so much more. All of which wrapped in this unforgettable world of sandworms and still suits and obese men carried around by wires. I’m not sure I’ll get through the entire Herbert Dune series, but I feel much more fulfilled as a genre fan now that I’ve begun the ride. – Germain Lussier

Kolchak: The Night Stalker

Image: Kl Studio ClassicsImage: Kl Studio Classics

October’s long-awaited arrival of Kolchak: The Night Stalker on Blu-ray means there’s no better time than right now to bury yourself in the quirky 1970s series about a Chicago reporter (Darrin McGavin) who always finds himself caught in the middle of crime stories with weird supernatural undertones. An influence on The X-Files, which not coincidentally welcomed McGavin as a guest star more than once, the 20-episode series followed the intrepid, seersucker suit-wearing journalist as he faced monsters (zombies, aliens, werewolves, and so many more) week after week, as well as his gruff, highly sceptical boss and the even gruffer, even more sceptical local police force. Also enthusiastically recommended: the two TV movies that serve as a prequel to the series. – Cheryl Eddy