10th Annual Pop Culture Awards

Back for the tenth straight year is my end-of-year awards! Long gone are the days where I ask friends to vote in various categories for moments of the year, and best friends of the year. But I will still give out my personal awards to the best in pop culture, sports, food, and the like.

Best TV Show: Parks & Recreation
There truly was no replacement for Breaking Bad in 2014, but several shows still managed to entertain. We got hooked on BBC’s Sherlock; I cruised through the entire FX series Louie; and good Lord did I enjoy myself some Jon Taffer on TNT’s Bar Rescue. Showtime’s third season of Homeland was good, but nowhere close to as good as the previous two. HBO dazzled with both True Detective and the hilarious Silicon Valley. The League, Orange Is The New Black, and even the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon were new favorites. Finally, CBS’s How I Met Your Mother mercifully came to a close. But the best of the year, in my opinion, was NBC’s Parks & Rec. That show has the perfect mix of zaniness and heartwarming moments. Nothing can beat the big Pawnee concert with everyone teaming up to sing “Bye Bye Little Sebastian”. There are still 7 new episodes to go in 2015. (Also: Pumped for Better Call Saul, the Breaking Bad spinoff.)

Previous winners: Breaking Bad (2013), Homeland (2012), Friday Night Lights (2011), 30 Rock (2010), Dexter (2009, 2008), Always Sunny (2007), The Office (2006), Arrested Development (2005)

Best Movie: Theory of Everything
Again, I got to see very few new movies in 2014, so this is like a random “which of these 5 movies was best?” The others I can recall seeing this year were The Wolf of Wall Street (technically 2013, also awkward seeing that with Mom and Dad at a Wednesday matinee!), Jobs (awful), A Million Ways To Die In The West (forgettable), and Guardians of the Galaxy (good movie, but not my genre). So kinda by default, Theory of Everything–the true Stephen Hawking story–wins. It looks like it’s up for a Golden Globe for Best Drama.

Previous Winners: The World’s End (2013), Argo (2012), Moneyball (2011), Cyrus (2010), Inglourious Basterds (2009), Milk (2008), Superbad/Into The Wild (2007), Clerks II (2006), Charlie & The Chocolate Factory (2005)

Best Music Artist: George Strait
I guess living in Central Texas, I got a little swept up in George Strait’s final year. That was the hottest ticket in pretty much every Texas city in 2014. All in all, I think 2014 was the weakest year for new music I can remember. One exception–one of my old favorites, Weezer, actually released their best albums in years. Other country acts like Blake Shelton, Eric Church, Dierks Bentley, Kenny Chesney, Tim McGraw, Luke Bryan, Darius Rucker, etc. all cranked out a few hits, but nothing stands out to me. I could use some pointers on what music to listen to… there must be something better than this.

Previous Winners: Eric Church (2012, 2013), Eric Church/Jason Aldean/Blake Shelton (co-winners, 2011), Darius Rucker (2010, 2009, 2008), Smashing Pumpkins (2007), Meat Loaf (2006), Weezer (2005)

Best New Song: “I Got a Car”, George Strait
This song really stood out to me when I first heard it due to its super low-key lyrics. “Hey, I know I don’t know you but I’d kinda like a shot. She said, I saw you coming over, I already thought it over and OK, so now what?” Just a fun little tune, and a nice send-off for George.

Previous Winners: “Wagon Wheel” Darius Rucker (2013), “Springsteen” Eric Church (2012), “Beer In My Hand” Eric Church (2011), “It Felt Good On My Lips” Tim McGraw (2010), “Roll With Me” Montgomery Gentry (2009), “What Kinda Gone” Chris Cagle (2008), “Another Cup of Tea” Tuesdays Robot (2007), “You’re Beautiful” James Blunt (2006), “Nothin’ To Lose” Josh Gracin (2005)

Best Actor/Actress: Nick Offerman, Amy Poehler
Louis CK probably isn’t a really great actor, much like Jerry Seinfeld, but he is still poignantly funny on Louie. I had to give the award to Nick Offerman for his role of Ron Swanson on Parks & Rec. Such a unique character on any TV show, and fairly realistic. Amy Poehler on Parks & Rec is the easy choice for best actress, though co-stars Aubrey Plaza and Rashida Jones also got some consideration. That P&R ensemble cast really is amazing. Virtually everyone is a star or has become one because of the show.

Previous Actor Winners: Bryan Cranston (2013), John Goodman (2012), Nick Offerman (2011), Michael C. Hall (2010, 2009), Sacha Baron Cohen (2006), Jeffrey Tambor (2005); Previous Actress Winners: Emmy Rossum (2013), Yvonne Strahovski (2012), Connie Britton (2011), Portia de Rossi (2005)

Best Comedian: Louis CK
Here’s the fitting category to give Louis CK a much-deserved award. Lauren and I really got hooked on watching stand-up comedy on Netflix this year, and must have re-watched each of the Louis CK specials 5 times. So damn funny.

Best Athlete: Phil Hughes, Minnesota Twins
For a Twins team that has been so bad for the past four years, it was a ray of light to see a free agent signing like Phil Hughes come over from the Yankees and put together a masterful season. All he did was set the all-time MLB record for strikeout-to-walk ratio! He struck out 186 while walking only 16. And today, the Twins extended him through the 2019 season as a reward. Several other Twins actually had great individual seasons, like Danny Santana, Brian Dozier, and Eduardo Escobar, but none as great as Hughes. On the football side, possibilities included Philip Rivers yet again.

Previous Winners: Philip Rivers (2013), Josh Willingham and Adrian Peterson (2012), Jim Thome (2011), Kevin Love (2010), Joe Mauer (2009), Torii Hunter (2007), Johan Santana (2006), Luis Rodriguez (2005)

Best Sports Moment: Minnesota Wild def. Colorado Avalanche in 1st Round NHL Playoffs
Lauren and I were back in Minneapolis in April, just the time the Wild and Avs were squaring off in a best-of-7 playoff series. We watched several of the games, including the thrilling Game 7 OT clinching victory at Walsh and Sarah’s. The Chargers also beat the Bengals in the AFC Wild Card round, but other than that my teams had a pretty sad year. The Twins showed some offensive prowess anyway, ranking 7th in the majors in runs scored, including a laughable 20-6 win over the Tigers on August 22.

Best Local Restaurant: Hopdoddy
I think my favorite burger on the planet is the El Diablo from Hopdoddy. Mix that with their fries and a beer or milkshake, and that’s $15 well spent. Yes, my innards pay dearly afterwards for consuming atomic peppers, but at the time of consumption it’s outstanding.

Best Local Bar: Whole Foods Domain
Yep, gonna give nods to a natural grocery store for the best bar. They really do have the best beer selection in North Austin. There are around 40 beers on tap, changing regularly, and none of them are ordinary everyday beers. What is it about sipping on a 8.9% ABV IPA while pushing your cart around that makes grocery shopping such a fun chore?

Best Local Brew: Rogness Beardy Guard Amber Ale
Rogness is a little-known brewery up near Baxter’s daycare that puts out a handful of delicious craft beers in large bottles. It’s very difficult to find on tap anywhere, though I did experience the Beardy Guard at the Drafthouse. Austin isn’t quite up to Minneapolis’s level in microbrew production, but there are some outstanding choices here in town.

Best Time-Wasting Website: Sporcle
Again, I wasted countless hours playing user-created quizzes on sporcle.com this year.

I guess that’s enough fictional awards for 2014. Merry Christmas to all! Check back soon for my 2014 Year in Review.