2021 So Far: Pop Culture Edition

I kicked off 2021 with a New Year’s Day marathon of Dash & Lily after friends kept telling me it was right up my alley. Any reminder of New York City at Christmas in the before times initially seemed too devastating, but this was exactly what I needed at that point in time. Lily, a romantic and old-fashioned teenager, leaves a notebook in the Strand bookstore with the intention of a boy finding the dares she wrote on its pages. Cynical, guarded Dash discovers the book, initiating a series of wild missions for the duo across the city before they even meet. Yes, it’s a slightly bittersweet viewing, but being quite the Lily myself, the series was almost a restorative balm for me.

I had a delayed start to the Bridgerton craze, but better late than never! After finishing and loving Season 1, I began binge-reading Julia Quinn’s books, and I’m now up to Eloise’s story, To Sir Phillip, With Love. I love how readers can identify certain aspects that the TV writers clearly honed in on for an adaptation tweak. That being said, the books aren’t as enveloped in the family’s world and contemporaries as the series is, and their focus remains firmly on a particular story’s starring couple. I’d compare their differences to something like The Princess Diaries — they’re both so beloved for what they are and each has elements you can appreciate separately from its other representation. Basically, the two mediums are more like close cousins than identical twins.

As of now, The Viscount Who Loved Me (Anthony’s love story and the basis for the upcoming second season) has been my favorite of the books, which I wasn’t expecting after feeling a little lukewarm toward his TV storyline. And to get the other important questions out of the way: Eloise is the sibling I resonate with most, while my favorite Bridgerton brother is Benedict. Kate from The Viscount Who Loved Me is my favorite book heroine so far, and I’m so excited about her Season 2 casting! Finally, if you haven’t watched already, Regé-Jean Page’s SNL episode was not only contagiously fun but also felt like one of the season’s solidest thus far.

The Bridgerton books are so well-written and consumable that they’ve already bumped up my 2021 reading pace to a level that 2020 never quite hit. If I’m lucky enough to zoom through certain books and really love them, that good energy seems to translate to other reading. I’ve recently finished ARCs of Christina Lauren’s The Soulmate Equation (already a favorite read of the year, TBH) and Morgan Matson’s Take Me Home Tonight. After devouring K.A. Tucker’s The Simple Wild over the holidays, I recently read the sequel, Wild at Heart, and it totally beats the curse of follow-ups never quite landing the same way as their predecessor. I’m currently tackling Vanessa Riley’s A Duke, the Lady, and a Baby for book club, and next in the queue are Priyanka Chopra Jonas’s memoir and Nancy Johnson’s The Kindest Lie.

On the TV front, I’ve been embracing my inner 80-year-old and watching everything that Masterpiece on PBS has to offer. The Long Song was an inventive and sobering take on a horrible chapter of history. Miss Scarlet & The Duke almost felt like a Victorian steampunk novel come to life (and, um, hello, Stuart Martin). The first season of All Creatures Great and Small was such heartwarming, easy content, and it feels like the perfect hybrid of Downton Abbey and Call the Midwife but with more greenery, animals, and Northern accents.

Speaking of which, Call the Midwife, one of my all-time faves, usually airs in the US around this time of year, but it seems that the pandemic delayed its return. Until then, my period drama kick might slow down in favor of finishing HBO Max’s Love Life.

I was already disappointed in the production of Matt James’s Bachelor season when the Chris Harrison debacle began, and that is just more proof that ABC and the Bachelor producers cannot continue excusing such atrocious behavior related to race and casting. It’ll be interesting to see how this affects the franchise, but this season hasn’t been much fun to watch, and I’m tired of the influencer cycle the show perpetuates. However, The Bachelorette is always the most enjoyable for me, so I’m hoping for Michelle Young to be the next lead without Chris by her side in an outdated, pointless role.

Given how the past year has changed how we consume movies, I’m very behind in watching award contenders. I sobbed during Soul, but since then, I’ve chosen re-watches for writing inspiration and old-but-new-to-me movies instead. But I will say that most of the movies already included in nomination lists are definitely appealing, and the fact that they’re all streaming or available digitally has me more inclined to squeeze them in soon.

Some new podcasts added to my regular rotation include the Sex and the City miniseries of Sentimental Garbage, Spectacle: An Unscripted History of Reality TV, and Before the Downbeat.

What has your 2021 looked like so far?

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