In a year full of as many ups and downs as there were twists and turns, it’s helpful to think of what you’re thankful for.

Thanksgiving gives us an opportunity to honor the people who stand by us and show appreciation for the things in our lives that are good. Maybe you celebrate the holiday with an extravagant meal. Maybe you treat yourself to a day of relaxing. Maybe you’re a masochist who insists on running a 5k. Regardless of what you do on the last Thursday in November, it’s wise to carve out some time for reflection and find what you’re thankful for.

We did just that ahead of the holiday break, rounding up 9 moments in entertainment we’re grateful for from the past year. It’s a nice chance to look back on 2021, and a personal reminder to give thanks. Happy Turkey Day!

Finding comfort in Ted Lasso

Brett Goldstein and Juno Temple in a scene for 'Ted Lasso'.

‘Ted Lasso’ seems to be loved by all, and that honestly gives me hope.
Credit: Apple TV+

My partner is not a big TV guy. While I can happily binge 30 episodes of something I kind of enjoy because I’ve been promised It Gets Good Later On, he has about three shows in any given year he genuinely enjoys and looks forward to… and the rest of the time, he’d rather be out of the house. It’s an extra-tough break when you’re stuck indoors with not that much else to do, other than watch TV. So when a Delta outbreak plunged Sydney into nearly four months of yet another city-wide lockdown, we were extremely fortunate to have timed it near-perfectly with the second season of Ted Lasso.

Not only could we both enjoy Roy and Keeley’s sweet and mature love story (get yourself a paramour who is moved to tears by a scene that culminates in cunnilingus) and its unparalleled joke density, but the show also tackled a messier, harder take on Ted’s mental health journey than anyone was expecting from The Mr. Nice Show, right when we were both reckoning with our own. And while fans and critics questioned whether the one-at-a-time rollout was hampering the show’s reception, it gave us something to look forward to together, to enjoy together, and to talk about together afterwards, an emotional and joyful marker for the passing of each long and difficult week. — Caitlin Welsh, Australia Editor

Obsessing over the Dune worms

Scene involving the 'Dune' sandworms.

Run toward (and then very quickly from) the obsession-worthy sandworms from ‘Dune’.
Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

I hadn’t stepped foot inside a movie theater since 2019, but there was no way I was missing watching Dune in theaters. I needed to see the planet Arrakis on the big screen. More specifically, I needed to see Arrakis’ iconic sandworms (my favorite sci-fi beasties ever) on the big screen, because I firmly believed they would make or break the adaptation.

Thankfully, director Denis Villeneuve’s version of the worms blew me away. From the moment Duke Leto Atreides spots one moving through the desert, you know you’re in for a treat. Everything from the stunning visuals to the theater-shaking sound design makes you feel like you’re actually in the sand, watching this terrifying yet awe-inspiring creature come towards you. I was on the edge of my seat for the entire sequence, not just because of the suspense and the immersion, but because I was delighted to see something I had been so excited about come to life perfectly. I have no notes, sandworms rule. — Belen Edwards, Entertainment Writer

Coming back to Cowboy Bebop

Jet Black as seen in the original anime 'Cowboy Bebop'

At least it’s an excuse to revisit the original!
Credit: TXN/Toonami/Adult Swim

To be honest, I didn’t much care for Netflix’s Cowboy Bebop. Maybe it could’ve been better if it was an original show; the cast, stunts, and aesthetics are genuinely top-notch. But as it stands, the live-action remake of the 1998 anime classic feels superfluous bordering on lecherous. That said, the series’ release was still a highlight in my year.

I’m truly grateful to the reboot for giving the streaming world an excuse to watch the original again. I started a few months ago with my boyfriend, watching episodes here and there. Each time we sat down to start another was a blast. In building anticipation for the reboot, Netflix also built nostalgia for its inspiration. Having the show’s arrival to look forward to gave me, and I’m sure plenty of others, the deadline needed to finally start a rewatch. (It’s only 26 episodes! You should do it!) I was delighted to find the show I’d watched as a kid on Adult Swim was just as a spectacular as I’d remembered. Spike, Jet, Faye, and Ed are still the likable weirdos anchoring some of the best anime ever. Honestly, I’d watch a Season 2 of the live-action just to get the joy of that realization again. — Alison Foreman, Entertainment Reporter

Seeing Fast and Furious go to space

Vin Diesel and Nathalie Emmanuel in 'F9'.

It was so brief, but so beautiful.
Credit: Universal Pictures

When Fast and Furious went to space, I knew the movies were back. Theaters had been shuttered for months. Audiences had curled up into the comfort of watching premieres from their couches. But there are just some things you need to see on the big screen with a crowd of strangers. F9 delivered, not only bringing us another chapter in the outlandish saga of snarling drag racers turned globe-trekking thieves turned (more-or-less) superheroes, but also by taking their high-octane vehicular antics to the final frontier.

Director Justin Lin knew exactly what he was doing, cutting from the cacophony chaos of the Earthbound climatic car chase to the vastness and silence of space. It was comedic brilliance that let us all in on the joke. Every time, the audience exploded with laughter, those deep belly laughs that shake your whole body. We shook together, made a community by the great catharsis of go-big-or-go-home-entertainment cinema. It was silly and stupid, but also sacred. — Kristy Puchko, Deputy Entertainment Editor

Returning to Succession Sundays

Jeremy Strong in 'Succession'.

Your weekends are complete again.
Credit: Macall B. Polay/HBO

The Sunday Scaries (temporarily) became a thing of the past when Succession Sundays made their triumphant return in October. I take great comfort in knowing that fans of the satirical HBO dramedy all end their weekends in the same way. We sit at home. We get an adrenaline rush from Nicholas Britell’s fire theme song. And we put reality on hold for an hour to check in with L to the O-G an(d) fam. It’s a truly uniting, almost transcendent, experience. Every episode of Succession is (for lack of a more apt description) a brand new shit show at the fuck factory that’ll leave you wanting more. Will Greg ever understand Twitter? Will Roman and Gerri ever bang? Is Kendall, uh, OK? And who in the world will get that kiss from daddy

Succession provides no shortage of questions, theories, and standout lines to discuss, and the discourse goes down every Monday. Can confirm: Chatting about the show with fellow fans is almost as thrilling as watching. — Nicole Gallucci, Senior Editor

Making Minecraft escape rooms

Gameplay in a 'Minecraft' escape room.

OK, this might be the coolest social distancing activity out there.
Credit: Courtesy of Adam Rosenberg

The coolest entertainment thing I did all year was a pair of full-blown escape rooms in Minecraft. One with an Indiana Jones-meets-Creeper theme, titled Temple of Boom; and one with a Saw theme and some appropriately jarring twists along the way. Each one has a story, puzzles, and an energetic host — who is also the mad redstone wizard responsible for the two rooms, and the founder of our server.

That server, Friend Land, is a special place. It’s been a little oasis of community for all its members during the pandemic. We have activities there, like a theme park and a working casino. But the escape rooms are on another level. Our amazing friend invented this impossible thing that none of us had ever imagined before in Minecraft completely from scratch. He built a game within a game as a gift to us, and to himself. It’s a beautiful thing. 

In a year that brought back so much of our social existence — from concerts and shows to in-restaurant dining and nights out at the movies — these precious Minecraft escape rooms still stand out ahead of the rest. They’re impressive creations no doubt, but it’s the spirit in which they were created that matters more to me. The pandemic helped us all see our personal connections in this world just a little more clearly, and I wouldn’t trade Friend Land’s ongoing, evolving gift of community for anything. — Adam Rosenberg, Senior Entertainment Editor

Binging rom-coms long distance for the holidays

Rose McIver and Ben Lamb in 'A Christmas Prince'.

A new tradition out of a big ol’ bummer of a time.
Credit: Netflix

Right before 2020, one of my best friends moved across the country. Then the pandemic hit, so visiting her was out of the question. We stumbled on a pretty fun idea though: regular nights where we would watch just the cheesiest, dumbest romantic comedies that we could find on Netflix. (Yes, many of them were holiday-themed.)

We finagled it so we had our laptops doing a Google hangout, and then would push play on Netflix at same time. Then, we’d unmute ourselves when we needed to comment on the dumb character choices, or the obvious romance set ups, or the cringe-y Friend Who Is Doing The Most. It was a total delight, and a pretty decent replica of all the IRL movie outings we used to do together. Lots of pandemic-era stuff will hopefully stay firmly in the past, but a commitment to a cross-country movie night? I hope that remains a sweet new holiday tradition. Princess Switch 3, here we come! — Erin Strecker, Entertainment Editor

Seeing Sam’s new suit in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier

Anthony Mackie in 'The Falcon and the Winter Soldier'

It’s a great moment, even if the show was a mess.
Credit: Disney+

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier wasn’t a perfect TV show. As a transitional story that shifted the mantle of the star-spangled man from Steve Rogers’ shoulders to Sam Wilson’s, it had to confront dark social realities in a way that the rest of this year’s Disney+ Marvel shows didn’t have to. Seeing Isaiah Bradley, a character I never thought the MCU would touch, sit down and have a conversation with Sam Wilson about Blackness and heroism made Sam’s eventual debut as Captain America so much more impactful. I don’t think I would have been as gratified by Sam’s first shield-crashing, window kicking, badass moment if they hadn’t addressed what a Black Captain America would actually mean. There’s more that could have been said about Sam’s impact in the finale, but I have hope that the MCU will give Captain America plenty to say in the future. — Alexis Nedd, Senior Entertainment Reporter

Rewatching Superstore as soon as it ended

Ben Feldman and America Ferrara in 'Superstore'.

Never too soon to rewatch a masterpiece!
Credit: NBC

I was nervous about moving back in with my parents during the pandemic, but it ended up being a massive comfort. Part of our routine was gathering in front of the TV together every night to watch something. Before Superstore ended on March 25, 2021, I rewatched the pilot — and got my parents hooked in the process.

A day after I sobbed through the series finale, I dove right back in from the beginning and fell in love with Superstore all over, now with my parents along for the ride. We’ve watched a lot together, but Superstore was the rare thing we all loved. While my dad wanted to binge as many episodes as possible in an evening, my mom wanted to spread them out and savor the journey (my only requirement was that I be out of town when they reached the finale, and I failed). My Cloud 9 family meshed perfectly with my real family. Even though I watched Superstore live for years, my favorite memories of watching it will be these ones. — Proma Khosla, Entertainment Reporter

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