There are a lot of perks to occupying this, the highest peak in pop culture’s ivory tower. Us A.V. Clubbers are, on a daily basis, lavishly plied with all manner of semi-marketable garbage, from fancy picnic baskets packed with name-brand candy to potentially lifesaving survival kits that could, in theory, keep us alive after the zombie apocalypse comes. (Lord knows we have no real-life skills that would keep us alive otherwise.) Granted, we also get crappily burned CDs, itchy and ill-fitting T-shirts that go straight to Goodwill, and dozens if not hundreds of pieces of plastic garbage we never asked for, let alone wanted, but that’s the price we pay for our access to opulence.
In celebration of our continual quest to rake in all the promotional shit we can, The A.V. Club has once again compiled its guide to our year in swag. Below, you’ll find everything vaguely promotional we’ve received this year—save CDs, DVDs, books, and that sort of stuff—all of which we’ve callously catalogued, judged, and then selfishly kept for ourselves. Please, gaze upon our all passively obtained wares and be jealous. And, no, before you ask, you cannot have any of it.
Item: A severed foot and a sorority sweatshirt
Promoting: Ryan Murphy’s newest turd to hit your TV, Scream Queens.
Relevance: Neither is real, so what’s the point? Here at The A.V. Club, we want real flesh and already have our own prestigious sweatshirts, excluding any non-Club kid from all the fun.
Item quality on a scale from 1 (instantly trashable) to 5 (worth keeping unironically): 1.
Is it suitable for the plebes?: Yes, because only the wealthy deserve to murder without damnation—sort of like the premise of The Purge—and they probably need more schlubby sweatshirts. [Becca James]
Item: A stiff, large pillow
Promoting: Billy & Billie, a Neil LaBute-penned show that aired on the Audience Network.
Relevance: The show is about two stepsiblings who fall in love and this pillow features an almost life-sized picture of Adam Brody and Lisa Joyce post-coitus in what appears to be one of their childhood beds, so it seems relevant enough.
Item quality on a scale from 1 to 5: 4, but only because it feels bad to throw this thing out. It’s well made, but it’s stiff as a board, made out of some sort of boat canvas. You wouldn’t put it in your bed, and you wouldn’t put it on your couch, and you wouldn’t want a guest to sleep on it, so what is it for? It feels bad to even donate it to Goodwill.
Is it suitable for the plebes?: Assuming plebes use pillows, yes. Us entertainment writers wouldn’t know, seeing as how we sleep on beds made entirely of promotional T-shirts. [Marah Eakin]
Item: A giant wine glass, bottle of white wine, and a travel kit of condoms, lube, lip balm, and mints
Promoting: Trainwreck’s release on DVD and Blu-ray.
Relevance: Amy Schumer’s Trainwreck character is notoriously promiscuous, so the quasi one-night stand kit seems sensible enough. The giant wine glass is a bit of a head scratcher, since while she’s known for drinking in the movie, she’s not necessarily known for drinking wine. This feels like it would have been better promotion for Schumer’s Friday Night Lights bit from earlier this year.
Item quality on a scale from 1 to 5: 5, assuming you have room in your house for a giant wine glass. All the rest of the stuff is handy enough, we suppose.
Is it suitable for the plebes?: If they want to class it up for a night, sure. It’s still pretty cheap white wine, so they should find it suitable for their palates. [Marah Eakin]
Item: American Ultra weed paraphernalia bag
Promoting: American Ultra.
Relevance: Kristen Stewart and Jesse Eisenberg do spend a decent amount of screen time acting high, so yeah, a faux-hemp bag for your weed fits the pipe nicely.
Item quality on a scale from 1 to 5: 3. It is a perfectly serviceable little bag, containing rolling papers and a couple of small plastic vials (the better to store more than one strain at a time, though only someone who partakes of this lifestyle choice would use them for that, and while this isn’t exactly a LinkedIn profile, it’s also not our living room). It also contains a box of mints, which, not to be nitpicky, but come on: People’s main issue with the smell emanating from pot smokers isn’t bad breath.
Is it suitable for the plebes?: Oh, certainly, though even inveterate potheads might feel storing their kush in a bag advertising a stoner-comedy trifle is a bit on the nose. [Alex McCown]
Item: Portable phone charger
Relevance: As the folded-angel-wings box it came in explains, “Power is everything,” which probably seems more true in a post-apocalyptic world where actual electricity is a luxury commodity for most. Unfortunately, it seems the show lacked the power to keep itself on the air.
Item quality on a scale from 1 to 5: 5. It’s a portable charger for your phone, not even three inches long. That’s awesome, because we’re definitely too lazy to actually acquire one of the many purchasable versions of this. And using it will forever remind you of that show that was briefly on Syfy that one time, which you only remembered because it had Anthony Stewart Head.
Is it suitable for the plebes?: Don’t be silly. They shouldn’t even be entrusted with smart phones in the first place, but Pandora’s box has popped open a lot in recent years. [Alex McCown]
Item: Roadtrip kit
Promoting: Sharknado 3.
Relevance: It’s a mixed bag, as some of this stuff would come in handy for surviving the third sharknado that engulfs you, but others would be simply extra junk for the sharks to consume in addition to your sweet sweet flesh. The cooler bag would be useful to keep raw offal in to distract the sharks, but the selfie stick might spell your ending if you pause to snap a pic of you with a flying shark in the background. Likewise, the cup, pins, air freshener, window decal, and bumper stickers wouldn’t be much use to keep death’s jaws at bay. The bottle opener could be used to stab a shark, and the socks are nice to have, assuming your socks will be getting constantly wet with shark blood (and water, I guess). The bobblehead of a shark with a tornado for a body is best suited for bobbling on a desk.
Item quality on a scale from 1 to 5: 1 to 5. The pins, bumper stickers (“A shark ate my honor student” is the best one), and decal are junk, but the rest of it is fine quality. The cooler will be put to good use this summer.
Is it suitable for the plebes?: Oh hell no! [Caitlin PenzeyMoog]
Item: Birthday party kit
Promoting: Netflix’s All Hail King Julien
Relevance: King Julien’s life is a never-ending party, if memory serves me, making this very relevant.
Item quality on a scale from 1 to 5: 3. There are real party supplies in here, including party hats, paper streamers, balloons, noise makers, and crappy paper glasses cut into “2015” shapes. Those will be worn ironically this New Year’s Eve.
Is it suitable for the plebes?: Parties are suitable for everyone, not just the chosen few who receive free party favors from Netflix. [Caitlin PenzeyMoog]
Item: A backpack stuffed with temporary tattoos, an inflatable punching bag, air pump, hand wraps, Navy St. T-shirt
Relevance: DirecTV’s scripted series follows the Kulinas, a family of mixed-martial artists. The fights are well-choreographed, but the family drama is the real draw here. The Navy St. shirt is just like the ones worn by the characters, and the hand wraps are probably similar. The inflatable punching bag features Jay Kulina (Jonathan Tucker), whose live-wire performance steals the show. And just about everyone has tattoos in the Kingdom world, even if the show’s title isn’t emblazoned on them.
Item quality on a scale from 1 to 5: 5 (for everything except the tattoos). The backpack is well made and has multiple compartments. The punching bag is something you can easily inflate when you want to blow off some steam (and who couldn’t use an air pump?). The hand wraps can be used in your cardio-kickboxing class (although that’s the kind of sentence that would get you kicked out of Navy St.). And my brother will get a kick out of the T-shirt.
Is it suitable for the plebes?: Yes. The punching bag could be used to work out any pent-up anger, and again, the backpack and shirt are well made, so they’ll likely find their way into a plebe’s regular rotation. There’s a risk that the hand wraps could be interpreted as a call to arms, though. [Danette Chavez]
Item: printed cardboard box
Promoting: Sex Box.
Relevance: Well, this item is indeed a box, and it says the words “sex box” in it, as part of the come-on, “Are you ready to go into the Sex Box?” The actual show did, in fact, feature couples having sex in a box, right on the stage—though the box itself was soundproof and completely enclosed, so viewers had to use their imaginations. And boy, did they decide they didn’t want to do that: Sex Box was pulled from the air after only five episodes, because it was terrible. (Occasionally in a good way, but not frequently enough.) You can’t have it both ways, Sex Box. Either you have to be titillating or serious.
Item quality on a scale from 1 to 5: 1. It’s a shitty folded cardboard box that doesn’t even work as a box without the lid on.
Is it suitable for the plebes?: It’s not suitable for anyone, much like the show it’s promoting. [Josh Modell]
Item: Three-eyed raven
Promoting: HBO’s Game Of Thrones.
Relevance: The three-eyed raven is like the unofficial symbol of the Game Of Thrones, as he leads Bran Stark out of his dreams and into a quest behind the ice wall where his real wizard form resides. So how better to depict this mysticism than by stuffing the bird and making him a delightful toy animal, suitable for cuddling?
Item quality on a scale from 1 to 5: Ranges from 2 to 4, depending on how weird your kids are or how deep your GOT fanaticism resides.
Is it suitable for the plebes?: The youngest and most fantastical of plebes can not help but be entranced by this unlikely stuffed pet. [Gwen Ihnat]
Item: Gary The Volleyball
Promoting: The Last Man On Earth on Fox.
Relevance: A reproduction of Phil Miller’s best friend, one of several spheric pals the purported last man on Earth (Will Forte) creates after his lonely existence goes from collapse-of-civilization bacchanal to full-tilt Cast Away madness.
Item quality: 3.
Is it suitable for the plebes?: Yes, but only based on the assumption that the average person owns either a volleyball or a permanent marker—but not both. [Erik Adams]
Item: Battery-powered butterfly in a jar
Promoting: The second season of The Returned.
Relevance: Specifically calling back to a pinned butterfly that escapes its glass enclosure in the French zombie show’s first episode, this highly metaphorical promotion for a highly metaphorical thriller alludes to the characters (living and dead) who find themselves trapped in one way or another in season two.
Item quality: 2.
Is it suitable for the plebes?: It’s the kind of item that’s kept Spencer Gifts in business for nearly 70 years, so absolutely. [Erik Adams]
Item: Empty whisky bottle
Promoting: Lagavulin whisky.
Relevance: It’s pretty much spot-on. Rather than being sent to us by Parks And Recreation—which featured the product frequently as a favorite of Ron Swanson—it was actually sent to us by Lagavulin, which hired Nick Offerman for an overlong web commercial touting the stuff. The commercial tried to tout Offerman’s whisky delivery system, which involved answering notes sent to Scotland in whisky bottles with full bottles, also thrown into the water. So they sent us an empty bottle of the stuff, with a note inside listing a URL for the commercial.
Item quality on a scale from 1 to 5: 1. And it could’ve been a 5, Lagavulin, if you’d just bothered to fill the fucking thing up. What a tease.
Is it suitable for the plebes?: It might class up the joint to have an empty bottle of $80 Scotch around, so sure. [Josh Modell]
Item: Duffel bag filled with a “Fuck Off” eye mask, a Gallavich T-shirt, hoodie, baseball cap, and ceramic Solo cup
Relevance: Even if you’ve grown tired of the Gallaghers’ shenanigans on Shameless, you are probably still rooting for young lovers Ian Gallagher and Mickey Milkovich. Or, as they’re known among shippers, Gallavich. That portmanteau is all over the promotional materials, including the T-shirt that features an adorable cartoon rendering of the pair. The duffel bag is Mickey’s accessory of choice, which is usually stuffed with very bad things. And Fiona’s “Fuck Off” eye mask is in the mix because why the hell not?
Item quality on a scale from 1 to 5: 5. The shirt and hoodie are soft and well made, but I would never wear a baseball cap, not even one that shows my support of one of TV’s most complex couples. And the “Fuck Off” eye mask can be reversed so that you appear to be more of a morning person than you actually are.
Is it suitable for the plebes?: Yes. The ceramic red Solo cup will undoubtedly remind them of the “glassware” at their lowly gatherings, and can also be used as an ashtray in a pinch. And free clothes are free clothes. [Danette Chavez]
Item: Camouflage satchel
Promoting: The Fighting Season, DirecTV’s documentary series about U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan.
Relevance: High. The multi-pocketed bag—eight exterior ones by our count—is camouflage and comes with a metal water bottle (with a strap that has a compass), trail mix, and a nice leather-bound journal—everything branded The Fighting Season—and a bewildering amount of straps and random velcro, all of which says, “How long you been in country, soldier?”
Item quality on a scale from 1 to 5: 5. The fabric is durable, and do you think they put this many straps on cheap bags? It’s hard to say how well it’d hold up in the harsh Afghani environs, but it should more than handle your daily commute.
Is it suitable for the plebes?: Yup, especially if they’re prepper plebes. When you’re poking through the rubble of society after the shit has gone down, you’ll need a comfortable, multifaceted pack to carry provisions back to the bunker. [Kyle Ryan]
Item: Travel tote with travel stuff
Promoting: Discovery Life channel.
Relevance: High, assuming this channel is all about keeping clean and nice-smelling for a sexually healthy life.
Item quality on a scale from 1 to 5: 1-5. The Tide To Go pen is especially valuable, as are the condoms and pregnancy test. They get a 5. The Advil, Wet Ones, Purell wipes, mini deodorant, and breath mints are good things to keep in your backpack, too. They get a 4. And the travel tote is a 3—always a good thing to have on hand. The DVDs are useless, though, and get a 1.
Is it suitable for the plebes?: It is, but even us elite aren’t above using Tide pens to hastily remove a coffee stain. [Caitlin PenzeyMoog]
Promoting: Brain Surgery Live from National Geographic.
Relevance: Keep the brains off your shirt with these scrubs.
Item quality on a scale from 1 to 5: 3. These scrubs will make a suitable Halloween costume for someone next year, if we can keep track of them for that long.
Is it suitable for the plebes?: A specialized outfit like this? Don’t think so. [Caitlin PenzeyMoog]
Item: A tiny shovel
Promoting: Wrestling With Death, a reality show about a family of morticians that take to the squared circle in their spare time.
Relevance: Shovels dig holes to put things in the ground.
Item quality on a scale from 1 to 5: 3. While the shovel is comically small, it’s actually got some heft to it, which makes it of great use when intimidating opponents in the ring. Though its lack of size means it would never be an asset when it comes to grave digging, it’s small enough to help with enterprising gardeners looking to push up daisies in the non-morbid sense. Overall, it strikes a balance between on-the-nose promotional item and useful hand tool. Kudos, WGN America.
Is it suitable for the plebes?: Since we at The A.V. Club so rarely lift a finger—our servants do most of the typing—we passed it on to them and they squealed with glee. [David Anthony]
Item: Fake Occido Lumen and real ultraviolet flashlight
Promoting: The Strain.
Relevance: FX draws good numbers for its vampires-as-viral-outbreak series, but the excellent art direction disguises a rather flimsy show, which probably unintentionally makes this phony copy of season two’s MacGuffin incredibly apropos. And the flashlight found inside is ultraviolet—hey, that’s just like those vampire-repelling lights they use on the show!
Item quality on a scale from 1 to 5: We’re splitting the difference here and assigning a 2. The fake book is garbage, unless you’re doing set design for a show taking place in Elvira’s library, but the little flashlight is sturdy. Plus, it lets you do fun stuff like see how disgusting your hotel sheets really are, or how many inexplicable invisible stains seem to be on your coworker’s desk. It also bears a sticker: “WARNING: Intense beam do not look directly at light,” which we sadly didn’t notice until it was too late, and now we’re just doing our best guess for where everything on th3 keybpard is.
Is it suitable for the plebes?: If we can’t be trusted to properly use this flashlight, it certainly doesn’t seem safe for the hoi polloi. [Alex McCown]
Item: Full Circle bar set
Promoting: Audience Network’s Full Circle.
Relevance: Considering no one on The A.V. Club remembered this show, which debuted on DirecTV’s network eight months ago, we had to go by the promo photos inside. Apparently it’s in a bar? Terry O’Quinn is in it? And Rita Wilson? Wow, also Patrick Fugit, Eric McCormack, Calista Flockhart, David Koechner, and Stacy Keach? And none of us has any memory of it?
Item quality on a scale from 1 to 5: 5. The set includes two pint glasses, a bottle opener, and six leathery coasters, all branded Full Circle and carefully set in protective foam packaging inside a heavy wooden box branded—as in what ranchers do to cattle—with Full Circle’s info. Wow, now we feel really bad for forgetting it.
Is it suitable for the plebes?: What is a pub, but the gathering place for the working man? And what is the working man’s favorite beverage? This swag’s for you. [Kyle Ryan]
Item: Off-white promotional T-shirt
Promoting: Bill Murray’s clunky Rock The Kasbah.
Relevance: Well, someone in Rock The Kasbah probably wears some sort of T-shirt. And the shirt is sort of beige, which is like the color of the sand, which could make you think of the Middle East?
Item quality on a scale from 1 to 5: 3. It’s a T-shirt, and some people will wear any T-shirt, but this one just seems stupid. Its very existence raises more questions than it answers.
Is it suitable for the plebes?: Again, assuming they have torsos, yes. [Marah Eakin]
Item: Extraordinary Tales gift tote
Promoting: Extraordinary Tales, an animated anthology of Edgar Allan Poe’s work.
Relevance: Another animated tribute to the work of Edgar Allan Poe seems largely unnecessary in 2015, especially when Annette Jung’s near-perfect take on “The Tell-Tale Heart” already exists.
Item quality on a scale from 1 to 5: 3. The tote alone is nice, a practical carrying device for organs of any sort, tell-tale or not. And with it comes a quill pen and accompanying red leather journal, and the pen especially will come in handy for the signing of holiday cards. Lastly, the package contains the actual DVD, which no one needs, and a gummy heart, which no one can eat, making the entire thing a steady, right-down-the-middle sort of package.
Is it suitable for the plebes?: The plebes can have the DVD, but that’s it, as we will not provide them with anything as nourishing as an oversized gummy or as inspiring as writing utensils. The DVD, on the other hand, might do well in some sort of plebe-inspired flying disk game. [Becca James]
Item: Black baseball cap with a printed rim
Promoting: TruTV’s sketch comedy series Friends Of The People.
Relevance: The show stars the Lucas Brothers, and they’re known for wearing hats with flipped up brims, so this jives.
Item quality on a scale from 1 to 5: 3. It’s a nice enough hat, but you have to like Friends Of The People enough to want to advertise.
Is it suitable for the plebes?: Baseball caps are the chapeaus of the masses, so yes. [Marah Eakin]
Item: Ramen noodles and hot sauce
Relevance: Liv eats a lot of noodles, and she uses hot sauce on everything, so… relevant but also lazy. These ramen noodles are exactly what you’d buy at the grocery store, but with a “JUST ADD BRAINS” sticker on them.
Item quality on a scale from 1 to 5: Ramen: 2. Only if you forgot both your lunch and your wallet, or if you’re in college. Hot sauce: 4. Who doesn’t need some generic Tabasco to spice things up?
Is it suitable for the plebes?: Zombie or not, even plebes have to eat. [Laura M. Browning]
Item: A four-pack of brightly colored socks
Promoting: Adult Swim’s very existence.
Relevance: Questionable. Three of the four pairs say “Adult Swim” on them, but they also have pictures of bats and cartoonish cobras, and neither of those animals immediately come to mind when you’re thinking of the snappy cartoon mini-network.
Item quality on a scale from 1 to 5: 5. Hey, they’re nice socks!
Is it suitable for the plebes?: Even plebes have to keep their feet warm, especially if they’re trudging five miles each way on their way to work in some sort of joyless factory. [Marah Eakin]
Item: Packaged orange plastic poncho
Promoting: Backstrom, Rainn Wilson’s no-go series at Fox that started airing this past January.
Relevance: The poncho is packaged with a picture of Wilson’s Backstrom wearing a similarly colored raincoat, so the tie-in seems solid enough.
Item quality on a scale from 1 to 5: 3. It’s not something you’d want to use a number of times, but at least it’s not one of those garbage bag ponchos that you use for an hour and then toss. This thing could go the distance a couple of times.
Is it suitable for the plebes?: Why not? [Marah Eakin]
Item: Simpsons Treehouse Of Horror XXVI tote with glow stick and candy
Promoting: The Simpsons’ annual Halloween episode.
Relevance: While it seems like a general-use tote, the battery-operated glow stick (which has three light settings: solid, flashing, slower flashing) attached to it indicates it’s meant to be used as a trick-or-treat bag, the light helping its carrier stay visible at night. Along with the candy, it’s about as relevant to the Halloween-inspired episode as swag gets.
Item quality on a scale from 1 to 5: 4. The canvas looks fairly durable, with a good strap length, making it a solid option for grocery runs in the offseason. The batteries in the glow stick mean it can be used next Halloween too.
Is it suitable for the plebes?: Definitely. The tote is the people’s sack. [Kyle Ryan]
Item: Toiletries travel bag
Promoting: Syfy’s 12 Monkeys.
Relevance: 12 Monkeys has something to do with a virus, and this travel bag seems like the sort of thing that would transport several dozen medical injections or test tubes of nuclear-colored disease liquid. If one breaks open, it wont soak the rest of your suitcase in bright green toxic contaminants.
Item quality on a scale from 1 to 5: 4. It’s impossible to travel without spilling something—be it lotion or the next endemic—on your nicest outfit, making this toiletry travel bag an ideal piece of luggage to keep on hand.
Is it suitable for the plebes?: The 12 Monkeys patch on the outside, plus the bright red interior, makes this slightly too specialized for the coach-seat traveler. [Caitlin PenzeyMoog]
Item: Black-and-white decals and two wanted posters
Relevance: Portlandia’s fifth season featured multiple sketches about Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen’s goth characters, who are by season’s end accused of setting fire to a local shop, hence the wanted posters. The decals are made up of the series’ most popular pairings, including the outdoorsy Dave and Kath, and Women And Women First proprietors (though they probably wouldn’t like the term) Candace and Toni. Naturally, there are also a few birds for you to put on things.
Item quality on a scale from 1 to 5: 1. You will use these items in the sense that you’ll probably tape the wanted posters up on someone else’s wall (to keep your/their city weird), or you’ll slap those decals on various things. But that means they won’t find a permanent or even temporary place in your home.
Is it suitable for the plebes?: Yes. They paste their faces on the wanted poster, or place the decals on their own faces and dream of a better (or worse) life. [Danette Chavez]
Item: Truck box and shirt
Promoting: WGN’s reality show Outlaw Country.
Relevance: Outlaw Country is a show you probably haven’t heard of, a reality series depicting a Hatfield-McCoy situation in the small town of Buckner, Missouri. The Cook brothers are police officers; the formerly criminal Monk brothers say they’ve reformed. Amazingly, they let this series wire up their entire town to show both sides of this sometimes depressing small-town crime story. How a cardboard truck plays into this is anyone’s guess, although it appears to firmly swing the series’ sensibilities onto the law and order side. The “Outlaw Country” T-shirt may possibly draw you some admiring glances at your local bar’s honky-tonk night.
Item quality on a scale from 1 to 5: 1. Truck = Instant trash. T-shirt = Depends on if it fits in with the rest of your messaged-shirt wardrobe, but it’s likely that walking around with a shirt that says “Outlaw Country” will only communicate that you’re trying too hard.
Is it suitable for the plebes?: Even the plebes would give this dreck a pass. [Gwen Ihnat]
Item: Shitty sunglasses
Promoting: DogTV network.
Relevance: It’s TV for dogs. Unless dogs wear sunglasses (and maybe some of them do, like Spuds MacKenzie), this is a stretch. Isn’t it bad enough that our entire nation is now populated with mindless robot humans constantly staring at one screen or another? Do we have to extend this madness to our pets as well? If you’re going to get a dog just to have it watch TV, wouldn’t you be better off getting a fish? Or a book?
Item quality on a scale from 1 to 5: 0. We cover pop culture for a living, but we refuse to be a party to this madness.
Is it suitable for the plebes?: The plebes would turn up their noses at this plastic trash. Plebes, rise up and tear your eyes from your various screens! Except this one, of course. [Gwen Ihnat]
Item: Coffee mug
Promoting: The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon’s “limited engagement” in Los Angeles.
Relevance: It’s just like the mugs that Fallon and his guests drink (not alcohol—no sir, definitely not) out of on the show.
Item quality: 5 for looks, 1 for the adhesive used to affix the handle—which gave way after a few month’s of use of the other Fallon mug NBC sent us.
Is it suitable for the plebes?: Certainly not. Only the shiniest of stars and the most captivating of celebrities should be allowed to touch the mugs that sit idly by while Fallon spins the Wheel Of Musical Impressions or indulges in the latest round of Real People, Fake Arms. [Erik Adams]
Item: Picnic basket and snacks
Promoting: Fox’s summer primetime lineup.
Relevance: The months of June, July, and August used to be a period when broadcast networks could relax, kick their shoes off, and kill the time until Labor Day with schedules full of reruns and busted pilots. But not in the era of peak TV, buster! Recognizing that TV critics would be missing out on prime picnic time while surveying its summer programming, the Fox Broadcasting Company distributed this handsome, branded picnic basket, giving each show in the lineup a corresponding savory or sweet snack. Gummy tools make sense for the renovation competition Home Free, but peanut-butter-filled pretzels for Wayward Pines? We guess, like the show’s namesake setting, they’re not what they seem on the surface?
Item quality: 5.
Is it suitable for the plebes?: Surely, we couldn’t be expected to share such tasty treats with the public that so soundly rejected Knock Knock Live. [Erik Adams]
Item: Mike Tyson astronaut
Promoting: Mike Tyson Mysteries on Adult Swim.
Relevance: You may not have been aware of the animated Adult Swim series in which Mike Tyson, his adopted daughter, a friendly ghost, and an alcoholic pigeon solve mysteries in an interesting send-up of hacky ’70s animation. This Mike Tyson astronaut action figure refers to the episode “Heavyweight Champion Of The Moon,” in which Mike steals a rocket and heads to space to uncover a mysterious plot about missing astronauts.
Item quality on a scale from 1 to 5: 4, due to quality action-figure details like a face tattoo and flag for planting on the moon’s surface.
Is it suitable for the plebes?: Mike Tyson Mysteries shows the plebes that ambitious reinvention is always possible. If Mike Tyson can be an astronaut (for one episode) after conquering the world as heavyweight champion, why not anyone? [Gwen Ihnat]
Items: Hat, aviator sunglasses, notecards, pen, and fake newspaper
Promoting: The Grinder.
Relevance: The beanie and the shades are modeled after those donned by Dean Sanderson Jr. (Rob Lowe) on the former TV lawyer’s visit to a non-TV courtroom—as seen in the front-page spread of the accompanying phony newspaper. The notecards and pen, meanwhile, belong to Dean’s brother, Stewart (Fred Savage), who’s passed the bar but hasn’t learned his lesson about dully reciting his arguments in front of a judge and jury.
Item quality: 3 for the hat and sunglasses, 1 for the newspaper. (Sorry, The Boise Bulletin: The A.V. Club started out as a section in the print version of The Onion. The A.V. Club knew the print version of The Onion. The print version of The Onion was a friend of The A.V. Club. Bulletin, you are no print version of The Onion.)
Is it suitable for the plebes?: Only the non-Dean items, because the erstwhile Chris Traeger is literally the only person who can pull off that beanie. [Erik Adams]
Item: We Bare Bears Jenga game
Promoting: We Bare Bears on Cartoon Network.
Relevance: Already renewed for a second season, this whimsically offbeat series was apparently destined to be promoted by the whimsically offbeat Jenga game. It makes sense: Most of the bear’s follies involve grappling with the modern world, particularly technology, so the non-tech Jenga is likely a game they could get behind. Although their paws would probably get in the way.
Item quality on a scale from 1 to 5: 5. Jenga is never a bad idea. Works for kids, parties, or rainy Saturdays, bears or no bears.
Is it suitable for the plebes?: The plebes would do well to study strategy and balance while playing Jenga, as they learn valuable life lessons from the antics of Grizz, Ice Bear, and Panda. [Gwen Ihnat]
Item: pop-up book
Promoting: Ash Vs. Evil Dead.
Relevance: Ash Williams returns to battle Deadites and woo the more attractive big-box store customers when these two talents converge after he inadvertently raises the dead. The pop-up book features an old-lady Deadite, Ash posing with his new team, and strapping on his chainsaw. There’s also an abbreviated Necronomicon, in case you’ve forgotten how we got here.
Quality: 4. It’s no boomstick (thankfully), but the book is well made, including the mini-Necronomicon that is actually a flip book. The pop-ups and cover are colorful and sturdy. It’s destined for the coffee table and not your library, but there’s nothing wrong with having a conversation starter around.
Suitable for plebes: No, because we don’t really want to give them the power to raise the dead. Can you imagine the strain that would put on our social programs? [Danette Chavez]
Item: Married care package
Promoting: The (sadly canceled) FX series Married.
Relevance: The box included a tin of cookies and a bottle of red wine—pinot noir, we think, but the bottle immediately disappeared. Judy Greer’s character liked to drink wine—and one of the Magritte-inspired promo images from this season put a glass of red on her face—and someone on the show presumably ate cookies (maybe Nat Faxon?), so it’s probably relevant. Wine and cookies can be relevant to just about anything.
Item quality on a scale from 1 to 5: 4. The wine—from an unnamed California winery—was solid, and the cookies came from Mrs. Fields, which is basically the Subway of the cookie game (so, fine in a pinch, but not great). Both items were quickly devoured by the jackals in our office.
Is it suitable for the plebes?: Yes. The wine was a bit bold for commoners who favor jugs of Gallo when they aren’t chugging Bud Light, but the cookies were suitably pedestrian. [Kyle Ryan]
Item: Fake gold record inside a cardboard sleeve
Promoting: The series premiere of Empire.
Relevance: Empire is about the music industry, so it seems applicable enough. Hakeem’s probably never seen an LP in his life, though.
Item quality on a scale from 1 to 5: 1. It’s just gold cardboard.
Is it suitable for the plebes?: It would probably keep rain off your head in a pinch. [Marah Eakin]
Item: Fancy, hinged triangle-shaped box with an apple-shaped encased tealight inside
Promoting: Season 2 of Salem on WGN America.
Relevance: The box seems “of the dark arts” and Salem is about witches, so that works. Having not seen the show, it’s hard to know how the apple fits in, but it’s nice enough.
Item quality on a scale from 1 to 5: 3. The box is going straight in the trash, despite the obvious money spent putting it together. We just don’t need a gaudy triangle thing. The candle, on the other hand, is going home with one of The A.V. Club’s house witches for sure.
Is it suitable for the plebes?: Sure. Maybe they could use it for a birthday party or something. [Marah Eakin]
Item: Commemorative auditorium floor tile
Promoting: The conclusion of Glee.
Relevance: Fox shows have a long-standing tradition of striking set, chopping the props and scenery up into collectible pieces, and distributing those pieces to TV journalists. (See also: The piece of an X-ray sent to The A.V. Club after the end of House in 2012.) Then again, the Glee cast was such a rotating-door situation by the end, Commemorative Auditorium Floor Tile From The Set Of Glee could’ve been one of New Direction’s final members.
Item quality: 1. C’mon, it’s from the auditorium, but it’s not like the premier TV musical of the 2010s built its reputation on the artistry of its walking surfaces.
Is it suitable for the plebes?: Well, it is the same sort of half-hearted gesture Ryan Murphy has been giving viewers for years… [Erik Adams]
Item: Mr. Meeseeks plush
Promoting: Rick And Morty.
Relevance: It’s Mr. Meeseeks! Look at him! Yessiree! You want to give him a hug? Can do! And unlike his onscreen equivalent, he won’t explode when his task is complete!
Item quality: 5. Ooo, yeah!
Is it suitable for the plebes?: Mr. Meeseeks live to fulfill their purpose, regardless of who releases them from the Meeseeks box. Just don’t ask them to help improve your golf game. [Erik Adams]
Item: Colorful Mr. Peabody And Sherman lithograph
Promoting: Mr. Peabody And Sherman on Netflix.
Relevance: The new Netflix version of Mr. Peabody And Sherman does an admirable job of bringing back the charm of Jay Ward’s original series, but frames the historical time-travel antics in an over-the-top variety show. It casts off the 3-D of the recent big-screen version to a glossy 2-D depiction, which this lithograph highlights. Still, it also begs the question of why you wouldn’t just watch the original series in the first place if you want to see the animated adventures of Napoleon or the Wright brothers, ending in some sort of painful pun.
Item quality on a scale from 1 to 5: Pretty nice, but you have to be a hard-core MP&S fan. If not, 1.
Is it suitable for the plebes?: Plebes of all sorts can appreciate the magnificence of the brilliant time-traveling dog and his boy. Plus, they might learn something about conquering adversity through the heroes of the dog’s many adventures. [Gwen Ihnat]
Item: A Moscow mule mug, hurricane drink mix, tank top, hot sauce, and feathered mask
Promoting: Yahoo Live streaming New Orleans’ Voodoo Music Festival.
Relevance: Questionable. Voodoo does take place in New Orleans, and people drink hurricanes there, but Moscow Mules were invented in New York. And just because something’s happening in New Orleans doesn’t mean you should break out a feathered mask.
Item quality on a scale from 1 to 5: 4. We’ll use all the alcohol-related items, of course, but it’s hard to imagine anyone going to the mats to keep this feathered mask.
Is it suitable for the plebes?: While hurricanes are more of a people’s drink, Moscow Mules involve special glassware, and therefore seem like they might be for a fancier sort. Tank tops, on the other hand, are definitely plebian. [Marah Eakin]
Item: Small buttons with character drawings
Promoting: The Awesomes.
Relevance: The Awesomes just wrapped up its third season of superhero bumbling, and featured a presidential campaign almost as frightening as the one unfolding in real life, with some genealogical surprises thrown in for kicks. The characters featured on these small buttons include “Prock” Awesome (voiced by series creator Seth Meyers), Muscleman (Ike Barinholtz), and Prock’s girlfriend and fellow superhero, Hotwire (Rashida Jones). Prock and Hotwire are now parents, so look forward to an additional button next year.
Item quality on a scale from 1 to 5: 1. The Awesomes has its moments, even if it did produce one of the worst episodes of the 2013-2014 TV season. But even if you are an unabashed fan of the show, these buttons are small and the drawings are of characters that aren’t exactly instantly recognizable. You’ll spend more time explaining the story.
Is it suitable for the plebes?: Yes. [Danette Chavez]
Item: A teddy bear, a love journal, some stickers, and everything you’d need to wrap a Valentine’s Day present
Promoting: The Hallmark Channel’s “Countdown To Valentine’s Day,” which happens over the course of the first two weeks in February.
Relevance: Much like the Hallmark Channel’s Valentine’s Day-themed programming, this stuff is mushy as shit.
Item quality on a scale from 1 to 5: 5. It’s all nice, albeit corny, stuff.
Is it suitable for the plebes?: Even simple people need love. [Marah Eakin]
Item: Shower curtain
Promoting: The final season of Adult Swim’s China, IL.
Relevance: In a sketch by series creator Brad Neely, Mark “Baby” Cakes poses one of his signature quandaries to The Man Upstairs: “Why did you make Satan?” Theologians, shower-takers, and mourners of China, IL’s cancellation eagerly await God’s answer.
Item quality: 3. The artwork is top-notch, but the material is flimsy. (Then again, if this Adult Swim ad is any indication, maybe that’s the point.)
Is it suitable for the plebes?: The gospel of Baby Cakes is for all people. [Erik Adams]
Item: Chintzy burlap pirate flag
Promoting: Season four of Black Sails on Starz.
Relevance: Black Sails is about pirates, and this is a pirate flag. So, semi-relevant, even if the fabric choice is questionable.
Item quality on a scale from 1 to 5: 2. Kids might like it, but no one else should own this.
Is it suitable for the plebes?: Maybe, if they’re hurting for toilet paper. [Marah Eakin]
Item: A coaster made out of hockey sticks, notecards, blue-green nail polish, and a Blue Jean committee T-shirt
Promoting: The premieres of IFC’s Benders, Gigi Does It, and Documentary Now, respectively.
Relevance: Benders is about hockey, so the coaster seems reasonable. Gigi Does It probably wears nail polish or something. And the Blue Jean Committee shirt commemorates one of the funniest episodes of Documentary Now, so that makes sense.
Item quality on a scale from 1 to 5: 5. The coaster is great for drippy water glasses and cans covered with condensation. The nail polish was cute, even if the notecards aren’t, and the T-shirt is a real winner, all soft and gym-friendly.
Is it suitable for the plebes?: Provided they have cold drinks, unbroken nails, and torsos, yes. [Marah Eakin]