As the year comes to a close, there’s no shortage of attempts to identify the people, programs and films that stood out.
But sometimes, the sum is greater than any individual parts. And if there’s any year with some running themes, it’s 2016 — for better or worst.
Here are a few:
Women in command
The general domination of female entertainers is high on the list of reasons 2016 wasn’t all bad.
In February, Samantha Bee took her spot among the dudefest of late night with “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee” and emerged from a messy election as a powerful voice not just for women, but anyone who enjoys a good take-down.
Adele kicked off a massive sold-out tour in March that included 107 shows, spanned 10 months and included 100 percent live vocals ever night. As the singer herself admitted, “I bloody smashed it.”
In April, the world’s thirst for new Beyoncé music was quenched with “Lemonade.” The visual album aired on HBO and was the superstar’s most personal and stirring album yet.
Then Leslie Jones refused to take abuse from Twitter trolls. And Amber Rose stood up to body shaming. And Jennifer Aniston took on the media rumor mill. And Renee Zellwegger told everyone to stop talking about her darn face already because there are a ridiculous number of reasons they shouldn’t be.
Standing up and speaking out became — and hopefully will remain — the new norm for women in Hollywood.
Pop culture that matters
There is certainly a time for fun and games, but 2016 wasn’t really one of them.
From late-night shows helmed by John Oliver, Stephen Colbert and the aforementioned Bee to “Saturday Night Live,” pop culture that aimed to be more than entertaining was what really made a splash this year.
Evidence of this can be found in one example of a misstep — Jimmy Fallon’s much-panned, fluffy interview with then presidential candidate Donald Trump.
Bee criticized Fallon’s approach. Fallon and Seth Meyers defended it. But there’s no question it wasn’t great TV and only had people talking for the wrong reasons.
Buzz certainly also followed a number of documentaries this year — like Ava DuVernay’s “The 13th,” about the criminal justice system, and “O.J. Made in America,” an examination of race and celebrity.
Information is power, they say. But it also made for powerful entertainment in 2016.
Farewells to legends
Seemingly every gain made in the world of pop culture was met with a heart-wrenching loss.
If it seemed like there were a lot of painful deaths this year in entertainment, it’s because there were.
Natalie Cole technically died on December 31, 2015, but the announcement of her death on New Years Day kicked off a year of hard farewells.
Pat Harrington, Jr. followed. David Bowie passed days later. Alan Rickman died four days later. Author Harper Lee a month later.
Then, of course, Prince, Garry Shandling, Merle Haggard, George Michael, Carrie Fisher, Debbie Reynolds and too many more.
2017, please be kinder.