We're pretty sure 2011 was a great year to be a geek. But with all of the amazing things we've witnessed in the nexus of nerd culture and mainstream pop culture, there were plenty of potential geek out moments that didn't quite work out. And then there were a few things this year that were just a mixed bag.
So, here's a look at some squees and corresponding "sad trombones" for this year's pop culture with a nerdy bent:
Squee: "Doctor Who"
Things got off to a rip-roaring start in the sixth season of "Doctor Who." We encountered the ominously creepy Silence, an “impossible astronaut” with murderous intentions towards the Doctor, and the constant foreshadowing of a fixed date when the Doctor must die. The episodes that followed maneuvered the twists and turns of Steven Moffat’s layered plotlines, and Matt Smith continued to reveal deeper and darker sides of our beloved Doctor. But perhaps the most brilliant gem was the Neil Gaiman-penned episode, “The Doctor’s Wife,” where the TARDIS comes to life in a beautifully poignant character, and we realize that she is the Doctor’s only constant.
Sad trombone: "Eureka" canceled
After a prematurely reported cancellation that wasn't, then was after all, it was a bit of an emotional roller coaster for fans of the long-running Syfy series. At least there's one more season in 2012 to look forward to.
Squee: "Breaking In" saved from the brink
The opposite thing happened with Fox's geek-friendly comedy (shout-out to Dragon*Con in the premiere; another episode set at Comic-Con) "Breaking In." After a handful of episodes aired, Fox pulled the plug but then almost instantly seemed to regret the decision. Fans recently got the welcome news that the show would return for midseason in March.
Sad trombone: "Community" shelved
NBC's midseason schedule, on the other hand, was not as warmly received by fans of "Community." (This season had us at the alternate timeline episode.) Unfortunately, the geeky duo of Troy and Abed may not return to our screens for several months, but that doesn't stop its devoted viewers from putting on flash mobs, felt goatees and all.
Squee: "Adventure Time"
The Cartoon Network (owned by Time Warner, which owns CNN) hit made it especially big at the Con scene this year. Everywhere you looked, there were Finn hats (and the giant inflatable Jake at the San Diego and New York Comic-Cons was hard to miss). Why the fuss over this show? It's algebraic: Its animation, characters and out-and-out weirdness hit a geeky nerve.
Sad trombone: "The IT Crowd" says goodbye
Squee: "Game of Thrones"
It didn't take long for HBO's adaptation of George R.R. Martin's "Song of Ice and Fire" novels to become an instant smash with Martin fans while winning over converts. The long, long lines to attend the show's first Comic-Con panel, and HBO's early renewal of a second season in 2012, prove that this series was one of the bigger triumphs of nerd culture this year.
Sad trombone: "Camelot"
Debuting around the same time as "Thrones," Starz's take on Arthurian legend never quite took off, and it was canceled shortly after the first season ended.
Squee: "The Secret World of Arrietty" is coming to the U.S.
Sad trombone: It's not till 2012
Every Studio Ghibli film announcement is a thrill for long-running fans of the animation house, and since "Ponyo" got mixed reactions from some viewers, we've all been hanging on to see what the next project would be. Ghibli made a smart choice in adapting Mary Norton's charming novel about "little people," and I was thrilled to see the results. I think when the English-dubbed version comes to the U.S. in 2012, fans will absolutely love what they see. All the sparkle of Ghibli magic is there, with a bit of extra to spare!
Squee: "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2"
The highest-grossing movie of 2011 was everything most fans wanted in a grand finale (okay, maybe the makeup in that final scene wasn't perfect). Harry and his friends lived happily ever after, and it's a journey we'll never forget.
Sad trombone: "Cowboys and Aliens"
It was the toast of San Diego Comic-Con, and it boasted fan favorite Jon Favreau behind the camera, with a cast including Han Solo and James Bond. How could it miss? Well, it did, grossing just over $100 million domestically - which would be fine if it weren't a mega-budget sci-fi Western that cost a good deal more than $100 million. To be fair, it brought in another $75 million overseas, but that's far below what was expected of it. (The reviews certainly didn't help.)
Squee: "X-Men: First Class"
After the disappointment of "X-Men Origins: Wolverine," expectations were low for this prequel. But we fans underestimated Michael Fassbender. As extraordinary as Sir Ian McKellen was in the role of Magneto, Fassbender was a revelation. The rest of the young cast, including James McAvoy as Professor Charles Xavier, helped make it one of the most pleasant surprises of the year.
Sad trombone: "Green Lantern"
It was the opposite story for Ryan Reynolds' turn as Hal Jordan. "Green Lantern" was one of the hottest comic books of recent years, and the chance to see Oa in all its glory on the big screen had fans drooling. But then the reviews came rolling in, and it wasn't exactly the monster hit that people were expecting. There may yet be a sequel, with a big role for Sinestro, but it won't be as highly anticipated as the first.
Squee: "Rise of the Planet of the Apes"
The special effects, combined with Andy Serkis' indelible performance, made for a prequel that really worked. And it paid off at the box office.
Sad trombone: "Sucker Punch"
Say the name "Zack Snyder," and many a comic book or film geek's eyes will light up. After all, he gave us "300" and "Watchmen" (though debate about the latter rages to this day). This time, Snyder was taking on an entirely original idea - and it turned out to be one of the bigger box office bombs of the year. On the other hand, it was huge for cosplay. (And Snyder will be back, with another comic book adaptation, "Man of Steel," in any case.)
Squee: "Ready Player One"
" 'Willy Wonka' meets 'The Matrix'?" For geeky readers everywhere, the only answer was, "Yes, please." Ernie Cline's bestseller won the heart of many a nerd this year. And hey, the author traveling by way of DeLorean on his book tour didn't hurt.
Sad trombone: "Inheritance"
The wildly anticipated fourth book in Christopher Paolini's "Inheritance" saga didn't quite live up to expectations for some. (Some commenters were downright brutal.) The most-cited problem was the book's length. "If only some editor had firmly told Paolini to tell his story in half the number of pages that he ended up writing," wrote one critic, "the 'Inheritance Cycle' wouldn't have been the failure of a story-teller who never did realize which of his stories was worthy of telling."
Squee: DC's New 52
It was a risky move for DC Comics (also owned by Time Warner), perhaps the riskiest in the history of the medium (as they told it, they were "fighting for the soul of comics"). The company relaunched all of its titles with new No. 1 issues (including the long-running "Action" and "Detective Comics"). It paid off in a big way, with DC dominating the last few months of 2011 sales.
Sad trombone: Better luck next time, Canadian mutants
"Alpha Flight" was one of three books set to be canceled in October by Marvel Comics, but it had been announced that the eight-issue miniseries would expand to an ongoing series. Unfortunately, fans of the mutant team from the Great White North will have to say goodbye to the team in January.
Squee: Human Torch lives
"Fantastic Four's" Johnny Storm returned exactly one year after dying in the 600th issue of the book.
Sad trombone: Starfire controversy
Starfire was one DC character who could have taken the name of another for the "firestorm" she created this year. The first issue of "Red Hood and the Outlaws" ignited a wider discussion among the fan community about portrayals of women in comics, including a disappointed response from a 7-year-old fan. DC, for its part, responded with this statement: "We've heard what's being said about Starfire today and we appreciate the dialogue on this topic. We encourage people to pay attention to the ratings when picking out any books to read themselves or for their children."
Squee: Andrew Garfield at San Diego Comic-Con
Like with Ryan Reynolds' earnest recitation of the "Green Lantern" oath in 2010, the newest Spider-Man, Garfield made a surprise appearance in a cheap Spidey costume to tell fans that this trip to Comic-Con was a dream come true (in fact, "the coolest moment of my life") for a webhead fan such as himself. No matter what happened for the rest of the panel, he already had the full support of the crowd in Hall H.
Sad trombone: "Bones" at Comic-Con
... Or the lack thereof. It was one thing to be a no-show at Comic-Con (see "Dark Knight Rises" - which could still do a panel in 2012, by the way), but it was quite another to cancel a scheduled panel altogether. Con favorites David Boreanaz and Emily Deschanel could not attend the convention this past year for "personal" reasons. Sorry, "Bones" fans (this was also the second year in a row that Fox had to cancel a panel, after the scrapped "Terra Nova" panel in 2010).
Squee: Joss Whedon's secret third movie for 2012
Just when you thought you had a lot of Joss to look forward to next year, what with "Marvel's The Avengers" and the long-since-completed "Cabin in the Woods," the creator of "Buffy" and "Serenity" had one more trick up his sleeve by announcing another film, his take on "Much Ado About Nothing," starring some of his TV series alums, Alexis Denisof, Amy Acker and Nathan Fillion.
Sad trombone: Rumors of "Serenity's" return were greatly exaggerated
A musing from Fillion about winning $300 million in the lottery to buy the rights to Whedon's "Firefly," a.k.a. "Serenity," sparked a movement to raise the cash. Unfortunately for them, it was just that, a musing. Fillion responded to his devoted fans (Browncoats) on Twitter: "It's beautiful to dream of more Firefly, but PLEASE DON'T SEND ANY MONEY. Just keep being great Browncoats, which you are!" Well, one can still dream, in the meantime. And that comic book cover of Mal Reynolds back in action helped a lot.
Squee: iPhone 4S
Siri tells you where to eat, when to pay bills, what the weather is like, what’s the meaning of life ...
Sad trombone: iPhone 4S
Waiting 2.5 hours in line for iPhone 4S; finding out Siri can’t operate without wireless or 3G access and has limited functionality outside the United States.
Squee: "Star Wars: The Complete Saga" on Blu-Ray
Oodles of extras and never-before-seen deleted scenes. Plus 90 minutes of just SW parodies! This is the Blu-Ray we were looking for.
Sad trombone: "Star Wars: The Complete Saga" on Blu-Ray
There was a disturbance in the Force for many fans when they found out that this Blu-Ray also included even more changes to our beloved classics. Noooooooo!
Depends whom you ask: Internet memes
Here's to many more highs and fewer lows for nerds everywhere in 2012!