2015 may not bring everything that Back to the Future II promised it would: flying cars, self-lacing shoes, we don't see 'em happening over the next 12 months. (Then again, don't bet against Nike.) But this year will definitely pack plenty of punch when it comes to cultural happenings. Mad Max will roar back out of the apocalypse while Mad Men rides off into the sunset, rock's Antichrist Superstar and hip-hop's Yeezus will rise again. There will be Beach Boys, Fall Out Boys, and screaming females – the last, both inside and outside screenings of Fifty Shades of Grey. With the caveat that all dates are subject to change, here are the music, movies and TV you need to know about all year long.
With TV just starting to go through its Indiewood-revolution phase (see Transparent), we're happy to see longtime lo-fi, low-key moviemakers Mark and Jay Duplass get in on the small-screen action. The siblings behind the cringe-dramedy Cyrus have fashioned an HBO series about an on-the-rocks thirtysomething Angeleno couple who take in a friend and a sister-in-law, both of whom are down on their luck. Expect the sort of painfully funny (and outright painful) social awkwardness, recognizable bad behavior and loose, raw brilliance the brothers have made their métier. D.F.
Say it ain't so, Knope! The members of the Pawnee parks department will get one last chance to take on bureaucratic red tape, small-town cynicism and those damned Eagleton residents in the seventh and last season of this beloved sitcom. We're curious to see how the series goes out with its bold three-years-in-the-future scenario (crazy computer touch screens! Drone deliveries! Andy Dwyer as a TV ninja!), but mostly, we look forward to saying one final goodbye to Amy Poehler's indefatigable government go-getter and the rest of the show's regional kooks. D.F.
"Uptown Funk" crams an entire wedding reception into four-and-a-half minutes, and the album containing the song looks to be as much fun as the single. Mark Ronson thinks so: "It's my best record, for sure," he tells Rolling Stone. As usual, the producer has recruited a star-studded cast of singers and side-hands. Pulitzer Prize-winning author Michael Chabon wrote the lyrics; Mystikal, Bruno Mars and Tame Impala's Kevin Park contribute vocals; and Stevie Wonder plays a little harmonica. "It's probably the peak musical highlight of my life," Ronson says of that last collaboration. "I'm fine if I never top it." R.S.
The ladies behind last year's breakout hit are back, and judging from the hints they've dropped about their sophomore season, the fictional lives of comedians Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer are about to get, to paraphrase the latter's horny stoner, "more jizzy jazzed." New York heat waves, underage hook-ups, big-box store dance routines, sweaty sex with Seth Rogen and more pot-smoking than you can shake a one-hitter at are on deck. Kittens are yelled at and the phrase "titty chips" is uttered. There will be twerking. D.F.
Humorist Simon Rich's short story collection The Last Girlfriend on Earth is now a twisted FXX sitcom, with Jay Baruchel as a recently dumped young man named Josh, re-entering the dating world alongside his best friend and wingman (Eric André). The show takes a fantastical turn once Josh realizes that the singles scene is fraught with peril – as in, his life is literally in danger from sexy monsters and aliens. Rich is one of the funniest writers working today, and nobody plays "lovable sad-sack" quite like Baruchel. Welcome to the next basic-cable cult-comedy hit. N.M.
Michael Mann (Heat, Collateral, Miami Vice) hasn't directed a film since 2009's underrated gangster saga Public Enemies, so any new film from him is an event. But Blackhat has the added benefit of remarkable, ripped-from-the-headlines topicality: It's a crime drama set in the world of cyberterrorism, with Chris Hemsworth (Thor) as an ass-kicking ex-con and computer genius(!) who helps the U.S. and Chinese intelligence agencies hunt down a mysterious hacker. Add in Mann's fondness for research and authenticity together with a globe-hopping plot, and we could be looking at the first genuinely great movie of the new year. B.E.
The bad news? The Colbert Report is no more. The good news? Comedy Central has given the 11:30pm time-slot to comedian Larry Wilmore, whose Daily Show riffs on race relations have been a late-night highlight for nearly a decade. Though the new series' title has been changed from the more provocative The Minority Report to the safer The Nightly Show, there's no reason to expect that Wilmore will shy away from the cutting commentary he's been sharing with Jon Stewart since 2006. N.M.
Don't let the synths fool you: The latest from Belle and Sebastian doesn’t see the Glasgow pop pioneers dancing away from the sense of emotional reality that grounded the band's past seven records. "I love those groups like Bronski Beat and Pet Shop Boys that seem to be able to write amazing, big-sounding electro-pop but also write it from the perspective of real people in real time doing real things," frontman Stuart Murdoch recently told Rolling Stone. Girls in Peacetime comes after a five-year break (the longest in the band's nearly two-decade career), but first single "The Party Line" indicates that it was worth the wait. C.D.
While touring in support of 2013's arena-ready comeback LP, Save Rock and Roll, Fall Out Boy wrote a new song around the scatted hook from Suzanne Vega's "Tom's Diner." This became the poppy, electronic-infused "Centuries," the band's latest single and the first track off American Beauty/American Psycho, which has already gone platinum. "My mission statement has always been, 'I want to be the biggest,'" bassist Pete Wentz says in the new issue of Rolling Stone, adding of the group’s vocalist-guitarist Patrick Stump. "Patrick's has always been, 'I want to be the best.' At some point, we realized they were two versions of the same thing." N.M.
"It's dirty," Marilyn Manson says of his forthcoming ninth album in the new issue of Rolling Stone, "like the dirt under my nails, like someone who has dug a grave." If Manson seemed to be digging his own grave with his last few records, which were not particularly well-received either by fans or critics, The Pale Emperor represents a creative rebirth – and a much-needed maturation. Written with soundtrack composer Tyler Bates (Guardians of the Galaxy, Californication), the album is bluesy and menacing, weathered and worn in the best way, with Manson sounding all and more of his 46 years on swamp-goth anthems like "Third Day of a Seven Day Binge" and "Cupid Carries a Gun." Has the God of Fuck actually grown up? Judging from this new shit, it's hard to say no. B.G.
It had been nine years since we last heard the riot grrrl vanguards making original music together, so fans were appropriately shocked when, in October, Sleater-Kinney unveiled a new song, “Bury Our Friends,” and announced that they'd secretly finished an entire new album. The music's quality comes as less of a surprise: Corin Tucker, Carrie Brownstein and Janet Weiss haven't lost any ferocity, and the record is chock-full of the kind of surging punk fury they've been perfecting for decades. C.D.
It's been an annus horribilis for the NFL, so you can bet commissioner Roger Goodell is hoping this year's big game will erase some of the scuffmarks from the shield. And with postseason storylines aplenty, there's a pretty good chance it might: Can Peyton Manning cap his career with one more championship? Will Tony Romo finally come through in the clutch? Are the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks destined for a showdown to determine the team of the decade? Throw in a big-budget halftime show featuring Katy Perry, and it's almost enough to make us forget about all the off-field transgressions. Almost. J.M.
After putting out the Basement Tapes Complete in 2014, Bob Dylan will continue to look back with the release of Shadows of the Night, an album recorded entirely of songs made famous by Frank Sinatra. "I've wanted to do something like this for a long time, but was never brave enough to approach 30-piece complicated arrangements and refine them down for a five-piece band," Dylan said in a statement. "That's the key to all these performances." The album will eschew strings and horns – two things traditionally found on standards ballads – though details regarding its sound remain shrouded in secrecy. J.N.
We all know the story of Walter White, but how did his lawyer break bad? That's the intriguing idea behind AMC's so-crazy-it-just-might-work prequel to Breaking Bad, in which Bob Odenkirk reprises his role as Saul Goodman (née Jimmy McGill), the sleazy but skillful lawyer to Albuquerque's lowlifes. Rejoining Odenkirk and showrunner Peter Gould (the character's original writer) are Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan and costar Jonathan Banks as the infamous fixer Mike Ehrmantraut. Origin story, bitch! S.T.C.
AMC's zombie drama has been a massive ratings success since day one, but the series hit a critical highpoint during the first half of its seventh season, taking a more varied and character-driven approaches to telling its story of survivors struggling to rebuild civilization and stay alive. The show's midseason finale ended with another bloody melee and shocking death, and with no clear sense of direction for what comes next —just that kind of unpredictability that's kept Dead very lively and kept us tuning in. N.M.
Early in November, Father John Misty brought a 22-piece orchestra to the Ed Sullivan Theater and performed a surprise new single, "Bored in the USA," on an episode of the Late Show. Looking to shake things up even more, he then dropped a self-penned press release that listed sources of inspiration as diverse as Henry Nilsson, Alejandro Jodorowsky, Muhammed Ali and "self-loathing narcissism." It also used the word "blammo" more than once. As if all this weren’t enough to have us eagerly anticipating his new album, the LP features a track called "Nothing Good Ever Happens at the Goddamn Thirsty Cow." C.D.
E.L. James' racy, insanely popular novel tapped a motherlode of repressed-reader bondage fantasies to become an book-publishing juggernaut. Now comes the inevitable film adaptation, which could spur a revival of the R-rated erotic drama at the box office (even after Sons of Anarchy's Charlie Hunnam jumped ship as the male lead). Jamie Doman and Dakota Johnson star as S&M-loving one-percenter Christian Grey and mousy college student Anastasia Steele, who's sent to interview him and winds up losing her heart — and inhibitions — in the process. If director Sam Taylor-Johnson (Nowhere Boy) pulls this off, there won't be a dry seat in the house. S.T.C.
The league's best battle it out in basketball's Mecca: Madison Square Garden. Sure, the Knicks might be terrible this year – and the Nets aren't much better – but whenever the NBA brings its superstar showcase to New York City, great things tend to happen. The last time the All-Star Game was played here in 1998, a 19-year-old named Kobe Bryant made his debut and Michael Jordan was named MVP for the third (and final) time. This year, the game is at the Garden, while Brooklyn's Barclays Center will host a sundry of All-Star events, including the Slam Dunk and Three-Point contests, and the always entertaining Rising Stars Challenge, where future All-Stars flash their skills. J.M.
Attempting to follow up the multiplatinum success of their 2012 debut, Night Visions, would be a daunting challenge for Imagine Dragons even if frontman Dan Reynolds didn't have to worry about hurting his voice in the recording studio. The singer had vocal-cord surgery three years ago, and the risk of re-injury is an occupational hazard he has come to accept. He sounds no worse for wear, however, on Smoke + Mirrors' typically epic lead single "I Bet My Life." As on the song, Reynolds says in the new issue of Rolling Stone, "there is a lot of struggle and total joy, total celebration and confusion, on the album." B.G.
If their dreamy single "Wishing Well" is any indicator, hardcore Screamales fans expecting more of the band’s signature raucous rock might be off-put by Marissa Paternoster and Co.’s new album. Recent collaborator Steve Albini is out as engineer, and the result might even be a little family friendly. "We've never had a set formula as to what style of music we ought to be playing," Paternoster said when they released the track. "I vaguely recall my wonderful aunt mentioning that we finally had written a song she liked." R.S.
Because who better to roam the earth after some sort of apocalypse has wiped out the global population than MacGruber himself? SNL veteran Will Forte plays everydude Bill Miller, who ends up going from loser to humanity's last hope overnight; if you think this means a lot of shopping sprees while he's wearing nothing but boxer shorts and singing in empty stadiums, we applaud your powers of prediction. The gentlemen behind The Lego Movie, Phil Lord and Chris Miller, are behind the camera, which suggests that the humor will also be sly and pathos-driven in addition to plain old silly. D.F.