By Matt Mueller Culture Editor Published Dec 31, 2016 at 3:36 PM

Tis the season for Milwaukee merriment and BMO Harris Bank is bringing you happy holiday stories all season long.

We've written a lot of thoughts about 2016 as we've neared its end, mostly around the lines of "Oh god, oh god, please make it stop." Well, thanks to Earth's rotation around the sun, our wish will finally come true tonight, bringing 2016's vindictive wrath to an end and welcoming in 2017. But before the bells chime and the ball drops, let's take one final look at just a handful of the good, the bad and the ugly events that made up the past 365 days. And then let's never speak of this year again. 


Rodgers/Munn non-engagement 

Remember when Aaron Rodgers and Olivia Munn got engaged? Well, you shouldn't – because despite a report from OK! Magazine saying Aaron popped the question and the two were set to marry, it never happened. So no Packers version of the royal wedding for us ... for now (sorry, idiot unnamed sports agents). 

Packers in the playoffs

Speaking of A-A-Ron, the Packers made it into the playoffs despite themselves and managed to defeat Washington in the Wild Card round before falling to the Arizona Cardinals, 26-20. While Rodgers summoned some of that Hail Mary luck at the end of the game, hurling two critical completions to Jeff Janis in the final minute to take the game into overtime – a very short-lived overtime thanks to a Larry Fitzgerald 75-yard touchdown pass. Can't Hail Mary your way out of that one. 

WIAA rules

Because sports are no place for fun, the WIAA attempted to reemphasize its rules against high school students chanting such vulgar cheers as "Air ball!" and "Scoreboard!" much to the laughing derision of the entire internet. 

David Bowie

Two days after the release of "Blackstar," his swan song, rock 'n' roll icon David Bowie died of liver cancer at the age of 69. Little did we know that his would just be the first in a year tragically filled with influential and unexpected celebrity deaths. 


Some other memorable pop culture figures lost in January:

  • Alan Rickman
  • Glenn Frey


Super Bowl 50

In a game that constantly threatened to become exciting without ever doing it, the Denver Broncos defeated the Carolina Panthers, 24-10, in Super Bowl 50. Peyton Manning celebrated his triumphant final victory with Papa John, Cam Newton gave the grumpy press conference that launched a thousand pearl-clutching sports columns and Eli Manning gifted the world the  Eli Manning-est of Eli Manning faces. 

The halftime show 

According to the internet, Coldplay headlined the Super Bowl 50 halftime show, but as many confused "Shazaam" fans will ardently argue, sometimes the internet is just wrong. Coldplay was originally announced as the headliner – and technically had the most stage time – but the NFL, perhaps in response to a nationwide yawn at the Brit rock band's selection, quickly nabbed up Beyonce and Bruno Mars to share the stage. The result quickly downgraded Coldplay from headliner to craft services – and also upgraded the show from background noise to must-see entertainment. 

UWM debate

On Feb. 11, UWM hosted a Democratic debate between Bernie Sanders and eventual presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. 

Awkward GOP debate walk-on 

Meanwhile, at the GOP's February debate ...

Domes close 

In early February, Milwaukee County announced that the nation's largest tribute to "Total Recall," the Mitchell Park Domes, would be closed indefinitely due to concerns over falling debris. While the closing set off debates throughout the year over the viability and future of the Domes, the year ends with all three landmarks back open to the public

The Oscars

Embroiled in a second straight year of #OscarsSoWhite controversy, the Academy Awards – hosted by an impressively tightrope-walking Chris Rock – handed out Best Picture to the unexceptionally exceptional journalism drama "Spotlight." Meanwhile, Leonardo DiCaprio finally got his Oscar for eating a buffalo liver and rolling around in snow in "The Revenant," "Mad Max: Fury Road" won six awards – which still somehow feels short – and poor sweet Roger Deakins lost for the thirteenth time. Also: Hopefully the awkward speech scroll thing was also one of 2016's deaths. 

"Damn Daniel"

About 11 months ago, a short video of a friend constantly going "Damn Daniel!" to his sweet-shoed friend became a viral sensation. However, a month in internet time is like 13 years in real time, so "Damn Daniel" actually happened about 143 years ago. 

Kanye's "The Life of Pablo"

After about three title changes, a few false alarms and what in retrospect was clearly the start of a year-long mental breakdown, Kanye West finally released "The Life of Pablo," debuting the (still-in-progress) work in a listening party/fashion show/thing at Madison Square Garden.  The initial response was tepid – almost certainly due in part to his borderline unhinged social media posts and West's mid-stream fixes  – but as the year has gone along, many music critics have grown to appreciate the album, placing it on several year-end lists. Oh, and he got back in a feud with Taylor Swift. More on that later.

The Grammys

Welcome to later! Taylor Swift won Album of the Year for "1989," which Kanye was unable to interrupt because Kanye was not in attendance. The pop star went on to throw shade at Kanye during her acceptance speech for his controversial lyric in "Famous." It was fun drama that did not interest Tori Kelly one bit.

Meanwhile, Kendrick Lamar dominated the night, winning the most Grammys with five and captivating with a literally fiery performance that could only be upstaged by "Hamilton." 


After years of getting turned down by studio execs, "Deadpool" finally made his big screen debut (nope, don't know what "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" is, shut up, shut up) with a mammoth box office take – $783.1 million worldwide – solid reviews and an eager fan base clamoring for more. If the gritty, bloody trailers for Fox's "Logan" show anything, the raunchy R-rated blockbuster's success appears to have made studios more brave about trying new things with their superheroes. Fine by me; thanks, Mr. Pool.


Some memorable pop culture and political figures we lost in February:

  • Maurice White
  • Antonin Scalia
  • Dave Mirra
  • Harper Lee


New "Pee-wee" movie

A new Pee-wee Herman movie, "Pee-wee's Big Holiday," came out on Netflix. You probably forgot that – like most of Netflix's original movies. The streaming platform still feels like it's in the business of serving potato chips, not steak.

Matthew McConaughey is not moving to Milwaukee

"Fake news" became a hot topic this year thanks to the election, but like family relatives at Thanksgiving, let's avoid talking politics and instead talk about something fun – like that time people were tricked into thinking Matthew McConaughey was moving to Milwaukee. Spoiler alert: He didn't. 

"Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice"

DC's much anticipated "Batman v Superman" movie hit theaters in March. It was not good, but at least we got a good laugh this year out of yelling, "Martha!" at people, awkwardly eating cherry Jolly Ranchers and trying to explain what the hell Lois Lane was thinking with the kryptonite staff at the end there. Here's to Warner Bros. and DC learning their lesson from this – and the only slightly less abysmal "Suicide Squad" – for next year's "Wonder Woman." Signs point to yes, so look at that; 2017's already an improvement. 


Some memorable pop culture and political figures we lost in March:

  • Nancy Reagan
  • Garry Shandling
  • Phife Dawg
  • George Martin


"The Walking Dead" finale

After spending most of the season teasing and leading up to Negan's infamous batting practice entrance, "The Walking Dead" finally reached the climactic scene ... and then dropped a cliffhanger, the second time the creators had done so in the season. After an already divisive year, the next season's premiere would better be worth it ...

Villanova buzzer beater 

March Madness is no stranger to buzzer beaters. But in the actual championship game? Far less common – and therefore even more awesome. A game-winning three from Villanova's Kris Jenkins was a perfect moment of sports excitement to top off a final minute of insane intensity – and it says a lot about this terrific year in sports that we've mostly forgotten about it. 

Milwaukee flag debate

Milwaukee had a flag. Many people wanted a new one, so we had a contest, flew around some designs – ourselves included – and found a winner. Now Milwaukee has two flags. I think? I'm not actually sure what we did here.

Boaty McBoatface

The National Environment Research Council (NERC) made just one small mistake when they decided to name its new mother ship: They asked the internet to do it. So, of course, they named it Boaty McBoatface – which, really, dodged a bullet there, NERC. Being no fun, NERC ditched the name, instead calling the mother ship the RRS Sir David Attenborough and giving the internet's delightful moniker to its remote controlled submersibles. Boo – though better to nip this joke in the bud now than let some hipsters eventually ruin it by naming their firstborn child Boaty. 


Somehow managing to outdo her surprise album drop for "Beyonce," the queen of pop released her sixth record, the visual album "Lemonade," on April 23, blowing the minds of critics and fans with its impressive artistry and brutal honesty. The album is now up against Adele's "25" for Album of the Year at the Grammys, a smackdown only to be rivaled by the race for Record of the Year between – you guessed it – Adele's "Hello" and Beyonce's "Formation." It's going to really suck when Lukas Graham's "7 Years" wins. 


Shocking reports come in that music icon Prince has died at the age of 57 of an accidental overdose. The world is stunned, unexpectedly losing yet another essential artist way before his time.


Some other memorable pop culture figures lost in April:

  • Merle Haggard 
  • Doris Roberts


Jon Snow lives!

After over a year of anticipation, "Game of Thrones" premieres ... with Jon Snow still very much dead. One episode later, however, the former pin cushion for swords is resurrected, paving the way for the fantasy show's eventful sixth season – the first to deliver new content untethered from the books. 

Harry Connick Jr. in MKE

After a show – complete with a botched but nevertheless sweet custard run – at the Riverside, the beloved crooner hit Leon's to serve up some custard for a segment on his new show "Harry." The legendary stand's sweet moment in the spotlight quickly soured, however, when its "English only" policy began to make national news – though shortly after the outrage, the shop ditched the rule.

Chewbacca mom

A Texas mom made a video of herself putting on a Chewbacca mask and laughing. And then the internet went nuts. And then the internet hated her for being famous and making them go nuts. Remind me never to be internet famous.


After a three-year-old child found his way into an enclosure and began getting unnervingly dragged around by its resident gorilla, the Cincinnati Zoo handled the impossible predicament by killing the gorilla, named Harambe, in order to predict harm to the child. The incident set off plenty of outrage – about parenting, about the zoo's security, about the treatment of animals – but Harambe's legacy now is mostly as a meme, for better or worse. 

Leicester City 

In one of the greatest surprises in sports history, Leicester City emerged as an underdog and won the Premier League. The only bummer: The big, dramatic clinching moment came not on the field, but with Leicester City watching a game between two other teams on TV, a decidedly not Hollywood ending to a Hollywood-worthy underdog story. Still awesome though. 


"The Profit" in MKE

The popular CNBC reality show and star Marcus Lemonis dropped by Milwaukee – home of Lemonis' alma mater, Marquette – to film an episode centered around rejuvenating The Soup Market. It went poorly


The Big Gig fired up with performances from Paul McCartney, Selena Gomez, Chris Stapleton, Blink-182, Alabama Shakes and many, many, MANY more. Here's to seeing who they pull out on stage for the big 50th edition next summer. 

Thon Maker

Since their risk on taking a high pick on a long, lanky, potential-filled project from outside the U.S. paid off, the Milwaukee Bucks decided to try it again in the 2016 Draft, selecting the long, lanky potential-filled project Thon Maker. While the work-in-progress has seen limited minutes this season so far, mostly playing in garbage time, Maker's already endeared himself to Bucks fans – and scored his first Vine (R.I.P.) video success. 

NBA Finals

In a rematch of last year's NBA Finals, the hot-shooting Golden State Warriors blew a 3-1 lead to LeBron's Cleveland Cavaliers, helping James bring Cleveland its first professional championship in over half a century. J.R. Smith celebrated by never wearing a shirt again. The Warriors recovered by nabbing Kevin Durant in free agency during the offseason ... and then blowing a late lead against the Cavs on Christmas Day. Better luck in the next Finals rematch – probably in the 2017 Finals.

Stanley Cup

While lacking the drama of the other professional championships, the Pittsburgh Penguins won the Stanley Cup over the San Jose Sharks in a tight, exciting six-game series. Safe to say Bay Area sports fans had enough of blue-collar rust belt Midwestern towns in 2016. 

Orlando shooting

On June 12, 49 people were killed and 53 were wounded at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, in the deadliest mass shooting in our country's history. Milwaukee joined the rest of the country in mourning the victims and showing its support by flying a large rainbow flag from City Hall and showing up in strong, supportive numbers for the city's Pride Parade that same weekend.

Muhammad Ali

After battling Parkinson's for much of his later years, boxing great Muhammad Ali died at the age of 74 on June 3. His legacy is much larger than his monumental sporting achievements, as he cemented a place as one of the most indelible, forceful, poetic and pointed voices in American culture. 


Some other memorable pop culture figures lost in June:

  • Anton Yelchin
  • Bill Cunningham
  • Pat Summitt


"Pokemon Go"

"Pokemon Go" managed to do the impossible: It got gamers outside – at least in the security of their cell phone screens. For a few months during the summer, the augmented reality game hooked America, bringing mesmerizing crowds out to parks and other public places in the hunt for fun digital sprites. However, its popularity soon faded with broken features, pesky parks complaints and the general mayfly-esque life expectancy of any 21st century fad. 


After months of internet debate and outrage, the female-led "Ghostbusters" reboot revealed itself to be ... just a pretty funny, light and innocuous comedy cursing with having to try to hold its ground in the middle of the internet's violent fighting dust cloud. It was just a silly movie about busting ghosts, not a feminist manifesto or a cinematic neutering plot as the two entrenched sides would have a bystander believe. Unfortunately, it technically underperformed at the box office, but producers both before and after its release spoke about future films. As long as that means more of Kate McKinnon's Holtzmann, that's fine by me. 

"Stranger Things"

If you wanted your '80s nostalgia without having to deal with the outrage and without having to leave the house, Netflix thankfully obliged by releasing "Stranger Things," a creepy cool mishmash of retro influences – Spielberg, Carpenter, Stephen King – that still managed to be its own fun thing. As an added bonus, it gave viewers a new reason to keep the Christmas lights up all year. 


Welcome to later, part two! After Taylor Swift vehemently denied that she gave permission to Kanye West for his controversial "Famous" verse that put their beef back on the grill, Kim Kardashian masterfully posted a collection of Snapchat videos that revealed that, uh, yeah, she pretty much did. While the #TaylorSwiftIsOverParty hashtag was a little presumptuous – her new single with Zayn is currently happily on the radio with a release on the "Fifty Shades Darker" soundtrack coming, so she's fine – it'll be interesting to see how the once bulletproof T. Swift brand evolves in 2017 now that she's been caught as a faker gonna fake, fake, fake, fake, fake. 

Garry Marshall

Garry Marshall, the man who helped introduce Milwaukee to television viewers across the country with "Happy Days" and "Laverne & Shirley," died of pneumonia at the age of 81.


Some other memorable pop culture figures lost in June:

  • Elie Wiesel


Kid Rock's boat

Kid Rock docked Jimmy John's yacht in Milwaukee on his way to Prairie du Chien. What a weird year. 

Rio Olympics

After months of nervous lead-up about Rio's readiness, the summer olympics went off mostly without a hitch – especially for the United States athletes, who scored the most gold medals during the games. Well, not completely without a hitch, as Ryan Lochte and three other swimmers claimed they were robbed when they actually behaved like ugly drunk tourists at a gas station. Lochte was quickly punished by having to compete on "Dancing with the Stars."

Brendan Dassey

While the "Making a Murderer" craze was mostly a 2015 event, its current day impact bled into 2016 when Brendan Dassey's conviction was overturned in August. Since then, however, his release has been delayed by an appeal. I'm sure we'll see what's all happening behind the scenes when season two of "Making a Murderer" makes its way onto Netflix and takes over our lives again.

Pokemon Go vs. Parks

Apathy. Glitches. These are obstacles that the "Pokemon Go" developers likely saw coming. What they probably didn't see coming was resistance from parks. But that's what Milwaukee County did, sending a letter to the game's creators about clearing out of its Lake Park site – and then a pun-filled statement to Pokemon Go players about said letter. Who could've expected a game about adorable electric rats and song-singing pink blobs would inspire such silliness. 

Gene Wilder

Wisconsin's own Gene Wilder, one of the great comedic talents of all time, passed away of Alzheimer's disease at the age of 83. Though he spent much of his later years away off-screen and out of the public eye, Wilder's iconic mix of heart and hysteria has made its impact on generations of film fans casual and crazed – that impact being making us, young and old, laugh until it feels our lungs might burst. 


Milwaukee Film Festival

With the inspiring Disney-fueled documentary "Life, Animated," the Milwaukee Film Festival kicked off its annual explosion of cinema, bringing beloved classics and new indie gems to Milwaukee screens – as well as important conversation and insight to Milwaukee audiences.

Brangelina splits

After two years of marriage, Angelina Jolie filed for divorce from Brad Pitt, because love is an illusion, joy is merely temporary and everything is terrible. Also irreconcilable differences. 


Some other memorable pop culture figures lost in September:

  • Arnold Palmer
  • Jose Fernandez


"The Walking Dead" returns

Not worth it


Creepy clowns randomly showing up and meandering around towns was nothing new, but in the fall of 2016, the news couldn't get enough of random clown sightings. I bet that "It" remake coming out next year is bummed they were a year late. 

Ken Bone

The history books will say Ken Bone was famous because the affable-looking undecided voter, decked out in a thin mustache and a sweetly dweebish red sweater, asked a question about energy policy at one of the final presidential debates. I, however, will remember Ken Bone for setting the land-speed record for fastest U-turn from fun internet meme to man decimated by internet. But seriously, never get internet famous. 

David S. Pumpkins

The Tom Hanks-hosted "Saturday Night Live" episode dropped this instant viral success, telling the tale of a couple besieged on a haunted house ride by a jovial weirdo named David S. Pumpkins and his dancing skeleton pals, just in time for everyone to think they'd be the only one dressed like him for Halloween. 



In an upset, Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in the presidential election, losing in the popular vote but winning the electoral college. But I thought all those Twitter headlines told me Trump's campaign was "obliterated" or "destroyed" or "eviscerated" by some John Oliver clip or 27-part tweet storm!

World Series

Goat curses be gone! The Chicago Cubs came back from a 3-1 series deficit against the Cleveland Indians to win their first World Series in more than a century. Even if you weren't rooting for the Cubs (right here!) it's hard to argue this year's October finale wasn't one of the best in baseball history between the terrific pitching, tight games, off-the-field subplots and late-game heroics. Rajah Davis' late Game 7 home run will sit next to Marcus Paige's pre-buzzer beater circus shot as some of sports' greatest winning heroics that weren't. 

Mannequin Challenge

Apparently few things enchant the internet more than people doing ... nothing. At least, that's the takeaway from the Mannequin Challenge, a planking-like trend involving standing still on video which went viral in November. Everyone got in on it, from basketball teams to presidential candidates. And then, unlike the people in the videos, we moved elsewhere. 

"Gilmore Girls" returns

After much hype and a tour of coffee-house transformations, "Gilmore Girls" returned to the small screen for four new chapters that, while easily distracted, showed it was still as sweet and as snappy as ever. And then the ending happened ... OR DID IT!?


HBO has had a rough time maintaining its perch as the prestige TV champion – more due to the competition from FX, Netflix and the like, but shows like "Vinyl" crapping out early don't help either. So imagine their relief that they seem to have found their "Game of Thrones" 2.0 in "Westworld." The sci-fi series got a little too cryptic for its own good around midway through the season – and it seemed to be the last one to get around to figuring out the Man in Black reveal – but the debut season was overall a fascinating prequel to the very exciting seasons to come.

Iguana clip

If "Mad Max: Fury Road" was recast with lizards and snakes, it'd probably look something like this "Planet Earth 2" clip that took the world by storm late in 2016. It's a shame this will lose Best Picture at the Oscars next year to that Eli Manning Super Bowl Vine. 


Some of the memorable pop culture figures we lost in November:

  • Leonard Cohen
  • Sharon Jones
  • Florence Henderson


"Rogue One"

For the first time, "Star Wars" ventured outside of the Skywalker clan for "Rogue One," its first little one-off movie. And it works, delivering a strong on-the-ground war movie in new places that are still the galaxy we love and know. Stay tuned for its next "Star Wars Story": a young Han Solo adventure starring Alden Ehrenreich. If you saw "Hail, Caesar!" you know who that is – and why that's a very, very good thing.

Ronda Rousey

The MMA fighter's comeback tour was short-lived – 48 seconds, to be exact, as that's how long it took current champion Amanda Nunes to defeat the former MMA star in the big year-ending fight Friday night. May this serve as a lesson to everyone: Never appear in an "Entourage" movie.

Carrie Fisher/Debbie Reynolds

2016 saved one final blow to our pop culture-loving hearts for almost the end, unexpectedly taking "Star Wars" icon Carrie Fisher after a sudden heart attack and, one day later, her jubilant Hollywood actress mother Debbie Reynolds with a stroke. They – along with all the icons big and small lost this year – brought such spirit to our lives. 


Some of the other memorable pop culture figures we lost in December:

  • John Glenn
  • Alan Thicke
  • George Michael
  • Craig Sager
Matt Mueller Culture Editor

As much as it is a gigantic cliché to say that one has always had a passion for film, Matt Mueller has always had a passion for film. Whether it was bringing in the latest movie reviews for his first grade show-and-tell or writing film reviews for the St. Norbert College Times as a high school student, Matt is way too obsessed with movies for his own good.

When he's not writing about the latest blockbuster or talking much too glowingly about "Piranha 3D," Matt can probably be found watching literally any sport (minus cricket) or working at - get this - a local movie theater. Or watching a movie. Yeah, he's probably watching a movie.