Why We Hunger for the Holiday Special

Every December, an Age-Old Format Warms the Winter Night

’Tis the season.

The season for television shows to chug too much eggnog, forget their earthly cares for an hour or so, and jump the proverbial yuletide shark.

The result, whether it’s treacly sweet, outrageously theatric, or capable of bringing an audience to tears, comes like clockwork each December, when—for good or bad—television cuts away from its regularly scheduled programming to tap into the spirit of the season.

I’m talking stars. I’m talking spectacle. I’m talking, more than likely, somebody dressing up as Santa.

I’m talking, if it’s not clear, about the holiday special.

I …

Concept Art Association Co-Founder Nicole Hendrix | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

Concept Art Association Co-Founder Nicole Hendrix

If Someone Wants to Do Something, I’m Generally Down

Nicole Hendrix is a producer, creative director, and the co-founder and executive director of BRIC Foundation, an organization that focuses on increasing representation for women and people from historically excluded …

Anything ChatGPT Can Do, My Students Can Do Better

Why a Media History Professor Is Welcoming AI Into Her Classroom

Zócalo is celebrating its 20th birthday this year! As part of the festivities, we’re publishing reflections and responses that revisit and reimagine some of …

Come on Barbie, Let’s Sell Barbies

American Toy Companies, Led by Mattel, Have Entwined Marketing and Entertainment for Over Half a Century

The year was 1997.

“Un-Break My Heart” by Toni Braxton dominated the radio waves. Wallet chains and JNCO jeans were red-carpet staples. And plastic? It was fantastic.

Cool Shoppin’ Barbie wasn’t just …

Smile, You’re on Jury Duty!

First Came Candid Camera. Then The Truman Show. Now, a New Swath of TV Speaks to 21st-Century Voyeurism

Since The Truman Show premiered 25 years ago, the premise—about a man unaware his entire life has been a reality TV program—has gone from thought experiment to reality.

Jury Duty, which …

Will the Superhero Blockbusters Just Keep Coming?

The Latest Marvel Installment Promises Something Old, Something New, and Thor Feeling Blue—Mirroring the Genre’s Serial Nature

In the upcoming Thor: Love and Thunder, the titular protagonist sets out on a journey of self-discovery, trying to give new meaning to a life spent fighting errant gods, space …