Celebrating small-town America

November 23, 2011

Oy, it’s been a year. We’re beleaguered. Beaten up. Depressed by the economy, distressed by political dithering, swirled by tornadoes, slammed by hurricanes, shaken by earthquakes. Things must have been better, once — when we were blithely pre-supercommittee, pre-Sandusky, pre-Occupied. Right now we’re on our way to a blue Christmas even Elvis wouldn’t want to sing about.

But there’s unsurpassing joy in giving — and this year, more than ever, the best thing to give is joy itself. Where better to find it than in music, art, books and movies that transport us to sublime heights the real world can’t?We asked our critics for suggestions of bonbons from the worlds of pop culture and art, and they responded with gift ideas guaranteed to provide a flush of sensory pleasure, a glow of humanistic compassion — heck, maybe just an honest laugh.

GO TO: Art | Dance | Film | Music | Pop culture | Television | Theater

The great American small town: It’s where dreams of flying over rainbows are born, where things like pluck and wide-eyed optimism still matter.

And it’s a place that pop culture occasionally celebrates.

You can celebrate it, too, if you give any of these gifts designed to remind us of the decency and dedication of small-town folks:

‘Friday Night Lights: The Complete Series’

Every human being on planet Earth owes it to him- or herself to watch all five seasons of this exceptional drama on DVD, Netflix or however it can be viewed. It’s not about football in Dillon, Tex. Well, it is. But this show is really about what it means to try, every single day, to be a fine human being.

‘Pawnee: The Greatest Town in America’

Leslie Knope is the fictional deputy director of the Pawnee Parks and Recreation Department on TV’s “Parks and Recreation.” But the book she published on the show is real and spectacularly funny. It’s a tongue-in-cheek guide to the non-real city that’s “first in friendship, fourth in obesity.” “What Pawnee lacks in fame or beauty, we make up for in heart,” Knope writes in the introduction. “Like the pudgy, sarcastic best friend in a romantic comedy, we are actually really interesting and cool if you look hard enough.” She had us at hello.

‘The Muppets’ original soundtrack

The just-out movie follows a new Muppet named Walter as he journeys from a place called Smalltown to Los Angeles. Naturally there’s music along the way, all of which can be found here. Just try listening to “Life’s a Happy Song,” written by Bret McKenzie of Flight of the Conchords, and stifling a smile.

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