The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton and Prince William/AP
Marco della Cava, USA TODAY
Predicting pop-culture success can be a dicey game. After all, gazing into the mists of 2012, few would have guessed that among its colossal hits would be a book trilogy celebrating bondage (Fifty Shades of Grey) and a dance smash out of South Korea (Psy's Gangnam Style).
But we like dicey games. Looking ahead to 2013, USA TODAY's culture writers have spied 10 events and trends worth getting excited about.
1. A royal baby
Prince William and Duchess Kate made weepy extended family members out of us all when they announced they were expecting in the new year. From the moment Kate checked into the hospital with extreme morning sickness, royal-baby watchers expressed concern for her health while guessing at her preferred maternity fashions. Move over, Blue Ivy Carter - it looks like we're crowning a new first baby in the new year.
Forget the recent Mayan prophecy signaling the end of days: The world surely will shake, rattle and roll when Hollywood's most unorthodox and glamorous couple heads to the altar. After heeding the requests of his six children, Brad Pitt finally popped the question to Angelina Jolie with an eight-carat, architecturally inspired engagement ring. Whether it takes place at their estate in France or in a tent in Namibia, this wedding (and Angelina's dress) will be one of the biggest and most-talked-about events of 2013.
3. Pulp icons return
Captain Kirk? Check. Tony Stark? Check. Superman? Check. Thor? Chuck that hammer with everything you've got, baby. Tinseltown's dream factory isn't being shy about churning out more feel-good escapist fare starring superheroes and sci-fi titans, and next year dishes up new adventures from a galaxy of heroes. Look for both Star Trek Into Darkness and Iron Man 3 in May, Man of Steel in June and Thor: The Dark World next fall. Of them all, the buzz may be biggest around Henry Cavill's turn in the red and blue tights, with Russell Crowe stepping in for Marlon Brando as daddy Jor-El.
4.Comedy is still king
The comedy cruise continues in 2013, beginning with another stab at re-creating the mayhem of a classic: The Hangover Part III is slated for May. Also on tap are Jennifer Aniston and Jason Sudeikis, who pose as a fake couple smuggling pot across the border in We're the Millers (August). Will Ferrell's lovably pompous buffoon of a newsreader returns next winter in Anchorman: The Legend Continues. And in the spirit of apocalypse now, Seth Rogen, Emma Watson and Jonah Hill face their own fictional demise while attending a party in This Is the End, opening June 14.
5. Correction: King is still king
That master of the macabre, Stephen King, promises to creep us out big time in 2013. Summer brings the 13-part CBS miniseries Under the Dome, based on the writer's 2009 hit about a small New England town sealed off from the rest of the world, a snow globe nightmare come to life. But the real treat arrives in fall with the sequel to 1977's The Shining. In new book Doctor Sleep, the crazy Jack Torrance's now-grown son Dan battles a soul-sucking tribe called the True Knot.
6.Tween fare for all
If the success of the books-turned-movies Twilight and The Hunger Games proved anything, it's the cross-generational appeal of fare initially aimed principally at tweens. Hollywood delivers more tween-book-based drama next year, including Beautiful Creatures (Feb. 13), a supernatural love story set in the South, based on Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl's 2009 novel, and The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones (Aug. 23), author Cassandra Clare's fantasy series about a half-angel whose mother is abducted by a demon.
7. Our praise is Justified
Despite hand-wringing over the reality-fueled decline of TV, the small screen still brims with quality scripted fare. At or near top of that list would be FX's Justified, which returns for its fourth season Jan. 8 (10 ET/PT). Timothy Olyphant (who happened to play an incorruptible sheriff and former U.S. Marshal in HBO's Deadwood as well) is back as smooth-talking, fast-drawing U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens, who will again butt heads and trade punches with boyhood friend/career criminal Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins).
8. Deliverance from zombies
You couldn't throw a shoe this year without hitting a zombie, be they staggering around in books, on TV or in movies. Although that undead trend is still alive (watch for Brad Pitt to battle them in the movie World War Z in June), Fox goes for all-too-real terror with The Following, in which Kevin Bacon stars as an FBI agent on the trail of a serial killer (James Purefoy) and his copycat cult. Midseason's most-talked-about series airs Mondays starting Jan. 21 (9 ET/PT).
9. A country-music stampede
With Taylor Swift leading the charge (Red outsold every other album released this year, and her 45-city tour already is a hot ticket), country music is set to dominate in 2013, with stadium shows by Swift, Jason Aldean and Kenny Chesney. There's also a chance to see two of the genre's legends - Country Music Hall of Famers George Jones and George Strait - one last time as they hit the road before hang up their touring boots.
10.The Stones, still rolling
While there's still no official announcement of a Rolling Stones tour for 2013, don't bet against it. First off, to build a massive stage and develop an extensive wardrobe for just five recently played shows would go against Mick Jagger's fiscally prudent gut. And there's the fact that the true anniversary of the group's founding was when drummer Charlie Watts played his first gig with the lads 50 years ago next month. So take a tip from us: Save your pennies and get ready to party like it's 1963.