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Pop culture predictions for 2008

We look at what may happen with TV, movies, and music this coming year

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Happy New Year, EW readers! While you were picking the last scraps of meat off that HoneyBaked Ham and wondering if it’s okay to make mimosas with scotch, we were cobbling together our annual predictions for 2008. And between the ongoing writers’ strike and the upcoming presidential election, the year’s looking like a doozy. So rather than guarantee any of this will come true, we are instead praying that the majority of it stays where it belongs, in our caffeine-addled imaginations. Might we offer you a Diet Coke as you read?

The WGA walkout tightens its icy grip in the early months of 2008, and the networks take desperate measures to retain viewership. While Fox prepares to ride the happy wave of American Idol‘s seventh season (and fills its remaining programming hours with footage of Ryan Seacrest being groomed), NBC, CBS, and ABC engage in a bidding war for the Hills spin-off Heidi and Spencer Didn’t Get Enough Love as Children. The Tiffany Network comes out on top after promising Ms. Montag that as soon as Spencer gives her that ”princess” wedding, it will not only foot the bill but also replace CSI: Miami‘s theme song with the first single off her debut album. ABC retaliates by creating Dial or No Dial, a game show in which ordinary people face off to see who can remember the digits of their own phone number the fastest. Buoyed by mass rerun fatigue, Dial — hosted by 1-800-CALL-ATT spokesman Carrot Top — becomes the most watched event in Monday-night history.

Meanwhile, over at NBC, Friday Night Lights gets yet another reprieve, this time from unlikely source Dick Wolf, who repurposes Landry and Tyra’s ”I Know What Rapist You Killed Last Summer” story line into the new top 10 hit Law & Order: FNL. He skirts the strike by assembling each episode out of old Hart to Hart scripts, and America immediately falls in love with the scrappy blond lovers who hit the road to rid the Southland of mean men who hang out at burger joints and prey on teenagers. The series goes on to sweep the first-ever all-improv Emmys, a night marred only when Kyle Chandler, Connie Britton, and Kanye West rush the stage and hijack the mic during Wolf’s acceptance speech for Outstanding Series.

Over in movie land, J.J. Abrams’ Cloverfield will debut to middling box office after Internet spoilers reveal that the monster terrorizing New York City is in fact an enormous bunny rabbit nibbling away on the skyscrapers because it thinks they’re made of Cadbury milk chocolate. Critics applaud Abrams for making ”a delightfully escapist romp” that’s ”fun for the whole family,” but most folks stay away and instead play with the Wiis they got for Christmas, sparking a mini-pandemic of tennis elbow. Meanwhile, in a blatant marketing tie-in, the Lost castaways spend the first six weeks of their season fighting off a rabid flock of marshmallow Peeps, led by new cast member Jeremy Davies. Abrams later confesses he’s been in the pocket of Big Candy since 1997, and that Alias was an extended allegory for the plight of the Everlasting Gobstopper. Ironically, the climax of the Sex and the City movie turns out to involve an alien race bent on destroying Manhattan, until Carrie Bradshaw takes one for the team…if you know what we mean.

Moviegoers will be dealt another blow this summer when Christian Bale collapses in the midst of his efforts to simultaneously promote The Dark Knight and shoot the newest Terminator sequel. Initially blaming his ongoing yo-yo diet for the ”exhaustion,” he will later appear on Larry King Live and confess that the mental strain of playing both Bruce Wayne and John Connor brought him to his knees. As he dissolves into tears and shrieks, ”I can’t save you all, Larry! I can’t save you all!!!” the suspendered host will look on, perplexed, and ask his crew — on live TV, no less — to ”please help Michael Keaton up off the ground.” In a not-completely-unrelated story, Harold & Kumar star Neil Patrick Harris will make a splash in the fall, thanks to his confessional cabaret, Unicorns Are Less Awesome Than You’d Think.

The plight of the music industry will worsen in the face of technology that allows customers to walk into any record store and suck songs directly off CDs using only their minds. But one bright spot appears when Led Zeppelin announces they’ll head out on the road, thanks to the success of their one-off December concert in London. Sadly, the tour is quickly hampered by injuries. But Plant, Page, and Jones are desperate to play their scheduled dates and will secretly turn to the medical wizards of the former Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative, who are scraping together a post-Mitchell Report existence vending ”the cream” and ”the clear” out of a van down by the river. In response to doping allegations, a lawyer for Zeppelin states that his clients never took such ”dangerous and destructive” shortcuts, and he can’t believe that 40 years in rock have not earned them the benefit of the doubt.

Elsewhere in retro reunions, after witnessing the success of Radiohead’s In Rainbows experiment — and seeing Journey’s popularity surge due to the Sopranos finale — the members of Chicago call in former lead singer Peter Cetera to be the man who fights for their honor. The band records an album consisting solely of 13 different versions of ”You’re the Inspiration,” remixed by superstar producers including Timbaland, Mark Ronson, and Tay ”Chocolate Rain” Zonday. Tragically overestimating public demand, the group pours $3 million into marketing and distribution via a pay-what-you-will download, only to discover that pretty much everyone interested in owning such a treasure has already slapped something together with Pro Tools and posted it on their blog.

Finally, we’re prepared to go out on a limb and say that Axl Rose will not be releasing Chinese Democracy anytime in the next year; instead, he will team up with Ashley Tisdale and Janice Dickinson to film a heart-wrenching docudrama entitled My Face: I Cannot Feels It. It premieres to raves at the Telluride Film Festival.

The year’s biggest story, of course, will be the election of the 44th president of the United States. And like everything else, it too will be affected by the WGA strike — only this time, it’s for the better. Because although the late-night talk shows returned Jan. 2, the hosts will be so busy scrambling to keep things together without a writing staff that they’ll find it hard to focus on the usual jokes about candidates’ haircuts, sexual indiscretions, and public-speaking gaffes. As a consequence, the American people begin to turn elsewhere for information, and — thoroughly invested in our government’s democratic structure for the first time since the Carter administration — they demand unbiased election coverage from their newspapers and broadcast media. Call us dreamers, but we think this is the year when everyone remembers that our country’s future lies in the hands of the many, not the few. And once they’ve considered all the facts, we think the people will rise up as one to elect the most sensible candidate for these uneasy times. In other words: Congratulations, President Stephen T. Colbert! Lead us well. Thank God you turned down that offer to host Dial or No Dial.