December 21, 2012 at 05:00 AM EST

Quick: What are you sitting on? Unless you’re reading this from a couch, stool, hammock, booth, bench, recliner, chaise longue, ottoman, or divan, then odds are the answer is … a chair. People typically don’t think too much about their chairs, but this year the humble furnishing finally stepped into the spotlight. Everyone from Nicki Minaj to Demi Lovato scrambled to park their rears in one, thanks to a series of shake-ups among reality-competition judges. HBO is so obsessed with the things that it aired a terrific second season of its series about some much-contested royal ones: Game of Thrones.

Then there was Ann Curry, whose departure from the Today show in June opened up one of the most coveted seats in entertainment. (Point: Savannah Guthrie.) American Idol and The X Factor also played musical chairs this year as they filled their empty judging pedestals, prompting pop singers Mariah Carey and Britney Spears to star in their own little sideshows. (Plus, L.A. Reid kept things alive this month when he announced that his seat is up for grabs.) Those spinning red chairs on The Voice helped swivel NBC from last to first place among adults 18-49 in the fall.

Yet the year’s most memorable chair sat at the unseemly intersection of Hollywood, Washington, D.C., and Tampa. As a generous gift to bored viewers and eager late-night hosts, Clint Eastwood transformed the Republican National Convention into a bizarre, almost psychedelic experience when he gave Invisible Obama a stern talking-to. And beneath that invisible president was a highly visible chair — a major breakout star, one worthy of a sitting ovation.

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