Pop culture 2008: The good and the bad
For me, the holiday choice between Thanksgiving and Christmas is easy. I choose the Turkey Day every time. Christmas, which entails the Great American Mall Death March, is stressful. Thanksgiving, on the other hand, is a day of peace in my house. Everyone stuffs up, then chooses their post-meal favorite: football or a nap (I always choose the latter). It also gives me a chance to make a gratitude list, which necessarily includes my favorite moments in pop culture over the last 12 months. Not that I’m grateful for everything. I haven’t finished this year’s list, but I’m well on my way. A few examples follow.
Thanks for Get Fuzzy, the funniest comic strip on planet Earth. Sweet-natured Satchel Pooch and the utterly crazed Bucky B. Katt are much more fun than Odie and Garfield. No thanks for Lynn Johnston’s For Better or for Worse, which used to be a winning combination of humor and pathos. Now the Patterson family has been dumped down some weird wormhole in time and I have no idea what’s going on or who anyone is.
Thanks for The Daily Beast, the best news-and-features website in years. No thanks for the Drudge Report; talk about mutton dressed up as lamb. It’s the same old right-wing BS in sexy tabloid clothing.
Speaking of the Internet, thanks for The Filthy Critic (as vulgar and amusing as ever) and no thanks for the proliferation of that linguistic snafu known as text-speak: Tell me to LOL, BFF, and I’ll tell you to KMA.
Thanks for ”Viva La Vida,” the year’s best single, ”Disturbia” (runner-up), and the Pretenders’ Break Up the Concrete, the year’s best album (so far). Runners-up in the album department are Feed the Animals, by Girl Talk, and Black Ice, by AC/DC. But when it comes to Wally World trying to corner the market on sales of the new AC/DC? No thanks.
Thanks for PBS’ The Last Enemy, a techno-thriller that makes 24 look strictly sandbox by comparison. (The best part here is the human element; nerdy mathematician falls in love with his brother’s widow — then, after sleeping together, they discover the brother is still alive.) Sorta thanks for Life on Mars — great story, bum dialogue, Harvey Keitel playing the sort of old-school cop we’ve seen a thousand times before…and are you sure the ’70s really looked that plastic? No thanks for The Shield. I’m trudging grimly along so I can find out how the Vic Mackey/Shane Vendrell dynamic works out, but the final-season überstory is so complex you can’t tell the Armenians from the Biz Lats without a scorecard. Also no thanks for Sons of Anarchy, which turned out to be The Sopranos on Harleys. Where are Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper when you need them?
Greatest TV thanks for Breaking Bad — the best series on TV is going to have a second act. You wouldn’t think a story about a high school teacher who makes crank so his cancer treatments don’t bankrupt his family could be funny, but it is. And suspenseful. And terrifying. If you missed the first season, hurry and catch up. This is such a groove.
Thanks for the YouTube video which combines Kevin Bacon and Zac Efron with Kenny Loggins’ ”Footloose.” The clip where the guy explains why ”High School Musical 3 Made Me Gay!”? Not so much.
Thanks for suspense novelist Greg Iles, who never puts a foot wrong. No thanks for Patricia Cornwell, who hasn’t put one right for the last five years or so.
Thanks for Dollface and Pin-Up Girl in Bryan Bertino’s excellent horror film The Strangers. No love for Jigsaw in Saw V. The subhead of Ray Greene’s Boxoffice magazine review reads, ”[The] latest installment…answers the question: Is it possible to fall asleep committing torture porn?” I didn’t fall asleep, but I hated myself for paying to see this.
Oh, and since we’re talking Thanksgiving, here’s a fast-food note: Thanks for Checkers, which peddles those incredible deep-fried apple pies (rolled in cinnamon — yum). As for Mickey D’s? Well. Uh. Sorta thanks. You guys always do in a pinch, but your apple pies aren’t in the same universe.
Thanks for you guys and gals out there in EW-land, too. Even when you’re pissed off about something I said, I love your passion and engagement in the crazy-parade of American pop culture. Now go carve yourself some turkey, and wolf down some mashed potatoes while you’re at it. Don’t forget to add plenty of gravy; it sops up both calories and cholesterol. Your Uncle Stevie guarantees it.