Winner: Tina Fey
The former Saturday Night Live head writer and Weekend Update anchorwoman began 2008 modestly but ended it triumphantly. In April, her romantic comedy, Baby Mama, received mostly positive reviews and earned a respectable 60 million in domestic ticket sales, doubling its original 30 million budget. Her TV sitcom, 30 Rock, which finished 102nd out of 144 shows during its first season in 2006 and was averaging 6 and a half million viewers in its second season, won its second consecutive Best Comedy Series trophy at The Primetime Emmy Awards. (It was also awarded The Danny Thomas Producer Of The Year prize by The Producers Guild Of America.) Fey, herself, took home two additional Emmys for writing the episode, Cooter, and for Outstanding Lead Actress In A Comedy Series. (Fey won a SAG award for her acting, as well.) That’s not all. The Television Critics Association singled her out for Individual Achievement In Comedy and honoured the show’s Outstanding Achievement In Comedy. Plus, The Writer’s Guild Of America named 30 Rock Best Comedy Series. By the time the NBC program’s third season premiere hit the airwaves, nearly 9 million viewers tuned in.
Before the return of her sitcom, there was Sarah Palin. Fey’s pitch perfect impersonation of the hapless Republican Vice Presidential nominee on SNL helped boost the show’s ratings to its highest level in years. Palin provided such good material on her own, there were times where Fey simply recited a number of her comments verbatim in numerous sketches.
Throw in a Vanity Fair cover story, a happy marriage, a healthy, young daughter and a portfolio.com breakdown of all her past, current (and possibly future) earnings, and you realize instantly that this beautiful, funny, smart, hardworking, tough yet lovable Chicago native had one hell of a year.
Loser: The Republican Party
Arizona Senator John McCain was soundly defeated in the Presidential election. Sarah Palin, the Alaskan Governor he selected as his running mate, not only embarrassed herself during interviews by speaking incomprehensively in response to straightforward questioning but also during public appearances when she smeared Illinois Senator Barack Obama’s supposedly nefarious associations and belittled his accomplishments. After a brief honeymoon period, voters ultimately became turned off by her destructive, dishonest rhetoric. Futhermore, when her governmental record was scrunitized, there was much criticism.
Two months before the election, around the time a number of major American companies imploded, McCain was booked to do David Letterman’s late night program. He cancelled citing the importance of flying immediately back to Washington, D.C. in order to help resolve the economic crisis. Unfortunately, he was lying. He stuck around New York for a fundraiser and was caught red-handed when Letterman watched him being interviewed by Katie Couric on the CBS Evening News through an exclusive feed. (When the Senator finally made it back to the beltway, he was more of a nuisance than anything else.) Letterman wasted no time in making mince meat out of him until McCain rescheduled and sheepishly admitted on the show that he screwed up. Speaking of Letterman, he continued to hammer away at President Bush in those devastating Great Moments In Presidential Speeches bits. Despite making peace with McCain, he was relentless in making fun of him throughout the rest of the year.
Bush’s approval rating dipped to the low 20s. He is currently the most hated American President since Nixon. The national debt has hit 10 trillion, more than double where it was during the Clinton era. And don’t get me started on the trade and budget deficits. No candidates wanted him campaigning on their behalf. Some went so far as to not use the word “Republican” in their political advertising. He’s so disliked by his own party that they would only allow him to make a brief speech via satellite from The White House during the Republican National Convention. California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who later begged the government for bailout money, was a notable no-show, as was the widely loathed Vice President Dick Cheney. Once celebrated New York Mayor Rudolph Guiliani failed to win a single delegate during the primaries. Former Press Secretary Scott McClellan wrote a critical tell-all book about his years in the White House.
In February, Ohio Congressman John Boehner urged his fellow House members to leave when “a resolution condemning Harriet Miers [President Bush’s rejected Supreme Court nominee] and Joshua Bolten [Bush’s Chief Of Staff] for refusing to cooperate with the House Judiciary Committee and for refusing to honor a subpoena for legal documents” was about to be passed. Whining about “political grandstanding”, as noted by RoadblockRepublicans.com, he didn’t feel that way about prosecuting President Clinton’s consensual affair with Monica Lewinsky 10 years earlier.
In March, Republicans were already bracing themselves for a bad election cycle. (After tabulating all the votes, they lost 21 seats in The House Of Representatives and 8 more in The Senate, ceding control to The Democrats.)
In April, Iowa College Republican Matthew Elliott, who briefly worked for former Massachusetts Governor and failed Presidential candidate Mitt Romney in 2006, was charged with the murder of a young baby girl. Not only that, he’s a registered sex offender facing other charges related to an earlier arrest the previous January. That same month, Nevada Senator John Ensign, with a straight face, suggested out loud that for every eight votes Democrats receive in the November elections, Republicans should get a “mercy vote” to keep things fair.
Alaskan politicians like State Senator John Cowdery and US Senator Ted Stevens ran afoul of the law in July. In late October, Stevens was found guilty on all seven counts he faced. Astoundingly, he refused to not only bail on his re-election bid but to resign his Senate seat. (Thankfully, he lost the election.) That same month, The Indianapolis Star reported that Indiana Republican councilman Max Knapp was arrested for storing child pornography on his computer. (The material was discovered when it was taken in for repairs.)
In August, Missouri Republican Scott Muschany, a married father of two, was charged with raping the teenage daughter of his mistress; Trainer, Pennsylvania mayor Eugene Maysky got caught drinking and driving for the fourth time; and New York State Legislator Alan Binder was arrested for bribery.
In September, Republican lobbyist Kevin Ring was arrested as part of the ongoing Jack Abramoff investigation, and in October, besides Stevens, Tan Nguyen, Delecia Holt, George Ortloff, Thomas G. Manuel, Mark Jacoby, Harold Trout, and Alan Fabian (look under “Latest Inductees” on that Republican Offenders link) were either convicted or simply charged with crimes ranging from fraud to bribery to perjury to possession of child pornography and solicitation of minors.
Late in the year, Minnesota Senator Norm Coleman, likely defeated by comedian Al Franken in a supremely tight contest, also had some explaining to do.
With so many fishy characters associated with this party, with so many allegations of wrongdoing to sort through (torture, illegal wiretapping, vote tampering, on top of so many others), how can any self-respecting conservative continue to support such a thoroughly corrupt and ideologically bankrupt organization? Here’s hoping the incoming Democratic majority prosecutes them into permanent obscurity.
That Joe Satriani lawsuit aside, Chris Martin and company were one of the few musical acts to thrive this past year. Their fourth studio album, Viva La Vida Or Death And All His Friends (two song names combined into an awkward title), was their first to be produced by the great Brian Eno. The famed U2 producer was a good choice to move the band out of its piano-driven comfort zone. Loaded with moving, tribal soundscapes, the album is one of Coldplay’s finest. Violet Hill, the first single which sounds better on CD than it does in the accompanying video, was downloaded some two million times in its first week on the band’s official website. As for the other hits, Lost! wouldn’t sound out of place on Pet Sounds, Lovers In Japan is memorably moving and Vida La Viva, the subject of the aforementioned lawsuit, is melancholia at its prettiest. The album was 2008’s most commercially successful worldwide, selling a remarkably hearty 7 million (almost a third of that total is from United States’ figures). Critically, it was also a winner. And then came all those Grammy nominations.
The CD is up for Album Of The Year and Best Rock Album. The superb Viva La Vida single (their only number one in America) is gunning for Record Of The Year, Song Of The Year and Best Pop Vocal Performance By A Duo Or Group and Violet Hill is competing in the Best Rock Song and Best Rock Performance By A Duo Or Group categories.
Coldplay had so much material to offer that they issued a follow-up EP called Prospekt’s March. Despite being a modest seller (just over 200,000 copies globally), it did receive mostly good reviews.
What’s to come in the future? An inevitable settlement with Satriani, a very good Grammy night (surely, they’re the favourites for Album Of The Year and Record & Song Of The Year), and hopefully, more music by the end of 2009.
Despite not being in public office for three years, John Edwards’ sex life was deemed newsworthy. An affair he had in 2006 was suddenly revealed by The National Enquirer and then eventually, by daily newspapers. New York Governor Elliot Spitzer resigned after The New York Times reported that he frequented prostitutes. Yes, he’s a hypocrite for using the same type of business he had been simultaneously prosecuting for years and, without a doubt, his wife and family were none too pleased about his indiscretions, but were his actions really worthy of a wiretap investigation? Does one’s horniness really require this much scrunity? Is all of this worth losing two otherwise highly successful Democrats?
Speaking of Democrats, few of them, including a flip flopping Barack Obama, seemed interested in not only opposing the granting of immunity to American telecom companies who illegally spied on Americans for years but also in preventing the Republican-supported secret warrantless wiretapping program from becoming legal. So much for the rule of law and politicians keeping their noses out of our business.
Sarah Palin had to put up with a false rumour involving the maternity of her youngest child, Trig. Cindy McCain’s past drug use and alleged affair were also put out there for all to see. And what is with all the breathless, nosey coverage of celebrities and their personal lives? How many of them have actually asked to have every aspect of their day-to-day life covered by an increasingly out of control and hypercritical media? Aren’t we more interested in their movies, plays, TV shows, books and CDs?
I guess not.
Winner: Olympic Medallists
The brilliant Michael Phelps made history in the pool. His 41-year-old teammate Dara Torres took home three silver medals. (Prior to one of her races, she showed good sportsmanship by informing officials that one of her competitors needed a bit more time to prepare, due to a swimsuit problem, which was later acknowledged by an NBC reporter.) The charmingly goofy and immensely talented Jamaican runner Usain Bolt stole the show on the track. The babes on the American gymnastics team, who faced stiff competition from a Chinese squad with members who seemed younger than they were supposed to be (a controversy that was never properly resolved), fought their way to the podium ten times (two gold, six silver, two bronze). And Canada had its best Summer Olympics ever. Despite being run by an oppressive regime who could care less about democracy, human decency and the environment, China was nonetheless a fantastic location for these games. What a waste of a breathtaking country, though.
Loser: Will Ferrell
Unlike his former colleague, Tina Fey, this very funny Californian had a mostly underwhelming 2008. In March, his latest sports comedy, Semi Pro, about minor league basketball in the 1970s, was released to poor reviews and a surprising lack of enthusiasm from audiences. Then came Step Brothers. While it made 100 million during its summer run, critics were divided. Hopefully, his next film, Land Of The Lost, will perform a lot better both critically and commercially.
AC/DC returned with a new album for the first time in eight years. Most critics liked it. After selling a mighty impressive 800,000 copies its first week in America, Black Ice has thus far sold roughly 2 million copies domestically, plus 4 million more internationally. Portishead, one of the big trip hop bands of the 1990s, released their first studio album in 11 years. Third received very positive reviews. 15 years after the release of their last album, the underrated covers collection The Spaghetti Incident?, Guns N’ Roses finally unveiled Chinese Democracy. Most critics liked it. The communist government in China did not. It debuted at number one in eight different countries including Canada. Rolling Stone named it one of the best albums of the year. The first single, also called Chinese Democracy, hit the Top 40 in America. Four years after the disappointing Around The Sun, R.E.M. offered the hard rocking Accelerate. The critically acclaimed CD was a welcome return to form. Members of Led Zeppelin have been recording new material and plotting a world tour. And after nearly 20 years, the fourth Indiana Jones movie finally hit theatres. Reviews were mostly positive and the film earned almost 800 million globally.
Some critics complained that Black Ice sounds no different than any of AC/DC’s earlier efforts. Third flopped in America. Entertainment Weekly named Chinese Democracy one of the worst albums of the year. Despite a tie-in promotion with the Best Buy chain, the album sold less than 300,000 copies its first week. Lead singer Axl Rose, the only original member left, refused to promote it. The second single, Better, failed to hit the Top 40. Despite debuting at number two its first week, Accelerate has sold poorly in the U.S. Robert Plant wants no part of a Zeppelin reunion tour and wasn’t a participant in their recent recording sessions. And Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull is not nearly as loved as Raiders Of The Lost Ark.
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, January 18, 2009