Winner: Jennifer Lawrence
The Hunger Games was a global blockbuster taking in almost 700 million worldwide. Reviews were just as enthusiastic. Although it hasn’t had nearly as wide a release nor generated nearly as much money, Silver Linings Playbook has nonetheless been a critically acclaimed hit in its own right. Furthermore, it might earn her a second Oscar nomination. Even the horror film, House At The End Of The Street made a nice profit, despite being carved up by critics. Oh, and she’s really sexy, too.
Loser: The BBC
For six decades, Jimmy Savile was one of the most popular and respected broadcasters in Britain. From his debut in 1958 on the influential Radio Luxembourg to his final run on the British Broadcasting Corporation in 2007, the blond-haired, cigar-smoking eccentric was as generous with his time and money as the Red Cross and as ubiquitous in the UK as tea and crumpets. But in 2012, he would finally be exposed as the harmful sexual predator he actually was. His once mostly sterling reputation is now lying in ruins.
At the start of the year, British media reported that a planned BBC documentary about Savile’s sex crimes against young girls was quietly cancelled. NewsNight was preparing an extensive report shortly after his death at age 84 in late 2011 when the highers-up worried it would cause problems. A spokesman lamely denied the accusation. The public broadcaster aired two positive tributes instead of the report which didn’t help matters.
Later on in October, rival private station ITV aired its own expose, The Other Side Of Jimmy Savile, on its Exposure series. The report caused a media firestorm that went global. The Savile scandal was so big not only was it covered in Britain it was also covered by The New York Times and goofed on by Jon Stewart on The Daily Show in America.
When all was said and done, UK law enforcement began investigating literally hundreds of sexual abuse claims against Savile and even arrested other living suspects who may have committed similiar offenses during the same period. (One of them is long disgraced glam rocker Gary Glitter who, incidentally enough, Savile once publicly defended.) Many of Savile’s victims were underage girls he had met through his own TV shows like Jim’ll Fix It (ironically, a make-a-wish program for kids) and the famous countdown series, Top Of The Pops, as well as through his various charity work (which included visiting terminally sick kids in the hospital who were most vulnerable). Day after day, more and more accusations of rape and molestation of both girls and boys became public (including at least one family member) as long traumatized victims finally found the courage to tell their horrifying stories.
All the while, the BBC’s reputation took a massive pummelling. From reports that the abuse was well-known for decades but never dealt with to the cover-up surrounding the cancellation of the NewsNight report, the public broadcaster couldn’t muster much of a defence against the relentlessly negative coverage.
In the end, Director General George Entwistle, who ordered an internal investigation, nonetheless fell on his sword after less than two months in the job while his predecessor, Mark Thompson, was feeling the heat in America as well. To their credit, The New York Times, Thompson’s new employer, didn’t shy away from reporting on his role in all this ungodly mess. An ongoing inquiry will hopefully offer the complete picture later on next year. (December 19 UPDATE: Actually, the near 200-page report has already been released and there’s even more bad news.)
Sadly, the BBC found itself in even more trouble when it publicly accused an ex-politician of being a sex offender in a report. (Other UK outlets followed suit including ITV.) One problem, though: it wasn’t true. The thoroughly embarrassed public broadcaster inevitably apologized and agreed to pay a six-figure settlement.
After all the screw-ups in 2012, can it get any worse for them in 2013?
It’s taken eight grueling years for 31-year-old Ryan Reeves to finally breakthrough in the WWE. In 2004, he was one of eight finalists fighting for a job as a professional wrestler on the fourth season of Tough Enough. (He finished fourth.) In 2010, after years of toiling in the WWE’s developmental programs (using three different names and character gimmicks) he was picked to compete on the then-reality competition series, NXT. Re-christened Skip Sheffield, he finished sixth, a spot ahead of a guy named Daniel Bryan.
In June 2010, Sheffield and all the other Season 1 NXT “rookies” formed a heel faction called The Nexus and started attacking anyone and everyone in their path as they began their careers on the main roster. Two months later, The Nexus battled seven WWE superstars including a now-babyface Bryan (who had been foolishly fired for choking Raw ring announcer Justin Roberts with his own tie, an apparent no-no in this silly PG era) at that year’s SummerSlam but lost. While working the house show circuit shortly thereafter, Sheffield got hurt and completely disappeared for over a year. It took three surgeries to repair a broken left ankle.
When he returned to live events in late 2011, Reeves made a change. He reverted back to a previously discarded moniker, a combination of his real first name and his old childhood nickname, Silverback (like the gorilla), and became a good guy. In a lovely throwback to old-school wrestling, when he finally came back to TV in April this year, he began a weekly tradition of demolishing much smaller, unknown jobbers in quick, punishing matches, sometimes in two-on-one handicap encounters. The site of him hoisting two men on his shoulders to perform his finisher, Shell Shocked, was most impressive.
Working extremely stiff (particularly when delivering a meathook clothesline) and acting very intense (“Wake up!” “Feed me more!” “I hit hard!” “Finish it!” “Done!”), Ryback drew comparisons to Goldberg, WCW’s big breakout star in the late 90s. (Both men have a similiar look). Some fans even started chanting “Goldberg”, albeit dismissively, during his matches.
But as he started moving up the card to do battle with the likes of Jinder Mahal, Jack Swagger, Tensai and then-Intercontinental Champion The Miz (his old Tough Enough 4 rival), audiences started chanting “Feed me more!” right along with him. (It didn’t hurt that the phrase was inserted into his now-revised entrance music.) The Goldberg chants haven’t stopped completely but fortunately they represent just a small minority of the audience. That’s how over this guy is.
Ryback’s big break came at the end of a late September installment of Raw, just after WWE Champion CM Punk kicked Mick Foley a little low backstage and started to walk away. When The Straight Edge Superstar stopped and turned around he was startled to see Big Hungry breathing heavy not far from Mrs. Foley’s baby boy who was still on the ground.
Ever since, Ryback’s been in the world title picture challenging Punk in two main events on pay-per-view. Although screwed out of a rightful victory both times (thanks to a rogue referee at Hell In A Cell and The Shield taking him out in the Survivor Series triple threat which also featured John Cena), he’s got at least one more opportunity to get pushed once the WWE Champion recovers from his recent knee surgery, most likely in early January. (Or maybe he’ll get a run with the U.S. title. Who knows?)
Regardless of the Goldberg comparisons, the talented two-time Slammy winner has managed to advance so quickly to the top of the roster in just one year in this current incarnation I’m sure he’s the envy of all the other wrestlers in the locker room who have been unable to achieve similiar success the many years they’ve been struggling in the mid-card. (To be fair, it took him nearly a decade to earn this spot.) One big question needs to be asked, however. Will Ryback be a blip on the national wrestling radar or a fixture for years to come? Only time will tell. For now, in a year that saw several notable new characters, without any doubt, he was the WWE’s most successful new star.
Loser: Spike Lee, Jerry Sandusky, Penn State and “Violent Acrez” Michael Brutsch
During the outcry over the Trayvon Martin killing in March, 55-year-old filmmaker and colossal jerk Spike Lee stupidly retweeted what he thought was the address of the then-unarrested man responsible for the kid’s death. It wasn’t. His imbecilic gesture cost him dough and rightly hurt his reputation. Why posting this private home address on a public social networking site (which ultimately forced an innocent elderly couple to relocate because of safety concerns) was considered a good idea in the name of justice I’ll never know.
Meanwhile in June, Jerry Sandusky, the former longtime defensive coordinator for Penn State’s mighty football team (he was also a player for nearly a decade), lost his freedom forever after being found guilty of 45 counts of disturbing sexual misconduct on young boys. Like Jimmy Savile in Britain, the 68-year-old’s awful reputation was well-known to his co-workers and just like the BBC, Penn State didn’t do a damn thing about it. For years, he was able to rape and molest young boys (like Savile, he recruited many through his charity work), in some cases right on school property without arrest or even losing his job. (Even after he retired in 1999, he remained a menace for another decade. He still had an office at Penn State up until last year.) He’ll now spend the rest of his natural life in prison. (This will allow him plenty of time to write another book.) In the meantime, more of his criminal actions are being investigated.
Joe Paterno, the once highly respected head coach of Penn State’s football team, upon learning of one assault from an eyewitness in 1998 refused to go directly to the police and felt, along with three other university bigwigs, that the matter should be dealt with internally, meaning not at all. In July 2012, a month after Sandusky’s long overdue conviction, former FBI head Louis Freeh revealed his damning report about the Sandusky cover-up. It lead to one resignation and more criminal charges against the three surviving conspirators. (“Joe Pa” died in January. If he hadn’t, he would’ve most certainly been arrested as well.) Paterno’s statue was removed and many of his victories and championships as the head football coach of Penn State were erased. As a result, he’s no longer the winningest coach in college football history. Furthermore, the university was heavily fined, put on probation for half a decade, lost numerous scholarships and had its football program suspended for two years among other harsh penalties. Like the BBC, can Penn State recover its reputation over time? Right now, it’s difficult to know for certain.
For years, “Violent Acrez” was one of the most active posters on Reddit, a social networking site known for a creepy sub-culture that gets its kicks off disturbing, possibly illegal content. That is until the very brave Adrien Chen of Gawker revealed his identity in October which became a major story. The real-life Michael Brutsch would pay the price for being an online “troll”. He lost his job and gave a pitiful performance while being interviewed on CNN resulting in zero sympathy from everyone except his Reddit fans. May he disappear into the nether regions of obscurity forever.
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Tuesday, December 18, 2012