My personal highlights (and lowlights) in media in 2006:
· BEST NEW TV SHOW: Friday Night Lights. The critic from The New York Times said this show is great "like a poem or a painting," and he did so without engaging in hyperbole. This thing is so good, it might be the best series on all of TV.
While the Golden Age of TV comedy might be 30 years in our rear-view mirror (at one time, Mary Tyler Moore, The Bob Newhart Show, M*A*S*H and All in the Family were on, on the same night!), there are several TV dramas that are stunningly good. Hugh Laurie's knockout performance on House, Denis Leary on Rescue Me, the adrenalin rush of 24 and the wild creativity of Heroes are just a few excuses to watch.
I still see the occasional "Kill Your Television" sticker out there, but not as often as I used to. I guess it's getting harder and harder to keep those VW buses running.
You should try to watch TV judiciously; you may find it surprisingly rewarding.
· BEST SONG: "Not Ready to Make Nice" by the Dixie Chicks. Even if I didn't like it so much, it deserves praise. It's a delightfully unrepentant "Screw you!" to all those people who shouted "traitor" at those whose only sin was being prematurely correct.
· BEST MOVIE(S): The Departed and United 93. The latter should be shown in U.S. history classes for the next 50 years. Not a whole lot of good came out of Sept. 11, but of this, I'm certain: Anybody who tries to hijack a plane full of Americans in the future is facing a serious communal beatdown.
· WORST TV MOMENT: Just last week, American Idol loser Fantasia Barrino (the school dropout and unwed teen mother about whom Lifetime inexplicably did a made-for-TV movie) argued with talk-show host (and former KRQ FM 93.7 deejay) Jimmy Kimmel that her mother gave her that name well before the movie came out. The film Fantasia was first released in 1940; Barrino was born in 1984. I understand the confusion.
· BEST BOOK: I really enjoyed Simon Winchester's A Crack in the Edge of the World, about the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. Did you know that Enrico Caruso had performed an opera just a few hours before the quake hit, with John Barrymore in the audience? But my favorite this year was Doris Kearns Goodwin's Team of Rivals, about the extraordinary group of men Abraham Lincoln assembled for his cabinet.
Favorite line: When one person accused Lincoln of being two-faced, Lincoln quipped, "If I had another face, would I be using this one?"
· FAVORITE MAGAZINE: I love reading The Economist, but if I choose that, I'd have to call it my "favourite." Doggone Brits could probably balance their budget if they could just eliminate all of those extraneous vowels.
Instead, I'll go with Rolling Stone, which spent the year hammering away at the excesses and blunders of the Bush administration with gleeful abandon. They also ran the very important piece by Robert Kennedy Jr. about how the GOP might very well have stolen the 2004 presidential election with a series of carefully orchestrated political dirty tricks aimed at minorities and the poor.
Of course, RS is still likely to run a picture of a half-naked, no-talent hoochie on the cover at any given time, but for standing up to the Bushies, they get my nod.
· WORST RADIO MOMENT: Some woman on the KRQ morning show was talking about how she has "three baby-daddies." For those who don't know what that means, "(multiple) baby-daddies" translates to "I'll spread 'em for just about anybody." You might as well name those kids Food Stamps, Dropout and Guaranteed to Be a Teenage Parent.
Here's how that progression should work: Don't have sex with everybody. But if you do, don't have kids with everybody. But if you do, don't brag about it on the radio when young people are listening. Some poor kid might think that having a baby-daddy instead of a father is actually OK.
And what's the deal with the traffic announcer? He goes by the name of Marco Otero, and he sounds as though Howard Stern is trying to be scatological by channeling Pedro de Pacas. The other day, he was talking, in a thick accent, about a "cone-st-russian pro-yect."
There are only two possible explanations. Either he really talks like that, in which case they're making fun of him. Or he doesn't talk like that, in which case they're making fun of people who do.
Nobody expects morning drive-time radio to aim high, but this is pretty sad.
· BEST CD: Once Again by John Legend. In a music scene dominated by one-name, completely indistinguishable female singers and hip-hop male poseurs, Legend is almost shockingly and uniquely talented. A piano virtuoso who attended an Ivy League school (Penn) and writes all of his own material, Legend is a latter-day Marvin Gaye, and my praise doesn't come any higher than that.
· BEST DVD RELEASE: The Little Mermaid. My daughter and I watched the old VHS tape until it wore out, and my girls' basketball team uses "Under Da Sea" during warm-ups. This is a treasure, and it's about damn time Disney opened its vaults.