My Top Ten in 2009 Pop Culture

2009 was an unusual year for me with relation to my beloved pasttimes. For the first time in my life, I favored holding out for DVDs rather than heading to the cinema during the opening weeks of a movie, and of the films that were released, very few seemed interesting in the first place. I did not complete a single book all year, though I attempted a few, and my music taste was a complete reversal of the past 20 years of my life. For a long time I blamed these things on the devolution of entertainment, citing such tastemakers as American Idol, Jerry Bruckheimer and Oprah for the continued dumbing-down of audiences and ever-shortening attention spans of consumers. And while I still believe they are a large part of what is wrong with entertainment and the popular choices in America, I also wonder if some of it can be contributed to my shift into the middle years of life. I’m just not interested in what is popular right now. Still, I don’t believe it has as much to do with how old I am as with how inferior entertainment has become compared to what I have always known in my life. Sure, that makes me sound like my parents, but I’ve begun to see what they meant by it. And I, like them, won’t apologize. 2009 did not even provide me enough good things to compile my usual year-end review, so I offer instead my personal Top Ten in Pop Culture. These are the things that made my days more fun this year. And here’s to a better 2010!

my personal #10 of 2009 Pop Culture NCIS:LA — Favorite New Television Show.   Like movies, I’m finding less and less of interest in new television series, preferring instead to keep up with old favorites. What makes NCIS:LA so special to me is that it actually improved upon the original by adding great, quirky characters… and LL Cool J. And sure, the premise is a stretch, focusing on the “investigative” element and making the “Navy” part almost irrelevant, but it’s great fun and there is more chemistry between Chris O’Donnell and Cool J than between most male/female counterparts on television. And that’s truly refreshing to see.
my personal #9 of 2009 Pop Culture “Empire State of Mind, Part II (Broken Down)” by Alicia Keys.   I found very little music during this year that I can foresee as standing the test of time… or, at least, becoming part of my Life Soundtrack. But this song by Alicia Keys is likely to do just that. I will always remember the first moment I heard it — on a live telecast from Yankee Stadium during the World Series, and not before then because I had already given up pop radio by that time — and since I’m not a fan of Jay-Z, I was happy to find that Ms. Alicia reworked her portion of the song and added it to her 2009 album. “Empire” is just one of those songs that never gets old and sounds just as smooth live as it does from the CD. Definitely one of my music highlights for the year.
my personal #8 of 2009 Pop Culture Battlestar GalacticaSeries finales of Battlestar Galactica and Prison Break.   With television executives notoriously finicky and ever-more-jittery each year, it’s very rare for a series to get a complete run and be able to wrap up their stories to conclusion. Thankfully, two of my long-running favorites were able to do just that this year. Battlestar Galactica had a long-term plan in place, allowing its producers to set their own timeline and go out on their own schedule. Prison Break was not so fortunate but they were given sufficient notice and allowed to create a finale that satisfied their story. Neither of these series featured the completion I hoped for, neither actually measured up to my own personal expectations, but I was happy to finish the ride and do so at my own pace, thanks to DVR. I held onto the final 8 episodes of Prison Break until mid-summer, in fact, just because I wasn’t quite ready to let go of the characters. BSG, on the other hand, felt much more urgent to me, and though a bit disappointing in some areas, did feel complete by the end. I love that I can forever revisit either of these series at any time and watch their stories from beginning to end without ever feeling cheated. And in the current state of entertainment, that is a rare gift indeed.
my personal #7 of 2009 Pop Culture Terminator Salvation — Favorite Film of the Year.   Now don’t get me wrong; by no means do I believe that Terminator Salvation was the BEST film I saw in 2009. Absolutely not. That category belongs to such movies as District 9, Julie & Julia, (500) Days of Summer, and Slumdog Millionaire, which was technically from 2008 but I saw it this year. Instead, what puts Terminator at the top of my list is that I loved it the most. It’s the one film that I will likely watch again and again and again throughout my life. The reason for that is simple: it took a story that I remotely enjoyed (with its just-tolerable Schwarzenegger) and elevated it beyond its origins; it featured two remarkable actors who didn’t step over each other in their performances (Christian Bale and Sam Worthington); and it surprised me with the layers of the story it told. I would now actually look forward to more Terminator sequels, which I couldn’t say prior to this film. And for me, that’s the criteria for a favorite. Pure and simple.
my personal #6 of 2009 Pop Culture Google Reader.   What I ever did before RSS readers, I honestly don’t know, but Google’s version has changed the way I use the internet. Which I think is pretty cool. I say, let everyone, everywhere start a blog! It’s never been simpler to keep up with them.
Twitter.   Whereas Facebook is great for the keeping-up with people, Twitter is the best for those of us who love at-the-moment interaction in concise posts meant to invite conversation. Or at least comments. Never before has it been easier to get tidbits about celebrities, for instance, and certainly not from the celebrities themselves. But Twitter has opened that door to Hollywood in a way no other social medium has before. And for pop culture enthusiasts like me, that’s pure joy.
Country Music.   Back in January, when I first began stepping my toes back into country music, I never would have dreamed it would last all year. But my ever-increasing irritation with the lack of good pop music (and far too much American Idol influence) led me to keep listening to country radio, which I discovered was far better than anything I heard on my last foray into the genre during the mid-90s. Country music is now much closer to what I loved as a child, and the artists are once again “artists”. Aside from the Disney element (read: Taylor Swift), there are some really great artists coming out of Nashville these days, and I have found great love for the likes of Sugarland, Lady Antebellum, Keith Urban, and even Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood, after much holdout on my part. My car radio rarely leaves the country stations anymore, and that suits me just fine. So I look forward to continued enjoyment of the genre and finding even more artists to love in years to come. Not to mention the release of a far-too-long-overdue album by Christian Kane in 2010. Because, in the end, all credit for “going country” ultimately belongs to him.
Clayne CrawfordClayne Crawford.   It’s been far too long since I “discovered” an actor and set out to watch every single role he ever played, but Clayne Crawford made me do just that. He captivated me in 2009 like Colin Farrell and Neal McDonough did years before him, and I spent all summer and fall tracking down all of Clayne’s work. I discovered that I’d been watching him in TV guest spots throughout the entire decade without once really zoning in on him. It took a fight scene on Leverage, against real-life best friend Christian Kane, to make me really notice him, but that’s all it took. Once I tuned in, I was hooked on this Alabama boy with the long country drawl and high-wattage smile. 2010 looks to continue my interest, as he’s already filmed TV roles in 24 and Burn Notice, as well as several movies coming to DVD early in the year. I’m always excited for more opportunities to see the actors I love, but I’m even more excited when they begin getting better roles and more exposure. 2010 looks to be that kind of year for Clayne Crawford, which is just a huge bonus for me.
The World Champion New York Yankees.   I’ve been rooting the Yankees on for most of my adult life, and I’ve stuck with them through some terrible post-seasons and even worse ridicule from friends and family. But I knew my devotion would pay off in ways that Cubs’ fans never see: a return to Champion status. This year was pure delight for this baseball-loving girl, and the post-season was simply icing. I loved seeing my favorite players Derek Jeter and Andy Pettite return to glory with their team, and I especially loved seeing Alex Rodriguez finally get his head into the game and leave his baggage off the field. I’m a Yankees fan, and I never apologize for that. How fun to finally be able to back up my devotion with more than just a love of the game!
GleeGLEE — Most Surprising Favorite of the Year.   When the first episode of Glee aired in May, I watched because it seemed such an unusual addition to the television landscape. A teen drama filled with musical interludes? How would that ever fly in the current TV climate? By the end of that first hour, I was intrigued but not hooked. Then, as summer progressed and the network aired innumerable promos for its fall return, I began to find myself looking forward to it, even anticipating it with excitement. When it finally did return, it came with a bang and began to invade all areas of my pop culture world. I downloaded the songs from every episode. I replayed specific scenes from the week. I talked about it at work the day after each airing. And I fell more and more in love with the characters (as well as one of the lead actors, Matthew Morrison) and the purity of what the show had set out to do. The beauty of Glee is that it never takes itself too seriously. And the talent of its cast, both musical and dramatic, is richer than any talent/variety/reality show that has ever been on the air. The stories told are relevant and current, but each one is presented with enough subtlety that I never find offense, even when the topics go against my own personal beliefs. Glee is simply a joy to watch, and more than the show itself, the music of Glee is better than anything that comes out of the industry today. I can’t imagine there will ever be another show that can duplicate what Glee has created, and I absolutely love being along for the ride.
Honorable Mention:
Flash Forward — I didn’t really want to jump into another convoluted serial like Lost, but the premise of this show hooked me immediately. And thankfully, its producers have a plan mapped out, so I felt much better about tuning in. So far, it’s been great fun, and I love getting answers without waiting years for them. I think I even like it more than Lost, simply for that reason.
The Blind Side — I really dislike sappy movies, and all those true stories of sports teams/coaches/athletes overcoming great odds really do bore me. But The Blind Side did a great thing in its trailer: it showed the unsentimental Sandra Bullock characterization of Leigh Ann Tuohy. In the end, I loved the film for telling a great story without schmaltz and for the subtlety that Bullock showed in playing such a formidable woman. I hope she’ll play more roles like this that allow her to rely on acting over physical comedy. She’s far better than we ever get to see her play.
Big Bang TheoryThe Big Bang Theory — Friends told me to watch this sitcom for years but I never listened. For one, it’s a sitcom. And I dislike sitcoms. But I finally gave it a chance this year because of its sci-fi-geek elements, because of its in-jokes for nerds like me. This was the rare occasion when I was wrong in my first impression of a series. Of course, I have read that Big Bang Theory didn’t actually get its legs until the second season, so had I begun watching from the beginning I might never have stuck it out. But now I can see its greatness, and I love that the humor is not stupid nor dumbed-down like most sitcoms on TV today. I am convert, and I have apologized to everyone I ignored in the past. It truly is a great comedy with fantastic characters. Which is rare and such a treat for me.
Dark Blue — Typically, summer series are not meant to be that good, so when one of them transcends my low expectations, I am very excited. With Dark Blue, I was hooked for good within its first ten minutes, and the remaining episodes of the season just drew me further and further in. Each hour is like a mini-movie, complete with undercover ops, gunplay, explosions and interpersonal character drama as good as anything I’ve seen in the cinema for years. Dylan McDermott surprised me the most by being dark and gritty and very convincing as a detective with questionable ethics, and Logan Marshall-Green grabbed me immediately with his steely, in-your-face persona. Not to mention the surprise guest appearance by Clayne Crawford! Dark Blue‘s weekly stories are pure crime drama, and the series was a perfect second hour to my beloved Leverage on TNT. Of all the shows I look forward to returning, those are the two I miss the most. Bring on the new year!

images from YahooTV, WireImage, and Internet Movie Database

About Jules Q

sharing stories of life, faith, and love for pop culture

Posted on 31 December 2009, in Lists I Keep and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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