Time Magazine called it the “decade from hell,” but Entertainment Weekly argued, in its latest issue, what about the entertainment? However, they failed to make their own case.
The Aughts really was a bad decade for mainstream entertainment. Although not, certainly, for entertainment overall. This was, after all, the decade when TV and music became more accessible, thanks to the Internet and DVRs, and by digging a little deeper, a determined person was able to keep from being bored.
Still, EW is compromising when they put out a Best of the Decade issue. They want to sell magazines (but not to the point where they are TV Guide), but they also want to write about what’s good (but not to the point where they are John’s Blog).
Reading about the Best of the Decade reminded me of how many popular things I was alienated from in the Aughts (quite a change from the ’90s, when I felt plugged in to mainstream music, I wanted to see just about every blockbuster, and the phrase “must-see TV” wasn’t a joke).
Out of EW’s top 10 entertainers, movies and TV shows of the decade, I agreed with three choices in each category. Indeed, I felt like I connected to about 30 percent of what was popular this decade.
I agreed with these choices:
J.K. Rowling — The “Harry Potter” books are good reading, and they hold up on repeat readings, or audiobook listenings, or movie-adaptation viewings.
J.J. Abrams — Not because of “Lost,” which I think is a great concept with mediocre execution, but because of “Fringe.” Plus, he had a hand in “Six Degrees” and “What About Brian,” and he made a “Star Trek” movie that was completely watchable.
For my third “agreement” in the entertainers category, I’ll give one-half point to Beyonce and one-half point to Jon Stewart. I don’t own any Beyonce albums and I’ve never gone out of my way to watch “The Daily Show,” but I do think “Crazy in Love” was a great pop tune and Stewart’s news-comedy blend pioneered a new way of getting news. It’s just that I leaned toward Dennis Miller before his show was canceled, and now I’m a “Chelsea Lately” guy (although, of course, that’s mostly entertainment news. No big loss, though: We’re all living the bad news in 2009, so it’s redundant to watch it on TV, too).
“The 40 Year-Old Virgin,” “Lost in Translation” and “Almost Famous” — All profound and funny movies. I have an urge to watch “Almost Famous” about once a year, and generally I’m a “once is enough” guy, even with good movies. “Translation” is a great example of a place (Tokyo) becoming a character, plus you’ve got Bill Murray (also great this decade in “Broken Flowers”). “40 Year-Old” marked Judd Apatow’s transition from brilliant TV guy (“Freaks and Geeks”) to brilliant movie guy, and it solidified Steve Carell as a great comic actor. Murray, Apatow and Carell all should’ve been entertainers of the decade over some of the people EW picked.
“Arrested Development,” “The Office” (U.K.) and “Gilmore Girls” — If memory serves, EW never gave a cover to any of these shows. They spent most of the Oughts supporting “24,” “Lost” and — until it morphed from bad-show-in-disguise to just-plain-bad — “Heroes.” But within the pages, EW always supported these quirky gems. “Arrested” and the original “Office” are excellent representatives of the non-laugh-track humor that defined this decade (one could also make a case for “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “Futurama,” “Family Guy,” “Always Sunny” and the new “Office,” not to mention “The Simpsons,” which started back in the ’80s, amazingly). “Gilmore Girls” didn’t redefine TV (seven years of that rapid-fire dialogue was enough, I guess), but it sure was a lovable show.
I disagreed with these choices:
Johnny Depp — Nice guy, I’m sure. Probably a brilliant actor, too. But I just remember having a low-grade headache during “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl,” and “Finding Neverland” is a classic example of utterly dull Oscar bait.
Simon Cowell — He’s already a millionaire just for being an ass on TV; EW didn’t need to honor him as if he’s some sort of artist. People like “American Idol” because it’s a launching pad for new musicians, not because of the judges (at least that’s what I like to tell myself).
Peter Jackson and “The Lord of the Rings” — Speaking of headaches during long movies. In fairness, I did have a good time at “King Kong,” and his new movie, “The Lovely Bones,” looks good (I’ll assume it’s not his fault that the preview completely spoils the movie — that’s a ’00s trend I could certainly do without).
“The Dark Knight” — It doesn’t have the repeat-viewing value to make a list like this, thanks to that redundant-upon-arrival Two-Face plotline. “Batman Begins” is actually a much better film (as were “Garden State” — yeah, I know it’s been backlashed off of most top-10 lists by now, but I still love it — “Ghost World,” “Sideways,” “Napoleon Dynamite,” “V for Vendetta,” “School of Rock” and “I Love You, Man”).
“Lost” — I’ve watched every episode (regardless of what’s happened since, the pilot episode is a masterpiece) and I’ve read a lot about why I should love “Lost,” but I don’t love “Lost.” I appreciate certain things about it, like the flashbacks and the flash-forwards, but at least two entire seasons (the Tailies season and the Oceanic Six season) were filler, and while I can appreciate the acting, I feel disconnected from pretty much all of the characters now.
If this is truly a “best of the decade” issue (and not the “most talked-about of the decade”), then “Lost” should give way to “Once and Again,” “Veronica Mars,” all of Joss Whedon’s catalogue (notably “Firefly”), “Futurama,” “Dead Like Me,” “Wonderfalls,” “Friday Night Lights” and “Fringe.”
What’s especially notable about the Aughts is how many “best of” items I had no opinion about one way or another (because the material didn’t grab me in the first place): Tina Fey (I know everyone loves “30 Rock,” but I just don’t see the appeal), Justin Timberlake, Oprah Winfrey, the women of “Sex and the City,” John Lasseter (representing the animated movie explosion, I imagine), Will Smith (a good actor, but look closer at his resume and ask if he did “best of the decade”-quality films), Meryl Streep, “Brokeback Mountain,” “Gladiator,” “WALL-E,” “Moulin Rouge!,” “The Sopranos” (what an utterly depressing concept for a show), “The Daily Show,” “American Idol” (I like some of the music produced by the winners, but I can’t imagine sitting through an episode), “The Shield,” Kanye West, Jay-Z, Radiohead, OutKast and the Dixie Chicks.
But my disillusionment from EW’s choices actually sums up the decade very well. The Aughts marked a time when the mainstream alienated a lot of us, but it was also a decade with a lot of options outside the mainstream (thank goodness).
Ten years from now it might be impossible to put out an issue like this. By then, the notion of a common zeitgeist to rally around will be a thing of the past. That’s kind of sad, and also kind of cool.
What are your picks for the best of the ’00s?
And, on a more profound note, what will the Aughts be remembered for (like the ’60s had the Beatles, the ’70s had all those colorful fashions and styles, the ’80s had “Star Wars” and metal and the ’90s had “Seinfeld” and irony). Off the top of my head, I guess the ’00s could be defined by reality TV, but that’s not something to take pride in, so I’m open to better suggestions.