Twenty ten is coming to a close and with the decade I call the Naughts. I'll talk more about the decade tomorrow, but today I thought I would discuss 2010 itself.
Last year I proclaimed 2009 to be the Year of Death. Now I know that I spoke too soon. If ever there was a Year of Death, it was 2010. I suspect more important figures from pop culture have died this year than any other. We lost some major stars in film, many from the Golden Age of Hollywood, including Jean Simmons, director Eric Rohmer, Lionel Jeffries, Kathryn Grayson, Lynn Redgrave, Dennis Hopper, Patricia Neal, director Clive Donner, Kevin McCarthy, director Arthur Penn, Gloria Stewart, director Roy Ward Baker, Sir Norman Wisdom, producer Dino DeLaurentiis, Ingrid Pitt, and director Blake Edwards. In television such figures passed as Gumby creator Art Clokey, Pernell Roberts, producer Aaron Ruben, Peter Graves, Robert Culp, John Forsythe, Allen Swift (the voice of Simon Barsinsiter and Riff Raff), Dixie Carter, Art Linkletter, Rue McClanahan, Peter Fernandez (the voice of Speed Racer), Maury Chaykin, writer Jackson Gillis, Bonanza creator David Dortort, newsman Edwin Newman, Harold Gould, producer Stephen J. Cannell, actor and producer William Self, Tom Bosley, Barbara Billingsley, James MacArthur, and Jill Clayburgh. The field of music saw the passing of guitarist Mick Green, Dale Hawkins, founder and leader of Type O Negative Peter Steele, Lena Horne, Ronnie James Dio, Paul Gray of Slipknot, Robert Wilson of The Gap Band, bassist Peter Quaife of legendary rock band The Kinks, and Eddie Fisher. In the realm of literature, comic books, comic strips and art, Robert B. Parker, J. D. Salinger, comic book legend Dick Giordano, legendary artist Frank Frazetta, Modesty Blaise creator Peter O'Donnell, legendary EC Comics artists Al Williamson, and underground comics creator Harvey Pekar.
At times this year I felt as if it was not enough for the Grim Reaper to take many of my favourite actors, writers, musicians, and artists. She had to take some of those I loved the most. Fess Parker had a huge impact on my young life, as Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett. Much of what I learned about honour, I learned from Daniel and Davy. Tony Curtis was one of my favourite actors of all time, a master of epic movies and comedies. As much as I mourned over Messrs. Parker and Curtis, however, they would not be the men I mourned over the most. Leslie Nielsen was one of my favourite actors from childhood. As a child he was the handsome leading man, playing in Forbidden Planet and the Disney mini-series The Swamp Fox. As I reached adulthood he became a master comic actor, giving me many hours of laughter. I cry when I think he is gone. By far the worst death for me, however, was the passing of Doug Fieger, leader and founder of The Knack. I was so upset the day he died I could not write his eulogy in this blog right away. Try as I might, I would start crying. And the crying would not stop for some days. Not since John Lennon, George Harrsion, and John Entwistle passed had I mourned a musician so. Quite simply, The Knack was my second favourite American band of all time (second only after Cheap Trick), and only a few musicians had as huge an impact on my life as Doug Fieger.
In movies the big news was 3-D. In fact, it is difficult to find a major motion picture that was not released in 3-D in 2010. Certainly most animated films and sci-fi/fantasy epics seem to be released in 3-D these days. While many seem to enjoy the format, I am personally hoping it is a fad. While many films are impressive in 3-D, with many other films it just seems unnecessary. As has been typical of the past few years, there were many remakes and sequels. In fact, of the highest grossing films thus far this year, five were sequels and one was a remake. Worst of the remakes were those of horror movies, whether classic (The Crazies) or definitely not classic (Friday the Thirteenth). Fortunately, the year would end well, with a movie that many thought was a remake but was actually another adaptation of a popular novel. The Coen Brother's True Grit is worth the full price of admission.
As far as television, the best new shows all seemed to be on cable. The Walking Dead continued AMC's winning streak begun with Breaking Bad and Mad Men. Showtime scored big with Spartacus: Blood and Sand and Pillars of the Earth. If Laugh In was around, NBC would surely have received the Flying Fickle Finger of Fate Award. Twice. The first time would be for returning continuously unfunny Jay Lenno to and bumping Conan O'Brien from The Tonight Show. Not surprisingly, Leno's ratings are lower than Conan's. Even more surprisingly, NBC has not booted Leno off the show yet. The second time would be for cancelling Law and Order, right when it was poised to break the record set by Gunsmoke as longest running drama on American television. The show was still popular and only needed one more season to break the record! The 2010-2011 season as been unimpressive thus far on American broadcast network television, and the film industry's taste for remakes seems to have reached the broadcast networks. ABC returned their remake of V this season, while CBS debuted remakes of Hawaii Five-O and The Defenders.
In music in 2010, Billboard seemed to be dominated by R&B artists such as Rihanna and Usher. Lady GaGA (who defies genre classification) and Katy Perry also continued their dominance of the charts. Taylor Swift continued as the only country artist to enjoy superstardom (I think it's the movie star good looks, myself). Rock music is still alive and well, with top albums by such artists as Bruce Springsteen and Kings of Leon. Rap, with the exception of Eminem, seems to be dying (thank heavens for that).
Over all 2010 was not a stand out year. Movies were dominated by remakes and sequels, a trend which seems to be creeping into television as well. Nothing particularly impressive emerged in the field of music, aside perhaps from the dominance of Lady GaGa. If the year stands out at all it is for a particularly sad reason. I was wrong. Twenty aught nine was not the year of death. It was twenty ten. It is a sad trend that so many of the greats of movies, television, and music are passing. Sadly, I am not sure it is a trend that will end soon.