Monday, 31 December 2012
I think fewer celebrities died in 2012 than in 2009, 2010, or 2011, but the year saw much bigger names pass. Indeed, for me 2012 will always be the year that Davy Jones died. His death is one of only a few before (John Lennon, John Entwistle, and Doug Fieger) that impacted me as if someone I knew personally had died. I still find myself on the edge of tears. The simple fact is that I have always been a huge Monkees fan, and while Mike Nesmith is my favourite Monkee, I always loved Davy as well.
Of course, while Davy may have been the biggest name for me to have died, he was by far not the only one. As I said earlier, if fewer celebrities died this year, the names were bigger, with actors who saw success in multiple media. We might think of them primarily as the stars of legendary TV shows, but Andy Griffith, Jack Klugman, Larry Hagman, Ernest Borgnine, and Henry Morgan all saw success in motion pictures as well. Some of them even saw success on the Broadway stage. With regards to television, several other actors best known for their work in that medium also died, including Jonathan Frid, Sherman Hemsley, George Lindsey (Goober on The Andy Griffith Show), Ben Gazzara (another actor who had success in film and on stage as well, but perhaps best known for _Run For Your Life_), Richard Dawson, Frank Cady, Mary Tamm, Peter Breck, and Caroline John. The year also saw the passing of Dick Clark, a giant in American television. Not only was he the host of American Bandstand for years, but he was also a producer responsible for many shows of the year. Twenty twelve also saw the passing of Gerry Anderson, who was responsible for such shows as Thunderbirds, U.F.O., and Space: 1999. William Asher, perhaps best known as the producer of Bewitched, also died this year.
Twenty twelve also saw the deaths of several movie stars, of which my favourite was Ann Rutherford. She was one of my childhood crushes and, not only was she was a talented actress, but everyone I know who had met her has said she was one of the nicest people one could meet. Miss Rutherford was one of the last links to the Golden Age of Hollywood. One of the last links to the Golden Age of British Cinema would die this year as well. Dinah Shelton not saw success in British film, but also later on television as well. Herbert Lom was one of the last remaining links to the Golden Age on either side of the Atlantic, an actor who saw success in both the UK and the US, and in both television and film as well. Like Herbert Lom, Jean Simmons was also a link to both the Golden Ages of Hollywood and British Cinema, having starred in several classic films on both sides of the Pond. Several other movie stars died during the year, including Celeste Holm, William Windom, Michael Clarke Duncan, Victor Spinetti, and Dorothy McGuire all died as well.
Davy Jones was not the only famous musical performer to die during the year. Levon Helm founded one of the most legendary bands of all time, The Band. Jon Lord was with Deep Purple in its heyday, having previously played with The Artwoods and late Whitesnake. Robin Gibb was one of The Bee Gees, who produced a string of hits in the Sixties and Seventies (although I like to forget their years spent in disco). Dave Brubeck was a legend in modern jazz. The year also saw the passing of two legendary crooners, Tony Martin and Andy Williams.
It was also a year when legendary artists died. While Moebius was known to the general public for his work in film, he was responsible for the legendary Western comic strip Les Aventures de Blueberry. Sheldon Moldoff was a Golden Age comic book artist, known for his work on "Batman" and "Hawkman" and who created the character The Black Pirate. Joe Kubert was also known for his work on "Hawkman," although perhaps better known as the creator of Sgt. Rock.
Twenty twelve also saw the passing of several writers. Perhaps there was no bigger name than Ray Bradbury, the fantasist who wrote such classics as Something Wicked This Way Comes and The Martian Chronicles. Gore Vidal, who worked in the Golden Age of Television and then went onto write several historical novels, also died. Nora Ephron made her name with her essays and articles before writing screenplays for filmssuch as When Harry Met Sally and You've Got Mail. Maurice Sendak was a writer and illustrator of children's books, most notably Where The Wild Things Are. Helen Gurley Brown was the editor of Cosmopolitan for years and the author of several books.
Of course, 2012 was more than just a year of deaths. In fact, I might also remember it as the "Year of Viral Songs That I Hate." In the summer "Call Me Maybe" was played to the point of nauseating those of us who didn't like the song from the start. In the autumn, as if to prove to us that there could be something worse, "Gangnam Style" became a global phenomenon. Fortunately there was still some good music out there. Released in late 2011, "Everybody Talks" by Neon Trees proved there was still an audience for power pop, hitting #6 on the Billboard Hot 100 early in the year. "We Are Young" by fun was actually released in September 2011, but it would not take off until this year. In the end it hit the #1 spot in the Billboard Hot 100. These two songs give me hope that rock might once more overtake the record charts that of late have been dominated by rather generic pop and rhythm and blues. That's not to say that there are not good R&B acts out there. I actually enjoy much of Adele's work.
As far as movies go, 2012 appears to have been dominated by characters who have been around for decades. The two top films of the year thus far were Marvels' The Avengers (one of who, Captain America, has been around since the Forties) and The Dark Knight Rises (featuring Batman, who has been around since 1939). Skyfall came in as the fourth highest grossing film of the year so far, becoming the highest grossing James Bond film of all time. The recently released The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is the eighth highest grossing film. Beyond the fact that characters who have been around for fifty, sixty, and even seventy years dominating the box office, it would seem that the year was dominated by what can only be described as epics. The two top grossing superhero movies were epic in scope, as The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey by its very nature. There was even an epic musical, Les Miserables. The box office was saw the start of a new franchise based on a series of young adult novels. The Hunger Games was the third highest grossing film of the year. For those of who do not believe real vampires sparkle, the Twilight franchise came to an end with The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2, which is very good news indeed.
I think 2012 was a fairly good year for television. Indeed, in the way of Doctor Who and Downton Abbey it seems to me that the British are making further incursions into American television. Although it did not repeat the success of Downton Abbey, Call the Midwife proved quite successful when it aired on PBS. Doctor Who has only grown in popularity in its years since its revival. What is more, The Doctor has a gorgeous new companion in the form of Jenna-Louise Coleman. Another example of what could be a British invasion of American television could be the BBC America series Copper. Although set in 1860's New York, the series was an American-British co-production. Over all I am happy with the shows that debuted on cable this year. A&E actually took a break from their horrible reality shows to air Longmire, a modern day Western mystery series. A revival of Dallas (a continuation rather than a re-envisioning) debuted on TNT. On the downside, Leverage ended its run on TNT this year after five years (it remains one of my favourite shows). Even the broadcast networks seem to be improving. While NBC's Revolution was a disappointment (poorly written and not particularly plausible), NBC gave us Chicago Fire, another show from producer Dick Wolf. CBS debuted Vegas, a show set in late Fifties/early Sixties Las Vegas that functions a combination Western and crime show. I am hoping Vegas might mean the broadcast networks might finally move beyond the bland sitcoms and lawyer shows they insist on debuting each year and into more a greater variety of types of shows.
Over all, I cannot say 2012 was a remarkable year beyond the many big names in entertainment we lost. Except for music (in which we had two bad songs hit become viral...), I don't think it can be said to be a bad year or a good year either one. Of course, as with any year good or bad, I think I can speak for us all when I say I hope 2013 is even better.