Every year around this time, media of all kinds come together to spew forth various lists of the things they deem Best and Worst of the past 12 months. These lists are invariably broken into various categories—Movies! Books! Guys named Dave!—and you could probably wade deep into January in reading all of them. However, there is one niche in the proverbial market that I have yet to see tapped: the Best/Worst list. This doesn’t mean a list of both the Best and the Worst things of this particular orbit, rather it means a list of things that simultaneously exhibit qualities of being Best/Worst. For example: eating ice cream = the Best! Getting stung by a bee = the Worst! Getting stung by a bee while eating ice cream = Best/Worst! You get the idea.
Over the next five days, I'll be listing the five Best/Worst things of 2011. Some caveats: most of what I’m about to cover here has already been covered at length by people who are a) paid to cover it for a living, and b) smarter than I am. So with those grains of salt in place, let’s get to it, by listing some honorable mentions.
The NFL and the NCAA— These are obviously two separate entries, but they’re sort of lumped together in my mind. They both take up a rather large chunk of the American sporting landscape. They both rake in planet-sized piles of money. They both spent significant time doing things that would easily qualify them for a Worst list. The NFL, for example, spent a few months wasting everyone’s time with a lockout over… um… something? Meanwhile, they keep yammering on about player safety, yet the Steelers still exist.
|This... doesn't look safe.|
The NCAA, meanwhile, is one of the most inane and hypocritical institutions in American life. NCAA football and basketball are incredibly profitable. Heaven forbid the players should see any profit from it! Egads! And the lack of stern leadership at the top means that you’re seeing all of this conference realignment ridiculousness, and there’s no one who can stand up and say, “stop that.”
|For example: the Big "East" Conference|
Also: the BCS. However, it is difficult for me to find concrete categories in which I can call either of these institutions Best. I’m not going to call football the Best sport. It’s not. And I’m not going to call the NCAA Best because of its tireless efforts to promote “student/atheletes.” Bottom line, these two don’t get in.
That said, if you want to see the concepts of “football,” “NCAA,” “Best,” and “Worst” wrapped up in a single place, look no further.
|I could watch this all day. Also: I got this from here.|
Twitter— I enjoy Twitter for a lot of the stuff it does well; provide pop-culture humor and silly memes, as well as allow fans to connect with the things they like at a level unheard of five years ago. And I don’t think its founders ever envisioned that the platform (or its co-conspirator, Facebook) would become a globally relevant force for international political upheavals. But at the same time, oy… such bullshit! The mediums immediacy means that utter crap can get thrown around that much faster. Fow now, this mostly seems to manifest itself in face celebrity death announcements, but mark my words, it’ll only get worse from here. Also, Twitter itself has been going up and down repeatedly as I type all this. What the hell, Twitter? What. The hell.
The Muppets— I know, I know, it sounds like heresy, but hear me out. Look, the movie was good. It was super-adorable from start to finish. It had great songs, thanks in no small part to Brett MacKenzie). There were copious amounts of Amy Adams. Oh, and they spent the whole year leading up to the movie by releasing a series of fantastic viral trailers. Total Best.
For some reason, the emotional core of the movie revolved around the new characters: Adams, Jason Segal, and the new Muppet, Walter. And… how can I put this politely? All of those folks were fairly far down on the list of “characters in this movie that I care about.” Could those characters have made a fine movie on their own? Potentially. However, this was a Muppet movie, which meant that there were, you know, Muppets in it. And wouldn’t you know it, I cared more about them than anyone else. Instead, the movie sidelined the Muppets for a great deal of the movie’s climax.
|Pictured: Not Kermit; don't care|
Oh, and they kind of ignored the elephant in the room: the fact that Kermit was clearly responsible for screwing the situation up in the first place. Worst!
Whew. Thanks for letting me get that off my chest.
Saturday Night Live—Oh, SNL. How can you have so much talent, but consistently suck so badly? Look at the cast—the only real duds are Fred Armisen (who isn’t really horrible, he just needs to move on, or at the very least, hand over the reins of the Obama impression to Jay Pharoh), and Kristen Wiig. Yeah, I said it, Kristen Wiig. Look, in movies, Wiig is hilarious. We knew this well before Bridesmaids came along. However, in SNL, she’s somehow been relegated to playing the same crappy characters over and over again.
The overuse of recurring characters has plagued SNL for a long time, but dear God. Memo to Lorne Michaels: no one needs to see Wiig’s weird Laurence Welk singer again, ever. The Secret Word sketch is done. Gilly (who seems to have been retired) was a desolate stretch of anti-comedy. Yet the show keeps running her out there, repeating the same formulaic sketches at the expense of anything funny. If it’s not repeated sketches, it’s repeated concepts: talk shows, celebrity impression parades (the Katy Perry show had two of these in a row), or game shows. Meanwhile, the weekly guest hosts are routinely misused or sidelined, these days.
SNL can still pump out the occasional gem, and their collection of overall talent rates them a Best. However, pissing that talent away earns them a solid Worst.
Okay, tomorrow we'll be back with #5 on the Best/Worst list of 2011: Dream Teams.