Jon Stewart on the death of Borders bookstores
It was a wild year, but while politicians may come and go, The Daily Show confronted an even bigger change in August: the possible death of the bookstore itself. When Borders declared bankruptcy, Jon Stewart asked correspondent John Hodgman whether any bookstore could survive new competition from the Kindle, the Nook, and a gazillion ebooks -- in one of the most brilliant segments of the year. "There's stuff bookstores can do," Stewart insisted, "that the internet can't."
"Oh, you mean like shelter the homeless?"
"I'm talking about having authors visit stores!" Stewart replies.
"Oh, well now we're just splitting hairs..."
Community's big premiere
The sitcom entered its third season with style -- an all-cast musical number promising "We're gonna have more fun and be less weird than the first two years combined...." Thank the writers from Scrubs, who've transported that show's unexpected musical numbers into NBC's even-stranger community college. Or maybe it's just their way of mocking Glee, which received an Emmy nomination in 2010 for "Outstanding Comedy Series" -- while Community received none.
So far Jeff and Annie haven't actually slept together (as this musical number promises). But then again, the whole number was Jeff's fantasy, which probably explains the complete absence of Chevy Chase's character, Pierce!
The Muppets on Dancing with the Stars
The dance number's judges turn out to be Statler and Waldorf -- who decide to heckle Dancing with the Stars instead. Even Gonzo showed up, hassling the show's announcer Tom Bergeron, as the muppets hijacked the prime time show to plug their new movie.
It'd been more than two decades since the death of Jim Henson, so it marked a triumphant return to TV. Yes, the season had other triumphs -- like the grace (and ultimate victory) of J. R. Martinez, an Iraq war veteran who suffered burns in 2003, only to launch a successful acting career on All My Children. But after 9 weeks of other performances with varying degrees of charm -- from Ricki Lake to Chaz Bono -- it was refreshing when the show ditched its old format altogether, and turned the show over to a stage-full of cute, singing puppets.
Erica Kane's final All My Children
After more than 40 years, All My Children aired its final episode. So what exactly happened to the soap opera's ultimate villain, Erica Kane? At a crowded party, she's still insisting that she doesn't want to get married, but when former lover Jackson Montgomery starts to leave, she blurts out "Please don't go! I need you!" And she sets herself up perfectly for a long-deserved come-uppance.
"Frankly, Erica," he replies, "I don't give a damn what you need."
As soap opera fans cheered, Erica blurted out "This is not the ending I want," in a kind of meta comment, as the show continued its twists to the very end. "You'll never get him back," warns heroine Opal Cortlandt. "Just watch me," retorts Erica with determination. And then a gun fires into the crowded room, ending the show with the ultimate cliff-hanger ending -- wait, who just got shot?
The writers apparently just refused to give up, and they're reportedly hoping to simply continue telling this story in a new cable series called Prospect Park.
Jon Cryer on Conan O'Brien.
Charlie Sheen's epic meltdown in 2011 was matched only by its lack of any real entertainment value. Fortunately, there was an even more bizarre commentary from his Two and a Half Men co-star, Jon Cryer. In a dramatic appearance, Cryer takes the stage on Conan O'Brien's show, and responds to the way Sheen lumped him -- and all of those questioning his manic brilliance -- under the pejorative name "trolls". Cryer's response is classy, strange, and ultimately not what you'd expect. But it effectively demonstrates the complete futility of trying to respond to the world according to Charlie Sheen.
James Durbin vs. American Idol
It became a weird season, since the two finalists were both country singers. But judge Jennifer Lopez once argued the show could spawn several idols, in different genres -- floored by their variety of styles. (At one point, jazz singer Casey Abrams actually sang Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit", though his best moment was probably a jazz duet with top-three finisher Haley Reinhart.) But the most inspiring story was James Durbin, who suffered from both Asperger and Tourette syndromes. His father -- also a musician -- died of a drug overdose when James was 9, but by 22 James had developed the professional-sounding voice of a rock star. Ironically, James was voted off right after he sang "Don't Stop Believing," but though he only reached the top 4, he proved that his radio-ready voice could transform even a stupid song like "Love Potion #9" into something that rocked.
Celebrity Apprentice showdown: Meat Loaf vs. Star Jones
Donald Trump had booted 11 contestants already, leaving just five hungry celebrities fighting for new fame. Meat Loaf had already screamed in rage at Gary Busey, while Star Jones managed to make everyone hate her, including Real Housewife of Atlanta Nene Leakes. Now trapped together on Week 12's losing team, both Star Jones and Meat Loaf blamed the other, as they faced a potentially career-killing question -- who'd be fired?
Star Jones was a former lawyer turned talk show host. (Or, as one blogger called her, "that woman who ruined The View.") Meat Loaf was just a big-hearted but increasingly exhausted 63-year-old former metal star. But in the lobby, the oily lawyer ran up against his almost boyishly passionate insistence on a fair hearing, as she'd tried to argue that their loss was his fault. Soon she was trying just to end the conversation instead, eventually insisting that the former rock star just didn't have "the credentials" to talk to her. Deaf actress Marlee Matlin (also in the room) watched as her interpreter tried frantically to sign the entire heated -- and very satisfying -- smack-down.
Back in Trump's board room, Jones shape-shifted back into something gracious, charming, articulate....and fired.
"Dinner with the Kings"
Larry King, CNN's famous former talk show personality, announced at the age of 78 that he'd eventually like to have his body frozen, so that he can be thawed out and given a second shot at life, even 200 years into the future. It was just one of many surprises in a fascinating televised dinner party broadcast on CNN in December, where the seven guests included Quincy Jones, Seth MacFarlane, and Shaquille O'Neal. This was the year King ceded his interview show to Piers Morgan, but he proved he still knew how to draw out his guests. Tyra Banks, Conan O'Brien, and even the founder of Twitter revealed that they still struggled with insecurity.
And at one point, King even learned that a pair of his wife's panties had just been stolen by Russell Brand!