The moments that defined Pop Culture in 2010
It was the year of Facebook, angry Birds and Team Coco. the living dead and the undead stalked television and film. the gang from “Glee” revitalized the American musical, while “American Idol” self-destructed before our very eyes.
Life ended on the island of “Lost” — and continued, for better or for worse, on “Jersey Shore.” the iPad gave Apple a boost — as if it needed one. you had to fear the Beard and fend off the sounds of the vuvuzela. And it was hard to turn on the television without seeing a member of the Family Palin.
Those moments and others defined our popular culture in 2010:
Top pop of the year
It’s hard to deny that this was the year of Facebook. the dominant social network — started in a Harvard dorm room less than seven years ago — hit 500 million “friends” and then zoomed by year’s end to 550 million. the entertaining, smart and sexy film “The Social Network,” which professed to portray the birth of Facebook, was not only a box office hit but is the leading contender to win the Oscar for best movie. And founder Mark Zuckerberg got a lot of facetime with Oprah and on “60 Minutes” and was named Time magazine’s Person of the Year.
Rebirth of the musical
It was hard not to be utterly Glee-ful about Fox’s “Glee” in 2010. Television audiences had never warmed to music-based series (remember “Cop Rock"?), and then along came “Glee,” which — every week — frames its high school drama and comedy with a series of full-blown production numbers. over the past year, they encompassed everything musical from classic Broadway to Britney Spears and Madonna. Not only was the show a big hit in the ratings, but the cast CDs were big sellers; worldwide sales of digital music tracks hit 18.7 million and sent young people flocking to Broadway musicals. It also had one of the truly moving TV moments of the year when Kurt (Chris Colfer) sang his achingly beautiful slow version of “I want to Hold your Hand.”
Bring on the ‘Birds’
It was definitely the year of smartphone applications, and no app was bigger than the decidedly loopy “Angry Birds,” a game created by a small Finnish company that involved birds taking their revenge on an evil pig. According to the company, Rovio, people including such celebrities as Justin Bieber racked up well over 200 million minutes of play time with “Angry Birds,” making it the biggest time suck in 2010. And, you know what, it was fun.
The dead live
Just about the time you thought pop culture’s sexy vampire phase was just about over, it wasn’t. if anything, living the life of the undead was even bigger in 2010. “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse” — the third film in the series based on the books of Stephenie Meyer — toted up $300 million in sales at the multiplex and another $43 million in DVD sales. the viewership for “True Blood” continued to soar, making it the cable channel’s biggest hit ever, and the CW had an unexpected hit with the new “Vampire Diaries.” And then along came AMC’s really unexpected triumph: “The Walking Dead,” based on Robert Kirkman’s gory graphic novel. Long live the dead!
Team Coco rules
Back in 2004, when Jay Leno signed a deal to host “The Tonight Show” for five more years before turning the franchise over to Conan O’Brien, the host-in-waiting said puckishly: “Let’s just hope it gets ugly, and then we’ll have some fun.” Boy, was he right. NBC got this brilliant idea to move Jay to prime time in the fall of 2009 while going through with its deal to give Conan “Tonight.” Jay bombed (badly), and Conan bombed (not quite as badly), so the network tried to put Jay back at 11:30 p.m. the result: Leno’s reputation was besmirked, Conan got a $32 million buyout after an ugly fight and then moved to TBS, and the NBC executives behind the move got shown the door. ugly.
It’s still Snooki time
It’s hard to say exactly why, but “Jersey Shore” — MTV’s down-and-dirty reality show — retained its grip on the public consciousness for another year, even though it moved from Seaside Heights, N.J., to Miami for one season. It was hard to go out on Halloween without seeing costumes based on Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi, Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino, Paul “DJ Pauly D” Delvecchio and the rest of the gang. And the beach boys and girls kept the publicity pot bubbling by turning up on “Dancing with the Stars” (The Situation) and police blotters (Snooki).
Torture by the bay
OK, this was a local pop-culture phenomenon. but for a few weeks this fall, it was hard not to be swept up by the Beard, the Freak, the Thong and the Torture as the San Francisco Giants inexplicably swept through the playoffs and won the World Series, beating a series of heavily favored teams in the process. with a colorful crew of castoffs — and some young studs on the pitcher’s mound and behind the plate — the team captured the area’s imagination, even among folks who, in August, didn’t know Buster Posey from Buster Brown.
‘Idol’ in low gear
What to say about the year that was “American Idol"? It slumped to its lowest ratings ever and had a winner (Lee DeWyze) who was pretty much forgotten two days after he won the ninth season in may. then the show itself started to self-destruct. Head judge Simon Cowell bailed. Ellen DeGeneres, brought in to replace Paula Abdul, jumped ship, and Kara DioGuardi was pushed out. new producers were brought in to juice up the show, and after much sturm und drang behind the scenes, Jennifer Lopez and Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler were brought in to join Randy Jackson as the judges for the 2011 season. It says something when what happens behind the scenes on a TV show is more interesting than the show.
Gee, just what Apple needed: another breakout hit to go with its iPhone and iPod. that would be the iPad, introduced in January. It immediately became the next Big thing in the geek world, with Apple selling 3 million of the tablet computers in less than three months after its release. the iPad triggered a flood of apps (now reportedly more than those for the iPhone), gave a huge boost to the sale of e-books and sent Apple soaring past Microsoft in net worth as measured by market value. Steve Jobs is said to be happy.
The ‘Lost’ signoff
After six seasons, it all came down to “The End” on “Lost.” the episode, which aired may 23, was the biggest event of the TV season as millions tuned to finally learn just what the heck had been happening on the often-brilliant but also often-maddening series about a group of castaways on an island of mysteries. the final scene — set in a church with all the principal characters on hand — was completely reflective of the show; many viewers were moved to tears, while others went, “What, six years, this is it?!!!!” Hey, at least it didn’t just go to black.
In a slow year for pop music, Taylor Swift — who just turned 21 — stood tall. she snagged four Grammy Awards, including album of the year for “Fearless.” her tour sold out arenas when other big-name acts couldn’t. she jousted with Kanye West (and pretty much put him in his place). her newest album — “Speak Now” — not only sold more copies during its first week than any other release in five years, but it showed just how quickly she has matured as a songwriter. (Don’t mess with her, guys. the CD includes smackdowns of West and former squeeze John Mayer.) And at year’s end, she had scored a new beau — actor Jake Gyllenhaal. you go, girl.
If there was a first family of pop culture this year, it had to be the Family Palin. Mama Bear Sarah crisscrossed the country for the tea party, drew thousands to signings for her bestselling books and had her own reality show on TLC: “Sarah Palin’s Alaska,” which featured a camping trip with Kate Gosselin and her kids and Sarah herself shooting a caribou. then there was first Daughter Bristol, who stumbled her way into the finals of “Dancing with the Stars.” (She lost, ending the need for a full-scale investigation of the voting.) And she was certainly disappointed, saying that winning “would be like a big middle finger to all the people out there who hate my mom and hate me.” Well, OK, then.
Sounds of the year
And last but not least, what would 2010 have been without the melodious sounds of the vuvuzelas? Remember those noisemakers that were so omnipresent (and so irritating to many folks) during the World Cup soccer games from South Africa that ESPN actually had to put a noise filter on its telecasts? Well, noise aside, the World Cup finally answered the question of when soccer was going to hit the mainstream in the U.S., as millions tuned in.
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