Written by: Big Ross, CC2K Staff Writer
I've been loving Top Week here at CC2k, and while I assembled my own list ranking the top video games of the year, I couldn't help but feel inspired by all the various "Top of Pop" pieces looking at different individual's favorite pop-culture experiences of '08. So as we continue to look back at the year that was, I decided to list my personal favorite experiences of 2008, in no particular order:
1. Tina Fey Single-handedly Saves SNL
Let's be honest. Saturday Night Live hasn't been funny for a long time now. Skits run too long and rely too heavily on the misguided premise that if a gimmick is funny the first time, half a dozen repetitions of the same will be even funnier. Then one night, with a single, spot-on impersonation of Republican Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin, Tina Fey knocked it out of the park and made SNL funny and relevant again. Ratings sky-rocketed and SNL was the talk of the nation from office water coolers to college campuses. We all knew this couldn't last; the campaign had an expiration date firmly stamped on it, and even if (God forbid) McCain/Palin won Fey had a successful post-SNL career to focus on and made it clear she had no intention of making guest appearances indefinitely. We know how it all turned out, but for a few weeks SNL enjoyed a renaissance before slipping back into mediocrity.
2. Fallout 3
Even though I've assembled a Top 10 list of video games from the past year, I have to say that much like Lance found with movies, 2008 was not a great year for gaming. Even the games like GTA IV, Fable 2, and Star Wars: The Force Unleashed that made my list were all plagued by problems, IMHO. Several made the list simply due to lack of anything better, and if that weren't bad enough 2008 saw the release of more significant failures such as Viking and Too Human. Then came Fallout 3. This is the game that saved 2008 for me. Unlike many of the other games in my Top 10 of '08, Fallout 3 is really the only game that would have appeared on my list from 2007, and it could easily have broken into the top 3 alongside Mass Effect and Bioshock. Fallout 3 is by far the best video game of 2008.
3. The Summer Olympics – Michael Phelps and the U.S. Mens Swim Team
For a week or so during the summer of 2008, all eyes were on Beijing, China, and in particular on an oddly beautiful structure called the Water Cube. There we witnessed Michael Phelps make history by winning 8 gold medals. There were so many great, classic moments during this accomplishment. Phelps swimming (and winning) a race mostly blind due to water leaking into his goggles. Phelps winningly a gold medal literally by a finger nail. But the moment that sticks out as the highlight for me was the Mens 4×100 meter freestyle relay finals. Anchor (and oldest member of the team) Jason Lezak made up a huge deficit to overtake French swimmer (and world record holder in the 100 meter freestyle) Alain Bernard in the final 25 meters. It was truly a Herculean effort, and an unbelievably exciting finish.
4. The Dark Knight
Without a doubt this was the biggest movie of the summer. I include it on this list for three reasons. One, I really enjoyed this film, despite some flaws. Two, this marked the second film that I got to attend a press screening of, and it was a far cooler experience than Hancock. Three, love it or hate it, The Dark Knight made for some great discussion and debate, and I really enjoyed all that followed in the forums here on CC2k.
5. The New Xbox Live – Netflix
I realize Netflix is nothing new, but even though it's been around for years I've never considered subscribing. That is until Netflix Instant Streaming was made available on the new Xbox Live Experience. Some of the features of the New Xbox Live seem like blatant rip-offs, e.g. the new avatars stolen from the Wii Miis, and others that were hyped have yet to see realization, but in my personal opinion the Netflix feature has been a resounding success. In addition to a huge library of movies I've gotten the opportunity to inhale entire seasons of some great television series including Doctor Who, Weeds, and Dead Like Me. Whoever came up with this idea deserves a raise.
6. KU Wins the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship
As a University of Kansas alum and long-time Jayhawk fan, KU's run through the tournament last spring was nothing short of magical. When the Jayhawks advanced to the Championship game against Memphis, many sports writers wrote the game off as an unexciting matchup that no one wanted to see. What we got, whether you're a fan of either team or not, was a game for the ages. Mario Chalmers' 3-point shot in the closing seconds of regulation to tie the score and send the game into overtime induced mind-blowing, take-your-breath-away fits of ecstasy in KU fans across the country. Once in overtime KU dominated Memphis and had their "one shining moment," but it will be Chalmers' shot that will go down in Jayhawk basketball history.
I've really been enjoying this latest series from the mind of J.J. Abrams and his frequent writing partners Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci. Tony Lazlo said it best when he described it as the "Bizarro-World X-Files." The three leads, Anna Torv, Joshua Jackson, and John Noble all avail themselves nicely. Along with House M.D. Fringe has been some of my favorite television of 2008.
8. DMB in Concert – 6/7/08 Busch Stadium, St. Louis, MO
I'm a huge, huge fan of the Dave Matthews Band. Even though I've seen them in concert virtually every year for the past 6 or 7 seven years without interruption, there was something special about getting to see them perform at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, MO this past summer. There was something almost intangible about that night, a vibe that was felt by both the audience and the band that made it one of the best performances I've ever personally witnessed. Little did I know at the time that it would be the last performance featuring all of the band members that I would get to see. Later in the summer saxophone player Leroi Moore suffered injuries from an ATV accident that would ultimately kill him. While the band continues to perform and produce a new album, DMB will never be the same without Moore. Knowing that makes this concert all the more special in my mind.
9. The First Watchmen Trailer
It remains to be seen how Zack Snyder's interpretation of Alan Moore's classic graphic novel will fare with critics and fans, but the first real trailer that premiered in front of The Dark Knight was insanely cool. Accompanied by a great track from The Smashing Pumpkins and featuring some awesome imagery, regardless of the quality of the actual film, this trailer went a long way toward reassuring fans that Snyder's adaptation could actually be successful.
10. Election Night
If I were ranking these experiences, I'd have to put this at the top of the list. After one of the longest and most expensive Presidential campaigns in history, a campaign that saw the first really viable female candidate running for the nomination of a major political party, the first African American nominated by a major political party for President, the Sarah Palin "debacle" and more, it all culminated on the night of November 4, 2008. Being a supporter of Barack Obama made it all the more special, but regardless of one's political leanings it was certainly historic. I think many of us will never forget where we were when we learned that Barack Obama had clinched victory. I know I'll never forget the feeling I had while watching his acceptance speech late that night.