01 December 2009
Television: Best Moments of the Decade
“More Cowbell!” (Apr. 8, 2000)
Before Andy Samberg and the Lonely Island took the Internet and T-shirt world by storm, this Christopher Walken-led sketch turned into a phenomenon. It was an oasis of hilarity in the doldrums of the early 00s on SNL as Walken, as “legendary producer” Bruce Dickinson, who demands Will Ferrell’s Gene Frenkle play the heck out of his instrument of choice. No one on the set could keep a straight face, and it made it clear this was SNL’s best sketch of the decade.
Eminem performs “Stan” with Elton John at the Grammys (Feb. 21, 2001)
Slim Shady had gotten lots of flak from anti-defamation groups about his offensive lyrics, and protestors lined up outside the Staples Center in outrage at the Recording Academy’s decision to honor him. But Eminem, in a brilliant PR move, decided to duet with the openly gay Elton John at the ceremony. While he appeased the GLBT community, he didn’t really tone down his lyrics. Those who watched the broadcast were the real winners, who were treated to an incredible performance of one of the greatest songs of all time.
Dave Chappelle plays a blind, black white supremacist (Jan. 22, 2003)
It was the premiere of a new sketch show on Comedy Central by a moderately popular stand-up comic. No big deal. But in the centerpiece skit, a parody of “Frontline,” signaled something was different. Dave, a brilliant satirist, played white supremacist Clayton Bigsby, who was also blind and black. At the end of the sketch, a character’s head explodes. The reaction of the audience was similar. Here was the most brilliant comedian of our generation. Too bad the celebration didn’t last long.
Bush’s “Kerry windsurfing” ad (Sept. 23, 2004)
Politicians came under even more scrutiny this decade as Internet connections sped up, more 24-hour news networks started popping up, and our collective IQs went down. So after the vicious Swift Boat ad campaign, Bush’s re-election posse decided to have a little fun with the most brilliant campaign spot since LBJ’s “Daisy” ad.
Kanye West: “George Bush doesn’t care about black people.” (Sept. 2, 2005)
The focus of the night was on victims of Hurricane Katrina, but of course Kanye couldn’t let anyone else have the spotlight for long, and while Mike Myers pleaded for donations, the egotistical rapper made the night political (but mostly about him) with his outburst. It wouldn’t be the last time.
Arrested Development’s 2-hour finale (Feb. 10, 2006)
While all eyes were on Turino’s opening ceremonies for the 2006 Winter Olympics, Fox quietly tried to burn off the remaining episodes of the decade’s best series. While Italy presented some of the best choreography and splendor it had to offer, the Mitchell Hurwitz-created series showed it still had plenty of life left and didn’t deserve to be canceled. I guess “It’s Not Easy Being White.”
Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip's first minutes (Sept. 18, 2006)
For 15 captivating minutes, Judd Hirsch went on a Network-like tirade about the disgusting state of television. It was the start of a show that refused to make concessions to a mainstream audience and was willing to suffer the consequences. It lasted a full season, and it limped a little bit in getting there, but it kicked off one of the last brave series on broadcast television.
The Sopranos finale (June 10, 2007)
It had been one of the longest-running series on cable, and the saga of Tony and family was coming to a close. As three-time Emmy winner James Gandolfini waited for his family to join him in the family restaurant, Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” played on the soundtrack as the screen cut to black. Viewers, certain creator David Chase wouldn’t have ended the series on such a vague note, flooded their cable company’s phone lines and crashed HBO’s Web site, demanding to know what happened. The episode caused discussion for weeks to come and made Journey’s seminal ballad a top 10 hit. Now that’s power.
Michael Phelps magically wins gold medal (Aug. 13, 2008)
The pressure was on for Phelps to break Mark Spitz’s record of seven gold medals at a single Olympic contest. In his 200m-butterfly swim, Phelps’s goggles filled with water, and he basically swam blind for the last 100 meters. Still, with a miracle push, Phelps got his gold, and beat Hungary’s Lásló Cseh by a jaw-dropping seven-hundredths of a second.
America gets RickRoll’d (Nov. 27, 2008)
Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade can get stuffy with all its tradition. Balloons yay, lip-synced performance from a new Broadway show yay, marching bands yay. But when the float from Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends came by, it seemed pretty normal. And then those infamous notes kicked in and out popped Rick Astley himself, singing his punchline of a hit song, capping off years of online notoriety.