Thursday, December 11, 2014

2014 in Review, Part One

Something about 2014 just felt... lousy. With three weeks to go in the year, it seems like I can remember two negative moments in the year for every positive memory. I had a half-dozen friends and acquaintances get married this year, but just as many get divorced. On a personal level, I struggled to find stable employment as I accepted one crummy temp job after another. If you were an Illinoisan with any interest in politics, you lost both an iconic liberal (former Chicago Mayor Jane Byrne) and a respected moderate conservative (recently reelected State Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka). On a national scale, this was a bad year to be a Democrat and a feminist. On an international scale, Malaysian Airlines and most of Ukraine would like to pretend '14 never happened. The miraculous World Series run made by my beloved Kansas City Royals, 29 years after their last postseason and championship, was hampered by the possibility that it might be another three decades before it happens again.

This has also been a tough time to write topical humor. For the better part of two weeks, the most dominant news story has been about a African-American killed by a police officer under ambiguous circumstances. Some topics are just off-limits, and in a situations like Ferguson, MO and Staten Island it's almost impossible and just about tasteless to try joking about it. No matter what your stance is on the subject, this topic has a very limited angle for satire.

Additionally, this has been a rough year to be an SNL fan. The show's 40th anniversary --which will be celebrated as a prime time event in February 2015-- has been overshadowed by frustration and tragedy. This past summer saw the passings of cast member Jan Hooks and longtime announcer Don Pardo, and even though Robin Williams wasn't best known for being on the show, he was a frequent host in the 1980s. Not to be overlooked is the truck accident that nearly killed Tracy Morgan, a tragedy that was more serious than we originally thought. Least of all, the current state of the show could best be described as fledging; a whirlwind of cast changes in the last three seasons has a left a young, unproven ensemble still finding its voice. The biggest problem spot of all is Weekend Update, where the deer-in-the-headlights glances of head writer/co-anchor Colin Jost reminds us that some people should just stay behind the scenes.

So what did I enjoy this year? I'll discuss that in my next two blog posts.

Next Week: the year in music, 2014.

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