I’ve been struggling to make my “best of entertainment 2008″ list. Either there was a serious lack of quality entertainment this year, or I just spent way too much time reacquainting myself with things that used to entertain me. This is the time when I usually make my big (to me) ENTERTAINMENT VALUE OF THE YEAR! (notice the all caps, that makes it important) announcement. What will it be? Will the winner be a movie? A book? I know, you are waiting with open-mouthed suspense. Or was that a yawn? Anyhow, let’s move on and mow down all my contenders for EVOTY.
Movies: We saw no movies this year. None. In fact, I think the last time we stepped foot in a movie theater was for that James Bond movie. No, not that one. The other one. I don’t think we even watched a full movie on cable tv, despite the fact that we have about 50 movie channels to choose from. This was a year of “get up and go” which left very little time for “sit down and watch.”
That doesn’t mean I wasn’t intrigued by some movies that were released in 2008. I’ll eventually get around to watching Dark Knight and, I might throw caution to the wind and actually go to a movie theater to see Milk. I just dread the thought of paying 10 bucks to have some idiot on a cell phone or a chair kicker or stale Milk Duds ruin the movie experience for me.
Television: I gave up on both of the Chef Ramsey shows I loved in previous seasons; Kitchen Nightmares and Hell’s Kitchen. Shtick gets old after a while, and Gordon Ramsey is all shtick. If I want to watch some guy cursing and screaming in a kitchen, I’ll just go over to my parents’ house while my mother is trying to “help” my father prepare a holiday dinner.
I watched no broadcast tv shows. There’s not a sitcom, crime drama or otherwise that I would set my watch for. Everyone tells me “You have to watch such and such a show. HAVE TO.” No, No I don’t. I know what’s out there in sitcom land. I know what’s out there in reality tv and shows where people talk to ghosts and where horrendous crimes are committed and mysteries are solved by pretty girls and hot guys in under an hour. I know because I listen to my coworkers converse every morning and wonder if Hallmark makes a card for “Sorry your really good friend was gunned down by a guy in a clown suit” until I remember the people they are talking about are not real, but from their “stories” and it makes me glad I don’t watch any of that. What I did watch: Lots of food shows. Ace of Cakes, Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, any of those shows about the history of specific foods (hamburgers, hot dogs, ice cream), and my favorite food/travel show, No Reservations. Nobody wants to talk about Anthony Bourdain at the water cooler. Probably because he never solved a crime.
I do admit that my television entertainment tends to run sort of low-brow and I don’t know if that makes me better or worse than my coworkers, but hey, at least I don’t base my days emotions on who got kicked off American Idol. Shows that interested me this year (and past years): COPS never gets old. I don’t know what it says about me that I consider some meth head from Broward County running down the street half naked entertaining, but I do. Ninja Warrior, Intervention, anything with “World’s Wildest” in the title, anything that takes place in a prison, anything on the History channel and, by default (meaning, when I lose control of the remote), the Military Channel.
Books: I must have had very little downtime in 2008, because I read a lot less. And what I did read was not very new. I went through the entire Christopher Moore catalog, read two bios on Teddy Roosevelt, re-read two graphic novels, Blankets and Watchmen, and, for “I need a smile” reading, went through a bunch of Pearls Before Swine anthologies. Does spending the day reading 140 character dick jokes on Twitter count as reading? If so, I’m a prolific reader.
While there wasn’t really a best book of 2008 for my list, there was definitely a worst. I forced myself to read Twilight, just so I could review it. When I say it was a struggle to get through this drivel, I mean I felt like I should have nailed myself to a cross after martyring myself just so I could say: WORST. BOOK. EVER. WRITTEN.
The Internet: I read some blogs, watch a bunch of videos where strange women did strange things with pudding and cakes, gave up my TotalFark membership and got addiced to Twitter. I’m not sure if that’s so much entertainment as voyeurism.
Music: I bought no albums that were released in 2008. I purchased quite a few single songs, and some CDs that came out years ago, and some CDs to replace things I only had on vinyl, but no current music. Which is a complete anomaly for me. But in looking through a whole bunch of “Top 50 of 2008″ lists, I can see why I didn’t buy anything. I don’t know 98% of what’s on those lists. All those bands like TV on the Radio and Kings of Leon all blend into one sound for me. I’m out of the music loop for the first time ever, and I’m ok with that.
There are a few albums that came out in 2008 that I still need to listen to/buy: Portishead, Nick Cave, Beck, Radiohead.
I did enjoy a few single songs here and there. Death Cab for Cutie’s “I Will Possess Your Heart” got about 200 plays on my iPod. Kevin Rudolf’s “Let it Rock“was pure fun, even if I thought the Lil’ Wayne part ruined it. I love Airborne Toxic Event’s “Sometime Around Midnight,” but the video makes me want to punch the singer in the face and tell him to man up.
I spent a good portion of my listening time this year revisiting old albums, which is what led to This is not Pitchfork. It’s good to get reacquainted with old friends when you’re having a hard time making new ones.
Gaming: This is where my true entertainment was found in 2008. We stole my son’s Xbox and played through all three Halos. We got a Wii in February and while Super Mario Galaxy was fun, and the bowling and boxing made for good family time, it was Mario Kart and all the Lego games that sucked up most of our time. For the record – Star Wars Lego: AWESOME. Indiana Jones Lego: MORE AWESOME. Batman Lego: Not so awesome.
And then Left 4 Dead came out and we bought our own Xbox because my son is addicted to NHL ’08 and we couldn’t steal his.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is where I finally found my ENTERTAINMENT VALUE OF THE YEAR.
Left 4 Dead is, simply, the best game I’ve played in forever. Or at least since the first Zelda. It’s fun, it’s fast paced, the controls are simple (important for someone like me who still thinks the original Nintendo had the greatest controller ever), there’s no complicated storyline and…ZOMBIES.
This game is nothing but a killing spree of the undead. And we play it every spare minute we have. We have given up eating, sleeping and sex to spray zombies with automatic gunfire. I have spent hours just trying to get my head count shot up. I have startled the witch, been vomited on, got beaten to death by the Tank and called Zoey a health pack stealing whore more times than I can count. I am always Francis, Todd is always Bill, and together we run through a world filled with smokers and hunters and places filled with guns and ammo in search of safe houses. We have played every level a zillion times and we keep going back for more. I’ve perfect my pipe bomb throwing strategy and reveled in the power of a shotgun blast to the head and ok, maybe I have set my teammates on fire with a misplaced Molotov and maybe I hear “FRANCIS!” a little too often when I engage in some friendly fire, but I’m working on my aim!
How often do we play? I see the hunter in my dreams. I hear the witch in the wind. Just yesterday, I saw a guy on the roof of a building and my first thought was to shoot him. One day, we were in a parking lot and some big, fat guy came waddling toward us. Todd and I both shouted at the same time, “BOOMER!” How much fun is it? We bought Fallout 3 and neither of us have played it yet, because we can’t stop playing this game.
Left 4 Dead is the most fun I’ve had playing a video game since I walked out of the 2D scroller world.
And so, I award my Best Damn Thing in 2008 Entertainment to Left 4 Dead. Everything else can suck it.