Best of 2006

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The year 2006 started with a James Frey publishing scandal and ended with an OJ Simpson publishing scandal.  It witnessed the end "Will & Grace" as well as the start (and end) of "The Megan Mullally Show."

Rosanne Cash started the year with a masterpiece and the soundtrack to the film "Dreamgirls" kept our iPods busy these past few weeks.  We were all in love with "Brokeback Mountain" back in January and we closed out the year buying and renting and Netflix-ing copies of "Little Miss Sunshine."

There was a whole lotta gossipy fun (a/k/a crap) to come out of last year, but a whole lotta good things too.  Here, then, is how I’ll remember life in America in 2006.

BEST ALBUM

1. Black Cadillac – Rosanne Cash. A once-in-a-lifetime album, a meditation on family, ancestry, legacies, and death.  I listened to it all again a couple days ago just to be sure…and I am.  In a year when I would lose two grandparents, it was always a comfort to witness an artist deal with so much loss too.  A pity and a shame it’s only nominated for one Grammy, so BUY IT (on eBay), BUY IT (at Tower.com), BUY IT (at cheap-CDs.com)!!!

2. The Breakthrough – Mary J Blige. It’s just so damn good.  Every single song.

3. All American Bluegrass Girl – Rhonda Vincent. I’m not so much a bluegrass fan that I can tell the difference between Rhonda Vincent and Alicia Nugent, but I do know both of their albums are hands-down awesome.

Incidentally, at OutLoud! we used to get free copies of new releases for our listening station and, if not for that, I’d have never discovered any of these.  I’ve also become a crazed psycho-fan of Right Out Of Nowhere by Kathy Mattea because of this. 

BEST SINGLE

1. Would You Go With Me – Josh Turner. It sneaked up on me. I didn’t know I loved it until I was crazy mad for it. Stephen King agreed in Entertainment Weekly recently, though not quite so passionately (in fact, the reference is hidden in the listings).

2. Before He Cheats – Carrie Underwood. I’m a bit embarrassed to acknowledge this but heck, when you find yourself singing along every single time it comes on the radio, you’re only kidding yourself if you deny it.

3. Do You Dance – Amy Sky. (click on "audio jukebox" at top right corner). A mainstay at Canadian pop radio, she released a greatest hits album this year that I LOVE and includes with it this song. We’ve all heard the message before but this one—oddly—is the first I’ve heard that actually has a bit of a groove to it: “when the music starts to play, do you turn to walk away, or do you dance?”

4. Red High Heels — Kellie Picker.  It thought it was Pam Tillis making a comeback when I heard it the first time. It’s a bit overproduced and the accompanying video is nothing if not distracting. Still, that I love this song is proof that, when alone in my car with the volume up and my voice hoarse, I can be an all-out flaming fag.

BEST TV SHOW

1. Ugly Betty. It’s just so gay. Vanessa. Her gay assistant. Betty’s sweet little gay nephew. Her sista’ from the block. The generically cute boss. The conniving co-workers. The melodrama and the mystery surrounding the former editor’s “disappearance.” Just so damn gay.

2. The Amazing Race. When it beat “Project Runway” at the Emmys I knew something was up. When I watched the show, everything made sense…yet I heard this was an off season?!   I’ll never forget Alabama (a/k/a the sistas).  The Barbies.  "Those boiiiis!!"

3. Project Runway. “Wan off you weel bee da’ winna’ and wan off you weel bee oot!”  And who could’ve ever predicted someone like Tim Gunn would become such an icon?  Every time I think of Santino from season two mimicking, "Where’s Andre?" I just lose it.

4. Anything subtitled: Real World/Road Rules Challenge on MTV.  The most recent edition is called The Duel. This franchise is easily the guiltiest pleasure in my life.  I can’t get enough of the after shows with Blair and, like him, I think I’m in love with Svetlana.  For me, she’s the new Longoria: makes me wonder if I’m really gay all the way. 

BEST MOVIE

1. The Devil Wears Prada. I just saw it again last week on DVD and I still love it. It’s everything the book promised it would be and more. I hear next year there’ll be “Devil Wears Prada”-style books from folks who’ve worked with the book editor (and newly jobless) Judith Regan, and at Rosie O’Donnell’s eponymous (now defunct) magazine.

2. Another Gay Movie.  The scream-out-loud, truly funny scenes came often enough to forgive the (numerable) groaners.

3. Little Miss Sunshine.  I hate that the commercials for the DVD almost give away the hilarious, delightful ending.  What’s truly cool is that none of the characters gain any redemption when it’s all said and done–they’re all still kinda’ losers.

4. Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. The dinner party in Birmingham, for me, is the highlight of the entire film.  Notice how he perfected the "act" when he was promoting the film?  His appearance on Conan was nearly jaw-dropping; given that kind of preview, I found the film itself lacking.

BEST BOOK

1. Birds in Fall – Brad Kessler. When a plane goes down off the coast of Nova Scotia, a gay couple opens their bed & breakfast to the families of some of those who perished. It made me want to visit the province and fall in love, or just start a brand new life there, or build a B&B. Or crash a plane. Something.

2. The Epidemic: A Global History of AIDS — Jonathan Engel. Both authoritative and a very easy read, it’s a compendium of all AIDS reportage but without the bias. Every gay man should own this. It’s our history (and it’s over 30% off at OutLoud!).

3. What I Did Wrong (read the entire article, in fact, written by Edmund White) — John Weir.  Loaded with pop culture references and train-of-thought ruminations only a college professor (the protagonist) or a determined writer (the author) could imagine, this novel should’ve been a blockbuster across gay America but, for some reason, was overlooked from the moment it came out, almost a year ago.  Don’t miss it.

4. Fun Home — Alison Bechdel. Who knew a comic book could be so heartbreaking? I knew, as I gasped at the whiplash close of chapter one, that I was reading something special.  Check out as well another graphic memoir called Blankets by Craig Thompson — he’s a hetero but he writes (and draws) brilliantly about his adolescence in a religious fundamentalist home.

BEST BLOG

1. Pop Candy at www.usatoday.com. Whitney Matheson just “feels” like a friend. While www.AndrewSullivan.com keeps me on my toes (and for much of the year, reminded us exactly what torture is) “pop candy” keeps it light and fun…because we like pop culture, right? (Which isn’t to say I don’t still get a kick out of www.gawker.com — it’s been my go-to site when I hear something happened on “The View.”)

BEST WEEKLY E-MAIL BLAST

1. Val’s View.  Val writes for O&AN and, for quite a while now, has sent out a weekly "dish" of how she and her friends have spent the past week: movies, hockey games, house parties.  It’s also posted on the O&AN website each week, but for your own personal edition, just e-mail her at val@outandaboutnewspaper.com and tell her to hook you up. I know very few of her friends personally, but once per week I feel like I’m part of the fam.

BEST CELEBRITY TAKEDOWN

1. Star Jones Reynolds leaves The View.  Star was told to make the announcement on a Thursday morning but, knowing it won’t fall under the radar if she speaks out earlier in the week, Star makes her announcement on a Tuesday and, by the next morning, she’s gone!  A fun coda: late last month, Rosie got into an argument with Barbara as to whether or not Barbara is rich and, upon return from commercial, she feigns a tear and begins the next segment with these memorable lines: "After much prayer and counsel, I have decided that I won’t be coming back to The View — NO I’M KIDDING!!!"

2. James Frey on Oprah. In January, when Oprah realized that even her most insanely devoted fans wouldn’t support her when she told Larry King that the "underlying message of redemption still resonates with me," — after it was discovered Frey invented many parts of his "memoir" — she knew it was time to bring him down. The hottest, dirtiest, most dishy part of this entire story is that poor little billionaire Oprah (I used to be a fan) had to trick publisher Nan Talese into appearing on the show in order to tear her to shreds, too.

BEST SYNDICATED SITCOM

1. Will & Grace. Even the dumb episodes are funny now. Will & Grace is kind of like Queer Eye for the Straight Guy in that us gays never wholeheartedly embraced it because, in truth, these shows were never necessarily made for us. I’m first in line, though, to rename this one “Jack & Karen.”

2. Reba. Despite the fact that it is, and has always been, a success (by WB and CW standards), this show’s going off the air (see last link).  Yet — I swear to you: there’s only been maybe one episode where I laughed out loud the entire half hour.  That I still watch must be proof I’ll always–ALWAYS–be a fan of Reba.

WORST SYNDICATED SITCOM

1. Sex & the City. Remind me why we thought Carrie Bradshaw was so cool? Perhaps all along I’ve been tuning in just to peak at Kim Cattrall’s boobies (edited out in reruns) but it seems these couple years later that Sarah Jessica Parker’s Carrie is whiny, self-absorbed, teeth-gnashingly insecure in clothes I’ve yet to see anyone else wear.

BEST DAYTIME TV SHOW

1. I want to say The View because I try never to miss it, but I am absolutely in L-O-V-E love with The Martha Stewart Show. It’s live and not prerecorded so, unlike the old show, nothing happens perfectly, and it’s exactly because she comes across as “perfect” that I enjoy watching her balance the demands of each segment with the personality of her guests. That, and I truly want to try those recipes and crafts…until I turn the TV off and forget all about it.

WORST DAYTIME TV SHOW

1. The Megan Mullally Show.  It was just cancelled earlier this week so I don’t want to kick it too much.  You know it’s available locally, right?  On channel 5, it comes on just past one o’clock in the morning.  That it would land such an embarrassing timeslot seems to suggest bad things.  Wasn’t that the same time the old Roseanne Show used to come on?  Surprisingly (or maybe not), both shows sucked for the same reason: we all wanted the funny character from the sitcom, but all we got was … the real person.

OTHER GREAT THINGS…

1. New low priced used CDs. Thanks to downloading, it seems the value of a regular ol’ CD has plummetted…unless you’re me.

2. Entire episodes of TV shows on network websites.

3. Amazon.com — who ever thought the day would come when we could choose beforehand which used books we’ll buy?

4. Stupid self-absorbed year-end lists like this one.  And this one.  And this one.  And this one.  I love ’em all.