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TV's Naughty and Nice of 2009

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Old 12-21-2009, 06:47 PM
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Default TV's Naughty and Nice of 2009

David Letterman lands on 2009's Naughty list. The talk-show host's on-air admission in October of having had *** with several women on his staff created a media firestorm.

Photograph by: Getty Images, Getty Images

Forget decking those Christmas halls with boughs of holly. This season, we're decking them with lists! Let's look back at which TV personalities should get presents and which ones deserve a lump of coal in 2009.

Stephen Colbert
It was a great year for bad behaviour on TV, but only the great Stephen Colbert -- pronounced coal-BEAR, please -- had the wit, grace and good humour to tell it like it is and rail against the evils of Obama's America, bears, Canadian "syrup suckers,'' Blue Jays pitching ace Roy Halladay and Richmond, B.C. Olympic ice-skating officials. "Thinking that other people might be better than you is what makes you Canadian, not American,'' the great Colbert famously said on a Colbert Report in March. Other bad people said and did bad things on TV in 2009 but no one deserves a lump of coal -- for all the politically appropriate reasons -- more than TV's smartest, shrewdest, funniest, angry-man demagogue. And to think it may all be a put-on. You know, like Santa himself.

David Letterman
David Letterman's on-air admission in October of having had *** with several women on his staff created a media firestorm -- not over the sordid details of his dalliances so much as the bizarre circumstances surrounding his public confession. Turns out Dave was the victim of a bizarre extortion attempt so wacky, so beyond-the-pale in its details, that it read like something you'd expect to see in an episode of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. At least it gave the other late-night comedians something to talk about. Said Craig Ferguson, technically an employee of Letterman's: "I guess you know how I got my job now.'' Jay Leno: "If you came here for *** with a talk-show host, you've got the wrong studio.'' Bill Maher: "Hey, next to Roman Polanksi and Mackenzie Phillips' dad, I think Dave looks pretty good.''

Joan Rivers
Not one to know when to hold 'em and when to fold 'em, Joan Rivers took her pathological hatred of fellow Celebrity Apprentice contestant and professional poker player Annie Duke to a whole new level, famously launching into a tirade about how poker players are "beyond white trash!'' and commenting on how "none of them have last names!'' Kind of like reality-TV contestants. Rivers upped the ante in a November s**** with "poker legend'' Doyle Brunson, accusing him of trying to get famous "on (her) back,'' after Brunson denounced Rivers on his blog as "an enemy of the poker community.'' As one online wag quipped at the time, "So many jokes, so little time!''

Balloon Boy
"Stop calling him Balloon Boy,'' Bill Maher demanded on his HBO real-politics talk show Real Time. "He was never in a balloon. If you have to call him anything, call him Attic Boy.'' The misadventures of entrepreneur-inventor and would-be reality-TV superstar Richard Heene and his six-year-old son Falcon Heene were eerily presaged by psychic Sheree Silver on the 100th episode of Wife Swap -- we're not making any of this up -- when the psychic famously told the dad: "You are leading your family into a science experiment that's going to blow up in your face.'' A lump of coal, then, not so much for Balloon Boy but for Balloon Boy's dad. And a collective lump of coal for the media, for over-reacting and turning what should have been a 30-second YouTube video into a week-long media circus.

Paula Abdul
In May, an American Idol judge publicly declared they might walk away from TV's most-watched talent-competition program when their contract expires next season, suggesting that, "Maybe it's time for a change.'' That judge was -- wait for it -- Simon Cowell! Fooled you there for a second, didn't we? As it turned out, Cowell isn't that dumb. Paula Abdul, on the other hand: different story.


Michael J. Fox
Michael J. Fox stepped into the TV spotlight again but kept his dignity, all the while waging the battle-of-his-life against Parkinson's. There was that sensational, multi-episode guest-star turn in Rescue Me in April, as an angry, pill-popping paraplegic and paramour to Denis Leary's character's estranged wife. Fox is so nice, Leary told reporters earlier in the year, in mock anger, that he would likely win the Emmy that Leary himself coveted -- and he did. And then there was that life-affirming TV special, Adventures of An Incurable Optimist, in which Fox made a restorative visit to the Himalayan mountain nation of Bhutan, seeking an answer to the existential question: Is happiness a choice? Yes, evidently.

Brent ****
"Always leave 'em wanting more'' is a time-honoured tenet of show business, and that's exactly what Brent **** did with his laconic, low-key and humble homespun comedy Corner Gas. Rather than let Canada's most beloved sitcom get stale and mouldy with age, **** called it a night with only the show's 107th episode, titled, appropriately, "You've Been Great, Goodnight." The finale was quiet, understated and elegant -- a little like Corner Gas itself. Life changes, but in Dog River it goes on.

Oprah Winfrey
Always leave 'em wanting more, as we've established. No one knows that better than the divine Miss O, who confirmed late last month that she will retire The Oprah Winfrey Show in 2011, so she can focus on her new passion project: Her very own cable specialty channel, called OWN, which will replace Discovery Health in the digital cable universe in about 18 months' time.

Craig Ferguson
For all the hype, hot air and hootenanny surrounding the late-night talk-show wars -- Conan vs. Dave at 11:30, Leno vs. everyone at 10, etc.

-- it was an old pro, The Late Late Show's Craig Ferguson, who found a way to laugh at himself, at TV and at TV makeovers in the age of High-Definition and viral videos. The moment when he switched the TV signal from the old, analog look to the new HDTV look -- look, it's the old Craig Ferguson; now look, it's a puppet of Craig Ferguson, in excruciating detail, facial hair, cold-sore warts and all -- was sublime. Scary, yes. Surreal -- that, too. But sublime. And spontaneous. That's the key, Ferguson suggested to reporters earlier in the year. He goes into his monologues cold, without a script, and works on the fly. Very nice.

Neil Patrick Harris
The Emmys had a small problem this year -- how to turn TV's lamest three-hour exercise in self-congratulation into a TV spectacle viewers would actually want to watch. The solution? A sensational star turn by first-time host Neil Patrick Harris. It wasn't the only time this year Harris pulled off a high-wire act: He emceed the Tonys earlier in the year, remember.

The Kids in the Hall
The kids announced they'd return to the hall. Dave Foley, Mark McKinney, Scott Thompson, Bruce McCulloch and Kevin McDonald will be back in the new year with a self-described "little, weird TV series'' about a small-town ****** and the mirth and mayhem that ensues. Death Comes to Town -- "Our version of comedy . . . . with a whodunit as the engine,'' McCulloch told CBC Radio's Q earlier this year -- will air in eight parts, beginning in January. The Kids in the Hall give us something to look forward to in the new year.

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