Edsel Award winners: Kanye West, LeBron James, Jeff Zucker and others
When Ford rolled out the Edsel in 1957, the launch was accompanied by tons of marketing hoopla, including a Ford-sponsored CBS TV special. It was all downhill from there. After two years of critical ridicule and consumer indifference, Ford put the car out to pasture.
According to auto historians, the idea that the car was a lemon is a myth. It failed largely because Ford’s marketing, like most of today’s 30-second movie spots, overpromised and underdelivered. Consumers expected something wondrous and innovative when in fact the Edsel was thoroughly conventional.
As I look back on 2010, trying to make sense of the year’s cultural undercurrents, I see Edsel-like failures everywhere. So it seems fitting to offer up our first Edsel Awards, to the worst ideas of 2010 from the worlds of entertainment, sports, politics and other corners of our pop culture.
Kanye West’s tweets: Twitter is wonderful, especially if you’re trying to keep up with hot baseball trades or laugh at celebrity misbehavior. My favorite tweets come from a young satirist who poses as Mel Gibson, writing such great missives as: “Went to Office Xmas party last night.... Well, it wasn’t my office. I kinda just showed up to one. Either way, Kim in Accounting: I’m sorry.”
Then there’s West, who is all thumbs when it comes to tweeting. No one made a better album in 2010 than West did with “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy,” but no celeb did more damage to himself, via Twitter, than West, whose nauseatingly self-absorbed tweets are beyond parody.
In July, he tweeted: “I specifically ordered persian rugs with cherub imagery!!! What do I have to do to get a simple persian rug with cherub imagery uuuuugh.” Soon afterward, he boasted: “No seriously ... I said my teeth are real diamonds ... these are not fronts ... I replaced my bottom row of teeth with diamonds.” In August, KW was at it again: “Just looking at my closet, wool suits, fedoras, trenches and furs ... I’m bout to put fall in the hospital....” And my personal favorite, serving as proof of West’s desire to conquer all artistic worlds: “I want to edit the film on a boat ... where are the good editing boats?”
LeBron James’ ESPN blunder: It’s bad when athletes display the same kind of clueless sense of entitlement movie stars do, but that’s exactly how James came across in July when he announced, via his ludicrous ESPN special “The Decision,” that he was going to “take my talents to South Beach” to play for the Miami Heat.
Ridiculously overhyped, the TV “exclusive” gave ESPN a black eye for turning itself into James’ personal promotional vehicle. But the shallow spectacle made James look even worse, since he didn’t bother to tell his old team, the Cleveland Cavaliers, what was up until minutes before the show. His previously unblemished image took a big hit. By September, the Q scores company ranked him as the sixth most-disliked sports personality in America, right behind, ahem, Kobe Bryant.
Jeff Zucker’s “Tonight Show” fiasco: I hate to hit a man when he’s down, but it’s hard to think of an idea that backfired more badly than Zucker’s madcap scheme last January to salvage NBC’s late-night fortunes by displacing “Tonight Show” host Conan O’Brien and restoring Jay Leno to his old 11:35 p.m. slot after it turned out that Leno’s prime-time show wasn’t getting any ratings traction.
Everyone’s feelings were hurt, rival comedians had a field day, O’Brien left the network in a huff (after getting a $33-million payout) and viewers took sides. By fall, O’Brien had a new show on TBS and Leno looked like damaged goods, his ratings having fallen below what O’Brien was getting when he was hosting “The Tonight Show.” And oh yes, Zucker was out of a job, though not without a golden parachute.
Reviving “The Wolfman”: Remaking movies and TV shows is almost always a bad idea, since it’s exceedingly rare that the new film is half as good as the original. Though there was a lot of competition in 2010 from such stinkers as “The A-Team,” the year’s worst remake had to be “The Wolfman,” which was a lifeless bore, not to mention an utter waste of its stellar acting talent, starting with Anthony Hopkins and Emily Blunt.
Universal Pictures gets the blame for the dud, with the studio hiring Joe Johnson as director after the film’s original helmer, Mark Romanek, had the good sense to drop out in preproduction. The original “Wolfman” had a wild-eyed intensity that made it a classic. The new version felt more curated than created, perhaps because the studio went with a likable journeyman director instead of a larger-than-life talent — say, Tim Burton — who could have breathed some real life into the musty monster classic.
Brett Favre’s belated retirement: It was a sorry sight to see the Green Bay Packers stalwart playing one last undistinguished season for the Minnesota Vikings. Favre is a legend who owns dozens of passing records but, at 41, the quarterback looked almost as awful as Willie Mays did in his final season for the New York Mets.
Favre had a meager 69.9 passer rating, got into a public spitting match with his coach and was injured over and over, culminating with a brutal concussion that knocked him out of the season for good. But that was not before he was fined by the NFL for refusing to cooperate with its investigation into whether he sent highly inappropriate photos of himself to female employees when he was with the New York Jets.
“We Are the World 25 for Haiti”: As if Haiti hadn’t suffered enough, it ended up being subjected to this ill-fated benefit project to raise money for earthquake victims. A hollow remake of the fabled “We Are the World” recording from 1985, “World 25” featured Justin Bieber handling Lionel Richie’s opening verse, Jamie Foxx doing a stale Ray Charles imitation and — gasp — Lil’ Wayne, who spent much of the year in prison, standing in for Bob Dylan. Who knew pop music could fall so far in so few years?
Media foot-in-mouth disease: It was a banner year for media types who didn’t know when to shut up. Rick Sanchez was fired by CNN for saying Jews run the media; Juan Williams was axed by NPR for saying he got nervous seeing plane passengers “in Muslim garb”; and CNN’s Octavia Nasr lost her job after she said she respected a deceased Hezbollah leader who had opposed honor killings of women.
And, oh yes, MSNBC’s David Shuster got suspended indefinitely after he shot a pilot for CNN while still under contract to MSNBC. (To make things worse, CNN didn’t pick up the pilot.) But no one hit the jackpot like Helen Thomas, the 89-year-old quasi dean of the White House press corps, who was fired after she told a man on the White House lawn, who turned out to be a rabbi, that she thought the Jews should “get the hell out of Palestine” and “go home” to places like, well, Germany.
-- Patrick Goldstein
Photo: Kanye West at the Christmas Day basketball showdown between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Miami Heat at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
Credit: Danny Moloshok/Reuters