In their December 19th issue, Entertainment Weekly singled out twelve “irreplaceable legends” who passed in 2014. A supplemental small-print list of 66 celebrities who also passed in 2014 is provided, with a sentence of so of description for each.
It would be ungracious (even for me) to suggest that some of the EW chosen are less legendary and irreplaceable than others who only made the small-print list. But I am all too willing to suggest that the EW Late Greats list displays a shameless lack of any sense of history.
This is not to say that I wasn’t pleased to see mini-articles on such personal favorites of mine as James Garner, Jan Hooks and Harold Ramis. I am not in particular a fan of either Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Maya Angelou, but that’s probably my problem – maybe the Emperor is wearing nifty threads. But the only choice among the EW Late Greats – the only one – representing a sense of popular culture history is Lauren Bacall.
Here are some of the late greats who weren’t deemed to have had the pop-cultural impact of Joey Ramone.
Phil Everly (even Joey would disagree with that one).
Sid Caesar (the father of sketch comedy) (Jan Hooks would, I think, agree with me).
Mickey Rooney (the biggest box-office star of the 1930s and a fine actor and comedian who worked for most of his 93 years).
Eli Wallach (one of the great character actors of all time).
P.D. James (major crime novelist).
Shirley Temple Black (the most famous child star ever and a huge popular culture figure in the ‘30s and beyond, a virtual symbol of hope in the Depression).
There are other terrible omissions: Pete Seeger, Bob Hoskins, H.R. Giger, Elaine Stritch, Richard Attenborough, Ben Bradlee, among others. Surely the arbitrary figure of 12 Late Greats could have been expanded, and certainly a broader sense of the history of show biz and the arts might have been brought to bear.
Last night, on the final episode of the much-derided but actually excellent Aaron Sorkin series THE NEWSROOM, a responsible-minded young person – away from running the network’s web site for a time, in exile having protected a source – finds his even younger underlings in the midst of a blog entry they’re brainstorming. The subject is “The Most Over-rated Movies of All Time.” Their returning boss notices that the oldest over-rated film on the list is THE MATRIX, and comments that fourteen years and “all time” are two different measurements. He also asks them why they would list the most over-rated movies, as opposed to the most under-rated. They have no answer, other than to suggest it’s more fun. Rightly, the web site boss tells his peers he’s ashamed of them.
I may yet defend THE NEWSROOM at more length, but I’ll say only that one of its themes – very offensive to certain brats at the Huffington Post and AV, who treat Sorkin as if he’s Ed Wood – is that the news back in three-network times used to be better, or at least more responsible. That TV news used to be journalism. That people writing and delivering news once needed credentials – you know, experience.
My point is that EW’s writers share that same problem – thinking that fourteen years ago is the beginning of time.