News of the Week: Best and Worst of 2019, The Far Side is Back, and What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?

In the news for the week ending December 27, 2019, are year-end “best of” (and “worst of”) lists, new Far Side cartoons, celebrity yuletide recipes, New Year’s traditions, and more.

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Hope you had a great Christmas. Actually, I shouldn’t have said that in the past tense because it’s only two days after Christmas, and with the weekend here and New Year’s Eve next week, we’re still in the middle of the general celebration known as “Christmastime.” 

It’s also the time of year when everyone comes out with their lists of the best and worst films, books, TV shows, and music of the year. And since 2020 is upon us, that means that this year we also have a bunch of “best of the decade” lists to read. Here we go!  

Here’s NPR’s interactive list of the best books of 2019, with links to their picks for the past six years. The Atlantic has another list, as do Good Housekeeping and the BBC. 

Looking for TV lists? Here are the picks for the best from The New York Times, Vulture, and Esquire. For films, check out Indiewire, which polled more than 300 critics. 

But it’s the worst of the year lists that are the most fun to read, right? The AV Club has their list of the worst films, The Hollywood Reporter picks the 10 worst TV shows, and Spin lists the worst songs they heard in 2019. 

And check out Rex Sorgatzs exhaustive list of all the bests of the past decade, in everything from TV, films, books, and music to advertising, games, sports, and food and drink. 

Nervous Little Dogs Prepare for Their Day 

Cartoonist Gary Larson has given us all a present this Christmas: The Far Side is back! 

Larson retired 25 years ago, but he wanted to have a real, official home for his cartoons (and wasn’t happy that people were taking his work and posting it on every single blog and social media site). And it’s not just going to be a home for an archive. Larson is going to draw new cartoons too. He explains it all in a letter to fans. 

By the way, the title refers to one of my favorite Far Side cartoons. 

RIP Ward Just, Allee Willis, Johanna Lindsey, Claudine Auger, and Randy Suess 

Ward Just was an ex-reporter who became an author and wrote several acclaimed novels, including Echo House, A Soldier of the Revolution, American Romantic, and In An Unfinished Season. He died December 19 at the age of 84 

Allee Willis co-wrote “I’ll Be There For You,” the theme song to Friends; the Earth, Wind & Fire hits “September” and “Boogie Wonderland”; and The Pointer Sisters’ “Neutron Dance”; and won Grammys for her musical work on Beverly Hills Cop and the Broadway version of The Color Purple. She was also the creator of The Museum of Kitsch. She died Tuesday at the age of 72. 

Johanna Lindsey was the author of dozens of romance novels over a 40 year career, including Hearts Aflame, Stormy Persuasion, Paradise Wild, Fires of Winter, and Temptation’s Darling. She died in October at the age of 67, but her death was just announced this week. 

Claudine Auger appeared as Domino in the James Bond film Thunderball as well as appearing in many other films and TV shows. She died last week at the age of 78. 

Before social media and blogs, people spent time on computer bulletin boards. You have Randy Suess to thank for that. He died earlier this month at the age of 74. 

Quote of the Week 

“If you’d have told me 30 years ago that I would be this boring, stay-at-home house dad and Bill Cosby would be in jail, even I wouldn’t have took that bet.” 

Eddie Murphy, returning to Saturday Night Live for the first time since the ’80s 

This Week in History 

First Transistor Radio Demonstrated (December 23, 1947) 

The device that kids used to listen to late at night under their blankets was first demonstrated to the public by Bell Labs at a press conference. 

Bing Crosby Debuts “White Christmas” on Radio (December 25, 1941) 

Yup, the Irving Berlin song did indeed debut on Christmas Day, on Bing’s NBC radio show Kraft Music Hall. He later re-recorded the song for the film Holiday Inn. 

Uploaded to YouTube by Bing Crosby / Universal Music Group

This Week in Saturday Evening Post History: Mailboxes in Snow (December 27, 1941) 

I find something very satisfying about this cover by Miriam Tana Hoban. In this age of Facebook and texting, I love the idea of mailboxes jam-packed with letters and gifts. Today they’d be filled with weekly grocery circulars and ads. 

Goodbye 2019 

I have an annual New Year’s Eve tradition: I stay in and watch TV. Who wants to deal with the crowds and craziness? It’s better to stay in your warm home, relaxing on the couch, eating and drinking what you want, catching up on your favorite holiday movies and TV shows. 

Maybe you can even make it a theme night, making recipes from the people associated with holiday movies, TV shows, and music. You can start off with Cary Grant’s Mushroom Canapes or Peggy Lee’s Jade Salad. For the main course, how about Barbara Stanwyck’s Roast Leg of Lamb or Robert Mitchums Chili Wonder? For drinks, try David Niven’s Christmas Wine or Edmund Gwenn’s Christmas Cup. For dessert, how about Vincent Price’s Pumpkin Pie or Jimmy Stewart’s American Apple Pie? Maybe you can even try to make Rachel’s English Trifle from Friends. Yes, like her culinary mistake, this version includes meat, onions, carrots, and … raspberry jam! 

And if one of the movies you’re watching tonight is A Christmas Carol, maybe you can make some figgy pudding. Happy New Year!  

Next Week’s Holidays and Events 

National Hangover Day (January 1) 

It’s not a coincidence that this special day falls on January 1. 

New Year’s Day TV Sports and Marathons (January 1) 

New Year’s Day means college football, and ESPN has the Outback Bowl (Minnesota vs. Auburn) at 1 p.m. and the Rose Bowl (Wisconsin vs. Oregon) at 5:10 p.m. The Citrus Bowl (Michigan vs. Alabama) airs on ABC at 1p.m., and ESPN3 has the Allstate Sugar Bowl (Baylor vs. Georgia) at 8:45 p.m. (All times Eastern Standard.) 

If sports isn’t your thing, there’s a lot of other TV to watch. Food Network is showing episodes of Chopped all day long. Comedy Central is showing Chappelle’s Show. Turner Classic Movies has dystopian movies (for some reason) during the day, followed by 1939’s The Roaring Twenties (for 2020, I assume). TV Land has a marathon of The Andy Griffith Show episodes, Hallmark Channel has their seemingly never-ending supply of holiday romance flicks, and Syfy has their annual marathon of The Twilight Zone. Check out the entire schedule at Zap2It. 

Featured Image: Midnight and Nobody to Kiss by Constantin Alajalov, December 31, 1949

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  1. Sarah: I didn’t realize it but I checked and yes the time around the holidays lasting until around January 5 is called “Christmastide” or “Christmastime.”

  2. Sorry, but I have to agree with Jim Gaffigan’s assessment of December in Jane Pauley’s Sunday Morning report. Without repeating what he says, the month is a stressful drag Bob! The true meaning of the Holiday season has been long gone with Christmas now being reduced to little more than a retail bonanza, unfortunately.

    It’s exhausting mentally and physically too with the fact the ‘Holiday’ overkill starts with Halloween in August, and the pressure just gets worse with no break! The best part was sending out my Christmas cards, and the very special, thoughtful ‘surprise’ card I received in return earlier this week. My thanks to all!

    Thanks for the transistor and Bing Crosby links. and the 1941 Post cover. Can anyone imagine seeing wrapped gifts in the mailbox? I can’t either, but it’s still a charming old time cover. As for doing the New Year’s Eve shtick, that got old years ago. It’s the one night of the year it’s best not to be on the road at ALL!

    By the way, good luck in trying to find any Christmas/Holiday cards now. I was in the Dollar Tree yesterday (12/26) and they’d already been replaced with Valentine’s Day cards. In a few more weeks they’ll be replaced with the next phony holiday cards: St. Patrick’s Day!


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