In this final installment Aught Lang Syne’s conclusion, John S presents what he is looking forward to in the coming decade. In case you missed it, Josh posted what he is anticipating here, and Tim posted his here. We at NPI hope you’ve enjoyed our retrospective on the Aughts.
In the Teens, I’m looking forward to….
…A Suitable Name for a Decade: Were we happy with “the Aughts”? Of course not. But we stuck with it for the sake of consistency. And even if it won’t be accurate for 30% of the decade, at least all the 2019 decade retrospectives will refer it as “the Teens.”
…The Future of Television: I’ve already touched on this, but television is currently at a crossroads. If anything, things have become more dire for the old model. Network television is apparently on its way out, and free television may be a casualty. This, of course, may have disastrous consequences: With freeTV gone, shows’ budgets may be severely restricted. As a result, shows will not be able to have big casts, shoot extensively on location, or attract the best talent. In other words, the Golden Age of TV will be over.
It’s probably inevitable that television will undergo some growing pains, but I think that ultimately the industry will get stronger. The evolution away from the old network model will actually be conducive to more innovative programming. Broad hits like CSI and American Idol may suffer, but shows like Mad Men—which is already on pay-cable and maintains a large cast, original sets, and great actors—ought to be able to survive. In fact, the cable model, which is what people say we are drifting towards now, already produces most of the best television. No matter what, though, it will be fascinating to watch a medium that is hitting its creative stride at the precise moment that it faces logistical upheaval.
…The Next New York Yankees Dynasty: Hopefully, the 2010s won’t bring another eight year title drought to us Yankee fans—Heaven forfend! Based on how the team is set up for the future, things are looking good. CC Sabathia is under contract through 2015, Mark Teixeira through 2016, and Alex Rodriguez through 2017. Even Mariano announced his intent to play five more years. So when the Yankees sign Joe Mauer to the first $500 million contract next off-season, the team should be set for another decade of dominance.
…Michael Cera’s Film Career: I’m as a big a Michael Cera fan as you will find: He was possibly the funniest part of the funniest show of the Aughts, and he was certainly the funniest part of the funniest film of the Aughts. Even I have to admit, though, that he has been stuck in a rut. In Juno, Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist, and Paper Heart, he plays the same kind of awkwardly charming teenager, to increasingly diminishing returns. This is not to say that Cera isn’t a brilliant comic actor, just that he needs to expand his range. The upcoming Youth in Revolt has him playing two characters, so that should be a step in the right direction, and the next decade should see the release of the Arrested Development movie, the early frontrunner to top next decade’s funniest films list.
…Forthcoming Novels from David Foster Wallace and Jonathan Franzen: Wallace and Franzen wrote arguably the best novels of the 1990s and the Aughts, respectively (if you ask me, Wallace wrote the best novel ever in the ‘90s, but that’s neither here nor there). But since 2001, only short story and essay collections have been published by either of them. Franzen’s next novel, though, is due out next year. Provisionally titled Freedom, the novel is centered in Franzen’s natural domain of the Midwest. Other than that, not much is known about it, other than that a very promising excerpt appeared in The New Yorker six months ago.
The circumstances surrounding The Pale King, though, are a little trickier. Wallace, of course, died in 2008, leaving his novel unfinished. The ethics and logistics of publishing an unfinished work posthumously are troublesome. Four excerpts from the novel have already been published (three in The New Yorker, one in Harper’s), but it seems like assembling the whole is leading to problems: The release date was already pushed back from spring of 2010 to 2011. And while the fact that novel is unfinished means that it will cut off some 400 pages before “the end,” I’ll be eagerly awaiting its release.
…The Obama/Palin 2012 Election: I’m not kidding. Election cycles begin earlier and earlier now, so—believe it or not—we’re only about 13 months from candidates beginning to declare. And right now, only Sarah Palin has the kind of name recognition and wide base of support to actually launch a strong candidacy. Sure, Mitt Romney will probably enter the fray, and maybe even Bobby Jindal or Mike Huckabee, but can they compete with the Palin juggernaut? I’m dubious.
…Journalism’s Eventual Replacement by Social Networking: This may be an exaggeration, but it seems like the logical next step for each of these rapidly evolving institutions. After all, there’s a good chance that you first heard about Michael Jackson’s death, Tiger Woods’ car crash, or the Iranian protests on Twitter or Facebook. Twitter, Facebook, et. al. are now incredibly good at spreading information, while old-fashioned journalism institutions are comparatively worse and worse. It’s only a matter of time, then, before the future Woodward and Bernsteins are breaking stories in 140 characters or less.
…An Elin Nordegren Dating Show: Because you know it’s coming. And I’m definitely trying out.
…The Final Season of Lost: This is a little unfair, since it’s coming up in like five weeks, but it’s still exciting. The show that has kept people guessing and wondering how it will all end since 2004 is finally coming to an end. There is virtually no way that Season Six can answer every question that the series has raised over the years, but it’s the closest thing we’ll get to a real conclusion.
The finale of Season Five, as usual, raised more questions than it answered. But a lot of the mystery will be cleared up as soon as the show returns, on February 2: Simply what kind of world the show opens with will presumably help explain just what happened in the finale. Similarly, how the show itself ends, will help define what came before. As Jacob said in the Season Five finale, “It only ends once. Everything before that is just progress.”
…A Larry David/Jerry Seinfeld Reunion: Season Seven of Curb Your Enthusiasm proved a lot of things, but perhaps none more important than the fact that Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld still work together naturally and brilliantly. David and Seinfeld have the kind of natural banter and rapport that made Seinfeld so great, enhanced by the fact that both are legendary comedians.
I don’t think (or hope) we’re going to see a real Seinfeld reunion in the 2010s (unless one of them makes very unsound financial decisions), but I do think (and hope) that the two pair up in some capacity. Either Larry David will take some time in between seasons of Curb to collaborate on a film with Seinfeld, or, more likely, the two will reunite on TV after Curb Your Enthusiasm concludes. In one way or another, though, there is no way a just universe can keep these two kindred comedy souls apart for another decade.
…Lauren Conrad’s Literary Career: A sequel to L.A. Candy is already on the way. And she’s only 23! I think that answers Tim’s question about who the front-runner is to write the Great American Novel.
…What Radiohead, TV on the Radio, and Arcade Fire Do Next: Predicting which bands are going to be the best over the course of a decade is very difficult. An average band, after all, is typically only good for about 10 years to begin with, so the clock is already ticking on these acts. But I’m already excited for the next Arcade Fire album, expected in May of 2010. TV on the Radio, likewise, has shown an ability to evolve with each record, so I don’t think the typical half-life of bands applies to it. And Radiohead has already defied expectation, going into its third decade now. After the band asserted its independence from the rest of the music industry—both creatively and commercially—with In Rainbows, nothing it does now would surprise me. Which reminds me of something else I’m excited for….
…The Evolution of the Music Industry: It’s common knowledge that this decade has been abysmal for the recording industry. Music sales are down, piracy is still up, and the chances of reversing these trends are slim to none. What I think is interesting, though, is that the quality of music overall, though, has not really slipped. The medium of music is, I think, quicker to adapt to changing technologies than other media, since the amount of time, money, and people needed to produce an album is less than the amounts needed for films and television series. This makes the transition to digital distribution smoother for music than for other industries. Will musicians ever again sell the number of records they were selling in the 1990s? No. Will they make up the gap completely via online sales? Probably not. But the only people really hurt by this development are the RIAA. The costs of producing and distributing music are much lower now, meaning that digital distribution and smaller, independent record labels like Merge, Touch and Go, and Domino can sustain nationally successful acts. Hopefully, the 2010s will see the emergence of a more natural equilibrium between record companies and new media.
…The Reception of the Avatar Sequels: The huge box office success of Avatar virtually guarantees that we will be seeing both of James Cameron’s envisioned sequels in the 2010s. And while it doesn’t really surprise me that the first film has become an Oscar frontrunner, since the effects are groundbreaking and Cameron does have a pedigree, can Cameron spread his thin story over another two films? We’ll see if critics keep swallowing the hype.
…Films From Quentin Tarantino, the Coen Brothers, and Paul Thomas Anderson: These directors account for three of the films on my top ten of the Aughts list, and Inglourious Basterds and There Will Be Blood were hard cuts. Tarantino, the Coens, and Anderson are maybe the only directors at the cross section of creative vision and commercial success. Their films are interesting and original, and also generally financially successful. As a result, they are among the few directors who have the freedom to do whatever project they can conceive of.
And I, for one, am eager for what they are reportedly working on. Tarantino has already announced his intent to do Kill Bill 3 in 2014, after he finishes whatever his next project turns out to be. The Coen brothers are slated to direct the film adaptation of The Yiddish Policeman’s Union, by Michael Chabon—and they’ve had some success with adaptations of novels, haven’t they? Paul Thomas Anderson, the youngest of this group, is supposed to be teaming up with Philip Seymour Hoffman in his next film.
…The Demise of Glenn Beck: Please, please, please let this actually happen.