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It’s Thanksgiving Again…

Last year’s overview of the things for which I’m thankful seemed to go well enough, so I wanted to do it again.

I have to be honest, 2010 had a lot to be thankful for.

Some of the richest rewards were in television.

Just as I did last year, I have to give thanks to the crew of Doctor Who, although this time, it’s showrunner Steven Moffat and star Matt Smith who have earned my gratitude.

Moffat, for one thing, didn’t drop the ball from outgoing showrunner Russell T. Davies. He also used the show to explain the nature of storie s, turning the Doctor into a literal fairytale hero in the process. Meanwhile, Smith forged his own path as the Doctor, embodying the Time Lord with cutting sarcasm, a more sparing use of bombast and a rejuvenated feeling of whimsy. It’s good to see the show march on.

About as far as you can get from the Doctor is Kenny Powers from HBO’s Eastbound and Down, and I’m thankful the premium network brought the show back for a second (and upcoming third) season. Danny McBride plays one of the greatest antiheroes ever, the painfully flawed Powers, and his adventures in Mexico were a riot. Really looking forward to seeing McBride close out his planned “trilogy” next year.

More than anything else on TV, however, I’m thankful for Louie. FX gave comedian Louis C.K. a quarter-million dollars and complete creative freedom to create a comedy pilot, and he turned in one of the most honest and bizarre shows on television.

Louie is a collection of short vignettes inspired by the comic’s life, interspersed with his stand-up. Not many people would use a comedy show to explore their childhood notions of sexuality, or follow a study of emasculation with a look at abuse, but Louis C.K. is interested not so much in making us laugh, but sharing his uncensored views of how the world works.

As far as film this year, all I can really say is thanks to Edgar Wright for not ruining Scott Pilgrim. It was fun, and deserved more success.

Musically, however, it was a great year! I’m thankful to Ben Folds for getting his mojo back and recovering from a two-album slump to record some of his best work in years for the album Lonely Avenue. Folds co-wrote every song with novelist Nick Hornby, from the anthemic satire “Levi Johnston’s Blues” to the dizzying “From Above,” along with breathtaking ballads “Practical Amanda” and “Belinda.” It was pop perfection.

As was Mark Ronson’s latest set of songs, Record Collection. Working with a group of guests including Ghostface Killah, Boy George, and former Pipette Rose Elinor Dougall, Ronson raised the bar for pop music. The boy wonder left behind his Motown obsession, instead blending ’60s mod and ’80s electro to create a new brand of future-funk. He also wrote one of my favorite songs of the year, “Somebody to Love Me,” which uses Boy George’s wounded wail to heart-rending advantage.

Then there’s Kanye West, the greatest pop music spectacle since Amy Winehouse. However, where Winehouse has largely fallen off the map thanks to her self-destructive antics, Kanye hasn’t forgotten that it’s still about the music. After channeling the late Ol’ Dirty Bastard to ambush Taylor Swift, the super-producer decided to give back. First he created G.O.O.D. Friday, wherein he gives away a new song every Friday night for free on his website. Then he destroyed SNL with two of the best performances the show has ever seen.

Finally, he released his latest album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. It was everything I had hoped for, and it didn’t stop there. Rather, the set blended pop, hip-hop and rock in ways he largely failed to do with his previous effort, 808s and Heartbreaks.

It also provided a more complete and disturbing glance into the man’s psyche. The album’s title is apt as West raps about power fantasies, dreams of romancing porn stars, a complete self-awareness about his jackassery, and in the album’s most frightening eight minutes, self-loathing married with terrifying misogyny (and driven home with an outrageous Chris Rock monologue).

Kanye uses his guest stars to great effect too, including his hero Jay-Z, John Legend, Clipse’s Pusha T, materialistic rapper du jour Rick Ross, and Nicki Minaj, hip-hop’s answer to Lady Gaga. Indeed, her hysterical verse on “Monster” deserves the attention it’s getting, and that’s another thing to like about this disc. Kanye is never against sharing the spotlight, and more often than not, he always figures out the best way to showcase their talents.

Finally, I’m thankful to comics for the following: Grant Morrison’s continuing Batman epic, a mostly successful Avengers relaunch, Ed Brubaker’s wonderful work on Captain America, and a worthy end to Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim.

All told, I had a lot for which to be grateful. Pretty good year.

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