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Friday, December 28, 2012

Killer Comebacks In 2012

The Top 10

10. Boy Bands

One Direction. The Wanted. Big Time Rush. The Backstreet Boys (seriously). Boy bands, which last had their heyday in the late 1990s, made a glorious return to the pop-music scene this year, bringing with them legions of crazed teenage fans. One Direction, a British quintet, blazed the path for the genre’s triumphant return. In November, hoards of fans took over 30 Rock in New York City five days before the band’s appearance on the Today show to promote their new album, Take Me Home, which quickly jumped to the top of the Billboard charts. Another U.K.-based band, the Wanted, had two chart-topping singles and several sold-out shows in the U.S. Nickelodeon even created a TV show about a boy band called Big Time Rush. The show was renewed for a fourth season, while the band by the same name is working on its third studio album. With all this fresh hype, even the Backstreet Boys couldn’t resist getting back into the game, and will release their eighth studio album in early 2013.

9. Lauren Scruggs

It’s been a year since 24-year-old fashion writer and editor Lauren Scruggs stepped off a plane and into a still-spinning propeller, an accident that cost her left hand and eye but spared her life. As the story of her accident and recovery was replayed in the media, Scruggs was determined to bounce back stronger than ever. She spent three months doing intensive therapy at the Baylor Institute for Rehabilitation in Dallas. In February, she tweeted pictures from a vacation in the Rocky Mountains and returned to writing for her online publication, LOLO. By August, Scruggs was ready to give her first on-air interview, appearing at the London Olympics calm and happy and telling Today’s Savannah Guthrie, “I have kind of gained a new perspective of life, and I feel like I need to use my message of hope and healing to help others, [and] inspire others, just like people have inspired me.’’ She reportedly reached a seven-figure settlement with the plane’s insurance company over the accident. Scruggs also inked a book deal. Her autobiography, Still Lolo: A Spinning Propeller, a Horrific Accident, and a Family’s Journey of Hope, was released in mid-November.

8. The Olympics

The athletes weren’t the only ones winning gold at this year’s Olympics. NBC also scored big with record ratings, as the London Games became the most watched event in TV history. According to Nielsen, more than 219.4 million Americans tuned in, besting the 2008 Beijing Games, which brought in a respectable 215 million viewers. And it wasn’t just the prime-time events that saw a boost. Viewership for NBC’s daytime shows increased by more than 2 million, compared with the 2008 Games, and live streams of the events reached 159.3 million. In the U.K., the BBC announced that the opening and closing ceremonies alone became two of the most watched TV programs ever (it estimated that 90.4% of the population tuned in for at least part of the Games). Perhaps the closing ceremony got a boost from the much anticipated performance by the Spice Girls, who made comeback of their own this year. Either way, the 2016 Games have a lot to live up to.

7. Bond, James Bond

When the lead actor in an iconic film series admits that the movies could be better, you know it’s time for a change. That’s exactly what Daniel Craig said in an interview with Time Out London about the James Bond series in December 2011. The last two films — Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace — were commercial successes but received lukewarm reviews. Roger Ebert went as far as to say about Quantum, “Don’t ever let this happen again to James Bond.” And Craig wasn’t about to. Four years later, director Sam Mendes took the reins for the 23rd film in the franchise, and so far the results are in his favor. During its opening weekend,Skyfall earned $87.8 million in North America and received rave reviews from critics and audiences alike. It is expected to be the best-performing Bond movie of all time — at least, until the next one.

6. Europe Wins Golf’s Ryder Cup

It was dubbed “the Miracle of Medinah.” In September, the European Ryder Cup team came from behind to defeat the U.S. squad in what was hailed as an epic moment in the tournament’s 86-year history. At the beginning of the final day’s play of the Cup, which was held at Medinah Country Club near Chicago, the U.S. team was up 10-6 and needed to win only four of the day’s 12 singles matches to claim victory. But the European team, helmed by Spain’s José María Olazábal, wasn’t going to give up without a fight. Europe quickly put up point after point to tie the score 12-12, and when American Jim Furyk missed a crucial putt, the door was open for Europe’s Martin Kaymer to sink his shot on the final hole, handing his team a 14½-to-13½ victory. The last time a team made such an immense comeback was in 1999, when the Americans overtook Europe in Brookline, Mass. They’ll have to wait until 2014 to try for victory again — this time in Perthshire, Scotland.

5. The San Francisco Giants

This year’s MLB playoffs were filled with improbabilities: the Oakland A’s made it for the first time in six years, the Detroit Tigers swept the Yankees, and the Texas Rangers — once favored to win it all — didn’t make it past the wild-card round. But the most surprising element was the incredible comeback of the San Francisco Giants. In the National League finals, the Giants were down 1-3 against last year’s champs, the St. Louis Cardinals, but wound up taking the series all the way, first defeating the Cardinals with a decisive 9-0 victory in Game 7. From there, the Giants headed to the World Series, where they shut out Detroit in four quick games to claim the team’s second championship title in three years. Of course, the fans (probably including some fair-weather ones) went wild. After all, everyone loves an underdog.

4. Joplin, Missouri

On May 22, 2011, a high-powered EF-5 tornado swept through the Midwestern city of Joplin, leaving a trail of death and destruction in its path. It was the single deadliest tornado to hit the U.S. in nearly 60 years, killing 161 people and injuring 1,000. Approximately 7,500 homes and hundreds of businesses were destroyed. But one year later, things were already looking up for Joplin. Just weeks after the tornado, the community came together for a public meeting, where a plan to rebuild the city was launched on a series of sticky notes. Led by local business owner Jane Cage, the group started the Citizens Advisory Recovery Team to work with the local government and act as a voice for residents. In January, the Department of Housing and Urban Development announced a $45 million investment in the city, which will go a long way toward bringing the sticky-note plan to life. And for the high school students of Joplin, who returned to class three months after the tornado in a makeshift space in the local mall, a special guest visited the city in May to deliver their commencement address: President Obama. “My deepest hope for all of you is that as you begin this new chapter in your life, you will bring that spirit of Joplin to every place you travel and everything you do,” he said.

3. Good Morning America

The morning news shows face some of the fiercest, most competitive time slots, and for the past 17 years, NBC’s Today show has been unbeatable. But after a controversial shake-up of its team, including the ouster of veteran anchor Ann Curry, Today tumbled from the top spot. A week after the end of NBC’s Olympic coverage, ABC’s Good Morning America overtook Today as the most watched morning news show, and its ratings have been fairly consistent ever since. While NBC continues to make changes to its on-air and executive teams, GMA has stayed with anchors George Stephanopolous and Robin Roberts, who was diagnosed with a blood and bone marrow disorder called MDS in June and has been on medical leave since August. In her place, viewers have tuned in to watch a parade of celebrity guest hosts, including Oprah, Katie Couric, Stephen Colbert and the cast of Modern Family — and they’ve stuck around, at least for now.

2. Peyton Manning

When former Broncos quarterback and franchise executive director John Elway approached 36-year-old Peyton Manning about playing for Denver in March, the pair of Super Bowl champions seemed to hit it off. Manning had just spent the entirety of the 2011–12 season — his 14th with the Indianapolis Colts — on the bench due to a severe neck injury. Despite the fact that he signed a five-year, $90 million contract extension with Indianapolis, the Colts announced in March that they were releasing Manning from their roster. Over the course of two weeks, the Tennessee Titans, San Francisco 49ers and Denver Broncos all seriously courted Manning. But it was his connection with Elway that persuaded him to finish his storied career in the Mile High City. Critics claimed that Manning’s injury would impair his athletic performance, but so far he has proven them wrong. While the Broncos were handed some tough losses early in the season, the team found its stride and led the AFC West.

1. Barack Obama

If the President had any indication that he was going to win such a decisive victory in the election, he didn’t show it. After appearing withdrawn and flustered in his first debate against Mitt Romney, held on Oct. 3, the polls showed the presidential contenders to be neck and neck — a change from earlier in the campaign when Obama had a small but crucial lead. And one disappointing debate performance wasn’t his only impediment. With high unemployment, a still floundering economy and many promises left unfulfilled, Obama’s historic first term became a weapon for Romney supporters to use against him. But come Nov. 6 — after two decidedly more successful debates and an effective handling of the Hurricane Sandy disaster — all Obama’s downfalls seemed to fade away as citizens across the country lined up (and waited hours, in some cases) to cast their ballots. In the end, the President took almost all the swing states — including Florida, Ohio, Colorado, Virginia and Iowa — and coasted to a second term much more easily than had been predicted.

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