"Twilight" series author Stephenie Meyer inspired yet another book-series phenomenon, but this time it wasn't directly. British author E.L. James wrote a steamy trilogy of sexually explicit fan fiction inspired by the romantic "Twilight" saga; her variation was about a college student's unorthodox, dominant-submissive relationship with a young tycoon.
The books' explicitness (they were famously dubbed "Mommy porn") made them hot e-reader downloads, and word-of-mouth drove the trilogy-opener to the top of The New York Times' e-book fiction bestseller list. The movie rights were sold, an album of classical songs inspired by the book was released this fall, and a stage spoof, "Spank! The Fifty Shades Parody," is touring around the country, including five shows scheduled March 6 to 9 at Turner Hall Ballroom, 1040 N. 4th St.
Scripted series of the year: "The Walking Dead"
AMC's horror series, based on the graphic novels about a handful of humans trying to survive a post-apocalyptic, zombie-infested world, is playing by its own rules. Relentless gore. A bleak narrative. Shocking deaths of main characters. The result: ratings success never before attained by a scripted cable series. For its third-season premiere, the drama earned a stunning 5.8 rating in the coveted 18 to 49 demographic, the highest rating for any entertainment series this fall, broadcast channels included. Broadcast networks are following the show's lead. NBC's tamer, post-apocalyptic series "Revolution" has been a hit, and next year we'll be seeing "Hannibal," about the cannibalistic serial killer made famous by Anthony Hopkins, on NBC.
Three of the stars and an executive producer of "The Walking Dead" will be at the Riverside Theater on Feb. 16 for two live panel discussions.
Reality series of the year: "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo"
More controversial than any explicitly sexual book or a gory zombie show was this TLC hit about a child beauty pageant contestant, Alana "Honey Boo Boo" Thompson, and her rural Georgia family. Critics blasted the network for sensationalized edits that looked down at the family: playing up bad eating habits, ignorant statements and matriarch June "Mama" Shannon's weight for laughs.
Because you never knew what the filter-free Honey Boo Boo was going to say, the shock value of the first season made it a ratings hit. Coming up from MTV is a "Honey Boo Boo" and "Jersey Shore" mashup called "Buckwild," about hard-partying young folks in West Virginia.
Movie of the year: "The Avengers"
It was inevitable that "The Avengers" was going to be huge. Since 2008, Marvel Studios has been setting up the pieces leading up to the blockbuster crossover film with "Iron Man," "The Incredible Hulk," "Iron Man 2," "Thor" and "Captain America: The First Avenger." The presence of four major superheroes (including Kenosha native Mark Ruffalo as Hulk), immortalized by Marvel Comics and starring in their own successful movie franchises, resulted in a supersized opening weekend of $207.4 million in the United States, a record.
Among the reasons audiences kept coming back were the witty screenplay and light direction by Joss Whedon ("Buffy the Vampire Slayer"). "The Avengers" ended up grossing $623.4 million at the U.S. box office and $1.5 billion worldwide, becoming the third highest grossing movie of all time.
Breakout actor of the year: Channing Tatum
The buff heartthrob has been turning heads since his breakthrough starring role in 2006's "Step Up." After years of appearances in hit films including "G.I. Joe" and "Dear John," Tatum finally became a bona fide A-list movie star in 2012.
He starred in three of the 25 top-grossing films at the U.S. box office so far this year: the romantic weeper "The Vow" ($125 million), the TV show-inspired comedy "21 Jump Street" ($138.4 million) and the male strip club-set dramedy "Magic Mike" ($113.7 million), loosely based on Tatum's experiences as a stripper. All that success was enough for People to declare Tatum, 32, this year's "Sexiest Man Alive."
Wisconsinite of the year: Paul Ryan
Regardless of your politics, no Wisconsin man or woman inspired more discussion this year, particularly in pop culture circles. Beyond his politics and his position on Mitt Romney's ticket, the nation's first Generation X vice presidential candidate drew attention for his looks. A shirtless photo went viral, and Jon Stewart jokingly feigned infatuation while smitten ladies professed their love in a couple of hit political parody videos on YouTube: "Let's Get Fiscal!," featuring the "Paul Ryan Girl," and the girl group ditty "P-P-P-Paul Ryan."
The U.S. congressman from Janesville shocked people when he said he was a fan of Rage Against the Machine, a strong supporter of the Occupy Wall Street movement. "Paul Ryan's love of Rage Against the Machine is amusing, because he is the embodiment of the machine that our music has been raging against for two decades," Rage guitarist Tom Morello wrote in a Rolling Stone op-ed.
Distributed by MCT Information Services
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