Pop Of King (123) – So Long, My Friends – (7 stycznia 2011)

Well, guys, after seven years and 120 columns (more or less), it’s time for Uncle Stevie to grab his walking cane, put on his traveling shoes, and head on down the road.

I can’t begin to tell you how much fun – how drop-dead cool – these years at EW have been. I’ve worked with two great editors (Rick Tetzeli and Kristen Baldwin). I’ve had a chance to observe pop culture criticism at its sharpest, most humane, and most understanding from writers like Owen Gleiberman, Lisa Schwarzbaum, Jeff Jensen, and Gillian Flynn (who’s gone on to have a splendid career as a novelist). A dozen others, too; you know who you are. These guys have entertained me and taught me new ways of looking at the culture that’s been my lifeline since I donned my first set of Mickey Mouse ears and sang „Hey there, hi there, ho there, we’re as happy as can be” in front of my TV set in 1956. Most of all, I’ve had fun, and in the words – ungrammatical but divinely correct – of the Daryle Singletary song, „I ain’t never had too much fun.”

There’s stuff I still want to say, of course there is. I want to tell you why viewers – and NBC – should give The Event another chance even though the first season has lost focus and wandered into the Land of Unbelievable Plot Twists (remember, Peacock Network, 24 suffered the same wobbles before finding its footing).

I want to tell you that Scott Spencer’s new novel, Man in the Woods, is as great a piece of American fiction as Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom. And ask if the title of the forthcoming Kate Atkinson novel – Started Early, Took My Dog – isn’t one of the best you’ve ever heard.

I want to beg you to go to YouTube and check out Microwave Dave & the Nukes blasting „Highway 49” at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Huntsville, Ala. That electric slide guitar will change your way of life.

I want to tell you that James McMurtry is the best songwriter in America, and ask you why he isn’t filling arenas.

I want to inquire what kind of world we live in where Bristol Palin can thud around on Dancing With the Stars for more than two months and Lone Star gets canceled after two measly episodes. Was network TV better when good shows got a chance to find an audience in spite of bad ratings, or am I crazy? (Better not answer that.)

I also want to ask if you think those Allstate „Mayhem” commercials are as funny as I do, if you’re tired of Sally Field hawking Boniva, if Super Bowl ads are overrated, and if you’ve noticed that the most outrageous medicine-show products (not to mention wrinkle creams and miracle exercise equipment) are sold on news programs supposedly aimed at people with a few working brain cells.

I’d like to know which movie you consider the stupidest you’ve ever seen, and the one you consider the smartest (that was still entertaining). I want to feed you truth serum and then ask the burning question: When was the last time you broke down and bawled in a movie theater, or laughed so hard you actually whizzed in your 509s?

Basically, I want you to watch this, read that, and listen to the other thing. I want to fill you with my enthusiasm; I want to pass it on like a kiss.

But there comes a time when you realize that if you continue, you’ll just be saying the same old thing in slightly different ways. When that happens, it’s time to step back, step down, and recycle. For me, that time is now. Could I give all this up for good? I’d rather drop my Kindle in the nearest landfill or give up poking my Junior Mints onto a toothpick and eating them like shish kebab. You’re not done hearing about my ridiculous preferences (The Last House on the Left, Jackass) and unguilty pleasures (we never really got a chance to discuss disco and ’70s bubblegum music, did we) in EW, but it’s time to be quiet, at least for a while.

In the meantime, be good to yourself, and remember that pop culture is part of the circulation that keeps a culture alive and growing. Circulate with it, and spread the word: You’re never too old to put on a pair of 3-D glasses or dancing shoes. Got it? Okay. As for Uncle Stevie, I’m Oscar Mike.