2009 In Review: Anglophenia’s Top 10 UK Stories

2009 has finally come to a close, and New Year’s can’t come quickly enough. This was a rancid year, with the economy in shambles, people getting laid off left and right, and thoughts of hope sliding into malaise. In the world of pop culture, things were hardly any more pleasant. In a year in which the Grim Reaper appeared to be the hardest-working man in show business, the number of shocking celebrity deaths was alarmingly high up to the very end. (Brittany Murphy?) We said farewell to far too many people who had been part of our lives for too short of a time.

2009 wasn’t all bad: we did anoint some new stars (Susan Boyle, a post-Twilight Robert Pattinson) and saw a rare resurrection of a cancelled series (Primeval). Anglophenia was there to cover the UK pop culture events of the year, and here were our top stories:

10. Primeval Cancelled – Then Resurrected

When Primeval got the ax from UK broadcaster ITV back in June, we thought that was the last word. Fans would be left hanging after Season Three. But at the eleventh hour, a deal was struck, guaranteeing the show at least two more seasons. And thankfully, actors like Andrew-Lee Potts and Hannah Spearritt were still available for returns. As a fan who has seen many of his favorite series gone too soon, this was like a Christmas miracle three months early.

EARLIER POSTS:
Oh Hell No: Primeval Cancelled in the UK!
Great News: Primeval Lives!

9. Stephen Gately’s Sudden Death

Few deaths this year threw us for a loop more than that of Stephen Gately, member of Irish boyband Boyzone. He was only 33 years old, and Boyzone had just gotten back together after a seven-year hiatus. The media tiptoed around the mysterious circumstances of his death while on vacation with his partner in Majorca. However, controversy reached a peak when Daily Mail columnist Jan Moir suggested his death was a result of a “glamorous” and “dangerous lifestyle,” sparking an unprecedented outcry from fans on Twitter and Facebook.

EARLIER POSTS:
Stephen Gately’s Death Raises Questions
Daily Mail Piece on Stephen Gately’s Death Inspires Twitter Uproar

8. Tape Emerges of Christian Bale’s On-Set Blowup

There’s little more satisfying (or infuriating) than overprivileged stars behaving badly, and Christian Bale did not disappoint with his F-bomb-laden rant at a cinematographer who dared walk into his shot on the set of Terminator: Salvation. A recording of the 4-minute meltdown was leaked to the blogs back in February, and it’s overflowing with quotable lines, including, “Want me to f****** trash your lights? WANT ME TO F****** TRASH ‘EM? Then why are you trashin’ my scene?” The stuff Family Guy spoofs and techno remixes are made of.

EARLIER POST:
When Batman Went Batsh**: Christian Bale Loses His Temper

7. Michael Jackson Dies Before London Shows

Michael Jackson‘s death on June 25th just weeks before his residency at London’s O2 Arena was the most explosive entertainment story of 2009 and possibly of the past decade. His unexpected passing left his concert promoters, AEG Live, with a staggering financial commitment unfulfilled, but the successful concert film This Is It helped make up for their losses. The film grossed over $250 million worldwide. Jackson’s investment in one of Britain’s most lucrative assets – the Beatles catalog – has yet to be sorted out, due to the messiness of Jackson’s finances.

EARLIER POSTS:
Michael Jackson’s Death: Did London Concert Pressure Kill Him?
Video: Britain’s Got Talent‘s Shaheen Sings at Michael Jackson Memorial
Paul McCartney Under No Illusion About Michael Jackson’s Will

6. Dev Patel and Slumdog Millionaire Are Major Success Stories

Slumdog Millionaire was “the little movie” that became Oscar’s Best Picture, and it was a wonderful gift to see the film’s rise through the perpetually broadened eyes of Dev Patel. Previously, he was known as horndog Anwar on BBC AMERICA’s Skins, but the phenomenon of Slumdog lifted him to the ranks of Hollywood’s most promising. And like his character did in the film, Dev got the girl, too: he has been publicly dating his co-star Freida Pinto for months.

EARLIER POSTS:
From Skins to Slums: Dev Patel Rules the Oscars. Plus: Winslet Slams Britain
Skins’ Nicholas Hoult: “I’m Not Jealous of Dev Patel’s Slumdog Success”

5. Robert Pattinson’s Rise To Major Star

I may not have understood the hullabaloo myself, but Twilight star Robert Pattinson was the name on everyone’s lips this year. Not since Orlando Bloom has an actor excited so many in so short of a time. Bloom has failed to manage a career outside of franchises (Lord of the Rings, Pirates of the Caribbean), and the jury’s still out on Pattinson. His role as Salvador Dalí in Little Ashes was little-seen, but a slew of major film roles that don’t involve bloodsucking are in the offing.

EARLIER POSTS:
Reviews Are In: Robert Pattinson as Salvador Dali in Little Ashes
Pattinson: “World’s Sexiest Man”? Not With Gerard Butler Around

4. Natasha Richardson’s Shocking Death in a Ski Accident

Natasha Richardson came from an acting lineage unparalleled in the theater – granddaughter of Sir Michael Redgrave, daughter of Vanessa, niece of Lynn, and sister of Joely. (Her father was film director Tony Richardson, and she was married to actor Liam Neeson.) While she never reached the acting heights of her mom or aunt, she left behind a fine legacy, including a Tony-winning performance as Sally Bowles in Cabaret. Richardson’s death at 45 in a ski accident was a brutal reminder of our own mortality. Could she have survived if she had worn a helmet, had gone to the hospital immediately, or had been closer to medical services? We ask these questions to rationalize something so unfortunate, but the most lingering question is “What could this brilliant actress and philanthropist have accomplished had her life not been cut so short?”

EARLIER POSTS:
Conflicting Reports About Natasha Richardson’s Status After Ski Accident
Natasha Richardson, Jade Goody: Two Sad Tragedies Unfolding
Video Clip: Natasha Richardson’s Performance in Cabaret

3. David Tennant Gives His Swan Song as the Doctor

Like Tom Baker had done in the ’70s, Scottish actor David Tennant made himself synonymous with the Doctor for millions of fans. However, after three highly-rated seasons, Tennant announced he was leaving Doctor Who along with head writer Russell T Davies. It signaled the end of an era. Under Tennant, the Tenth Doctor was manic, witty, yet utterly confident and charming. We knew Tennantwouldn’t helm the TARDIS forever, and we’re super-excited for Matt Smith’s debut as the Eleventh Doctor next spring. But we can’t help but mourn the loss of Tennant, who played the Doctor with the depth of a Shakespearean thespian. The bar has been raised.

EARLIER POSTS:
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2. Reality Star Jade Goody Succumbs To Cervical Cancer

From the day she walked into Britain’s Big Brother house back in 2002, 20-year-old Jade Goody had been an icon of trash culture. When she returned to Big Brother in 2007, her racial abuse of an Indian housemate opened up a national dialogue about bigotry in the UK. She was laughed at and loathed, and she made loads of money along the way. However, the joke suddenly wasn’t funny anymore: while on India’s Big Brother to apologize for her behavior, Jade received a phone call revealing her diagnosis with cervical cancer. Jade died as she had lived, with cameras documenting her final days, but she became more human in the process. It has been reported that Jade’s untimely death has helped raise awareness of cancer screening in British women.

EARLIER POSTS:
Jade Goody Says “Final” Goodbyes to Loved Ones
Reports: Jade Goody Gravely Ill
Natasha Richardson, Jade Goody: Two Sad Tragedies Unfolding
Jade Goody Has Passed Away

1. Susan Boyle Becomes International Star via YouTube

It all seemed a bit cloying. A frumpy Scottish spinster who had “never been kissed” turns up to audition for Simon Cowell and company on Britain’s Got Talent. Expecting some kind of silly Grandma novelty act, Cowell and members of the studio audience glared at her with disdain. Cue the music and out comes this pure mezzo-soprano vocal. Cowell looks sheepish and stunned, and his co-judges are overcome with emotion. Even though Britain’s Got Talent isn’t shown around the world, video of the clip goes viral, gallons of tears are shed on keyboards from Tokyo to Tulsa, and Cowell’s most bankable creation ever is born. With some help from Britain’s crazy tabloids, Boyle went through all the phases of fame over the span of eight months: the awkward first interviews, lurid breakdowns, a devastating second-place loss of Britain’s Got Talent, a stint in a “clinic,” a glamorous makeover, and a massive album launch that broke global sales records. Whitney Houston could take lessons.

EARLIER POSTS:
Britain’s Got Talent‘s Susan Boyle Becomes Web Sensation
Is the Reaction Towards Susan Boyle Sexist?
BoyleWatch: Jamie Pugh Outsings Susan on Britain’s Got Talent
BoyleWatch: Weak Competition on Britain’s Got Talent
Matt Lucas Dares the Wrath of Susan Boyle Fans
Kelly Clarkson, Leona Lewis Advise Susan Boyle’s Career

Kevin Wicks

Kevin Wicks founded BBCAmerica.com's Anglophenia blog back in 2005 and has been translating British culture for an American audience ever since. While not British himself - he was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri - he once received inordinate hospitality in London for sharing the name of a dead but beloved EastEnders character. His Anglophilia stems from a high school love of Morrissey, whom he calls his "gateway drug" into British culture.

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