Heath Ledger's death was voted 2008's top entertainment story by US
newspaper and broadcast editors surveyed by The Associated Press.
The top 10:
1. HEATH LEDGER DIES: When the Australian actor was found dead Jan. 22 at 28,
shock and confusion over the circumstances of his death followed. The autopsy
concluded Ledger's death was accidental, the result of a toxic combination of
prescription drugs. His legacy continued, though, in a roundly acclaimed
performance as the Joker in the year's biggest box office hit "The Dark Knight."
2. WRITERS STRIKE ENDS: The Writers Guild of America took to the picket lines
Nov. 5 of last year. The strike played havoc on the industry, from award shows
to network TV schedules, and didn't conclude until Feb. 12. When an agreement
was finally reached, the Academy Awards were saved and scripted television
slowly returned to the airwaves.
3. BOFFO BOX OFFICE FOR "DARK KNIGHT": As the release of Christopher Nolan's
second Batman installment "The Dark Knight" neared, anticipation over Ledger's
performance mounted. The film went on to gross US$528 million domestically,
second all-time only to "Titanic." Unlike most blockbusters, it also appeared on
many critics' top 10 lists.
4. POLITICAL COMEDY SHINES: The long campaign was highlighted by late-night
hosts (David Letterman chastising John McCain for missing his scheduled guest
appearance), satire veterans (Tina Fey's Sarah Palin impression on "Saturday
Night Live") and new media sensations ("Obama Girl"). "SNL," "The Daily Show"
and "The Colbert Report" all charted their best ratings.
5. BRITNEY SPEARS' DOWNWARD SPIRAL: Though by year's end Spears had rebounded
with a new album and successful TV appearances, her 2008 started at a low point.
After a custody dispute with Kevin Federline, Spears was hospitalized and held
for psychiatric evaluation. The chaos eventually subsided and in November she
released the aptly titled album "Circus."
6. PAUL NEWMAN DIES: Newman, one of the most beloved actors of the 20th
century, died Sept. 26 at 83 after a fight with lung cancer at his longtime home
in Westport, Conn. In the days after, tributes were paid to the charismatic
actor in his various worlds: theater, movies, auto racing and philanthropy.
7. TV NETWORKS EMBRACE THE WEB: Online video turned pro in 2008. Networks
increasingly embraced the Web, making many of their most popular shows available
to stream online. News Corp. and NBC Universal banded together to created
Hulu.com, while ABC and CBS continued to beef up their sites.
8. GEORGE CARLIN DIES: The truth-telling comedian—widely considered one of
the greatest ever—died June 22 at 71. "He was more than just a comic," said Paul
Rodriguez. "His routines became part of the American lexicon."
9. TIM RUSSERT DIES: Reaction to the unexpected June 13 death of Tim Russert
at 58 was widespread and felt throughout Washington by Republicans and
Democrats. Tom Brokaw delivered the news live on NBC, and would later
temporarily take Russert's spot on "Meet the Press." David Gregory recently
became the full-time moderator for the show, the longest-running on TV.
10. JENNIFER HUDSON'S FAMILY TRAGEDY: Days after the release of her film "The
Secret Life of Bees," tragedy befell the family of the "American Idol" finalist.
Her mother, brother and nephew were killed in a shooting at their Chicago home.
Police have charged William Balfour, the estranged husband of Hudson's sister
Julia, with the murders.