J.K. Rowling may be the most commercially successful author in recent memory, but in the lead-up to her first adult novel, The Casual Vacancy, skeptics questioned her writing chops. It’s one thing to earn a billion dollars charming children with teenage wizards. It’s quite another to penetrate the cloistered world of the literary elite. The fuss turned out to be for naught. The Casual Vacancy has been a critical success: the Guardian declared Rowling a storyteller “on a par with R.L. Stevenson, Conan Doyle and P.D. James.” Any 10-year-old could have told you that.
Putting the Sheen on cable TV
Writers for CBS’s Two and A Half Men made sure Charlie Sheen would never return when his character was hit by a train, and his body “exploded like a balloon full of meat.” Leave it to cable TV to see the potential in Sheen’s penchant for drug-fuelled rants and rehab stints. Sheen’s Anger Management debuted on FX in June. Ratings were respectable enough for the network to commit to a further 90 episodes. Let’s hope they left some downtime in Sheen’s schedule for a possible relapse. Maybe Ashton Kutcher will be free.
An inauspicious homecoming
Visit a prison and you’ll find inmates who claim to be wrongly convicted. But few can proclaim their innocence quite like Conrad Black. Since his release from a Florida prison in May he has made the rounds of British and Canadian media to declare himself the victim of the “fascistic conveyor belt of the corrupt prison system.” If there is one decision Black seems to regret, it’s the one to renounce his Canadian citizenship for a British life peerage. Eleven years after he termed his exit from Canada as his “last and most consistent act of dissent,” Black is back home on a one-year visa and fighting to keep his membership in Order of Canada. Missing Tim Hortons coffee, m’lord?
Britney, one more time
Britney Spears’s career comeback has been a series of false starts since shaving her head and attacking the paparazzi with an umbrella in 2007. But this year, Spears landed a $15-million gig as a judge on X Factor, put out an album that went platinum, performed more than 75 shows and launched a new perfume. She is reportedly in talks to pen a romance novel that will include “fictionalized versions of her own experiences.” Could the heroine be an umbrella-wielding bald girl?
Not that we don’t love the rest of them . . .
There’s nothing that seems to destroy an actor’s Hollywood prospects like starring in a long-running sitcom. Just ask most of the cast of Friends. Then there is the so-called Seinfeld curse, which relegated much of the cast of the hit ’90s show to voiceovers and commercials. The exception is Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who leapt from one hit show to the next. She won her third Emmy this year for best comedy actress as a vice-president in HBO’s Veep. Her continued success should spell good news for former castmates: there’s always the promise of guest appearances.
Tiger’s burning bright
No one has ever tried to give Tiger Woods a Husband of the Year award. But while his personal reputation may have taken a beating, Woods’s golf game has considerably improved. He scored three PGA Tour wins and, although he failed to win a major, he ended the year ranked No. 2 on the official world golf rankings. Some speculated he might be a contender for the PGA comeback player of the year. Unfortunately for Woods, the PGA opted not to give out the award this year and changed its criteria to a player who “has overcome extraordinary adversity, such as a personal tragedy or debilitating illness.” Surviving a sex scandal might not qualify.
Welcome back, Omar
Headline writers across the country resisted the urge to write “Welcome back, Khadr” to herald the return of Omar Khadr, 26, to Canada after a decade as the youngest detainee in Guantánamo Bay. Khadr arrived at a maximum-security penitentiary near Kingston, Ont., in September to serve the rest of his sentence for murder. He could be released on parole as early as next year, a fate that will be decided by a parole board. Khadr has so far been silent about returning to the country of his birth. But he once told a U.S. psychiatrist that despite spending just two years of his life here, Canada “is a country I can call home.”