Rodent of the summer
Remy, the rat whos the almost-title character of Disney/Pixars summer hit, Ratatouille, is smart, funny, and conniving. Unlike his real-life counterparts, however, he has amusing sidekicks, including Frances most famous chef, brought back to life by his oversized imagination, and the staff at the late chefs restaurant. Ratatouille gets the vote here as movie of the year. (www.ratatouille.com.)
Horse of the summer
Maverick at Cedar Point. The giant amusement parks 17th roller coaster is quite possibly its best. The newest ride at the mega-park offers thrills, chills, loops, speed, and best of all, comfort, unlike some of its brethren (the Blue Streak, the Cedar Creek Mine Ride). Its all about taking riders toward the ground at full tilt, then abruptly pulling up into a loop, or a wicked curve. Its not the fastest or the tallest, but it may just be the most fun. But be warned: the wait in line can be more than two hours. Thats quite a hefty time to wait for a two and a half minute trip around the tracks. But its worth it.
Bird of the summer
Its almost a tie, but the winner is the hummingbird. Hummers are the harbinger of summer. Their thrumming, looping dances, and sheer speed and beauty are enthralling. Theyre a sure sign summer is here, and their absence means autumn is at hand. Runnerup: The Raptor at Cedar Point, which, if it doesnt go backwards, does fly in loops and goes upside down.
Wizard of the summer
All right, this ones a bit obvious. But not only is the latest Harry Potter the most popular book (again) and one of the biggest movie hits (again), its also the best. With Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and the final novel in the best-selling series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, being released within weeks of each other, Pottermania ran worldwide this summer. Deservedly so, as the books not only got non-readers to read, but those who read them were treated to one of the most emotionally compelling and unpredictable stories of all time. (www.harrypotter.com; www.scholastic.com)
Caffeine-fueled chef of the summer
Eric Villegas, owner of Restaurant Villegas in Okemos, creates spontaneous humor (e.g. [The fondue] gets hot, kind of like napalm) on his PBS show, Fork in the Road. The laughter alone makes the series required viewing. (www.forkintheroadtv.com) First runnerup: Rachael Ray, whose made-up words and easy recipes have made her a favorite nationwide via four shows on Food Network, a magazine, and a syndicated talk show. (www.rachaelray.com) Second runnerup: Zonya Foco, whose adaptations of popular dishes and emphasis on the importance of good eating habits have won her fans through her television show, Zonyas Health Bites. (www.zonya.com)
Detective of the summer
Make that detectives. Tukufu, Gwen, Wes and Elyse take views on three trips each week to unearth the truth about some antique artifact on History Detectives, now in its fifth season. The professors and appraisers do the research and bring to light the truth, whatever it is. Well-produced and always interesting, History Detectives is destined to be around for quite awhile. Bonus points for adapting Elvis Costellos Watching the Detectives as its theme song. (www.pbs.org/historydetectives) Runnerup The title character of USA Networks hit drama/comedy Monk, played by Tony Shalhoub, who has an uncanny ability to make viewers roar with laughter or weep with sadness, often at the same time. (www.usanetwork.com/monk)
Political zealots of the summer
Each week, John McLaughlin and his cohorts on The McLaughlin Group Eleanor Clift, Pat Buchanan, Lawrence ODonnell, Tony Blankley, et al, amp up the decibels while debating the merits of everything from the war in Iraq to British UFO sightings. Ture, the yelling quotient (generally between the ultra-liberal Clift and the reactionary Blankley) seldom approaches that of other such shows (Hardball or Hannity and Colmes), but on occasion they nearly come out of their seats. McLaughlin keeps things moving along (Issue Two!) and the show is generally informational, not sensational. (www.mclaughlin.com)