TIME Magazine's Top 10 Everything of 2011: Comebacks

In 54 wide-ranging lists, TIME surveys the highs and lows, the good and the bad, of the past 12 months...

10. Jessica Simpson

Jessica Simpson's career these days may be a little less in your face — she's no longer belting songs like "I Wanna Love You Forever" or asking on television if tuna is actually chicken — but she is still making a whole lotta money. After her successful singing and reality TV career faded into oblivion, Simpson reinvented herself as a fashion designer. While critics were busy teasing Simpson about everything from her intelligence to her style sense, she was building an empire. The Jessica Simpson Collection began with shoes six years ago and now includes hats, bags and clothing. In February, New York put her on its cover with the headline, "Jessica Simpson, Fashion Mogul," and detailed her estimated $750 million earnings in 2010. This year, thanks to recently added ready-to-wear and career separates lines, her label is expected to become the first celebrity clothing line to top $1 billion in annual sales, a total that puts the Texan singer on par with top designer Michael Kors. It's safe to say Simpson is the only one laughing now — all the way to the bank.

9. Beavis and Butthead

Television is experiencing a wave of nostalgia. MTV has brought back 120 Minutes, and VH1 has Pop Up Video again. Teen Nick is airing episodes of its classics, Clarissa Explains It All and All That. But perhaps the most welcome comeback was that of Mike Judge's Beavis and Butthead. After 14 years, the snickering idiots have returned to MTV, and this time around, they will critique not only music videos, which their host network barely airs, but also shows like 16 and Pregnant and Jersey Shore and even the Twilight series. We can't wait to see what Beavis has to say about Snooki.

8. Aaron Rogers

It took a long time for Aaron Rodgers to get the glory he deserves. After having great success during his college career for the University of California, Berkeley, he was picked No. 24 in the NFL draft and started his career as the back-up quarterback for the Green Bay Packers in the 2005 season, behind the franchise's beloved quarterback, Brett Favre. After flirting with retirement, Favre decided to continue his career in the 2006 season, and Rodgers again found himself playing second fiddle. The same thing happened in 2007. Finally, after years of waiting, Rodgers helmed a disappointing 2008 season (the team finished with a 6-10 record) and a moderately successful 2009 season with a record of 11-5. But 2010 was a different story. Rodgers led his team to several key victories, vanquishing, among others, the top-ranked Atlanta Falcons and the Packers' long-time rival, the Chicago Bears. On Feb. 6, 2011, the Packers faced off against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLV. Rodgers ended the season with 3,922 passing yards, 28 touchdowns — and a Super Bowl ring. He was named Super Bowl MVP and FedEx Air NFL Player of the Year. Proving the Super Bowl was no fluke, Rodgers has led the team to a perfect record in their first 12 games of this season.

7. J.R. Martinez

Less than one month after J.R. Martinez arrived in Iraq in March 2003, the Humvee he was driving hit a land mine. Three soldiers were ejected from the burning vehicle; Martinez remained trapped inside. Forty percent of his body was burned, and he spent a gruesome 34 months at the Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas, where he underwent 33 surgeries including skin grafts and cosmetic surgery. Recovering from such severe injuries led him to become a motivational speaker as well as a soap star. He joined ABC's now defunct daytime drama, All My Children, in 2008 as Brot Monroe, an Iraq War veteran who was injured in combat. But capping off his comeback was a spot this year on ABC's Dancing with the Stars, an especially impressive feat considering that eight and a half years ago his mother was teaching him how to walk again. On Nov. 22, he nabbed the season 13 championship over Rob Kardashian. While we couldn't be more grateful for Martinez's service, or happy he has regained his health, we're also really glad a Kardashian didn't beat out an Iraq War veteran — what would that have said about America?

6. Melissa McCarthy

There's something very heartwarming about Melissa McCarthy's success this year. For those of us who loved her as Sookie St. James on Gilmore Girls for seven years — only to have her fade away after the show went off the air — her awesome rise to stardom this year feels like she's finally getting what she's long deserved. It's hard to think of any actress who had a bigger year. She starred in one of 2011's most popular movies, Bridesmaids, alongside fellow funny gals Kristin Wiig and Maya Rudolph. The film grossed more than $169 million, in part because of McCarthy's genius performance. Next came her Emmy win for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series for her work in the hit sitcom, Mike & Molly. (When she won, beating a bevy of talented comediennes, she blurted out, "Holy Smokes!") Before the year was over, she hosted Saturday Night Live and found her mug on the cover of Entertainment Weekly behind the headline, "Melissa McCarthy: The New Queen of Comedy." Long may she reign.

5. David Beckham

In Love Actually Hugh Grant's character listed David Beckham's feet as two of the greatest things England had given the world. Those feet have led Beckham to many victories over the years, but in 2010 they took him out of the game. A torn Achilles tendon limited Beckham's play to just seven games for the Los Angeles Galaxy and ruined his chances of playing in the 2010 FIFA World Cup. But this year, Beckham was back in action. He played in 26 games for the Galaxy — in his first full season since 2008 — and ranked second in Major League Soccer with 15 assists. He also scored two goals, one of which clinched the game for his team. His performance earned him a spot on the MLS First XI, the league's postseason all-star team, and won him the title of MLS Comeback Player of the Year. His comeback year did not stop there. Although some critics said the comeback award should have gone to Charlie Davies of D.C. United, who returned to the field after a car accident nearly ended his career, Beckham capped off the season by leading his team to victory in the MLS Cup over the Houston Dynamo, proving — once again — that his feet are worthy of the highest praise.

4. Britney Spears

Britney Spears has been working on a comeback ever since that infamous head-shaving incident in 2007. This year, she finally arrived. In 2011, Spears hit the trifecta: she had a No. 1 album, a No. 1 single (and another hit that came close to topping the charts) and headlined a worldwide concert tour. Her stellar year began in January when she released the single, "Hold It Against Me." The club single debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, making Spears the second artist in history to have more than one single debut at No. 1. (The other is Mariah Carey.) In March, Spears released another dance-pop single, "Till the World Ends," which climbed into the Top 10. After a remix of the song featuring Ke$ha and Nicki Minaj was released, the song peaked at No. 3 on the Hot 100 chart, giving Spears her third Top 5 single of the year (along with the "S&M" remix she joined Rihanna for). The following month she dropped the album, Femme Fatale, which sold 276,000 copies in the first week, giving Spears her sixth No. 1 album on the Billboard 200. Not only did it sell well with her fans, but critics gave the album high praise, with some saying it was one of her best albums ever. In June she kicked off the Femme Fatale tour, which would take her to four continents. But apart from her professional success, Spears also seems to be in a good place personally. She appears to be in a stable relationship and has been photographed on many occasions playing with her two cute kids. And she has all her hair, which in Spears' book is #winning.

the kween slaying the critics charts this year

3. Newt Gingrich

As Speaker of the House after the Republican Revolution of 1994, Newt Gingrich was at the top of his game. But when he took on Bill Clinton and lost as the then-President used him as a foil in for his 1996 reelection campaign, Gingrich left Congress amid scorn from his colleagues and national scrutiny of his affair and divorce. Twelve years and countless books, DVD movies, paid speeches, and television appearances later, Newt is back, according to recent poll numbers. A Nov. 14 CNN/ORC survey showed Gingrich was tied for the lead with former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. Recent Iowa polls show a similar story, giving Gingrich a shot at winning the 2012 GOP campaign's first official vote on Jan. 3, a victory that could hurtle the former speaker into a head-to-head showdown with Romney for the party's nomination. Gingrich's polling numbers indicate voters aren't too concerned about the details that were revealed this year about his private jet travel and $500,000 revolving credit line at Tiffany. But it's unclear how conservatives will react to the latest not-so-great Newt news: that he made big bucks in consulting fees from Freddie Mac, the mortgage giant the Tea Party loves to hate.


This summer New Kids on the Block and the Back Street Boys united to form one huge boy-band nostalgia group — and one very large acronym. The troupes briefly teamed up in the summer of 2010 when the Backstreet Boys, unannounced, joined the New Kids onstage at Radio City Music Hall for a rendition of the BSB hit song, "I Want It That Way." Rumors started to circulate and fans crossed their fingers in the hopes of a proper comeback. Their wishes came true in March when the nine-man group (all of the original members of each group, minus BSB member, Kevin Richardson, who left to "pursue other interests") released its first single, "Don't Turn Off the Lights Now." The song is a catchy tune reminiscent of the ones any 20- or 30-something woman used to dance around to in her bedroom, whether she admits it now or not. The group also kicked off a successful U.S. tour in May, performing classics from their repertoires, including "You Got It (The Right Stuff)," "Larger Than Life," "Step By Step" and "Everybody (Backstreet's Back)," and have announced European dates for 2012.

1. Gabby Giffords

Eleven months after a bullet penetrates the left side of Gabrielle Giffords' brain, the congresswoman from Arizona appeared in her first television interview, telling Diane Sawyer on Nov. 14 on 20/20 that she is feeling "pretty good." The fact that Giffords is walking and (haltingly) talking is nothing short of miraculous. On Jan. 8, as she prepared to host an event called "Congress on Your Corner," 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner approached her with a Glock 19 semiautomatic handgun and pulled the trigger at close range. Six people died in the rampage, including a congressional aide, a federal judge and a nine-year-old girl. The bullet that passed through Giffords' brain fractured her skull and both eye sockets, yet she was still able to respond to simple commands. After several surgeries, her condition was upgraded to "good" by the end of January and she was transferred to Memorial Hermann Medical Center in Houston to begin an intensive rehab program that included physical, occupational and speech therapy. In May, she flew to Cape Canaveral, Florida, to see her husband, Mark Kelly, launch his final space-shuttle mission. In August, she made a surprise appearance on the House floor — her first since being injured — to vote in favor of raising the nation's debt ceiling. In the memoir she and her husband wrote, Gabby: A Story of Courage and Hope, which was published in November, Kelly describes how determined Giffords is to return to Congress. "I want to go back to work," she has said, but mostly she just wants to "get better."

- ontd, who do you think deserved to be on this list? / Source