By Jon Keller

BOSTON (CBS) – A chill in the air; gridlock on the Mass Pike; the distinctive aroma of a turkey in the oven. To these telling signs of another Thanksgiving at hand, add one more – our annual picks for the biggest local, national and pop-culture turkeys of the year. These are the people, products, and companies that distinguished themselves through dumb behavior or epic failure.

In no particular order, here are a few of 2018’s biggest pop-culture turkeys:

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The sudden death of Life Itself

The movie Life Itself opened this fall with a great cast, including Olivia Wilde, Annette Benning and Antonio Banderas, and backing from Amazon, possessors of the Midas touch. But Life Itself died a quick, decisive death, never recovering from one of the worst opening weekends at the box office ever.

The critics hated its clichéd story of a too-cute New York City couple and their melodramatic journey through life. One said sitting through it made her “pray for death.”

Dialogue like this didn’t help: “Maybe the heroes and villains of our stories are just day players in a much bigger movie.”

Memo to Hollywood: no one talks like that in real life itself. Ever.

The descent of the Pittsburgh Vultures

You may know them as the Steelers, a perennially-talented football team with chronic immaturity issues. You may recall wide receiver Antonio Brown’s decision to broadcast a confidential, expletive-filled post-game speech by the head coach over Facebook Live as a recent case study in turkeyhood.

That was a class act compared to what happened recently when team attendants started to clear out the locker of star Steeler running back Le’Veon Bell, who apparently ticked off some of his teammates by holding out in a contract dispute, a standoff that ended with Bell missing the entire season.

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Some of his teammates saw their opportunity and grabbed Bell’s belongings for themselves, laughing all the way, a juvenile stunt captured on – of course – smartphones.

What a turkey move.

Self-driving cars, a.k.a. carnage on wheels

Oh, how we love our high-tech gadgets. In theory, self-driving cars may be a liberating advance – someday.

However, this year we saw an innocent woman killed by a self-driving vehicle amid persistent questions about their safety. The latest versions of these fantasies feature fancy technology designed to remind the non-driver to pay attention, lest the technology fail and they have to step in.

Gee, I thought they were supposed to be self-driving. You have to wonder, could these things be nothing more than dangerous high-tech turkeys?

Britney Spears and the empty house

The pop singer has had a good, long run. Would you believe it has been 26 years since she debuted on the Mickey Mouse Club? But it looks like this Mouseketeer has run out of cheese. Ticket sales for her Las Vegas residency next year have been very weak. Her risque act and odd videos don’t have an ounce of shock value anymore.

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Britney’s new show is entitled “Domination,” but that looks like a box-office oxymoron. Sometimes, what happens in Vegas flops in Vegas.

Jon Keller