31 // Ben Silverman
Cochairman, NBC Entertainment and NBC Universal; Age: 37
When he was appointed to one of the most powerful jobs in television in May, Silverman had been on a five-year winning streak. In 2002 he founded Reveille Productions and honed two killer concepts: working with brands like American Express and McDonald’s to underwrite development costs, and creating American pop-culture touchstones by importing foreign hits like The Office and Ugly Betty. Now he’s got to give the peacock some talons and reverse NBC’s three-year ratings slump (his deal allows him to retain an interest in Reveille, with his profits kept in escrow). “He takes chances, and that’s a great quality for a leader of a fourth-place network,” says James Hibberd, a senior reporter for TelevisionWeek. “I wouldn’t bet against him.”

32 // Revenge Nerds
Judd Apatow (Last Year’s Rank: 16) and Seth Rogen Writer, Director, Producer; Actor, Writer, Producer; Ages: 39 and 25
At first, it was just a cute underdog story: The creator of two canceled TV series about social outcasts (Freaks and Geeks and Undeclared) strikes gold by making a 40-year-old virgin a viable leading man, using the resulting clout to produce his husky protégé’s films. Then Knocked Up and Superbad, both starring Rogen, grossed $270 million this summer, making the duo’s repertory players (Jonah Hill, Jason Segel, Jay Baruchel, Bill Hader) hot commodities and redefining the bankable male star. Suddenly the nerds are getting the girl and the seven-figure paydays. Now Rogen has signed on to write and star in the movie version of The Green Hornet. If being able to convince studios that a plump Canadian with a Jewfro can play a superhero isn’t power, what is?

33 // The Cheaters
Barry Bonds; Age: 43 / Tim Donaghy; Age: 40 / Michael Rasmussen; Age: 33
The biggest sports stories of 2007 all have one thing in common: the stench of cheating. Tim Donaghy, a 13-year NBA referee, was busted by the FBI for betting on games he officiated. Barry Bonds’ record-breaking 756th home run is so tainted by the allegations of his steroid use that the ball is being sent to Cooperstown with an asterisk printed on it, courtesy of hip-hop fashion magnate Marc Ecko, who paid more than $750,000 for the souvenir. And, lest we forget, there’s professional cycling. Two whole teams withdrew and three individual cyclists were banned from this year’s Tour de France after failing drug tests. Another rider, Michael Rasmussen, was kicked out by his own team after he lied about his whereabouts during a series of missed drug tests. Yet the NBA and Major League Baseball set attendance records this past year, and cycling seems to keep pedaling along, regardless. It’s easy to think fans have stopped caring; more likely, they’ve just decided that henceforth every sporting event and achievement will bear an asterisk.

34 // Bobby Jindal
Governor-Elect, Louisiana; Age: 36
If you want to know whether—and when—the Republican Party will gird itself to regain control in Washington, keep your eye on Louisiana. This is where Bobby Jindal won the gubernatorial election in a landslide in October. “Republicans are spinning this as proof the Democratic wave has crested,” says Jason Ralston, a partner at the D.C. political-consulting firm GMMB. “Over the next few years, you will see them put [Jindal] out front as a face of the party.” The born-again Catholic son of Indian immigrants, Jindal screams New South even when he’s holy-rolling at Pentecostal revivals and calling for hate-crime laws to be repealed. When he’s inaugurated in January, he’ll officially become the GOP’s most effective PR tool, motivating major donors and the Beltway elite with the message that hope isn’t lost for 2008.

35 // The Vocal Vets
Average Age: 25
To call the Iraq war “another Vietnam” is to overlook one critical difference: This time the protesters aren’t heckling the veterans; they are the veterans. Veterans Against the Iraq War, for instance, which formed three years ago, already has 27 active chapters. Then there was the August New York Times Op-Ed “The War as We Saw It,” written by seven loyal-but-dissenting servicemen on active duty who had ceased to see their purpose in Iraq. When Rush Limbaugh dismissed them as “phony soldiers,” antiwar vet Brian McGough, who had been awarded the Purple Heart, appeared on TV and dared the conservative radio host to utter the epithet to his face. “One of the hallmarks of our success is that now you can say ‘Support the troops: Bring them home,’” says Adam Kokesh, the 25-year-old George Washington University student recently discharged from the Marine Corps for protesting in his uniform. “Even a year ago, if you said that, you’d get laughed at by Middle America.”

36 // The Exonerated
Reade Seligmann, David Evans, and Colin Finnerty, Duke Lacrosse Players; Ages: 21, 22, 21
Sure, we all thought they did it. It was a closed case: The three Duke University lacrosse players accused of raping an African-American stripper, we all agreed, were guilty as charged. We could see it in the privileged jocks’ faces. Wrong. Not only were they innocent, they triumphed over an unethical D.A. who suppressed evidence and, ironically, became the only person to be jailed over the whole affair. The way the accused players conducted themselves during last year’s prosecutorial witch hunt defied everything we instinctively believed to be true about them. They proved us wrong—making us reexamine our knee-jerk reactions to stereotypes—and they proved our justice system right.

37 // The Career-Doctors
Justin Timberlake, Mark Ronson, and Timbaland (Last Year’s Rank: 29); Ages: 26, 32, 36
The music industry is about one thing these days: finding the right career-maker. Timbaland and Justin Timberlake have ruled the concert circuit with one of the year’s top tours (the FutureSex/LoveSounds road show) and dominated the airwaves, furthering their own solo careers as well as resurrecting others (say thanks, Nelly Furtado). Now the pair have bestowed their combined genius on Duran Duran, with Timberlake cowriting two singles and Timbaland at the controls for three tracks on the comeback album, Red Carpet Massacre. Next up: Madonna’s return to glory. Ronson, meanwhile, has graduated from deejaying for celebutards to manning the board on Amy Winehouse’s breakthrough album, Back to Black, and on the debut of sassy pop tart Lily Allen. That beats spinning for Paris Hilton any day.

38 // The Bodyguard
Average Age: Thirtysomething
Britney’s hired he-man claims he snuck her Jack-and-Cokes after her stint in rehab. Lindsay’s says he pulled her father off her after Lohan senior pushed her onto the hood of her car and called her a slut. Anna Nicole’s performed CPR and stayed by her side till the very end. Thanks to a revolving cast of loose-lipped lovers and undermining manager-moms, the bodyguard has emerged as the modern celebrity’s trusted confidant—making him one of the most powerful swimmers in a shark-infested pool. “These guys know all the secrets,” says Dan Wakeford, editor of the celeb weeklies In Touch and Life & Style. “Who the stars are sleeping with, the drugs they’re doing, and all the outrageous demands.” But since rapper T.I.’s muscle helped the ATF nail the star on gun charges (he pleaded not guilty), and Britney’s former bodyguard turned tell-all witness in her custody case, stars have begun adding one more line of defense to their security force fields: airtight confidentiality agreements.

39 // Antoine Arnault
Communications Director, Louis Vuitton; Age: 30
The son of LVMH chairman and CEO Bernard Arnault, Antoine Arnault could successfully cruise on nepotism. Instead, as communications director for Louis Vuitton, fashion’s most coveted monogrammed brand, Antoine has made proactive—and sometimes risky—plays. In 2003, he used part of his $250 million annual advertising budget to land Jennifer Lopez for a campaign, winking at how the label’s appeal extends all the way to the block. This year, he persuaded Mikhail Gorbachev to pose for an ad, at the same time satisfying the mainstream with vampy shots of Scarlett Johansson. Those renegade moves—balanced by an austere personal style just like his father’s—bode well for Antoine’s possible future as the leader of one of the world’s biggest fashion brands.

40 // Steven Rubenstein
President, Rubenstein Communications; Age: 38
Forget spin; in the world of public relations, Steven Rubenstein is the ultimate wash-and-rinse man. The power broker has done damage control for Naomi Campbell and HBO’s embattled ex-honcho Chris Albrecht, among others, all while burnishing the images of corporate clients like the New York Post. The son of the godfather of New York PR, Howard Rubenstein, he’s fast becoming the first guy celebrities and corporations call in a crisis—provided he hasn’t already picked up the phone to offer advice. Rubenstein’s insider leverage can quash most negative stories before they get out, but when one does leak, he uses a frontal attack to control it. But even that approach is designed to quell controversy: He starts every conversation by stating, “I’m not going to lie to you.”