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A Million Little Cultural Pieces

A smattering of moments that changed the way we entertain ourselves.



January 21: Mary Harron’s American Psycho premieres at Sundance, presaging 2008’s Wall Street bloodbath. Star Christian Bale becomes aughts box-office wunderkind/anger-management poster boy.

January 24: With The Daily Show’s “Indecision 2000,” newish host Jon Stewart begins transforming absurdity and outrage into relevance.

January 25: D’Angelo’s album Voodoo released. Responsible for approximately 3,257 babies conceived within week.

January 27: Zadie Smith is decade’s first literary phenom, with sprawling, multicultural White Teeth. Six months later, James Wood becomes decade’s first critical phenom by attacking novel as “hysterical realism.”

February 1: A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius catapults Dave Eggers into literary stardom; with McSweeney’s, introduces the Art of Twee.

March 22: NBC cancels short-lived but hugely influential Freaks and Geeks, firing ne’er-do-well creator Judd Apatow and cast members Seth Rogen, James Franco, and Jason Segel.

March 30: Susan Stroman’s Contact opens. Bare-bones storytelling through evocative dance changes Broadway musicals … forever.

April 17: Tom Stoppard evolves from brainy trickster to decade’s powerhouse playwright with revival of The Real Thing, then The Coast of Utopia (2006) and Rock ’n’ Roll (2007).

May 18: Moisés Kaufman’s The Laramie Project ushers in documentary theater—cheap, potent way to address everything from death penalty (The Exonerated) to handbags (Love, Loss, and What I Wore).

May 31: Survivor debuts. Viewers elated, critics bewildered, pundits relieved: Subsequent reality-TV explosion becomes convenient totem for debating nation’s cultural maturity (or lack thereof).

July: Napster’s file-sharing rocks music biz when Radiohead’s Kid A is leaked three months before the CD is released. Ironically, it helps drive album to No. 1 on soon-to-be-irrelevant Billboard chart.

October 15: Curb Your Enthusiasm premieres; augurs cringe-comedy trend (The Office, The Comeback …).

October 26: Sony’s PlayStation 2 debuts, selling over 139 million units to date. Welcome, new generation of 3-D gaming!


February 6: FOX’s 24 debuts with TV’s first black president—and weirdly becomes propaganda organ for Bush administration’s policy on torture.

April 19: The Producers’ rave reviews, twelve Tony wins, and record-breaking seat prices (as high as $480) somehow don’t add up to a Cats-length run. It closes in 2007.

May 22: The Strokes release The Modern Age EP. New York rock revival is on (Interpol, the Walkmen, the Rapture …)! With the White Stripes’ White Blood Cells in July, revival goes national, blissfully ending nu-metal and boy-band chart domination.

June 28: At Hot 97’s Summer Jam, Jay-Z starts epic music beef when he trash-talks Nas in “The Takeover”; Nas’s response, “Ether,” revitalizes his career. Jay-Z makes out all right, too.

July 1: Ballet golden boy Christopher Wheeldon appointed City Ballet’s choreographer-in-residence; proves ballet need not be “big, puffy, pink, glittery nightmare.”

September: Yeah Yeah Yeahs drop super-cool self-titled debut EP, igniting Williamsburg scene (TV on the Radio, Liars, Animal Collective…). Eventual by-product: hipster hatred.

September 26: Shortly after Graydon Carter declares end of Age of Irony, now–New York–based The Onion produces its 9/11 issue—oddly, the most memorable response to the tragedy.

October 18: The jukebox musical achieves commercial Nirvana with Mamma Mia! Musicals changed forever.

October 23: Oprah revokes invitation to The Corrections author Jonathan Franzen after he complains about her book-club sticker that makes him rich.

November 10: Steve Jobs is God, Part 1: The iPod is released, changing media consumption, Apple’s core business, and the music industry.

December 19: First of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films opens. Exposes rich, endless gold mine that is geeks.

December 19: Tony Kushner is prescient, Exhibits A and B: Long-gestating drama Homebody/Kabul opens just after war in Afghanistan begins. Two years later, pre-Katrina musical Caroline, or Change features line “There ain’t no underground in Louisiana, there is only underwater.”

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