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Aughts

A Million Little Cultural Pieces

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2002

January 18: Tina Brown cements rep as trendsetter supreme when Talk folds—harbinger of doom for glitzy print start-ups (Portfolio, etc.).

February 27: Us Weekly gets new editor, Bonnie Fuller, she of the catty cover lines and Day-Glo scribbles. Mag becomes Big Bang for new universe of cheapened, expansive celebrity.

March 13: Jennifer Westfeldt’s Kissing Jessica Stein kicks off faux-lesbianism trend.

May 8: Local boy and downtown-economy booster Robert De Niro launches Tribeca Film Festival.

May 18: Will Ferrell leaves SNL, paving way for biggest comedy career of decade, not to mention fellow fuzzy-haired spastics like Jonah Hill.

July 1: In review of The Black Veil, Dale Peck calls Rick Moody “the worst writer of his generation,” sparking a feud that will end in 2008, when Peck lets Moody shove a pie in his face for charity.

August 18: Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones hits No. 1 on Times best-seller list, confirming power of book clubs—from Oprah’s to your aunt’s—to lift middlebrow lit into the stratosphere.

October 23: Kanye West survives car crash. Incident inspires breakthrough single, “Through the Wire,” recorded while his jaw is wired shut. Now all aspiring rappers know how to spell Louis Vuitton.

December: Artforum’s Katy Siegel declares that art’s bull market is over. Oops.

2003

January 22: Dave Chappelle premieres galvanizing Chappelle’s Show. Faster than you can say “I’m Rick James, bitch!,” DVDs make millions. Faster still, it all ends when Chappelle inexplicably quits.

February: The World Trade Center design competition briefly makes everyone an architecture critic. Winner: Daniel Libeskind.

March 18: The Da Vinci Code is published. Doubleday makes a mint; publishers spend millions in search of next Code, believing themselves to be in hugely profitable line of work.

April 1: Amy Poehler and fellow Upright Citizens Brigade members get a new home, on 26th Street, creating incubator for every SNL cast member and 30 Rock guest star to come.

June 24: Beyoncé’s “Crazy in Love,” then OutKast’s “Hey Ya!” in September, become pop songs of decade. Even stubborn rockists now admit chart-toppers are as critically relevant as sallow-faced indie dudes.

July 15: Queer Eye for the Straight Guy re-brands Bravo as home for reality TV even snooty urbanites can love: Project Runway (2005); Top Chef (2006); all those Real Housewives.

August: MySpace prototype launches. Ultimately fails as social-networking site but forever alters how music is marketed: by bands themselves.

September 16: Jonathan Lethem’s The Fortress of Solitude is published; meme of Brooklyn as literary mecca reaches apex.

October 30: Wicked opens on Broadway. Producers take note of new revenue stream: tweens.

November 2: Absurdist sitcom Arrested Development debuts on Fox. Quickly becomes template for highbrow-sitcom humor; introduces Michael Cera, future most unlikely leading man in movies.

November 14: Jay-Z releases The Black Album, hip-hop’s equivalent to Michael Jordan’s sixth championship: a perfect endnote from a titan. If only he had retired after this.

December: Mainstream DVR threatens to usurp TiVo, further scaring the crap out of TV industry, and introducing new verb.

December 2: Soon after her leaked sex tape, Paris Hilton—high priestess of famous-for-being-famous—stars in vaguely legitimate claim to fame, The Simple Life, with BFF (then not) Nicole Richie.

2004

January 8: The Apprentice debuts: Our local nightmare (Donald Trump) becomes the nation’s.

February 1: Nipplegate—the purportedly accidental flashing of a Janet Jackson breast during a Super Bowl halftime performance—reminds us America still super-uptight.

February: Producer Brian “Danger Mouse” Burton’s awesome mash-up, The Grey Album, inflames debate on legalities and etiquette of file-sharing, artists’ rights.

February 4: Time Warner Center, dismissed by architectural Establishment, is real-world success: Urban desert Columbus Circle is now active crossroads.

February 22: Sex and the City ends. TV producers (including SATC creator, Darren Star) still trying to replicate show’s success.

March 15: Soprano Karita Mattila is talk of opera world after the Met’s Salome incorporates full-on nude scene. Sometimes it’s not entirely about the voice.

May 6: Friends finale draws 52.5 million viewers. Never again, people, never again.

June 6: Raunchy puppet musical Avenue Q beats Wicked for Best Musical Tony Award; ushers in era of Tony campaigns as feverish as those for Oscars.

July 18: David (Michael C. Hall) carjacked on Alan Ball’s Six Feet Under. TV gays aren’t just saints or bitchy sidekicks anymore.

September: Wee Olsen twins arrive to attend NYU; incongruously become fashion icons for their bag-lady chic and supersize sunglasses.

September 28: New York is the new Canada after a new bill authorizes tax credits for local film and TV production.

September 28: Laguna Beach marks start of MTV’s new regime of “reality” TV. Music videos now quaint.

October 6: Howard Stern announces move from terrestrial radio to Sirius, allowing him to bloviate with impunity; satellite radio instantly legitimized.

October 29: Saw kicks off torture-porn epidemic (Hostel, The Devil’s Rejects, Wolf Creek, etc.).

November: Blame World of Warcraft for turning niche market of online gaming into mass phenomenon, and your child into sword-and-sorcery-loving nerd.

November 20: MoMA reopens, vastly enlarged and reconfigured by Yoshio Taniguchi. Too big? Too arid? Not big enough? The arguments continue.


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