A Million Little Cultural Pieces

Photo: Tara Canova/Retna (D’Angelo); Courtesy of Comedy Central (Stewart); Lions Gate/Everett Collection (American Psycho); Gary Doak/Camera Press/Retna (Smith); Joan Marcus (The Laramie Project); NBC/Everett Collection (Freaks and Geeks); Courtesy of HBO (Curb Your Enthusiasm); CBS/Landov (Hatch); David Atlas/Retna (Yeah Yeah Yeahs); Mark Lennihan/AP (The Producers); Joan Marcus (Mamma Mia!); New Line Cinema/Everett Collection (Lord of the Rings)


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.”

Photo: Patrick McMullan (Brown, Chappelle, Ferrell); Kevin Mazur/WireImage (De Niro); David Atlas/Retna (Beyoncé); Jennifer Graylock/Retna (OutKast); Joan Marcus (Wicked); 20th Century Fox/Everett Collection (Simple Life); David Phillip/AP (Jackson and Timberlake); Charles Sykes/Rex Features/Everett Collection (Trump); HBO/Everett Collection (Sex and the City); Warner Bros. Television/Everett Collection (Friends); Marty Sohl/Courtesy of the Metropolitan Opera (Salome); Mario Tama/Getty Images (Stern); Timothy Hursley/Courtesy of MOMA (MOMA)


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.


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.


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.

Photo: Sara De Boer/Retna (Jolie and Pitt); Universal/Everett Collection (40 Year-Old Virgin); Roger L. Wollenberg-Pool/Getty Images (Colbert); Patrick McMullan (Perez Hilton); Piyal Hosain/Fotos International/Getty Images (Borat); Paul Kolnik/Courtesy of the New York City Ballet (Romeo + Juliet); Focus Films/Everett Collection (Brokeback Mountain); Courtesy of SPI and SOM (Freedom Tower); Courtesy of Neue Galerie (Klimt’s Ad Ele Bloch-Bauer I, 1907); Mary Ellen Matthews/Courtesy of NBC (Fey); Dana Edelson/NBC/Everett Collection (Dick in a Box); KC Bailey/Courtesy of the CW (Gossip Girl); Courtesy of AMC (Mad Men); Allan Tannenbaum/Polaris (Smith)


February: YouTube founded. The rest is history, in downloaded bites.

March 18: Woody Allen’s Melinda and Melinda opens and flops. No longer able to afford filming in New York, city’s definitive director takes business to Europe.

April: Brangelina and TomKat (with Cruise’s near career-killing couch-jumping on Oprah in May) push tabloid news onto front pages of legit papers.

May: Failed actor turned gossip blogger Mario Lavandeira rechristens eight-month-old website Perez Hilton, creating snarky empire out of defaced celeb photos.

May 1: Family Guy—canceled by Fox in 2002—returns to schedule thanks to wildly profitable DVD sales. Critically reviled creator Seth MacFarlane now visionary genius.

July 20: 2005 is the new 1915, as TV dance craze kicks off with So You Think You Can Dance.

August 16: T-Pain’s single “I’m Sprung” introduces intentional misuse of pitch-correction software Auto-Tune as artistic technique; in next four years, practice goes from novelty to epidemic.

August 19: The 40-Year-Old Virgin opens, launching inescapable Apatow movie machine.

October 5: Stephenie Meyer’s first Twilight book published. Runaway best seller turns cultish vampire love into national fetish.

October 6: Oprah invites bad boy James Frey into her club and onto her show for rehab memoir, A Million Little Pieces. To be continued.

October 19: Composer Nico Muhly’s score for a performance piece of Strunk and White’s grammar manual introduces 24-year-old center of burgeoning classical-pop music scene.

November 3: John Doyle’s budget Sweeney Todd settles lingering argument about primacy of Stephen Sondheim; 75-year-old composer is Broadway’s hottest once again.

December 9: Brokeback Mountain shatters limited-release records in New York, eventually winning three Oscars. Homosexual cowboys and Heath Ledger get some respect.

December 31: A glimmer of hope for music industry: Ringtones have yielded $2 billion in sales by year’s end.


January 8: Smoking Gun website details author James Frey’s “Million Little Lies,” earning him second Oprah invite— not in a good way.

February 22: Peter Martins youth-enizes New York City Ballet, casting spunky Tiler Peck, 17, in his virtuosic Friandises; later, stages age-appropriate Romeo and Juliet.

April 29: Less than a year after debuting The Colbert Report, Stephen Colbert cluster-bombs White House Correspondents’ Dinner. Political double-talk will never be the same.

May: Lil Wayne releases Dedication 2—creative peak of ridiculously prolific mix-tape run. “Best rapper alive” croaks now completely true.

June: In most bloated example of art-boom overspending, Neue Galerie drops $135 million on a Klimt.

June 28: Revised Freedom Tower design unveiled. Yet again, reality of real-estate development overwhelms aspiration.

July 28: Celebrity site TMZ.com (started in 2005) gets first hit of credibility by breaking news of Mel Gibson’s DUI arrest. By 2009, it’s a source as trusted as (egads!) newspapers.

September 7: Sacha Baron Cohen unleashes Borat at Toronto Film Festival. Arguments (bigoted? Exploitive? Classist?) begin—and end with Brüno in 2009.

September 12: Virginia Heffernan confirms that “lonelygirl15” is a stunt, starring actress Jessica Rose. Every viral video now assumed to be hoax.

September 12: With FutureSex/LoveSounds, Justin Timberlake and Timbaland lap the field, rewrite the rules, etc., etc. They haven’t topped it since—no one else has either.

October 11: Tina Fey’s 30 Rock premieres on NBC. High-low mash-up wins multiple Emmys, relatively few viewers, and a new career for Alec Baldwin.

November 6: Jersey Boys makes the jukebox musical okay for theater snobs, changing Broadway musicals forever.

November 19: Nintendo Wii’s radical, easy-to-use motion-sensitive controllers create whole new gaming demo: women.

December 10: As Wicked did for tweens, intelligent and sexy Spring Awakening does for teens: turns them into dollar signs for theater producers.

December 16: SNL sketch Dick in a Box instant sensation for comedy team of Andy Samberg and Justin Timberlake (who is suddenly entertainment’s MVP).

December 22: Lower Broadway’s Tower Records closes. Official end of an era.


February 16: Britney Spears, decade’s tabloid tragedian, shaves head, a greater (if sadder) act of performance art than her kiss with Madonna at 2003 Music Video Awards.

April 24: One third of Granta’s “Best Young American Novelists” are immigrants or their children. Shteyngart, Lahiri, Díaz, and Lapcharoensap now dominate a field once ruled by Cheever and Updike.

June: Gallery explosion adds up to thickest-ever monthly issue of Artforum: 544 pages.

June 10: Open-ended Sopranos finale sparks national debate. He was whacked, right?

June 29: Steve Jobs is God, Part 2: iPhone hits streets, and for once How did I live without that? feels meaningful.

July 19: HBO reject Mad Men premieres on AMC, rebranding the network, reviving gray flannel suits, Cosmopolitan girls, and the besotted allure of early-sixties Manhattan.

September 19: CW debuts rabidly dissected, low-rated Gossip Girl. Watching in real time is so very twentieth century.

October 3:Patti Smith performs final concert at CBGB’s, which then becomes John Varvatos men’s store, selling $150 vintage concert tees. East Village gentrification complete.

October 10: Radiohead rush-releases In Rainbows in pay-what-you-want format; freaks everyone the hell out. Future of the industry or one-off gimmick?

October 16: Damien Hirst’s preserved shark washes up at Metropolitan Museum of Art— a symbolic moment for a risk-averse institution. Hirst’s career jumps the you-know-what.

November 19: Amazon releases clunky, odd Kindle, promising it will change how we read books. Two years and a redesign later, a third of Amazon’s books are for Kindle, device is ubiquitous, publishing in even deeper doo-doo.

December: The New Museum for Contemporary Art opens in its new home, cementing Bowery’s transformation from punk to chic. Jury still out on museum itself.

Photo: Courtesy of Warner Bros. Entertainment (Dark Knight); Joan Marcus (Gypsy); DPA/Landov (Boyle); Kevin Mazur/WireImage (West and Swift); Patrick McMullan (Lady Gaga); Ken Howard/Courtesy of the Metropolitan Opera (From the House of the Dead); Brigitte Lacombe (Piven); Mario Anzuoni/Reuters/Landov (Jay-Z and Beyoncé); Courtesy of NBC (Fey as Palin)


March 8: Vampire Weekend play SNL wearing sweaters. Sweaters!

March 12: Hulu launches. Hulu + DVR = final nail in appointment TV’s coffin.

March 27: Patti LuPone makes us realize Bernadette Peters was not, in fact, the definitive Mama Rose in Gypsy.

April 4: Jay-Z and Beyoncé marry, becoming First Celeb Couple of New York City and First Black Celeb Couple in America (at least until that other couple moves into the White House).

July 18: Christopher Nolan’s deeply dark The Dark Knight—fueled by bravura performance from Heath Ledger, who died in January—takes comic-book films to new level of fanboy hysteria and box-office glory.

September 13: In one fell swoop, Tina Fey’s impression of Sarah Palin puts SNL back in the spotlight, makes Fey entertainer of the year, and seals Palin’s fate as national joke. (Probably.)

November 14: Sotheby’s announces it has lost $52 million in one season thanks to underperforming auctions. That art boom? Kaput.

December 3: Amid massive cutbacks in publishing, Random House folds Doubleday, publisher of The Da Vinci Code, into Knopf in wake of Dan Brown–induced overspending.

December 18: Mercury-poisoned Jeremy Piven leaves Speed-the-Plow. David Mamet writes best joke in years: “My understanding is he is leaving show business to pursue a career as a thermometer.”


February 22: Slumdog Millionaire becomes decade’s biggest Oscar upset for Best Picture. Mainstream America can love a film with no white people!

March 31: Netflix mails 2 billionth DVD two months after East Village temple of rentable films, Kim’s Video, closes. Official end of another era.

April 12: Within a few minutes of each other, twenty people forward you that video of Susan Boyle on Britain’s Got Talent.

April 16: Twitter becomes legit social networking for celebs when Ashton Kutcher reaches 1 million followers, beating out even CNN.

June 4: Frank Gehry is off the Atlantic Yards development, six years after his plan was unveiled. Widely hated project now even more widely hated.

June 5: Alt-comedy scene goes mainstream with massive hit The Hangover; Zach Galifianakis even more unlikely leading man than Michael Cera.

September 13: In most blatant (and entertaining) example of decadelong celebrity megalomania, Kanye “I’ma let you finish” West interrupts Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech at MTV Video Music Awards.

September 16:Alan Gilbert’s first downbeat as music director of utterly staid New York Philharmonic; orchestra and audiences suddenly invigorated.

September 21:Peter Gelb’s first production at Metropolitan Opera—Luc Bondy’s Tosca—receives honest-to-God boos. Gelb soon rebounds with splendid From the House of the Dead.

November 6: Sundance hit Precious, the most talked-about movie you haven’t seen, opens in New York, and becomes most talked-about film you have seen.

November 20: In one momentous day, second Twilight movie New Moon opens and breaks box-office records. And Oprah announces she’ll end talk show in 2011. Now we’re talkin’ apocalypse.

November 22: J.Lo falls on butt at American Music Awards. Whitney’s big comeback album has fizzled. So has Mariah’s latest. Bye-bye, old-school divas—welcome, age of Lady Gaga!

November 24: Real Housewives of D.C. aspirants Tareq and Michaele Salahi crash state dinner at White House, causing national-security crisis—a somehow fitting end to decade of fractious reality TV.

A Million Little Cultural Pieces