-NOTE- See also 24 accompanying stories on pages 22-58 of same issue

Even before 2001 erupted into a long, horrible reality show, much of the best pop culture on view was enchantingly escapist. Of course, every year offers a myriad of releases from the everyday; that’s what entertainment is. But look at the brilliant wildness of the year’s flights of fancy: Nicole Kidman lured us into an absinthe-saturated fantasy edition of fin de siecle France in Moulin Rouge; Audrey Tautou frolicked through the daydream life of modern Paris in Amelie. There were passageways through which to explore different worlds altogether — peep down on Middle-earth and find Viggo Mortensen among the freaky creatures of The Fellowship of the Ring. And the songs of both Alicia Keys and the O Brother musicians are the very definition of transporting. None of which is to say that there was no escape from escapism; note the pair of smart alecks perched behind unconventional anchor desks. Tina Fey became the brainy boy’s crush by giving current events a satirical spin on SNL, and Bill O’Reilly, the avowedly spin-free Fox News man, made news with his high decibel level and low tolerance for artifice. But, one way or another, we think our Entertainers of the Year operate in a sphere of their own. Turn the page to explore it.