2002: A Very Good Year?
EW's Entertainers of the Year 2002
While most of 2002's EW-approved Entertainers have remained on our radar — big shocker, Denzel Washington is still talented and Jennifer Aniston's still swinging that hair with the best of 'em! — none has had quite the decade of Kelly Clarkson. Who would have imagined then that this scrappy, sultry-voiced Texan would garner legitimate longevity from the prefab fame of American Idol? After weathering contractually obligatory missteps (hey, From Justin to Kelly!) and learning to emphasize the empowerment of a break-up (''Since U Been Gone'') over the angst (My December), Clarkson has come out the other end as a legitimate artist with a passionate following (and, as of June 2014, a bouncing baby girl named River Rose). We voted for the girl next door with a killer set of pipes, and that's still what Clarkson brings to the table — that and enough platinum records, Grammys, VMAs, and other awards to fill Simon Cowell's house.
EW's Breakout Stars of 2002
Trying to prognosticate which newcomers will still be relevant years later is a tricky business. But even if Alice Sebold has yet to produce a work as zeitgeisty as The Lovely Bones, even if Gregory Smith and Brittany Snow have struggled to find signature roles post-Everwood/American Dreams, and even if Bow Wow never quite lived up to his work in, ahem, Like Mike — let us credit where credit is due. EW's Breakout list 10 years ago included future Oscar nominee Maggie Gyllenhaal, perpetual top-seller/tabloid fodder John Mayer, and Josh Groban, who has carved out an utterly unique role for himself in pop culture. The Groban abides.
MOVIES The Big Stories
Box office winner: Spider-Man
Oscar winner: Chicago
Golden Globes winners: The Hours, Chicago
Though Chicago was supposed to change the game, the success of the movie musical remains tempered at best. And though it wouldn't have been shocking in 2002 to imagine Tobey Maguire's Spidey would land at least a sequel or two, could anyone have imagined there would be an entirely new iteration of Spider-Man as soon as 2012? (More on that in the next slide.) With sequels constituting six of the top 10 box office performers, we had the warning sign that the coming decade would see a Gremlin-like proliferation of franchises, reboots, adaptations, and straight-up rip-offs. Heck, even franchises we thought were dead and buried by this blatant money grab have re-emerged. Welcome back, Star Wars!
MOVIES Breakout Story: Dawn of the Superheroes
In 2002, a young actor best known for his work in indie-ish awards bait became a blockbuster star by playing Peter Parker, a gawky Queens native better known as Spider-Man. Since then, the pattern has repeated itself on at least one occasion: Andrew Garfield followed in Tobey Maguire's footsteps, putting on the webbed outfit for this past summer's Amazing-ified reboot. Of course, the cultural context is a bit different. In 2002, superhero films were still a rarity in the cineplex; in 2012, the superhero film has practically become the American genre. Interestingly, The Amazing Spider-Man made a bit less than the original film — $752 million, compared to $821 million — but its success alongside The Dark Knight Rises and The Avengers confirmed that superheroes will probably be around for the foreseeable future. Just think! The star of the upcoming re-reboot The Spectacular Spider-Man could already be in our midst!
TV The Big Stories
Ratings winners: Friends, CSI
Emmy winners: The West Wing, Friends, Band of Brothers, The Gathering Storm
Golden Globes winners: The Shield, Curb Your Enthusiasm, The Gathering Storm
Oh, the places we thought we'd go in 2002! In fact, the years to folloow have been mostly spent trying to reinvent the wheel as far as scripted shows have been concerned. New Girl, How I Met Your Mother, Happy Endings long clung to the ensemble comedy hopes inspired by Friends, still one of the biggest sitcoms of all times. CBS has spun off several CSI shows and was set to introduce another procedural blockbuster, NCIS, in 2003. And Aaron Sorkin and Larry David are still around to simultaneously amuse and irritate us. One of the few changes — the Emmy categories for miniseries and TV movie were combined (sorry The Gathering Storm! we hardly remember ye!) is one it's safe to say we can all appreciate.
TV Breakout Story: A Genre Explodes
The year The Bachelor (that's charter Bachelor Alex Michel above) and American Idol hit the airwaves wasn't technically the year the reality genre was born, nor was it the year that reality set down roots (we'll credit that to the debut of Survivor in 2000). But it was the year when it became clear there was no turning back. Unlike Survivor and The Real World, which were essentially TV's equivalent to bags of potato chips — meant to be consumed and tossed aside — The Bachelor took on an almost God-like power by introducing the possibility of finding life-long love (not just a date) via a game show, and Idol threw us all into a cultural echo chamber whereby we were (to varying degrees of success) making our own entertainment sausage. Both spawned spin-offs and clones that remain among TV's highest-rated shows.
MUSIC The Big Stories
Billboard Top Album and Singl: Eminem's The Eminem Show and Nickelback's ''How You Remind Me''
Grammy Best Album and Song of the Year: Come Away With Me and ''Don't Know Why,'' both by Norah Jones
MTV Video of the Year: ''Without Me,'' Eminem
In those long-ago days before iTunes and Spotify, the music industry had a big year for rap, with Eminem and Nelly selling the most albums as Eminem wrapped what we can now declare, in hindsight, as his golden age. Immediately behind them were Avril Lavigne, riding the death throes of pop punk, and Britney Spears (more on her to come). Ashanti's song ''Foolish'' proved inescapable, topping the charts for 10 weeks. When considering Grammy nominees from recent years, one major change is apparent: The Grammys are skewing much younger these days.
MUSIC The Breakout Story: Chad Kroeger and Nickelback
Although released as a single in mid-2001, Nickelback's defining song ''How You Remind Me'' found ubiquity in 2002 — SoundScan later estimated that it was the most-played radio song of the decade. The single's success led Nickelback frontman Chad Kroeger to collaborate on ''Hero,'' the hilariously inappropriate, irrepressibly heavy-handed, and massively successful theme song to Spider-Man. Intriguingly, in the very same year, Kroeger's future wife Avril Lavigne released her bestselling album Let Go, with its two ear-candy singles ''Complicated'' and ''Sk8er Boi.''
Amazon Best Sellers of 2002: The Lovely Bones, Stupid White Men...And Other Sorry Excuses for the State of the Nation!
Amazon Top Editors' Pick: Life of Pi
Though it would be a few years before YA and mommy porn would be considered ''literature'' fit for reading in public, there used to be books with symbolism — and spines! Then again, eReaders and tablets may have changed how we consume the words, but — with Michael Moore's political screed, plus books like Rudy Giuliani's Leadership and Bob Woodward's Bush at War — certain topics of intellectual conversation never really go out of style.
People You Might Have Forgotten
Though 2002 was fruitful for Josh Hartnett and Puddle of Mudd, with the release of 40 Days and 40 Nights and the chart-topping performance of late-period rap-rock single ''Blurry,'' can you tell us what they've done lately? (No Googling!)
Nia Vardalos taught all of America to love her Big Fat Greek Wedding. (America would be less kind to the ensuing TV adaptation, My Big Fat Greek Life, in 2003.)
The year 2002 also marked the debut of The Jamie Kennedy Experiment, which coincidentally was the high-water mark for Hollywood's own personal Jamie Kennedy experiment.
But if there's one thing to save in your 2002 time capsule, it's probably Michelle Branch. She followed up her hugely successful ''Everywhere'' — which bested Marshall Mathers (a.k.a. Eminem) in his prime for the VMA Viewers' Choice Award — with the equally addictive ''All You Wanted.'' Both songs have turned out to be exemplars of the kind of guitar-heavy alt-rock that would entirely disappear in the latter half of this decade.
Teen Dream Check-In: Britney Spears
Britney was at the top of her game in 2002. Hot off 2001's python-toting VMAs performance, she was still dating Justin Timberlake, Britney was topping the charts, and Crossroads hadn't yet thrown a cold bucket of water on her acting dreams. Sure, there were some hiccups — remember NYLA and Britney the restaurateur? — but 2002 was another banner year for a pre-Federline Brit Brit. Her split from Timberlake and the release of his ''Cry Me a River,'' which insinuated cheating on her part, set the stage for a multi-year marriage-motherhood-meltdown rollercoaster that took the better part of the late aughts and early 20-teens to turn around. These days, Brit is engaged, enjoying a residency in Las Vegas, still churning out hits with power producers, and seemingly aware of where her strengths and weaknesses lie. Let's just call it full circle.
People We Didn't Know Existed
Brangelina and the whole Jolie-Pitt clan
Celebutantes (Kardashians and Hiltons)
About To Be Huge: Zombies
Zombies are big business nowadays. Max Brooks's World War Z that eventually became a blockbuster Brad Pitt movie. AMC's The Walking Dead has become the most popular show among viewers 18-49, with a formula that involves little more than killing lots of undead people. Half the videogames made today feature some zombie or other. (Plants vs. Zombies, anyone?) But in long-ago 2002, zombies were still mostly a fringe interest for horror movie buffs. That would all change in 2003 when 28 Days Later (released in the U.K. in November 2002) hit American shores and redefined the genre for the anxious post-9/11 era.
Other things you didn't know were about to exist in 2002: The O.C. and the ensuing commodification of indie music and Comic-Con culture; Arrested Development and the ensuing decade of people complaining that not enough people were watching Arrested Development, and the whole idea of Jon Cryer as someone other than Duckie. Also, everyone was still really excited about The Matrix.
The ''Hindsight is 20-20'' Winner of 2002: Joss Whedon
In September 2002, Joss Whedon debuted his new show, Firefly. It was weird; it was wonderful; it was canceled by December. It was an auspicious beginning for a frustrating, demoralizing, but ultimately ridiculously successful career phase for the writer-director. Whedon spent the next couple years overseeing the final seasons of his shows Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, before a fervent Firefly fanbase led to the Hail Mary adaptation of Firefly into the movie Serenity. (Predictably, the movie was a box office failure.) Troublesome years in the wilderness followed, including a failed attempt to crack a Wonder Woman movie, the years-long delay of The Cabin in the Woods (which Whedon co-wrote), and the quick demise of his TV series Dollhouse, which in fairness was one of the strangest TV shows ever to air on a broadcast network.
But there were bright spots, too. His web series Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog was basically the best thing to come out of the 2008 Writers' Strike. He won an Eisner award for his run on Astonishing X-Men. And in 2010 — fresh off directing one of Glee's best episodes ever — he was selected to direct the superhero mega-movie The Avengers, which would go on to become the top-grossing movie of 2012 (and a critical success, to boot). Now, Whedon is a key architect of the Marvel Studios empire, working on 2015's hotly-anticipated Avengers sequel, Age of Ultron. All that, plus a filmed version of Much Ado About Nothing that he literally filmed in his back yard.
Joss Whedon, you win.