by Steve Ryfle
It was a year of unintentionally bared boobs on national TV, sex tapes and career crashes. While most celebrities do their best to maintain their public image, there's always a few who fail miserably. Here's our rundown of the Bad and Ugly in the 2004 entertainment world.
The worst celebrity faux pas, hands down, goes to Janet Jackson and her indecent exposure, supposedly accidental, during the Super Bowl halftime show. Never mind that Janet's right breast was visible only for a split-second, and from a distance. This stunt had a ripple (um, nipple?) effect throughout the broadcasting industry, and the feds are considering tougher censorship laws as a result. Was it an accident? The official explanation for the breast-baring was a faulty costume, but there were rumors and rumblings that Janet planned it as a career-rejuvenating ploy. If that's the case, it was a flop; Janet was disinvited to the Grammys and her new CD was less than a hit. (On the plus side, Janet's pierced nipple was hailed by body-piercing advocates.)
Far less significant, politically speaking, but even more entertaining was Ashlee Simpson's meltdown moment on "Saturday Night Live." Sure, it's embarrassing when you cue up the wrong song on the tape deck and suddenly everyone can tell you're lip-synching. But there's a better way to handle than dancing a little oddball jig, then walking offstage mid-song -- on live TV, no less. Ashlee's still young, and so are her fans, so the long-term career damage appears minimal.
Apparently Paris Hilton
will never go away. In that case, can she at least stop making sex tapes of herself? And now that Anna Nicole Smith
has given up eating, maybe she can also abstain from chewing up the scenery.
Fox News talking head Bill O'Reilly was always annoying, but when a female ex-colleague slapped him with a sex harassment suit, and accused him of unsolicited gab about his sex life, that was just, well, gross. We're not prudes around here, but c'mon Bill, keep the vibrator talk to yourself.
Ben There, Done That
Ben Affleck's publicity quotient seemed to nosedive after he broke up with J-Lo in early '04. Meanwhile, people have started to take notice of his acting. The result? Two big bombs in one one year: "Jersey Girl" and "Surviving Christmas." Ben, call your publicist. Make a decent movie. Get engaged to Cameron Diaz. But do something.
Bye Bye Baldy
Whatever happened to Vin Diesel? Somebody must have realized he's a bad actor, that's what. "The Chronicles of Riddick," his most recent starring vehicle, was advertised without his face or name in prominent view -- as if the studio was trying to hide the fact he's in the movie. Hard to believe this chrome-domed, unintelligibly voiced action star was getting $20 mil per feature not long ago.
Jumped the Shark
Sure, reality TV is still a phenomenon. But traditional shows like "Desperate Housewives" are on the rebound, and there are signs that reality programming is heading for an apocalypse. Shows about super nannies and bounty hunters and cosmetic surgery are sure indications of impending doom. And besides, "The Swan" must be stopped!
Over and Out
Dan Rather's oddly timed retirement from the CBS News anchor desk, and his feeble claim that it had nothing to do with a recent scandal over unsubstantiated sources, was an ignoble and rather sad end to a long and very distinguished American journalism career.
Ol' Dirty Bastard's untimely death was a sad and premature end to a short but likewise distinguished, prolific and influential hip-hop career.
Every year, there are Bad Movies We Love. Of the 2004 vintage, "Catwoman" and "Kill Bill Volume 2" fall into this category. How can we resist Halle Berry slinking around the metropolis by night in a body-hugging cat-suit? Or Uma Thurman and Daryl Hannah samurai sword-fighting in a trailer home? It's trash, but it's good trash.
And there are Bad Movies that are just, well, Bad. Like "Superbabies 2," "Resident Evil: Apocalypse," "Twisted," "White Chicks," and "Scooby-Doo 2." The biggest letdown of the year may have been "The Village," which proved that the brilliant director who gave us "The Sixth Sense" is just a one-twist-ending pony.