Bill Geist's 2004

Singer Janet Jackson, left, covers her breast after her outfit came undone during a number with Justin Timberlake during the halftime show of Super Bowl XXXVIII in Houston, Sunday, Feb. 1, 2004. AP

2004 was a weird year — a confusing, topsy-turvy kind of year, when a lot of things just didn't seem to make sense.

It was a year when steroids were widely available, but flu shots were not.

A year when a guy on a game show (Ken Jennings on "Jeopardy!")had all the answers.

It was a year when perhaps the worst professional singer in history, William Hung, "American Idol" reject, became a big star with his own music video and a recording contract for two CDs.

Martha Stewart was having a disastrous year, sentenced to prison. But while doing time, she made millions in the stock market, signed a deal for a new TV show, and slimmed down on the prison food diet. Prison, it's a good thing.

At the outset, it looked like it might be a terrible year for Donald Trump, with his casinos headed for bankruptcy. But "The Apprentice" premiered and "The Donald" became a star — doing commercials, introducing a line of cheap suits, a magazine, even Trump bottled water.

No Trump hair care products, but there was a new Trump fragrance. ...A Hummer fragrance inspired by the monstrous SUV. The smell of greenhouse gas emissions, perhaps? (No), it's really more of a new car smell.

For that new double-wide smell, there's Britney Spears' scent, and Paris Hilton's.

It seemed certain to be a bad year for President Bush, what with his monumental mess in Iraq, and a struggling economy. Would he have lasted a week on "The Apprentice"?

But who cares about the economy, with "Trading Spaces" fixing up the nation's homes, and Oprah giving away free cars?

And after a long tedious campaign, filled with high toned political discourse, the president was re-elected. Voters didn't seem to like the alternative.

Last year, people were scared. Who wouldn't be? With Godzilla, who turned 50, still prowling around? And giant Asian carp taking over our waterways.

In 2004, it was all about preparedness. For instance, a zoo in Japan carried out an escaped rhino drill.

We didn't know where the next attack would come from, although Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson offered some helpful suggestions, saying when announcing his resignation that he didn't know why terrorists hadn't targeted our food supply, because it would be so easy.

And the president backed him up: "Terrorists never stop thinking about how to harm America, and neither do we."

But at least our presidential election wasn't as bad as the one in Ukraine, where opponents of candidate Victor Yushenko allegedly served him poison soup.

We believe Ukraine missed a golden opportunity to capitalize on the worldwide publicity by not introducing a new line of soups: olde-fashioned Ukrainian-style "dioxin noodle soup," cream of strontium 90, chunky cyanide chowder, hearty arsenic and rice.

At least our election was decided on the issues. Like the issue of Janet Jackson's breast, the right one, the one exposed to millions during the Super Bowl.

Janet stole all the attention from a Super Bowl streaker, and gave rise to a massive outcry against indecency on the airwaves, even though the incident was surrounded with commercials for beer and erectile dysfunction cures, like one for Cialis, which workd for 36 hours – 36 hours! Best put some sandwiches under the pillow.

Not to mention, practically the entire nation was watching "Desperate Housewives," featuring arson, prostitution, and a housewife having sex with her high school lawn boy, on the dining room table which, by the way, is highly unsanitary.

There was a wave of religiosity this year.

Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" was a blockbuster.

Johnny Damon, the biblical-looking outfielder, finally led the Boston Red Sox out of the wilderness to the promised land – the World Series championship, leading one New York newspaper to top the story with the headling, "Hell Freezes Over."

Jesus was named by Premiere magazine one of the top 100 most powerful people in the movies.

And a grilled cheese sandwich bearing a likeness of the Virgin Mary sold for $28,000 on e-Bay.

Hockey great Bobby Hull's false teeth were auctioned for $576.96.

"Scrabble" was televised, as were highlights of the National Spelling Bee, showing us the kind of determination and resolve required in that sport.

It was a crazy, mixed-up year, with men marrying men, women marrying women and critics howling that same-sex unions desecrated the sanctity of marriage.

Like that of Star Jones, whose wedding had sponsors! And Britney Spears, whose first marriage of the year lasted 55 hours. She must have filed shortly after the 36-hour Cialis wore off.

Even Barbie and Ken split, after 43 years. She's rumored to be seeing the Donald Trump doll.

There was a rash of SpongeBob SquarePants kidnappings.

The reclusive Bob Dylan wrote a book and this soul of a generation appeared in a Victoria's Secret commercial. Yes, the '60s are really over. Like, totally.

Bill Clinton's book was the year's best-seller -- was that a pop-up book? -- and the world of literature was graced by a Pamela Anderson novel, free with the purchase of a cover.

Colin Powell left the cabinet for a more respectable job, with the Village People.

Dominating the airwaves were shows that somehow made chemistry and biology exciting, like "Law and Order," "CI," "NCIS," "CSI," "CSI Miami," "CSI New York." On the drawing boards: "CSI Peoria" and "CSI My Undershorts."

They were joined by a glut of makeover shows, for your car, your house, your face – everything about you was wrong, wrong, wrong.

It was all enough to make you cheer a new invention, TV-B-Gone, which enables you to turn off TV sets in airports, bars, restaurants and, if need be, your own home. Let me get that for you.
  • Brian Dakss

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