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In a lackluster year, TV was king of pain

The 10 most cringe-worthy moments of 2003
/ Source: Hollywood Reporter

As it draws to a close, this much can be said about 2003: The seasons changed on schedule and the Earth never once stopped spinning on its axis.

As years go, this wasn’t exactly the best one on record. In many ways, it was the quirky one you wish you could have back -- like the year you decided to grow sideburns or a mustache or buy a polyester suit. It wasn’t a year so much as a 365-day faux pas.

That’s not to say there weren’t some good things on television in ’03. It was easy for a terminally heterosexual guy like me to grow addicted to Bravo’s “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” and dream dreams of color-coordinated outfits and matching furniture. It was the makeover show with heart and a sense of humor.

On the other hand, this was also the year that Bravo gave us the straight guy masquerading as a gay man on “Boy Meets Boy,” proving that no good idea (“Queer Eye”) goes unpunished.

With that in mind, I give you the 10 Most Painful TV Events of 2003 (in no particular order):

1. In February, Michael Jackson causes a stir by offering that he likes to share his bed with really young boys and that it’s just about the most generous thing an adult can do for a kid. In hindsight, it seems pretty tame. At the time, it merely seemed like much ado about something we already knew.

2. Paris Hilton makes her Wal-Mart comment on Fox’s “The Simple Life.” No, the retail giant doesn’t merely sell stuff for “walls.” But in “Simple Life,” Fox found that when you throw enough up against the wall, occasionally something sticks almost in spite of itself.

3. Fox decides it must go back to the well and produce a second “Joe Millionaire” -- and then is shocked (shocked!) when it tanks. It really was the “fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me” system at work. Maybe they should have tried “Average Joe Millionaire.”

4. Arnold Schwarzenegger announces his intention to run for California governor on “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno.” It says everything about the incestuous alliance between politics and entertainment that something this staged would become a worldwide event, launch a candidacy and, ultimately, result in triumph.

5. Madonna plants the infamous smooch on Britney Spears at the MTV Video Music Awards, and the nation loses its collective lunch. I’ll say this much for Madonna: She knows her audience. We’re so flipped out by lesbian overtones that it makes anything featuring them, however contrived, an instant classic.

6. Under pressure, CBS decides to bag the miniseries “The Reagans.” Oh sure, it must have been purely a creative decision, because the film went on to air on Showtime and wound up landing a pair of Golden Globe nominations. Not a sterling moment in the annals of artistic freedom.

7. On MTV’s “Newlyweds,” Jessica Simpson expresses confusion over whether Chicken of the Sea features fish or fowl and wonders why they call those things Buffalo wings if buffalo can’t, you know, fly.

8. Jon pretends that his real-life grandmother has died in an effort to earn a strategic advantage on “Survivor: Pearl Islands.” Oh, hey, sorry about that, granny. It’s just business. You understand -- right? Right?

9. Against all reason, CBS rolls out a TV sitcom version of the indie smash “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” -- somehow convinced that the film was no mere one-shot fluke. News flash: It was.

10. The clock on the Osbourne family ticks closer to the 15-minute mark as matriarch Sharon is given her very own megabucks syndicated talk show. It’s predictably dreadful. Oh well. The good news is, in a mere two days, we’ll have a new year to kick around: 12 whole months to see if we can spot a flying buffalo.