Of course, we know that you don’t need reminders that time has passed and you are now 20 years old than you were in January 1996. That’s just basic math. However, it’s interesting to take a closer look back at the pop culture events that happened this month, two decades ago, just to see what’s changed, and just to see what people were buzzing about back in the day.
Please enjoy this list of pop culture events that went down in January 1996. No, really – don’t dwell on the whole “passage of two decades” thing. After all, the times may have changed, but George Clooney’s good looks are timeless.
1. ER was the No. 1 TV series
January wasn’t just a good month for ER. The whole of 1996 was a good year for Must See TV, as the top-rated TV series for the year, per Nielsen ratings, were ER, Seinfeld, Suddenly Susan, Friends, the Tea Leoni sitcom The Naked Truth and the Sharon Lawrence sitcom Fired Up – in that order. It’s interesting to note that at the time, George Clooney’s Dr. Doug Ross was sporting that modified Julius Caesar ‘do that a lot of guys tried to replicate, and 20 years later he’s sporting it again in the upcoming Coen Bros. movie Hail, Caesar.
2. From Dusk till Dawn opened in theaters
Yeah, we know you’re reading this and saying “Wait, that vampire movie where George Clooney and Quentin Tarantino played brothers? Big whoop.” But it is a big whoop, pop culturally speaking. Before From Dusk till Dawn, Clooney was a TV star who had yet to cross over to big-name movies. Dusk was Clooney’s first starring role after becoming famous on ER, and it led to more mainstream fare such as One Fine Day, Batman & Robin and Out of Sight shortly after.
3. ’90s Power Couple Brad Pitt and Gwyneth Paltrow Covered PEOPLE
Amid buzz for his role in the hit movie 12 Monkeys, which opened in theaters on Jan. 5, 1996, Pitt appeared on the Jan. 15 issue of PEOPLE with a story headlined "Look Who Bagged Brad." The piece, of course, focused on his relationship with Seven costar Paltrow. The story features a quote from Paltrow that’s so ’90s is practically draped in flannel: “[My] happiest day was with Brad at a little coffee shop. We woke up late and were having a lazy morning, and we went around the corner and had these big bowls of latte and sat there all sleepy.” Daww.
Brad Pitt’s Changing Looks
4. "One Sweet Day" continued its reign as the No. 1 song
You probably remember hearing this song a lot 20 years ago. What you may not remember is that the Mariah Carey–Boyz II Men team-up dominated the charts for a record-breaking 16 weeks: from Dec. 2, 1995, to March 16, 1996. No song has yet beat that record.
5. Sharon Stone won the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama
After being nominated for the same category in 1993 for Basic Instinct, Stone took home the statuette for Casino at the Jan. 21 Golden Globes. Other big winners for the night include Nicolas Cage in Leaving Las Vegas, Nicole Kidman in To Die For, John Travolta in Get Shorty. The second season of the Fox drama Party of Five took home a surprise win for Best Drama Series.
6. Janet Jackson signed a record-breaking contract with Virgin Records
Following her fifth studio album, 1993’s Janet, and her first greatest hits album, 1995’s Design of a Decade, Jackson inked a reported $80 million deal in January 1996 that raised the bar for major deals throughout the recording industry. This was a record deal but it was also a deal that broke records – and outpaced $60 million deals previously made my Madonna and Michael Jackson. (The estate of the latter made a $250 million deal with Sony in 2010, however, and that remains the biggest of all time.)
7. O.J. Simpson broke his silence following the murder trial verdict
Simpson’s eight-month-long murder trial concluded with his acquittal in October 1995. Following that experience, Simpson gave his first post-trial video interview on Jan. 24, 1996, with BET, and the hourlong special was titled O.J. Simpson: Beyond the Verdict. Previous to agreeing to speak with BET, Simpson had been courting CNN, according to this 1996 Baltimore Sun article, but the news network refused to allow Simpson to promote a video in which he proclaimed his version of the events that occurred on the night Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman were murdered.
8. Michelle Kwan won her first World Figure Skating Championship
Kwan’s victorious 1996 routine marked her first major win and her first moment in the national spotlight. In addition to winning silver and bronze medals at the 1998 and 2002 Olympics, respectively, Kwan would go on to win the World Figure Skating Championship four more times and the U.S. Championship nine times. Today, she’s the most-decorated figure skater in U.S. history.
9. 3rd Rock from the Sun premiered on NBC
It was a sitcom about aliens, and it managed to last longer than ALF, Mork and Mindy and My Favorite Martian. The series premiered on Jan. 9, 1996, and ended up becoming a hit, lasting six seasons and helping poise its young star Joseph Gordon-Levitt toward bigger things down the line. Way to go, Solomon family!
10. The Horse Whisperer took the No. 1 spot on the best-seller list
After 18 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, Nicolas Evans’ debut novel hit the No. 1 spot on Jan. 21, 1996. The book was knocked out from that spot the next week by Dean Koontz’s Intensity, but the story about a trainer with a preternatural ability to communicate with horses would ride this success in early 1996 toward a Robert Redford film adaptation in 1998.