Stars of the Year
For the record, Chicken of the Sea is tuna, and "pulling a Jessica" has made Jessica Simpson TV's smartest ditzy blonde since Suzanne Somers. Next up? An ABC sitcom and possible I Dream of Jeannie remake. Until then, fans can tune in to the second season of her MTV show, Newlyweds (with husband Nick Lachey).
Johnny Depp starred in Pirates of the Caribbean, the Disney summer blockbuster that had entire families coming back for more. This year's Sexiest Man Alive did Captain Jack Sparrow his way – with a swagger nicked from Keith Richards – and he'll do it again for a 2005 sequel. Even in a ruffled shirt, says costar Orlando Bloom, "obviously, he's cool."
First there was a calm announcement that Gwyneth Paltrow and her British love, Coldplay's Chris Martin, would need a stroller come summer. "I am very happy," Paltrow told Jay Leno. "I pinch my stomach (for luck)." Next came word that the couple had married quietly in Santa Barbara, Calif., on Dec. 5.
NEWEST IT GIRL
With four credits this year – 2 Fast 2 Furious, Once Upon a Time in Mexico, Out of Time and Stuck on You – Eva Mendes's career is taking off. If only she could quash those tabloid rumors, like the one linking her with Stuck star Matt Damon. "I say show me a picture," she says. "Otherwise, you've got nothing."
Armed with a killer serve and looks to match, 2003 U.S. Open champion Andy Roddick has garnered a following most rock stars would envy. But the Saturday Night Live-hosting boyfriend of pop star Mandy Moore insists he's just a tennis player (albeit the top-ranked one). "My future is to play tennis. That game is who I am."
This year, Britney Spears had the PG-rated pop princess of the past banished while she canoodled with Colin Farrell, posed nearly nude for Rolling Stone and released a fourth album, In the Zone. "I did party a little bit," admitted Spears, 22. "But what the hell else am I gonna do?"
A CUT ABOVE
When Tom Cruise arrived onscreen in The Last Samurai as a Civil War veteran in 19th century Japan, his stunning swordplay looked so effortless (after months of intense training) that it seemed the hardest part of the role must have been growing his hair. The epic drama hit No. 1 at the box office, a fitting coda to an otherwise quiet year for Cruise.
After 10 years, our favorite Friends are moving on. Know what that means? Their apartments are back on the market in the spring! How much? Well, we aren't just talking space. Everywhere there's the echo of laughter. And that warmth you're feeling isn't from the radiators. It's the afterglow of their nutty, never-ending friendship.
BEST HOPE FOR HOPELESS HETEROS
"Tragic!" was the rallying cry of Bravo's Queer Eye for the Straight Guy crew (clockwise from top, Carson Kressley, Jai Rodriguez, Ted Allen, Thom Filicia and Kyan Douglas) as they trained pathetic schlumps to "flip it, slip it and reverse it" to tie their ties, and to always – always! – "shave with the grain."
MUST SEE: THE O.C.
Zip code 92663 doesn't have quite the same ring as 90210. But FOX's sexy soap The O.C. doesn't lack for lavish sets or angst-ridden Chanel-clad teens. "I grew up in Newport Beach (Calif.), where a lot of people look like Benjamin McKenzie, Mischa Barton and Adam Brody," says executive producer McG. "It's fun now to see it played out on TV."
BUSIEST BRIT IMPORT
"The last 12 months have been completely crazy," says Keira Knightley. After a breakout role in the soccer saga Bend It Like Beckham, she appeared with Johnny Depp and Orlando Bloom as Pirates of the Caribbean's feisty damsel in distress, and two blokes were besotted with her in Love Actually.
BEST TRAP FOR CITY MICE
In FOX's hilarious reality spin on Green Acres, two fabulously rich girls – Paris Hilton (hotel heiress, reluctant Internet porn star, left) and Nicole Richie (Lionel's kid) – spent 30 days suffering in rural Arkansas and stumbled from one heartland horror to the next. It was as if Old McDonald had decided to remake Clueless.
NO. 1 WITH NINE BULLETS
Eminem's protege was best known for having been shot nine times – and surviving – until 50 Cent released his 6 million-selling album Get Rich or Die Tryin' in February. By year's end, the former crack dealer was a gangsta king with an estimated $18 million in earnings and his own sneaker line for Reebok.
BIGGEST COUNTRY FEUD
The Dixie Chicks came out fighting after Natalie Maines's anti-Bush remarks on the eve of the Iraq war caused boycotts by radio and fans. "People think this'll scare us and shut us up, and it's gonna do the opposite," declared Maines (center, with Emily Robison, left, and Martie Maguire).
This year Hilary Duff rose to the top with three movies, a platinum CD, a CBS sitcom deal, a clothing and cosmetics line, and even her face on a credit card. Plus she's "polite and outgoing and hasn't gone down the road some of her peers may have gone down," says Lizzie McGuire dad Robert Carradine.
Don't look for Mary-Kate (left) and Ashley Olsen, worth an estimated $150 million each, to go wild on their 18th birthday next year. The wholesome high school seniors are busy "promoting our movie New York Minute," due out in May, says Mary-Kate. Talk about a sister act: they plan to room together at college next year.