Maybe we took the blue pill by accident. Maybe the past 12 months were all just a bizarre dream. Did P. Diddy really run the New York City Marathon? Did a pretty and vacant hotel heiress really put on the most talked-about performance of the year (and we don't mean her TV show)? And did a former bodybuilder-turned-action hero famous for delivering lines like ''I hope you leave enough room for my fist because I'm going to ram it into your stomach and break your goddamn spine!'' really just become the governor of California? There's only one way to find out for sure: Embrace deja vu as we travel back in time to remember the good (Ruuuuuuuben), the Bad (Michael Jackson), and the ugly (sorry, Enrique, but we miss the mole) of 2003.
POOR MAN, POOR MAN Proving that if there's one thing America loves, it's a mendacious tuxedoed himbo, nearly 19 million viewers tune in for the premiere of Joe Millionaire, giving it the highest ratings of any new program in the 2002-03 season. Its season finale six weeks later garners 40 million viewers, making it the highest-rated entertainment program in the history of Fox. The joke ends up being on Fox: Actual video of a man beating a dead horse would have roped in better ratings than The Next Joe Millionaire.
GIRL, INCOHERENT Reading the list of Grammy nominees, Avril Lavigne pronounces David Bowie's last name as if it rhymes with ''Howie.'' Perhaps it's just another item on the list of things she finds complicated. (Lavigne's mispronunciation is, sadly, only our second-favorite gaffe of the year. She is defeated by Arnold Schwarzenegger's courageous assertion that ''I think that gay marriage is something that should be between a man and a woman.'')
MUSICAL CHAIRS Sony Music Entertainment heads into a Lackluster year as longtime chairman and CEO Tommy Mottola is replaced by NBC's president Andy Lack. Lack came up through the Peacock network's news division, which is known for such hits as ''Opening Theme From the NBC Nightly News'' and the slightly lesser-known ''Closing Theme From the NBC Nightly News.''
HOUSTON, WE HAVE A LOT OF PROBLEMS A Georgia judge issues a bench warrant for the arrest of Bobby Brown, who had been ordered not to leave the state, pending trial on drunk-driving charges. Brown instead traveled to L.A. to appear on the American Music Awards, which is, evidently, the sort of thing judges notice. When Brown returns to Georgia, he pleads guilty to the drunk-driving charges and is sentenced to eight days in jail and two years' probation. It is an inauspicious beginning to the year for Brown and Houston, who continue making headlines: On Jan. 30, in a combative interview with radio host Wendy Williams, Houston responds ''No'' to Williams' question, ''Do you deny you've had breast implants?'' In May, Brown and Houston visit Israel, where they meet with Ariel Sharon and the Black Hebrews. ''It's home,'' proclaims Houston, who is Christian, before heading back to the U.S. In August, Brown is arrested -- while dining with Houston in an Alpharetta, Ga., restaurant -- for allegedly violating the terms of his probation, including failing to show up for a substance-abuse program and a drug test. And finally, in December, Brown is charged with misdemeanor battery after allegedly hitting Houston. Brown's lawyer did not return calls for comment.
JAN 29CAUGHT SMOKING The Smoking Gun website discloses that Joe Millionaire finalist Sarah Kozer has appeared in bondage and foot-fetish films with titles like Dirty Soled Dolls under the nom de porn "Cindy Schubert." In March, the site reports that Corey Clark of American Idol 2 was accused of assaulting his sister and resisting arrest last October; Clark is subsequently booted from the show when the incident becomes public. (He pleads guilty to "obstruction of legal process," and in June the rest of the charges are dropped.) The Smoking Gun also reports American Idol 2 fan favorite Frenchie Davis had posed on an Internet porn site, and For Love or Money's Rob Campos had his military career curtailed after being accused of groping a female Navy officer in 1999. Frenchie is bounced from Idol; Campos stays on For Love or Money. Because, presumably, posing for racy photographs has a direct bearing on one's singing ability, while allegedly groping a woman against her will has no bearing on one's suitability as a prospective mate.