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2004's top 10 entertainment stories

By Todd Leopold

Passion of the Christ
Mel Gibson's "Passion of the Christ" earned blockbuster status in a politically charged year.
Jon Stewart
Mel Gibson
Year in Review

(CNN) -- Wizards, trivia buffs, millionaires and political players all had prominent parts this past year in the entertainment industry.

Janet Jackson exposed

What should have been a minor, quickly forgotten "wardrobe malfunction" at the Super Bowl halftime show became symbolic of the year's culture war, as the FCC clamped down on nudity and obscenity and "moral values" became a political rallying cry. See also: "ER" edits old woman's nudity, Howard Stern canceled by Clear Channel (and jumps to satellite radio), stations shy away from running violence of "Saving Private Ryan" on Veterans Day and the "Desperate Housewives"/"Monday Night Football" flap. (The initial incident didn't help Jackson much, though; her music career remained in the doldrums.) (Full story)

"The Daily Show" is king, evening news is prince

Sure, maybe Tom Brokaw and Dan Rather aren't leaving because of Jon Stewart, but the Comedy Central host's wickedly pointed deflatings of political and media pomposity made his "fake news" show the go-to place for the public and pundits alike. He also co-authored one of the year's best-selling books. (Full story)

"The Passion of the Christ"

Mel Gibson's raw, graphic movie about Jesus Christ's last hours drew fire from many, support from many more, and became one of the biggest-grossing films of all time. (Review)

Michael Moore

The puckish filmmaker hit the peak of his anti-Bush activity with "Fahrenheit 9/11," a funny/angry polemic that drew fire from many, support from many more, and became the biggest-grossing documentary of all time. (It also won the top award at Cannes.) (Full story)

Politics and celebrity

And besides Moore and Gibson -- who were seen as indicative of the blue-red divide -- there was a mix of entertainment and politics (and the entertainingly political) the likes of which we've never seen, most of which was aimed against President Bush. Perhaps "Team America," with its determination to satirize world leaders and celebrities, got the last laugh. Perhaps. (Special Report: Election 2004)

ABC's comeback, NBC's tumble

Once left for dead -- the network fired its top executives before the fall season -- the Alphabet folks have the breakout hits of the 2004-05 season: "Desperate Housewives" and "Lost." Meanwhile, NBC -- though it had some success with "The Apprentice" -- is still trying to figure out how to replace stalwarts "Friends" and "Frasier."

Who is Ken Jennings?

Some commentators scoffed -- how hard can it be to answer a bunch of trivia questions? -- but you try to win 74 straight games of "Jeopardy!" Jennings, a software engineer from Utah, also took home more than $2.5 million.

Ray Charles, Marlon Brando and Christopher Reeve

The last chapter in the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy went 11-for-11 at the Oscars.

Charles went out on top, with a best-selling album ("Genius Loves Company") and a well-reviewed movie biography ("Ray") surrounding his death on June 10. Brando had faded but was not forgotten, noted as perhaps the most influential movie actor of all time. And Reeve inspired many with his work and resolve following paralysis in a horse-riding accident.

"The Lord of the Rings"

The final chapter of the critically praised, publicly adored film version of J.R.R. Tolkien's trilogy went an unprecedented 11-for-11 at the Oscars, including a best picture win. A 12-disc DVD box of the entire trilogy came out in December. (Special Report: 2004 Oscars)

Paris Hilton

Her 15 minutes may be drawing to a close -- and don't think many people aren't counting the seconds -- but the hotel heiress, once known for her outlandish escapades in New York nightclubs, was everywhere in 2004, from "The Simple Life" to a book and gossip columns.

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