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Truth Beat Fiction

From Katrina coverage to "Dancing With the Stars," what we watched in 2005.


It was, as always, a year of "American Idol," from the record-setting debut in January to the spine-tingling finale when what's-her-name beat Bo Bice. There were stories aplenty among the "Idol"-atrous, some welcome — Constantine booted! — and some not-so — Paula and Corey Clark?

The producers of the Super Bowl made sure no breasts made unscheduled appearances during the halftime show by hiring Sir Paul McCartney to perform, knowing that no one has lifted a shirt at one of his concerts since 1979. The Oscars, on the other hand, tapped edgy comedian Chris Rock to host the 77th annual ceremony. Despite Rock's best efforts — which included dissing Jude Law and proving just how few everyday moviegoers had seen any of the Best Picture nominees — the telecast drew 2 million fewer viewers than the year before, when Billy Crystal was host.

Edgy comedian Dave Chappelle didn't fare much better, disappearing before his Comedy Central show's third season was finished, scuppering his $50 million with the network and re-emerging on a beach in South Africa, where a "Time" reporter found him not in a mental institution or rehab, but taking stock of his life. The television industry still reels trying to understand this.

Pre-Katrina, the biggest TV story of the summer was — sorry, Tommy Lee — that a ballroom dancing competition walloped all comers. The finale of "Dancing With the Stars" drew not only 22.4 million viewers in July but also the biggest percentage of the 18-49 demographic since the 2002 finale of "American Idol." The television industry still reels trying to understand this.

Cable news brought us images of Katrina's aftermath that hastened the departure of a top government official, which made up for the ghoulish deathwatch it held earlier in the year in Vatican City, but not by much. The aforementioned Cooper made such an impression on CNN suits during the hurricane coverage that he was promoted to the network's flagship spot, which sent Aaron Brown back to celebrity golf tournaments.

It was supposed to be the year the sitcom finally died, but "The Office," Chris Rock's "Everybody Hates Chris" and Jason Lee's "My Name Is Earl" breathed new life (and ratings) into the form. It was also supposed to be the year Martha Stewart became the new Donald Trump, but viewers neglected to R.S.V.P. to that invite.

"Arrested Development," "Alias" and "Joey" finally died, and Madeleine Albright guested on "The Gilmore Girls." But I'll always remember it as the year that David Letterman and Oprah Winfrey buried the hatchet. And cross my fingers that Michael Jackson appears on either of their shows in 2006. S

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