A venerable reporter retired. A late-night comedian had his last laugh. A beloved actor’s sudden suicide shocked the world. A teenage heartthrob went full-on bad boy, and America’s eternal bachelor tied the knot.
As the year winds down, let’s take a look back at the wacky, wild and confounding moments in pop culture that had us posting on Facebook and tweeting up a storm.
Laughing all the way to retirement
Late-night comedy saw a host of changes. After two decades headlining NBC’s “The Tonight Show,” Jay Leno signed off on Feb. 6. His retirement made way for Jimmy Fallon to take the reins, ushering in a new era of late-night comedy. “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” debuted on Feb. 17 to an audience of over 11 million viewers. Six weeks later, David Letterman announced that he would be leaving CBS’ “The Late Show” in 2015, with Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert named his successor. Letterman’s last air date is May 20.
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Two weddings and a (royal) baby
When Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie announced their engagement in 2012, they vowed not to wed until everyone could do so. Though same-sex marriage remains barred in some states, the couple made their own union legal this past summer in France. More shocking, though, was the September wedding of eternal bachelor George Clooney to human rights lawyer Amal Alamuddin. For this amazing feat, Alamuddin topped Barbara Walters’ annual list of “Most Fascinating People.” Also in September, we learned that there would be a new addition to the British monarchy, as Prince William and Kate Middleton announced a second pregnancy. Thanks to gender-neutral succession changes, he or she will be fourth in line to the throne.
Taylor Swift has always been a pop artist in a country music disguise. In October, she shook off the country label with her first official pop album, “1989.” Her “Shake It Off” single, which dropped in August, spent four nonconsecutive weeks at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 chart and has garnered more than 350 million views on YouTube. It’s easily one of the catchiest, most memorable pop songs of the year. Her follow-up single, “Blank Space,” also quickly went to No. 1, with a video that had some applauding Swift’s acting skills.
Bad Boy Bieber
It seemed like Justin Bieber spent more time entertaining trouble in 2014 than he did making music. The YouTube breakout star had several run-ins with the law and seemed to court controversy. From egging a neighbor’s house in Calabasas, Calif., to allegedly snatching a woman’s cellphone at a batting cage, to being arrested in Miami for driving under the influence of alcohol, to being booked yet again in September for alleged assault and dangerous driving, the 20-year-old heartthrob added an edge to his image this year. Though legal issues still loom, his forthcoming album and fresh blond hair mean that “The Biebs” will continue to grab headlines in the new year.
The elevator incident
Everyone was abuzz with questions after TMZ leaked elevator footage of Solange Knowles, Beyonce’s younger sister, kicking and hitting her brother-in-law, rapper Jay Z. No one is quite sure what sparked the May 5 outburst, but the incident led to endless speculation and eventually a statement from the family that they’d all worked through their differences and that both parties assumed responsibility. The incident doesn’t seem to have had a lasting impact on their careers.
Out of ‘View’ (kind of)
Barbara Walters officially went into retirement this year, though she quickly re-emerged for a pivotal interview. After being semi-retired since 2004, Walters co-hosted her last episode of ABC’s “The View” on May 16, with a celebrity-studded farewell that included Oprah Winfrey, Michael Douglas and Hillary Clinton. Though she remains executive producer, her daytime TV days seem to be over. That doesn’t mean she’s completely done with interviews, though. Three weeks after her celebrated sendoff, it was announced that she would be interviewing Peter Rodger, the father of Elliot Rodger, who killed six people in Isla Vista, Calif.
The ’90s were all the rage this year, and not just because another Clinton presidential campaign may be on the horizon. In June, “Boy Meets World” got a pint-sized sequel when the Disney Channel debuted “Girl Meets World,” which focuses on Cory and Topanga’s middle-school-aged daughter. In September, Lifetime took us back to Bayside High to divulge cast mate scandals with “The Unauthorized Saved by the Bell Story.” Reboots were announced for favorite ’90s superhero shows like “Powerpuff Girls,” “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers” and “Sailor Moon.” Boy bands were once again making tween girls swoon (with One Direction and 5 Seconds of Summer standing in for Backstreet Boys and ‘N Sync). Additions to the “Dumb and Dumber” and “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” franchises hit theaters. If only Netflix would put “My So-Called Life” back into production.
Bridget Jones’s astounding makeover
For Renee Zellweger, it’s definitely not the ’90s anymore. Social media exploded in October when the “Bridget Jones’s Diary” star attended a Hollywood event showing a different face – literally. Eye-lift allegations and Botox-shaming ensued. Zellweger credits her new look to a quieter, happier and more holistic life. “I’m glad folks think I look different! I’m living a different, happy, more fulfilling life, and I’m thrilled that perhaps it shows,” she told People magazine.
Robin Williams stunned the world when he committed suicide in August. His death sparked national conversations about depression and mental health. Earlier in the year, Philip Seymour Hoffman was found dead at his New York apartment from an apparent accidental overdose. Other legends who passed on this year include Joan Rivers, Casey Kasem, Lauren Bacall, Shirley Temple, Maya Angelou, Mickey Rooney, Mike Nichols and Harold Ramis.
Female rappers get props
Nicki Minaj brought female rappers back into the spotlight, and she saw her success soar this year with hits like “Anaconda” (over 300 million views on YouTube) and “Bang, Bang” with Ariana Grande and Jessie J. She ended the year with the release of a critically acclaimed new album, “The Pinkprint,” and two Grammy nominations. Iggy Azalea had a breakout year as well, with the April release of her much-anticipated debut album, “The New Classic.” Its single “Fancy” shot up to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. Other hits included “Beg For It” and “Black Widow.” Azalea also grabbed a Grammy nomination for best new artist.
We can’t ‘Let It Go’
Disney’s “Frozen” premiered in November 2013 to critical acclaim and became a cultural phenomenon. The film made over $1 billion at box offices worldwide. Even if you tried (and we know you did), you couldn’t escape the movie’s anthem, “Let It Go,” sung by Idina Menzel (or Adele Dazeem as John Travolta dubbed her at the Oscars). The impact of the movie was everywhere: “Frozen” was one of Google’s top global trending searches of 2014; movie theaters hosted sing-alongs; a “Frozen” ride was announced for Disney World, where you can find other “Frozen”-themed activities. The movie’s characters were integrated into the TV show “Once Upon a Time”; Halloween sales of “Frozen” costumes soared; and Elsa became a popular baby name. An ice show featuring the “Frozen” characters skates into Intrust Bank Arena in March.
Series shockers (spoilers ahead)
“How I Met Your Mother” ended its nine-season run on CBS in March, finally revealing to fans exactly how Ted did meet the mother of his children. The two-part series finale tied up loose ends but outraged many fans when it was revealed that Ted’s wife actually died six years before he began telling the story of how they met.
“The Good Wife” pulled off a deadly shocker of its own in March with the unexpected death of series regular Will Gardner, played by Josh Charles, who decided to exit the series. And who can forget Gemma’s violent death on “Sons of Anarchy,” which ended its run earlier this month after seven seasons.
Miley stays relevant
All twerking aside, Miley Cyrus managed to stay mostly on top. Her “Bangerz” album and tour proved successful, and this summer Forbes named the 22-year-old starlet the 17th most powerful celebrity. While her partner-in-scandal Robin Thicke’s fortunes fell off in 2014, Cyrus seems to be doing just fine. In August, “Wrecking Ball” won Video of the Year at MTV’s Video Music Awards.
Keeping up with Kim
Vogue dubbed Kim Kardashian and Kanye West the “world’s most talked about couple,” and for good reason – photos of their May wedding set the social media sphere on fire. The much-hyped union could only be matched in publicity by the daring photo shoot Kim did last month for Paper magazine’s winter issue, where her nude butt appears over the caption “Break the Internet.” She didn’t quite accomplish that goal, but nice try.
Lupita Nyong’o has the force with her
Mexican-Kenyan actress Lupito Nyong’o had a breakthrough role in “12 Years a Slave” and won this year’s Academy Award for best supporting actress (she and her brother were also a part of Ellen DeGeneres’ record-breaking selfie at the Oscars). She became a sensation, on and off the red carpet. She was cast in “Star Wars: Episode VII,” where it’s rumored she’ll be Luke Skywalker’s apprentice.
Not so family-friendly
Fans saw two beloved TV dads in a new light after abuse allegations surfaced. Stephen Collins, who played the respected Rev. Camden for 11 seasons on the popular “7th Heaven,” reportedly admitted on tape obtained by TMZ and later in People magazine that he had sexually abused or exposed himself to underage girls, resulting in reruns of the show being pulled in October when the story broke. Meanwhile, Bill Cosby’s once golden reputation has been torpedoed by the re-emergence of numerous sexual assault allegations. His projects have evaporated, reruns of “The Cosby Show” have been yanked, and some have questioned whether they can ever look at Cliff Huxtable the same way again. No charges have been filed, and Cosby has remained mostly silent about the scandal.
Ice buckets for a cause
Odd are you were challenged at some point to take the “Ice Bucket Challenge” – douse yourself with a bucket of ice water, post a video of it to Facebook/Twitter/Instagram, and then challenge a friend to do the same. The viral fundraising campaign resulted in charities connected to ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease) raising over $100 million. Everyone from President Obama to Matt Damon to James Franco to former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush were getting in on the frosty fun.