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2009: A year when reality TV became part of our reality

  • FILE-This Oct. 15, 2009 file photo shows six-year-old Falcon Heene sitting cross-legged on the roof of his family's van outside his home in Fort Collins, Colo., after the little boy was found hiding in a box in a space above the garage. Falcon Heene at first had been reported to be aboard a flying-saucer-shaped balloon fashioned by his father and then carried by high winds on to the plains of eastern Colorado. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski,File)

Little Falcon Heene of "Balloon Boy" fame surely had no idea he was encapsulating an entire year of popular culture when he told his parents on national TV: "You guys said that we did this for the show."

Seeking fame is nothing new for Americans — after all, it was back in 1968 that Andy Warhol first postulated that everyone would get 15 minutes. What distinguished Heene's parents, or famous party crashers Tareq and Michaele Salahi, was how they were seeking it: They wanted a reality show. (Fifteen minutes plus commercials, give or take.)

Reality TV has been around for a decade, but this year the genre seemed to seep into our popular culture in occasionally uncomfortable ways. It also gave birth to some of the year's biggest stars: Golden-voiced Susan Boyle, who warmed middle-aged hearts everywhere, and Adam Lambert, who warmed some of them.

And then there were the people who earned fame, or infamy, the old-fashioned way in 2009: Gov. Mark Sanford, Tiger Woods, Kanye West, Rep. Joe Wilson.

But we're getting ahead of ourselves. Without further ado, our chronological journey through some of the top pop culture moments of 2009:


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