2019: The year of pop culture milestones


Did your favourite characters make the list?
Did your favourite characters make the list?

Icons and iconic shows that we've loved over the years are rounding off their presence in no uncertain terms. Here's a look at the best in show


Karen Ann Monsy

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Published: Thu 24 Jan 2019, 11:00 PM

Last updated: Tue 10 Jan 2023, 2:46 PM

TINTIN (90 years)

Who's our favourite Belgian reporter? Tintin, of course. With his trademark vertical tuft of hair, and his ever-faithful terrier Snowy by his side, we've been to more adventures than we could imagine, thanks to them (not least, to the moon and back!). From political thrillers to befuddling mysteries, there's a reason we doff our caps to creator Hergé nine decades on. What would we do without Captain Haddock, who taught us how to swear, PG-style, with his unparalleled brand of alliterative name-calling that really was more hilarious than profanity-riddled? Throw in the bumbling detectives Thompson and Thomson and the hard-of-hearing Professor Calculus - not to mention, the ear-splitting diva Bianca Castafiore - the strips were comic gold.

Did you know: Snowy has had cameos in several TV shows, including The Simpsons and South Park.

SESAME STREET (50 years)

After fifty years, we'd like to meet one person that needs to know how to get to Sesame Street (you sang that last bit, didn't you?). In other words, everyone knows the way! The children's TV series has won more Emmy Awards than any of its peers, and has greatly evolved to reflect cultural values over the years. For example, their introduction of autistic Muppet Julia in 2017 was very well received, and the show even put the Cookie Monster on fruits and vegetables (can you believe it?) in 2005 to educate kids about child obesity. The show has fielded its fair share of controversy - but with Big Bird, Count Dracula, Elmo, Bert and Ernie, and the rest of the gang, learning was never more fun.

Did you know: The show used to be geared towards 'adults only' circa 1969! Sunny days?

THE SIMPSONS (30 years)

Thirty years, 30 seasons, and still going strong. The Simpsons is America's longest-running sitcom that thrives on satirising cultural stereotypes - so much so that the family even won its own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2000. Not everyone has been a fan - with vocal critics including former US President George H.W. Bush - and fans will generally agree that the best years of the series probably spanned the first 10 years, after which its quality has experienced decline. Even so, the show's influence cannot be denied: the entry of Homer's trademark expression "D'oh!" (used to express frustration) into the Oxford English Dictionary in 2001 is proof of that.

Did you know: All the characters are yellow, so they'd be instantly recognisable if viewers were flipping channels.

THE LION KING (25 years)

It's been a quarter century but that scene from The Lion King still brings home 'all the feels'. You know which one we're talking about: the one where Mufasa dies trying to save Simba from a horrific stampede. A little scarring for young eyes, perhaps, but the animated musical film is timeless. It was massively entertaining for kids - but, as an adult, you get to appreciate it all over again: only this time for its masterful writing littered with puns (remember Zazu's priceless 'the buzz from the bees' morning report?). With an A-star vocal cast, a slew of fantastic original songs (such as Circle of Life and Hakuna Matata), and the most memorable characters from Scar and Rafiki to Timon and Pumba, this is one film that can never get old.

Did you know: The wildebeest stampede scene took animators more than two years to create.

FRIENDS (25 years)

Who'd have thought that six friends navigating life's many milestones - relationships, careers, kids - in New York City could turn out such an iconic series? Spanning 10 seasons, it was truly the end of an era when the show downed curtains for the last time in 2004. And there was so much to love! Fans fiercely continue Ross and Rachel's 'We were on a break' debate. The evolution of Monica and Chandler's relationship was #couplegoals. Joey and Phoebe were both lovable. Even side acts like Gunther, Janice and Richard were memorable. Central Perk is the coffeehouse we all wanted to be at - with friends, of course. Is it any wonder the hollers for a reunion refuse to die down?

Did you know: In 1997, all six cast members refused to work until they all earned an equal salary of $100,000 per episode.

THE MATRIX (20 years)

Whether you love this movie for its world of sci-fi fantasies or its high-octane action, The Matrix can, without a doubt, be credited with changing the way Hollywood created movies in this genre. The fight scenes, in particular, inspired a new degree of 'sophistication' in filmmakers who sought to emulate (if not, employ) the same techniques. The 'bullet time' effect - which saw hacker Neo dodging an army of bullets, in undeniably impressive slo-mo, and with a backward bend that seems almost humanly impossible - was nothing short of legendary, and went on to inspire several parodies. The success of the film's trilogy is also credited with encouraging the industry to pursue trilogy formats with other releases.

Did you know: Keanu Reeves, who played Neo, was still recovering from spinal surgery when he began training for the film.

FAMILY GUY (20 years)

Can something be rude and crude yet funny? Apparently so. Animated sitcom Family Guy has been compared (albeit unfavourably) to The Simpsons for also being chock-full of pop culture references and satire. The cartoon tends to polarise viewers, though: you're either in with its nasty humour, or out. Despite the show being cancelled twice, fan demand and high ratings for its reruns are what convinced producers to bring the show back a third time. It is now on its 17th season. The storylines follow the Griffins family - and their pet anthropomorphic dog Brian. Baby Stewie - who started out with violent tendencies but is now just a colourful character - is arguably the one fans love most.

Did you know: Creator Seth MacFarlane was famously almost on board one of the 9/11 flights.


If one were looking for a single-word descriptor for this TV series about a happy-go-lucky sea sponge and his aquatic friends, it would be 'charming'. The show is known to be most popular with kids aged two to 11, but has fans well outside that age bracket too (notably, former US President Barack Obama, who mentioned the show multiple times during his campaigns). It has been credited for its humour, but also for the way it communicates themes like friendship as well as how to navigate life's obstacles. Its creator is a marine biologist in real life, so it's no wonder he's able to bring characters - like pink starfish Patrick, the titular character's best friend, a grouch of an octopus ironically named Squidward, and a red crab with pirate-tendencies named Mr Krabs - to life like few other shows can.

Did you know: Spongiforma Squarepantsii, a fungi discovered in 2011, was named after this cartoon!

AVATAR (10 years)

The movie that set a precedent in one fell swoop. If director James Cameron's last film (Titanic) was any indicator, everyone knew they could expect big things from the sci-fi flick called Avatar he was working on - but the film blew everyone out of the water anyway. It became the first film to gross more than $2 billion, and was nominated for nine Academy Awards. The special effects used to create the alien world of Pandora, as well as the technology used to animate the Na'vi as realistically as possible was exceptional. Its environmental themes were not lost on the audiences as well, who fell in love with Cameron's ability to tell a good story in an extraordinary way all over again.

Did you know: The entire Na'vi language was created from scratch by professor Paul Frommer.


From the super-smooth moonwalk and the toe stand to the gravity-defying forward lean, there is no disputing the King of Pop's innovative and unmatchable style - not to mention, his contribution to the world of entertainment. Signature dance moves aside, Michael is also credited with breaking down racial barriers, thanks to songs like Beat It and Thriller. His very troubled personal life played out in full glare of the public spotlight, unfortunately, but it didn't faze the outpouring of grief his untimely death brought about 10 years ago. Since then, his estate continues to see revenues in the triple-digit millions, making one thing plain as day: the legacy he left behind is a massive inspiration across generations and genres alike, and that's probably not going to change.

Did you know: On the day of his death, Wikipedia and Twitter crashed at 3:15pm, when the news broke.


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