Pet rocks. Stonewashed jeans. MTV's The Real World. Alas, the seemingly endearing glow of all great pop culture icons eventually fades. Whoa there. We're not telling you to throw away those precious time capsules — you never know when the world will need another Chia pet. And God help us all, as much as we try to ignore it, MTV's first reality show featuring a dozen undeserving slackers living together is still on the air after nearly 20 years. As Western civilization sits poised on the edge of another new year, it seems poetic to peer into the future and prognosticate on what beacons of culture may pass into the next dimension over the next 52 weeks and what new phenoms will take their place. Oh, Magic 8 Ball, we're so glad we kept you after all these years. Let's give you a lucky shake and see what 2011 has in store for pop culture fans.
Steve Spears, Times staff writer
AMERICAN IDOL: Hello, Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez. Goodbye, Simon Cowell, Ellen DeGeneres and Kara DioGuardi. (You left before fans even learned to spell or pronounce your name!) Fox's show has been a punch line for a few years now, and with the changes at the judging table now stands on the precipice of the abyss. Will Idol finally begin tumbling from the top of the TV ratings this coming season?
Magic 8 Ball says: "It is decidedly so."
THE X FACTOR: Like Elvis, Simon Cowell's not really gone; he just found a better gig. The acid-tongued Brit is bringing the popular U.K. talent show he created to the colonies, beginning in September. The format plays to Simon's strengths: acting as a mentor to contestants in addition to ridiculing them. Assuming he picks some truly intriguing artists to join him on the panel, is this the show we'll all be Tivoing in the fall?
Magic 8 Ball says: "Concentrate and ask again."
THE TAYLOR SWIFT REIGN: The 21-year-old crooner has won every award short of the Wendy's Hamburgers Employee of the Month plaque. But her shy and innocent routine is wearing thin. Even her tabloid-friendly romance with actor Jake Gyllenhaal seems a little too sudden and manufactured to be believed. And worst of all, she's skipping Tampa on her upcoming world tour. Can Lil Miss Nashville continue her winning streak in 2011?
Magic 8 Ball says: "Outlook not so good."
MEET YOUR NEW MUSE: Matthew Bellamy and the brainy Brit boys in Muse — a.k.a. a kinder, cuter Radiohead — have opened for U2, dated supermodels and scored a breakthrough hit with 2009 album The Resistance. What's next? Well, if everything goes right in 2011 — new album, new tour, new supermodels — how about world domination?
Magic 8 Ball says: "It is certain."
THE '90s REVIVAL: The dark shadow began growing across the land when the Backstreet Boys and New Kids on the Block announced a joint tour for 2011. And just when we thought we could dismiss Mariah Carey, she announced she was preggers with twins. What's next … Seinfeld returning to TV?!? We could spare a square for that. So are we about to fall in love with the '90s?
Magic 8 Ball says: "Better not tell you now."
THE END OF SEQUELS: Cineplexes are going to run out of numerals for their signs in 2011. Scream 4. Transformers 3. The Hangover 2. Harry Potter 7. Thankfully, J. K. Rowling developed writer's cramp, so that's the end of Harry. It's hard to believe there are all these subpar and pointless sequels out there and Steve Guttenberg still can't get a job acting. Please tell us the sequel silliness is going to end.
Magic 8 Ball says: "My sources say no."
MIDLIFE CRISIS BEARDS: Disturbing amounts of facial hair sprouted on the faces of antsy, middle-aged men everywhere. Conan O'Brien sported a full-on ginger face blanket for the start of his new show. Brad Pitt's hideous goatee channeled a miniature schnauzer. Gorgeous sexpot Jon Hamm ruined his bone structure with primordial face fur. And let's not even talk about Joaquin Phoenix. Razors in vogue for 2011?
Magic 8 Ball says: "Without a doubt."
LEGGINGS/ JEGGINGS: The stretchy, '80s-tastic replacement for pants have populated the collective fashion conscience for the past few years. People finally have a handle on how to wear them properly — no short shirts, for the love of butt. And there is no denying they're almost as comfortable as wearing no pants at all. Will jeggings open to the door to clingy incarnations in every traditional pants style imaginable? Khakings! Cargings! Cordings! So are pants in peril in 2011?
Magic 8 Ball says: "Yes — definitely."
THE BETTY WHITE PHENOMENON: Even the 88-year-old Golden Girl is getting tired of seeing herself on television these days. Her Hot in Cleveland sitcom was picked up for 2011, but it appears on TV Land, a network harder to find than ESPN 8. Unless she runs for political office or kisses Sandra Bullock at the 2011 MTV Video Music Awards, her days in the spotlight are over, right?
Magic 8 Ball says: "Signs point to yes."
SNOOKI-MANIA: Call the Jersey Shore star by her real name ("Nicole Polizzi") if you know it. The 4-foot-9 menace to the beaches of Seaside Heights is neither from Jersey nor is she Italian. So why again is she a "guidette"? Tonight, she was supposed to be inside the ball that descends in New York's Times Square as the clock strikes midnight, but people came to their senses. Instead, the stunt was moved to Seaside Heights and taped for the MTV festivities tonight. The imagery seems appropriate. Has her time in the spotlight finally expired?
Magic 8 Ball says: "Reply hazy, try again" … in 2012?!?
Times staff writers Sean Daly and Stephanie Hayes contributed to this report.