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This Month In YesterYear History - May

It's time once again for your monthly look at pop culture history from 20 (2004), 25 (1999), and 30 (1994) years ago!   

Below, you'll find a little time capsule of what was significant in our lives back then.  Hopefully, as you read these brief synopses of the past, you'll begin to remember the who, when, and where of your memories from those years.  


2004:  On the 1st, Smarty Jones wins the Kentucky Derby.  San Francisco Giant legend Barry Bonds sets an MLB record for being intentionally walked four times in one game on May 1st, as the Giants defeated the Florida Marlins 6-3.  The series finale of "Friends" airs on May 4th to 52.5 million viewers... what a number!  In contrast, the " Frasier " series finale airs just a few days later on the 13th to 33 million viewers.  Even still, that's an unattainable number by today's standards.  On the 15th, Shrek 2 debuts at the Cannes Film Festival.   Smarty Jones wins his second race in the Triple Crown, winning the Preakness on the 15th.  On the 17th, Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney is the first in the nation to legalize same-sex marriage.  The next day, Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Randy Johnson is the 16th pitcher to throw a perfect game.  On the 20th, The Notebook, starring Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling, debuts at the Seattle Film Festival.  Toby Keith won Best Male Artist at the Academy of Country Music Awards on May 26th.  That same day, the New York Times published its list of journalistic failures that stated "flawed reporting, lack of skepticism, and taking the government at its word" led to promoting the public's belief that Iraq possessed a stockpile of "weapons of mass destruction," all of which led to public support for the Iraq War... and the media has been totally honest ever since.  On May 31st, Peppa Pig debuts on Channel 5 in England.  That same day, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban debuts in the United Kingdom.    

1999:  On the first, Nickelodeon debuts a little show you may have heard of called "Spongebob Squarepants."  On the 2nd, John Elway announces his retirement from football.  On May 3rd, an F5 level tornado hits Oklahoma City, killing 42, injuring 665, and causing over $1 billion in property damage.  It is just one of 66 in what locals call the "Oklahoma Tornado Outbreak of 1999."  On May 3rd, the Dow Jones closes above 11,000 for the first time.  Today, in 2024, it currently sits at over 39,000.  The Mummy, starring Brendan Fraser, debuts in the United States on May 4th.  On the 7th, a jury finds "The Jenny Jones Show" and Warner Bros. liable in the death of Scott Amedure after purposely deceiving Jonathan Schmitz to appear on a same-sex crush episode.  Schmitz would later kill Amedure out of anger.  The jury awards Amedure's family $25 million.  On May 8th, Nancy Mace becomes the first female graduate of the Citadel military college.  On the 18th, "Millenium," the 3rd album by The Backstreet Boys, hits store shelves.  It sold 30 million copies and has become one of the best-selling albums ever.  On the 19th, "Star Wars Episode One:  The Phantom Menace" debuts in theaters nationwide, giving us all the gift of Jar Jar Binks.  On the 21st, after being nominated for 19 straight years, Susan Lucci finally won a Daytime Emmy for her work on All My Children.  On the 29th, Space Shuttle Discovery successfully docks with the International Space Station for the first time.  

1994:  On the 2nd, Michael Bolton was found guilty of plagiarizing The Isley Brothers song "Love is a Wonderful Thing."  On the 4th, Courtney Love is cleared of all drug charges.  On the 6th, the Channel Tunnel, or "Chunnel," linking England and France, was opened to the public.  That night, comedian Bobcat Goldthwait sets fire to the guest couch on The Tonight Show.  The United States government passed the Federal Assault Weapons ban on the 6th.  On the 7th, Edvard Munch's "The Scream" painting was recovered 3 months after being stolen.  On May 8th, Andy Rooney performed his 500th commentary on "60 Minutes."  On the 9th, mass murderer Joel Rifkin was found guilty in New York City.  Elaine's new boyfriend can rest easy now.  Barbara Streisand goes back on tour after 30 years with her first show in Landover, Maryland, on the 10th.  On the 12th, Quentin Tarantino's "Pulp Fiction" debuts at the Cannes Film Festival.  On the 13th, the Cleveland Indians begin an 18-home-game winning streak at their new home stadium, Jacobs Field.  On the 16th, tennis star Jennifer Capriati is arrested for marijuana possession, and on the 19th, she checks into drug rehab.  Boy, how times have changed.  May 20th sees Bobcat Goldthwaichargedes with misdemeanor crimes stemming from his fire on The Tonight Show.  That same day, Sony Theaters in New York City hiked ticket prices to the OUTRAGEOUS price of $8.00 per person.  On the 22nd, the new Toronto NBA franchise released its new name, the Raptors.  On May 25th, Mark Messier, the Captain of the New York Rangers, scores a hat trick in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals after promising victory before the game.  On the 27th, "The Flintstones" debuts in theaters, starring John Goodman and Rick Moranis.  The same day saw the start of the great "Roc Donalds" promotion at McDonald's.  Later that night, the final episode of "The Arsenio Hall Show" airs.   Also, on the 27th, the Rangers defeated the Devils to advance to the Stanley Cup finals, where they'd go on to beat the Vancouver Canucks.  


2004: "Shrek 2"   

Shrek 2 was an animated comedy loosely based on the 1990 children's picture book "Shrek!" by William Steig.  This 2004 film starred Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, and Cameron Diaz, who all reprised their respective voice roles of Shrek, Donkey, and Princess Fiona.  Antonio Banderas, Julie Andrews, John Cleese, Rupert Everett, and Jennifer Saunders joined the cast for the sequel.   

Following the events of the first Shrek movie (2001), Shrek and Donkey meet Fiona's parents as the overzealous Fairy Godmother (who wants Fiona to marry her son, Prince Charming) plots to destroy Shrek and Fiona's relationship.  To foil her plans, Shrek and Donkey then team up with a sword-wielding cat named Puss in Boots (Banderas).

Development for this film began in 2001 after the first film's release. After disagreements with producers, the first film's screenwriters, Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio, were replaced. The story for this sequel was inspired by the 1967 film "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner," and new animation tools were developed to improve each character's visual appearance.  Shrek 2 also parodies other fairy tales and features references to items in American popular culture.  

Two sequels, "Shrek the Third" (2007) and "Shrek Forever After" (2010), soon followed.  Shrek 2's new character, Puss in Boots, has also received his own series films, 2011's "Puss in Boots," "Puss in Boots:  The Last Wish" (2022), and a television series "The Adventures of Puss in Boots," from 2015-2018. 

1999: "Star Wars Episode One:  The Phantom Menace" 

The Phantom Menace was written and directed by Star Wars creator George Lucas.  It is the fourth film in the Star Wars franchise and the first in the prequel trilogy.  It's also the first chapter chronologically in the Skywalker Saga, set 32 years before the original trilogy of films (Episodes 4, 5, and 6).  Episode One stars Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Jake Lloyd, Ian McDiarmid, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, and Frank Oz.  

After "Return of the Jedi" in 1983, discussions regarding a follow-up film were proposed, but Lucas was unmotivated to continue the franchise.  During his hiatus, his characters' backstories, particularly Anakin Skywalker's, sparked his interest in developing a prequel trilogy.  

After determining that CGI (Computer Generated Imagery) had advanced far enough, he began writing The Phantom Menace in 1993.  Production began in 1994, and filming began in June 1997 in the Tunisian desert.  Filming ended on September 30th, marking Lucas' first directorial effort after a 22-year hiatus.

The Phantom Menace was released in theaters on May 19th, 1999, 16 years after Return of the Jedi.  The film was extensively covered by the media and was widely anticipated because of the large cultural following the Star Wars saga had cultivated.  Upon its release, The Phantom Menace received mixed reviews from critics and audiences.  The visual effects were praised, but the story and new characters, particularly Jar Jar Binks, received countless criticisms.  

Despite the negative reviews, the film was a box office success and broke numerous records during its debut.  It grossed more than $924.3 million worldwide during its initial theatrical run, becoming the highest-grossing film of 1999, the second-highest-grossing film worldwide and in North America (behind Titanic), and the highest-grossing Star Wars film at the time.  

Episodes 2 and 3, Attack of the Clones (2002) and Revenge of the Sith (2005), followed The Phantom Menace, rounding out the prequel trilogy.

1994: "The Flintstones" 

The Flintstones was directed by Brian Levant and written by Tom S. Parker, based on the 1960s animated series under the same name by Hanna-Barbera.  Starring John Goodman as Fred Flintstone, Rick Moranis as Barney Rubble, Elizabeth Perkins as Wilma Flintstone, and Rosie O'Donnell as Betty Rubble.   t also stars Kyle MacLachlan as the villain, Cliff Vandercave, and Halle Berry as Sharon Stone, the seductive secretary.  Elizabeth Taylor also appears in her final theatrical film appearance as Wilma's mother, Pearl Slaghoople.  The 80's rock band The B-52's also appeared as cavemen versions of themselves, performing their version of the cartoon's famous theme song.  

Shot in California was released on May 27th, 1994, to mostly negative reviews from critics.  Despite this, it grossed $345 million worldwide against a $46 million budget.  The film was initially produced by New Line Cinema but was sold to Universal Pictures during production.  

In what many children of the 90s, myself included, consider the greatest tie-in promotion between McDonald's and another franchise, McDonald's launched a major promotion for the film.  The fast food giant brought back the McRib sandwich (before they did that every few months) and called it the "Grand Poobah Meal."  A new line of premium glass mugs and toys based on the film were also made available.  McDonald's also rethemed several locations to "RocDonald's," complete with stone-age imagery and aesthetics.  

Six years later, a prequel film titled "The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas" was released with an entirely new cast.


2004:  "Yeah!" by Usher featuring Lil Jon and Ludacris

1999:  "Livin' La Vida Loca" by Ricky Martin

1994:  "I Swear" by All-4-One


May 2004:

May 6th - Friends ends its run after 10 years, broadcasting its final episode, "The Last One", on NBC.    The short-lived spinoff, "Joey," debuts on NBC in the following season.

May 9th - Survivor Season Two contestant Amber Brkish proposed to Season Four contested Rob Mariano during the inaugural All-Stars season.  Season Seven contestant Rupert Boneham was awarded a $1 million prize after being voted the most popular contestant.

May 11th - The company "NBC Universal" is created by General Electric and Vivendi Univeral.

May 13th - Frasier broadcasts its final episode on NBC, "Goodnight, Seattle."  

May 15th - Jimmy Fallon makes his final appearance as a Saturday Night Live cast member on the season finale.  The episode was hosted by Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen.  

May 19th - This Buffy the Vampire Slayer spinoff, "Angel," ends after its 5th season on The WB.

May 21st - The Wayne Brady Show ends its four-year run on ABC and syndication.

May 26th - Fantasia Barrino wins the third season of American Idol.   his season also marked the first time it topped viewership in the television ratings.  

May 1999:  

May 1st - Nickelodeon airs the pilot episode of its newest series, SponeBob Squarepants, immediately after the 1999 Kid's Choice Awards.  Tara Lipinski, Bill Bellamy, and Robert Richard appear in interstitials during commercial breaks of the "sneak peek," touting the series' official debuts in July.   SpongeBob would go on to become the longest-running series in Nickelodeon history.

May 21st - Susan Lucci finally receives a Daytime Emmy for her role as Erica Kane on ABC's All My Children after eighteen straight failed nominations.  

May 20th - The final episode of The Wayans Brothers Show airs on The WB after its fifth season.

May 23rd - World Wrestling Federation wrestler Owen Hart is killed after falling over 70 feet from the rafters of the Kemper Arena in Kansas City during a stunt gone wrong on a live pay-per-view event called Over the Edge.  

Also, on the 23rd, The WB ended two sitcoms, "Sister, Sister" and "Unhappily Ever After."  Sister, Sister starred the Mowry Twins, and after its initial season on ABC in 1994, it ran on The WB from 1995-1999.   nhappily Ever After, starring Nikki Cox and Kevin Connolly, ran from 1995-1999.

May 24th - During an in-ring promo on WCW Monday Nitro, WCW wrestler Bret Hart is allowed to go off-script and break "kayfabe" as he pays tribute to his brother Owen, who died the night before.

Also, on the 24th, NBC's Mad About You" ends after 8 seasons, while FOX's "Melrose Place" ends after 7 seasons.

May 25th - Home Improvement on ABC comes to a close, having been on air for 8 years and 204 episodes.

May 1994:  

May 13th - Johnny Carson makes a surprise appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman to deliver one of the nightly "Top Ten" lists.  This would be one of, if not the last, appearance on television made by Carson.   

May 14th - Phil Hartman, Rob Schneider, Sarah Silverman, Melanie Hutsell, and Julia Sweeney make their final appearance as Saturday Night Live cast members.

May 23rd—New World Communications reaches a multi-year affiliate agreement with FOX for its entire station group.  In turn, FOX's parent company, News Corporation, purchased a 20 percent stake in New World.  The agreement called for all stations to switch to FOX after their existing contracts were up, initiating a nationwide realignment of television stations and network affiliations.  

Also, on the 23rd, "Star Trek:  The Next Generation" comes to an end, having run in syndication since 1987 for 128 episodes.  Also, CBS' "Evening Shade," starring Burt Reynolds, ends its four-season run.

May 25th - Shannen Doherty appears as Brenda Walsh on Beverly Hills, 90210, for the last time.

May 27th - The final episode of Family Feud hosted by Ray Combs is broadcast.  Also, on the 27th, The Arsenio Hall Show comes to a close.  He would revive the show in 2013, which lasted less than a year.  


  1. Really love these posts, man. Always brings up a lot of good memories.

    1. Thanks as always. These lookbacks are some of my favorites because some of this stuff was so important at the time but I totally forget about it.