Programming 101: The best and the worst decisions of 2016-17

Casting Melissa McCarthy as a sputtering, volcanic Sean Spicer? Good. Pairing (yawn) Ryan Seacrest with (yaaaawn!) Kelly Ripa? Not so good.

As the clock ticks down to network upfront presentation week, so too does the traditional September-to-May broadcast season. Before the yearly dog-and-pony shows commence, let's take a moment to review the season we leave behind, full of highs, lows and more original programming than any of us has ever seen.

This season was marked by bad behavior (and, thankfully, consequences), fatally long hiatuses, a rejuvenated sketch comedy and yet another spinoff for TV's most irritating family. 

Let's begin with what could be the most annoying pair of hosts in the history of morning television.


Ryan Seacrest is Hired to Co-Host "Live" Opposite Kelly Ripa
Not surprisingly, the ratings for veteran Disney-ABC daytime talker "Live" have increased since Ryan Seacrest was named the permanent co-host last week. I, too, was curious, as I bet you were as well. But I mostly wanted to see how obnoxious Kelly Ripa and Seacrest would be together. If sincerity were rated on a scale of 1-10, this pairing would be minus-infinity. It was bad enough to hear Ripa babble endlessly about her life opposite Regis Philbin and Michael Strahan, but together with equally shallow Seacrest, who already failed at hosting his own syndicated talk show once, Ripa is even less likeable. After one week together ... Berman out!

Momager Kris Jenner Snags Another Spin-off
"Keeping up with the Kardashians" already has more spin-offs than any other series in history. Now, offshoot No. 8 is in the works. "Life of Kylie" will focus on 19-year old Kylie Jenner as she navigates her life as—deep breath—an entrepreneur, fashion designer, author, television and social media star, and CEO of Kylie Cosmetics. "The last couple years have been such an incredible journey with the support of my fans," said Jenner in a statement, who, with the help of mother/manager Kris Jenner, is the latest undeserving and completely annoying Kardashian family member poised to clog the airwaves. With sister Kourtney's oldest child, Mason Dash Disick, now seven years old, it won't be long before the next generation gets on board. 

Unfortunate footnote: Seacrest is an executive producer on these Kardashian extravaganzas, so logic suggests an array of family members will stop by to canoodle with him and Ripa. You may want to open the window and get some fresh air before viewing the following video.

NBC Hires Megyn Kelly
Considering Megyn Kelly already flopped once hosting her first–and last—primetime interview special on Fox last May, I am still not sure why NBC even wanted her. The target older female audience in the morning is unlikely to be all that welcoming. (Does the name Deborah Norville ring a bell?) And introducing a Sunday night primetime newsmagazine with Kelly leading a group of reporters this June outside of her Fox News comfort zone seems about as interesting as "Dateline" (which is to say, not very interesting). Since the Kelly we know from Fox News is likely to be kinder and gentler on NBC, the network might have a difficult time convincing us of her value at its upfront presentation. My guess is there won't be much interest.

The Broadcast Nets Continue to Put Scripted Dramas on Long Hiatuses
Unlike cable, the broadcast networks have never managed to break up a show's season into two parts without sacrificing momentum. Just ask ABC, NBC and Fox, which this season saw dramas "Designated Survivor," "The Blacklist," "Empire" and "Gotham" plunge to series lows after their two- to three-month hiatuses. Then there was ABC's "Secrets and Lies," which returned last fall after a 16-month break to barely any interest. In today's cluttered environment, it pays to stay in the face of the audience and not mysteriously disappear. So instead of a network show stepping aside for a temporary replacement, why not run the season without any interruptions and use the temporary replacement as a permanent occupant after the season ends? Sounds like a no-brainer to me.


Snapchat Hops on the Original Programming Bandwagon
With the media of today flooded with original programming options, you have to think at some point the bubble will burst. But what I particularly like about Snap Inc. signing deals with A+E Networks, NBCUniversal, Turner, Discovery, ESPN, Vice Media and the NFL, among others, to produce short-form original shows for Snap TV is the natural extension opportunity. Snap TV can capitalize on a plethora of already established series to target millennials active on Snapchat. And viewers watching traditional television who have not yet discovered Snapchat may find themselves with a reason to check out the platform. 

Fox News Gives Bill O'Reilly His Walking Papers
Minus Megyn Kelly, who exited in January for her upcoming stint at NBC, Bill O'Reilly's value to Fox News only escalated. But—oops!—sexual-harassment allegations against O'Reilly were more than the network could bear in the wake of Chairman and CEO Roger Ailes' departure under similar circumstances. So the Murdoch clan did what was necessary. And, now, three weeks after showing O'Reilly the door, has anyone really noticed that he is missing from the lineup? I don't think so.

Billy Bush Exits "Today"
In the end, the "Access Hollywood" video featuring co-host Billy Bush and candidate Donald J. Trump engaging in a little "locker room talk" about sexually assaulting women was not enough to sink Trump's campaign. But by dumping Bush from "Today," NBC took a principled stance and respected its target audience; namely, older females. Give NBC credit for understanding that the audience should always come first.

"Saturday Night Live" Hires Melissa McCarthy
Alec Baldwin got the lion's share of attention portraying Trump on "SNL," and rightfully so. But monotony eventually set in, and Melissa McCarthy's arrival as a sputtering, gum-devouring, lectern-wielding White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer broke the ice. Bigly. Now when I see Spicer, it's McCarthy's impersonation that comes to mind. And I bet the statue named Emmy will feel the same way.

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