As we head deeper into the holiday season and – ho, ho, ho – "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," "A Charlie Brown Christmas," "A Very Brady Christmas" and all those fun holiday specials, this week let’s take a walk down memory lane in this year defined, perhaps, by the Hoda Kotb’s official start as the co-anchor opposite Savannah Guthrie on NBC’s "Today" on January 2, 2018. This marks the first all-female anchor team on the veteran morning show franchise (what took the network so long?) and the embodiment of the #MeToo movement.
All together now…Matt Lauer who?
Sadly, there were additional reports of sexual misconduct; former CBS CEO Chief Les Moonves, in particular, who was now recently accused of trying to silence a potential accuser named Bobbie Philips by offering her small parts on CBS show. The fall of Moonves leaves his wife Julie out of a job on Eye net daytime hour "The Talk," and she now refers to herself as Julie Chen Moonves as host on "Big Brother." It sounds like a Tammy Wynette song to me, and a reminder why any behavior of this magnitude against women (or anyone for that matter) will no longer be tolerated.
Also losing her job this year, on May 29th to be exact, was Roseanne Barr following her tweet comparing former Barack Obama advisor Valerie Jarrett to an ape. I, for you, immediately championed the idea of keeping "Roseanne" the sitcom alive in the form of "The Conners," and what I am happy to report is a new version of the series chock full of those other characters I still want to visit each week. Based on the still positive ratings, obviously I am not the only one.
Then there was that former golden girl from Fox News, Megyn Kelly, who was fired from her "Today" show hour on NBC on October 25th after defending the use of blackface in Halloween costume. While Kelly certainly did not leave empty handed, no payoff in the world is enough to mask her reputation.
On a lighter note was that latest royal wedding, Prince Harry and former "Suits" actress Meghan Markle at the iconic St George's Chapel in Windsor Castle that amassed a reported 1.9 billion viewers worldwide on May 19th.
In the content department, we will end 2018 with…whew…over a record 500-scripted shows (or, more specially, approximately 520 according to FX). That was up from the recorded 487 series in 2017, and the continued growth stems from what appears to still be the endless well of funding for original programming by digital streamers like Netflix, Amazon and Hulu. There is also now Apple, which entered the scripted space with a reported $1 billion budget.
While the illusion of being a TV critic seems like a fun and cushy job, take a look at some of those folks these days (myself included) and you will see a very ragged looking lot. Just how many shows can one person watch?
In the record department, that little family of five, Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie – a.k.a. "The Simpsons" – surpassed classic western "Gunsmoke" by producing more episodes of any regularly scheduled series in the history of television upon its 636th show on April 29, 2018. The biggest difference is it took "Gunsmoke" 20 years (from 1955 to 1975) to hit 635 episodes and "The Simpsons" 29 years to move past it. Of course, no one is really watching "The Simpsons" on Fox in primetime anymore (are you?), so maybe it is time to swing that proverbial axe.
Speaking of Fox, The Walt Disney Co. is reading its completion of its acquisition of 21st Century Fox’s entertainment assets. Disney will acquire the Fox network, FX Networks, National Geographic Partners, Fox Sports Regional Networks, Fox Networks Group International and Fox’s interest in Hulu, among others. And what it means for Fox, in particular, is the continued integration from a once envelope pushing network in content into a more mass appeal (a.k.a. generic) looking outlet. One expected arrival, effective in October 2019, is WWE’s "SmackDown Live" in a massive new five-year deal worth more than $1 billion.
In the conclusion of one of the biggest network cliffhangers in years, over 32-million viewers tuned into NBC’s "This Is Us" after "The Super Bowl" on Feb. 4th to learn that Milo Ventimiglia as beloved patriarch Jack died of a heart attack caused by smoke inhalation. Of course, death is no ending on "This Is Us" as those flashbacks remain a pivotal ingredient of each episode. And, as a sneak peak of my upcoming "Best of the Year" column in terms of the individual series, expect "This Is Us" to occupy another top 10 position. All in all, this was a good year for quality content.