Another year down the tubes! Here's a look at 2018 TV/media/radio/movie stories from A to Z:
A is for comedian Harry Anderson, star of NBC's Night Court and CBS' Dave's World, who died in April at 65. We've lost a lot of classic TV stars in 2018: actress-director Penny Marshall (Laverne & Shirley), Bill Daily (Bob Newhart Show, I Dream Of Jeannie), Robert Guilliame (Benson), David Ogden Stiers (M*A*S*H), John Mahoney (Frasier), Rose Marie (Dick Van Dyke Show), Charlotte Rae (Facts of Life), Monty Hall (Let's Make A Deal) and Jim Nabors (Gomer Pyle, USMC).
B is for blackface, which cost Megyn Kelly her NBC job in less than two years. During a Halloween costume discussion on the Oct. 23 broadcast of Megyn Kelly Today, she said blackface was acceptable. "Back when I was a kid that was OK, as long as you were dressing up as, like, a character." She apologized the next day; two days later NBC canceled her show.
C is for commentary and corporate commands. Specifically, I'm talking about Sinclair Broadcast Group ordering local news anchors to read a scripted commentary word-for-word. Part of it sounded like it was written by President Trump: "The sharing of biased and false news has become all too common on social media. More alarming, some media outlets publish these same fabricated stories without checking facts first. Unfortunately, some members of the media use their platforms to push their own personal bias and agenda, to control exactly what people think. This is extremely dangerous to our democracy."
When WKRC-TV anchor Rob Braun rewrote it into his own words, he was told to stick to the original script. After he did the spot, he got death threats. Adding to Sinclair's embarrassment was Deadspin mashing together dozens of Sinclair anchors into one video reading the identical script, as if they were mindless corporate robots.
D is for Deb Dixon, arguably Cincinnati television's best crime reporter. Dixon retired in May after 44 years at WKRC-TV, where she broke countless stories, including many about serial killer Joseph Paul Franklin. She also brought CrimeStoppers to Cincinnati in 1980, her lasting legacy.
Dixon's departure was just one part of Channel 12's talent drain this year: anchor Brad Johansen (26 years) moved to Raleigh NC; meteorologist Brandon Orr (three years) went to Miami FL; and reporters Joe Webb (31 years in TV news here; the last 16 at WKRC-TV) and Larry Davis (45 years in broadcast news; 17 years at WKRC-TV) retired.
Dixon and Webb say Sinclair was a big factor in leaving Channel 12. "If the company had wanted me to stay, it would not have given me an offer that was so easy to refuse," Dixon told me. Here's a link to my October commentary on Why The Exodus At WKRC-TV.
E is for is for Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile, the movie about Ted Bundy, a 1970s serial killer, kidnapper, rapist and thief who preyed on young women from Utah to Florida. Director Joe Berlinger wrapped filming in February with Zach Efron (Bundy), Jim Parsons, John Malkovich, Lily Collins, Haley Joel Osment and Dylan Baker. Coming in 2019: Extremely Wicked premieres at the Sundance Film Festival in January.
F is for Fox 19 turning 50. WXIX-TV, which began as an independent station in 1968 with Larry Smith's puppets, celebrated its golden anniversary in August by adding a half-hour newscast at 11 p.m., going head-to-head against the long established late news on Channels 5, 9 and 12. Fox 19 also added a 4 p.m. newscast. In October, Channel 19 celebrated the 25th anniversary of its news department and anchor Tricia Macke, who was quickly promoted from freelancer to full-time news staffer in 1993 on condition she stop modeling underwear in newspaper advertisements.
G is for the Game Changers of 2018: The Bengals hired Cleveland native Mike Watts for Bengals preseason TV games after Johansen's move to North Carolina, and named longtime Cincinnati broadcaster Wayne "Box" Miller radio pregame/postgame host when Alan Cutler retired. The Reds promoted TV host Jim Day to the radio rotation after Jim Kelch was not renewed, while former pitchers Sam LeCure and Danny Graves were added to Fox Sports Ohio telecasts and some radio broadcasts. The best news: Marty Brennaman returns in 2019 for his 46th season (and the Reds' big season-long 150th anniversary celebration).
H is for Ron Howard and Hillbilly Elegy. The Oscar-winning director visited Middletown in October as part of his research for filming a movie adaptation of Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, the best-selling book by Middletown native J.D. Vance about growing up in the Rust Belt.
I is for the icons we lost in 2018: NPR newsman Carl Kasell, Spider-Man creator Stan Lee; playwright Neil Simon; retired WLWT-TV executive and local broadcasting historian Clyde Haehnle; Cincinnati drummer and Blue Wisp Big Band co-founder John Von Ohlen; actor Burt Reynolds; and sportscasters Dick Enberg and Keith Jackson.
Other Hollywood passages of note: WKRP In Cincinnati creator Hugh Wilson; producer Steven Bochco (NYPD Blue, L.A. Law, Hill Street Blues); SpongeBob SquarePants creator Stephen Hillenburg; and Parts Unknown host Anthony Bourdain.
J is for Judge Jerry. Five months after news broke that production of the daytime Jerry Springer Show ceased production after 27 years – and that the CW would air Springer reruns in fall – NBCUniversal announced that Springer would star in a syndicated court show in fall 2019. Judge Jerry could give new meaning to the term "courtroom fight."
K is for Ken Broo and his former 1973 summer roommate Tom McKee, who are retiring from WCPO-TV. No boos, just bravos for Broo, the only person to hit the Cincinnati TV sports trifecta – anchoring and reporting for Channels 5, 9 and 12 since 1987. McKee, hired by legendary news director Al Schottelkotte, spent 40 years at Channel 9 news, adeptly covering all kinds of stories. And speaking of Schottelkotte: Allan White, his first TV reporter and long-time Channel 9 assignment editor, assistant news director and archivist, died Dec. 1 at age 94.
TV stations (and viewers) lost 243 years of Cincinnati broadcasting experience with the departures this year of McKee, White, Broo, Deb Dixon, Joe Webb, Larry Davis and Brad Johansen.
L is for Larry Smith and his puppets, who entertained thousands of kids with his Hattie the Witch, Teaser the Mouse, Snarfie R. Dog and Nasty Ole Thing puppets. Smith, who died in February at 79, hosted the first show broadcast by WXIX-TV in 1968. Hattie, Rudy, Teaser and the whole gang are on display at the National Voice of America Museum of Broadcasting in West Chester Township.
More local passages: Comedian Chili Chalis; former radio personalities Chuck Daugherty and Hugh Lutton; retired WLW-AM general manager J. David Martin; former WLWT-TV newsman Tom Craig; and former WCET-TV general manager Susan Howarth. The Enquirer family also lost retired theater critic Jackie Demaline; former sports editor/managing editor Jim Schottelkotte; and sportswriter Tom Groeschen.
M is for Moonves, #MeToo and Millions. Sexual misconduct allegations continue to give CBS a black eye with the company firing CEO Les Moonves, and refusing to pay his $120 million severance; the firing of 60 Minutes executive producer Jeff Fager for sending an "inappropriate text" to reporter Jurika Duncan; and CBS' $9.5-million payout to actress Eliza Dushku, after firing her from CBS' Bull when she complained about harassing comments by star Michael Weatherly (which were caught on camera).
N is for Kathrine Nero, no longer at 9 On Your Side news. Nero says she was "blindsided" in July, when WCPO-TV dropped her from Good Morning Tristate after 20 years at the station. She had been anchoring solo since Channel 9 abruptly dumped co-anchor Chris Riva, a Monroe native, in March after four years. Neither has been replaced with new hires, prompting speculation that they were victims of a salary dump.
O is for organist Ronnie Dale, who entertained Reds fans for 14 years at Crosley Field and Riverfront Stadium. You may have missed his obituary in January because it appeared under his real name, Erwin Ronald "Ronnie" Grubb. Says the 1968 Reds yearbook: "He may not be able to hit the curve, but Ronnie Dale is a popular, permanent fixture in the Reds' Crosley Field starting line-up." Fans loved clapping to his "Mexican Hat Dance," or cheering to a "Charge!" during a rally. In fact, he was the first organist to be ejected by an umpire during a MLB game for repeatedly leading the crowd in choruses of "Charge!"
P is for Pulitzer Prize and Booby Prize. The Enquirer won a prestigious Pulitzer for local reporting for its "Seven Days Of Heroin" series on April 16. The staff was cited for "a distinguished example of reporting on significant issues of local concern, demonstrating originality and community expertise." Two weeks earlier, the paper's collectible Reds' Opening Day section published an illustration which switched the positions of second base and shortstop. So the newspaper, which was founded in 1841 – 18 years before the Cincinnati Red Stockings debut – still can't find second base?
Q is for Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin. The legendary singer -- who won 18 Grammy Awards, including best female R&B performance for eight consecutive years -- died at her Detroit home in August at 76. Her voice was declared a national resource by the Michigan legislature in 1986; she was presented the Presidential Medal of Honor by President George W. Bush in 2005.
Other musician passages of note: singer Nancy Wilson; country star Roy Clark (Hee-Haw), and guitarist Wilbert Longmire.
R is for Roseanne and other TV revivals and rescues in 2018: Roseanne morphed into The Conners on ABC after the star was fired for her racists tweets in June; Candice Bergen and the Murphy Brown gang returned to CBS for 13 episodes to tweak Trump this fall; Magnum P.I. again solved Hawaii crimes on CBS; Ryan Seacrest and American Idol returned with new judges on ABC; Tim Allen's Last Man Standing thrived on Fox after dropped by ABC; and ABC retooled Efram Zimbalist Jr.'s 1965 F.B.I. for Missy Peregrym's FBI on CBS. They joined reboots of Will & Grace, Hawaii 5-O, MacGyver and S.W.A.T.
Coming in 2019: Brooklyn Nine-Nine resumes on NBC, after being dropped by Fox, and Designated Survivor moves from ABC to Netflix for a 10-episoder third season.
S is for Sam Straley, the Anderson Township native who landed an ABC series right out of college. The Guardian Angels School and Forest Hills High School alum uses his Catholic education to play seminary drop-out Lawrence Cleary, the oldest of eight brothers on ABC's The Kids Are Alright sitcom. Straley says he was inspired to become an actor by his late grandfather, Roger Grooms, a local theater director and movie reviewer. The kid's alright, and so is his show.
T is for The Old Man & The Gun, the Robert Redford caper shot here in 2017 which arrived in theaters this fall. Redford, 82, told 60 Minutes in September that his role as an aging bank robber will be his last as an actor.
Redford, who's never won an Academy Award for acting, is up for a Golden Globe Award for best actor on Jan. 6. On Jan. 22 we'll learn if he got an Oscar nomination.
U is for Urban Artifact Radio, the local adult album alternative (Triple-A) music service, which brought Music From The Hills Of Home with Katie Laur and Oakley Scot back to the airwaves in August after an 18-month absence. Laur had hosted the bluegrass show for 27-and-a-half years on WNKU-FM, until the station was sold by Northern Kentucky University. Urban Artifact Radio can be heard on WVXU-FM HD2; or streaming on wvxu.org and our station's free mobile app; or on Urban Artifact's low-power frequency at 1660 AM and streaming live at radioartifact.com.
V is for The Voice of Mason, Abby Cates. The 17-year-old Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy senior advanced to the top 24 of NBC's popular singing competition this fall. (Why didn't she make the top 13?)
Tyshawn Colquitte, a School for the Creative & Performing Arts alum, also survived The Voice blind auditions and made it to the knockout rounds.
More reality: Army veteran Angela Perkins from Oregonia finished fourth on Survivor: Ghost Island last winter; Lachey's Bar, which opened during an A&E reality series shoot in 2014, closed in February; Casey Webb brought his Man v. Food Travel Channel crew to Arnold's Bar & Grill, Blue Ash Chili and Roc-A-Fellas pizza in Sharonville in late May; and Caitlin Steininger was at the bottom of Bravo's Top Chef by being the first person eliminated on the Dec. 6 premiere.
W is for low-power WOTH-TV (Channel 20), which vanished into thin air Jan. 23 as part of the federal government's nationwide digital TV channel realignment, called the "repack," to free up more of the broadcast spectrum for cell phone and other wireless companies. The good news: Sister station WKRP TV (Channel 25) has added four networks from WOTH-TV (Movies!, Decades, Heroes & Icons and Quest TV) and secured a permanent digital channel for WKRP TV after the repack in fall 2019.
X is for ex-Saturday Night Live cast member Luke Null. The 2008 Lakota East High School graduate became Greater Cincinnati's first SNL cast member in 2017. A year later, he was nullified.
Y is for WYGY-FM, best known as country station "93.7 The Wolf," which has been lacking in personality since Dec. 4. That's when the station let go longtime DJs Ernie Brown, "Pistol" Pete Miller and Jimmy "The Weasel" Salzurulo.
Other radio news from 2018: WRRM-FM replaced morning hosts Bob Goen and wife Marianne with Amando Orlando and Jim Day (not the Reds broadcaster); Laura Powell left WKRQ-FM in April; and oldies WDJO-AM added FM simulcasts on 99.5 and 107.9.
Z is for Zoo and all the other TV series canceled this year: Scandal, The Middle, The Chew, The Exorcist, New Girl, Elementary, Scorpion, Kevin Can Wait, The Originals, Salvation, Good Behavior, The Royals, Love Is…, I'm Dying Up Here and, of course, Megyn Kelly Today.
Happy New Year!