TVKiese's annual year-in-review: Rounding third and heading toward 2022
2021 will be remembered as the year Pat Barry died of COVID-19, Barry Larkin and John Sadak on Reds TV, the UC Bearcats' national championship run, double Jeopardy! hosts, and Chris Cuomo, Chris Wallace and Brian Williams leaving their popular cable TV news shows.
Another 365 trips around the dial! Here's my annual review of TV/media/radio/movie stories from A to Z:
A is for the abandonment of Cincinnati by the Associated Press. The international wire service has been absent from Cincinnati since June, when correspondent Dan Sewell retired. The AP closed its bureau and moved the position to the Columbus office. AP for decades had at least two full-time news reporters and a photographer covering breaking news in Southwestern Ohio from its bureau in the Enquirer building.
B is for Larry B, Bill Cartwright and Bubba Bo, who retired from broadcasting in 2021. Legendary country DJ Larry B left WNKR-FM/WNKN-FM in October, ending a 50-year run at country stations in Cincinnati, Hamilton, Middletown and Dry Ridge. Swing with Bill Cartwright, WVXU's longest-running show, ended in August with Cartwright's retirement. Eric "Bubba Bo" Boulanger gave up his full-time morning show on Lawrenceburg's WSCH-FM in March, but continues to host WLW's America's Truckin' Network at midnight.
C is for cable TV chaos. CNN fired Chris Cuomo for actively helping his brother defend sexual harassment charges. MSNBC's Rachel Maddow signed a new deal letting her leave her popular primetime show next year. MSNBC's Brian Williams left NBC this month after 28 years. Chris Wallace, the most respected journalist at Fox News – where primetime opinion hosts push vaccine skepticism and Jan. 6 Capitol riot conspiracy theories – abruptly quit Dec. 12 to join the new CNN+ steaming service coming early next year.
D is for Cincinnati's Douglas S. Cramer, who produced Charlie's Angels, Dynasty, The Brady Bunch, The Love Boat, Wonder Woman, Batman, The Odd Couple, Peyton Place, Fantasy Island, Hotel, Hart to Hart, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Diahann Carroll's Julia and many more TV series. Cramer, who died in July at 89, got his start at WKRC-TV as a go-fer for Rod Serling and supervising a P&G soap opera in the 1950s before becoming a Hollywood studio executive.
E is for Everything But The House, the half-hour series which premiered on HGTV in March nearly three years after the first pilot was filmed. They got it right this time. EBTH returns for a second season in April with Good Morning America's Lara Spencer as host and producer, and Jacquie Denny, co-founder of the Blue Ash online auction company.
F is for the fabulous Cicely Tyson, 96, who died in January. She won two Emmys (The Autobiography Of Miss Jane Pittman, The Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All), a Tony Award (The Trip To Bountiful), an honorary Academy Award and a Peabody Award for career achievement. Her credits include The Help, How To Get Away With Murder, Roots, A Lesson Before Dying, The Marva Collins Story, King, The Rosa Parks Story, Women of Brewster Place, Rwanda Rising, I Spy, Mission: Impossible and The Kid Who Loved Christmas.
G is for GameDay, ESPN's signature college football pregame show telecast live from the University of Cincinnati Nov. 6. ESPN came to Clifton a month before the undefeated Bearcats made history by making the national championship semifinal game Dec. 31 against Alabama in the Cotton Bowl. CNN also put Cincinnati in the national spotlight when Don Lemon hosted a town hall with President Joe Biden July 21 from Mount St. Joseph University.
H is for Hillbilly Elegy, Ron Howard's feature film about Middletown native J.D. Vance's childhood, which earned Glenn Close her eighth best actress Oscar nomination. Close didn't win; in fact the movie failed to win any nominations from the Academy Awards, Golden Globes, Holly Critics Association or Screen Actors Guild Awards.
I is for iconic TV actors who died this year: Ed Asner (Lou Grant, Mary Tyler Moore Show); Cloris Leachman (Phyllis, Mary Tyler Moore Show), Michael Nesmith (The Monkees), George Segal (The Goldbergs, Just Shoot Me!), Clarence Williams III (Mod Squad), Johnny Crawford (The Rifleman), Norman Lloyd (St. Elsewhere, Alfred Hitchcock Presents), Peter Scolari (Newhart, Bosom Buddies, Girls), Dean Stockwell (Quantum Leap, JAG) Norm Macdonald (Saturday Night Live), Markie Post and Charles Robinson (Night Court), Tanya Roberts (That '70s Show, Charlie's Angels), Dustin Diamond (Saved By The Bell), Jessica Walter (Arrested Development), Michael K. Williams (The Wire), James Michael Tyler (Friends), Eddie Mekka (Laverne & Shirley), Michael Constantine (Room 222, My Big Fat Greek Life), James Hampton (F Troop) and Henry Darrow (The High Chaparral).
J is for jacking around with Jeopardy!. First in-house executive producer Michael Richards was named host in August after a year-long high-profile celebrity search to replace the late Alex Trebek. Then Richards quickly was jettisoned as host for past misogynistic comments, but remained EP. Ten days later he was fired as showrunner. To repair the damage, Sony Pictures Television went to double Jeopardy!: Splitting hosting duties between former champ Ken Jennings and actress/neurobiologist Mayim Bialik. The arrangement will continue until the TV year ends in September.
K is for Regina King, the Oscar- and Emmy-winning actress in town this winter filming Shirley, director John Ridley's (12 Years A Slave) feature film about Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm's 1972 presidential campaign. King knows the city well from visits with her mother and grandmother. Filming is scheduled to wrap the first week of February.
L is for Larry King, Rush Limbaugh and G. Gordon Liddy, who passed away this year. King, 87, was a national late-night radio host before becoming CNN's signature prime-time host. Limbaugh, 70, became the country's most popular conservative radio host soon after the Federal Communications Commission repealed the Fairness Doctrine, requiring equal time for opposing sides of a political issue. G. Gordon Liddy, 90, who hosted a national radio show after his 52-month jail sentence for his role in the Watergate scandal during Richard Nixon's presidency, died in March at 90. And Willard Scott, who died at age 87, started in radio in 1955 (and was the original Ronald McDonald) before working as NBC's Today show weatherman from 1980 to 2010.
M is for Michael Monks, and his Cincinnati Edition successor Lucy May. Monks left WVXU's noon talk show Dec. 17 after three years to work full-time for the new Link NKY website, an outgrowth of his River City News site. May, a 25-year journalist for WCPO, as well as the Business Courier and Enquirer, joins Cincinnati Public Radio from WCPO on Jan. 18. Other WVXU changes of note: When Cartwright retired in August WVXU dropped all music shows (John Diliberto's Echoes, Oscar Treadwell's Jazz With O.T.), and added The Takeaway, Code Switch, Asian View, Life Kit, The Arts Hour, A Way With Words and Cultivating Place.
N is for Next Generation TV, the new technology which merges over-the-air TV with the internet enabling broadcasters to compete better with streaming services. On Sept. 14, local commercial TV stations launched "NextGenTV" – also called ATSC 3.0 – providing ultra high definition video, theater-like sound, and an app for video on demand or live viewing on cell phones and tablets.
O is for omicron, a variant of COVID-19, the gift that keeps on giving. At this time last year – before vaccines were available – the U.S. death toll was 385,000. Today it's over 807,000. Who knew that so many people – most who received mandated childhood vaccines to prevent smallpox, polio and rubella – would politicize and prolong the public health crisis by refusing coronavirus vaccines claiming some personal medical freedom?
P is for Pat Barry, the popular radio personality who passed away of COVID-19 at age 69 in February. His "Big Kid" license plates summed up his life. He had a big, booming voice to match his larger than life personality, and even bigger heart. Pat Barry seemed to know everyone from working at WKRQ-FM, WLWT-TV, WSAI-AM, WXIX-TV, WLW-AM, WKRC-AM, WMOJ-FM, WDJO-FM, WNKR-FM/WNKN-FM and Fox Sports Ohio. "Never have I known anyone who could make me laugh so uncontrollably. Who was so appreciated by so many people… and the best friend anyone could ask for," said Reds Hall of Fame catcher Johnny Bench. "We will never see another like him. He brightened our lives so much."
Q is for quitting cable TV. I'm talking about channels, not customers. NBC pulls the plug Jan. 1 on the NBC Sports Network and shifts the sports programming (NASCAR, Olympics, horse racing, golf, etc.) to bolster viewing on its USA Network channel and Peacock streaming service. And at 9 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 5, Discovery's DIY channel gets a makeover as the Magnolia Network programmed by Chip and Joanna Gaines from HGTV's popular Fixer Upper series. And Discovery's footprint greatly expands next summer when it acquires WarnerMedia (CNN, TBS, TNT, HBO, Warner Bros. studio) from AT&T to compete with Disney+ and Netflix.
R is for the new Reds TV announcers John Sadak and Barry Larkin, the Reds Hall of Fame shortstop who had done studio work for MLB Network and ESPN. It was the first full-time Major League Baseball job for Sadak, who had done 15 years of minor league baseball and lots of football and basketball play-by-play for CBS Sports and Westwood One. Sadak replaced Thom Brennaman, who resigned in late 2020 after uttering a homophobic slur during a telecast. It was the first time in 47 years a Brennaman was not part of the club's broadcast team. Will the owners' lockout of the players delay Opening Day in 2022? Will the lockout cancel the Opening Day parade for a third straight year, again postponing Mary Brennaman's opportunity to be grand marshal? We shall see...
S is for Stephen Sondheim, the musical genius who died at 91 in December. The composer and lyricist provided the soundtrack to American theatrical life for half a century with West Side Story, Gypsy, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Company, A Little Night Music, Sweeney Todd, Into The Woods and Sunday In The Park With George.
T is for all the local TV news changes. Meteorologist Sherry Hughes, who openly talked about her cancer battle on WCPO-TV, left after 10 years in November. Meteorologist Austin Winfield, anchor Timyka Artist and reporter Jasmine Minor also left Channel 9, and news director Mike Canan moved to the Scripps Howard Foundation. Barry Fulmer, a 23-year veteran at Louisville's Fox affiliate WDBR-TV, starts Jan. 18 as Channel 9's senior director of local media content.
WLWT-TV and WXIX-TV each expanded afternoon newscasts. Channel 19 now devotes 3-7 p.m. to news, Channel 5 added a 7 p.m. newscast, and viewers have a choice of four local news shows 4-6:30 p.m.
At WKRC-TV, the Greater Cincinnati Association of Black Journalists in March sent a complaint about the lack of diversity in the newsroom – after the station's salute to the "ladies of Local 12 News" pictured "13 on-air female talent, none of who are Black women." In May, the station hired three Black journalists: weekend anchor Marella Porter and reporters Courtney Wheaton and Luke Jones.
WXIX-TV's mornings changed when longtime anchor Jessica Brown jumped to WCVB-TV in Boston, the nation's 10th largest market, and traffic reporter Rebecca Smith left. Andrea Finney was hired from Harrisburg, Pa., to join morning show anchors Dan Wells, Lauren Minor, Stefano DiPietrantonio and Frank Marzullo.
U is for the Unreality TV on conservative "news" outlets. The leader is Fox News (my friend calls it "Fox Noise") which makes millions of dollars by misleading and misrepresenting the facts, and making it impossible for Americans to agree on one singular truth. Fox's popular primetime opinion hosts (they're not journalists) have criticized vaccine and mask mandates (while working in the Fox TV HQ mandating masks); ridiculed infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci (a Fox scroll recently declared that "LORD FAUCI WANTS A PERMANENT PANDEMIC"); and used violent rhetoric when encouraging viewers to confront Fauci (Fox's Jesse Watters urged them to "go in for the kill shot, the kill shot with an ambush, deadly").
Although millions watched Trump supporters on TV storm the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, heard them chant "Hang Mike Pence" and saw them beat police officers with their Trump flags, right-wing media personalities have portrayed the insurrectionists trying to stop the transfer of power as peaceful "patriots." Yet recently released Jan. 6 text messages from Fox stars show they knew the gravity of the situation, and begged Trump's chief of staff to have the president stop the rioting and make them "leave the Capitol," in the words of Sean Hannity.
V is for the voices of Alyssa Wray, and sisters Macie and Marie Cunningham. Wray, a Northern Kentucky University freshman from tiny Perryville, Ky., finished in the top 10 on American Idol in May. Hamilton's Cunningham sisters were eliminated in the knockout round on NBC's The Voice despite weekly praise from all the mentors.
W is for Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts, who died at age 80 in August, and the other musicians and singers we lost this year: Mary Wilson (The Supremes), Don Everly (Everly Brothers), Jim Weatherly ("Midnight Train To Georgia") and Dusty Hill (ZZ Top).
X marks the spot where huge trees were torn down at the WLW-AM transmitter and tower site on Tylersville Road in May for the $30-million Tower Park shopping and office development opening in 2022. Fencing will be erected around iHeartMedia's historic diamond-shaped Blaw-Knox tower, the red-brick transmitter building and a smaller tower west of the transmitter. (And here's an early "Happy Birthday" greeting: WLW-AM hits "The Big One — it's 100th birthday — on March 2, 2022.)
Y is for Yaphet Kotto (Alien, Live and Let Die, Homicide: Life On The Street) who died at 81, and the other actors, actresses and directors who were golden on the silver screen: Hal Holbrook (Lincoln, All The President's Men), Christopher Plummer (The Sound of Music, All The Money In The World), Charles Grodin (Heartbreak Kid, Beethoven, Midnight Run), Ned Beatty (Superman, Deliverance, Network), Melvin Van Peebles (The Shining, Watermelon Man) and Michael Apted (Coal Miner's Daughter).
Z is for zero. That's how many copies I had of my Joe Nuxhall: The Old Lefthander & Me book in October four weeks after my first printing arrived. Thanks to your zealous support, I've sold over 3,100 books in 3-1/2 months, which means a $3,100 donation to the Nuxhall Foundation toward the $28,000 in Joe Nuxhall Memorial Scholarships awarded each spring to high school seniors. Thanks!
Happy New Year!