Before we welcome 2016, let’s look back at this year in TV, movies, radio and media from A to Z.
A is for Antenna TV channel, which switched from low-power WOTH-TV to WSTR-TV’s Channel 64.2 available on Time Warner Channel 996 in December so more people can see Johnny Carson’s “The Tonight Show” reruns starting Jan. 1. The deal was orchestrated by Tribune Broadcasting executive Sean Compton, a former WLW-AM/Jacor employee who grew up in Connersville watching Carson.
B is for guitarist B.B. King, who died in May at 89. We also sang the blues over the passing of sportscasters Frank Gifford and Stuart Scott; “60 Minutes” newsman Bob Simon; satirist Stan Freberg; and actors Leonard Nimoy, Dick Van Patten, UC grad David Canary Maureen O’Hara, Anne Meara, Judy Carne, Dean Jones, Donna Douglas, Jayne Meadows, Marty Milner, Fred Thompson and Patrick Macnee.
C is for “Carol,” star Cate Blanchett, Cannes and Cincinnati, which plays a strong supporting role in the film. The Blanchett-Rooney Mara love story, set in 1952 New York, was filmed entirely in Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky in 2014 by director Todd Haynes. “Carol” won best picture this year at the Cannes Film Festival, and Mara was named best actress. “Carol” received the most (5) nominations for the Golden Globe Awards airing on NBC Jan. 10, which could be a good sign for Academy Award nominations announced Jan. 14.
D is for David Letterman, who ended his “Late Show” in May after three decades as TV’s most influential late-night host on NBC and CBS. His fans were shocked the next day when workers demolished and hauled his New York skyline set out of New York’s Ed Sullivan Theater to prepare for Stephen Colbert’s “Late Show” debut in September.
E is for Eeeeleven O’Clock in the Tristate, when Carol Williams has been a news anchor at WCPO-TV since the Al Schottelkotte era. Schottelkotte, the top-rated anchor for 22 years, left the anchor desk in 1986 when Williams was hired. Starting in January she’ll work part-time co-anchoring at 5 and 6 p.m. with Craig McKee, who debuted in June as Clyde Gray’s replacement. When Tanya O’Rourke joins McKee on the late news Jan. 4, it means three-fourths of the anchor team has changed since Dennis Janson left sports in 2013.
F is for the WEBN-FM Fireworks not broadcast on TV for the first time since 1984. The “last blast of summer,” usually the highest-rated local TV broadcast every year, could only be seen in person after WXIX-TV (Channel 19) didn’t renew its contract with iHeartMedia to provide weather reports to WLW-AM and televise the Western & Southern/WEBN Fireworks.
G is for Good Old Jim Scott, the friendly radio voice who retired in March after waking us up for 46 years. The New Yorker found a home here first on old WSAI-AM, and dominated the ratings for decades on WLW-AM around stints on old YES95, WINK94.1 and New York’s WNBC-AM. Scott’s retirement opened a spot for Mike McConnell, who had left WLW-AM in 2010 for Chicago’s WGN-AM.
H is for the “The Hunger Games,” Union native Josh Hutcherson and Lebanon High School graduate Woody Harrelson whose blockbuster movie series ended with the fourth film in November. A month later, the revival of a beloved franchise from long ago and far, far away destroyed box office records with “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” Awakens, indeed.
I is for Icons or Institutions, the two public radio superstars who announced they will retire in 2016: “A qPrairie Home Companion” host/creator Garrison Keillor, now 73, and weekday talk host Diane Rehm, now 79. Keillor hands off his Powdermilk Biscuits recipe to 34-year-old Chris Thile, a mandolin player with the Punch Brothers and Nickel Creek bands who debuted on “APHC” at age 15. Goodbye Guy Noir.
J is for Jon Stewart, the Emmy-winning host of “The Daily Show.” Stewart brilliantly both satirized and informed several generations of viewers about political and government affairs. Sadly, his successor Trevor Noah hasn’t hit stride yet.
K is for Kermit the Frog and The Muppets and others who made TV comebacks this year: College Hill native Garbrielle Dennis (“Rosewood”), John Stamos (“Grandfathered”), Jamie Lee Curtis (“Scream Queens”), Don Johnson (“Blood & Oil”), Rob Lowe and Fred Savage (“The Grinder”), James Brolin (“Life in Pieces”), Calista Flockhart (“Supergirl”); S. Epatha Merkerson and Oliver Platt (“Chicago Med”) and “Heroes Reborn.” Coming soon in ’16: “The X-Files” (Jan. 24 on Fox) and “Fuller House” (Feb. 26 on Netflix).
L is for “Lachey’s Bar” and Vanessa Lachey’s “Truth Be Told” NBC sitcom. Truth be told, both are cancelled. A&E sources tell me there won’t be a second season about Nick and Drew Lachey’s bar – no surprise since four months have passed since the season finale without a renewal announcement or any more filming. NBC shut down production of Nick’s wife’s new fall sitcom three weeks after it premiered.
M is for “Marauders,” “A Christmas Melody,” Mariah Carey and Christopher Meloni. Or movies spending millions here to shoot for Carey’s “A Christmas Melody”; Bruce Willis, Christopher Meloni and Adrian Grenier in “Marauders”; Nick Jonas in “Goat”; James Franco, Josh Hutcherson, Courtney Love and Josh Hartnett in “The Long Home”; and Mickey Rourke’s “Tiger.” Two “large movies” and a possible TV series could shoot here in 2016, said local film commission director Kristen Erwin Schlotman on WVXU’s “Cincinnati Edition” earlier this month.
N is for Larry Wilmore’s “The Nightly Show,” my new Must See TV show since John Stewart and Stephen Colbert left Comedy Central. The African-American comedian, who wrote for “In Living Color” and the “Bernie Mac” shows, has consistently delivered the best political satire and commentary on Donald “Make America Great Again” Trump and the 2016 presidential campaign on his nightly segment called “Blacklash 2016: The Unblackening – Make America Hate Again.”
O is for Oops. Brian Williams lost his “NBC Nightly News” anchor job in February for lying about being aboard a military helicopter hit by enemy fire in Iraq… When Yankees Hall of Fame catcher Yogi Berra died in September, the Associated Press sent out a news alert saying “Yogi Bear” died… An Enquirer story in November rewrote history by saying Germany invaded Great Britain in World War II… And the year ended with Steve Harvey crowning the wrong Miss Universe on a live Fox show. Oops.
P is for “Parks & Recreation,” “Parenthood" and other shows which went down the tubes in 2015: “CSI,” “Glee,” “Anarchy,” “Best Time Ever with Neil Patrick Harris,” “Boardwalk Empire,” “Extant,” “Hot in Cleveland,” “Mad Men,” “Nurse Jackie,” “Two And A Half Men” and “The Newsroom.” Get ready to say goodbye to “American Idol,” which starts its final season Jan. 6 – and ends four weeks earlier than usual, in late April instead of near Memorial Day.
Q is for Q102, where popular DJ Brian Douglas worked for 28 years as afternoon host, music director and frequent morning fill-in. Douglas quit WKRQ-FM in October to pursue his new passion – still photography – after promotional shooting pictures for “A Christmas Melody,” “Marauders” and Don Cheadle’s “Miles Ahead.” He spent December photographing Arnold Schwarzenegger’s “478” thriller in Columbus.
R is for Reality TV and Ratings. The ratings tanked for A&E’s “Neighbors with Benefits” wife-swapping series filmed in Warren County, so it was yanked after two telecasts. At the other end of the spectrum: Cable TV set ratings records for Republican presidential candidates’ debates held months before anyone actually votes.
S is for Second Chance, which is what Fox Broadcasting is giving Ciara Bravo. After Fox’s short-lived “Red Band Society” last year, the Alexandria native returns to Fox Jan. 13 in the drama “Second Chance” (originally called “Frankenstein”) about a corrupt 75-year-old police officer (Rob Kazinsky) brought back to life as a younger man. Ciara plays his daughter Gracie.
T is for TV News Transitions. Vanishing from local airwaves were Scott Schneider, Hagit Limor, Amy Wagner from WXIX-TV; Curtis Jackson, Mike Berk and Josh Knight from WKRC-TV (Channel 12); Bryce Anslinger from WCPO-TV (Channel 9); Kristy Davis from WLWT-TV (Channel 5); and Jack Atherton from WKEF-TV/WRGT-TV (Channel 22, 45).
U is for Unprecedented newsroom leadership changes during my 30 years covering television. Three of the four TV news directors here left their jobs since the first of July: Channel 12’s Kirk Varner, Channel 19’s Kevin Roach and Channel 5’s Mike Neelly.
V is for another Variation of The View in the wake of Barbara Walters’ retirement last year. Former Channel 9 sports anchor/reporter Paula Faris was added to the cast (in addition to hosting weekend “Good Morning America”), along with actress Candace Cameron Bure. They join Whoopi Goldberg, Raven-Symoné, Michelle Collins and returning contributor Sherri Shepherd.
W is for WVXU…. and me! Thanks to my friends at WVXU, I was able to resume covering the beat I love, and revive my Media blog for wvxu.org. And thanks to all of my wonderful loyal readers.
X is X-quirers. The two Enquirer executives who oversaw the departure of 27 newsroom staffers last December were gone by spring: Publisher Margaret Buchanan and Editor Carolyn Washburn. The exodus continued after the return of former reporter and editor Rick Green as publisher. Notable departures this year: Writers John Fay, John Faherty, Amanda Van Benschoten, Michael Clark, Cindy Schroeder, Kimball Perry, Rachel Richardson and photographer Glenn Hartong. Rejoining the paper were writers Chris Graves and Mark Curnutte.
Y is for Yodeling, which brought young country singer Bonnie Lou to WLW in 1945, and made her a star on “Midwestern Hayride,” Ruth Lyons’ “50-50 Club” and the “Paul Dixon Show.” Bonnie Lou Okum’s career here spanned seven decades before her death in December at age 91. This year we also lost former Channel 19 meteorologist Rich Apuzzo, radio newsman Fred Slezak and local film commission founder Lori Holladay.
Z is for the Buzz about the end of 1230 The Buzz. Radio One pulled the plug on the city’s only African-American talk station after 15 years, switching to a gospel format in December called “Praise 1230.” Talk host Lincoln Ware was the only local personality to survive the purge.