With the upfronts a week away, it’s time to take a look at what was hot and what was not in the 2015-16 television season.
This roundup not only is about primetime broadcast TV, but other programming as well from local news to local sports.
These are not listed in any particular order.
– Cable dramas. While the news has been about cutting cords, cable dramas Mr. Robot (USA) and American Crime Story: O.J. Simpson (FX) have rewritten the rules an introduced a new way of storytelling, making them the most acclaimed shows of the season. Hope the Primetime Emmy voters are watching.
– Cubs. (and White Sox, too!) As if the networks have enough to worry about: the Chicago Cubs hot start and continued success could drain viewers from the broadcast and cable networks’ summer programming in Chicago, the nation’s third largest market. On the other hand, the Cubs’ TV (and radio) partners will be benefiting all season long. And who has the second-best record in baseball after the Cubs? The Chicago White Sox, whose ratings are almost certain to go up from last year, which weren’t much. Also credit a major revamp of their TV broadcasts, with home-game announcer Jason Benetti a HUGE upgrade over Ken “Hawk” Harrelson, baseball announcing’s answer to The Big Bang Theory’s Sheldon Cooper. Or more appropriately, Urkel.
– Coverage of the LaQuan McDonald case. Led by Carol Marin, WMAQ-TV won a Peabody Award for their investigation into the LaQuan McDonald case, where a black teenager was shot and killed by Chicago Police in October 2014, with video of the incident not being released to the public until November 2015. Marin and her team uncovered information the city and Mayor Rahm Emanuel were trying to hide. The fallout from the video – centered on race, politics, policing, protests, and economic disparity, created drama no scripted or reality program could match.
– Live With Kelly And Michael. Speaking of drama, Michael Strahan’s decision to leave his namesake show for work full-time for ABC’s Good Morning America, took everyone by surprise – even co-host Kelly Ripa, which touched off a debate on how women are treated in the workplace and how “synergy” between entities of the same company doesn’t always come off smoothly. Ratings as you might have guessed, have gone through the roof.
– Daredevil and Jessica Jones. From Marvel and Netflix, two completely original dramas freed from the constraints of broadcast and even cable TV. As far as Jessica Jones is concerned, Krysten Ritter’s portrayal of the title character is spot-on excellent and certainly Emmy worthy. Move over cable: you no longer have a monopoly on quality dramas.
– The broadcast networks’ primetime schedules. The 2015-16 season was absolutely one to forget for the major networks. No major hits this year, and ratings are down for most shows – especially among millennials.
– The CW and Tribune. With one week to go before the upfronts, there is still NO affiliation renewal deal between the Tribune Broadcasting (owners of WGN-TV in Chicago) and CW. At this point, even the Illinois budget impasse between Gov. Rauner and House Speaker Michael Madigan could be resolved sooner.
– Empire. Last year, yours truly couldn’t wait to watch the latest episode of Empire, which seemed at the top of its game. Now, yours truly isn’t really eager to watch, wondering if I’ll make it through the whole season as Empire hasn’t really been Must-See TV lately. And we’re still waiting to see who pushed whom down the stairs. Did Tim Kring suddenly become showrunner or something?
– Vinyl. Mick Jagger pitched a show about a record company based in the 1970’s to HBO, featuring drug use, swearing, yelling, screaming, throwing things, more drug use, more yelling and screaming, and bland musical performances out of nowhere. It’s not TV. It’s an unwatchable mess.
– The Bulls and Blackhawks. Those “hot winter nights” never materialized as the defending Stanley Cup Champion Blackhawks hobbled into the playoffs only to get ousted by the St. Louis Blues in the first-round while the Chicago Bulls hobbled all season and failed to make the playoffs. As a result, ratings were down for both from a year ago.
– The return of The X-Files. While yours truly generally liked the revival, others… didn’t. And I mean really didn’t. Don’t spinoff Truth Squad with Tad O’ Malley just yet. Oh, it has a website? A REAL Website? Good Grief.