2016 in review: The highs and the lows…a lot of lows

“Jessica Jones” tops odd year in media – and life

When you look back at 2016, there isn’t much to rave about – way too many celebrity and industry deaths (Prince, Garry Shandling, Carrie Fisher, Grant Tinker, Doug Banks, Herb Kent, etc.), the election of Donald Trump, the rise (again) of Rahm Emanuel, continuing media consolidation, and other awful things.

But it wasn’t all bad:  American Idol was finally canceled.

Aside from the Chicago Cubs’ historic World Series victory, 2016 was a dreadful year for the Windy City, with the President-elect embarrassing the nation’s third-largest city on the world stage for its escalating murder rate, while the national media (who had their own problems in 2016) gave more press to Chicago’s homicide rate than any other city’s by far – not to mention ignoring a police shooting in the city’s predominately white Mount Greenwood neighborhood, which touched off a near racial riot.

In addition to the murder rate, high taxes, lack of a state budget, and a drab quality of life continue to push local residents toward the exits, with the most prominent name being Steve Harvey, who’s moving his Chicago-based talk show to L.A. next year. The continuing exodus and bad press no doubt will have an effect on revenues for radio and TV stations – radio chains such as Hubbard and CBS and media-buying agency Starcom Mediavest have laid off personnel this year.

And 2017 isn’t shaping up to be any better, with the city’s homicide crisis front and center as a topic on 60 Minutes Sunday night, suggesting the national spotlight isn’t dimming anytime soon.

In terms of  Chicago media, WGN-TV shocked everyone by trading The CW to Fox-owned WPWR-TV, marking the first network affiliation move in 22 years as the Tribune Broadcasting-owned station returned to independent status. WBBM-AM continues to dominate radio ratings while shocking ratings declines occurred for country music station WUSN-FM, who shifted Stylz & Roman to morning drive from sister station WBBM-FM.

Meanwhile, the Chicago Tribune’s parent company renamed itself something a sane person couldn’t understand while Cumulus continues to alienate listeners and advertisers.

In journalism, the Better Government Association forced the Emanuel administration to release private e-mails pertaining to city business, which detailed his cozy relationship with several media professionals (which may explain his ability to convince Chicago radio stations to “roadblock” their programming for an half-hour on November 14 to address the city in an interview with Bill Kurtis), while NBC-owned WMAQ-TV and Carol Marin won a Peabody Award for their investigation into the Laquan McDonald case.

The TV business also seen its share of upheaval this year. The number of television programs continued to grow, with a number now standing at 455 in this “Peak TV” era, likely heading to 500 next year. Ratings continued to drop for the broadcast networks as viewers continued migrating to streaming platforms and other viewing options – even the NFL wasn’t immune. And cord-cutting became part of the vocabulary as more and more viewers are shredding their pricey subscriptions.

And of course, this blog marked its tenth birthday last September, promising to entertain and annoy people for another decade (Ha Ha.)

The best shows of 2016

2016 wasn’t a complete wasteland… as for quality, television continues to soar above and beyond every other medium. In yours truly’s listings of the best shows of the year, Netflix’s and Marvel’s Jessica Jones took the top spot as the best show of the year. Created and produced by Melissa Rosenberg and starring Krysten Ritter (formerly of Apartment 23), this program features an anti-heroine detective who’s tougher than Kojak and proves women can be tough when it comes to fighting crime. A+ all the way!

T Dog Media’s Top 5 Shows of 2016: 

1. Jessica Jones (Netflix)
2. Daredevil (Netflix)
3. Empire (Fox; spring season)
4. Last Week Tonight With John Oliver (HBO)
5. Bob’s Burgers (Fox)

Honorable Mention: This Is Us (NBC), Stranger Things (Netflix), The People vs. O.J. Simpson (FX)

Previous occupants of this list in years past are either struggling in the ratings (Marvel’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.), wore out their welcome (The Big Bang Theory, which has now become unwatchable – thanks Wil Wheaton!), or just plain tired (Family Guy.) In fact, these shows are lucky they’re not on the list below.

The worst TV shows of 2016

Due to a change in eligibility rules, obvious entries such as the Chicago Bears (who made the worst list AND The T Dog TV Media Hall Of Shame in 2014), the Chicago White Sox, and any appearance of Donald Trump on any show in 2016 are not included in the year-end worst list – though if they were scripted or reality shows, you can bet they’ll be in. The same goes for the Chicago Cubs’ historic title run, only they would be on Top 5 Shows list, and probably number one. In fact, Game 7 provided more drama than any program on the Top 5 list.

Much of TV’s worst was covered in the Turkey Awards this year, but here is the official list:

T Dog Media’s Worst Shows of 2016

1. Son Of Zorn (Fox)
2. Kevin Can Wait (CBS)
3. The Great Outdoors (CBS)
4. Lethal Weapon (Fox)
5. Vinyl (HBO)

Dishonorable Mention: Notorious (ABC); Any show and/or spin-off with the title Love & Hip-Hop (VH1); UnREAL (Lifetime)

Two of these shows (Son Of Zorn and Vinyl) were recently inducted into The T Dog Media TV Hall Of Shame. Also of note is the appearance of UnREAL in the “dishonorable mention” category, thanks to a huge decline in quality and ratings – it ranked seventh on T Dog Media’s best list in 2015.

Surprisingly, Son of Zorn – which yours truly reviewed in October – wasn’t on many critics’ worst lists. Are Kevin Can Wait and The Great Outdoors really that bad? Does it even matter? It’s like comparing the Bears with the San Francisco 49ers and the Cleveland Browns.

Look for a preview of what to expect in the media business for 2017 in the next couple of days.

Happy New Year from T Dog Media (and good riddance to 2016!)