Even through the 2010s were less impactful than the previous decade was (i.e. no iPod-like devices were invented), the period did provide some historic moments. Hearkening back to an era where T Dog Media was a little more looser than it is now, I present to you The Fridge Pack: The Twelve Items That Made The Decade and its impact on Chicagoans and our nation, ranked in no particular order:
– The advent of Netflix and streaming services. In 2013, Netflix decided to “stream” as TV show called House of Cards, dropping all episodes at once – and changed the TV business forever. The company once known for renting DVDs by mail became a global powerhouse in entertainment and opened the door to a brand new way to consume our favorite shows.
– Peak TV. And thanks to streaming, the number of scripted TV series surged from around 100 at the start of the decade or so to over 500, leading FX’s John Landgraf to coin the phrase “Peak TV”. While the surge of television series has led to more quality series – it also has led to more crappy ones.
– The Chicago Blackhawks. The “model” franchise in sports, the once-moribund team (remember those home TV blackouts?) won the Stanley Cup in 2010 for the first time in 39 years, bringing the sport of hockey back to prominence in Chicago. And to put a cherry on top of the sundae, the Blackhawks repeated the feat in 2013 and 2015, respectively.
– The Cubs’ 2016 World Series win. After a century of losing, GM Theo Epstein finally righted the ship and on November 2, 2016 the Cubs did what was once the unthinkable – win the World Series for the first time in 108 years, breaking sports’ longest championship drought with game seven delivering the biggest ratings ever for Fox-owned WFLD-TV and the largest baseball audience for a game in over 25 years. The victory parade drew nearly five million people for what was indeed the party of the century.
– The New England Patriots. Whether you love them or hate them – and there are plenty of people in both camps – you can’t deny the success of Tom Brady and Bill Bellicheck as the Patriots have made five Super Bowl appearances in the 2010s, and won three of them.
– Podcasting. A fancy name for “audio on-demand content”, the form came of age in the 2010s in part thanks to Chicago-based This American Life’s “Serial”, an investigative journalism podcast. Today, there are more than 100,000 podcasts to choose from on basically every subject, and now even television shows are being developed from them.
– Last Week Tonight With John Oliver. Whether if its taking down Dr. Oz or Sinclair Broadcasting, the Emmy-winning HBO host has a penchant for ranting in a very informative – and humorous way.
– #MeToo. In the beginning of the decade, the term “Me Too” was used as branding for one of WCIU’s classic TV channels. By the end, “Me Too” had a completely different meaning as it became a hashtag to address the issue of sexual harassment and inequality in the workplace after Harvey Weinstein was busted for inappropriate treatment of women in Hollywood. Since then, dozens of careers have ended from Charlie Rose to Bill Cosby and from Tavis Smiley to Les Moonves.
– The Big Bang Theory. Okay, this series began in 2007 but came into its own in the 2010s. What stated out as four nerds struggling to survive socially became a strong ensemble show with the addition of Melissa Rauch and Mayim Bialik. The series was a big winner in off-network for syndication and Turner Broadcasting too, earning close to $4 million an episode.
– Game of Thrones. Medieval times were never portrayed like this – nudity, incest, sex, swearing, and then some. Based on George Martin’s Fire and ICe novels, Game of Thrones became a pop culture sensation and a big moneymaker for hBO.
– Television can (still) make a difference. If you thought linear television was no longer relevant, consider this: Lifetime aired a three-part documentary Surviving R. Kelly, featuring some of his victims. As a result, the R&B superstar was arrested and charged and several urban radio stations pulled his music from the airwaves.
– The dominance of v103, The Drive, and Newsradio WBBM. There isn’t much positive to note about Chicago radio this decade, but three stations – iHeartMedia’s V103 (WVAZ-FM), Hubbard’s The Drive (WDRV-FM) and Entercom’s all-news WBBM-AM demonstrate if you stick with a proven formula, you will attract a lot of loyal listeners. And all three have been at or near the top of the radio ratings for the last decade.
Bob’s Burgers. The pilot episode wasn’t much, but the animated series evolved to be one of the strongest – and funniest shows on television as the lower-class Belchers battle with the rest of the more upper-class echelons of their community – particularly their rival across the street, a landlord who has no use for them, and a health inspector who perfectly portrays the corrupt Chicago authority figure.
The Chi. While several shows set in Chicago failed to capture the vibe of the city (I’ll discuss this further in the flops of the decade), there are some that did so perfectly Showtime’s The Chi captured life on Chicago’s South Side – brutally and honestly.
(Editor’s Note: An earlier post incorrectly stated the number of New England Patriots Super Bowl appearances. T Dog Media regrets the error.)