By RODNEY HO, originally filed Thursday, December 24, 2015
Television nowadays isn’t necessarily watched on a TV anymore. Thanks to Netflix, Hulu and various on-demand streaming options, people are consuming video anywhere and everywhere.
And the amount of content has exploded. Just counting scripted series alone, FX tracked 409 this year, nearly double from 2009. This doesn’t include the hundreds of unscripted shows scattered all over.
Atlanta continues to solidify itself as a haven for TV production. I count 65 programs right now, from TV One’s “Born Again Virgin” to HGTV’s “Property Virgins,” from Fox’s “Sleepy Hollow” to BET’s “Being Mary Jane.”
On the local news front, Fox 5 showed gains against perennial kingpin Channel 2 Action News while CBS Atlanta’s near complete makeover has started to build momentum against third place 11 Alive.
Here is a quick year in review with a focus on Atlanta:
CNN goes huge on Donald Trump. Last year was so Malaysia Airlines. As soon as Donald Trump entered the presidential race in June, the Atlanta-based cable network quickly turned into the Trump channel. And why not? His controversial statements were like media catnip. And debate ratings went through the roof. (Yes, Charles Barkley, we got ya.) And even Trump thinks CNN gives him better coverage than Fox News.
“The Walking Dead” keeps ambling along: Ever since this AMC drama debuted in 2010, it’s been the most popular show shot in metro Atlanta by a wide margin. Ratings rose each season from one to five, easily surpassing 20 million viewers a week at its peak. Finally, this fall with season six, the show showed signs of modest slippage. But it’s still a highly buzzworthy program as evidenced by the backlash when the show implied that long-time character Glenn had died. That ended up being a feint.
CBS Atlanta blown up: New management came in yet again and made the largest makeover in the station’s history. It dumped nearly all the anchors and a bulk of its staff in an effort to build a sustainable news operation that can break stories and help the news station climb out of the ratings basement. It also brought in a bunch of former journalists for a daily “Just a Minute” segment and created an investigative team.
Bad timing: The veteran former Fox 5 anchor Amanda Davis lost her job in 2013 after being arrested on a DUI charge. After she was deemed not guilty on that charge, she signed on with CBS Atlanta as a commentator for its “Just a Minute” team. Then the weekend before her first appearance on the station, she was pulled over yet again on accusations of drinking and driving. The station has allowed her to take a hiatus while she handles her personal business.
“Empire” dominates: Atlanta became one of the biggest viewing cities for Fox’s hit drama “Empire” earlier this year. Ratings rose every week season one, a phenomenon fueled by buzz and the over-the-top soapy antics of the fictional hip-hop Lyon family – especially Taraji P. Henson‘s tasty take on Cookie and an openly gay son played by Jussie Smollett. Under pressure to keep the OMG moments coming season two, the producers have had trouble maintaining the momentum and some fans have grumbled that the luster is already gone.
“Sorority Sisters” backlash: VH1 a year ago debuted what seemed to be yet another “Real Housewives” knockoff that featured feuding black women who also happened to embrace their sorority connections. The black sororities went on an aggressive campaign to belittle the show and its participants. Some of the cast members were suspended or booted completely from their sororities for placing their organizations in a poor light. VH1 quietly buried the show, airing several episodes in a row on a Friday night. A show on Bravo involving parent organizations at a local school (“Mother Funders”) also faced community backlash, guaranteeing that show’s demise. In the meantime, WE-TV introduced shows such as “Cutting It in the ATL” and “Selling It in the ATL” with no backlash from the salon or real estate communities.
NeNe Leakes moves on: The final original “Real Housewives of Atlanta” cast member left after season seven. But she has plenty of other work to keep her going, including a panelist on a new ABC game show “To Tell the Truth,” guest critic on “Fashion Police” and a stint on Broadway. Her departure has left a leadership vacuum on the show in its current eight season, which Kenya Moore is eagerly trying to fill.
Weather Channel goes for the geek: As fewer casual viewers watch the Atlanta-based Weather Channel (and an effort to go mainstream with Sam Champion in the mornings failed to catch on), the network is embracing its hardcore fans with shows focused more on science. This includes a daily Weather Underground show and fewer reality programs.
Local reality competition success: This was a good year for metro Atlantans on reality competition shows. Blairsville’s Alan Kay took home $50,000 on History show’s ‘Alone” after spending 56 days all by himself. Atlanta’s Violet Chachki (above) won Logo’s “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” Atlanta stand-up comic Clayton English pocketed NBC’s “Last Comic Standing” prize. A few others came close to victory including Edmond Newton (“Project Runway”), T. Gregoire (“Hell’s Kitchen”), the Craig Lewis Band (“America’s Got Talent”), Craig Foster (“Ink Master”) and Zach Seabaugh (“The Voice”). And the first transgender person competed on “Big Brother:” Villa Rica’s Audrey Middleton.