The 15 biggest TV stories of 2011
Here at Inside TV, we don’t care how much money Harry Potter made or how popular Bella and Edward remain — for us, those 2011 stories don’t even come close to topping the headlines that came from the TV biz. Be honest, which did you spend more time talking about this year: Bella’s wedding dress or Charlie Sheen’s spectacular flameout and subsequent firing from Two and A Half Men? Yeah, we thought so.
Here’s our ranking of the top 15 TV news stories of the year:
No. 15: Wonder Woman implodes Sure, it looked like a complete train wreck, but boy was David E. Kelley’s reboot of the comic book classic fun to write about.
Unfortunately, no amount of tight spandex on Adrianne Palicki could convince NBC to give the show a fall series order, so they opted to pick up a remake of Prime Suspect and something called The Playboy Club instead. (And you saw how those turned out.)
No. 14: TV news shakeups Okay, morning and evening news may bore you to tears (we get our headlines from Steven Colbert too), but the news divisions underwent some seismic changes this year with the not-so-surprising departure of Katie Couric from CBS Evening News and the unexpected resignation of Meredith Vieira.
That was only in the beginning. Over the last month, CBS announced its Early Show will turn into CBS This Morning on Jan. 9 and will feature new hosts Charlie Rose and Gayle King, while Today began a not-so-quiet search to replace the potentially outgoing Matt Lauer by chatting up Ryan Seacrest.
No. 13: Dancing with the Stars ABC’s aging competition show demonstrated that it can still generate headlines by recruiting transgender Chaz Bono for the dance floor.
Yet even with the promise of getting Cher into the ballroom, most of the attention this season ended up going to bad boy pro Maksim Chermovskiy, who declared “this is my show” after a delicious tiff with the lippy judges. Don’t ever leave us, Maks.
No. 12: Oprah says goodbye More than 16 million people tuned into the goodbye episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show on May 25, making it the most-watched installment of the daytime yakker in more than 18 years. The show finished its run as the No. 1 talk show for the 630th week in a row.
So are you missing her? I’m sure Nate Berkus is: Her protege just learned that his daytime talk show won’t return for a third season.
No. 11: Two more classic soaps die ABC sent hundreds of thousands of soap fans into a tizzy by announcing plans to cancel All My Children and One Life to Live. The sudsers get a temporary stay of execution when Prospect Park bought them and announced plans to run them on the internet, but the company failed to make a deal with the unions so the soaps will stay in the trash heap for now.
Watch your back, Port Charles lovers!
No. 10: Tracy Morgan’s homophobic rant An anti-gay routine during a weekend gig at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium landed the 30 Rock star in hot water. Not only did he get into the cross hairs of GLAAD, the NBC Entertainment president and boss Tina Fey also denounced his behavior.
Morgan apologized profusely by saying “I’m not a hateful person” and “this clearly went too far and was not funny in any context.” But not long after, he mocked “retarded” kids and “cripples” during a stand-up routine in New York.
No. 9: The Singing Glut How many snarky karaoke judges can prime time handle? Plenty, apparently.
Some worried the introduction of The Voice on NBC and The X Factor on Fox would dilute the tired singing competition genre, but both shows pulled good ratings and earned second season pickups.
No. 8: The death of Andy Whitfield After a searing and intense performance in the breakout first season of Spartacus, star Andy Whitfield, 39, died of non-Hodgkin Lymphoma in Sydney, Australia.
Faced with the decision of whether to cancel the series or recast it, Starz and producers opted to hire newcomer Liam McIntyre for the lead role.
No. 7: The Killing‘s crappy finale Not since The Sopranos cut to a black screen has a TV finale so frustrated viewers.
Though AMC didn’t explicitly promise to reveal Rosie Larsen’s murderer in the last episode, the last-minute twist — casting doubt on the guilt of arrested politician Darren Richmond (Billy Campbell, pictured) and the motives of Det. Stephen Holder (Joel Kinnaman) — outraged fans and critics.
No. 6: Big cast changes It was a pretty huge year for comings and goings. Beloved stars like Steve Carell (The Office), Marg Helgenberger (CSI), and Chris Meloni (SVU) left their shows, as new celebs swooped in to take their places: James Spader came in after Carell, Ted Danson replaced Laurence Fishburne, Elisabeth Shue will take over for Helgenberger, and Danny Pino is filling the void on SVU left by… wait, who? Danny Pino?
Oh well, at least Ice-T is sticking around.
No. 5: Frank Darabont exits The Walking Dead The zombie drama’s first season on AMC was the highest-rated basic cable drama in history, so when the network booted acclaimed director Darabont from his showrunner perch during production on season two, fans and critics were understandably baffled.
Adding insult to injury, AMC also cut the show’s budget.
Image Credit: A.M.P.A.S.No. 4: Awards show meltdowns Ricky Gervais offended just about everybody in Hollywood when he hosted the Golden Globes in January, but at least he got invited back for the 2012 telecast.
The same can’t be said for James Franco and Anne Hathaway, who were mercilessly drubbed for their dreadful job as Oscar hosts in February. Man, we missed you, Billy Crystal! So glad you’ll be back in 2012.
No. 3: Glee graduating seniors debacle In early July, Ryan Murphy gave an interview saying that Lea Michele, Cory Monteith and Chris Colfer would not return for the dramedy’s fourth season. Then a few weeks later, Glee co-creator Brad Falchuk announced at Comic-Con that just because the three were graduating this season, it didn’t mean they were leaving the show. Huh? Long story short, it’s status quo at McKinley High.
No. 2: The suicide of a Real Housewives husband On Bravo, tragedy struck when the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills‘ Russel Armstrong, husband of Taylor, took his own life. Armstrong was worried how producers would portray him on the show and his death caused viewers and the industry to question (yet again) the unforgiving nature of reality TV.
And the biggest TV of 2011 was…
No. 1: Charlie Sheen redefines “winning” It was the perfect TV story — equal parts big business (CBS’ top-rated comedy at risk) and sordid personal drama (drugs, hookers, fights), and it all unfolded in the public eye. Charlie Sheen’s meltdown played out in front of the camera, on the internet and even on stage in front of a live audience. In the end, Ashton Kutcher took over Two and a Half Men and kept it in the winner’s circle while Sheen landed a new sitcom called Anger Management on FX, giving everybody a happy ending. Men creator Chuck Lorre made light of his difficult year by sending out this holiday photo (the caption reads, “Oddly enough, not my worst day this year”):