Eye-pop­ping TV

Don­ald Trump, Brian Wil­liams and Cait­lyn Jen­ner add to 2015 head­lines


It’s been a year of shift­ing sands in late night, a year of bro­ken trust in two vastly dif­fer­ent TV per­son­al­i­ties and a year when pres­i­den­tial de­bates be­came must-see TV.

Here’s a run­down of 10 big tele­vi­sion hap­pen­ings in 2015:

Late-night TV’s trans­for­ma­tion be­gan in Jan­uary, when Larry Wil­more’s new “Nightly Show” claimed the Com­edy Cen­tral slot pre­vi­ously held by Stephen Colbert’s “Colbert Re­port.” Then in Fe­bru­ary, Jon Ste­wart an­nounced he was leav­ing Com­edy Cen­tral’s “The Daily Show” and, in July, he did. In March, James Cor­den took over CBS’ “Late Late Show” and Trevor Noah was de­clared the in­com­ing host of “The Daily Show,” de­but­ing in Septem­ber. In May, David Let­ter­man re­tired from CBS’ “Late Show” and, in Septem­ber, Colbert ar­rived as its new host.

Fox’s “Em­pire” pre­miered in Jan­uary and quickly be­came a rip-roar­ing suc­cess. Its au­di­ence grew ev­ery week through its May sea­son fi­nale - a vir­tu­ally un­prece­dented feat - and it launched Taraji P. Hen­son’s fear­less, out­ra­geous Cookie as the year’s break­out char­ac­ter, com­plete with a real-life fash­ion line. Mean­while, stars from Mariah Carey and Cuba Good­ing Jr. to Pit­bull and Marisa Tomei were lin­ing up to guest on the show.


Stream­ing was where the TV ac­tion was this year as an in­creas­ing num­ber of view­ers glee­fully cut the ca­ble cord (or at least fan­ta­sized about it) while plug­ging into out­lets like Net­flix, Ama­zon Prime and Hulu, which all upped their stake in orig­i­nal con­tent. New­com­ers kept view­ers’ heads spin­ning, in­clud­ing the Span­ish-lan­guage Univi­sion Now chan­nel and, now in beta, the com­edy chan­nel Seeso.


Trusted NBC “Nightly News” an­chor Brian Wil­liams, who re­ported so cred­i­bly on wars for NBC News, got caught fudg­ing his own sto­ries as a guest on “Late Show” and else­where. His was a pre­cip­i­tous fall from grace (and the top tier of NBC News) as he was benched and re­placed by Lester Holt.


May marked the end of “Mad Men,” a drama that made its net­work, AMC, golden while help­ing cer­tify tele­vi­sion as the artis­tic equal of film. Af­ter seven sea­sons plot­ting the style, agita and mis­be­haviour of the ‘60s white-col­lar class, it con­cluded in prop­erly shrewd fash­ion: Don Draper (se­ries star Jon Hamm), who had dropped out of the ad game in de­spair, was struck with his own brand of con­scious­ness­rais­ing while he med­i­tated at a yoga re­treat, then re­turned home armed with a New Age epiphany for a clas­sic Coke com­mer­cial.


Trou­ble hit the long-run­ning TLC re­al­ity show “19 Kids and Count­ing” af­ter the old­est of the Dug­gar brood, 27-year-old Josh, be­came the sub­ject of rev­e­la­tions that, as a teenager, he had fon­dled four of his sis­ters and a baby sit­ter. A por­trait of whole­some fam­ily life, “19 Kids” had been TLC’s most-watched se­ries, av­er­ag­ing 3.2 mil­lion view­ers, un­til it was pulled from the air in May, then of­fi­cially can­celled in July. In Au­gust, Josh pub­licly apol­o­gized for a pornog­ra­phy ad­dic­tion and cheating on his wife, and, in Novem­ber, he was sued by an adult-film ac­tress who claimed he as­saulted her when con­sen­sual sex turned rough.



Gen­der re­as­sign­ment was a con­spic­u­ous theme in 2015. Ama­zon’s award-win­ning scripted se­ries “Trans­par­ent” en­tered its sec­ond sea­son. In June, “Be­com­ing Us” pre­miered on ABC Fam­ily as an un­scripted se­ries fo­cus­ing on an Illi­nois teen whose fa­ther was be­com­ing a woman. July brought “I Am Jazz,” a TLC un­scripted se­ries about 14-year-old Jazz Jen­nings, who was born male but at 2 years old knew she was a girl. Also in July, the do­cuseries “I Am Cait” ar­rived on the E! net­work to chart the for­mer Bruce Jen­ner’s tran­si­tion to Cait­lyn Jen­ner as part of a highly or­ches­trated comin­gout cam­paign that in­cluded an April in­ter­view with ABC’s Diane Sawyer and a Van­ity Fair cover.


Don­ald Trump has long been a fa­mil­iar face on TV, es­pe­cially since 2004, when he de­buted as host of NBC’s “The Ap­pren­tice.” That re­la­tion­ship abruptly ended last June, not long af­ter Trump’s in­cen­di­ary re­marks about Mex­i­can im­mi­grants made while an­nounc­ing his GOP pres­i­den­tial can­di­dacy. In his new role, he scored an even bet­ter TV gig. He be­came a sought-af­ter guest on talk shows, news­casts and as host of “Satur­day Night Live”.


Pres­i­den­tial de­bates were big draws and big busi­ness for the net­works that pre­sented them in 2015 - at least, when Don­ald Trump was in­volved.


From TV’s eyes in the sky while the hor­ror tran­spired to plun­der­ing the shoot­ers’ home, TV news was there in San Bernardino, Calif. It was there in Colorado Springs, Colo., Charleston, S.C. and, of course, Paris. The grim, graphic vi­su­als from th­ese re­peated mass shoot­ings be­gan to har­den into rit­ual for view­ers and even cor­re­spon­dents cov­er­ing them. One tragedy af­ter an­other, it was raw rep­e­ti­tion of some­thing out of con­trol, with no end in sight.


In this July 15, 2015 file photo, Cait­lyn Jen­ner ac­cepts the Arthur Ashe award for courage at the ESPY Awards in Los An­ge­les.

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