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2016 showed that the ‘T’ in TV stands for ‘transitional’

As with the country, it has been a year of transition for local television news.

News 4 Buffalo (WIVB-TV) had an extreme news makeover as veterans Don Paul, Rich Newberg and George Richert, as well as morning co-anchor Teresa Weakley left, and a new team of mostly young female reporters arrived.

Eyewitness News (WKBW-TV) saw newcomer Ashley Rowe replace Joanna Pasceri as the station’s lead female anchor and Joe Buscaglia replace Shawn Stepner as sports director.

Channel 2 (WGRZ-TV) shifted meteorologist Patrick Hammer – originally hired to be Kevin O’Connell’s replacement – to the mornings in anticipation of Maria Genero and a newcomer, Heather Waldman, taking the prime evening weather spots in 2017.

It also has been a transitional year in entertainment television as the networks struggle to find new hits at the same time that subscription streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime attract larger and more loyal audiences with programs that get more buzz and awards.

Now on to the year’s highlights and lowlights:

Series of the Year: FX’s “American Crime Story: People v. O.J. Simpson” about the murder trial of the former Bills star dominated the 2016 Emmys and the ESPN “30 for 30” documentary series, “O.J.: Made in America,” is expected to get its reward when it is eligible in 2017.

Miscasting of the Year: Cuba Gooding as O.J. Simpson? He didn’t have the stature or the voice.

Cuba Gooding Jr. as O.J. Simpson taking lie detector test (FX photo).

Expletive Deleted: John Oliver ended his final 2016 episode of his award-winning HBO series humorously by cursing out a horrible year of nasty politics, surprising deaths and terrorist attacks with the help of on-the-street interview subjects willing to use the magic word banned on the broadcast networks.

It Isn’t Fake News: One of WIVB-TV’s (Channel 4) stronger young reporters, Jenn Schanz, ran stomach-turning sweep stories about women who eat their placenta and a college student who works in porn. She – and the audience – deserved better.

Flip-Flopper of the Year: WGRZ-TV (Channel 2) morning co-anchor John Beard announced he was leaving at the end of the year, then pleased his fans by deciding to stay for an extra five months.

You Pay for Accuracy: Channel 7 took the title of “most accurate” weathercasters away from WGRZ-TV after 11 years from WeatheRate, which often gets a fee from stations for the right to use it.

Accidents Happen: A WIVB-TV assistant news director lost her job after accidentally sending critical texts from her boss to the staff.

Innovation of the Year: The creation of MSG Western New York and the ability to add more Buffalo Sabres and Buffalo Bills programing to MSG’s channel here ended the endless speculation surrounding whether the Pegulas would start their own regional sports network a la the old Empire Sports Networks.

Media Critic of the Year: President-elect Trump, who bashed CNN, “Saturday Night Live,” NBC’s Katy Tur, the New York Times, the Washington Post and any other outlet that had the audacity to report what he actually said and did.

Jimmy Fallon Couldn’t Have Done It Better: Channel 4’s Richert wrote a classy, thank you note to the station’s photographers when he exited the CBS affiliate for a job with the Catholic Diocese.

George Richert working with one of the photographers who earned his praise. (Buffalo News file photo)

The Voice: The unnecessary innovation of the year was Channel 4’s debut of an hourlong 4 p.m. newscast anchored by area native Christy Kern, whose voice grated on many viewers.

Newcomer of the Year: Rowe hasn’t had a major ratings impact since replacing Pasceri. But it is a marathon and not a sprint. If she would just lower the volume, she should grow on viewers if she stays around long enough.

Cable News Network Star of the Year: Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly. She took on Trump, Roger Ailes and some of her Fox colleagues, wrote a best-selling book and is in line for a contract worthy of a franchise NFL quarterback.

WIVB Channel 4 spent a week cherishing the contributions of longtime employee Rich Newberg. (via WIVB)

Unsportsmanlike Conduct: CNN’s Wolf Blitzer was referred to as a “drone” by comedian Larry Wilmore at the White House Correspondents Dinner.

The Long Goodbye: Channel 4’s Newberg ended his award-winning career with a weeklong goodbye as the station cut its payroll and continued its youth movement.

Forgiveness: Channel 2’s Hammer returned to the air months after an embarrassing DWI arrest.

Western New York Reality Hat Trick: A Lake View family won a “Christmas Lights” competition, a Colden man won a military-style Fox show “American Grit” and a Western New Yorker was named “American Tarzan” on a Discovery Channel program.

For Sappy People Like Us: NBC had one of the few broadcast network hits, “This is Us,” a warm, family show that arrived at a perfect time as America endured an ugly presidential campaign.

“Stranger Things”: No, not the coverage of the presidential campaign and all the fake news it inspired. The huge, entertaining Netflix sci-fi hit about the frantic search for a missing boy in the 1980s by his mother, his friends and a police chief as a monster is on the loose.

Strange Timing: Comedy Central canceled Wilmore’s “The Nightly Show” in August as the presidential campaign heated up.

Weather Changes: Old weathercasters never go away – they just resurface in new roles. Don Paul retired from Channel 4, only to return with two jobs – as a writer for and as a weekend weathercaster on rival Channel 7. Channel 2’s Kevin O’Connell is scheduled to retire in January, but now is expected to stay on in some role.

Streaming Service of the Year: Everybody knows if they have Netflix, but a lot of Amazon Prime subscribers don’t realize they have free access to its original programs, including the highly-entertaining “Mozart in the Jungle,” “Goliath” and “Good Girls Revolt.” Shockingly, “Revolt” was canceled after one season, though it may get new life from a different outlet.

Amazing Race: Channel 4’s extreme makeover helped it close in on Channel 2’s news lead in the 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. weekday slot in household viewership, which is good news for a station about to get a new owner known for cost-cutting. However, Channel 2 still gets more viewers that advertisers covet.

RIP: The death of popular PBS anchor Gwen Ifil, who had Buffalo roots, hit many national media members hard. The death of Morley Safer of “60 Minutes” also led to a moving CBS retrospective of his career.

Morning Exits: The WIVB morning program “Wake Up!” lost Weakley and traffic reporter Lauren Hall, who now works for the Buffalo Bills and Sabres. Channel 7’s Desiree Wiley left for a cable job in Boston.

Election Winner: CNN’s John King made it pretty clear hours before it was official that Trump was going to defeat Hillary Clinton and become the next president.

Election Loser: NBC fired Billy Bush from “Today” after a tape leaked showing Trump saying some disgusting things about women. At least Bush got millions in a severance.

Shocking Announcement: Channel 7 legend Irv Weinstein announced that he has Lou Gehrig’s Disease and during a report by Channel 7’s Keith Radford from Weinstein’s California residence showed that he hasn’t lost his wonderful sense of humor.

Glory Days: The Chicago Cubs’ seventh-game World Series victory over the Cleveland Indians brought Western New York baseball viewers back in record numbers.

The Chicago Cubs celebrate after winning 8-7 in Game Seven of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Media Outrage: The mainstream media was mad as hell about how easily Trump manipulated it, which led to an autopsy of what it could have done better.

Safety Tip of the Year: Channel 2 sportscaster Adam Benigni missed some time on the air after a bicycle accident that led to a concussion and could have been a lot worse if he hadn’t been wearing a helmet.

Confrontation of the Year: CNN’s Brianna Keilar and Rep. Chris Collins had a spirited debate about whether Trump should release his taxes and the candidate’s misstating of some facts.

Former Bills long snapper Jon Dorenbos, pictured in 2003, went all the way to the final round of "America's Got Talent." (James P. McCoy/Buffalo News file photo)

Political Football: Despite Trump’s concerns about a presidential debate being carried opposite a NFL game, America chose the debate over football by a landslide.

Magical Run: Thanks to his magic act and compelling personal story, ex-Bills long snapper Jon Dorenbos made it all the way to the finals of “America’s Got Talent.”

The NFL Means Not for Long: MSG WNY ran an hour preseason special about the Bills coaching Ryan brothers, “Rex and Rob Reunited,” that won’t be renewed for another season.

Devastating News: Channel 4 consumer reporter Al Vaughters struggled after a contractor killed himself after Vaughters interviewed him about accusations that he scammed some customers.

“That was devastating news,” said Vaughters. “I do these stories to help people. I don’t do the stories to hurt anybody.”

Blame It On Rio: U.S. Olympian swimmer Ryan Lochte got in a mess for lying about a confrontation with Brazilian authorities and months later appeared on a TV show where celebrities hope to recapture some dignity – “Dancing with the Stars.”

TV Concert of the Year: CBC interrupted its Rio Olympics coverage for live coverage of singer Gord Downie’s final concert (he has terminal brain cancer) with the “Tragically Hip.”

Let’s Go Crazy: The deaths of Prince, David Bowie, Muhammad Ali, Garry Shandling, Florence Henderson, Alan Thicke and other celebrities got extensive coverage – some would say too extensive – as television fulfilled its role as the place for the nation to mourn.

Sports Report: Channel 4 added a third member of its sports team, Shannon Shepherd, to an improved sports department featuring Josh Reed and Tom Martin.

Fantasy Football: The Bills have won the Super Bowl twice in the fantasy world. They initially won in December of 2015 at the end of a “30 for 30” documentary, “Four Falls of Buffalo.” CBS copied the idea in a 2016 Super Bowl feature that seemed a little lame.

End of an Era: CBS’ “The Good Wife” ended its run after years on the bubble, though a spinoff starring Christine Baranski premieres in February on CBS’ subscription channel.

Happy Anniversary: 102.5 FM’s Roger Christian celebrated his 40th year on local radio.

Veteran Buffalo radio personality Roger Christian, right, from Star 102.5 hangs out at Thursday in the Square in 2006. (Buffalo News file photo)

Fun Innovation of the Year: James Corden’s celebrity-studded “Carpool Karaoke” on CBS’ “The Late Late Show” has done the impossible – giving karaoke a good name.

Programs of the Year: It is impossible to watch everything, so if your favorite show isn’t on this list, it just might mean I haven’t seen it. My favorites included “This is Us,” “The Night Of,” “Stranger Things,” “Last Week with John Oliver,” “American Crime,” “The Crown,” “The Americans,” “Lethal Weapon,” “Blue Bloods,” the two O.J. Simpson projects, certain cold opens of “Saturday Night Live” and “Westworld.”


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