It was the TV year of legends leaving, romances impacting career plans and a blockbuster local investigative report that eventually brought the Buffalo Diocese in the spotlight of the legendary news magazine “60 Minutes.”
Those were only some of the local TV highlights of 2018.
Let’s take a closer look at more highlights along with some national TV highlights that include some Buffalo angles.
Goodbye and Good Luck: WGRZ-TV (Channel 2) said a messy goodbye to longtime meteorologist Kevin O’Connell, who upset station management by giving an endorsement to a local law firm. O’Connell was allowed an on-air goodbye, but only in a pre-taped piece. By year’s end, he was appearing on the station in commercials as the spokesman for Catholic hospitals.
Morning Development: O’Connell’s good friend, John Beard, finally was allowed to sleep past 3 a.m. by saying goodbye as co-anchor of Channel 2’s “Daybreak.” Beard, who has played himself in the TV comedy “Arrested Development,” cracked he hoped to become the best 70-year-old actor in the TV and film business.
Reporter of the Year: With the help of whistleblower Siobhan O’Connor, WKBW-TV (Channel 7) investigative reporter Charlie Specht detailed startling revelations about the cover-up of sexual abuses in the Buffalo Diocese that should win him a lot of awards. Specht got a little too aggressive in a subsequent diocese news conference, angrily asking Bishop Richard J. Malone if he or his lawyers ran the diocese.
Morning Changes: Dave Greber took over as co-anchor of Channel 4’s morning program “Wake Up!” after Jordan Williams returned to his native Texas. Pete Gallivan returned as co-anchor of “Daybreak” after the man who replaced him, Beard, got tired of the hours and left the station.
At Least Western New York Loves Him: In his first full year as the anchor of “The CBS Evening News,” Town of Tonawanda native Jeff Glor couldn’t move that newscast out of third place nationally. But his newscast was No. 1 here during the November sweeps.
Misunderstood Emmy Moment: When Emmy winner Darren Criss, the star of FX’s “The Assassination of Gianni Versace,” ended his speech by saying “Go Blue,” some sensitive political types thought he was supporting the Democrats. As any Western New Yorker who attended University of Michigan knows, Criss was just repeating the cheer of his alma mater.
Talkin’ Proud: Former Channel 4 reporter Jericka Duncan did an excellent job covering the sexual harassment charges involving powerful men in the media. She even became part of the story when she felt Jeff Fager, the executive producer of “60 Minutes,” was threatening her over a story. He denied it but was fired.
Buffalove: Jason Tartick, the Buffalo native who made it to the final three of “The Bachelorette,” became a local hero by displaying his love for Western New York in a hometown episode of a program that has a Buffalo native, Bennett Graebner, as one of the showrunners. Tartick did so well wooing Becca Kufrin that he was thought to be the front-runner for the next installment of “The Bachelor.” But in typical Buffalo fashion, he eventually finished second.
Cheers: Channel 2 reporter Michael Wooten did an excellent job fact-checking the political ads of Rep. Chris Collins, who was re-elected despite being under a federal indictment and misrepresenting the views of his opponent Nate McMurray.
The Courage Award: Whistleblower Siobhan O’Connor was interviewed by Bill Whitaker on CBS’ “60 Minutes” for a story about the sexual abuse crisis in the Buffalo Diocese.
Where Else Would You Rather Be ... Than in front of your TV set watching the NFL Films production of “Thurman Thomas: A Football Life” carried on the NFL Network.
Monday Night Miscues: “Monday Night Football” came to Orchard Park for the first time in a decade for a game against the New England Patriots that showcased how much the TV franchise has fallen with new analysts Jason Witten and Booger McFarland. Play-by-play man Joe Tessitore had a decent game, though later in the season he misidentified former Canisius College basketball star and current Carolina Panther Chris Manhertz as “Martinez” after his biggest play of his NFL career – a 50-yard touchdown reception.
Trade of the Year: In a year the University at Buffalo football team made it to a bowl game and the basketball team seems headed to the NCAA tournament again, Channel 2 let the rights of its highlight shows go to WNLO-TV (CW 23), the sister station of WIVB-TV (Channel 4.)
Comeback of the Year: Actress Mary McDonnell returned to speak at Fredonia State, her alma mater, where she studied to be an actress.
The TV Death of Roseanne: Roseanne Barr’s racially insensitive tweet led to her being fired from her hit ABC sitcom and then her character killed off when the show was revived as “The Conners.”
Top Advertisement: One of the early episodes of Diane English’s revival of “Murphy Brown” had a spirited debate set at the Anchor Bar in Buffalo.
Best Feature: CBS’ Steve Hartman came to Buffalo for a report on a sixth-grader who left a note on the car of a Canisius College baseball player to tell him her school bus dented the vehicle.
Going Out with a “Big Bang”: In its final season on CBS, “The Big Bang Theory” remains the No. 1 prime-time program in Western New York.
Local Broadcast News: Channel 4 News won the November sweeps from Nielsen before its owner dropped the ratings service that gave it such good news.
Worst Trend: It isn’t a new phenomenon, but local newsmakers including Chris Collins and Bishop Malone are picking reporters to interview them that they expect to go soft on them.
Best Sports Features: CBS Sports did an excellent Thanksgiving Day feature on former Buffalo Bills flop Aaron Maybin doing good community work in his hometown of Baltimore. “60 Minutes” did a poignant story on former Syracuse University and Atlanta Falcons star Tim Green battling Lou Gehrig’s Disease.
The Not-So-Great Escape: Showtime’s “Escape at Dannemora,” directed by Ben Stiller, had some terrific acting performances and has been nominated for multiple awards but would have been so much better if it had been half as long.
Best Political Speech: Nate McMurray’s emotional speech after conceding to Collins on election night is the local winner hands down.
Best Web Series: It was hardly as hard-hitting as “Hard Knocks,” but the Pegula Sports and Entertainment (PSE) series “Embedded” during the Buffalo Bills training camp was a winner.
Reality Bites: The ABC reality series “The Proposal” made “The Bachelor” look like Shakespeare but it became must-see TV when Buffalo native Abby Sullivan appeared as a contestant and won the right to marry the guy she met during the hourlong program. Needless, to say the “romance” didn’t work out.
Best Reality Show Revival: The Buffalo Sabres' on-air resurgence has led to live ratings higher than all but a few prime-time broadcast series.
TV Romances of the Year: Former Channel 2 sports anchor Jonah Javad and former Channel 4 anchor Nalina Shapiro moved to Dallas and they became engaged; former Channel 2 reporter Erica Brecher became a weekend anchor at Channel 4, where her husband, meteorologist Andrew Baglini works; former Channel 4 anchor Callan Gray got a job in Minneapolis and her boyfriend, former Channel 2 reporter Danny Spewak, soon followed. And Channel 2 sportscaster Heather Prusak became engaged to Spectrum News sportscaster Jon Scott.
Best New Addition: Kate Welshofer, a Channel 2 hire who does humorous feature reports and is a fill-in anchor, is trending.
Well, Anchors Need to Know How to Act: Channel 2 co-anchors Maryalice Demler and Scott Levin performed in the A.R. Gurney play, “Love Letters,” for a charity.
Most Significant TV Marriages of the Year: Channel 7’s Ashley Rowe married Buffalo native Dan Greene and four months later signed a new deal to remain at the station. Locally, Rowe's marriage was more significant than the little marriage between former TV star Meghan Markle ("Suits") and Prince Harry over the pond.
Making History: After O’Connell left, Channel 2 named Maria Genero and Heather Waldman as his replacements. They became the first women to be the primary weathercasters at a local station in about half a century.
Best in Show: It is impossible to watch even one-fifth of the series available on broadcast television, cable television and streaming, but here are some of my favorites of 2018: “Evil Genius,” “The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling,” “Blue Bloods,” “Jack Ryan,” The Kominsky Method,” “God Friended Me,” “Last Week with John Oliver,” "The Americans," “Better Call Saul,” “The Lead with Jake Tapper,” “CBS Sunday Morning,” “Parts Unknown with Anthony Bourdain,” “Saturday Night Live,” “Jesus Christ Superstar: Live in Concert” and “This Is Us.”