NEW YORK (AP) – In a year marked by unexpected winners and losers, television was keeping tabs.
A Hollywood star tarnished his image and that of the Oscars. A battered country stood up to an invader, again and again.
The January 6 insurrection became an unexpectedly watchable TV docudrama. A monarch was celebrated and mourned. Television entertainment had its usual highs and lows.
Here are some of 2022’s defining TV moments from the perspective of The Associated Press’ television and media writers.
The Oscars are Hollywood’s biggest platform and Will Smith, one of its biggest stars, was expected to reign with a best-actor award for the tennis dad biopic King Richard. But Smith lost while winning. Angered by a joke that presenter Chris Rock made at the expense of wife Jada Pinkett Smith, he strode onstage and slapped Rock, hard, drawing gasps from the TV and theatre audience. A tearful Smith made excuses during his acceptance speech that March night and issued subsequent apologies.
DEPP vs HEARD
Last year, Britney Spears’ bid to end her conservatorship was the mesmerising celebrity legal battle. This year, the courtroom crossfire between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard – all playing out on TV – was the main attraction. Their defamation suits put the two actors in the kind of harsh, unflattering light barred from any Hollywood set. As the exes traded allegations of assault and substance abuse, the trial became increasingly sad, seamy and inescapable. The jury’s June verdict largely favoured Depp.
Those who find Disney’s ever-expanding Star Wars universe is leaving them cold may have warmed up after the season finale of Obi-Wan Kenobi. The epic, roughly four-minute lightsaber battle between Obi-Wan (Ewan McGregor) and former apprentice Anakin Skywalker aka Darth Vadar (Hayden Christensen) was a fierce back-and-forth with, of course, good and evil hanging in the balance. But it was the unmasking of Vadar that sent Disney+ viewers into a stratospheric tizzy, his scarred face and psyche revealing a man beyond redemption.
When 12.1 million people tuned in on November 13 to watch the season premiere of Kevin Costner’s Yellowstone on the otherwise invisible Paramount and some sister cable networks, it was the most-watched scripted show of the new television season. The Western is the definition of a broadly popular show, yet wasn’t on a broadcast network, which were conceived on the idea of reaching as many people as possible. You could call that a failure of imagination that typifies the decline of the networks, but the truth was they never really had a shot at Yellowstone.
Queen Elizabeth wasn’t America’s monarch, but her death in September at age 96 hit home and drew blanket coverage in the former British colony. Maybe it was The Crown, maybe it was her conspiratorial smile when she shared tea and secrets with Paddington Bear. Her dedication to service and a stately funeral procession with echoes of history certainly merited attention. But the catnip for TV came when brothers William and Harry and wives Kate and Meghan, any tensions publicly masked, joined to greet mourners.
THE WALKING DEAD
When The Walking Dead aired its final episode on November 20, it was the end of an era for the quintessential punch-above-your-weight AMC cable network.
How much that was the case became clear less than two weeks later, when company chairman James Dolan sent a memo to staff saying CEO Christina Spade was out after three months and large-scale layoffs were coming. AMC is hardly the only media company that is hurting.
“We are primarily a content company and the mechanisms for the monetisation of content are in disarray,” Dolan said.