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The Year In Television: 2015's Trends, Triumphs And Tragedies

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The Year In Television: 2015's Trends, Triumphs And Tragedies

Television

The Year In Television: 2015's Trends, Triumphs And Tragedies

The Year In Television: 2015's Trends, Triumphs And Tragedies

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/461247389/461247390" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Television exploded with options for fans, from a record number of shows to new kinds of online platforms. Our critic examines the biggest trends that reshaped the face of television this year.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Now let's talk about the year in TV. 2015 was a year that television exploded with even more options for fans and a year that TV said goodbye to some household names. NPR TV critic Eric Deggans takes a look back.

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ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: Fans of great TV had to say a lot of painful goodbyes this year. From the end of ad-man, Don Draper's story on "Mad Men."

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "MAD MEN")

JON HAMM: (As Don Draper) But what is happiness? It's a moment before you need more happiness.

DEGGANS: To Marshal Raylan Givens last manhunt on FX's modern Western, "Justified."

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "JUSTIFIED")

TIMOTHY OLYPHANT: (As Raylan Givens) Now, I'm going to give you a choice. And you won't like it, but it's real simple. If you raise your gun again, you're dead.

DEGGANS: Public servant Leslie Knope concluded her story on "Parks And Recreation."

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "PARKS AND RECREATION")

AMY POEHLER: (As Leslie Knope) What I hear when I am being yelled at is people caring loudly at me.

DEGGANS: And the most famous piano drop of the year came on "Two And A Half Men," killing off Charlie Sheen's character, Charlie Harper.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "TWO AND A HALF MEN")

DEGGANS: But the departure which may have had the most impact on television this year was in the world of late night.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN")

ALAN KALTER: From New York, the greatest city in the world, it's "The Late Show With David Letterman."

DEGGANS: Letterman's decision to leave his late show in May capped the longest tenure on late-night television. At the time, he told me that Jay Leno's departure from "The Tonight Show" the year before influenced his decision.

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DAVID LETTERMAN: Before, it was always theoretical. But when Jay said he was going to leave, I realized, oh, yeah, you've got to be younger really to do this job. And so I thought, I don't want to be the old man left out here, you know, fighting for scraps and crumbs.

DEGGANS: Letterman's goodbye to viewers on May 20 used a healthy dose of humor to limit the schmaltzy sentiment.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN")

LETTERMAN: You know, people come up to me all the time. And they say, Dave, I've been watching you since your morning show. And I always say, have you thought about a complete psychological workup?

DEGGANS: Letterman's departure helped set off a chain reaction that transformed a huge chunk of late night television. Stephen Colbert left Comedy Central to take over Letterman's spot. And another well-known comic also left his late night perch this year.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE DAILY SHOW")

JOHN STEWART: That's our show. I thank you so much for the privilege of being able to perform it for you, for the privilege of being able to do it. And so here it is. My moment has ended.

DEGGANS: With those words, John Stewart capped a 16-year run as TV's smartest satirist, leaving "The Daily Show" in August after a star-studded finale. Comedy Central used his departure and Colbert's move as an opportunity to seriously diversify late night. The network hired South African comic Trevor Noah to host a revamped "Daily Show." And Comedy Central promoted "The Daily Show's" senior black correspondent, Larry Wilmore, to host of the new nightly show. But as much as TV's real departures stung, there was another kind of lost that became something of a trend on television this year - characters who almost die.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE WALKING DEAD")

DEGGANS: Producers of "The Walking Dead" tried to break the Internet with a scene that made it appear beloved character Glenn Rhee had been devoured by zombies. When they revealed he was alive after several weeks of episodes, fans were so glad he wasn't dead, they mostly forgot to get angry. HBO's "The Leftovers" tried something similar with its lead character. And posters for the next season of "Game Of Thrones" feature a fan favorite who got killed in last season's finale. That was John Snow, raising hopes the curly-haired hunk might reappear in the future. But my favorite TV trend from 2015 was centered on a different subject.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "SUPERGIRL")

MELISSA BENOIST: (As Kara Danvers) To most people I'm an assistant at CATCO Worldwide Media.

DEGGANS: CBS's version of "Supergirl" was among a flood of new TV shows featuring strong, independent female heroes, including a tattooed woman with no memory on NBC's "Blindspot."

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "BLINDSPOT")

JAIMIE ALEXANDER: (As Jane Doe) There are clues on my body. What if I'm not just a messenger? What if there's something I'm supposed to hear or see?

DEGGANS: FBI trainee accused of terrorism on ABC's "Quantico."

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "QUANTICO")

PRIYANKA CHOPRA: (As Alex Parrish) My name is Alex Parrish. Protecting our country had always been my dream. But my life took a very drastic turn.

DEGGANS: And "Marvel's Jessica Jones," an anti-heroine who revolutionized the superhero TV genre as a hard-drinking super-powered private eye.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "JESSICA JONES")

KRYSTEN RITTER: (As Jessica Jones) New York may be the city that never sleeps, but it sure does sleep around. Not that I'm complaining. Cheaters are good for business.

DEGGANS: These women weren't just tough-talking female versions of male action heroes. They were proof that the boom in TV programming this year brought opportunities for compelling new characters and fresh voices. And that's a trend definitely worth continuing in 2016. I'm Eric Deggans.

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