All things considered, ABC once again did the best job with its New Year's Eve programming, offering the best lineup of musical performers. At the risk of sounding indelicate and with all due respect, I think it's time to remove the name Dick Clark from the official title of its coverage, “Dick Clark's New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest.” It no longer feels right. That doesn't mean Clark should not be remembered during future telecasts.
ABC offered something new and different in its coverage -- which, as always, focused on Times Square in the hours leading up to midnight and then jumped to an always dull New Year’s Eve concert in Hollywood. (I believe the latter is taped, at least in part. I might be wrong about that, but pre-taping might explain why it never has any special energy at all and always feels like a letdown.) Shortly after midnight (and before the Hollywood thing) the network cut to a Billy Joel concert in Brooklyn's Barclays Center. Joel’s exuberant performance of “You May Be Right” was the musical highlight of the night.
NBC’s coverage with the always agreeable Carson Daly was perfectly serviceable, but not particularly exciting. Daly noted this morning on the “Today” show that this year marked his sixteenth time hosting programs from Times Square on New Year’s Eve, first on MTV and then on NBC. After all that time one would think people would associate him with the holiday, the way they used to connect Guy Lombardo and Dick Clark with it, and the way some people now think of Ryan Seacrest as the big night approaches. That doesn’t seem to have happened, and yet Daly’s ratings spiked this year. (Could it be the “Voice” factor?)
Maybe Jimmy Fallon, who will soon take over as host of “The Tonight Show” in its new Manhattan studio, and Seth Meyers, who will have become NBC’s newest late-night star personality, can team up with Daly and do something really fantastic on the night of December 31, 2014.
Over on CNN the annual Anderson Cooper and Kathy Griffin tag-team gig felt somewhat played out. It was clear that network brass had lowered the boom on Griffin and ordered her to dial back her outrageous behavior, which was the very best reason to watch in previous years. Griffin at one point did manage to handcuff herself to Cooper, which provided a bit of silly fun but wasn’t reason enough to keep watching. Cooper’s giggle and Griffin’s rasp became annoying after a brief time, necessitating frequent clicks to other channels. Maybe it’s time for CNN to take a new approach.
Fox News did its usual competent job of presenting coverage under the umbrella title “All-American New Year” designed to appeal to its viewers and promote most of its signature shows. Bill Hemmer was joined by Elisabeth Hasselbeck -- and while they made fine co-hosts, I couldn’t help but think that Fox News contributors Griff Jenkins, who was seen throughout the night partying in a bar in Manhattan, and Phil Keating, on location in a hot Miami club, were having a better time than anyone in Times Square. I could have done without all of the Fox News personalities who anchored the night taking a moment after midnight to thank their boss Roger Ailes for making it all possible.
Some other quick thoughts:
One thing stood out to me amid the insane commercialization that has overtaken Times Square on New Year’s Eve and is plastered all over everyone’s live coverage throughout the night: The Pepsi ad on the screen just behind the top of the tower that is home to the iconic ball that begins dropping at 11:59 p.m. As the ball began to drop two eyes at the bottom of the video watched it fall, slowly following it down until it passed from their view. This image stayed with me longer than all those blue Nivea hats and foam tubes that give the crowd a chilly blue glow. Every year my friends and I remark that the Nivea blitz is so pervasive as to be obnoxious, and I always wonder aloud whether its saturation of Times Square on New Year’s Eve has ever prompted anyone to run out and buy any of the skin care products it manufactures.
What strikes me most about television on the night (as has been the case for many years) is CBS’ determination to ignore the whole thing and slap up random reruns of “Late Show with David Letterman.” Granted, there is more than enough coverage on other networks of everything happening in Times Square, but I always think of CBS as the broadcaster that consistently honors its own history as it moves forward. CBS once was the network to watch on New Year’s Eve with its telecasts of the festivities at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel, where Guy Lombardo and his orchestra famously ushered in the New Year.
The best music of the night was provided by the “New Year’s Eve Dance Party” on Fuse. Watching great music videos presented in clever fashion reminded me of the years when MTV was cool like that.
The best comedy of the night came from Comedy Central with its New Year’s Eve-appropriate “Tosh.0” marathon.
The best marathon of the New Year’s holiday remains “The Twilight Zone” on Syfy.
How sad is it that MTV doesn’t bother with New Year’s Eve anymore? Its live party telecasts back in the Eighties were all the rage then and are legendary now. And it wasn’t that long ago that MTV once again staked a claim on New Year’s Eve with live programming from its Times Square studio. What a shame the network has given all that up.