BY: JAKE COYLE
NEW YORK – What began as a grand, highly promoted experiment in late-night, ended in a fiasco that made NBC a laughing stock and captivated the country.
In January 2010, NBC sought to displace their newly crowned “Tonight Show” host, Conan O’Brien, by restoring Jay Leno to 11:35 p.m. O’Brien, however, didn’t go for the 30 minute shift, and the fallout made for one of the most public debacles in network history.
Allegiances were drawn, with many supporting “Team CoCo.” In the end, O’Brien left with an enormous settlement, rediscovered himself in a cross-country concert-hall road trip, and finally ended up with a new show at TBS. Leno retook the “Tonight Show.”
The dramatic upheaval of late-night at NBC was chosen as 2010’s entertainment story of the year, as voted on by Associated Press members.
There were 102 ballots submitted from U.S. news organizations that make up the AP’s membership. The voters were asked to rank the top 10 entertainment stories of the year, with the first-place story getting 10 points, the second-place story receiving nine points, and so on.
The late-night saga received 797 points, almost twice as much as any other story.
Here are 2010’s top entertainment stories:
1. NBC LATE-NIGHT ERUPTS: NBC Universal chief Jeff Zucker presented NBC’s reshuffle plan in the first week of 2010, claiming something had to be done about the ratings for both “The Jay Leno Show” and O’Brien’s “Tonight Show.” The fallout lasted weeks before O’Brien left with millions in tow and a galvanized fan base. Equally surprising was his final destination — TBS, where his show “Conan” premiered in November.
2. “AVATAR” MAKES HISTORY: For a substantial amount of 2010, James Cameron’s sci-fi epic “Avatar” was playing to packed movie theaters. It smashed the record set by Cameron’s “Titanic” and, by early February, became the highest grossing film of all time, domestically and globally. It took in nearly $750 million domestically, a number further padded by the later release of an extended cut.
3. TABLETS UNLEASH APPS: Before Apple CEO Steve Jobs debuted the iPad in May, there was plenty of skepticism about the potential of tablet computers. But as people began to familiarize themselves with the device, it became clear that it had further unlocked an app universe of games, entertainment and media. Other tablets have since been released, and media companies have increasingly developed apps.
4. INTERNET AND TV MOVE CLOSER: Netflix transformation from a DVD company to a streaming video company came at the same time that devices such as Google TV were pushing the Internet and television closer. By the end of the year, fears were growing that cable customers were beginning to cut the cord and depend on Web access for TV shows.
5. COWELL LEAVES “IDOL”: Simon Cowell made his exit from “American Idol” official in January. He left to focus on his British TV hit “The X Factor,” of which an American version is in the works.
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6. BEATLES COME TO iTUNES: The most famous of the few remaining holdouts from iTunes, the Beatles, finally caved, signifying the end of a chapter in the digitizing of music. More than 2 million individual songs and 450,000 copies of Beatles albums were sold in the first week.
7. PRINCE WILLIAM GETS ENGAGED: After years of dating, Prince William proposed to his girlfriend Kate Middleton with his mother’s diamond-and-sapphire engagement ring. They’ll be wed at Westminster Abbey this spring.
8. BULLOCK WINS OSCAR, DIVORCES: Sandra Bullock had a remarkably eventful year, winning a best-actress Oscar, adopting a baby boy and divorcing her husband Jesse James after it was revealed that he cheated on her.
9. “LOST” ENDS: More than 13 million watched the ABC desert island mystery “Lost” conclude after six seasons of twisted plot lines, alternate realities and stupefying cliffhangers.
10. LARRY KING QUITS: Larry King hung up his suspenders, calling it quits after 25 years of “Larry King Live” on CNN. The 77-year-old talk-show host made his last broadcast of the show in December. British talk-show host and “America’s Got Talent” judge Piers Morgan takes over the time slot in January.
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