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2009: The year in TV

Digital frenzy, 'Idol' envy and weirdness aplenty

Dale Roe
Adam Lambert raised eyebrows, Paula Abdul used Twitter to quit and, oh yeah, Kris Allen actually won 'American Idol.'

Coming off the hustle and bustle of awards season and the eye-straining glut of fall's new offerings and heading into the busy holiday season (and midseason replacement series) it's easy to forget that there were a whole lot of other television-related events this year. Some months were lean (I'm looking at you, April) but others couldn't have had more TV news if they were programmed that way (what the heck was in September's water?). It would be impossible to list every event, but here's a list of the year's highlights:

Jan. 9: Nickelodeon kicks off its yearlong, 10th anniversary celebration of "Spongebob Squarepants." Stoners everywhere would have marked their calendars if they could have just remembered where they left that Sharpie, dude.

Other January events: Hawaii becomes the first state to switch completely to digital television transmission.

Feb. 11: The federally mandated switch to digital television broadcasting is delayed by presidential order. Hawaiians everywhere say, "What the heck, bra? We could have been surfing."

Other events: My Network TV drops its network status, becoming a provider of syndicated content; the final "Late Night with Conan O'Brien" airs on NBC.

March 19: President Obama sits down with Jay Leno on NBC's "The Tonight Show." Show of hands ... who would have guessed that media-shy Obama would be the first sitting U.S. president to appear on a late-night talk show?

Other events: "Saturday Night Live's" Jimmy Fallon debuts as the host of NBC's "Late Night."

April 16: John Madden announces his retirement — from NFL broadcasting, not titular-video game appearances. That would be major.

Other events: At the conclusion of 15 seasons, NBC airs the final episode of "ER."

May 20: Somebody is named the new "American Idol" and runner-up Adam Lambert begins his twin careers of music and being banned from the ABC network.

Other events: Austinite Mike Judge's "King of the Hill" follow-up, "The Goode Family," begins its short run on ABC; Jay Leno hosts his final "Tonight Show" on NBC.

June 28: Bearded OxiClean pitchman Billy Mays dies ... sort of. His commercials continue to air after his passing, and some, including an ad for Mighty Tape, premiere posthumously.

Other events: The country finally throws the switch on the DTV switch; Conan O'Brien makes his "Tonight Show" debut; Michael Jackson's hospitalization and death kick off wall-to-wall TV coverage.

July 17: Legendary CBS broadcaster Walter Cronkite dies at age 92, sadly kicking off less-than-wall-to-wall TV coverage. The news anchor attended the University of Texas.

Other events: Michael Jackson's memorial service is broadcast worldwide; the Sci Fi Channel is rebranded as SyFy.

Aug. 4: Paula Abdul announces her departure from "American Idol" via her Twitter account. The announcement is surprisingly concise and coherent, leading me to wonder if "Idol" should slap a 140-character limit on its judges.

Other events: Bill Clinton negotiates the release of two Current TV journalists from captivity in North Korea; ABC airs final episode of the canceled "The Goode Family"; "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" celebrates its 10th anniversary with a series of 11 prime-time specials that fail to generate high interest (or ratings).

Sept. 13: The gentle, often hilarious "King of the Hill" ends its 13-season run on Fox, clearing the way for more loud, obvious Seth MacFarlane shenanigans.

Other events: Charles Gibson announces departure from ABC's "World News"; Ellen DeGeneres is announced as Paula Abdul's replacement on "American Idol"; John Stossel ditches ABC for Fox; Kanye West interrupts Taylor Swift's acceptance speech at MTV's "Video Music Awards"; Liberman Broadcasting launches Spanish language network Estrella TV; NBC's nightly, prime time "The Jay Leno Show" premieres; KEYE nixes 5 p.m. local newscast, airs new 4 p.m. "lifestyle" show with Michelle Valles and Jason Wheeler; CBS soap opera "Guiding Light" concludes its historic, 72-year run; "Mad Men," "30 Rock" take top honors at 61st annual prime time Emmys; Conan O'Brien gets a concussion after banging his head on his studio's floor while taping a segment with Teri Hatcher; In its 21st season, "The Simpsons" surpasses "Gunsmoke" as the longest-running prime time, network entertainment program.

Oct. 1: David Letterman reveals that he's a victim of an extortion plot on CBS' "Late Show." The revelation includes Letterman's admission of sexual relationships with female staffers and provokes odd, inappropriate laughter from his studio audience.

Other events: A simulcast of Austin radio station Mix 94.7's morning duo, JB Hager and Sandy McIlree, replaces KEYE-TV's morning newscast.

Nov. 19: Oprah Winfrey announces that her syndicated talk show will end in 2011, giving worshippers a year and a half to figure out how to decide for themselves what to read.

Other events: "Sesame Street" kicks off its 40th year with an appearance by first lady Michelle Obama; Lou Dobbs announces his immediate departure on his CNN show; "Jon & Kate Plus 8" finally ends.

Dec. 8: After 54 years, "As The World Turns" drops out of heavy rotation as CBS announces the show will end in September 2010. This leaves only two CBS soaps — "The Young and the Restless" and "The Bold and the Beautiful" — and a big hole in my staycation days.

Other events: Comcast buys a controlling share in NBC/Universal, taking majority ownership from network punching bag General Electric.

droe@statesman.com; 912-5923