Friday, December 29, 2017

What We Lost in 2017: Cellino & Barnes, Trader Joe's Corn Dogs, LAist And More

When Elon Musk's SpaceX launched a Falcon 9 rocket at sunset last week, half of Los Angeles wondered whether a UFO had finally made contact. After the events of 2017, I, for one, welcome our new alien overlords.

Turns out the creatures from outer space haven't arrived to save us from ourselves just yet. That leaves us to have to try and once again do better in 2018.

Looking back at this year, there was some reason to be hopeful — particularly as voices were heard and amplified as countless instances of serial sexual harassers and cases of assault were finally exposed.

But we also lost a lot in 2017, including superstars like Tom Petty, Mary Tyler Moore, Chris Cornell and even Judge Wapner.

Some of what we lost we won't miss (remember that tone-deaf Kylie Jenner Pepsi commercial?) and some of what we lost we really won't miss (ahem, "The O'Reilly Factor," ahem). But here are a few more things we said goodbye to in 2017:

10. Cellino and Barnes 
Yeah, Selena Gomez and The Weeknd was big, Fergie and Josh Duhamel was sad, Ben Stiller and Christine Taylor was unexpected, and Chris Pratt and Anna Faris was heartbreaking. (Let's not discuss Kylie Jenner and Tyga or Blac Chyna and Rob Kardashian.) But the most stunning breakup of the year had to be the ugly split between ambulance chasing attorneys Cellino and Barnes. You know their mad catchy jingle, the staple of daytime TV across the country. Ross Cellino and Stephen Barnes hate each other so much now, they're tossing grenades at each other while launching separate, rival firms. Who gets the jingle? Apparently Barnes spent nearly $1 million to recraft the song with his new phone number.

9. Wet Seal 
The "retail apocalypse" continues. As someone who spent a great deal of time at shopping malls as a teenager in the late 1980s and early 1990s, it's quite sad -- and yet fascinating -- to see the collapse of something that once defined the retail experience. (I still remember Wet Seal as the store with the big video screens blaring freestyle music videos by Seduction and Stevie B as teens shopped.) Also in 2017, The Limited closed its doors, American Apparel shut all of its retail locations, Radio Shack is mostly out of business, Teavana announced it was closing all of its stores, and even retail giants Sears, JCPenney and Macy's shut down hundreds of stores. Also in 2017, Toys 'R' Us, Gymboree and Payless ShoeSource were among the companies filing for bankruptcy — which means the retail apocalypse will likely consume many more major companies in 2018.

8. Cloo, Esquire, Chiller, Seeso
NBC Universal continued streamlining its entertainment offerings in 2017, eliminating some of its smaller cable networks, including crime drama channel Cloo, the young male-oriented Esquire, and horror channel Chiller. Cloo was the successor to Trio, a channel still fondly remembered for its scrappy pop culture programming (including franchises like “Brilliant But Canceled”), while Esquire replaced Style Network's channel slot (and G4's programming mandate) as an attempt to reach upscale male audiences, and Chiller began life in 2007 but was never a major cable player. Several channels have shut down over the past year as the cable industry prepares for an uncertain future in the wake of so-called “skinny bundles” (cable packages with fewer channels) and the growth of cord-cutting. But the rise of over-the-top platforms has already gone through a shakeup of its own, as witnessed by the decision to shut down comedy service Seeso so soon after launch. The comedy streaming platform pitched itself as a home for “Saturday Night Live” episodes as well as originals like “Take My Wife,” “Bajillion Dollar Propertie$” and “HarmonQuest,” but after it failed to find much traction, NBCUniversal pumped the brakes on original content.

7. 140 characters 
We didn't ask for 280 characters. We didn't need it. Twitter, fix youself.

6. San Diego Chargers
Speaking of what we didn't need, Los Angeles went 21 years without an NFL team, and suddenly it has two. The return of the Los Angeles Rams in 2016 made a lot of sense, as that team still had fans in Los Angeles and an emotional attachment to the market, having been here from 1946 to 1994. Still, the Rams had a bumpy first season back in L.A. (it's been a different story this year), making the arrival of the Chargers all the more perplexing. In a city with many more Oakland Raiders fans, and transplants rooting for their old hometown teams, the Chargers are now more like the fourth NFL team in Los Angeles.

5. Popular Photography, Surfing, Self, Teen Vogue, Nylon
Of course, even bigger than the retail apocalypse is the continuing slow death of the media. In 2018, we'll be discussing the disappearance of the Time Inc. and Tribune Media labels, as both disappear for good (unless Tronc comes to its senses and grabs back its rightful claim to the Tribune name). In 2017, we said farewell to several major titles — perhaps, most notably Teen Vogue, a more recent title that has made a name for itself in covering politics and social issues.

4. "The Carmichael Show"
Plenty of shows ended their runs in 2017, including faves "The Leftovers" and "Orphan Black." But at least those shows got to tell the endings they wanted to tell. There was no bigger TV tragedy than the end of NBC's "The Carmichael Show," a comedy that received plenty of critical acclaim but never turned into the hit it should have been. Despite being on the air for three seasons, "Carmichael" only produced 32 episodes. And the show never even aired in the fall, having been relegated to the summer in 2015 and 2017, and late spring in 2016. Could it have thrived with more care? Unfortunately, we'll never know, but at least Jerrod Carmichael had the chance to craft the right comedy at the right time, and provide a platform for performers who have already gone on to big things — including Tiffany Haddish and Lil Rel Howery.

3. Trader Joe's Veggie Corn Dogs
How dare you, Trader Joe's. I'm not vegetarian, but these were better than any regular corn dogs (including the disappointing Trader Joe's turkey corn dogs, which are rubbery in comparison). On the go, the TJ veggie corn dog was the perfect lunch meal. Then, like so many great TJ products, they just disappeared one day without any explanation. This one hurt.

2. Gothamist/DNAinfo/LAist
In a depressing, shrinking media world where local news has been hit hardest, sites like DNAinfo and the Gothamist chain (including LAist in Los Angeles) were more important than ever. As the alternative press shrinks, these sites picked up the slack and covered stories that other outlets were also struggling to handle, given smaller staffs and budgets at even major newspapers across the country. That all came crashing down when billionaire owner Joe Ricketts shut the sites down in November, without warning. Ricketts closed them down after the staffs of DNAinfo and Gothamist had unionized with the Writers Guild of America, East. A right-wing owner who had donated to anti-labor causes, the swiftness of Ricketts' decision to shut the sites was stunning, and left a tremendous void in local coverage.

1. Shame 
The Republicans pass a tax bill that funnels money into the pockets of millionaires and corporations, yet drags its feet to fund the Children's Health Insurance Program. Hundreds continue to die in Puerto Rico, where power won't be restored for several more months, and the administration says nothing about it. Donald Trump lies with impunity, and has golfed at least 80 times (at a cost to taxpayers at over $40 million) after having criticized President Obama for spending a fraction of that time on the course. Louis C.K. apologizes for sexual harassment but makes it all about himself. Many Republicans flocked to Roy Moore, despite the fact that he's a pedophile, choosing party over country. Moore lost, but still won't concede. Kellyanne Conway made up the fake "Bowling Green Massacre." Trump said there were "some very fine people" among the white supremacists causing violence (and an eventual death) in Charlottesville. There is no shame anymore, and hypocrisy now rules the land.

It's been a rough year, setting the stage for what should be a history-making 2018. "Looking back and looking ahead: 2017 was the Year of the Con," tweeted U.S. "House of Cards" creator Beau Willimon. "2018 will be the Year of the Turn." Happy New Year!

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