The Day After

It is the new year, time for writing "2006" on your checks for another two or three weeks and forTV shows and newspapers to recap the big TV moments for the past year.

Syndicated news mag Inside Edition was busy New Years Eve, grabbing clips of Dick Clark, whose return to escort the multicollored ball's descent into the maelstrom of Times Square on ABC–with a big assist from Ryan Seacrest–was included in its morning-after special as one of the big TV moments of the year.

Also making its list was Oprah's grilling of that ex-con turned literary swindler, Katie Couric and Charlie Gibson's move from mornings to evenings and something else I have already forgotten. Missing was Michael Richards' meltdown, but that is more properly a viral video moment (see below), and besides I only surfed the show and may have missed it in some other segment.

And speaking of Michael Richards, he helped relegate Seinfeld re-runs to the "out" side of The Washington Post's annual "in"and "out" list, replaced by How I Met Your Mother.

Other TV-related in-and-out pairings on the Post's list were (sorry CW) America's Top Model Out and in with Ugly Betty, Anderson Cooper doing a 180 on the in list, replaced by the back-in-fashion Keith Olbermann; "dancin' with who brung you" (a reference to Donald Rumsfeld, perhaps), replaced by Dancing with the Stars;Battlestar Gallactica replaced by Heroes, and nationwide Grease auditions replaced by High School Musical II.

Inside Edition included the Connie Chung MSNBC farewell song as a big TV moment, but that was also more a Web moment, I think.

In fact, I would argue that there were more big YouTube moments than TV moments this year. Richards' self-destruction caught on cell phone (or was it a digital camera), the Mentos geysers that popped up all over the Web like automatic sprinklers and make me wonder whether there was some viral marketing from the Mentos folks involved, George Allen's "macacca" meltdown, Ted Stevens' "tubes" remix, the evolution of dance bit.

The Web is clearly where it's at, videowise. Some network execs last year were quietly opining that the FCC was missing the boat by concentrating on the so-last-century issue of TV station ownership. Many companies were paring back their holdings while, instead, trying to figure out how best to migrate their content to the Web.

That is part of the big fight over network neutrality. Companies like Disney want to start delivering their programming via the net because it is a more elegant delivery system and because that is where the next generation is going for an increasing amount of its screen time.

It is also the most trackable medium when it comes to figuring out what kind of eyeballs are glued to the screen, something advertisers are demanding in the sliced and diced world of a million media.

Rod Beckham, co-author of The Starfish and the Spider, points to a world of decentralized power where viral video sites have a big advantage over traditional networks.

YouTube, he tells The Washington Post, "is able to keep a record of every person who logs in and contributes.One of the huge strategic advantages that YouBute has versus ABC, CBS, NBC, all centralized networks, is they know who exactly is watching what, when, because they have our IP addresses.

I'm not sure now whether that mirror Time Magazine put on its "You are person of the Year" cover was a mirror or a TV set or a computer screen, but if it wasn't a computer screen, it should have been.

By John Eggerton