America’s sweetheart, Ellen DeGeneres, managed to lead Oscar viewership to a 10-year high, with 43 million viewers tuning in, and she kept it clean — for the most part.
Highlight: DeGeneres ordered a pizza for those who had been starving themselves for weeks to fit into their couture gowns and tuxes.
“The 71st Annual Golden Globe Awards”
Tina Fey and Amy Poehler — Hollywood’s slam-dunk double act — were as charming, sly and shameless as we’ve come to expect.
Highlight: Jacqueline Bisset’s surreal, rambling acceptance speech (and the multiple attempts to play her offstage) set social media alight.
“The 56th Annual Grammy Awards”
Despite the music industry’s continuing decline into Pony Express-style obsolescence, this year’s Grammys attracted 28.5 million viewers for its second largest audience in the last two decades.
Highlight: Inspired pairing of Daft Punk, Pharrell, Nile Rodgers and Stevie Wonder.
“The 65th Primetime Emmy Awards”
“No one in America is winning their Emmy office pool,” declared host Neil Patrick Harris. It was a night of surprises, as best actor in a drama winner Jeff Daniels himself acknowledged in his speech.
Highlight: Tina Fey and Amy Poehler as they ate popcorn in the front row and heckled Harris.
“The 36th Annual Kennedy Center Honors”
This winner of five consecutive Emmys draws from all walks of the arts: honorees were Carlos Santana, Billy Joel, Herbie Hancock, Shirley MacLaine and Martina Arroyo.
Highlight: Drummer Sheila E and singer-keyboardist Stevie Winwood bringing down the house with “Everybody’s Everything.”
“The 67th Annual Tony Awards”
Neil Patrick Harris presided over a fast-paced telecast that scored 7.3 million viewers, the best tally for the Tonys since 2009.
Highlight: Harris was joined by 150 performers from across Broadway in an opening number so crowded he had to scale the giant Tony statuette to find a place he could fit onstage.
“I think that this year, the latenight story is going to be about other people,” O’Brien prophetically said last fall. He’s come a long way in more than two decades as a host — and he’s respected by his peers.
Highlight: Mel Brooks, who once wrote for the late Sid Caesar, reminiscing with O’Brien about the legendary comic.
“The Colbert Report”
Whether he’s dancing to Daft Punk or interviewing a congressman, Colbert keeps auds in stitches with a persona that skates between right-wing conservative and hyper-intelligent satirist.
Highlight: His interview with Ellen Page: “I’m a big fan but I found out, and I was disappointed, you came out as openly Canadian.”
“The Daily Show With Jon Stewart”
Perennial Emmy favorite Jon Stewart unleashed his razor-sharp satirical wit on CNN, the Veterans’ Administration — even Chicago deep dish pizza. And that was after he took the summer off.
Highlight: Fill-in host John Oliver dancing when hearing “Carlos Danger” during Weinergate.
“Jimmy Kimmel Live”
In the midst of NBC’s latenight shakeup, Kimmel did what he does best, collaborating with his guests and continuing to build on his reputation for hilarious parody videos.
Highlight: Following the series finale of “Scandal,” Kimmel hosted creator Shonda Rhimes for a “Behind the Scandalabra” special featuring his “Escandalo” parodies.
“The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson”
The wicked-smart Scotsman breaks most of the rules of talkshows, like winging his opening rather than relying on a set monologue.
Highlight: His interview with author Salman Rushdie, “He writes books, like a really long paper-y Tweet!”, where he again ripped up the blue note cards and plunged into real conversation.
“Late Night With Seth Meyers”
Meyers had some big shoes to fill taking over for fellow “SNL” alum Jimmy Fallon, yet he’s managed to hold his own in the latenight race.
Highlight: Meyers has proven himself from the beginning, taking on pal Amy Poehler and Vice President Joe Biden in his first episode.
“The Late Show With David Letterman”
The last of the old guard ends his decades-long run in 2015. Letterman’s snarky bits, top 10 lists and stupid pet tricks leave a strong legacy that will long be remembered.
Highlight: Telling the story of trying to ID a bird his son had photographed — and forgetting who his guests were when his wife asked him.
Image Courtesy of CBS
“The Maya Rudolph Show”
The comic actress-singer set out to revive the ’70s-style variety show —with an assist from Lorne Michaels and various “SNL” confreres — with surprisingly robust ratings.
Highlight: An eyebrow-raising sketch with a song about “Dee’s Nuts” and “Pam’s Clams” shows how far TV has come since Sonny and Cher held forth in 1971.
“Real Time With Bill Maher”
The Cornell-educated liberal, who once dubbed the Torah “The Jewish Book of Fairy Tales” and waxes near poetically about pot consumption, is a consistent critical and fan favorite.
Highlight: The season 12 opener featuring James Carville and Glenn Greenwald was as sharp and raw and unabashedly honest as it gets.
“The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon”
Fallon ascended to latenight’s storied chair and blew the dust off the format with his youthful amiability, uncanny music impersonations and guests who played along in sketches and games.
Highlight: A recent lip-syncing contest with Paul Rudd, and a sketch with Fallon and Jennifer Lopez competing to be the best dancer in tight pants.
“Garth Brooks Live From Las Vegas”
The special represented the final perf of the semi-retired country legend’s three-year Vegas show he called the soundtrack of his life.
Highlight: The ultimate entertainer knows how to spin a yarn, but his upbeat finale sealed the deal as he led the crowd in his anthem “Friends in Low Places.”
“The Night That Changed America: A Grammy Salute to the Beatles”
Marking the 50th anni of the Fab Four’s appearance on Ed Sullivan, this spesh corralled nearly 14 million viewers despite competition from the Winter Olympics.
Highlight: Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr plow through “Hey Jude” and “With a Little Help From My Friends.”
“The Sound of Music Live!”
Although critics weren’t fans, the production was a ratings success for NBC and inevitably spurred interest in reviving the televised musical genre.
Highlight: Audra McDonald’s scene-stealing “Climb Ev’ry Mountain”; and for the social media set, Anna Kendrick’s snarky live tweets.
This Peabody Award winner fondly pokes fun at all things bohemian. Yes, the slacker dream of the ’90s is alive in Portland, Ore., through a dozen or so sketches per episode and random musical numbers.
Highlight: “Spyke Drives” takes aim at Portland’s driving challenges through the lens of a rabid bike activist who buys a car.
“Saturday Night Live”
Lorne Michaels and crew rallied in a transition year with seven new players, as talented cast members Aidy Bryant, Vanessa Bayer and Kate McKinnon shouldered more of the load.
Highlight: “Dyke & Fats,” an imagined buddy sitcom featuring Bryant and McKinnon as two cops who take umbrage when anyone but themselves uses their nicknames.