The 16 biggest Atlanta entertainment stories of 2022: Chrisleys, HLN, Davi Crimmins, Takeoff

Like a good soap opera, the Atlanta entertainment scene in 2022 featured a fair share of tragedy, triumph, betrayal, firings, retirements and endings.

Here’s a quick summary of the year’s biggest stories:

Reality show stars face reality: Former Atlantans Todd and Julie Chrisley were indicted and sentenced for tax evasion and bank fraud and will serve time in federal prison in Florida starting in January 2023. They were stars of the USA Network hit reality show “Chrisley Knows Best,” conveying themselves as super rich. But the feds said some of that money came from ill-gotten loans in Georgia. They also illegally avoided paying taxes, the prosecutors claimed. Todd will be in prison a maximum of 12 years and Julie, seven years.

Bye, bye HLN: After nearly 40 years in Atlanta, what began as CNN Headline News and morphed into HLN is basically a dead cable channel walking. In early December, new owners Warner Bros. Discovery decided to drop all live news programming to save money. This means more than 75 employees in Atlanta lost their jobs, including morning host Robin Meade, who lasted more than 21 years, the longest continuous run for a morning TV host in TV history. This is part of massive cost cutting by HLN’s parent company and a sign of how weak basic cable networks have become as streaming has become ascendant.

Credit: SMILING EYES MEDIA

Credit: SMILING EYES MEDIA

Bert Show drama: Bert Weiss of the Atlanta-based syndicated talk show The Bert Show fired long-time employee and cast member Davi Crimmins in June. Weiss said despite her obvious on-air talents, she had fostered a poor off-air work environment for staff, a problem that had festered for years. She later said on her own podcast she was blamed for issues caused by another cast member. She purposely refused a severance package so she could speak her mind.

Bill Crane fired from WSB-TV: Long-time political analyst Bill Crane was fired in August over an insult he made toward former President Donald Trump, dubbing him “orange face” during an evening newscast. Viewers complained and management told him he “crossed a line.” So he was ousted.

Music Midtown canceled: The annual Music Midtown festival, a showcase event slated to feature Jack White, Future and Fall Out Boy in Piedmont Park over two days in September, was canceled a month before the event due in part to legal fallout of a law that potentially limited the festival’s ability to ban guns on public property. The event’s organizers were concerned about a threat of a lawsuit from gun owners if they enforced such restrictions, sources told the AJC. (Live Nation ended up hosting Fall Out Boy that weekend at Ameris Bank Amphitheatre in Alpharetta instead.) No other music festival on public land has since canceled despite similar legal exposure.

Credit: File Photo

Credit: File Photo

Takeoff of Migos killed: Migos member and Atlanta rapper Takeoff, whose real name was Kirsnick Khari Ball, was killed Nov. 1 outside a Houston bowling alley. A month later, Patrick Xavier Clark, was arrested and charged in the case. Fans of Migos mourned his death at a State Farm Arena memorial last month. Migos, which landed the No. 1 hit “Bad and Boujee” in 2017, had been on hiatus as a trio when he died.

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

“The Walking Dead” finally ends: After 11 seasons, 177 episodes and hundreds of dead zombies, the most popular show in basic cable history aired its final episode on AMC last month. It jumpstarted the careers of Andrew Lincoln, Steven Yeun, Norman Reedus and Danai Gurira. It spawned fan conventions, facilitated the growth of the city of Senoia and generated multiple spin-off shows that will keep “The Walking Dead” name alive including those featuring Rick and Michonne, Negan and Maggie and Daryl in Paris, of all places. (Other Atlanta-based TV shows that ended this year: the CW’s “Dynasty” after five seasons, FX’s “Atlanta” after four seasons, the CW’s “Legacies” after four seasons, Fox’s “Monarch” after one season, the CW’s “Naomi” after one season, NBC’s “Ordinary Joe” after one season and ABC’s “Queens” after one season.)

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

What exactly is “Buckhead Shore”? The most head-scratching TV show title for local Atlantans was MTV’s “Buckhead Shore” in part because Buckhead has no actual coastline. The reality of it was far more mundane: it was yet another spin on the hoary “Jersey Shore” concept featuring horny 20-somethings. In this case, the castmates had Buckhead ties but spent the summer at a fancy lake house on the shores of Lake Burton. MTV has yet to renew the show for a second season.

Credit: RODNEY HO/rho

Credit: RODNEY HO/rho

NBCUniversal signs with The Assembly: Atlanta-based Gray Television, which has committed to a sizable expansion of its CBS affiliate now called Atlanta News First, has also funneled a huge amount of money into a massive new TV and film studio on the former Doraville General Motors plant property. In a big win for Gray, NBCUniversal signed a long-term contract to use most of the studio space, which is set to open in 2023. (Other film studios that are building or expanding: EUE Screen Gems in Atlanta, Trilith Studios in Fayetteville, Three Ring Studios in Covington, Athena Studios in Athens.)

Karyn Greer swaps stations: WSB-TV hired Greer from CBS46 as a news anchor earlier this year, following the loss of Jovita Moore, who died last year of brain cancer. The station went out of its way to point out that Greer was not a replacement for Moore. Rather, she is part of a news anchor team that also includes Linda Stouffer, Wendy Corona, Justin Farmer and Jorge Estevez. Greer has been in the market as an anchor going back 32 years at different stations.

Glenn Burns, WSB-TV’s chief meteorologist retired in November: Burns, who joined Channel 2 Action News in 1981 and became chief meteorologist in 1986, decided it was finally time to call it a day after tackling decades of tornado warnings, snow and ice alerts and flash floods. Brad Nitz is now his replacement. (Other notable radio and broadcast talent who left Atlanta or retired: WSB-TV’s Tony Thomas, WSB-TV’s Chris Jose, WSB-TV’s Richard Belcher, 11 Alive’s Shiba Russell, Fox 5′s Patty Pan.)

Credit: CUMULUS MEDIA

Credit: CUMULUS MEDIA

99X brings back original format: Atlanta’s groundbreaking alternative rock station 99X in the 1990s died in 2008 and over the years has only been on minor signals with no jocks. But Atlanta-based Cumulus Media earlier this month dropped Rock 100.5 in favor of a revamped 99X format that features many of the songs the station played in its glory days. In early January, the station will begin to introduce an on-air staff, presumably with familiar names in an effort to give the flagging 100.5 signal a boost by injecting Atlanta with a heavy dose of nostalgia.

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

Fred Savage fired over sexual misconduct in Atlanta: ABC fired Fred Savage in May from the reboot of “The Wonder Years” as an executive producer and director. Deadline cited unspecified inappropriate behavior and verbal outbursts. Allegations were investigated, leading to Savage’s dismissal, ABC confirmed in a statement. The show, in its second season, shoots in metro Atlanta and is a reboot of the original “Wonder Years,” in which Savage starred as a child actor.

Credit: IHEART

Credit: IHEART

Atlanta radio exec fired after drunken video surfaces: Drew Lauter, president of media company iHeartMedia Atlanta, was let go in October after video surfaced of him appearing to say racial slurs. In two videos procured by WSB-TV, Lauter is shown using a common slur against Black people multiple times in front of other iHeartMedia employees in a car after a charity event in August 2021. Lauter was fired after his bosses became aware that WSB-TV had the videos, in which Lauter also appeared to be groping the driver.

Credit: RODNEY HO

Credit: RODNEY HO

Trilith Studios faces racial discrimination suit: Five Black residents who live or have lived in the Town at Trilith in Fayetteville filed a lawsuit last month against the housing development and accompanying Trilith TV and movie studio alleging racially motivated inequitable treatment toward home owners and tenants. The allegations include unequal actions regarding home repairs, a police officer trailing a Black teen resident, and a lack of response regarding a resident caught using a racial epithet on camera toward Black neighbors. Trilith is home to many Marvel movies and Disney+ shows such as “Avengers: Endgame” and “WandaVision.”

Credit: AJC

Credit: AJC

The Plaza Theatre extends its life while the Tara Cinema shutters: Independent, community-oriented Plaza Theatre owner Christopher Escobar signed a 25-year lease extension earlier this year to solidify his theater’s long-term survival. Regal’s Tara Cinema, which specialized in foreign and independent films a few miles away, last month abruptly shuttered its doors, a victim of a pandemic that fueled a change in the viewing habits of its core audience.

Some local radio and TV notables we lost in 2022: Radio host Kara Stockton, “Georgia Gang” creator Dick Williams, CNN investigative reporter Drew Griffin, radio jock Silas “SiMan” Alexander, NBC meteorologist Johnny Beckman and former CNN sports anchor Fred Hickman.