It’s been another tumultuous school year at Tinseltown High, marked by a nearly two-semester-long class walkout. Thankfully, the gossip, snark and scandal have gone uninterrupted, as chronicled in THR’s annual overview of the year’s highs and lows.
PROM QUEEN AND KING
Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce
The most talked-about entertainer of the year and the Super Bowl-winning podcaster combined their forces — and audiences — to forge the kind of four-quadrant cultural phenomenon the industry hasn’t seen in ages. Well, except for …
Combined global box office gross: $2.4 billion
WORST HOMECOMING PERFORMANCE
He rode back into town last year like a high-EQ white knight to rescue the Magic Kingdom from his flailing handpicked successor, only to be cast as one of the principal villains of the strikes and architect of Disney’s “Dewokening.”
MOST UNSETTLING YEARBOOK PHOTO
MOST INVINCIBLE MARVEL VILLAIN
Tepid reviews and lackluster box office for the latest entries in the franchise — particularly November’s The Marvels — are indications that superhero fatigue is finally setting in, a threat to the Marvel Universe more destructive than Thanos.
MOST POPULAR CAFETERIA ITEM
Any item from Bob’s Big Boy in Burbank (or Swingers Diner in Los Angeles), courtesy of Drew Carey, who covered the tab for hungry picketers.
David Zaslav (left) and Graydon Carter, twinning at the Hotel du Cap.
LEAST PRIVATE PRIVACY ADVOCATES
Harry and Meghan
After the Oprah Winfrey interview, the best-selling memoir, the Netflix series, and the (canceled) Spotify podcast, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex could try looking under rocks to reach the few people who haven’t yet heard their appeals to be left alone.
WORST CASE OF SENIORITIS
After four and a half seasons of his hit comeback vehicle, Yellowstone, Costner asked to work fewer days for more money — and demanded script approval — so he could focus on his epic, still-unscheduled Western Horizon.
SENIOR OF THE YEAR
The Golden Bachelor
Septuagenarian sweetheart Gerry Turner won over America — and revived the ABC franchise — with his story of dating for the first time in half a century. So what if it wasn’t true — as THR revealed when it tracked down a recent girlfriend.
WORST SALES PITCH
“Go fuck yourself.”
Elon Musk to X/Twitter’s would-be advertisers
BEST SALES PITCH
“Don’t think $700 million — think $2 mil a year for a decade and we’ll worry about the $680 mil later.”
BEST BET IN VEGAS
Jim Dolan’s $2.3 billion LED-coated marvel has achieved the seemingly impossible: reviving the embattled Madison Square Garden CEO’s tarnished image and U2’s cultural relevance.
WORST BET IN VEGAS
The $500 million Grand Prix started skidding off-track during a practice run, when a Ferrari was badly damaged by a manhole. Fans sued for their money back, and ticket prices plummeted on the resale market. That the main event itself proved exciting only partially offset the logistical disaster.
The deafening silence of AMPTP president Carol Lombardini during the dual strikes was filled by her Twitter impostor, an anonymous comedy writer who went viral with potshots at the guilds’ many enemies.
If you’re going to order employees to anonymously harass critics on Twitter — as the HBO chief admitted to doing — don’t get busted.
LEAST SCHOOL SPIRIT
The directors’ deal with the AMPTP to avoid a strike was the betrayal heard around campus, as far as the actors and writers were concerned.
MOST SOPHOMORIC SLUMP
Sam Levinson’s much-maligned high-camp follow-up to his HBO hit Euphoria
The short-lived CNN CEO’s self-sabotage in an Atlantic profile was the ultimate banana-peel slip.
MOST UNEXPECTED BULLY
The Tonight Show’s giggly host apologized for running what staffers called a “toxic workplace.”
The queen of self-empowerment and body positivity dismissed accusations of pushing her dancers into uncomfortable, often sexualized situations.
Gimme an S! For “solidarity,” of course. The chants from 2023’s labor leaders were loud, proud and mightily effective at keeping (almost all) the unions united through more than six months of grueling collective action. The squad members — SAG-AFTRA chief negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, WGA lead negotiator Ellen Stutzman and co-chair Chris Keyser, and Teamsters Hollywood boss Lindsay Dougherty — brought plenty of spirit (and an occasional bit of snark when members or the media dared to question the party line). But it was SAG-AFTRA president Fran Drescher, with her Queens-inflected rallying cries, passionate barbs (we certainly hadn’t used “ignoramus” since middle school) and pompom-like plushie who was the indisputable cheer captain.
Evil AI is the villain du jour onscreen, as exemplified by the semi-sentient digital baddies from Christopher McQuarrie’s interminably titled Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning Part One, Damon Lindelof and Tara Hernandez’s well-reviewed Peacock series Mrs. Davis, and Gareth Edwards’ sci-fi dud The Creator. But it proved far more terrifying in real life, gradually eclipsing other issues at stake in the double strike thanks to pro-humanity crusaders like SAG’s Justine Bateman and the WGA’s AI working group, including John Rogers, John August, Adam Conover, Kim Shumway, Van Robichaux and John Lopez, who saw this year’s struggle as their last chance to ward off a dystopian future in which ChatGPT autogenerates infinite rehashes of Suits. And if you think they’re scared, just think of how spooked OpenAI’s board members had to be that they tried (and failed) to oust CEO/club president Sam Altman before he bumbled into the Singularity. We look forward to the AI-penned movie about that power grab.
It’s been a histrionic season for the cast of the Murdoch theater, particularly its mainstage production at Fox News. First came the defamation lawsuit by Dominion Voting Systems, which alleged that Fox’s troupe of anchors — including Tucker Carlson (far right), former host Lou Dobbs, Sean Hannity, Maria Bartiromo and Jeanine Pirro — knowingly spread falsehoods about the system’s reliability during the 2020 presidential election. Just as the trial was about to begin, Fox settled for $787 million, but that didn’t put an end to the chaos. The discovery process unearthed Carlson’s burn book, revealing embarrassing private texts bad-mouthing supposed BFF Donald Trump, among other targets. The messages gave outgoing club president Rupert Murdoch (left) a pretext to finally give his uncontrollable leading man the boot. Months later, 92-year-old Murdoch at last announced his successor, passing the mantle to eldest boy Lachlan right before the real drama begins in 2024.
A previous version of this article incorrectly suggested that Fox News is owned by News Corp, and that Lou Dobbs was still an anchor at the network.