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Nine to watch in ’09

Keep these stories on your radar for the new year: Expect late-night TV to liven up (thank you, Jay Leno), and look for smarter network TV, fewer musical and movie comebacks and your Mom joining Facebook.
/ Source: msnbc.com

Now that we’ve given a shout-out to the eight underrated performances of 2008, it seems fitting to close the year out with 9 stories from the media and entertainment world to keep on your radar for ’09.

1. Scripted network TV gets smarter Or the opposite: Scripted network television just up and dies. I’m fine with either, because I have reliable cable. The only way for the broadcast networks to compete against “Dexter,” “Californication” and all of the other edgy cable programming is to smarten up what exists on the networks. There’s no profitability in personality-driven spinoffs or hour-long dramas full of diva salaries driven by substandard scripts. We don’t want irony to come slapping us in the face, we want it in bite-size, stylish doses, in the manner and delivery of “Mad Men.” Sure, the writer’s strike set things back, but if the networks don’t deliver some big hits in ’09, it’s going to be out of sight, out of mind.

2. A fire’s lit under late-night TV
It doesn’t matter whether you think the decision to move Jay Leno to prime time is ludicrous or brilliant, at least NBC is mixing it up. Kudos go out to Jeff Zucker, Ben Silverman, Leno and everyone who helped come to the conclusion that it was time to shake up the format. Whether David Letterman, Conan O’Brien, Jimmy Fallon and the rest step up to the plate and take some risks of their own remains to be seen, but at least Leno's move has things off to an interesting start.

3. Washington is the new Hollywood
This might seem obvious, but we’ve only seen the tip of this iceberg. Although President-elect Barack Obama doesn’t want to appear to be a celebrity, I’m pretty sure his re-election campaign fund doesn’t mind. The coming years will be a carefully choreographed dance between the Obamas and Hollywood elite. The challenge: keep the A-listers with deep pockets close enough that when it’s time for re-election they’re on board, but not so close it's bad for the White House image. There’s also the question of how the press will treat his young daughters, Sasha and Malia. The paparazzi has come a long way since Chelsea Clinton was in the White House, and although the secret service can keep photographers at a distance, as long as the girls sell magazines, there will be reporters willing to go to great lengths to get a story. The first year of the presidency will set the precedent for covering the girls in the years to come.

4. A new strategy for weekly magazines The bad economy means fewer ad dollars to go around, so how will the very diluted weekly magazine market react? Can the Newsweeks and Times and OK!s and Life & Styles of the world continue to print issues every week? I predict we’ll see some of these magazines switch to every other week or even discontinue their print versions altogether and exist only as Web sites.

5. Memoir, meet the fact checker. Fact-checker, meet the memoir. One author recently told me that editors don’t have the resources to fact-check memoirs prior to publication. Why? Fact checking is time-consuming, and editors have to “attend a zillion meetings in house, constantly go to lunches with agents to keep the pipeline of new proposals and manuscripts going, and so on.” So what? Get an intern to call a memoirist's immediate family and say, “Hey. Your sister says she was a foster child who kept company with gangbangers and ran drugs for the Bloods. Does this ring true?” This would have kept “Love and Consequences” from being billed as a memoir. The memoir is a wonderful genre, but if the publishers don’t strive to save it, it will be forever ruined.

6. Your mom is on Facebook It doesn’t matter how old you are, just accept that in ’09, your mom will put her AOL account to use and join Facebook. Let the recent breast-feeding photo incident stand as proof enough that this isn’t just a place to post your embarrassing winter formal photos. The Internet, and social networking, is at long last truly intergenerational.

7. Goodbye, C-list stars If a C-lister walks into a club, and no one paid them to be there, did the C-lister — or the club — really exist? In the words of my friend Dylan Ratigan, the money party is over, and that means that appearance fees for “celebrities” are going to be hard to come by. The fallout might be less cash in the checking account for the Kardashians of the world; I hope it means that we can put the art of "just showing up" in the rearview mirror.

8. No more comebacks
Wondering whether the next album will be Britney Spears’ comeback or the next film will be Lindsay Lohan’s return to stardom is just exhausting, and quite honestly, dull — especially when there’s so much new talent out there. I propose we just accept that stars come and go, and we move on.

9. We’re nice in ‘09
Sounds wishful, but it’s a prediction panned from a river stocked with some realism. When times are tough, the public isn’t so keen on seeing one celeb-divorce rumor after another on the covers of magazines, and snark seems stripped of its cleverness. With more people at home, television becomes more important, and people want to see some happy endings, some hopefulness.

So on that note, I hope you all have a happy new year… the Scoop column returns in 2009!

Courtney Hazlett delivers the Scoop Monday through Friday on msnbc.com.