This was posted on Rodney Ho’s AJC Radio & TV Talk blog on Thursday October 13, 2016
Atlanta’s Nancy Grace chose to not turn her final episode on HLN tonight into a long nostalgic Johnny Carson tearfest. Nope.
For the first 35 minutes, she focused her hour-long 8 p.m.show like hundreds of previous ones: a heinous crime that got her blood boiling.
Sounding suitably outraged, Grace focused on a case where a 17 year old North Carolina teenage girl shot her dad while he was napping, hid his dead body in a shed, partied with friends and installed a stripper pole in her kitchen. As usual, Grace prosecuted the alleged murderer Crystal Howell on air, wondering about motive and questioning her actions.
Grace, in a stark black leather jacket, brought in several guests, from a forensic pathologist to a journalist to multiple attorneys.
As usual, she cut people off she didn’t agree with. She kept repeating that the home was an “eight-room mansion” to paint Crystal as a spoiled brat. She focused quite a bit on the stripper pole.
“I got two words for you Renee: stripper pole!” she yelped at one point before a commercial break.
For balance, she did bring in Crystal’s aunt, who defended her niece as someone who was messed up after a bad divorce.
During the second half hour, Grace quickly reviewed the case of a fitness trainer murdered at a church whose killer had not been found. Some wonder if the killer in SWAT gear is a woman. “I don’t think it’s a woman!” Grace exclaimed.
At 8:40 p.m. she promoted her new novel “Murder in the Courthouse” (which came out on Tuesday) and an upcoming Hallmark Movie and Mystery film starring Kellie Martin called “Murder With Love” debuting Sunday, October 23. Grace noted she has a cameo as a defense attorney. “Get your popcorn and get ready!” she said.
Only in the final 15 minutes did she get a bit nostalgic, playing some of her greatest moments on HLN (Casey Anthony and George Zimmerman are included, of course). This was followed by clips of her on Jay Leno’s “Tonight Show,” Stephen Colbert, “Dancing With the Stars,” “Jeopardy,” and Wendy Williams as well as Amy Poehler playing her on “Saturday Night Live.”
She did her nightly tribute to a fallen military member, then spent a few minutes speaking about her departure, expressing her gratitude to her family, the HLN and her viewers. (She is leaving voluntarily.)
“People who have given tips for unsolved homicides, you have given victims seeking justice a voice,” she said. “This journey has opened so many doors for me, many of them I can’t even begin to imagine.”
Her final comments as the show closed:
Tonight is the end of of a wonderful chapter, my time hosting our program here on HLN. I want to thank HLN, the guests that join me every night. Many are very dear friends. And my wonderful staff, many of whom have been with me since my Court TV days. And most importantly, you. For nearly 12 years, you invited me into your homes every night. You stopped me on the street, in the grocery store. You send me cards, recipes, baby booties, letters. You were there when I married when I had the twins and raised them. You were there when Lucy was fighting to live and John David was rushed to the hospital, when my parents both fell and sorrow came and my father passed away. No matter what is going on, I had you with me, thank God, every weeknight at 8 o’clock eastern time. Your kind words have kept me going many, many times. It has been a privilege and honor to speak to those who could not always speak themselves, for those who are less cunning and powerful than others. Please visit me, find me at nancygrace.com as I continue to do my very best to do all the good I can and to always seek justice. A new chapter is awaiting, a new journey lies ahead. I hope you come with me. Nancy Grace signing off. Thank you. And tonight, it’s not goodbye. It’s just goodnight, friend.”
Grace has not said what she plans to do next but it’s clear she isn’t going away or retiring from the public eye.
On HLN, she will be replaced by Ashleigh Banfield, who takes over Monday with her own justice-oriented show out of New York. (I interviewed Banfield today and will post that interview Friday.)
Grace’s departure leaves HLN and CNN with just one notable personality left at CNN Center in downtown Atlanta: HLN morning host Robin Meade. Meade has reportedly been asked many times to move to New York but has refused. The departure of key personalities out of Atlanta has been gradual and steady. Jeff Zucker’s arrival in 2013 sealed the inevitable. The final CNN weekday hosts – Carol Costello and Brooke Baldwin – left Atlanta for New York in 2014.
She was a divisive figure, frequently caricatured. But her promotion of victim’s rights was never questioned. And her fans were deeply devoted, her ratings consistently strong relative to the rest of the network. She was HLN’s most famous personality, a hole that will be difficult to fill for a network currently pivoting back to hard news.