Personally, I completely understand the reasoning for removing gulp from the standard template. I was exited by it at first, but I'm also the type of developer that enjoys learning all the ins and outs of the tools I use. Most of the others I work with are focused on the task, and not the tools. The template is just that, a template to get you started. It isn't, and shouldn't, be the complete answer to all your development needs. I don't want to start with an empty folder, but I also don't want to have to delete a bunch of cruft if I prefer something besides gulp. Not to mention the extra learning curve added to simple apps.
Also, they started with grunt, then switched to gulp because of popularity. What happens if grunt bounces back or webpack becomes more popular? We can't possibly expect Microsoft to update Visual Studio to keep up with whatever the most popular framework/tool is at any point in time.
I think they are doing the right thing, and providing some minimum support in the template for recommended best practices, like bundling and minification, so when you do a file/new, you are shown the correct path. When you run into a wall with the basic functionality, then you look for other solutions. In the end, it is our job as developers to use the correct tools for the job at hand and we shouldn't rely on any one person/company/framework to dictate which frameworks we use. As long as their tools (Visual Studio, VSCode) play nice with the tools I want to use, the basic functionality is there, and best practices are encouraged, they are doing their job as far as I am concerned.
P.S. How many of us are lucky enough to work on new projects anyway? Some of our application is still using Classic ASP. :)
Where is episode 4? Are you continuing production of this show? I really enjoyed the first three episodes. They were a great way of learning something new without sitting through the standard webcast (still interesting, just not as fun) I would really
like to see more episodes like the first where you can see the thought process the developers go through to get to the final result. The first episode felt like they were challanged and thinking for themselves, not just reading a script.