Super-human TeeVee critic Brian Lowry wrote an interesting defense of critics. It's curious that entertainment critics find it necessary to continue defending their jobs. It's beginning to come off as more than mere "you just don't understand what we do" bullshit, though. It sounds defensive.
Let's dive in:
>These days, however, critics are grateful even when presented as objects of derision, amid a run of review-proof projects that have inspired some to label us irrelevant at best and at worst obsolete.<
Now, Brian. You can't be rendered obsolete if you were never relevant to begin with.
>Look no further than the tepid critical response to "Spider-Man 3," which of course did nothing to blunt its staggering debut. In that context, it's flattering people care enough to take umbrage when so much of what succeeds proves impervious to critics' disapproval.
Then again, even filmmakers normally lavished with praise -- such as "The Sopranos" creator David Chase -- often profess to avoid the corrosive, corrupting influence of media analysis.
"I try not to read that stuff, as much as I can," Chase says in the current Written By, the Writers Guild's magazine. "I try not to read reviews." (Given the grumbling about the latest batch of "Sopranos" episodes, this approach sounds increasingly prudent.)<
Oh, ha ha, Brian! Hardy har! Since TeeVee critics aren't particularly, how shall I put this... creatively inclined, I understand the confusion. See, any good writer has to have a healthy dose of self-criticism. You have to be able to step back from your work with a critical eye. We all get too inside our own heads. We all fall in love with elements of our writing that aren't necessarily going to work. We frequently have to kill our children. But this is only one component of the craft of writing. There is no OTHER component in criticism. The job of a critic is to criticize. It's to analyze what the writer has written and hopefully (but not usually), understand the writer's role in the creative process. While there are some decent movie critics out there, there are NO decent TeeVee critics because these folks almost purposefully ignore the history of the medium.
If a critic REALLY thinks his opinion should be taken as more than simply one man's opinion, well.. that's unfortunate. Because TeeVee critics aren't insightful. They all sound like frustrated TeeVee writers. The ego of a TeeVee critic is unparalleled. I would really love to be able to point to one and go, "Now THERE'S someone who's got a handle on the medium, someone whose opinion I may not always agree with, but will always respect." Sadly, however... I haven't found that dude yet.
This is a roundabout way to say that the reasons the TeeVee critic imagines for why a writer doesn't read criticism, aren't the real reasons. See, TeeVee criticism isn't constructive. It's angry, it's ignorant, and it's gleeful when a critic hates something. TeeVee critics don't show a clear understanding of how the world of TeeVee works. Worse than that, they're TeeVee critics -- that means that on SOME level, their job consists of watching TeeVee shows, correct? Then why does it take them so goddam long to hop on a show's bandwagon? It took almost the first season of Buffy for the critics to blink their sleepy little eyes and go, "This WB network... you mean that's not on cable?" It's easy as shit to be a TeeVee critic. You aren't forced to seek out anything out of the mainstream. There must be a little packet that all TeeVee critics collect that tells them which shows they'll focus on and what they're supposed to think. Hell, that's what the TCA is for. It's complete bullshit, and the TeeVee critics actually think they're offering their own opinion and not the opinion of whichever corporation has just fed them crab cake arugula panini with truffle oil and a white balsamic vinaigrette while introducing them to the charming star of their latest procedural opus. I mean, SERIOUSLY.
>Small wonder critics relish any indication that our work has struck a nerve -- whether the feedback comes via protests about our heartlessness or producers indulging in little revenge fantasies.<
Think about why that is, Brian. Try to use that critical faculty you're supposed to use in your job.
>The truth is people seldom complain, although email does allow for the occasional knee-jerk "You killed Kenny! You bastard!" response. A particular favorite came last season from a producer advancing the "Those who can't do, review" theory, who wrote, "I'm asking this question in all seriousness: Did you actually aspire to be a television critic as a young man, or did you stumble upon it to pay the bills? The reason I ask is because your review of our show seemed vindictive for no particular reason, and it naturally led me to assume that you are frustrated about failures outside of your current position." (By the way, the series got canceled.)<
See? Gleeful. TeeVee critics LOATHE TeeVee writers, yet they also yearn to BE them, so you'll see them trailing after the flavor of the month, whether it be Chris Carter, Joss Whedon, Rob Thomas or Tim Kring, desperately trying to be accepted into that inner circle. You know what would be nice? If we drew a line across town. TeeVee critics, y'all stay over there. You write your little stories, and we'll write ours. And nary the twain shall meet.
If you Gentle Readers are skimming the comments, you'll see that pisher is, once again, accusing me of all kinds of strange things. He is primarily thrilled that since his arrival on these shores, I've apparently made him the focus of my blog. Which isn't quite true. I thought his erroneous comparison of The Riches and Death Proof was a really good example of how most people view writing, which is why I commented on it. So here's the thing. I will continue to publish pisher's comments, but replying to each exhaustive comment just so pisher can crow with glee is not why I started this blog. So fear not, Gentle Readers, there will be no more time suckage from pisher. You're posting in a vacuum, my friend. This is my blog. I make the rules.
Erin lamented the cancellation of Gilmore Girls. And indeed, there should be some lament. Gilmore Girls was on for seven years and for much of those seven years, it was consistently one of the best written shows on TeeVee. Most people just go, "Oh, sure, it had all that DIALOGUE." But that's window dressing. What made the show work were the characters, and in spite of the rapid-fire witty banter, the subtlety. Amy Sherman-Palladino is a unique voice on TeeVee. This was borne out when she left at the end of season six. Some of the writers focused too much on the dialogue and not enough on the subtlety of character, the balancing act with Lorelai's parents, for example. And what's really sad about that is, these are writers on the show! And they should know this. But they didn't. This was a simple show made complex because Amy Sherman-Palladino recognizes that relationship issues are fluid and while they can be dampened, they can't be solved as easily as they are on other shows. And this can be boiled down to a perfect example from the show. When Rory dropped out of Yale and moved in with the Gilmores, a furious Lorelai uses a parable about a frog and a scorpion to illustrate why Emily is the way she is. It's a terrific and perfect story, and Lorelai's furious anger comes the next episode after one of the loveliest scenes in the series, when Lorelai goes to her parents for help. There aren't many shows that can succesfully juxtapose the warm, supportive side with its opposite. But here's why that works -- because the characters believe it. When you write an evil character, you don't write him as evil. An evil character is evil because of how he's viewed by other characters, or by society. But he has reasons for what he does. There are a lot of writers who don't get this. Emily Gilmore could be infuriating and surprising from one moment to the next. I will miss the Gilmores greatly.
Veronica Mars also ended up on Cancellation Walk but it didn't get the send-off the Gilmore Girls got. Nope, no closure for Ms. Mars! I do wish that the story they used as a cliffhanger to a now sadly nonexistent season had been the story this year. The show really seemed to lose its sparkle and it's a shame that it had to wind down the way it did.
I'm going to do another post about staffing season, but here's the short version -- it's not like it used to be. People I thought I could count on have disappointed me, and I am no longer interested in giving people the benefit of the doubt. I would say that they know who they are, but they aren't reading the blog. Which will turn out to be a good thing for the next post...