Friday, August 04, 2006

Bitching About TV Critics

Okay, now I'm just being a nudge, but how can a former editor of TV Guide and the current top TV person at a major paper like Toronto's Globe & Mail be so clueless? No two people will ever agree on everything. So my instinct is to let it slide when an online chat with readers prompts Andrew Ryan to say something I disagree with. And yet....

First Ryan says he's not certain if the annual TV Critics convention has any significant impact on a network's long range plans. I'd go out on a limb and just say no. It's merely a big press conference and sure sniping over a particular move can prompt a network to reconsider something. But the TCA is just one blip in the never-ending cycle of info networks draw upon like ratings and reviews and advertisers and Emmys that influence what they do. Nothing a TV journalist says at the TCA carries any more weight than it would if they were just saying the same thing from their hometown. But nothing carries less weight either.

Then Ryan says networks are more likely today to copy each other. Really? You mean, like more than the 50s and early 60s when virtually 3/4s of prime time was littered with Westerns? You mean more than the early 90s when Friends launched a tidal wave of copycats? Every hit ever made has inspired imitations from the dawn of TV to today. Then he calls "The Wire" (a show he really likes) "harsh, often unpleasant." No great TV is unpleasant -- nothing is more satisfying and enjoyable than a well-made show. Only BAD shows are harsh and unpleasant.

But the final comment that really pushed me over the edge was when a fan asked if there was any chance of networks expanding how they distribute TV shows -- like making more of them available for legal download. Ryan, who must be living on Mars, says, "There's not much chance of that happening, at least not in the near future. The reason: Networks can't control it. Episodes of shows like 24 or Lost are already on the Internet moments after they air, which no doubt infuriates networks."

Huh? The fact that shows are available illegally is a major reason why networks SHOULD make them available legally. And it's happening by leaps and bounds. Hardly a day has gone by in the past six months without news of some network or cable channel making their shows available in countless new ways: they're selling them on iTunes, they're streaming them on the networks' websites with commercials added and on and on and on. Heck, now even failed TV pilots like "Aquaman" are being sold on ITunes. How could Ryan not know this?

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