Monday, February 12, 2007

Five down, forty-seven to go.

Television Without Pity:
752 Things We Love to Hate (and Hate to Love) About TV
by Tara Ariano and Sarah D. Bunting


This book was a chore.

After about fifty pages I came to the stunning realization that almost all television critics* now write in the same hyper style that's a mixture of schoolyard cattiness crossed with ├╝ber-pop culture savvy. And you know what? It gets tiring. The little jokes are funny the first dozen or so times, but over 752 subjects they get less and less funny.

The book is a spin-off of the author's own successful Television Without Pity website, and is obviously a distillation of the snark authors Tara Ariano and Sarah Bunting distribute via that forum to an adoring audience. So that explains the short attention span-friendly entries and the habit the authors have of dishing out their judgments without much reasoning beyond repeating "haaaaaaate!" or "shut up!" as a form of criticism. I mean, that's not criticism and it only serves to propagate the myth that if you're adept at cleverly turning a phrase or can write with enough sass then your points can be taken as valid media criticism.**

Television Without Pity
also makes an argument against mining popular websites for printed material since it really emphasizes why some things work best in small chunks, devoured in four-minute increments during one coffee-break. What is also makes an argument against, unfortunately, is the validity of most online criticism since I decided to check out the site in conjunction with the book in hopes of finding something more worthy in the author's vaunted show recaps. I guess I was thinking that a distillation of snark (i.e. the printed book) can at times lose the charm of the original source material (i.e. the website) but I found this to sadly not be the case.

The only upswing? The book did bring back some fond memories of Melrose Place, so I guess it has that going for it.

*And yes, I mean for MSM critics to be included in this observation as well. Maybe it's because the medium provokes one to write about visual images as "comfort food" or to include one's personal feelings vis-a-vis being slighted on the playground by the popular clique in eight grade, but I can assure you one can write about television without falling back on those tropes that seem to have invaded and established themselves as valid points of reference when discussing television. Let me state here that while I don't mind reading things viewed through those filters on a personal blog, I don't think they have any place in newspapers, magazines, or media websites. It just comes off as lazy and self-indulgent.

**One of the primary arguments I have heard for this viewpoint has been that television critics of today are only reacting to the medium about which they are writing. And they are writing for an audience that not only cares about such things but would prefer it's delivered in funny little chunks and nuggets. To that I saw, fair enough. But don't call it criticism and don't pretend your writing is really meaningful beyond simple entertainment. Also, call that writing what it is, commentary, and leave criticism out of this.

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On the media, super quick, Grammy edition.

  • After seeing The Police run rings around "Roxanne" last night, even Photogal is psyched about their (not yet officially announced) reunion tour.

  • Um, The Dixie Chicks were the big winners of the night? What?

  • OKGo? Ok, NO! Those outfits ...

  • Hey Tony Bennet, next time how about not leaving your blind, co-winner behind, you Target-shilling dick.

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On the media, super quick, wherein the media are assholes.

Okay this last one isn't about the Grammys, it's about a horrific car accident in the Chicago area this weekend, and a move by the press I just can't get off my mind. We were watching the news yesterday and they were interviewing the father of one of the girls who was just killed and I hit me: Who the fuck would want to talk to the media hours after their daughter's death? I'm not judging, but I sure as hell know that I wouldn't be letting a team of reporters into my kitchen to share my thoughts with them.

I guess I'm used to seeing neighbors, and "aunts" and folks like that who seem eager to track down the media and get some air time, but this one stunned me. Personally, I blame the media. There is no way any parent can be thinking clearly through that sort of grief, and I think it's the media's responsibility to not take advantage of people like that for the mere sake of an "exclusive."

Fuckers, leave the poor man alone.

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