Criticism is a sacred profession to me, so I’ve never wanted to contribute to a passion that never called to me. I studied it in college and felt it was way too complex.
The writings of Diderot, Voltaire, Goethe and Aristotle’s The Poetics made my head actually hurt. I loved movies and reading the film critics of the last mid-century like Village Voice’s Andrew Sarris, the New Yorker’s Pauline Kael and even the more plebian Richard Schickel at Time and David Ansen from Newsweek left me in awe by their vast knowledge not just of movies but CRITICISM itself.
It was clear that they had studied the great thinkers of the previous centuries and I had not and at the time was not inclined to do so. So I took the coward’s way out. I became an actor. It was so much easier than being a critic.
But those heady days of the idealism of criticism have been shattered by the internet. With Facebook and Twitter et al, everyone’s a critic. You need to have never studied the Poetics or have any other philosophical foundation. You need not know what the process of making a film or TV show entails. You need not have read other critics from the last century or any century.
You don’t need to have any ability to discern whether or not you have the slightest idea if anything is well made or badly made. You need have no skill other than possibly some keyboard skills but with voice recognition software even that obstacle can be jumped over. You just need a clueless opinion and have the temerity or courage to put it out there. Of course you might be criticized for doing such a thing.
Now I’m going to try my hand at it. A little. The Editor of the Studio City Patch is one of those people I was talking about in the first paragraph. He’s a real critic and a very good one. Mike Szymanski is literate, compassionate and thoughtful. His reviews show his discerning ability to ferret out of this panoply of intellectual property that which we should take a look at and that which we should forget about. I’m going to do the cowardly thing again. I’m going to deal with Broadcast TV shows.
First of all there are very few TV shows I watch as they originally air. Commercials are the main reason. They are truly a major waste of time and perpetuate a culture that I really don’t want to believe exists. Budweiser, Coors, Carl Jr.s. and Pizza ads make men look brazenly stupid as though Rush Limbaugh is their guide to human sexuality. Drug Ads, ED, COPD, Arthritis et al, make me sick. The fact that they air mostly during newscasts just exacerbates that feeling. Bad news followed by warnings about the dangers of Cialis seems to me to be counterintuitive. Thank God for at first the VCR and now the DVR. They make it palpable to endure the images rushing by. But there are a few shows I only watch in real time.
Here is my list of shows I watch in “real time” as they are broadcast.
The Nightly News on NBC
Steelers, Pacers, Angels and Pirates game broadcasts
President Obama giving an interview, press conference or speech
Needless to say I don’t see many Pacers or Pirates games because I refuse to pay extra for them. If they’re not on a network’s broadcast I check the score online. Fortunately the Steelers are very competitive and I see them a lot and I live in Southern California and the Angels games are on every time they play. Notice I don’t include Award Shows. I have been very fortunate to work on many including the Oscars and American Idol. They are VERY exciting to work on but God they are dull to watch on TV. Just get to the freaking winners already!!!
That being said I think that Live TV and is the only time when TV is its own art form. Otherwise when it is not live, it is a transitional medium using the same language of image as movies do. Sadly live TV has been dumbed down with ridiculously long commercial pods on innumerable Cable News and Sports shows. I miss those days of Watergate hearings. It really was exciting and nobody broke in and explained it to you. CSPAN is often very captivating. Unless it’s their talk show when they have people call in and “contribute” their opinions and questions. Hey I’m criticizing.
Here is the list of shows that if I didn’t catch an episode, I would be sad. I time shift a lot.
Sunday – 60 Minutes, The Simpsons, Once Upon a Time and The Good Wife
Monday – How I Met Your Mother and Castle
Tuesday – NCIS*, Glee and New Girl
Wednesday – Modern Family and Law and Order SVU
Thursday – Community, 30 Rock, The Office, Person of Interest and The Mentalist
Friday – Grimm, Fringe and Blue Bloods
Saturday – I watch all the shows I recorded.
I also watch the mini-seasons of the following series:
I would encourage you to give these shows a look. They are all terrific in their own way and some are just downright brilliant. The Brilliant ones I’ll highlight and critique next time. Let me know if you agree or disagree.
*I often watch this as it is broadcast.