Sunday, August 26, 2012

TV CRITICS. Perspective on who we are, what we do, what we're not and why writing about television is not personal.

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If you write about television as a TV critic or a journalist covering television or a TV writer in South Africa, I want to implore you to watch this fascinating panel discussion between America's top-tier TV critics which I've watched this weekend.

If you work in television in South Africa, I would implore you even more to watch this if you want to learn, grow, grow in your understanding of how and why TV critics and journalists act they way they do, and get more insight into how TV critics think and operate.

The panel discussion is 1:30:00 but I can absolutely assure you that if you're a TV critic, or love television, or work in television, that it's absolutely worth watching and worth your time.

ALSO READ: The TV critic's role - A perspective on what the TV critic, writer an journalist covering television is trying to do - and what they're not.

Cynthia Littleton, the deupty editor of Variety in America was the moderator of a panel discussion about television and the new upcoming TV season in America.

On the panel was Robert Bianco, TV critic for USA Today, Tim Goodman, chief television critic for The Hollywood Reporter, Brian Lowry, chief television critic for Variety and Matt Roush, senior TV critic for TV Guide magazine.

The whole hour and a half is great. At 1:15:00 when they talk about their relationship with people in the TV industry - do they have friends, how do TV channels and executives behave towards them - I just rolled my eyes and thought ... exactly true of South Africa as well.

"It's not personal," said Brian Lowry about TV people who are extremely oversensitive within the industry and freak out about stories and reviews. "I heard from someone recently who said "I thought you hated me'. And I said "No, I hated that show. I now like this show. People tend to internalise and think you're writing about them. Meanwhile you're writing about their work."

"I've known that for a long time Steven Levitan thought that I didn't like his shows or didn't like him. I didn't like a lot of the shows. Now Modern Family I think is the best comedy of the decade. It doesn't matter to us who you are. We're not your friends. We're not socializing with you. And one thing about not being [based in Hollywood is] that we're not your industry. We're our industry. We are our own separate industry and we're writing about you. And we're writing about the work you do."

"Once I was hard on somebody's work and the person's agent called and said "What do you have against my client? What is your problem?' And I said 'It's television. I'm judging the work. It isn't working for me. And next time, it might be better.' And actually, you know what, it got a lot better," said Matt Roush, senior critic for TV Guide magazine.

Tim Goodman, the chief TV critic for The Hollywood Reporter said "I try not to be friends with anybody". "There's very few people I've become friends with, but those ones; they can take it. The same with network executives. I've only had one person really take things really personally. I think that most of them know that its a business. That if you don't like their show that it doesn't mean that you don't like them - or their network. And you just hope that they do better work next time."

"This is my 26th year," said Robert Bianco, television critic for USA Today. "And if I stop today, there may be 5 people who would take my phone call. You try not to turn it into a personal relationship. But the truth is in most cases, they're not interested in turning it into a personal relationship. A lot of people I think make the mistake of thinking that, 'Oh we're all such good friends.' And then you don't have the job and then you're not good friends."