Tuesday, December 02, 2008


I had a very interesting lunch with a TV critic the other day. Let's call him Ethan. He was someone who panned Sons of Anarchy when it premiered and I shot back with an angry, loaded blog. After that tit for tat, we struck up an uneasy email exchange and wagered on the outcome of the presidential election. I won the bet, Ethan offered to buy me lunch. Knowing the sad state of journalism, and feeling a little remorseful for my big reaction, I covered the meal. Truth is, as I suspected, Ethan's a decent guy with a thankless job (that's easier to say now that the sting of his review has worn off and our show has become a critical and ratings success). We had a great lunch; the conversation flowed freely and without rancor. We discussed the state of television, the difference between pay and ad-supported TV, shows we like, shows we hated. I learned a lot. Ethan discussed the limitations of judging pilots. And how difficult it is when critics only receive the premier episode of a show. More often than not, a series is still finding itself in the pilot and the first few episodes. He admitted there were many shows he initially panned that he now loves. He also said that the reason his reviews of HBO shows are often more favorable is because HBO sends out at least six episodes, sometimes the whole season. It's easier and more effective writing a review when you have more content to judge. I was reluctant about our meeting, but it turned out to be an eye-opening experience. I got to slip inside the critic's skin for a moment and realize something that logically I already knew, but somehow attaching a person to the column, it became so clear to me -- Ethan is just a guy with an opinion. A smart, well-informed guy, but still his reviews are not scientific, they are not fact. They are subject to his experience, his dysfunction, his point of view and his taste. We dressed differently, ordered different meals, and drove different cars. We like different things. Soap, shoes, television. One man's bar of Ivory Soap is another man's Arcona Green Toner Tea Bar. Even though I feel good about our lunch, I'm not expecting a positive review from Ethan next season. I just don't think SOA is a show that will ever appeal to him. But at least, or I would hope, that when I read it, I'll have more insight into his process and I won't want to hurt him. At the end of the day, that's pretty much all I can ask for.


Dan said...

And as a fan, It's even cooler to hear the creator of a show humble himself to his viewers, and offer respect to his negative critics, well done :)

SoA is brilliant Kurt, great job on both

a) Creating such a unique and ...well just freaking AWESOME show


b) Being strong enough to be someone who WILL stick his neck out and create something risky, and not the mindless repetitive drivel that floods the scene :D


Chuck said...

I usually find that the more the critics dislike something the more I end up liking it. What is there to dislike about this show from a critical standpoint? The acting is first rate, the stories are interesting and different, the situations are unlike anything else on TV yet still very realistic. Maybe the critics don't like bikers. Well bikers probably don't like them much either.

I love the show.

Justin said...

" Knowing the sad state of journalism..."

Hah. Some of my friends and I in the newsroom feel like we're re-arrainging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

You can buy me lunch anytime.

Kaz_NEETS said...

Kurt, you are such a good influence.

Your honesty and willingness to admit your weaknesses along with your strengths are a breath of fresh air.

Interesting about the critic's life and scenario.

I am very happy I stuck with Sons after three episodes. The SoA characters exploded as of the fourth episode. In retrospect, it was quite rewarding to see how slowly and deliberately the writers paced those first three episodes.

So I agree with Dan O'Keefe's post and commend you on creating television worth staying home for.

alohalani said...

It's always good to view things through someone elses eyes for a while. I'm glad you had the experience so you won't stress so much about the critics. It's the viewers that really matter anyway.

SoA really isn't everyone's cup of tea. When I first saw the advertisements for the show I had no desire to see it, then I found out Ron Perlman was in it and I had to at least give it a try. The first two or three episodes I was a bit taken aback by some of the language and actions. However, once I got over that, I really loved the show. I couldn't wait for Wednesdays, I taped every episode and watched them numerous times, I even started getting really nervous with the last couple of episodes. It took me over an hour to recover from Donna's murder!

I keep trying to get my friends and family into it but unfortunately they really just aren't into these kinds of shows. My brother-in-law has promised to give it a try now that The Shield is over and I'm hoping to get him hooked before the second season. It'll be nice to have someone to discuss the show with.

Thank you so much for SoA! Keep up the great work and we'll keep coming back for more.

Outsider said...

Oh godfrey Daniel ...Rapprochement is a bitch served cold sliced and diced like carpaccio slized beef draped on a plate....but...and but me no butts or buttes in high desert meth country...barstow below lodi....when you're flush with can dine with thine enemaeez....And it ain't no nevah mind...

Now plz excooze me whilst I kiss the sky