Tuesday, December 02, 2008
SOAP, SHOES, TELEVISON
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.
Posted by Kurt Sutter at 12/02/2008 11:10:00 PM