Here’s the way I began this blog in 2008:
“Hello. I’ll use this space to: talk about what I watched last night (strong opinions guaranteed); what I think you shouldn’t miss tonight; and what’s coming up that you should set your DVR for. Absolutely anything is open for dissection, celebration, criticism, and discussion, from an actor’s great performance, to a story-line that’s starting to stink, to championing TV shows both obscure and famous. I watch TV, you watch TV: Let’s share our thoughts and passions, OK?”
Well, a helluva a lot of you certainly did feel free to share your thoughts and passions, and I enjoyed your comments, no matter how enthused or how vehemently you may have disagreed with me, no matter how far off or sarcastic you were about (certain themes cropped up) my sexuality, my politics, the amount of hair on my head and my chinny-chin-chin, and my ability to spell. (On that last, I freely admit: I am terrible in that regard. The editor at my first job once took a look at a first draft of mine and yelled to the newsroom, “How can such a good writer be such a wretched speller!”)
One aspect of TV criticism that has evolved since I began this blog is the way it has opened up a free-flow of ideas and opinions, rendering conversations with readers one long, neverending chat. That chat can be invigorating, revelatory, engrossing. It can also be — why should I smile and lie? — a fresh hell of abusive dismissal rather than what we used to quaintly call civilized discourse.
But the good aspects far outweighed the bad in my case. This site was a place where I could champion shows, no matter how obscure or low-rated or benighted or under-sung, from HBO’s Enlightened to AMC’s Rubicon, to take just two examples.
So, hey, before I scram, here are a few last-minute items you should be sure to watch:
• Watch HBO’s Parade’s End when it premieres Feb. 26. Adapted from the Ford Maddox Ford work by Tom Stoppard, starring Benedict Cumberbatch (young Sherlock does something with his head, making himself chinless, that’s worthy of Raging Bull-DeNiro for transformation) and with an amazing, fearless performance by Rebecca Hall, this production is strikingly shot and very moving.
• Watch two upcoming PBS American Masters entries: Sister Rosetta Tharpe: The Godmother of Rock & Roll (Feb. 22) and Philip Roth: Unmasked (Mar. 29). Both very different documentaries capture the zeal, wit, and underlying pathos of the art created by two revolutionary artists.
• Watch this Sunday’s The Good Wife on CBS. The show seems to have tidied up its let’s-just-forget-about-it Kalinda-and-hubby and is back in full, warm-blooded form, with a superb hour that shows the consequences of Alicia becoming a full partner in the law firm.
• Watch NBC’s Parks and Recreation, will ya? I mean, why can’t broadcast television’s most lovely, idealistic, sylvan sitcom get a larger audience. I was weepy last week when Ben asked Leslie to marry him during the fund-raiser; next week’s hour-long wedding will probably have me borrowing a hanky from Perd Hapley.
• Watch FX’s Justified next Tuesday. “Money Trap” features a story credit by Elmore Leonard, the source of the series, and captures much of his mastery of the laconic and the idiosyncratic. Indeed, one of the best lines comes from a low-life character who says, “I gotta make my entrance idiosyncratic.” Lots of rich, father-son rotted loam in the scenes between Raylan and Arlo. This series is having its best season yet.
I wasn’t just here at Entertainment Weekly at its birth; I was here before it was born, helping to bring this baby to squawking life. (Okay, I’ll drop the birth metaphor now, before I start trying to work in “placenta.”) I was here when we first-gen staffers would call publicists and they’d say, “You’re from where? Entertainment Tonight?”
I wrote reviews for every section of the magazine (yes, even movie reviews). I did some interviews with interesting people, from Bruce Springsteen to David Letterman to Al Green to, yep, Philip Roth (whose books Springsteen had been reading when I went to the latter’s house — circle of life, y’know?). It’s been a gas. In fact, I think Letterman had a bit of gas.
This magazine’s founder, Jeff Jarvis, said in the Mission Statement for EW (yes, I keep a copy) that, “We must be opinionated and we must be talked-about.” I hope and think I’ve done my fair share in helping to achieve those goals for EW over the decades.
Thanks very much for reading this.