Television. For many critics, it is a somewhat useless medium. I could not agree less. True, it is not classical art or theatre. But while television might not be “art” in the traditional sense, what it exudes is much more compelling and more important to today’s world than classical art.
Here’s why: everyone watches television. Some follow specific shows, some watch the news, some watch documentaries. Either way, television plays a huge role in our lives as a medium to receive messages and information, whether we know it or not.
This is why, even if critics do not see television as a worthwhile medium to review and critique, we must have television critics. Too many people rely and depend on television (me included of course). We as viewers have something to lose. It is the critic’s job to take television programs and look at them as they would movies or musical theatre.
Everyone watches TV; it’s just as important of a medium.
The messages that shows like 30 Rock or The Bachelor send us as viewers become part of our lives - more than most people would admit. There are litrally thousands of people who look up to Leslie Knope on Parks and Recreation (see what I did there guys?) - she’s the kick-ass girlie girl in all of us. Liz Lemon, as well, has become idolized for many - she is the nerd in all of us, and we love her for it. These characters hold so much meaning for all of us.
So it becomes a critic’s job to sort out the trash from the good. Not, as H.L Mencken would argue, to demolish the bad, but to simply act as a guide for the public. A TV critic should look at TV and point the audience towards shows of value, shows that make us feel good, shows that make us laugh. We then can find our own value in each show.
Of course everyone has different taste, so there must be many critics. But what I want to read when I read a television critique is how well the characters played out in the plot, what made them tick, how well the plot was paced, and how the show made you feel overall - things like that. I want to hear about your likes and dislikes, why you felt that way, what the script did to help or hurt the episode, and what we learned. I want to know about the experience of watching TV, so I can find a critic with a similar experience and read about how he reacted, evaluated, and analysed television.
Critics of course may say this is not criticism. To that, I say, you are right. It is not Edgar Allan Poe writing about Hemingway or Edwin Denby on dance. What TV needs is not a Poe of TV - it needs a TV critic of TV.
Criticism will change for the medium it critiques. For criticism itself not to die out, it cannot bore the reader half to death. We need a Kael of modern TV, looking at TV in a way that is fun, engaging, and entertaining for the reader. Few people today will read a Poe of TV or take him seriously less he make it more entertaining and less elitist. We need someone who will translate his knowledge for us. We need someone who watches enough TV now to know what is good and what is bad. Once he knows what is bad, he shouldn’t trash it (we all know guilty pleasures exist, so let people have their guilty pleasures and don’t hate them for it!). No, instead, he should point people in what he believes is the right direction.
Being a TV critic is less about adhering to past rules than making up your own and making them work. Of course there should be a standard - I’m not saying there should not be a standard - but now we need someone fun to read with good analysis and interesting writing. TV might have been around for a long time, but modern TV critics will have to pave their own way through the dust and remains. Go forth, young critics of today, and write something worth reading.
# tv # television # television review # tv review # television blog # popular culture # pop culture # criticism # edwin denby # 30 rock # Parks and Recreation # tina fey # leslie knope # Amy Poehler # Liz Lemon # henry james # critics # critic # critique # tv critique # tv critic # edgar allan poe # On Criticism