Monday, July 29, 2013

"It's Embarrassing": Putting A Cap On The Kaelses & Sarrises Question

"So, kids: which one of you is gonna blog about this?"

Brett Martin's book has elicited a number of “Ready, aye, ready!” responses from paid critics. My desire to add to the fray has dropped correspondingly, so I'll post some links to well-written pieces, then conclude with my own clipped, but assuredly super-deep, thoughts on the matter:

We can all agree The Sopranos was “great television”: so why isn't that other HBO series from the same decade similarly lauded? Emily Nussbaum posits that critical neglect of Sex & The City is all due to “a misunderstanding stemming from an unexamined hierarchy.”

Hmm. Maybe, maybe not. To my mind Nussbaum too briefly comments on one critical aspect to viewer appraisal: the deleterious effect a bad episode — never mind a run of bad episodes — can have on the entire enterprise. Jerry Seinfeld understood (and adroitly dodged) this phenomenon, and sums it up best: “A small amount of too much spoils the whole thing.”

But getting back to the business of “unexamined hierarchies,” some gamers (who dearly love the art-form) want to know: “Where's Gaming's Roger Ebert?” John Teti (who also loves the art-form) has an answer: “Gaming's Roger Ebert is never going to show up. And it doesn't matter.” Teti's observations are smart, snappy, irreverent, fabulously wide-ranging and (I think) spot-on. Bottom line? “Enough with the 'When are we going to have a ____ of the games?' horseshit. It's embarrassing.”

Indeed. Look, I understand why writing something for pro publication is a different beast from the on-line racket. If you think you're up for it, or even wonder about it, go ahead and do it. But if you're a reader wondering when it's finally going to show up on your shelf, odds are you're already missing the best there is. Last year, when I finally got around to viewing Carnivale I tucked into Todd VanDerWerff's frame-by-frame analysis of the individual episodes. Man, Kael and Ebert have nothing on that dude, and frankly, it's not a feat either of them could have managed without the internet.

Looking for more? There's always (!) Ian Grey's adulation of the under-appreciated Star Trek: Voyager. Or, for a sense of time and place, and the tectonic consciousness upheaval that a perfectly executed television episode can trigger, check out A-J Aronstein's (porridge titled, but otherwise killer piece) 'All In The Family' And The First Gay Sit-com Character. Aronstein is clearly a sharp cat: no doubt he's got other essays he could put between hard-covers. I'm happier reading it on-line, frankly, where I can check the video clips.

I'm with Teti: forget the Kaelses and Sarrises. I've already got too many hardcover books. And if the internet ever craps out, I won't be reaching for criticism anyway.


Joel said...

My own opinion is that we're living in the golden age of TV criticism. The fact that it's all on the Internet, and none in actual books, is not unique to TV criticism. Across a large number of subjects, the vast majority of discussion is taking place on the Internet today.
The folks at the avclub are doing a great job. Whenever I watch DVDs of any shows, it's always fun to go afterwards and compare their thoughts to mine. And 10 years ago none of that episode by episode commentary would have been available. And for my money, they're actually doing really intelligent write-ups over at the AVclub. And that's just one of the many sites doing TV criticism.

As you hinted in your post, it's not clear if all the cultural commentary on the Internet will survive to future generations as well as paper books, but assuming for the sake of argument that much of this survives, I think it will make interesting reading for future generations.

Darrell Reimer said...

I could have been clearer in my enthusiasm: I think TV and the Internet are in a swooning honeymoon phase. Right now it is as good as it gets, TV crit wise. And you're right: the AV Club is at the head of the pack.