Most critics spend part of December assembling best and worst lists from the year that was, taking inventory of those viewing hours that rewarded them and the ones they will never, ever get back. But why dwell on the past?
Regarding shows we’ve slighted and those which creatively slighted us, as they used to say on “Ally McBeal,” “Bygones.” So instead of rehashing what transpired on TV and elsewhere in 2006, here’s a look forward to that which we could really do without going forward, in the hopes of a happier 2007.
- Demands for “The View’s” Rosie O’Donnell to apologize. Let’s just assume she’s sorry and move on.
- Race-baiting and social engineering in reality TV. Love or hate “Survivor,” it’s a piss-poor venue to pit whites against Asians against Hispanics against African-Americans. Let’s leave that kind of divisiveness to political conventions and cable news.
- Quotes from Robert Thompson, the Syracuse U. professor who doubles as director of the important-sounding Center for the Study of Popular Television and is available for sound bites on, well, just about anything.
It’s often hard to find knowledgeable experts to weigh in on short notice about Miss USA going into rehab or O.J. (again), but as CanWest News Service noted, the ubiquitous Thompson amassed 60 media quotes in June alone. There have to be communications profs out there sitting by the phone like the Maytag repairman, waiting for Thompson to take a breather.
- Emails from publicists that begin, “Dear colleague.” Granted, the flack-hack relationship is a symbiotic one, but we’re not all working toward the same goal in the way that greeting implies. You’re trying to get us to write about stuff (nicely), and 97% of the time we’re trying to get you to go away.
- Articles and analysis that seek to project five or 10 years into TV’s future. At the rapid pace things are evolving, crystal balls get fuzzy about 12 months out and become virtually useless much beyond that.
- Reality shows starring people who have long been out of the limelight and are willing to do anything to claw back into it.
- Movie ads featuring a rhapsodic Larry King. Seriously, if that’s the most prestigious “critic” you can reference, just call it a “crowd-pleaser” and cut your losses.
- Another 27 improvisational sitcoms. Honestly, planning ahead and writing jokes down at least has the potential to be funnier, recent evidence to the contrary notwithstanding.
- News programs that traffic in cheap scares aimed at parents. Although it’s hard to get attention these days, alarmist “children in peril” tactics represent TV news at its lowest.
- Sportscasters who act as if they’re providing play-by-play for the D-Day invasion. Mellow out, guys, especially when you’re calling Akron vs. Appalachian St.
- More “Lost” clones. Please, try copying something else for awhile.
- Limited series masquerading as open-ended dramas. Know when to fold ’em.
- Speaking of knowing when to fold ’em, enough with the poker shows. If aliens receiving current TV transmissions arrive in the next few years, odds are they’ll say, “Take us to your dealer.”
- Gameshows that don’t require any knowledge or skill, allowing contestants to flee with piles of cash even if they have the IQ of a fire hydrant.
On a closing note, it’s only fair to confess that critics don’t always get it right and seldom take advantage of the opportunity to go back and update a review, publicly copping to errors in judgment. So in the spirit of renewal, I’d like to amend my initial reaction to Showtime’s “Dexter” and NBC’s “Friday Night Lights.” Although I pegged the latter as a tough sell ratings-wise, the creative misgivings expressed turned out to be unfounded, and both have gradually blossomed to rank among TV’s best programs.
I sit corrected and hope to do better next year. And as noted above, here’s a little prayer that some of those on the other side of the ball do better, too.