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R.I.P., Variety TV Critic Tony Scott: 1923-2009

This is my second tour at Variety, and when I started here in 1987 the newsroom was filled with a bunch of crusty old characters, including TV editor Dave Kaufman, film reporter Will Tusher and editor Tom Pryor. Each taught me plenty, from Pryor conveying the importance of getting facts straight — and promptly correcting our screw-ups — to Kaufman counseling me about which sources to trust (and proving that it’s possible to write a banner story after five or six cocktails) to Tusher demonstrating that it’s important to know when to cut a speech short.

No one was more courtly or consistently pleasant, though, than Tony Scott, the paper’s television critic, who died Tuesday at the age of 85. Here’s his full obituary.

 Tony wrote under the abbreviation “Tone.,” back when all Variety reviewers used those sigs as opposed to full bylines. My understanding of the history was that reviews had originally run without bylines — it was supposed to be the paper speaking — but after a few reporters had run-ins with sources who were miffed about reviews, it was decided that some way of identifying the culprit was necessary. (I went by “Bril.,” by the way, since “Blow.” or “Lowr.” seemed fraught with peril.)

Everyone pitched in on reviewing television, but Tony was the principal TV critic, and a wonderfully breezy and economical writer. He could also be delightfully sharp in his critiques, which was always slightly surprising given how genial he was in person.

Tony retired in 1997, a year after I left Variety for the Los Angeles Times, so I wasn’t here for his farewell then. Consider this small tribute my attempt to give him the proper sendoff now.

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