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Mark Burnett’s Tired Take on TV Critics

Mark Burnett — hardly a wallflower in the best of times — no doubt feels like the king of the world right now. Aside from his reality TV success on multiple fronts — with “The Voice” and “Shark Tank” emerging as “Survivor” and “The Apprentice” somewhat fade — he and wife Roma Downey produced “The Bible,” which, predictably, has become a mega-hit for History.

Still, Burnett’s victory lap included an interview to be televised this weekend on “CBS Sunday Morning,” in which the producer offered this response to the mostly negative reviews that “The Bible” received:

“Listen, if the critics were so good, they’d be making TV themselves, wouldn’t they?” Burnett said. “So, I mean, listen, the numbers speak. I don’t even pay attention to anything like that.”

Burnett is absolutely right in saying the numbers speak, and it’s perfectly fair to downplay the importance of critics in terms of commercial success. Plenty of TV shows and movies that critics pan are embraced by the public, and critics tend to have an appetite for prestige fare that often doesn’t do particularly well from a boxoffice or ratings standpoint.

The “if the critics were so good, they’d be making TV themselves” argument, however, is simply beneath him — a tired, simple-minded response to a legitimate difference of opinion. Just as not every sportswriter wants to be point guard or quarterback, not every TV or movie critic wants to be Steven Spielberg.

I suspect Burnett knows as much, but his ego apparently won’t let him believe somebody doesn’t like his work. So he has to seek to drag out the whole “Those who can’t do, teach” line of attack. To say I’ve heard it before would be the height of understatement, and usually when someone insists they “don’t pay attention,” you’re well advised to believe the opposite.

Burnett deserves all the credit for helping reinvent the modern TV business and now branching out beyond reality by making this passion project a reality of its own.

Even so, in his attempt to invoke schoolyard taunts to slap back at critics, the guy who produced “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?” simply winds up sounding like one.

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