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TV That Matters: Writing revamp

By John Thomas Columnist


This may be due to the fact that I’m just starting out with this whole television critic gig, but I think last summer was a pretty fantastic season of television. Whether or not I wanted one last glimpse of the world through the eyes of a naïve but blissful couch potato, with fantastic new episodes of returning comedies from “Comedy Bang Bang,” “Gravity Falls,” and “Futurama” to new sensations like “Orange Is the New Black,” “Inside Amy Schumer,” and this secret-service-agents private-detectives show that my mom made me watch which wasn’t the worst thing ever—I was more than satisfied wasting away my summer on that couch.

I can’t help but notice that all of these programs, save for my time spent with TNT (“King & Maxwell”), are niche comedies. These shows are designed to have a dedicated fan base at their core made up of comedy nerds and the like. While nothing survives on TV or Netflix without ratings, my comedies of choice this summer were never going to have the bonkers numbers of a Tyler Perry joint on TBS. I would be lying if I said that the ‘in the know’ feel that accompanies each of these programs was not part of their allure for me. I’d go as far as to wager that that quality was what drew me to certain shows like “Comedy Bang Bang” in the first place. This is the kind of stuff that no one would classify as broad comedy.

Yet, as I’ve been thinking about what I would want to do with this column, I’ve realized that such a mindset won’t be doing you any favors since my predilection towards narrow programming obviously hinders my critical scope. If I only review what’s already critically successful, save for a few breaks in which I throw a few barbs at “The Big Bang Theory” and its ilk, I’m doing you an injustice. See, I don’t want to tell you what’s good on television according to some sort of ideal of what television should be. No, I want to tell you what’s good on television based on the television programs’ own merits, with a critical eye based in a broader narrative and social context.

As such, I’ve decided to structure this column a little differently than in years past. My top review will be of the top-rated drama or comedy show of the previous week, alternating genres each week. My second review will be of a program of my choosing, but I will never pick the same program twice in one semester.

By doing reviews of two shows from the Big Four networks’ broadcasting slates, one comedy and one drama, this will give me an opportunity to write not only about the shows themselves but also about the broader strategies they represent, and to forecast new and returning programs on their respective networks.

My last addition to this column will be to incorporate the comments and thoughts you send to me, via the Arts & Entertainment section email, into my reviews. I am more than excited to try out this new format, and I hope that you’ll try it out with me for a few weeks to see if it works for you, my fans. Thanks for reading, here’s to a great year.


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