Wednesday, December 17, 2008

SWF Seeks Decent TV Recap Site

I wrote a blog a while ago regarding the demise of the Television Without Pity website. The nice thing is that people are reading it and people are agreeing with me.

Lately, I've had some downtime at work and have been reading old recaps. I've tried to read the new ones but I'm finding them increasingly sloppy and dull. I'm disappointed in the writers I used to enjoy. M. Giant, for example, has been assigned to The Office. This should be a good thing but, unfortunately, he seems a little bored by the show. I've enjoyed his recaps of 24 and Six Feet Under in the past and he's funny. He always had just the right amount of snark to be witty but not enough to seem cruel. However, his recaps of The Office are, frankly, boring. I'm disappointed. One of my favourite things to do at work when I have a break is read about my TV shows. Entertainment Weekly has a pretty decent TV Watch column that recaps shows but like TWOP, it's hit and miss. Their Office recaps leave a lot to be desired, mixing up cutesy with entertaining. The writer, Whitney Pastorak likes to refer to readers with annoying terms like Binder Clips. That gets old really quickly. Also, Whitney also doesn't always seem to watch the same show as the rest of us and her recaps often miss the funniest moments of the episode as well as not finding it funny when it is.

So, I turn to TWOP for a recap instead. Unfortunately, lately, it's a little like reading a synopsis of the show with none of the witty snark I once loved about this site. Yes, I want to know what happened on the episode but I've previously relied on the recap writers to laugh about or be annoyed about the show with us. Where's the clever humour that we used to get?

Speaking of Television About Pity, I think it's time for Jacob to get a better editor. I don't watch Ugly Betty regularly but I like to follow it if I miss it anyway. It's a cute show. Entertainment Weekly has stopped including the show on their TV Watch. I missed an episode and thought I'd turn to TWOP for their recaplet, just to see what I'd missed. I didn't want the full recap, I just wanted to know, in a nutshell, what had happened. Unfortunately, it lead to this recaplet (you might have to click on the URL at the top of the page to get the recaplet in a nutshell to which I'm referring). I've never been a fan of Jacob's recaps, I think he waffles and has pretentions that he's writing great literature. However, he used to be a little better edited so that his soapbox speeches and monologues about being gay weren't so blatant. We get it, Jacob. You're gay. You're proud. How exciting for you. Could we now have a recap in which we don't have to read about it AND in which we can actually understand what you're saying about the show? You want to grandstand, do it on your own blog. Let us read a recap of a TV show on Television Without Pity, ok?

Yes, I'm a little bitter. As I mentioned in my original post, I used to want to write for this show. Part of the reason I thought about doing a TV blog in the first place was to give back from the days I'd loved TWOP. Yet I don't want to copy them or do recaps of my own because it was once an original idea and I don't like to steal ideas like that.

I think my biggest problem with TWOP is that they don't always replace recappers when it's time. Occasionally, a recapper gets burned out and it shows in their writing. The recapper still stays on a show but the readers become subject to venomous and hate-filled posts about a show that really isn't that bad. As I pointed out before, there's a fine line between snark and bitterness. This reluctance to replace recappers has been going on even prior to Bravo's buyout of the site.

The best example is the former recapper known as Pamie. She was a recapper for Gilmore Girls. I've been reading past recaps since I'm rewatching the show and I have to say, she went from being funny to just being tiresome. In the beginning, she loved the show and her recaps were fresh, funny and well-observed. Somewhere around the third or fourth season, her love turned to hate and we readers were subjected to recaps in which she complained she was bored. These recaps became filled with important details from Pamie's life such as what was in her handbag, what music she was putting on her iPod and the inane and dull details of her upcoming wedding. She would give us this information under the guise that the show was too boring to recap.

The thing is like every job, if you hate it that much then leave. Seriously. The culmination of Pamie's loathing came during a recap for a Gilmore Girls episode in which she bitterly informed readers that she'd received a lot of emails that irritated her, that complained about her recaps. She even posted a couple of the emails which, for the most part, were dead-on in their accuracy and were polite and extremely kind. Unfortunately, rather than face the truth about her writing, Pamie launched into a recap that she wrote in two parts- her own embittered, dull and cruel writing and the voice of Stac(e)y, a fictional fangirl who adored the show. The problem was that Stac(e)y was an insult to all of the readers: She spoke in fangirl talk, using acronyms, exclamation points, and text speak. She gushed about the show and provided a thinly veiled cover for Pamie's own bitterness. It was insulting to the readers and rather than provide a snarky and clever retort as I think Pamie intended, it made her look ridiculous and proved that she could not take criticism. She finally 'left' her job a couple of recaps later under the pretense that she was too busy. My opinion is that the editors FINALLY realized it was time for her to move on. They were a little late; Pamie's moderate success as a novelist and screenwriter had allowed her ego to grow to the point where I think they couldn't control her. I could be wrong but read the recaps and you'll see what I mean.

Yet this inability to take criticism is echoed throughout the site, from Jacob's recaps to the forums. For a site that takes pride in mocking the work of other writers and loves the freedom of speech, the forums certainly don't reflect that. Forum posters are strictly bound to rules they must follow in order to be 'permitted' to participate. They can't insult or mock the writers because otherwise they'll be banned. The forums are so heavily moderated that it is impossible to have a good discussion about a show anymore.

I know I said most of this before in my earlier post but I've had a lot of supportive emails from people who've found me and agree with me. While I think the Bravo takeover drained the soul from the site completely, I think it was already in a decline before. The Bravo buyout hasn't done them any favours, it's a mishmash of videos and blogs that are hard to get through. They recently completely irritated me by listing "Love Actually" as one of their worst Christmas movies. "Love Actually" is fantastic. It's funny, poignant and brilliantly poignant. The ensemble cast is smooth and the moment where Andrew Lincoln's character holds the posters up for Kiera Knightly's character to tell her he loves her is one of the sweetiest non-sappy moments in any romantic comedy.

This post is really not to serve any purpose but to rant about the lack of decent TV recaps on the web anymore. If anyone has another site to point me to, I'd greatly appreciate it. I really want to break up with Television Without Pity because it just doesn't fill my compulsion to follow up on my TV shows anymore. I know TV is a vice but it's a vice I love. I love to talk about it, read about it and learn about it. I used to love to read the recaps but that love is fading fast and I don't want to lose it completely.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to comment or complain; I promise not to be passive-agressive and write a post mocking you for it.

1 comment:

  1. Word. There's always been a fringe group that's dissatisfied with TWoP's heavy moderation (which on it's surface I like much of), but I've been feeling a bit targeted by a few mods lately and I was starting to think I was the only one. I mean I've received my well deserved warns before but one mod in particular is running amok with posts that would get them banned were they a regular user.

    I don't even have the heart to look at the front page; it's so ugly now and none of those videos are ever updated.