It’s often that I agree with other critics, and the always reliable Matt Zoller Seitz is no exception – as he proves with his newest piece in defense of the television recap.
As someone who does both post-show recaps and more concise overnight reviews, I found this essay both interesting and easy to relate to. I am a freelance writer. One day, I hope to be able to get paid to do this on a larger scale. But right now, I do what I do because I love writing, I love television, and I love the shows I write for. I make it a point to learn from each review I write/read and put the time into constructing – it’s why I’m so hard on myself, aside from those pesky perfectionist traits. Theoretically, it would be easy for me to bang out a passable 200 word piece and post it with the caveat of “well, no one’s going to read this thing, anyway.” But I stress and worry and read and re-read and re-watch and put my best foot forward in whatever writing I do, because I want to be good at this, and I like to think that at least one person out there is looking at my work and thinking that it’s worth something. Because, let’s face it, there are a lot of people on the Internet.
And then there’s the constant tug-of-war I have with the leeway given in terms of opinions, and how to accurately judge a show that you write about weekly. I try to be fair and constructive when I write – if I don’t absolutely love it, the reception will be more lukewarm. I’ll express disinterest, but rarely will you see me openly hate on an episode or guest star or plotline. Maybe that’s not normal. Maybe I’m doing a disservice to the program I love by not openly expressing my hate/annoyance every time something happens that I don’t agree with (as much as I love Fringe with all my heart, I am very glad to not be writing about it this season.) Every opinion counts, and mine is no different than another critic, random television viewer or blogger – so why should it not be heard? But again, there’s a fine line between critiquing a show smartly, and making the words insulting.
Since I do write both ways, I make a conscious effort to be different in my styles. That’s why my recaps are often exactly that – recaps – with a few personal anecdotes thrown in, while my reviews are often more generalized, a mix of recap and review where (depending on the show and its nature) I theorize, talk in depth about acting choices, and analyze plotlines in a bigger picture way. As a writer, I struggle with figuring out how to impart a personal voice into both, and it’s easy for a review to become too convoluted. It’s also easy for a recap to become too bland. Yet there’s a fine line between imparting your personality into your writing in a way that adds to the piece versus in a way that makes it overtly unprofessional.
I like writing recaps and I like writing reviews. As a reader, it doesn’t matter to me whether a show is “quality” or not, and because of the investment I have in most shows I seek out stuff for, I read both and enjoy both and it doesn’t matter if it was written overnight or if it was written two hours after a show aired. Sometimes there are reviews that I don’t find well written, or opinions I don’t agree with, and I LIKE that. I’m satisfied either way because generally, I’ve enjoyed a piece enough that it’s made me think.
In the end, mass media is mass media and it’s going to constantly be shoved in our faces whether we like it or not. So why not embrace it?