Column: Suddenly, everyone’s a TV critic. Here are some tips for your binge from an old pro
I mean, think about it. Virtually every event space in America has been closed, which means no new movies, no new music, no new exhibits, no live events. Obviously, our first thought should be with the many people who are losing their jobs, especially lower-wage and freelance workers.
But Charlie’s tweet revealed another ghastly, and mercifully comical, aspect to this whole mess — all those closures means a lot of displaced critics. Many of whom, forced into self-isolation, may be watching television for The Very First Time. And will, no doubt, have many, many things to say.
This could be a very good or a very bad thing. If all these unmoored opinionistas take it upon themselves to write wide-eyed journeys of discovery (“my goodness, there is a lot of television, isn’t there? And some of it is not very good”) like so many New York Times reporters exploring Los Angeles as if were the Lost City of Z, it will be very annoying to everyone, especially television critics.
We polled more than 40 TV critics and journalists, inside and outside The Times, on the best TV show to binge while stuck at home.
And if non-TV-critic-critics attempt to re-review shows, there could be blood in the streets.
It’s one thing if, say, an architecture critic wants to weigh in on how design shapes story, or a music critic has a go at soundtracks, but the last thing anyone needs is some film critic “discovering” “The Wire” (why is it always “The Wire?” There are other great shows!) or, heaven forbid, reconsidering “Lost.”
I was 17 years old when “Lost” ended. I never dreamed it would be a bigger part of my life now than it was then.
Especially when there is so much new television that has gone, by necessity, un-reviewed, so many TV critics who are just plain exhausted.
I am no longer a television critic, though I played one for 13 years, but I can’t help thinking that this is a terrific time for a little critical repurposing. If everyone is going to become a TV critic, let’s stay away from the shows that have been reviewed already, and have a look at those that have not.
I’m sure our TV editor would be happy to make a few assignments.
Television critics are actually among the fortunate few who are not experiencing a huge disruption in their daily lives. Self-isolating in front of the television is pretty much the job description.
In fact, probably only women forced into extended periods of bed rest during pregnancy and heavy-duty gamers are better prepared for this period of society-protecting lockdown. (A video-game scholar, who studied the actual effects of video games on the brain, once told me that while she feared her subjects would not be able to remain in the MRI machine long enough to get substantive readings, she was pleasantly surprised. They could play, without moving, for hours.)
Social distancing doesn’t mean not being social. These games, an inherently social medium, can help you stay calm and keep in touch with other people.
I haven’t been a TV critic for three years now, but in recent days, it’s all come flooding back — the fanny fatigue, the lower back-ache, the Mandy Patinkin crush, the creeping certainty that the headache I’ve gotten from watching television for four hours is actually a brain tumor. (During the heyday of “House” and “Grey’s Anatomy,” I developed perpetual hypochondria.)
On the other hand, a season or two of “The Walking Dead,” or the new “War of the Worlds” does help put things in some perspective (and “War of the Worlds” could certainly use a few more reviews).
From ‘Storybots’ to ‘Octonauts,’ we round up a dozen TV shows that will keep your kids occupied — without making you pull your hair out in the process.
For those just entering the lifestyle, a few suggestions: Take a break every three hours, and every time you see that “next episode” countdown, do some squats or sit-ups. Try to multi-task, but if you’re going to offer your opinion on what you’re watching, confine those tasks to something non-distracting, such as folding laundry or sorting everyone’s sock drawer. (When I stopped being a TV critic, my children couldn’t understand why they suddenly had no matched socks.) And if you are going to snack, put the snacks in a bowl — if you bring the whole bag or carton in, you’re done for.
Also, give the leggings and sweats a rest once in a while: Nothing tells you you’ve been watching TV for too long like a buttoned waistband.
For the record, I’m not trying to make light of the unprecedented event we are all experiencing, the impact of which we honestly cannot imagine — I’m just trying to find a little humor in it. Because if we lose our sense of humor, a bad situation is only going to get worse.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, there a couple of seasons of “Outlander” I may want to write about.
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