Friday, January 21, 2011

How Not to Review The Gates and Scoundrels...

8 August 2010 and 21 January 2011

The ABC TV show The Gates imagines what it would be like if the communities in which the American uber capitalist class lives were populated by vampires and werewolves. The problem such a show has right off the bat, however, is that even vampires and werewolves are not as scary as the unreal real housewives of The Real Housewives and the contestants on Donald Trump's The Apprentice are.

But seriously folks, The Gates shows that you can't judge a TV show by its first episode. The arcs of the show, including the mythology arcs, have, in my opinion really gotten interesting during the last several episodes.

The problem is that critics aren't watching and writing about The Gates anymore. Unfortunately, so much contemporary TV criticism is far too similar to film criticism. So many TV critics, rather like film critics, review the first episode of a TV programme, often lukewarmly, and never return to revisit the show after the first episode. This may work for an anthology show where each episode is pretty much a little movie unto itself but it doesn't work for shows like ABC's The Gates or The Scoundrels, which are more like novels than shows in which everything is wrapped up in a tiny bow in forty-two minutes. Reviewing one episode of a novelistic or arc show is actually akin to watching ten minutes of a movie, doing a review of the film based on this ten minutes of viewing, and never returning to the film to review the rest of it afterwards.

Sadly I think both ABC's Scoundrels (the American remake of the New Zealand TV show Outrageous Fortune) and The Gates will go into the ever growing dustbin of good shows canceled before their time on commercial American TV (both shows have since I wrote this have been canceled). Shows on commercial American TV are, unfortunately, judged by and large by the canons of commodity aestheticism, where quality is determined by how big the audience is and by how much one can charge advertisers as a result in the first few episodes of the show.

I have to wonder what role reviews, problematic reviews, played in the demise of both shows. Did some potential viewers read the reviews and not bother to watch both shows? Probably not because I suspect that most viewers pay little attention to reviews in an age when anyone with a computer and access to the internet can be a reviewer. So why then did The Gates and Scoundrels fail? Did many of those who watched the first episodes of these arc shows give up on them after a single episode because they didn't grab the viewers attention within sixty minutes? Given the rise of ADD generations in the wake of Jaws, Star Wars, rock videos, and cell phones. I suspect that there may be some truth to this hypothesis.

For reviews of Scoundrels see http://search.metacritic.com/tv/shows/scoundrels
For reviews of The Gates see http://apps.metacritic.com/tv/shows/gatesabc

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