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Critical Mass

by Neena Louise

Why is it that networks seem to think that slapping a "critically acclaimed" label on a television series means anything at all to the general viewing public? Whenever I hear the term "critically acclaimed," I automatically think "it sucks, so that's the best thing they can say about it." It's been proven time and time again - it does not matter what the critics say when it comes to ratings (or box office revenue or book sales). Considering critics often love TV shows that the public shuns, I have to wonder why the networks think critics' opinions are so very important that they have to tout them every chance they get.

It's a rare occasion when critics and the general viewing public agree. Cases in point: The critically-panned Brady Bunch, Gilligan's Island, and WKRP in Cincinnati were embraced by the public (craving witless escapist nonsense, I suspect). The critics loved a whole slew of forgettable shows (so forgettable I can't recall a single one) they deemed "intelligent" and "witty" (read: "elitist" and "boring") that the public despised. There are times when both critics and public agree - though not always right away. Cheers, for example, premiered DEAD LAST in the ratings, yet the critics raved. Eventually the public did, too, but I doubt very much it had anything to do with what the critics had to say. There are, of course, many times both critics and public despise a particular show (Cursed, anyone?), but I doubt critics' opinions made any difference - bad is bad, and anyone with half a brain can recognize garbage without a critic's opinion.

And it's not just television and movies that overuse critics' opinions. Ever consider buying a book, wonder what it's about, and find only pages and pages of critics' raves where a plot summary is supposed to be? I find that particularly insulting: I will make up my own mind, thank you very much. I just want to know what the book is about; I don't give a hoot what some critic has to say. The constant reminders on television of critical acclaim for something that hasn't even aired yet is no different.

Some critics don't really critique a show at all - they're the ones I have the most trust in. They'll outline a plot, maybe poke fun at parts of it, relate what's good about it, what's bad about it and give reasons why you may or may not want to watch it. These are the types of critics networks should be seeking - not the obscure or sellout ones that will laud anything if the price is right.

Television shows generally gain an audience through word-of-mouth. People might watch a show once or twice just to satisfy their curiosity, but if it's a bad show, it's a bad show and no amount of "critical acclaim" can save it. Besides, with movie studios creating critics out of thin air, how can we believe what any of them have to say in the first place? Sure, the vast majority of critics are real people with real jobs at real media companies, but now that fake critics have been exposed, can we really believe what we hear?

The answer is no.  
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