Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Hindsight Is...?

Now here's a fun blog topic. Author and friend Mark Phillips has written a post called "When Critics Attack and Applaud SFTV." Basically, the article collects critical comments about genre TV programming going back to the 1950s and Men in Space.

So, here you will find the once-current reviews of series such as The Outer Limits, The Prisoner, Star Trek, etc., and you'll be surprised by which programs got bashed!
Here's a snippet from the critical responses to The Outer Limits:

Australia's The Age was torn. "Some episodes zoom to cosmic heights while others should have been destroyed in the laboratory."

A young mother wrote TV Guide and protested, "Why is the network programming a horror like this in the early evening hours?"

The fiercest criticism was from American politicians who saw the series as downright dangerous. Concerned over juvenile delinquency, they blamed television. Scenes from Outer Limits were screened in Washington DC as part of an investigation into "brutal television violence." Producer Joseph Stefano struck back. "I would rather have my five-year old son see my TV monsters than watch a TV show where a bunch of black-jacketed thugs beat up people." Stefano did withdraw a story idea where cats were possessed by hostile alien beings, realizing it could be upsetting to children. Outer Limits later went on to become a classic. Historian John Baxter said in 1970, "Outer Limits gave television some of its finest moments and for consistency of imagination, it had few equals. The result is something of which both science fiction and television should be proud."

It's a good reality check to read some of these old reviews. It makes me wonder how history will judge my reviews of new genre series, such as FlashForward or The Vampire Diaries? Was I too hard on them? Too easy? And finally, does a critical consensus even matter?

Very interesting...


  1. Anonymous8:23 AM

    "And finally, does a critical consensus even matter?"

    Honestly, no. I enjoy reading very few critiques, although I'll make an exception in your case as you honestly love the genre and cut it some slack. Ever since I read the review that blasted the original Star Wars (yes, I'm old enough to have read it in the newspaper the day before the movie's release), I've been well aware reviews are nothing but opinions by individuals more vocal and better written than I will ever be. I can count on one hand the reviews which have significantly changed my opinion on a show or movie, and you are responsible for three of them. (However, I will continue to skip your articles and reviews on horror. Just don't like that genre. Never have, never will.)

  2. Anonymous wrote: "I can count on one hand the reviews which have significantly changed my opinion on a show or movie, and you are responsible for three of them."

    Hey Anonymous,

    Thank you for those wonderful comments about my writing and reviews -- I really appreciate them. You made my day!


  3. I think critical consensus is good in a historical context, like "such and such a film was well-received by critcs" and it gives you an idea of how it was received critically at the time.

    Very few reviews alter my feelings on a film and I think that most people read reviews to see if they agree or disagree with said critic. There are some, like J. Hoberman I enjoy reading regardless of whether I agree with his view on a film just because I enjoy his style of writing.

    That being said, sometimes a really good review can affect my decision to see a film I might not have seen before, like John, your review of KNOWING really got me intrigued enough to check it out. So, I guess that's when reviews work best - turning on people to something they might not have given a chance or seen before.