Thursday, July 26, 2012
Ask JKM a Question #15: "Any reviews I would retract, or regret writing?"
A reader who wishes to remain anonymous asks: "Are there any reviews you regret writing, or that you would retract if you could?
Excellent question and one that I’m very glad you asked.
I must admit that for a period of a few months in early 2009 I decided consciously to write reviews that were…snarkier.
I don’t do snarky well. And I don’t even really like a snarky tone in terms of movie or TV reviews. What was I thinking?
I was attempting, I suppose, to be “zippier” and to grow a bigger audience by it. But it was a bad, bad, bad idea. It was a betrayal of who I am, and what I believe about art and the role of film and tv criticism.
Fortunately, one (anonymous) reader called me on the carpet for my “new” snarky self and noted that I had (sadly) fallen prey to the “lower rungs on the genre criticism ladder.” I defended myself aggressively in response, but in point of fact -- I can admit it now from a distance -- the anonymous reader was absolutely correct.
After I posted the comment and my defensive response, I couldn’t stop thinking about what the anonymous reader had written. I thus vowed not to write snarky-toned reviews ever, and instead just be true to who I am as a writer.
Today I am proudly snark-free for three years running. I don’t plan to suffer a relapse, but if I do, I hope another reader will call me on the carpet about it.
In terms of reviews I regret, there is indeed one review here on the blog. In 2009 – My god, during the same period as my snark outbreak! – I reviewed the pilot of The Vampire Diaries and judged it poorly. I still maintain that the review of the pilot is accurate. The pilot episode is awful. I stick by my assessment.
But since I wrote that review of the pilot, I have watched every episode of The Vampire Diaries, and my assumption about it being a Twilight rip-off were absolutely off the mark. Fact is, this prime-time vampire soap is witty, well-performed and has -- over three seasons -- successfully established its own identity and storytelling style. I jumped to conclusions about the series from the (bad) pilot, and should have waited a couple of weeks to write a more fair-minded review. By mid-first season, the series had actually become immensely droll, and even addictive in a soap-opera-ish kind of way. In some ways, it really does work as a legitimate heir to Dark Shadows.
In fact, at the risk of now alienating some other fans, the writing on The Vampire Diaries is actually more consistently witty than HBO’s far more celebrated True Blood. That series, while enjoyable, boasts an incredible variation in quality. One week its good; the next its dreadful. The second season in its entirety (especially with the Maenad...) was horrid.
So, I don’t know that I would retract my review of The Vampire Diaries pilot, because the pilot really is pretty bad. But in drawing conclusions about the series as a whole, I was certainly off the mark. It seems time to acknowledge that error. I'm certain it won't be my last.