There was a piece on Blogcritics a few months ago I skimmed and dismissed. I thought it posed an interesting question, but one I thought had an easy answer. The writer wondered if it was bad form to write reviews of bad jazz albums. He thought that because the genre gets so little attention to begin with, perhaps to point out poor examples is a wasted opportunity. But also … just plain mean.
His impetus for writing the piece was receiving unsolicited, unliked review copies, which meant writing a review was optional. But the underlying question was whether any publicity is good publicity – whether writing a bad review of a marginalized genre is harmful to the genre as a whole.
My instant reaction was that it’s the price of asking for publicity, the risk of a bad review. And beyond that, worse than receiving negative criticism is being considered unworthy of discussion or debate.
I’ve started thinking about that jazz review piece again, because I’m having pangs about writing not-entirely-positive reviews of Canadian shows. I will, don’t get me wrong. I just reserve the right to feel guilty about it. If I’ve agreed to a screener, I have an obligation, and I can’t pretend to like something more than I do.
Where the question really kicks in is when I haven’t made a commitment. If I get the urge to write about a show I didn’t love, but feel I have something to say about, I don’t want to hold back, either. I think it’s condescending and patronizing to think Canadian TV is too fragile to withstand scrutiny.
It does feel a bit like kicking puppies (er, not that I would know what that feels like), given that many of the shows struggle to get any publicity. Except these aren’t puppies, these are fully grown … oh dear. This metaphor isn’t going any place good.
I wouldn’t voluntarily write about a show that is an actual dog. You won’t see a real post about Rumours, because I’m not going to compound the waste of an hour I spent watching the first two episodes by spending more time writing about it. (Oops … do you hear yelping?) It’s the shows that are worth my time, but not a whole lot of my time, that give me pangs. I’m going to be reluctant to post to Blogcritics or link from the TV, Eh? site. And also reluctant to treat them like hothouse flowers. Or puppies.
I have to believe a respectful review, even if it’s negative, at least exposes a show – or an album, or a book, or whatever – to a potential audience who might not have heard of it before, some of whom might see something in the review that causes them to tune in – or buy, or read, or whatever.
Besides, if negative reviews could truly sink shows, According to Jim would not be one of the longest running shows on TV right now.