Friday, February 5, 2010

Permission to Hate

I had a media consumption experience recently that gave me pause and caused me to consider the nature of the creative process, criticism, and reception.

Back in the dark ages (you know, the 1980s and 1990s), I watched Star Trek: The Next Generation. I'm not a huge fan such as you'd see in the documentary Trekkies. I don't speak Klingon or own any Starfleet uniforms. On the other hand, I've seen all the movies and I've been known to read some of the novels. In the pre-Tivo, pre-"all reruns, all the time" cable world, I would watch TNG regularly, but I wasn't religious about it and I certainly didn't see every episode.

Flash forward to 2003. The "reimagined" or whatever you call it Battlestar Galactica came along. I watched the miniseries and one or two extra episodes, but it really didn't hold my attention. I let it go until about the start of the fourth season, when I had heard so much about it that I though I should give it another shot. So I watched it all, from the first episode on. I was, on the whole, extremely impressed.

Yes, "on the whole." There were episodes here and there that I found . . . tiresome. Boring. Unengaging. "Can we get back to figuring out where Earth is? And how many missing Cylons there are?" I admit to a vague feeling of guilt about this. It's such a great show. Maybe I'm missing something? It wouldn't be the first time I had a better reaction on a second viewing or listening. Alas, no.

So, last year, while tooling around the iTunes store looking for interesting podcasts, I noticed the episode commentaries from producer Ron Moore. I started listening to them (I'm currently about halfway through season 3). I enjoyed listening to them, but I noticed that there were a couple episodes that Moore was very critical of. In fact, he wasn't happy with them at all.

By the same token, looking back at early episodes of Star Trek: TNG, a number of them were. Umm. Pointless? Unwatchable? I don't want to be to overly harsh. But I don't have to, since Wil Wheaton, who played Acting Ensign Extraordinaire Wesley Crusher on TNG, has obliged us with Memories of the Future. I confess I haven't read it, but I listened to his podcast, Memories of the Futurecast, where he read excerpt of the book. And indeed, Wil is very straightforward in his criticisms (of the first half of the first season so far).

So we have two TV series.  I didn't like some of the episodes.  And my dislike was "validated" in some sense (no doubt there are those who would disagree with both Moore and Wheaton).   Well, so what?  I don't have any great insights.  But it struck me that this closer relationship between the creator and the consumer is a new thing.  Can you imagine Desi Arnaz or Dick Van Dyke holding forth about their least favorite episodes of their shows?  It's almost unthinkable.  Today? Not so much.  Moore and Wheaton have a completely relationship with me than Arnaz and Van Dyke.

No comments:

Post a Comment