From 1994, when I launched Late Show News, until I gave notice at the Kansas City Star in 2012, television was my muse. If you followed my musings during that time you undoubtedly visited this site, TV Barn, which I started in 1999.
In 2012 I walked away from the television beat. No, I did not muse myself to death, but after my successful battle with leukemia I was eager to try new things. I joined Diane in the history business. We wrote articles and books, published titles through our Quindaro imprint (including four YA books funded by Kickstarter), and gave a lot of talks, including one that aired on C-SPAN. I also did solo work. And as you can see, I took up running.
In late 2018, Jed Rosenzweig called to see if I was interested in writing about TV again. Jed and I go way back; we did a Yahoo-TV Barn collaboration when he was a top editor there. After Yahoo, he founded High Def Digest. Like many of us, Jed misses the old blogs and websites that used to keep savvy TV watchers up to date. So he decided to invest in his own site, Primetimer.com, and reached out to me.
My new column: The Overlooked
As it happened, I’d been thinking about all the great shows that have come and gone just in the years since I left the beat. Networks and streaming services have been churning them out by the truckload — and according to the guy who coined the phrase, Peak TV still hasn’t peaked.
It’s not just the quantity that’s changed but the quality. The new wave of streaming shows are a cut above what used to pass for cream-of-the-crop from HBO and the like. “They’re becoming a distinct genre all their own, whose conventions and aesthetics we’re just starting to figure out,” as James Poniewozik has observed.
For a while critics gamely tried to keep up with the spew of brilliant new shows, but finally even the most diligent started to cut corners. As for the rest of us, forget it — everybody’s watchlist is bulging with unwatched shows. Technically shows don’t get cancelled anymore, they free-float in the galaxy of on-demand entertainment, so close and yet so far.
Tim Goodman, who has thought and written about the implications of Peak TV as much as anyone, recently argued that viewers need TV critics who will act as curators. These critics would devote their efforts to combing through Peak TV’s catalog in search of overlooked gems and serving as tour guides to “the missed, the lost, and the essential.”
As I thought about this, I realized I had long since lost interest in chasing the new and overhyped, but was excited by the idea of dusting off older shows and making them relevant again — essentially applying a historian’s touch to TV criticism.
That’s the idea behind The Overlooked, my new twice-a-week column for Primetimer. I hope you’ll read it and let me know what you think (and suggest your own overlooked shows!).