Q. If you could have any job on the internet that you wanted, what would it be?
A. Writer for Television Without Pity.
I know that within the context of job interviews, that’s the wrong answer, and yet I keep giving it without even thinking. That’s because, pound for pound, word for word, snark for snark, Television Without Pity is quite possibly my very favorite website ever.
TWoP started off as a Web recontextualization of the (future TWIL) Mystery Science Theatre 3000 concept: witty people desonstructing bad art, in this case, Dawson’s Creek. — However, founders Sara Bunting, Tara Ariano and David Cole obviously realized that they had hit upon a unique form of convergence: great writing on the internet about television. So they expanded.
To me, the great writing is the key. There are lots of recaps out there of various TV shows. There is also a lot of well-written TV criticism out there, but the writers at TWoP have mastered the art of tying detailed recaps with critical insights. And, despite the official “spare the snark, spoil the networks” ethos, their dirty little secret is that they get that TV can, is, and should be an art form like any other. There isn’t any reason that every single episode shouldn’t be the best episode ever, and that’s what fuels the writing: they want TV to be good, not bad.
Which sets up a weird dichotomy: if a show is great — you know, Deadwood or Battlestar Galactica great — what happens to the snark? Two things, I think: the snark just goes away, or gets hauled out for the rare sucky episodes — “Black Market,” I’m looking at you — and the writers get deep into the episodes, giving us insightful guesses into the characters or spinning great theories about what’s going to happen next. Which is why, for example, I very much enjoy reading Jacob’s recaps of Battlestar Galactica: he has become so invested in the show that his recaps read like crazy love poetry.
On the other hand, a funny writer can keep me watching a show that I otherwise would have given up on: I’m pretty sure that I watched Smallville or Enterprise for a couple of extra years than I should have just to dig into their recappers’ outrage at great premises gone straight to hell. Though I finally gave up Smallville for good this year. And by glancing at the recaplets, I’m pretty sure that I made the right decision.
Why is the writing so strong? Besides the love of what they’re writing about, they also get paid. Probably not enough to compensate for the other jobs that so many recappers refer to, but enough to get the quality of writing that they are looking for. Would some of them be just as good for free? Yup. Sure, but I can tell you from experience that sometimes the fact that you are getting paid means that you bear down for the third or fourth draft that finds the insight and/or the jokes.
Also, they have a great mascot. Tubey rules on every level. It’s very important to have a great mascot.
As you can tell, I pretty much stay away from the forums. No particular reason, I just do. I just don’t need to get down to that level of deconstruction and/or argument about any piece of art anymore.
I could go on, deconstructing the difference between heh, hee, and ha! Or the T-Shirts (“Mr. Wu’s Discount Meats” “Shutup, Spike.”). Or talk about the great character nicknames like “Spy Daddy” “ChipSix” or “Kiefer.” Or saying things like “hoyay, yay!” But at this point, it would probably just sound like blah blah blah TWOPcakes. So I won’t.
What I am going to do, however, is see if there any new recaps up of the shows that I watch.