About a year ago, after Bravo purchased Television Without Pity, I wrote a piece entitled Why I’m Not Worried About The TWoP Buyout. I figured that as long as they were able to keep their strong, independent editorial voice, they would do just fine, and remain one of my most favorite websites on the entire interwebs.
And for a year, everything seemed to be fine. Sure, I didn’t like the cosmetic upgrades — I miss the line drawings that accompanied the recaps — but that was more that outweighed by the expansion into sitcoms like The Office & 30 Rock, as well as the catch-up they were able to play with shows like The Wire.
But now I’m worried, because according to a blog posting on their site, the founders of Television Without Pity are leaving. Within the next week, as it turns out. That seems . . . quick.
This. Is. Not. Good.
Now, this is total and utter speculation, of course, but usually if all of the founders of something leave at the same time, it means that there were huge huge differences of opinions about direction. And in this case, the folks with the access to the money — and lawyers — from NBC Universal won out. Here’s a clue: the blog post combined wildly disparate messages, one from Bravo and the other from the Wing Chung, Sars and Glark, the founders of TWoP.
Here is an excerpt from Bravo’s:
Under the editorial guidance of co-founders Tara Ariano, Sarah D. Bunting, and David T. Cole, the site reached record heights in traffic over the past year as it launched new areas featuring blogs, photos, games, and original video, all the while still providing fans with the best show recaps and forums on the Web.
In other words: “look at all the things that we’ve had them do since we bought them.”
Now from Wing Chung, Sars & Glark:
We really can’t express how much we’ve enjoyed working here with, and for, all of you over the years, and how much we’ve always appreciated your encouragement and support. Television Without Pity is what it is because of its fantastic users, and you guys kept us going through some tough times (emotionally as well as fiscally). You’ve made the job fun — and crazy, but, you know, in a fun way.
No mention about their accomplishments, but rather about the personal stuff. In fact, I read this as an extension of the reasons they started the site in the first place: to have some serious fun discussing TV. I’ve never met any of these people, but I feel like I know a lot about them, just based upon their writing.
This is what worries me: that the writing on Television Without Pity will now become as watered-down and interchangeable as the worst TV shows out there. As more and more money gets spent on things like the that awful No Prior Knowledge: Battlestar Galactica, that automatically means less money spent on what made it great in the first place, the writing.
You can’t snark about TV if you are producing content that isn’t, you know, at least as good as TV.
I dunno, it’s entirely possible that they are leaving at the right time. TWoP proved that you can have intelligent recaps of and discussions about TV, and a lot of places now rival them: sites like Alan Sepinwall’s What’s Alan Watching? and The AV Club’s TV Club — to name just a couple — now offer insightful, trenchant commentary on shows the day after they air, or even sooner.
As a matter of fact, while nobody’s recaps are as deep as the ones on TWOP, their natural lag time means that they have to be extra-insightful, because by the time they come out a week after airtime, a show like Lost has been been totally dissected in more places than you can count.
With The Wire being the last of the great HBO shows to leave the airwaves, it feels like a whole era of great TV is nearing a close, and so maybe it’s time for TWoP to mutate into something else beyond straight commentary and discussion.
Maybe. But without Sars, Wing Chung and Glark to guide it — and ensure it keeps a strong, independent voice — my worry is that something else is going to turn out to to be something less.