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October 13, 2015

Book Review: Television Without Pity

by Bob Sassone, posted Nov 21st 2006 4:40PM

Michael Ian BlackEverything you need to know about the web site Television Without Pity - and why I hate it so much - can be found in the subtitle of their new book. It's called Television Without Pity: 752 Things We Love To Hate (And Hate To Love) About Television.

Why does it have to be like that? Why do they either have to "love to hate" or "hate to love" what they see on television? Is it not "hip" to really like television? I've long suspected that these people don't really like TV, they just find it a convenient place to use all of their snarky tools and be sarcastic. Of course, that doesn't mean that a book about television, even from them, couldn't hold some promise. But reading through the damn thing, this is what I found out about TWoP's view of television.

  • All of the following things are bad: I Love Lucy (in fact, all comedies in black & white), The West Wing, Craig Kilborn, Kate & Allie, Will & Grace, Bosom Buddies, William Devane.
  • The American version of The Office is only "pretty good."
  • The two authors masturbate to pictures of Michael Ian Black every single evening.

There's more, of course. They laugh that Clay Aiken lost American Idol and that his fans had to "eat it." Yeah, he came in second and we didn't even hear from him after that. They say that "you don't see Michael J. Fox on TV much anymore." Yeah, I wonder why that is? They say that Regis Philbin is "coasting on past achievements." He is?? Do these people even watch TV? If anything, he's doing too many shows and hosting gigs, not coasting on the past.

The book is like a mini TV encyclopedia, laid out in alphabetical order. It's not a complete history of TV, just the stuff they wanted to talk about, which is fine. It's just that most of their observations are pretty banal. How did the S.S. Minnow get so blown off course if it was only going on a three hour tour? Yeah, like every casual TV fan hasn't talked about that the past 40 years. That's the TV-observation equivilent of "gee, airline food is really bad!"

They have a section on TV drinking games, but they leave out the "Hi Bob" drinking game for The Bob Newhart Show. Gah.

Most of the information you can get on the web, so this book really isn't worth getting. And the attitude...it seems like if it isn't modern and hip and ironic then it doesn't get much space in the book (see their comment that all black & white comedies are bad). But Michael Ian Black (who I happen to think is funny, too) is a god.

It's the holiday season, but if I can stop just one person from buying this book, I consider this review a success. In fact, I'm not even going to link to the book or their site.

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I frequent the site and boards quite often. I really enjoy the recaps and perspective of some recappers/mods, Jacob and Miss Alli in particular. I've read enough excerpts from the book (written by the co creators of the site) on the site to get the idea... Fine. Would I pay money for it? Hell no. Not because it wouldn't make me chuckle here and there, it's because the co creators and their minions are total PC liberal elitist hypocrites when it comes to moderating their boards.

I absolutely love the way the boards are strictly moderated (I really do), but it's done with a sickeningly blatant double standard. Lindazilla in comment #18 pretty much summed it up. "Not a fan site"? "The show, not politics"? Yeah, right. Try the Keith Olbermann boards, it reads like some looney Bush hate site. Rules do not apply there. Jon Stewart ? Don't say he's full of it -- "handled".

So, I'll stick to the recappers I enjoy. That "cash cow" (yet I'll bet they have a lot to enlighten us on the evils of capitalism) can graze somewhere else.

November 27 2006 at 2:59 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I'll chime in with more support for TWoP.

As far as I know, they select which shows they recap by which ones they think they can recap before the show ever starts. So if they haven't recapped "Nip/Tuck" (wow, bitter?), it' because it didn't look recappable before it started, and there hasn't been a reason for them to pick it up. Both "House" and "Farscape" were picked up because of reader demand -- "Farscape" after the show went out of production! This hasn't happened for "Nip/Tuck", so no recaps.

As for the attitudes of the people running the place -- are you the sort of person who would stop watching "Grey's Anatomy" when you heard Isaiah Washington freaked out on his fellow actor, because that's just ugly behaviour? Why? What does that have to do with the quality of the show? Or any of the other actors, for that matter? The same logic applies. Don't tar the whole site with the same brush. Most organizations of any size have people in it you wouldn't want to be friends with. Big deal. By all means, don't throw money their way, but it's not a reason to enjoy the web site in whatever way you can.

So... how's your book deal coming?

November 24 2006 at 3:09 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Why are the majority of comments acting like the review of the book has anything to do with the web site. Excellant book review and it's certainly a book that's not on my want to flip through list never mind pay cold hard cash for it. If I want their opinions I'd read their TWoP site or blogs for free.

November 22 2006 at 7:28 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I love TWoP and TV Squad. Yes, both of them! But I have to say that I didn't like the book at all. I bought it as soon as it was released and was looking forward to it. It was a huge disappointment. I think maybe part of the problem is that the book was written by the TWoP founders, not the best TWoP recappers.

November 22 2006 at 12:44 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Can't wait for the TWOP rebuttle to Bob's rant.


November 22 2006 at 9:51 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

There's nothing "delightful" about TWoP. SOME of their recaps are entertaining. SOME of their forum Mods are amusing and fair. But the vast majority of Recaps, Mods and individual Posters are cliquish and immature. One only needs to venture into the Supernatural or Prison Break forums and read post after post of "SQUEEEE! Dean is soooo HAWT!" and other crap to know that these are NOT posts encouraging intelligent discussion of television. For all the Mod warnings about how it's "Television WITHOUT Pity" (God!) and how TWoP is NOT a fan site, the bottom line is if you are part of the clique and tow the party line, you will have no problems. Yes, you can say exactly what you think about a show, as long as you are agreeing with the majority. If you hold an opinion that isn't in the majority (or an opinion that differs at all from certain Mods) you will be "handled". I grew out of that kind of "mean girls mentality" when I got out of Jr. High.

November 22 2006 at 9:24 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Here's the thing, though: if you read the recaps, I think you can get a sense that these people really believe that TV matters. It matters so much that they hire people to write thousands and thousands of words about all kinds of shows--not just the critically acclaimed ones, either (don't they pick what shows they keep covering by how many people read the recaps?)--and analyze them scene by scene. I do loathe runaway, elitist mods, although I can't speak to the boards at TWOP because I don't really hang out there. But I do read the recaps, partly because hell, I hate to love Top Model and the recaps crack me up, and partly because I think there's something to hiring people to critique TV passionately and smartly. I don't think that's so different from what happens here.

November 21 2006 at 9:49 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

What I LIKE about TWoP is the fact that posters can say exactly what they think about a show: bad writing, bad acting, bad cinematography, and it is mostly accepted (at least the forums I've read and frequent). Snarky? sure, but I'll take that over the fawning, "don't mention anything negative" boards of some shows that are found elsewhere. I like to say exactly what I'm thinking, and I'll read someone else's opposite opinion. I haven't been around the boards but 2 years so I know nothing about the moderators or founders and their intention, I just like interacting on the boards and I appreciate the rules because I don't have to wade thru pages and pages of "oh yeah, mee too" crap.

All this said, however, I won't buy the book or bother to read it. Just don't understand the purpose - aside from the almighty dollar.

November 21 2006 at 9:12 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Wow, Bob--your love for Studio 60 makes a lot more sense now that I know you hate TWoP.

I won't--and don't--make the mistake of confusing TWoP's recaps with TVSquad's "reviews," but seriously: you think the TWoPpers hate TV? No, they hate BAD TV, Bob.

And if you think the site is all snark, then you are seriously missing the divine Jacob's recaps of BSG and Doctor Who, which are profound and poetic and reverent, while not cutting slack for when things don't make thematic sense.

I like TV Squad, but TWoP is the love of my life. It's best, really, for reverential recaps of brilliant shows--like Jacob's, or Couch Baron's for the first season of "Veronica Mars"--and evil recaps of truly suck-ass shows, like Strega's for "Jericho" or the late, lamented recaps of Sara M for the repulisive "7th Heaven."

But, yeah--Bob, your comments just come off sounding like sour grapes.

November 21 2006 at 7:45 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Snark Babe

Wow, Bob, for someone as snarky as you, you'd think you'd have been introduced to the concept of sarcasm by now. You should check into it!

November 21 2006 at 7:31 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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