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'Arrested Development' is Gold ... and Five Other Things Learned During Five Years At TV Squad

by Joel Keller, posted Nov 1st 2010 5:00PM
The cast of 'Arrested Development'
As I mentioned last week, today is the fifth anniversary of my first post on this site. Yes, I know -- I'm shocked that the post office isn't closed today, either. On November 1, 2005, I was still working as an IT guy who freelanced on the side, and I just wanted to find a place to write about one of my favorite topics: television. Thanks to a few fortuitous contacts (including our very own Bob Sassone, who's been here since close to day one) and an audition blog that no one read, I got a tryout.

Shockingly, my first post post was about 'Arrested Development.' I guess times don't really change all that much, as the topic of 'AD' is a hot one on the interwebs even today: David Cross reversed field from when he told me in April that an 'AD' movie is "not going to happen", now telling EW.com that an outline is done and "I know the story (Mitch Hurwitz and company) have in mind, and it's great."

So, if there's anything I've learned in my five years here is that 'Arrested Development' will be newsworthy until the end of time. But here are five other things I've learned since writing that original post, a time when I've done everything from editing posts to poring through the comments to asking William Shatner about interviewing Lee Boyd Malvo.

1. People who read TV Squad (and other TV blogs) are passionate about TV.
The natural response to that would be "Duh!" But what I mean to say by that is that in my time here I've encountered all sorts of different types of TV fans, and all of them are passionate about the medium and the particular types of shows they watch.

It's not just the people who are fans of head-scratching shows like 'Lost' or fun, watercooler shows like 'Glee,' either. I've gotten enthusiastic (sometimes too enthusiastic) and detailed comments on posts about game shows, reality shows, talk shows, and pretty much anything else you can imagine.

2. Every network pilot season has its own personality. Since I joined TVS largely after the 2005-06 fall season had started, I really didn't get the full upfront/pilot season/fall premiere experience until 2006. During that fall, we got a ton of big splashy productions, and the networks were fully invested in following the serialized trend.

It's interesting to look back at one of the major storylines from that fall season -- the two series that went "behind the scenes" of a late-night TV show -- and realize a) how completely different '30 Rock' and 'Studio 60' were, b) '30 Rock' was more about a dysfunctional family than the TV show itself and c) Aaron Sorkin's super-serious tones work a lot better on movies about Facebook than dramas about late-night sketch shows.

But it feels like every season since then has had its own theme and personality. 2007-08 had quirky dramas like 'Pushing Daisies' and the writers' strike as the major themes; 2008-09 was about Leno at 10 and 'The Mentalist;' 2009-10 was the best season of rookie shows in quite some time ('Modern Family,' 'The Good Wife,' 'Glee,' 'Community,' 'NCIS: LA' and more); and this fall has been largely a low-rated dud so far. The ebb and flow of the networks' development process has been one of the more fascinating aspects of this job.

3. The readers will call you on your mistakes. I've always thought that, because TV is such a populist medium, everyone who watches it thinks they can write about it. It makes sense; it's more immediate of a medium than film is, and while people who write about film love to put a movie in the context of film history, people who write about TV don't really need to. No one needs to know that Kim Richards was one of the biggest child stars of the '70s to enjoy her antics on 'The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills,' for instance.

That proves to be a challenge -- a good one -- for people like me who do write about TV for a living. No one accepts our words as gospel, and they're quick to correct our mistakes, however innocent they may be. I've been raked over the coals for big errors -- I blew the name of the new kid on 'Glee' a few weeks back, calling him "Sam" instead of "Ben" (see I did it again... It's "Sam," dammit) -- as well as for missing stuff that might only be seen on repeated viewings and TiVo freeze-frames. I've seen the words "I can't believe you do this for a living" in comments for years, in both the positive and negative sense. The readers keep me on my toes, and motivate me to try to do the best job I can at all times.

4. Interviewing people in the business is a fun way to make a living. I had done celebrity interviews here and there before I got to TV Squad, but for the most part, I honed my experience here. From the first one I did for the site -- where Lisa Loeb turned the tables on me and asked me where I went to meet women -- to the aforementioned Cross interview, all the talks I've had with showrunners like Carter Bays and Bill Lawrence and the extensive 'Mad Men' interviews I've had with Matt Weiner, it's been a privilege to pick the brains of people involved in every aspect of this business.

By the way, even though it's been almost four years, I still haven't forgotten the look on Sally Field's face as I interviewed her during my first trip to the press tour. Looking back, I still think most of those questions weren't bad, given the circumstances in which they were asked.

5. There are shows that generate anger and vitriol over their cancellation, even years after they were axed. 'Arrested' isn't the only show that has a passionate following years after it left the air. Even though Alex O'Loughlin has a hit with 'Hawaii Five-0,' mention his 2007 vampire drama 'Moonlight' and people will start cursing CBS all over again. People are still smarting over the way 'Pushing Daisies' got treated by ABC. And I'm sure people are still sending bags of nuts to Les Moonves over the cancellation of 'Jericho.'

Every year people swear off the networks, cursing their impatience with shows and vowing to never get hooked on any show that has any danger of being yanked. But people getting involved again, anyway. And that's the beauty of being a TV fan: even if a show like 'Moonlight' didn't make it, more people likely saw it than saw all but the biggest blockbuster movies that year. And even if you're a fan of a low-rated cable show, you still have something in common with hundreds of thousands of people. It's a powerful concept that can get overwhelming to think about at times, but it's one of the big reasons why this has been one of the best jobs I've ever had.

Now... on to the next 'Arrested Development' story!

(Follow @joelkeller on Twitter.)

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Savor it while you've got it, Joel, but keep your options open. That's all I'm sayin'...

November 05 2010 at 1:23 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Oh... I jut read your first article again... So sad - at that point the show was still on air, and we had hope we would hopefully get the back-13... And then the show vanished for a month, the Save Our Bluths fantastic meta-episode came on-air, and the burn-off began... Fox, I still nurse a wound on this, I wish you had at least given it a full third season. Five years later my opinion has not changed: This is the best show to have ever been on TV, certainly within the comedy genre. I would love a film :)

November 01 2010 at 8:12 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Congrats!!!! I have been reading since 06 and love this site sooo much.
I do hate the merger but it lined your pocket so it makes me happy. hehe
I would like reviews also not recaps. Less on the reality and more scripted show reviews.
Keep up the good work and hope to see you post a 10yr anniversary article.

November 01 2010 at 8:04 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I blew the name of the new kid on 'Glee' a few weeks back, calling him "Sam" instead of "Ben"

His name IS Sam, and you called him Ben... whoops

November 01 2010 at 6:45 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Brad's comment
Joel Keller

Oh, dammit. OK, I noted my double mistake in the text.

November 01 2010 at 9:30 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Congrats! I myself have been browsing the "Engadget umbrella" since 2004 or so. I expanded out to TV Squad, Cinematical, and Joystiq.

I've always loved TV Squad's non-biased commitment to television.

However, if I could offer one suggestion to the site in general, it would be to have more "review" TV articles and less "recap" ones. It seems that after a show has aired, most staff just "recap" the episode, and kind of just go over the plotline. I don't think anyone who HASN'T watched the episode would read it though, so I don't know what purpose they serve. Instead, I like the actual reviews: going over the plot minimally, then talking about the importance of the episode, where characters stand, where the season is going, relevance to past episodes, etc. But thats just me.

Keep on keepin' on!

November 01 2010 at 5:39 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to st3v3n's comment
Joel Keller

Our recaps are recaps in name only... at least that's the aim. They should do a real episode review instead of a plot summary. That's how I write mine, and that's how I've seen most of the ones on the site written. Are you seeing a lot that are plot summary-heavy?

November 01 2010 at 5:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Not that I'm trying to "snitch" on the writer or anything, as she is talented, but I read this one today and it seemed like a plot outline: http://www.tvsquad.com/2010/11/02/weeds-season-6-episode-11-recap/

And that may be the thing the site wants, and it may be the Lost-fanatic in me trying to seek depth in other shows, but I used to always go to TV Squad after shows like Lost and Fringe ended to discuss theories with others. I still see it once in awhile, in "recaps" of True Blood and Community, among a couple others.

November 02 2010 at 2:32 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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