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October 10, 2015

Talking TV Podcast Talks 'Treme,' 'Archer,' 'Game of Thrones,' 'Doctor Who' and More

by Maureen Ryan, posted Apr 20th 2011 1:00PM
Ryan McGee and I planned to do a 45-minute podcast last night. Whoops!

We ended up with an 80-minute Talking TV podcast, and part of the reason the discussion lasted so long is because many of the same themes came up throughout the podcast. Plus there were just a lot of news items and new programs to get through.

This week on the podcast, we talked about 'Doctor Who,' 'Cougar Town,' 'Archer' (which has its season finale Thursday), the 'Game of Thrones' renewal and the various critical and fan responses to that drama, and also 'Treme,' which returns on HBO Sunday. Running times are below.

The running times for the first couple of topics are pretty solidly defined. Beyond that, the discussion weaves in and out of a few different shows with similar narrative ambitions, mainly 'Treme' and 'Game of Thrones.'

We also talked during this middle section about what readers expect from television criticism (and whether pre-show reviews are necessary and relevant), the controversy over the New York Times' disappointing review of 'Thrones' (disappointing not because it was negative, but because it was poorly argued, full of unsupported generalizations and glibly condescending), and whether it's important for episodes of television to work on their own, not just as part of larger seasons.

We also discuss Linda Holmes' great essay on letting go of the fact that we're never going to be fully caught up or up to date with all the great books, films and shows out there. I highly recommend the piece, which is on NPR's Monkey See site.

There aren't any spoilers in any of these discussions. Here are those times:

0:00–1:43: Intro

1:43–13:43: 'Archer' (my weekly reviews are here)

13:43–25:50: 'Cougar Town' (which returns this week; my review is here)

25:50–47:09: 'Treme' (my review should post Thursday)

47:09–1:09:33: Various 'Game of Thrones' topics, including the season 2 renewal, reviews, fan responses, etc. Our extensive coverage of the show is here.

1:09:33–end: 'Doctor Who,' which returns Saturday on BBC America. I should have a review of the enjoyable season-opening two-parter up by midday Friday.

Don't forget you can subscribe to the Talking TV podcast on iTunes. This week's podcast is also available here, as are full archives of every 'Talking TV' podcast. The entire 'Talking TV' archives are also available on iTunes as well.

Thanks for listening!

Follow @MoRyan on Twitter.

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My problem with your review is perhaps a problem I have with pre-air reviews in general. Normally I dismiss them unless they are positive reviews for a series I'm considering. Why? Because a positive review will make me watch and form my own opinion. A negative review will make me less likely to watch unless I'm highly anticipating it and will watch it no matter what.

Take 2 examples: Mildred Pierce and Camelot. Both were widely criticized. Had I not seen already seen Camelot's pilot, I would never have watched it based on the critical response. I did watch it (and really loved it) so I'm glad I wasn't "tainted" by the negative reviews. Mildred Pierce: everyone seemed to hate it, but I just had to watch it because I couldn't believe it could be that bad based on the clips I'd seen and Kate Winslet. Again, I loved the 1st 3 episodes (haven't finished the miniseries yet).

The issue I have with your Game of Thrones review (and your podcast last week) is you were very critical, leaving many, including me, to assume you were disappointed with the show (considering you'd already seen 6 episodes). As a huge fan of the books and someone who wants this show to succeed, I feel like the only possible result of that review is people who were not already fans were not going to watch it based on your review. This show needs all the viewers it can get, having so much stacked against it (fantasy, medieval, largely British cast). Your review felt like one more blow.

I would have had less of a problem if your review came out right after the airing that way at least people could would give it a chance and form their own opinion, then either share in your criticism or post about their love of the pilot. Starting with a negative pre-air review often results in people subconsciously noticing your criticisms whether you mean for that to happen or not.

I'm thrilled that so many fans and non-fans loved the pilot and am excited about the season 2 announcement. I am also very thankful for all the positive buzz created by the glowing pre-air reviews, because I really think these things make a difference in who is going to watch the actual airing.

Also, I really enjoyed Treme season 1 and am highly anticipating season 2. I get the impression you didn't like season 1, so why force yourself to watch something you didn't enjoy? Just curious.

PS: I enjoy your reviews and articles and hope you don't feel this is a personal attack on you. But since it was brought up in your podcast, I felt the need to comment.

April 21 2011 at 5:45 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to Sareeta's comment
Mo Ryan

Thanks for your note, Sareeta, and I don't view it as an attack. I appreciate your honesty and your civility, I really do.

You're right, I was somewhat disappointed in Game of Thrones. Here's how I view my role when I am reviewing a new show: I tell people what I think, as honestly and thoroughly as I can, and I try to provide an idea of whether I think it is worth watching or not. HBO has a large and hard working PR and marketing staff who are given the task of getting people to tune in to a show. With all due respect, that's not my job. It's my job to assess shows and say whether, in my opinion, they are worth people's time.

But I realize that GoT has an active fan base that is worried about how this particular show will fare, given the obstacles you noted. For that very reason, I put in my review the words "yes, you should watch it." Just so everyone was clear on the idea that, despite my criticisms, I found it worth sticking with, mainly because episodes 5 and 6 have more momentum and seemed more promising on a number of fronts. I also noted a lot of positives about the show, most of which seemed to get lost in the shuffle. I went back and re-read my review, and I think I said a lot of good things about the show. I also made some pointed critiques, all of which I believe are valid. Of course, I respect the opinions of those who think otherwise, but, as I wrote, that's what I think after seeing 60 percent of the new season.

I also wanted Game of Thrones to be great -- and at this point, in my opinon, it's not great. It may yet get there, and in the meantime, it's worth watching, as I said.

I feel like I'm doing a disservice to fans of the books and to fans of television in general if I'm not absolutely honest about my response to any show. Even though I loved the books, me lying about my mixed response to the show serves no one. The one thing I value more than anything is people's time and attention. If I disrespect you and the time you take to read my review by knowingly giving you a false response or assessment, I'd kind of hate myself. I do this for readers, and I respect them far, far too much to lie, waffle or equivocate.

So those are some of my thoughts on the topic. Many thanks for your input. I truly do appreciate the dialogue.

April 22 2011 at 3:41 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Mo Ryan

Also, one more thought -- I think pre-air reviews are valuable because they A) tell people a show is debuting or returning and B) tell you whether I think they're worth watching. I kind of hope the latter is something of a consumer service, but of course I expect that people will disagree with me some of the time, if not a lot of the time. But if those pre-air reviews are useful to some of the people some of the time, I consider that a win. Also, I just enjoy writing them (when I'm not pulling my hair out).

April 22 2011 at 3:43 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Perhaps you were not fully aware of what you were saying at the time, but likening HBO's recent dramas to basically everything outside your sphere of 5-minute pop songs makes it not only sound like you are a pretty shallow viewer, but also makes "normal" shows sound worse than they deserve.

I fully understand your frustrations with these recent shows, but I do think you could have come up with much better arguments.

April 20 2011 at 5:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Peter's comment
Mo Ryan

I'm not saying HBO shows should be like pop songs. I'm saying that episodes of TV should work individually and within a season. Just as a classic album is made up of songs that work on their own and as a whole.

April 21 2011 at 12:36 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
3 replies to Mo Ryan's comment
Debra Holliman


As one who has always believed that opinions, particularly internet opinions, wholly deserve their well known lower body part analogy, I wanted to take issue with you on this statement in the podcast - "My opinion is not more valid than anyone's" – but I suspect my objection may be more one of semantics than substance. It's the word "valid" that throws everything off. "Valid" is something based on truth or reason. I've seen many an internet opinion that doesn't appear to meet that condition.

As a television critic with several years experience, your opinion is more informed than most. You have studied television, applied reason to analysing it and have honed your skills in recognising, by application of both subjective and objective criteria, what makes good and bad television. Just as I am more likely to put my medical care in the hands of the consulting surgeon and not the hospital porter, I am more likely to put decisions about trying out a new show on the opinion of you and your fellow critics than I am on someone with less demonstrable expertise. Your opinion has weight. As a couch potato, my weight is in all the wrong places.

April 20 2011 at 3:58 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to Debra Holliman's comment

Just wanted to say I agree wholeheartedly with this! (Especially the last sentence, alas....)

April 20 2011 at 4:19 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Mo Ryan

You and Buster44 are very kind. I guess I was trying to say that my opinions are just that -- my subjective reactions to what I watch. I try to supply reasoning for every statement that I make about a show, but I can also understand if someone has a very different reaction to the same program.

April 21 2011 at 12:37 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Mo Ryan's comment
Debra Holliman

I think this is where I differ fundamentally from you and other critics I've seen say the same thing. I don't see your opinion as wholly subjective. There are objective elements in any application of rational response to art. Story structure, acting choices which enhance or detract, production values, lighting, the whole kaboodle. Every field of endeavour attempts to have objective criteria against which to measure. It's not wholly visceral when watched with an internal library of historic knowledge and analysis. Your negative reaction to something, for example, will be of far more value, and I would say more valid, than "That sucked" not just because of that wealth of expertise but because you subject your immediate reaction to rigorous thought and analysis. You can't help but do that, I suspect, even when you don't publish a review.

We couch potatos are not experts because we watch television. We have the luxury of forming an ill-considered, knee-jerk or uninformed opinion and the internet gives us the opportunity to proclaim it to the world in the voice of a toddler's tantrum or a toddler's giggles. Well-reasoned, well-argued opinions aren't required of us. You're not in the same happy position. You actually have to work for your rants.

April 21 2011 at 7:25 AM Report abuse rate up rate down
Craig Ranapia

I'm sure I'll really enjoy this when it's available through anything other than ITunes -- which has crashed my computer for the last time.

April 20 2011 at 3:37 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to Craig Ranapia's comment
Ryan McGee

I know. If only Mo has listed several other options by which you could download the audio file. If only.

April 20 2011 at 10:09 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
3 replies to Ryan McGee's comment
Mo Ryan

can't you get it via this site?


Let me know if you continue to have problems.

April 21 2011 at 12:38 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
3 replies to Mo Ryan's comment

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