Wednesday, September 5, 2007
A Monster TV Critic Interview: Maureen Ryan
Maureen Ryan is the TV critic for the Chicago Tribune and she's very good at her job. I read her posts even if I don't watch the show she's discussing. Some of you may recall her posts about Jericho and you can find them here. My favorites anyway. I am so honored that Maureen granted me this interview. I am most appreciative as she is one busy lady. May I present to you my favorite TV critic in the world?
1. How did you become a television reviewer and what
advice can you give you others attempting to break into
I got a Masters in Journalism from Northwestern about 15 years ago, and after that worked at various magazines and freelanced a lot for many different publications. I got hired at the Tribune as an editor, then was able to segue after several years to writing, and when our TV critic went on leave, I filled in for him, then eventually got the job. I don't really know what to tell anyone who wants to do the job -- just start your on TV blog and try to write with passion about what you love.
2. Why do you think other reviewers didn't see Jericho
with the same passion that you obviously did?
I think many people who write about TV thought the themes of Jericho might be too dark and depressing. Also the show is somewhat serialized and those kinds of shows didn't do so well last season, so perhaps that led to some pessimism about Jericho.
3. What do you think went wrong with Jericho beyond
the midseason break?
I think it was the break, really, that hurt the show. Also in the spring, American Idol was on and that tends to get a lot of press attention, so other shows got less.
4. What was your take on the viewers reaction to
the cancellation and did you think that they would
succeed in bringing the show back? (Did you
participate?) In one of your articles you wrote, "People power is a
beautiful thing. And thanks to the Internet, TV viewers are using it more
effectively than ever."
I did not think that the viewers would get more than a TV movie. When I started hearing of the Jericho campaign, I thought it was great but also thought that if I were to lead fans to think they could get another season -- well I thought that would be cruel on my or other critics' part if we said another season was possible. I truly thought it was not. I thought CBS in particular would not respond by giving the show more than a token TV movie. I was wrong, and happy to be wrong.
5. The Hollywood Reporter has taken to calling the
reversal The Jericho Effect. Do you think that The
Jericho Effect marks a change in how networks act
toward and interact with fans? What does the future
hold? (TV Viewers Bill of Rights)
I hope that it does mark a change, I really do. But in future, if Jericho does not do well, I hope that doesn't mean that networks will go back to ignoring passionate viewers. That would be a serious mistake. Broadcast networks need to start treating viewers better, especially in this day and age when there are so many other options. It's shocking to me that they've gotten away with treating viewers so shoddily for so long.
6. There has been growing discussion about reviewers
not appreciating bloggers, and in some cases, even
being afraid of them. Can you elaborate from the
critics perspective and share your own?
It's a mixed bag, I think. Many tv critics I know and respect have blogs and love interacting with the public. Then again there are tv writers who don't think bloggers have much credibility. Frankly I think we can both learn from each other -- I read news on blogs all the time that the blogs have first, and bloggers can be passionate and effective advocates and critics. And mainstream critics offer context and history and contacts that are valuable and effective. I think the mainstream press and bloggers can just expand the dialogue about good TV -- that's the ideal.
6. What thoughts do you have on improving the public's
reaction to reviewers? Bloggers?
I'm not sure, I'm just a believer in everyone being able to leave comments on blogs -- I view myself as starting a discussion with my blog, not really being the final word on anything. Both bloggers and critics should accept by now that it's an interactive world and nobody has the final say on anything -- everyone's entitled to their opinion, even if they disagree (as long as they can do so politely).
7. Has there ever been a time when you have faced
criticism over a review (or a colleague if not
yourself)? And how did you/they respond to the
I get criticism all the time from commenters on my blog. And I welcome comments and disagreements that are offered in the spirit of having an open dialogue. I'm not so fond of it when people are cruel and vicious in their comments, I'm not sure if that adds anything to the world to put cruelty and meanness into the discussion.
9. What are some of your other interests beyond film
Gardening, reading, traveling and spending time with my son and husband. :)
10. Who do you think is the hottest Jericho celebrity
Hottest? Not sure, but Johnston Green was definitely my favorite character. (And I recommend that Jericho fans watch Deadwood to see more fine acting by Gerald McRaney, by the way.)
11. What would like to add about yourself or your
industry that I may not have covered in my questions?
I just think we're in a golden age of TV right now -- those who think there is nothing good to watch are just not looking. Their loss!