Variety TV Critic Checks In with Pulitzer Prize Winning Elders

Are today’s web-powered TV critics nastier than their print predecessors? That’s the question Variety TV critic Brian Lowry posed to a pair of retired masters of the TV criticism game, Howard Rosenberg (LA Times) and Tom Shales (Washington Post).

Rosenberg (pictured), who now teaches at USC, says that while he always tried to avoid being “nasty,” he doesn’t feel today’s critics are any worse than some of his former colleagues. It’s just a matter of the whole discussion being amplified. Shales however is firmly of the belief that things have gone down the broadband hill, fast.

“If reviews are bitchier now, it’s because of the Internet and all the amateurs who are reviewing movies and TV,” Shales said via email. “They don’t have training, they don’t have standards. … Old-fashioned virtues like ‘literate,’ ‘thoughtful,’ ‘witty,’ ‘clever,’ those kinds of things are no longer reached for.” With some online opinions, he added, “It’s just conversation; it’s not writing, and it’s not criticism.”

Rosenberg remarks that by their very nature, online TV critics have to “kick more butt” to be heard in the din of in the Internet world. Shales for his part also bemoans the tendency of many critics to mistake sarcasm for irony. From his end, Lowry says he was as struck at the recent TCA Winter Press Tour by the number of credentialed reporters who behaved more like star-struck fans.