The regular TV season is winding down, and there's a brief lull before the networks announce their fall wares and the cable nets launch their summer series. So it seems a good time to talk a bit about what it means to be "TV Eye" and to answer some recurring questions.
Whenever I tell someone I watch TV and write about it for a living, I inevitably get icy silence or a gushy "That's all you do all day? Wow! You're so lucky."
The emphasis on "all" always gets me. Like I'm sitting around in sweats, staring at the screen as my right hand burnishes the buttons on the remote, guzzling soda and Cheetos. Just for the record, I have a notepad, too. Mostly, I eat popcorn, and I wear a bra if I think a delivery person is coming by. But I digress.
Let me start with what the job is not. It's not instant invites to the Emmy Awards or the Golden Globes, or a direct hotline to Aaron Sorkin, Sharon Osbourne, or Joss Whedon, which would be the case in dream "TV Eye" land.
People always ask about perks, apparently believing that the networks constantly shower me with gifts. Press kits occasionally tickle me. The Cartoon Network is tops in this regard. To promote Samurai Jack, they sent battery operated fortune cookies. The Discovery Channel sends handsomely boxed promotional materials that are a shame to destroy even when the materials are out of date. The WB recently sent something -- I've yet to discern what it was. By the time the package arrived, the promotional item had exploded, leaving behind a strange, antifreeze-colored liquid, drenching the enclosed press release and screener tape.
The strangest thing I received was a Mimi Bobeck doll to announce the syndication of The Drew Carey Show. I keep the doll mostly because it's the only fat doll I've ever seen, but it's out of sight. She has this crazed expression that creeps me out, like she's going to crawl out of her box and appear at my elbow late at night as I'm writing. ("Hello, pig. You call that writing?")
One of the pitfalls of writing for a weekly paper is that deadlines don't always coincide with air dates or when I get press materials, like the invitation to attend the special premiere screening of HBO's Path to War here in town on Wednesday night (that's right about the same time the paper's going to press). This highly anticipated film examines how the U.S. got embroiled in the Vietnam War, and how then President Lyndon B. Johnson became associated with the most unpopular war in U.S. history. Path to War premieres Saturday, 7pm, on HBO. Encores occur throughout May.
By the time "TV Eye" goes to print, I'll have attended the live feed of Fox entertainment execs introducing the new season, thanks to local affiliate KTBC. My firsthand responses will run next week.
Gathering information and deciding what to print is not always as straightforward as it sounds. Last week, when I printed a Buffy the Vampire Slayer spoiler, two fans e-mailed to complain. In my defense, I did indicate that a spoiler was on the way, so stop reading if you didn't want to know. I didn't anticipate that someone would read the piece, then blab to their friends, "Did you read in 'TV Eye' that ... ." Since writing "TV Eye," I've learned that when friends ask what I know about a series, I ask them: Do you really want to know? If they answer affirmatively when asked the third time, I refuse to take the heat for "ruining" it for them.
Which brings me to the invisible aspect of being "TV Eye" -- dealing with the public. I often get e-mails and phone calls asking for answers to television trivia, feedback on articles, tart criticism, and back patting. All of it is appreciated. Writing a column with no readers is a useless enterprise. So far, my most memorable message was from a nice gentleman who claimed to be a Luddite, though he apparently had no qualms watching TV or using the telephone. In his lengthy voice message he said that when he picks up the Chronicle, he goes to "TV Eye" and the Food section.
"Maybe it's bad, but I always go for dessert first."
So much for my aspirations of being considered a pop culture critic. On the other hand, reruns may be inevitable on TV but not in real life. And who knows if there'll be TV in the great beyond?
As always, stay tuned.