MONDO EXTRAS

Ask A TV Critic: Verne Gay

Verne Gay is television writer and critic for Newsday, where he's endured the waste -- and reveled in the occasional glory -- that is American TV for nearly two decades.

Sars: What's the most common misconception that you run into about the job?

Verne Gay: The most common one is omniscience -- that because I write about television, every show on the tube, I'm supposed to know about, or one assumes that they do. It's sort of -- that someone I mention to that I'm a critic, they'll say, "Oh, what did you think of the character development on" -- or a specific character on, let's say, Numb3rs, and I'll say, "God, I'm sorry, but I haven't really watched Numb3rs recently." There are, I should add, critics that do indeed know everything; you look at a guy like Mike Hughes with the Gannett News Service who's truly omniscient, a guy like Michael Ausiello at TV Guide, he's amazing -- Ausiello truly seems to know everything about every character and development on a show. But for me, I think my brain isn't that much of a sponge or something, or maybe it just can't absorb that much stuff, but I do not know everything about every TV show on the air, and also, I tend to put a sort of a stamp of...if something is fresh in my mind one day, it's going to be completely forgotten in two days. It's sort of like -- television critics are like television viewers who are casual; they watch a ton of stuff, and they forget a ton of stuff. And that's kind of the way I go about it as well; I try to remember as much as I can or follow as much as I can and do it as a reporter might, which is call producers and talk to people, but again, at the end of the day, you're looking at an 800-channel universe, and the misconception that a TV critic knows everything on every one of those channels is the most obvious misconception that I think a lot of people have about critics.

Sars: So what is the breakout of your viewing pattern?

Gay: Well, if by that you mean what are the shows that I love and watch closely, clearly something like 24 and Lost are shows that I'll watch and re-watch, and to me they're the great breakout shows, literally, of the century -- this century being seven years old, of course. They did, to me, so many things right, and well, and they understood their audiences so well, they understood their characters so well, and I put them in the past tense -- of course I don't mean to, but of course those seasons have yet to begin -- they to me were the templates of what great television was. Of course Sopranos I adored and loved and slobbered over like everyone else, but -- I love Lost, I think it's a great show that understood how a certain audience, a certain segment of the audience, wanted to interact with television and it was a true breakthrough, and it was one of those programs that he sort of added an extra dimension, an extra several dimensions to what we sort of commonly refer to as the viewing experience, and I'm not talking simply about the online games or the online components, rich as those were, but really sort of the intellectual components.

I mean, certainly a lot of Lost is hogwash, but clearly those guys, Carlton and Damon read a lot of stuff, and they're very bright, savvy guys, and they've loaded the script up with a lot of reference points and a lot of thinking, and I think it has added a real fun element to viewing, if you will, so those are my great breakthrough shows. I don't talk a lot about 24, only because I think it had a lousy season, but I'm sure it'll be fine next year.

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Ask A TV Critic: Verne Gay

Verne Gay is television writer and critic for Newsday, where he's endured the waste -- and reveled in the occasional glory -- that is American TV for nearly two decades.

Sars: What's the most common misconception that you run into about the job?

Verne Gay: The most common one is omniscience -- that because I write about television, every show on the tube, I'm supposed to know about, or one assumes that they do. It's sort of -- that someone I mention to that I'm a critic, they'll say, "Oh, what did you think of the character development on" -- or a specific character on, let's say, Numb3rs, and I'll say, "God, I'm sorry, but I haven't really watched Numb3rs recently." There are, I should add, critics that do indeed know everything; you look at a guy like Mike Hughes with the Gannett News Service who's truly omniscient, a guy like Michael Ausiello at TV Guide, he's amazing -- Ausiello truly seems to know everything about every character and development on a show. But for me, I think my brain isn't that much of a sponge or something, or maybe it just can't absorb that much stuff, but I do not know everything about every TV show on the air, and also, I tend to put a sort of a stamp of...if something is fresh in my mind one day, it's going to be completely forgotten in two days. It's sort of like -- television critics are like television viewers who are casual; they watch a ton of stuff, and they forget a ton of stuff. And that's kind of the way I go about it as well; I try to remember as much as I can or follow as much as I can and do it as a reporter might, which is call producers and talk to people, but again, at the end of the day, you're looking at an 800-channel universe, and the misconception that a TV critic knows everything on every one of those channels is the most obvious misconception that I think a lot of people have about critics.

Sars: So what is the breakout of your viewing pattern?

Gay: Well, if by that you mean what are the shows that I love and watch closely, clearly something like 24 and Lost are shows that I'll watch and re-watch, and to me they're the great breakout shows, literally, of the century -- this century being seven years old, of course. They did, to me, so many things right, and well, and they understood their audiences so well, they understood their characters so well, and I put them in the past tense -- of course I don't mean to, but of course those seasons have yet to begin -- they to me were the templates of what great television was. Of course Sopranos I adored and loved and slobbered over like everyone else, but -- I love Lost, I think it's a great show that understood how a certain audience, a certain segment of the audience, wanted to interact with television and it was a true breakthrough, and it was one of those programs that he sort of added an extra dimension, an extra several dimensions to what we sort of commonly refer to as the viewing experience, and I'm not talking simply about the online games or the online components, rich as those were, but really sort of the intellectual components.

I mean, certainly a lot of Lost is hogwash, but clearly those guys, Carlton and Damon read a lot of stuff, and they're very bright, savvy guys, and they've loaded the script up with a lot of reference points and a lot of thinking, and I think it has added a real fun element to viewing, if you will, so those are my great breakthrough shows. I don't talk a lot about 24, only because I think it had a lousy season, but I'm sure it'll be fine next year.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11Next

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