Scenes from the abyss

In 1990, Jeff Jarvis invented Entertainment Weekly, and one controversy immediately sprang up: their reviews were summed up by a straight-outta-high school letter grade, a grievous affront to the creative community — especially the segment of the creative community who got C-minus or below.

Over the years in EW, there have been a number of A’s, even an A-plus once or twice, and rather a lot of F’s. I’ve read every issue — I was one of the very first subscribers, and make of that what you will — but I don’t remember ever seeing an actual F-minus.

Until issue #943, in which Ken Tucker describes “a book that should never be published”:

You just knew that O. J. Simpson’s aborted book, If I Did It, his “hypothetical” account of his role in the 1994 murder of Nicole Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman, was going to be leaked. I’ve read a version of the manuscript from Judith Regan’s now-defunct HarperCollins imprint and am here to tell you, there is no guilty pleasure to be gleaned from these ramblings of a craven, whining, self-pityingly aggrieved man.

I think I’ve just been talked out of writing a memoir.

As for the rest of the mag, my favorite section is getting to be Alynda Wheat’s What to Watch, which I suppose is an odd choice since I seldom watch much of anything on television, but her single-paragraph distillations are always fun, and she doesn’t even have to assign letter grades. On the Food Network’s new series Simply Delicioso:

Believe it or not, when you need Latina cred for your network you actually do wanna hire someone named Ingrid Hoffmann.

This is a show it would never occur to me to watch, and yet suddenly it appears almost … interesting. Which, of course, makes me worry if Ms Wheat is in fact the creature I fear most, the woman who can talk me into anything.





2 comments

  1. david »

    7 July 2007 · 1:47 pm

    I enjoy reading Jeff’s blog – he is smart and full of insight and leading the charge in the “new” media revolution. But I don’t think I can ever forgive him for his creation of EW. It has – IMO – been instrumental in the “tabloidization” of our culture.

    Eh. As if Jeff would care what I think.

    In other news: Charles, I tagged you with a meme and hope that you will play along. I am acting under orders from Lachlan, so it’s not entirely my fault.

  2. Jeff Jarvis »

    10 July 2007 · 10:01 am

    Yes, some fellow critics hated the grades but I contended that it was only a reader service: They wanted to force people to read their prose. I said that we were in the service business and if you didn’t care to read a ‘c’ review of a movie, already suspecting it was mediocre, then we shouldn’t try to make you. Critics write service journalism.

    And david, EW is, in fact, a reaction against the tabloidization. I worked at People when I came up for the idea and I saw that as media choices increased and media competition for celebrity also increased, other publications increasingly focused on events in the stars’ lives, not careers. EW focused, instead, on their entertainment. “Product, not personality” was one of our watchwords. Now after I left, they tried to make it into People Jr., but that didn’t work. It generally is about the entertainment products while others, I have long said, practice bodily fluids journalism (affairs, diseases, deaths….).

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