There's a widespread belief that critics hate everything, revel in hating everything, and cannot be pleased. It's widespread and wrong, though.
That fact has never been clearer to me than at this year's summer press tour, where — while I certainly can't speak for everyone — it seems like there's a glumness that has settled in that can be traced back to the fact that ... we're not loving anything. Reviewing television has been for the last few years quite like reviewing anything: You hunt for the exceptional in a mixed bag of the ordinary and the lousy. At my last few tours, there's been at least something generating excited discussion — "Have you watched it yet? How many episodes have you seen?" Last year, it was the anticipation of BBC America's airing of Broadchurch, for instance.
This year, what I'm hearing is a lot of, "Well, I thought this was ... fine."
In fairness, that's almost always where good comedies start. They're almost never, right out of the gate, spectacular. The more specific their sensibilities and the more delicious their rhythms, the more likely it is that they'll need a few episodes to find their feet anyway. There are comedies — NBC's Marry Me and ABC's Black-ish come to mind — that I think could certainly wind up being delightful, not to everyone but at least to me. And NBC's A to Z has only a so-so pilot, but the panel was cracklingly great, which is sometimes a good sign for comedies. (We also spotted the cast voluntarily hanging out and eating together at the party that evening, which I weirdly take as a positive sign of its own.)
But on the drama side, the excitement that arrived with the first screeners of Masters of Sex, for instance, just hasn't shown up. That doesn't mean it couldn't, but it certainly hasn't yet. Overall, people just seem ... bummed out. The four days we spent hearing from much of cable were widely reviewed as pretty grim, and it was hard to get excited about NBC's three shows on one day (the Katherine Heigl drama State of Affairs, the Debra Messing comedy-drama The Mysteries of Laura, and the Kate Walsh comedy Bad Judge) that were largely pitched as being about women who are competent at work but out of control in their personal lives.
We sat around last night and watched a screening of Sharknado 2: The Second One, which was, as you might imagine, terrible by all relevant critical standards. But I have to admit, at least it was fun. At least it didn't seem like a show created via magnetic poetry kit. It is inventively, energetically, committedly trash, and there is a place in the world for that. Not for as much of it as I sense we're going to get in the wake of it, but at least it didn't seem like a lot of bored folks going through the motions.
We're only about halfway through all this, believe it or not; there's plenty of time to get excited. But for now, I'm on hold.