Watching television and writing about it may seem like a dream job. But on Monday night, TV critic Todd VanDerWerff explained how his job isn’t just Netflix and chilling.
The Kelly Writers House hosted VanDerWerff in the first event of its annual “Writing About TV” series. VanDerWerff is the former TV Editor at The A.V. Club and is now the Culture Editor at Vox.com.
VanDerWerff read two of his own pieces: a recap of the season four finale of “The Sopranos” and an article about today’s new golden age of television. He then answered several questions from the audience, focusing on his career and his thoughts about the future of the television industry.
Although VanDerWerff’s original goal was to become a film critic, he has never wanted to stop writing about television. He said he thinks writing about TV is more interesting than writing about film because critics are always in conversation with the shows they write about. He added that they also have a lot more opportunities to engage with readers than do film critics.
However, he pointed out that TV criticism requires significantly more watching, thinking and writing because of its frequent deadlines. When VanDerWerff worked at The A.V. Club, he was following around 67 shows at one time.
In an interview before the event, VanDerWerff said that TV criticism is more work than people would expect. “You have to watch a lot of stuff you hate,” VanDerWerff said.
Although he said he does not enjoy some popular shows including “Two and A Half Men,” “Glee” and “American Horror Story,” he feels the need to keep up with them because he knows that many other people are watching. VanDerWerff added he understands that he can’t always write about his preferred shows.
“The shows TV critics want to talk about, which are often way off the beaten path, are not the shows that our readers are actually watching,” VanDerWerff said.
VanDerWerff told Monday night’s audience that he hopes his writing on popular shows will guide readers to his pieces about the lesser known shows that he’s more passionate about.
When interviewed about his advice for aspiring TV critics, he recommended reading and writing often. “I don’t necessarily mean read 15 novels a day;reading interesting stuff about TV on the internet is certainly working toward that goal,” VanDerWerff said.
He also suggested that aspiring TV writers write not only about the television they love but also about the television other people love, and try to figure out why others love it. He told aspiring critics to expose themselves to new television as much as possible.
“Try writing about something you’ve never heard of, or something people don’t really pay attention to,” VanDerWerff said.
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