Thursday, March 27, 2014

Farewell, Television Without Pity


This morning, I received a punch in the gut: one of my favorite websites would be going offline forever.  Yes, Television Without Pity, originating the phrase "spare the snark, spoil the network," will mark its last day on April 4th.  (The forums will remain open until May 31st, but that's cold comfort.)

I've lost many Internet loves over the years, but Television Without Pity deserves a special mention.  It has been one of my go-to websites for at least 10 years.  I vaguely remember when it was called Mighty Big TV and run by two women, Sarah Bunting and Tara Ariano, instead of NBC Universal.

NBC can be thanked for TWoP's demise.  In 2007, Bunting and Ariano sold the website to Bravo, which was part of the NBC Universal empire.  Recently, citing a drop in traffic, NBC tried to sell TWoP to another entity, but found no buyer.  Rather than try a different model, such as a subscription system, NBC decided to shut the doors.

It's possible that someone might step in to save the website.  But if not, I'll just try to remember the good times.  Such as recaps of favorite shows that could last two hours.  Television Without Pity's specialty was the blow-by-blow recap, which described and critiqued every scene and character interaction.  Some of these recaps could be 20-plus pages long.

Frequently recappers would include their observations in other recappers' works.  Characters received nicknames, sometimes lame but usually funny.  Character interactions received tropes to describe them.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  Gilmore Girls.  Survivor with the excruciating Rupert seasons.  Sex and the City.  Dollhouse.  Freaks and Geeks.  Friday Night Lights.  Mad Men.  The West Wing.  The list goes on.  Television Without Pity recaps either enriched an already great viewing experience, or at least made it more bearable.  It was like watching with a group of your snarky friends -- only much smarter than your friends.

Admittedly, after Bunting and Ariano left in 2008, the recaps began to lose some of their steam.  They became more explanatory and less clever.  However, the forums were still a rich source of intelligent commentary, ranging from snarky to thoughtful.  Every show on television, both past and present, was represented and endlessly dissected.  The forums have not only served as a place of discussing episodes, but also of discussing culture and history.

Yet even with the welcome addition of Movies Without Pity, the website was apparently losing its mojo.  There were signs here and there, such as slideshows on the main page that strained to make connections between two very different shows or characters.  One favorite: "Are Downton Abbey and Game of Thrones the same show?"  Because they both have snarky old ladies, or something.  Next up: "Are Little House on the Prairie and Breaking Bad the same show?"  Because both involve cooking over an open flame.

Still, it seemed as though TWoP was strong enough to go on indefinitely.  Even now, it doesn't feel real that it's closing down.  Maybe some deep-pocketed, sentimental business person will swoop in and rescue it last minute.

If not, other websites may fill the void in various ways.  There is Bunting and Ariano's current venture, Previously TV.  Or the A.V. Club.  But none will ever completely take the place of Television Without Pity.  It's going to be hard to wean myself off of the habit of going there every day.

Farewell, my Snarky Friend.                          

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