We all have standards, and for years, mine were measured against Entertainment Weekly. I originally encountered this magazine in the mid-90s, through my college roommate’s subscription. When she moved to Long Island, I got a subscription of my own. I love magazines, and I’ve been on and off with a dozen brands since the days I was old enough to print my name on a subscription card, but only two have stuck with me continuously for the last decade: Sports Illustrated and EW.
My loyalty to SI is a no-brainer (check out my title if you need further confirmation); my devotion to EW is a little more complicated. Sure, I love pop culture. I like to spend a sizeable chunk of my so-called free time immersed in movies, books, theatre, music, and especially television, so it’s pretty obvious why I’d enjoy having a magazine arrive at my doorstep every seven days bursting with the latest news, gossip, interviews, and most importantly, critical reviews pertaining to all things pop culture.
This was the magazine that put Buffy the Vampire Slayer on its cover. That championed the performance of Cate Blanchett in Elizabeth over Gwyneth Paltrow in Shakespeare in Love. That introduced me to Norah Jones and Amanda Eyre Ward and Pedro Almodóvar and Nicole Krauss and Greg Berlanti and Kristin Chenoweth, and many other talented artists I have come to adore. This magazine brought Television Without Pity into my life, and I’ve always believed would be among the first major media outlets to champion Intrepid Media -- hey, the publication loved everything I loved, so sooner or later, it would find its way here.
But even better than that, Entertainment Weekly published vitriolic and clever criticisms of all the things I hate -- Pay It Forward, Paris Hilton, "Yes, Dear," Mitch Albom’s fiction, the musical stylings of anyone with the last name Simpson -- and served, at the very least, a sort of confirmation that I wasn’t a total freak for eschewing all sitcoms for little-watched WB dramas.
For better or for worse, Entertainment Weekly reflected pretty much exactly my tastes, and I was happy with that. I listened to my friends' advice about movies, but if EW wrote a negative review, particularly one that used the words “overtly sentimental” or “maudlin,” I’d usually avoid said flick. Of course, there were areas of disagreement –- I was mildly surprised to enjoy Pieces of April as much as I did after EW’s disdainful dismissal, and I never quite understood the magazine’s apparent hatred of all things Eddie Vedder. But for the most part, Entertainment Weekly and I were literally on the same page.
But then the magazine changed.
I’m not sure when I first started to notice it, but suddenly, EW and I weren’t so in sync with each other. Their obsession with Mel Gibson bored the hell out of me. The constant bashing of Orlando Bloom was unnecessary at best, and their evisceration of my favorite director Cameron Crowe’s skills didn’t necessarily jibe with my own take on his talent.
But my biggest rift came when I eagerly flipped through the end-of-the-year issue to discover which television shows made their ten best list. Two reviewers compiled two top-ten lists, and among the potentially twenty shows, I don’t watch a single one of them.
Oh, some of them are just not my speed –- I’m sure "The Wire" is as good as everyone says, but I spend enough time in Baltimore that I don’t really need to see its violence duplicated on a television screen. And my own biases against the sci-fi genre keep me from "Battlestar Galactica," which from all reports is a fantastic show. But the majority of the shows on the list I’m either lukewarm about (I hope that Pam and Jim never get together), or actively dislike. (EW can rave about it all they want, but I still think "24" is misogynistic, unbelievable crap.)
Meanwhile, for the first time I ever, I TiVo not one, but two shows on their Worst Five list. (Yeah, I get it, it’s not cool to like "Studio 60," but Aaron Sorkin can still wring humor and pathos out of any setting, and you can’t tell me a show that features the comedic wit of Sarah Paulson is worse than any given law procedure entry from the bloated genre or an hour of random nobodies doing nothing but opening suitcases.)
I should have seen this coming –- the lukewarm reviews of my favorite new show, "Brothers and Sisters"; the D slapped on an undeserving episode of "Veronica Mars"; the giddy over-promotion of "Heroes" all should have heralded that this season, my television tastes and Entertainment Weekly’s were not aligned. But it still came as a shock when the measuring bar that I’ve both consciously and subconsciously used for years strayed so far from my own standards.
Here’s the thing: I’m not sure it’s Lisa Schwartzbaum or Ken Tucker who have changed. It’s not like an entire magazine has somehow shifted its sensibilities from the Michelle Von Euw-defined standards of critically acceptable entertainment.
It’s much more likely that my own opinions have changed.
Look, maybe this is a sign I’m evolving. Maybe you aren’t supposed to read the same magazines in your thirties that you loved in your twenties; I’ve jettisoned publications I’ve outgrown in the past, it’s really not all that uncommon.
And it’s not like my tastes are becoming more refined (the girl who has worn out her DVD copy of the Cutting Edge could never make that claim) -- or even going in the opposite direction and becoming more pedestrian. I get that my likes and dislikes are not so easily defined, that I’m drawn to a certain type of writing, a specific portrayal of emotionally complex father/daughter relationships that transcends genres, and that I like entertainment with the power to make me laugh and cry, preferably at the same time.
But the thing is, I don’t want to change. I’ve really liked having a publication that was so sharply in line with the things I loved, and so caustically disdainful of the things I don’t.
But until the publishers of Entertainment Weekly finally realize the genius of Pearl Jam, I'm out of luck.
Originally from Boston, Michelle is a writer, editor, instructor, obsessive sports fan, loud talker, quick laugher, new mom, and chances are, she watches more television than you do. Follow her on Twitter at michellevoneuw
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1.8.07 @ 1:39a
Actually I believe that SI and I have stuck together, check the name on the issue. Don't make me take over EW too (lol)!
1.8.07 @ 6:52a
Interesting... some months back I did something, somewhere (online or otherwise) that suddenly and unexpectedly brought be a year's free subscription to EW. Please don't hate me. As each arrived I would promptly rip it in half and toss it--for no other reason than that I have very limited time, and don't really watch television that much, and because of the rude, cell-phone opening (and using), acting like I'm on my couch at home so I can make all the comments I want as loud as I want and will only say "shut the f--- up and watch the d--- movie" when asked to please be quiet folks I seem to encounter at the movies any more, I don't watch nearly as many movies as I used to either. Pop culture is fun, but so is a pixie stick. I sometimes think their nutritional values are about equal.
Speaking of changing and outgrowing, I think I may be outgrowing the entertainment industry as a whole. Again, for no other reason than because the older I get, the more precious my time seems to be.
1.8.07 @ 7:46a
I've never outgrown Harper's, The Atlantic, The New Yorker, National Geographic or Time. I'm on the verge of outgrowing Time because they've hired Bill Kristol to write a column and I hate everything he stands for, says or thinks. I just don't have time to read any more magazines than those five, so I only subscribe to them. I began subscribing to Harper's and The Atlantic when I was a senior in high school; The New Yorker and Time when I was a junior in college and NG a few years after that. I go to the nearby library branch to read some other magazines if somebody tells me there's something interesting in one of them. I used to subscribe to Rolling Stone but I just can't read it all cover to cover as I once did, and now with all the stuff I have to read online there's just no way to keep up with everything. Before I got my cataracts fixed I really had a hard time reading anything that wasn't on a brightly lit monitor. Scientific American, Vanity Fair and Interview just went by the wayside. All my leftwing rags ditto. I get them online now most of the time. So many pages of print, so little time!
1.8.07 @ 9:34a
No mention of Stephen King's embarrassing column? And didn't EW have a big spread on the Pearl Jam fanbase a few months ago, in which they inexplicably called PJ fans "the Jamily?"
1.8.07 @ 9:45a
I have a guilty love for People and Vanity Fair when I'm at the salon, but I subscribe to Smithsonian, Reader's Digest, Cooking Light, and a couple of writers' mags. I rely on IM for all my pop culture needs.
1.8.07 @ 10:33a
When I was probably about your age I went through the same thing with Rolling Stone, which I had subscribed to for many years. I just found less and less of it interesting.
These days I barely have time to get through my MacWorld and Poets & Writers. Oh - and we just subscribed to the Sunday NYT. Every couple weeks now I'll walk over to the campus library and browse the New Yorkers.
1.8.07 @ 11:55a
Funny, instead of renewing my Maxim subscription this year, I switched to Esquire. I wonder if that means I'm growing up...
1.8.07 @ 5:56p
I haven't quite given up on EW, especially because they covered "Grey's Anatomy" really well along with "Pirates of the Caribbean 2" and "Project Runway". But the only reason why I started to read it was because "Movieline" seems to have become defunct.