The Daily Mirror’s Mark Jefferies wrote a neat bit of jaw-dropping nonsense on RadioTimes.com when he said: “I think 2014 can be defined as the year television critics officially lost their power to inform and dictate schedules and successes.”
Pish, tish and tosh. Mr Jefferies claims that Twitter reactions power TV executives’ decisions. Rubbish. No high-up in his or her right mind would be a slave to Twitter. Twitter is fine for a quick bit of temperature taking, but really it’s just people yelling down an empty lift shaft.
Frankie? The Bletchley Circle? The Hour? All beloved of Twitter, but all quite rightly died on their backsides, Frankie after one series, The Bletchley Circle and The Hour after two pointless second series. There were campaigns (on Twitter, of course) to save them, but , as it turned out, so what? As for ‘trending’, come on, it probably takes only three people and a hamster called Ian to get anything trending.
Of course I’m a professional TV critic so you’re probably shaking your head and saying ‘well, she would say that wouldn’t she, because she needs to fund her yacht in Monte Carlo’. Believe me, the only way I’m going to get a yacht in Monte Carlo is if I build it myself with lolly sticks.
No one goes into TV criticism for the money. At Radio Times, home of the best TV critics and writers in the business, we do it because we love it, and we each have a lifetime’s knowledge and a lifetime’s love of television to inform everything we think and write.
And we are in the uniquely privileged position of seeing everything (just about) before transmission and that is where WE inform and direct, not Twitter. Twitter en masse can only react, it can’t start a ball rolling, it can only kick it along the field.
Critics, particularly those of us who preview, are the influential ones. We are the ones who tip off our readers and followers to the greatness of Broadchurch…..The Killing…..The Bridge, WE are the ones who start the conversation, who prime the audiences, we are the ones who help build excitement because, I say again, we see things first and we all want to guide our readers to programmes we are sure they will love. That’s our job and we take our responsibilities seriously.
Mr Jefferies says Happy Valley gathered momentum after Twitter word of mouth. But word of mouth isn’t just Twitter because – and I know this will appall and surprise – most people aren’t on Twitter. Word of mouth can be just as much excited huddles in office canteens as it can be emoticon-larded Tweets.
We all know this, we all know that wherever we went, whoever we talked to, people were talking about Happy Valley, together, excitedly, face to face, just as they’ve always done. And, long after Twitter has died in a vortex of half-formed shouted thoughts, so they always will.
Alison Graham is TV editor of Radio Times magazine
Sign up to the Radio Times newsletter for the latest TV and entertainment news