Life in Hollywood, below-the-line

Life in Hollywood, below-the-line
Work gloves at the end of the 2006/2007 television season (photo by Richard Blair)

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Bon Voyage, Mr. Goodman

“Every time you think you’ve found your way, your life changes.”
Ursula LeGuin

As a longtime fan of Tim Goodman -- chief TV critic for my hometown San Francisco Chronicle for six or seven years before stepping up into a pair of much bigger shoes at The Hollywood Reporter for most of the past decade -- I've devoted a fair quantity of digital ink to his work in this space. With a savage wit and smart, take-no-prisoners prose, Goodman met the challenge of analyzing and deconstructing television in an era of rapid, unprecedented change. The "digital revolution" is just that -- a revolution -- and as such, grabbed television as we knew it by the ankles, turned it upside down, and shook hard. Very hard. Hollywood, and the industry as a whole, continue to reverberate from these tectonic changes.

I introduced Goodman to my then-miniscule audience here at BS&T in this post eleven short years ago, then reminded the slowly growing readership here a year later, and prodded them again in 2010.  A link to his THR reviews -- aptly named The Bastard Machine -- has lived over there on the right side of this page ever since. For those who'd rather cherry-pick from a distillation of Goodman's trenchant observations, there's this compendium of snarky quotes compiled by a crazy Irishman.

I love good movies and TV shows, but most of all I love good writing, which Tim Goodman delivered in spades. It was Goodman who gave me a shove to start this blog, first by commissioning my one and only paid writing gig* for the Chronicle, then encouraging me to write more about the underbelly of the film and television industry. All this came about after he'd fired a barrage of critical arrows into the soft white underbelly of Good Morning, Miamithe show I was then working on. Pissed at reading such a brutal review, I sent him a rather caustic e-mail response. Good Morning, Miami wasn't a great show, but it wasn't all that bad either -- it was just an average laugh-track sitcom. More to the point, it was my show, paying my rent, putting food on my table, so I took umbrage at a review that seemed hell-bent on getting it cancelled.  

Tim responded with good humor, which began a back and forth that continues, however sporadically, to this day. As time passed, he began a couple of blogs, started one of (if not the) first podcasts about television, and for the last few years has co-hosted a terrific podcast with Bay Area tech guru Jason Snell, discussing what's new on the Toob, and analyzing how the industry struggles to cope with the reality of internet streaming, the new (and soon to be dominant) mode of delivering/consuming television. The TV Talk Machine has been an  entertaining and informative listen for anyone curious about what's new in the industry. Among recent offerings,Tim detailed why he finally cut the cord in cancelling his cable service and going all-in on streaming, then explained exactly how to do it for those who remain dazed and confused by the rapidly evolving technology. 

Sadly, I must employ the past tense here. There's a reason I wrote the following line in the very first BS&T post back in 2007: "Nothing good seems to last very long on this thin strip of sun-baked earth trapped hard between the desert and the sea."  Alas, that still holds. Early in November, Tim announced the end of his storied career as a TV critic. Officially done with all that, he left the The Hollywood Reporter, and is now off on some mysterious new quest, the nature of which he has yet to reveal.  

Wow -- I sure as hell didn't see that coming. Granted, it's a show-biz axiom to "leave 'em wanting more," but how many actors, writers, directors -- or television critics -- ever manage to go out on top?  Most hang on until it's glaringly obvious that The Industry no longer requires or desires their services -- but not Mr. Goodman, who apparently heard the Song of the Sirens, then tore himself loose, jumped ship, and swam off into the mist to answer the call.  

You can tap into the TVTM archives -- there's a lot to choose from -- and as of three weeks ago, Tim promised Jason that he'd do a few more episodes to wrap things up... but after the New Year, it's anybody's guess what will become of it.  

Needless to say, this does not make me happy. Not only was I counting on Tim and Jason to keep me apprised of (and entertained by) the latest happenings in the world of television, I assumed he'd be writing -- and I'd be reading -- his THR reviews and columns on into the foreseeable future.  

Well, you know what they say about assumptions.

"The only constant is change," Heraclitus tells us, and as usual, the ancient Greeks nailed it. We don't have to like it to accept it, and although Tim's leap into the void is a rather bitter pill to swallow for those of us who enjoy his writing, such is life. I don't know how long -- or if -- THR will maintain his archive of reviews, so you might want to click on over to The Bastard Machine to read them while you can.

Meanwhile, all I can say is "So long, Tim -- it's been a blast."

That it has. 

Thanks for everything, and good luck on your new path.

* Which the Chron's editor butchered, BTW, cutting out a full third of the piece -- so don't hold the choppy nature of the result against me...