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What Quentin Tarantino Gets Wrong About TV Critics

What Quentin Tarantino Gets Wrong About TV Critics

Quentin Tarantino’s interview with Vulture’s Lane Brown is a joy to read, the perfect combination of thought-provoking and infuriating. Stopping midway through postproduction on “The Hateful Eight,” Tarantino names David O. Russell “the best actor’s director, along with myself, working in movies today,” praises Obama’s second term, and suggests that the country is in “another ’60s moment, where the people themselves had to expose how ugly they were before things could change.” The interview suggests that, in addition to knowing the history of cinema, Tarantino is familiar with the practice of interviews as performance art, and embraces it as an interview to throw a few bombs as well as promote his latest product.

For Criticwire’s purposes, what’s most interesting is this particular passage:

What kind of TV do you watch?

The last two shows that I watched all the way were “Justified” and “How I Met Your Mother.”

Have you seen “True Detective”?

I tried to watch the first episode of season one, and I didn’t get into it at all. I thought it was really boring. And season two looks awful. Just the trailer — all these handsome actors trying to not be handsome and walking around looking like the weight of the world is on their shoulders. It’s so serious, and they’re so tortured, trying to look miserable with their mustaches and grungy clothes.

Now, the HBO show I loved was Aaron Sorkin’s “The Newsroom.” That was the only show that I literally watched three times. I would watch it at seven o’clock on Sunday, when the new one would come on. Then after it was over, I’d watch it all over again. Then I would usually end up watching it once during the week, just so I could listen to the dialogue one more time.

I think people will be surprised to hear that. “The Newsroom’s” reviews were all over the place. Sorkin even apologized for some of it.

Who the fuck reads TV reviews? Jesus fucking Christ. TV critics review the pilot. Pilots of shows suck. Why would it be surprising that I like the best dialogue writer in the business?

Quentin Tarantino is, needless to say, under no obligation to read reviews of his own movies, let alone reviews of other people’s TV shows. But it’s interesting that his view of TV criticism seems to have arrested somewhere in the late ’90s, before episodic reviews and recaps, when critics might more frequently review a single episode and then leave a show for dead. Even then, of course, good critics would circle back and regularly check in on shows to chart their progress — and with 50 scripted shows a year rather than the current 400, it was feasible to do so with many, even most of them. And it’s, well, at least worthy of note that just before he slams critics for reviewing a TV series based solely on the pilot, he admits bailing on “True Detective” without finishing a single episode, and swearing off Season 2 after watching no more than the trailer. (He also seems to have skipped out on the streaming revolution, which leaves you wondering what he’d think of, say “BoJack Horseman.”) 

Tarantino’s love of “How I Met Your Mother” is well-documented, and he’s been a fan of “The Newsroom” since the beginning. Back in the mid-oughts, in fact, he was  a self-confessed TV junkie. He told MTV News in 2012, “About six years ago, I was watching a lot of the serialized television shows,” he said. “I had to cut them out because I stopped going to movies because I was always caught up in four different serialized shows and the box set for this one and that one. I had to go, ‘Look, I ain’t about that. I’m about movies. I’d rather go out to the theaters.'”  That must have been when he watched “The Shield,” with what he calls its “faux-Quentin dialogue.”

Tarantino has always had a somewhat contentious relationship to critics, and that doesn’t seem likely to change: As he says elsewhere in the interviews, “Social critics don’t mean a thing to me…. So any naysayers for the public good can just fuck off.” But where his other opinions are at defensible, his sense of how TV critics work is just plain wrong, and surprisingly out of touch for a director who started his career riffing on Madonna songs.

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