The What’s Alan Watching? FAQ for fall

Senior Television Writer
09.16.10 63 Comments


Yesterday, I gave you guys a rundown of my brief thoughts on each new network series, many of which I’ll be reviewing at greater length over the next week-plus. But before I get back to watching screeners, writing reviews and trying to stretch the number of hours in a day, I thought I’d walk you through how things are going to work on the blog now that the season is starting – a kind of What’s Alan Watching? FAQ. (Do people still use “FAQ” regularly? Just in case, it’s Frequently Asked Questions.) 

If you read me for a while at the old site, most of this will seem familiar to you, but if you’re relatively new around here, this will hopefully explain some things I get asked about frequently:

1. What new shows will you be writing about regularly?

Where a site like The AV Club has many writers it can spread out over many shows, I’m a one-man band on this blog with a limited amount of time and specific tastes, so I can’t get to everything, and in some cases there will be shows I follow without writing up every episode. Because there are a lot of veteran shows I’ll be writing about every week (see below), and because this isn’t a particularly deep crop of new series, the only fall rookies I know I’ll be writing about each week are “Terriers” and “Boardwalk Empire.”

I’ll be doing pre-show reviews of most of the newbies, and then my plan is to post a quick “What did everybody else think?” post set to go up after each one debuts. Starting in week two, it becomes about what I have time for, and what holds my interest. In terms of blogging, I imagine I’ll be sticking with “Lone Star” and “No Ordinary Family” for a bit (and maybe “The Event” and “Running Wilde,” just in case things improve mightily after the pilot), where some other shows will either get dropped quickly or won’t be meaty enough to get the weekly blog treatment (say, “Hawaii Five-0”).

2. What returning shows will you be writing about regularly?

Over the next few weeks, there are certain givens. “Mad Men,” obviously. (And Jon Hamm had a few things to say about this site when my boss Greg Ellwood interviewed him at the Toronto Film Festival.) “Chuck,” “How I Met Your Mother,” “Parenthood,” “Sons of Anarchy,” “30 for 30,” “Rubicon,” “Modern Family,” “Cougar Town” and the NBC Thursday comedies.

Probably “Dexter,” though those posts may be fairly brief, both because Sunday nights are going to be brutal and because my level of enthusiasm for that show is no longer as high as most of my readers. (Though I still like it far more than “True Blood,” I expect the “Dexter” posts most weeks will be about the same length, and there as an excuse to invite discussion.)

I’m sure I’ve left something obvious out, but the pattern will be clear quickly.

3. What returning shows will you be covering irregularly and/or briefly?

Again, hard to say. I imagine I’ll check in on “Fringe” from time to time, and my enthusiasm for “Grey’s Anatomy” rose considerably once I didn’t feel compelled to write about it every week. There are usually a handful of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” episodes each season that I find funny enough to write about, even though the show as a whole runs hit-or-miss for me. (Ditto “Big Bang Theory,” which is now in a much tougher timeslot for me than it used to be, and “The League.”) I’ll see how the revamps of “The Good Guys” and “Human Target” work out and write about those a bit. Again, a lot of this will depend on what I have time for, what’s interesting enough to write about, etc. Maybe “Glee” if an episode works? Maybe “The Good Wife” when, say, “Parenthood” is a repeat? A lot of playing by ear will happen.

Still undecided how I feel about the new batch of “Bored to Death.” Haven’t seen the new “Eastbound & Down”s left, but I wasn’t much of a fan last year (I respected the show but didn’t want to spend a half hour a week with Kenny Powers). “House” fell out of the rotation last year, and the two episodes from this season that I’ve seen actually compelled me to delete my DVR season pass.

4. When will these various reviews appear?

For certain shows where I get every episode in advance (particularly on cable, though there are some exceptions there), I aim to get the post up as soon as the episode finishes airing on the East Coast. When I watch things as they air, things get more unpredictable. Sometimes I stay up and write the review then. Sometimes I wait until the next morning or (depending on other commitments) afternoon. Sometimes it may take me a few days to watch and/or write about something.

Again, one-man band. Things come when they come. Please don’t pop into the comments of posts about other shows demanding a review for something else.

5. Why can’t you give the “True Blood”/”Dexter” treatment to every popular show you don’t love and/or don’t have time for?

Several reasons. First, even if they’re brief, they still take up time, since I have to watch the show (I won’t post about something I haven’t seen), to make the posts, and (especially) to keep an eye on the comments for.

Second, the blog is supposed to be a reflection of my taste. There have been times where I’ve kept writing about a show I disliked (“Studio 60,” some annoying stretches on “Grey’s”) because I couldn’t help myself, but for the most part I try to focus on the things I like, for the sake of my time and yours. “True Blood” is an unusual case because it airs in the summer when there’s little to watch and write about; “Dexter” unusual because I still like parts of it a great deal, but don’t want to get into weekly arguments with people who want me to appreciate it as much as they do.

6. What are these commenting rules you and/or the other commenters keep mentioning?

Over time at the old site, I realized six commenting rules that were easy to follow that tended to make the discussion much better, and the bosses at HitFix have allowed me to enforce them here. (Though they only apply to this specific corner of the site.) Eventually, I’ll do an updated version of the commenting rules post for here, but the short version is this:

1)Be nice, and disagreeing with someone does not give you license to attack them. Talk about the shows, not each other.
2)No spoilers, and that includes discussing the content of the previews for the next episode.
3)As mentioned above, no asking about (or spoiling) shows I haven’t written about or seen yet.
4)No discussion of politics (except in rare occasions where I’ve said it’s okay), since no one seems to be able to rationally do that anymore, no matter what side of the aisle you’re on.
5)Make an effort to read other people’s comments so we don’t waste everyone’s time with 17 different people making the same “Hey, did anyone notice…?” observation. Respect the time that other people made to write and read these comments before you.
6)Again, be nice.

7. Who’s the woman in the third picture from the top on your Twitter background

Linda Cardellini, from “Freaks and Geeks,” which I covered extensively on the old blog.

That’s all I’ve got. You can start looking for pre-reviews of the new shows as early as tomorrow, and then things are gonna get cuckoo-bananas for a week or two until the dust settles.

Alan Sepinwall may be reached at

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