How Networks Try To Trick Viewers Into Thinking Their Awful Shows Are Critically Adored

Critics do not like The Newsroom. Few people do, actually, what with its heavy-handedness and unnecessary love triangles and clumsy depiction of women (this could go on), but critics are especially irked by Newsroom‘s general Sorkin-ness. And yet, as Forbes discovered, HBO has been running print ads featuring GUSHING reviews about how “intelligent” and “inspiring” the show is. How is that possible? Well…

Salon’s Willa Paskin is quoted calling The Newsroom “captivating, riveting, rousing.” Here’s what she actually wrote: “The results are a captivating, riveting, rousing, condescending, smug, infuriating mixture, a potent potion that advertises itself as intelligence-enhancing but is actually just crazy-making.” (Via)

That’s how. HBO is now doing what movie studios have done for decades: picking choice words from often-negative reviews to provide out-of-context, positive blurbs for their product. (For instance, “Nazis were terrible subhuman creatures who never did anything good and should have been nuked off the face of the Earth” could very easily be changed to, “Nazis were…good.”) So, I decided to do something similar. I looked through the IMDb pages for 10 different widely despised shows, and cherry-picked words and sentences from fan-written reviews for revised posters. Even something as awful as Work It can appear to be loved if phrased correctly.