Recently, major entertainment websites and print media have begun to receive their DVD Screeners for the fall’s new shows. With only a glimpse of the shows being revealed at the Upfronts nearly four weeks ago, journalists are now getting a chance to see the entire episode that convinced a major network to give that show a spot on it schedule. However, they can’t tell you what they really think about them: based on Screener regulations, they are only able to offer a “preview” of the pilots. There will be no reviewing of this fall’s new shows as long as the Screener people get their way.
Now, while I haven’t quite been able to find any documented reason for why this is, allow me to speculate. I believe that the studios are afraid of the power that journalists wield when deciding whether a show is good or not. They fear that critics might be, well, critical of the work that they’ve done, and that said criticism will reduce the potential of that show in the fall. It’s a win-win for the studios, they believe, if all people can offer is vague commentary on the episode. Take for example TheTVAddict’s “preview” of Sarah Connor Chronicles (Pictured), FOX’s midseason entry:
THE GOOD: The action packed pilot had this TV Addict on the edge of his seat for the entire hour.
THE BAD: How exactly are they going to keep the action quotient up each and every week? If the season finale of HEROES taught us anything, it’s that with great power comes great respon… err, I mean – it’s that television budgets aren’t very conducive to an action packed weekly series.
For studios, they see this as fantastic: the good comment does little but help the show, and the writer isn’t able to offer enough substantiation for their complaint for it to feel definitive in the eyes of viewers (And let’s face it, that’s not even really a bad thing. Just a cautionary warning). These studios believe that they’ve found a way to protect their pilots from the savagery of the internet.
But what differentiates a preview from a review? Does it mean that you can’t be negative, or that negative comments are frowned upon? Or can you not discuss any details of the pilot? Or are you unable to offer examples of anything? And are people even paying attention to these guidelines? Well, let’s find take a look and find out just what that difference is.