Variety reports that some TV critics are upset that the CW has decided not to send out advance review copies of its new 90210 to reviewers before the show premieres on Sept. 2. My first thought upon hearing of this decision was, what took them so long?
As a critic, part of my job is to preview new shows for you, to describe them and provide some guidance about whether you’d be interested in watching. (Thus, to point to just one example, EW’s annual, massively thorough Fall TV Preview.)
But the CW knows damn well it has just about the only show that’s creating real buzz this season, and it just makes good business-sense on their part to avoid any chance of buzzkill by not sending it out to critics, some of whom are inevitably going to give it a negative review, or — even more predictably — whine that it’s not as good as the original Beverly Hills 90210. Variety notes that a piece in the St. Louis Post Dispatch has already appeared in the wake of the CW’s review-copy ban, headlined, "How Much Does The New ’90210′ Suck?" That’s exactly the kind of old-media, preemptive negativity that the CW is trying to defuse.
Does it seem like I’m a traitor, standing on the side of the network against my colleagues and my own best interests as a reviewer? Not at all. In today’s 24/7 media world, either I or my TV critic colleague Gillian Flynn will undoubtedly watch 90210’s premiere along with the rest of America, and file a review immediately for EW.com. That situation seems like a win-win to me: We watch along with you, we publish our reaction — positive, negative, or mixed — and you get to respond, because you’ve also been watching.
No one’s freedom to express an opinion has been squelched. We all know where we stand. If the CW doesn’t want to send out advance copies, it still can’t stifle opinion — and if anything, it’s inviting you to make immediate comments even more critical of or positive about the show than I might be.
In short: Game on, CW. EW and EW’s readers will be waiting to get a look at 90210. Then we, the viewers, will be the ones in control of the spin and the judgments, not the CW.