Big news rocks the entertainment magazine world today!!
OK, maybe not. But "TV Guide relaunching as Larger Magazine" actually is a pretty major development in the history of a pretty venerable institution. What's Frank Costanza going to do when he has to add a larger physical magazine to his collection?
But seriously (or something) ... TV Guide has decided to go from being a little digest focusing on listings to a big entertainment magazine focusing on sucking. Does anyone read TV Guide? Actually, yes. I do. Or I used to. I had a subscription to TV Guide for years. Technically I still do, although I am very proud of my ability to resist all those renewal notices as I wait for it to simply expire.
If you follow TV, TV Guide used to actually be interesting even as it was simple. But the writing has progressively declined, and the stories get dumber and dumber. I guess I also have to admit that I hold a semi-personal grudge against them. A friend of mine was once contracted to write a story for them. Nothing long or too in-depth -- just a few hundred words. My friend asked me to proof the story for her because she wasn't sure if it was good, interesting, etc. Since my friend is a very good writer, the piece was all those things, and I saw the very last version before it was submitted to the magazine. I also then saw the printed version in the magazine. There was my friend's byline, but what followed was not my friend's story. The editors had actually rewritten large sections (as much as there can be "large sections" in a piece this small) and primarily left the quotes. The subject was essentially the same, but what the story actually said went from being interesting and even thought-provoking to meaningless and plain-ol'-crap. Fluff is too generous a word. Oh yeah, they never checked with my friend about changing it so drastically. They just published.
I guess I shouldn't have been completely surprised. I mean, this is a magazine that publishes Michael Ausiello as if he's an "insider" who knows what he's talking about. Now I don't know the man personally, but he's got to be one of the worst "experts" on anything I've ever read, and a bad writer to boot. I suppose his columns are supposed to be sarcastic and funny, yet they never are. He often gets information flat out wrong, and many of his big scoops are things that have been out in some form of media or another for at least a week.
Of course, I shouldn't be too surprised that his "scoops" run so late. TV Guide must have a ridiculously early closing for a weekly magazine because their content is often out of date. They published a review of ABC's pulled series Welcome to the Neighborhood I believe more than a week after it was announced the show would never air. They often print items in their "Cheers & Jeers" section that happened three weeks to a month before, certainly far enough in the past that today's audience might not give a shit. In fact, many of their stories seem like they're just guessing.
The story indicates that the magazine plans to reduce the listings to simply major national coverage with one version for the east coast and one for the west rather than all the local editions now in publication. It also says the magazine will make the revamped magazine "will contain just 25 percent listings and 75 percent stories." Why bother with the listing at all then? The fact is, this is the second or third (at least) revamp of TV Guide in the last few years. The last one already redesigned and slimmed down the listings section, turning everything into a grid and eliminating much of the daily coverage. It became much more of a pain-in-the-ass to read. Of course, the one thing they've never done is become totally comprehensive with all the cable channels floating around out there. Some of them would eventually be included in the prime-time grids, but nothing more.
I'd say it's a shame that what was once a (do I dare call it) iconic magazine hasn't been able to keep up and is now on its way to becoming a poor, more niche imitation of all the other lifestyle and entertainment mags out there. When I was little, I used to love going to my grandparents' for dinner every Friday night and seeing the new TV Guide sitting on the little table next to my grandfather's chair. I don't think I even read the thing back then, but for some reason I always got a kick out of flipping through the listings. I remember at one point thinking that it must have been a cool job to write all the show descriptions. (I don't think so anymore, but uhm ... I'm still unemployed, so TV Guide, if you're hiring? Oh wait ... you probably won't have much of those anymore!)
I guess I let my subscription run out just in time.