Q. I read your brief about Showtime’s “Your Honor” today. All I can say is that it underscores my resolve to disregard a critic’s view of what’s good and what’s not. We loved this series and saw nothing plodding, twisting, or silly about it whatsoever. Since it was such a ratings hit, apparently neither did the general public. Perhaps you should climb down off your high horse and get in touch with your readers.
A. The thing is, it’s all pretty subjective. As a critic, I don’t pretend my opinions are the correct ones, or even the best ones; they’re just mine. I hope I write about TV in that manner, with that tone, and anyway I’m afraid of horses, especially if they’re high.
I try to respond to what I see with an awareness of TV history, an open-mindedness that I’ve cultivated over the years, an eye for camerawork, an ear for dialogue, and a nose for narrative sense. I try to bring some proficiency to my process. But usually it just comes down to my emotions or my psychology, both of which help determine what resonates with me. I recall seeing Showtime’s “Twin Peaks” revival and thinking, “This is excellently made, and visually compelling, and dazzlingly imaginative, and valuable in terms of TV history, and I can’t wait to stop watching.” The series exuded a kind of perfection, but it didn’t speak to me at all.
I’ve also watched shows that were a bit of a mess, for one reason or another, and yet found something to love about them. “Treme,” for example, was an attempt to create a group portrait of people living in New Orleans, with a bunch of dangling subplots — it made me think of Robert Altman’s “Short Cuts,” a movie based on Raymond Carver stories. The HBO series was a little scattered, story-wise, but I loved the acting and the way the writers treated local music as one of the characters. In my reviews of “Treme,” I noted the lack of cohesiveness, but I also gave it a vote of confidence. I loved the show, warts and all, as it captured a time and, in particular, a place so movingly.
With “Your Honor,” I was very much on board for the first two episodes. After that, I was disappointed by what seemed to me to be overly plotted and, in the last episode in particular, under explained. But I’m not surprised it was popular for Showtime, and I have no beef with those who continued to enjoy. When something becomes popular, it doesn’t automatically mean that it’s good, or that those people are “right.” The top-rated network TV series of 2020 was “NCIS,” a procedural currently in its 18th season. You know, it’s fine, with a formula that keeps fans happy, and that’s great. But does its popularity automatically make it quality TV? Nay.