It was announced today that NBCUniversal would be closing down two venerable digital properties next week: Daily Candy and Television Without Pity.
In particular, Television Without Pity — TWoP in the parlance of our times, and for brevity's sake, because if today's news has taught us anything, it's that time is fleeting and nothing lasts forever —had a huge impact on the internet landscape and in particular the way that television was covered. Beginning in the late '90s as Dawson's Wrap (making Dawson's Creek the unlikely mother of an entire movement in TV criticism) and later as Mighty Big TV, the TWoP stock in trade was the TV recap, impossibly detailed summaries of individual TV episodes of everything from ER to Buffy the Vampire Slayer to Project Runway. Written not only for detail but for humor and fan engagement, they became, for a time, the way we talked about TV on the internet.
As time passed and appetites changed, in the TL;DR era, that kind of long-form recapping became the exception and not the rule, but the idea of experiencing TV as an unfolding experience, through the lens of a hybrid fan/critic/hater has certainly endured. NBCUniversal and Bravo acquired the site in 2007 and soon got to the business of turning it into just another entertainment portal. Site founders Sarah D. Bunting, Tara Ariano, and David T. Cole can all be found today writing about TV at the site Previously.TV, where that evolution of TV coverage is on full display.
The legacy of TWoP, a site that hasn't been at the forefront of TV coverage for quite a while, might seem silly to ponder at this late a date. But its influence is pretty apparent if you look around writers and critic-types on Twitter today:
TWOP was the place that opened my eyes to what TV criticism could be: http://t.co/IPPBfAYjsW— emilynussbaum (@emilynussbaum) March 27, 2014
I never worked for TWoP but I never would have worked if they hadn't existed— Richard Lawson (@rilaws) March 27, 2014
I was never a huge recapper, but TWoP (& Fametracker, 90210 Wrapup &c before it) created the voice of much pop-culture writing today. Sad.— James Poniewozik (@poniewozik) March 27, 2014
The disappearance of the TWOP archives is basically a crime to Internet history. I never worked there, but I owe so much to it anyway.— kateyrich (@kateyrich) March 27, 2014
And, oh yeah, me. I got my first ever paid writing assignment filling in on a recap of the Fox drama Prison Break, and I wrote for the site on and off until as recently as October of last year, including a full-time stint as editor when operations moved to New York in the wake of the Bravo purchase. So you'll forgive a bit of personal testimony in the midst of this particular obit when I say that the impact TWoP had on me both personally and professionally cannot be overstated. I recapped American Idol and The Real World/Road Rules Challenge, got called out by Aaron Sorkin (indirectly) over Studio 60. (It's worth remembering that Sorkin himself got so worked up over TWoP's coverage of The West Wing that he wrote a thinly-veiled subplot about the site in a third-season episode, "The U.S. Poet Laureate.") I got lovely praise and blistering hatred from the enthusiastic/psychotic forum posters, and am in a unique position to remember that The Apprentice: Martha Stewart was actually a show. It was quite a time.
About those archives, by the way, per Recode's report:
So what happens to the huge amount of content in the archives of both DailyCandy and TWoP? It will all be saved in the digital ether, but not be available to the public.
The wealth of information about TV episodes during the TWoP era is not to be underestimated. I personally used them for research into an old ER episode as recently as Monday. And so TV/internet history gets papered over. Goodnight, sweet Tubey.