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Monday, March 06, 2006
  Memo to Tom Shales: You're Why People Hate Critics

I missed the first hour or so of the Oscars last night, so I've no idea how the monologue went. From what I did see, though, Jon Stewart seemed to do a fine job.

Of course, Tom Shales doesn't think so.

Who's Tom Shales? Why, he's the television critic for the Washington Times. He's also probably my least favorite critic of all time. Yes, worse than Michael Medved, Renee Graham, and any of the writers at the Boston Phoenix. Worse even than all of them combined. It's not that Shales is necessarily a bad writer, but that he permanently oozes that sort of smugness that has given critics a bad name. Also we disagree almost all the time. Wait, let me rephrase that: he's totally full of shit and has no idea what he's talking about, ever.

So in his Oscars review Shales tears Stewart apart, knocking not just Stewart himself but all of basic cable in the process. I'm not surprised; Shales was at the vanguard of Chris Rock-bashing after last year's Oscars. Rock wasn't great, but when you're being compared to Whoopi Goldberg and Billy Crystal it'd be pretty difficult to not come out looking good. Although I remember a number of positive reviews the day after last year's show, it's apparently now common wisdom that Rock was awful and a flop and doesn't deserve to ever host the Oscars again. Shales, maybe the most prominent television critic in America, hated Rock as the host, and I assume this negative review is disproportionately responsible for the general dismissal of Rock's performance.

I suspect Jon Stewart's hosting gig will be widely viewed as a failure, too, despite a number of good reviews, and despite the fact that he kept me fairly well entertained during those few moments when he actually got to say something. And if this does occur, it might again be significantly because of Shales' review.

So what sort of host would Shales like to see, anyway? Exactly what you'd expect. In that Chris Rock review Shales writes, "perhaps Billy Crystal will come riding in on a white horse again and rescue the show with a zippy performance as host." 'Cuz that's all this interminably long and self-congratulatory vaccuum of a show needs, a miserable old hack plying schtick that'd make even Bob Hope grimace.
 

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