Critics are paid to be critical. But is there a line they cannot cross?
Brad Wright, executive producer of the new Syfy series “Stargate: Universe” is testing that theory out right now in a public battle with Chicago Tribune columnist Maureen Ryan over her dislike for the show.
But is one critic’s feelings about a show enough to get worked up over? Wright says yes, because his show is getting an unfair shake.
“I find people who write ‘I have no axe to grind’ are often the ones most likely to grind axes,” Wright reportedly said in a comment to a review of “V” Ryan recently wrote for the newspaper. “Taking the time to slam SGU in your review for ‘V’ was not politically tinged, it’s just petty.”
Wright apparently was upset over the portion of Ryan’s “V” review where she described SGU as “boring, poorly plotted [and a] lamentably sexist mess.”
“I really wish you hadn’t given up on our show so quickly,” Wright said. “I was surprised, considering your past (occasional) support of the franchise. SGU seems to be a love it or hate it sort of show. You obviously fall in the latter camp, but fortunately there are enough viewers and reviewers who thing SGU is neither boring, poorly plotted or sexist to keep us on the air long after ‘V’ is just a letter in the alphabet again.”
Ryan took those as fighting words.
“If I seem passionate in my disappointment in ‘Stargate: Universe,’ that’s only because, in my experience, people are more intensely disappointed by things they had high hopes for,” Ryan said in a published response on her Tribune blog. “I’m not demanding that SGU be a clone of past Stargate shows, nor am I secretly expecting it to be another [‘Battlestar Galactica’]. I just wanted SGU’s characters and stories to emotionally or intellectually engage me. That’s all I ask of any show. That hasn’t happened.”
Does Ryan have the right to continue sharing her feelings about shows, even after her initial review? It is a rather common practice among writers, especially columnists, and producers and studios tend to not mind when people might gush over shows long after their review. And Ryan’s followers on Twitter seem to agree.
“Way to go with handling Brad Wright,” said @ericmrozek. “Anyone that can’t take honest criticism deserves what they get. I know I wouldn’t do that.”
“It’s what’s finally driven me away from the franchise: Their total lack of respect for anyone who doesn’t agree with them,” said another Twitter follower, @multiversefan. “And that they don’t seem to want to consider that something they’ve done might be offensive. It’s easier to say we’re overreacting.”
But not everyone is taking Ryan’s side in all this.
SciFi Wire, a site controlled by Syfy which airs SGU, posted a story about the back and forth between Wright and Ryan, and while some people commenting on the piece agreed with Ryan, others questioned where she was coming from.
“While I admit the show needs work, it’s still decent,” a commenter named “Ashley” said on the site. “”Also, I’m still confused on where the sexism remarks are coming from. Has she watched half of what’s on MTV or the show ‘Dollhouse’? That is sexism at its peak. SGU is by no means fantastic and needs some work, but I don’t think it’s that bad. Honestly, people need to relax and just watch the damned show if you like it, and if you don’t, then stop tuning in. It’s as simple as that.”
Ryan did say that Wright wouldn’t have to worry about her mentioning SGU in the future.
“If you and the show’s creative team truly think all those things are being done well, we’ll have to agree to disagree,” she said. “In any case, I think I’ve given ‘Stargate: Universe’ a fair shot. Don’t worry about me mentioning the show anymore. Unless I hear it’s taken a big step forward in quality, I think I am, like many other potential viewers, pretty much done giving it a chance.”