Friday, March 28, 2014

Television Without Pity Will Soon Be No More, More's the Pity

by Sara N.

Sad news came down from on high yesterday: Television Without Pity is shutting down on April 4, and its forums will go offline in May.

I am bereft, you guys. At this point in its life, it's not a site that I visit daily, but oh, it used to be.

The website formed in the wild and lawless early days of the Internet and was devoted to the transcendent glory of Dawson's Creek. Dawson's Wrap, as it was called, morphed into Mighty Big TV and started covering a variety of programs, from the big hits to the tiny cult shows. It was renamed Television Without Pity in 2002, and its mix of highly entertaining episode recaps and free-ranging forums made it the only place online to go to discuss everything from Buffy the Vampire Slayer to Survivor, from The West Wing to Heroes, from Project Runway to 7th Heaven.

For the last almost two decades, TWOP was where you could go to find your tribe in a time when it was lonely to be a niche TV viewer and being a geek wasn't as celebrated as today. Try explaining to a classmate in 1998 that you had to get home to catch the new episode of Buffy, and chances were, you weren't going to met with an understanding squeal. Try discussing how much you hate the Rimbaldi MacGuffin on Alias at a party, and people were probably going to edge politely away from you.

Not so at TWOP. TWOP let fans of TV — sci fi, dramas, reality, and even sitcoms and other yukky stuff — get together to chat and obsess and dissect and speculate and swoon and bicker and dream. It was the online home for the casual fan and the superfan. The TWOP Office forums were the only way I survived the never-ending summer of 2006 when we weren't sure if Pam had actually gone ahead and married that loser Roy despite Jim's pure and perfect confession of love. Endless online speculation with the other Office loonies kept me sane while we waited for the season premiere.

Sure, TWOP's purchase in 2007 by Bravo Media saw it evolve into a more slick, sanitized, corporate money-grubbing affair, but it continued to provide an outlet for the viewer who had an excess of emotions about what she just watched and needed to share those feeling with other people, even if they were strangers connected by a series of tubes.

I've taken you for granted over the last 10 years, TWOP. I stopped reading your recaps and only hit your forums occasionally, mostly when I needed to extend my hate-watching of Smash just a little bit more by wallowing in the deliciously mean forums, but you were there for me. Sure, I thought Jacob's insanely philosophical Battlestar Galactica recaps were ridiculous — I mean, come on. They took longer to read than it took to watch the stupid episode, and have we forgotten the buffalo buffalo buffalo debacle? — and the extreme criticism about the final season of Buffy may have sucked away some of my enjoyment of it. But you were there for me, man. Heck, you're even in the works cited section of my dissertation because I used your forums and recaps for research for my content analysis.

You were there for me. You helped me find my tribe. My television watching will be a little lonelier now, and you'll be missed.

For more on the influence of Television Without Pity, check out this excellent Vulture piece.
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