Frequently Asked

I recently gave an interview with an up-and-coming genius journalist at Northwestern, the beautiful and talented Jessica Torres-Riley, having to do with my job as a recapper and moderator at Television Without Pity. I loved her questions and — yeah, you know me — loved even more the opportunity to talk about myself. Here are some of the questions, some of the answers, and some bonus questions asked by a friend which I’ve also answered.

Q: How did you get involved with Television Without Pity?

A: I became involved with TWoP (Mighty Big TV in those days) in the summer of 2001. I came across the site on a Google search for something random, and I loved it, just the quality and the spark of the writing. I had no idea that it was a phenomenon or anything — even in those days it was a pretty big deal, but I’m not a person that spends a lot of time on the internet.

So I just thought, you know, these are funny people, they watch TV like I do. They think hard while it’s happening. TV goes through their blood.

I think one of the major attractions of the site all along has been this kind of conspiratorial or personal effect it has on people. It’s very one-on-one, I think, for most people.

(The recaps, anyway. The forums are a separate issue. I didn’t even know those existed until I came on as a staff writer a couple years later. That minority of people who are primarily posters on the forums has created a separately beautiful community which — at the time — had little to do with me. I think they are awesome, but at the time I wasn’t even aware. They were very nice about my early attempts at recapping, though, I found out later. Mists of Avalon represent!)

So I wrote to the editors/founders of the site, offering to recap a TV movie that was coming on like that week, and got two polite refusals back, and that was it. Only my concession letter — an ambitious, unprofessional, mortifying move — was funny enough that they ended up giving me the TV movie, and that was my first recap (The Mists of Avalon). I pitched a few more Extras, different things that caught my eye, for a couple of years. Probably half of those, I got to do. And then I did two or three in the same week, including one suggested by my editor.

That moment, as a freelancer, when they actually assign you something, that’s huge. That’s validation, like something out of a television show, and I will never forget it. And then I was hired-hired, and it changed my life in every way. It was a long time ago, and I was just peeking out writerly pride, so it was a big deal. Now, we’ve got more staff than we can assign, but back in the day, I was all about the brute force.

Tara (Wing Chun) and Sarah (Sars) and Dave (Glark) are and always will be gods and goddesses to me. They gave me the opportunity to grow and twist and change — and whine like a motherfucker every step of the way — throughout the life of my career working with them. I have been a kid with my first job, this total artistic cliche nightmare bullshitter, the kid that makes friends with the school nurse. I demanded fifty times what any sane boss or editor would give. But they nurtured my voice, and that makes them heroes for me.

Now that the site’s grown I don’t suggest this as a way of getting “in,” as I say, but they gave me that opportunity and watched me stretch those muscles, and complain and moan, and were loving and corrective every step of the way. And I’m sure a lot of the time they wondered if I was just malformed or born wrong, and corrected me as well as they could. But they believed in my voice, and my take, and worked with me to get there.

(Now that I’m working with other venues, like MSNBC or whatever, I’ve gotten a few letters about how “a stronger editorial voice” is what turned me from the fevered madman to a regular journalist or whatever. And I get it, because it’s a different voice, but that seems like a particularly ignorant backhand slam to them — they nurtured my voice in the same way that my lovely editors in other markets do.

And don’t get me twisted: TWoP is a market that accepts what I do, and that’s amazing. Another market or site demands a different voice, and I’m willing to go there, but in terms of creating Jacob as a writer, TWoP is crazy elastic, which is a gift from above.

I write in a particular style for every show, every episode, and the editors have always worked around that, and sharpened it into the best it could be. When I am assigned a new show, or a show starts a new season, part of my thrill is just finding out who’s going to be writing the recaps. Every new show is a new Jacob, and i’m often surprised at the voice that comes out.

Like Gossip Girl: that’s a very unique blend of my own innate emotional and sexual obsessions, my reflections on the class differences and meaningless evaporative stuff that seemed to matter so much at the time, and the “TWoP snark” voice I thought I’d abandoned. I love it. But I love just as much the brass-balls seminarian bootcamper quiz-guy from The Apprentice, or the surprisingly religious and oracular Jacob that wrote about Doctor Who, or the fever-dream hypnotist of Farscape, or the ecstatically civics- and spirituality-minded Jacob that tells us about Battlestar.

Which, if you like that specific voice or not, has never been down to the editors. They are kind, good and brilliant people, and believed in me. Don’t blame them if you don’t like the recaps, because it’s all me, with them desperately reining me in. Yes, the stories are all true. But more importantly: how lonely would my life be, without all those Jacobs enriching it? I don’t expect anybody to jump from Idol to Battlestar just because of my writing. But occasionally they do, and the thing I thank just after those people is my opportunity to develop so many of those voices at once, for cash money. You couldn’t ask for a Clarion or graduate program so intensive and so immediately responsive. Because when you’re a recapper, everytime is NOW, and every up you fuck, you’re going to be informed in ten minutes. It’s magic.)

So anyway, sorry, then after those came through and I did them, I was offered American Idol. It was the summer of 2004, so even though I got the assignment in like July, I wasn’t going to be writing until January, when Idol comes on. So I moderated unpaid for a few months, to ramp up. Now, of course, the moderators are paid, but back then it was the price of admission, and nobody minded.

Q: What do you enjoy about recapping?

A: I think the recapper is called upon, as a consequence of the form, to fulfill three basic roles: humorist/critic, storyteller, and couch buddy. You’re there as a critic and joke-teller, but you also have to tell the story of the episode in a way that makes sense (and hopefully is artful as a separate piece, or at least well-crafted), but you are also there — in somebody’s living room — each week, talking to the reader about an experience the two of you are sharing.

It takes longer to read a recap (God knows especially one of mine) than it does to watch the show, which means that your presence in a reader’s life, a diligent reader anyway, is a pretty powerful thing. I think the job of a recapper is to balance those three roles. I love all three of them, and in hindsight it’s pretty obvious that balancing them is not only difficult, but very subjective. Any given reader is going to say, “More funny, less criticism! Less funny, more personal stuff,” and that’s just the appeal of having lots of very attentive readers.

(Similarly, if you hate it — and sometimes they really have — you hate it more than you’ve ever hated anything in your entire life or previous lives or however much hate your stuffed animals can hate. And I trust those haters more than I do the fans of the writing, because you are being given a chick in the armor to write past. And depending on how intense they are, or how community-building that devotion to dislike is, maybe they don’t see an effect. But every word, positive or negative, really does make an aggregate difference. We’re all just doing the best we can.)

Then, too, it’s a serious writing lab with a vicious turnaround cycle. Depending on the show and format of the coverage, you’ve got either 12 hours or five days to put something together, and once it’s up, it’s up. And the feedback — I think in part because of the personal response of the reader, because of how it gets read — is instantaneous, and very visceral. So just about the time you’ve decided for yourself whether a given piece or paragraph or concept or writing trick worked, which feedback is worthwhile and which is subjective to the reader, which things to incorporate moving forward and which things to drop, while remaining true to your voice … there’s another episode on, and you have to start the process over. Any skill I have at writing, it’s because of the TWoP bootcamp. It was my first writing job — in some ways my first job period — and that has been, and continues to be, an exhilarating learning curve.

Look, firstly I am a novelist. Any reader can tell you I think easier in longer forms, unending blah-blah gigantic forms of arc and story and character, than I in the short term. That’s not bragging, I wish I could tone it down. But the fact is, I can’t just think about what’s happening, I have to deal with why it is happening and what will happen because of it. It’s a recapper failing, I think, but it’s my brain. I have to live here.So I’ve written three novels, meaning that I’ve put to paper three complete stories that are even longer than usual. I don’t know if they’ll ever see the light of day, and frankly I don’t care. I would love to shape them into something salable. But that’s primarily about me, and it’s between me and my beloved agent.

Available for human consumption, we’re talking about TWoP. You can love the recaps or hate them, you can take in the detail and literary quality that’s hopefully brought to them, you can appreciate or not the extra layers of interpretation and story that cone in, you can enjoy the humor if that’s what you’re there for. But ultimately, you’re coming to TWoP to see somebody’s response to an episode. I don’t think anybody’s under any illusions about the “recaps” actually filling in the blanks.

I mean, I do try to do that, I hope it’s comprehensible, even with all the extracurricular references and poems and religious texts and whatever, but we also have a responsibility to bring an art to it, in its own right. Firstly, I’m not adding anything: it really is first response. I really am, quietly and secretly, just that pretentious when I’m watching the episode. In my head, watching an episode of the show really is that overblown and emo and detailed and hypertexted. I don’t go back later and talk about Persephone or Pi or whatever: that’s what’s happening when I’m watching, so that’s what I bring to the recap.

And more than that, I’m really, really tired of “snark.” I don’t think there are many of us that are capable, or interested, in turning out boilerplate “snark.” If you want to hear the same jokes you’ve been hearing for ten years, you’re going to need to look to someone less original or interesting than the current staff. We’ve done snark. We’ve done “guilty pleasure.” We can do that shit in our sleep. But I think the spirit of TWoP is a bit more searching and powerful and intellectual than that.

Sars always said (usually defending my psychotic ass) that “recaps don’t mean one specific thing.” Heaven help us if they did. I’m more interested in really testing those limits, that snarky definition, than I am in recapitulating a house style that’s ten years old. We set the standard before I was around, and the rest of the internet took up that standard before I was around, and that’s what “recap” means. But I’m not satisfied, and I don’t think any writer could be for very long, with recapitulating the classic recap. I want to bring the information to the reader in a newer way. The challenge — to me especially, obviously — is in drawing the balance. And god knows I’m not the champ at that. Luckily, I have readers who are generous enough to follow along, and wonder if “recap” means what we all thought it did.

Q: What appeals to you about TWOP?

A: It is a community of people engaged in their entertainment. It is of prime importance to me, as an idealistic person, that people engage with their entertainment, and deliberate about what they are putting in their bodies. Not avoid any particular thing, or gorge on some other thing because it’s intellectually trendy, but just to taste whatever it is with their whole tongue. I think the quality of any given piece of television whatsoever is completely contingent on the viewer.

A canny person can get as much out of so-called “guilty pleasure” TV — either a clue to the bigger societal picture, or a little self-examination — as somebody else gets out of watching “Hardball.” The mere act of watching a high profile show, either current events programs or that HBO “it’s not TV” thing, is not enough to make you smart, or well-read, or eloquent, or thoughtful, or anything. That’s borrowed ego, it’s a reflected halo.

And on one level, the community at TWoP is good about puncturing that. But by the same token, there are groups on TWoP that are willing to engage with and give weight to stuff that I think the average viewer would either ignore altogether, or watch with some kind of hang-dog “guilt” about how they’re engaging with something they can’t apparently justify. Two lazy approaches that have nothing to do with fulfilling your own desires in a present and dedicated way.

Q: I see that one of the shows you recap is American Idol, which is consistently one of the most popular shows on TV today. How do you think the online communities and commenting enhance viewers interaction with the show?

A: Online discussion of this show, in particular, fascinates me. Firstly because Idol is such a case study of where our country is at, at any given time. Because it’s the biggest show in history, the stories that it tells and the personae that it brings to us are immediately illuminating. The archetypes that the show produces for our consumption, and the order in which America votes them off, are so key to understanding where we are as a nation. I truly believe that. The word “zeitgeist” gets thrown around a lot, but I mean: that’s American Idol. Your week-by-week Tarot reading for America.

But the internet is NOT America. Online communities like TWoP are a self-selected fraction of a fraction of a fraction that leaves out some pretty major groups of Americans, for the most part. So there’s an interesting skew between the TWoP consensus and the overall American consensus. And in some ways I think that promotes the superiority complex of any online discussion or group, so it’s to be expected, but the really fun thing about TWoP in particular is the rational minority among the fans who actually try to follow the show as fans of the phenomenon, rather than falling into the trap of obsessing over a particular persona from the show. That’s something that I really think is specific to TWoP: not “how has this perceived conspiracy hurt my favorite’s chances,” but, “let’s talk about whether or not it’s possible that there’s a conspiracy at all.” And that intellectual approach to the show as a whole, as a packaged entertainment product that is doing a GREAT job of being successful, that’s something I’ve only ever seen on TWoP.

So to expand that, the genre shows I’ve written about like Doctor Who and Battlestar Galactica involve different fans and different concerns. At some points I’ve been mystified, by the obsessive attention paid to a given detail that I, from a story point of view, overlook. I treasure those other viewpoints, and wish always to incorporate them into my own. My only wish, as a passive waiter or as a moderator, is that everybody watching the show taste it with their whole tongue. You must conquer your entertainment, own it utterly, if it’s going to take you anywhere.

Recaps, moderation, off-site comment, blogging here, whatever, my number one priority is to say, “Mickey Mouse is a four-fingered rat, his friend Donald wears no pants, and there’s a social inequity between Pluto and Goofy, because they’re both dogs but one of them is a pet and the other one can vote, or legally marry, or whatever.” Get on the internet, get the information, make up your mind. Don’t come to me or anybody else and ask for the answers, because that makes you sad and lazy.

And I think even the house style, the snark, is basically asking the same thing: think about what you’re putting in your body before you put it in your body, ask what it means and what it says, about America and about you, before you sign on.

Q: Have you found that participating in the online community has changed the way you watch television?

A: Not really. Possibly, after writing recaps for years, I have changed. I tend to approach any show or movie from the producer’s or writer’s point of view, thinking about what works and what doesn’t, or what should happen next, or how this act should be structured, and I know that’s a recapper thing. Because I do not EVER want to write for television, it sounds horrible. But I do tend to figure things out a lot faster than I used to, or maybe am supposed to, that kind of thing — because the recapping is a training job for noticing things and making patterns. It’s an introduction to storytelling like no other, which I really appreciate.

Although I guess there are a lot of things that really seem to vex the posters in the forums that don’t bother me anymore, although they used to. So I guess just seeing the same complaints over and over, or learning to anticipate the reactions of other viewers, has made me more dedicated to seeing what’s on the other side of that. The N+1 response. Which has, in my actual life, helped me to look completely insane on more than one occasion, even if generally that N+1 turns out right in the end.

To be honest, I’ve always been weirded out by the fandom situation. It’s like, the readers and posters are the people eating the meal, and the showrunners and writers and actors are cooking the meal. And then there’s me, kind of awkwardly serving the meal. As a creative person, as a novelist with my own stories to tell, it’s a weird place to be. I think a lot of recappers just enjoy talking about TV, and I do too.

But there’s something about being involved with fandom, and being involved (and privileged to be involved) with the creation of fandom factions, like the TWoP Battlestar fans or the TWoP Farscape fans, or the Who fans, this LINDA we created out of sixty years of history or whatever, is of immense pride for me. I love those people and I’m proud to be part of them, but that’s all them. I don’t get to play in that sandbox. I love them from the outside, by writing about those shows and telling them how brilliant they are.

So I’m the waiter, not the cook or the diner. That’s weird. I would much rather play with my own toys, in my own sandbox. And one day, I will. But meanwhile, I am having so much fun playing critic and doll-player on those terms. And the benefits as a fan and writer of doing this job! The writerly part, analysis and character and all that, obviously. But as a fan! I can tell you every episode title of every episode of BSG, why it matters, who was in it, who guest-starred, who this and who that… There are readers who still hate me because in my transition from viewer to writer I made some wild — I mean really disgustingly dumb — mistakes, like what planet is which and what kind of spaceship different from some other spaceship.

I realized eventually that it mattered — and I’ll frak you up if you say it doesn’t — but also have made it a point to apologize in the next recap for mistaking things, or hearing a wrong line of dialogue. Some readers hold onto that stuff for years, you know. I think it’s great. I love that, because it’s a constant reminder that firstly, I owe these people my rent, and secondly, these people are teaching me new ways to love the show. I always want new ways to love the show. This year, I loved Idol more than I ever have — and got BURNED! I hated a couple weeks more than anything I’ve ever hated, because I finally after like twenty years let myself get involved. And of course, here come the emails: “Are you clinically depressed? You hated Idol two weeks in a row, much more poisonously than when you just didn’t care…” And I’m like, “Trust me, I actually love it now, I just randomly got two shit weeks in a row.”

Nobody who reads your recaps hates the show. Even 7th Heaven. Even that show, we loved most what we hated most, and out of that comes great comedy. Even “snark.” But I feel bad when I honestly fucking HATE an episode of a show, because that’s an automatic diss on people that liked it. People, in a lot of cases, who generally agree with you. So of course, the first thing they think is that you’ve gone mentally unstable. And anybody else, I mean, that would be farfetched. Me, they know how delicate that tightrope walk can be, so they give me a little leverage. Do not print that part.

Q: Would you say you watch more television to be involved with conversations online?

A: Not me. I watch everything I moderate, but I would do that anyway. And I try not to get too involved in the conversations online, A) because it’s not something I would do anyway, and B) I feel like there’s an authority issue where some posters have trouble drawing the line about the weight of my opinion. Which is, you know, zero.

But I think because lots of posters come to the site as a bulletin board, they can’t be expected to understand that it’s primarily a content-driven site with forums attached. So the recaps, for example, end up seeming to them like super-posts with ten times the power of a normal post. Which is silly, so I try to keep those lines from getting blurred by staying out of conversations, or making clear that I’m taking off my moderator hat and recapper hat and putting on the fan hat. I do it seldom, though, because it’s just not my thing.

I love it, I love the communities that it’s created, and I’m proud of them, especially things like Doctor Who and Battlestar where I feel like I was privileged to even be a part of creating this giant, living, vibrant and wild group of fans, but I don’t really take part.

Q: Do you have a “day job” or are you able to support yourself primarily working for TWoP? Do you read or contribute to any other sites that talk about television and pop culture?

A: I’ve done both. Right this second I’m writing for MSNBC and Radar magazine, doing other freelance things, so I’m pretty busy. With freelancing as my day job, TWoP fits in well with that. But in the past it’s been harder to balance with a regular office job. Like this month, I have three shows going, so I’m working like every night, and dealing with the forums… it’s close to six hours a day, three or four days a week, between writing and modding.

I’ve worked myself to death with that schedule, basically, in the past. So supplementing just TWoP with freelancing is a mental health move, some months out of the year. I mean, I try to live by the whole “adapt & overcome” mantra, so I am always looking for ways to work more efficiently, but if I had an office job in April or May, I’d end up homicidal.

q: What is the best and the worst thing about writing and modding for the site?

A: That’s actually four questions, but I am going to answer the shit out of them. You know how I roll, right?

The best thing about moderating for the site is getting to read everybody’s thoughts about the show in question. I find the Hills boards as fascinating as the Battlestar ones, and I do try to tell all my assigned forums how much I love them regularly. Because I do. The most cantankerous is the BSG set, the most adorable is The Hills, the most paranoid si Big Brother, and the most anarchic is Doctor Who. There’s a well-known moderator maxim, just discovered by the newer recruits, that the flavor of crazy of your particular show equals the particular crazy that your posters will be. It’s true like mothereffing astrology.

(One thing casual readers might not know is that we have super crazy forums discussing every single show or moment ever aired on TV. And even if you know that, you might not know that last year we took on paid moderator staff to cover them. The only recappers who transitioned were me (Bayliss) and Kim (Pembletom, totally not planned!) and Susan (Strega, moderator name still Strega). So that was a huge shift right there.)

The worst thing about moderating is trying to explain basic things and not making headway. Like, we have really strict rules on the boards. Really harsh, perfect, wonderful rules. I looooove them. They’re easy to follow, if you get it. They solve problems ten posts down the line by nipping in the bud in the first place. “Don’t do this thing. Not because it’s bad, but because if you X, I know from pattern recognition and thousands of posts a day that somebody is going to do A, B and C, and that’s a mess the moderator cleans up, so don’t do X, please.”

And it’s like if you say, “Don’t do X,” if you say it in the site rules,and in the Show-specific rules, and in the MOD Q&A thread, and at the top of every page … how many personal gold-embossed invitations to decency do people need? Those are all requests to follow the rules, and clarifications if for whatever reason, so when people act like they never knew it, that bums me out. And when they persist, you have to cut them off. That hurts me, but it’s worth doing. Because hopefully and eventually, you have a conversation about the show whose quality still rivals that of anything on the internet. Considering how crazy important TV is to our country and our world, that’s saying something. I’m proud to be involved with that, no matter what cosmetic stuff happens from time to time.

Three: The thing I hate about recapping is the thing I was talking about before. The fact that, because I’m an employee and moreso because I’m recapping, my opinion matters. DUDE, my opinion doesn’t matter. It’s an opinion, that’s how it works. So you get a lot of mommy-defiance and “well you said this, but I thought that” and it’s like, “I’m not telling you what to think, I’m telling you what I think.” Which is really the opposite of telling people what to think. I just feel like — and this applies to the mod thing too — people assign way to much power to you, because they are desperate to do so.

People are used to authority figures, either to agree with them or to fight them. The hardest part of my job is convincing them that I’m not one. I’m a guy, who loves a thing. I’m not your mommy. If I tell you to knock something off, knock it off. That’s not a judgment on you, that doesn’t mean you’re a bad person — it’s a reminder of the rules. Fucking knock if off, and we’ll go back to talking about the show. The end. There’s nothing more important or epic or victimizing to it. And the hardest thing about it is, you cannot convince people of their own agency. You cannot tell people to take control of their opinions, to express them, to say it without recourse to “I may be in the minority, but…” None of that. You cannot tell people to have the strength and beauty and courage of their convictions, because that defeats the purpose. Which I am willing to ignore unless it contrasts the rules of the site, which it … does, so cut it out. Knock it off.

And the best thing, question number last, the very best thing about writing for the site is this: I get to swim every week in something very important. I get to touch the great big brain of writer, actor, viewer, commentator, and what it becomes. I get to swim alongside that monster like a killer whale, and report back. What’s better than that?

If you’re not buying, in the particular shape I’m selling this week: no skin off your back. Complaining about the form the recaps take is like busting into a party you weren’t invited to, and then complaining about the food. If you don’t like it, well, it wasn’t written for you. We’re sure that you’re very nice, and clever, but it’s not meant for you. Go crash another party. We love you nonetheless, and hope to see you next week.

The bottom line is that story is all we have. The oldest societies on Earth, the writers and editors of today’s reality TV segments: they all know it. They told our stories back and forth, into myth, and so on. Story is what we are. I get to tell those stories in a way that nobody else does. I get to play storyteller AND story-explainer AND court jester. The best things you can be. I get to midwife story, the heart’s blood of our humanity. To both tell us what is happening, and why the story is happening the way it is happening. The how and what, but also the why. There’s not a fuckload of jobs that give you that many opportunities to touch God, or magic, and pass it along. And that’s how seriously I take it.

And trust me, I’m throwing in as many jokes as I can along the way.

If you have any questions, I’m here to answer them. Be classy, be smart, and be cool, obviously, but I’m serious: On my approval, this post could keep getting longer forever and ever, and I’ll credit whoever asks the question as I add it to this post. My dream is to make this “Frequently Asked” post an ongoing, wonderfully transparent thing.

Just be nice. You can ask the most frakked-up question in history, but if you ask it in an awesome way, or at least politely, I will answer the fuck out of it. I am well aware of my weaknesses, and I can share info on that as easily as everything else. Even something like “Why is the recap for X episode of Y show so fucking pretentious?” Or, for example, “What’s with the obsessive hatred of X writer of Y show?”

I’ll answer it, and thank you for giving me the opportunity. I really do find myself just that fascinating. And if your question is dickish, give me an email and I’ll answer it in private, because I care and I want you as a reader. But it would be nicer if you made the question blog-ready to start with. My grandma always told me, “Breeding tells,” and as sick as it is, that’s how I live. Show your breeding, and we’ll have a talk. Either way.

And here they are: Question One, from Kelly H.

Interesting insight into your side of the TWoP recapping world. I’m sort of curious how your few weeks of bad mood affected your moderating on the forums, if at all? It seems like that – especially when combined with how emotional/involved fans can get – might have been a bad combination.

Good question with a stupid answer. The answer is No. It’s my job. Whether or not ten teenagers sing shitty songs for forty-five minutes has nothing to do with whether or not people stay on topic, remember where their shift key is, or allow their fellow posters to question David Cook’s perfection.

My “bad mood” lasts precisely the forty-five it takes to watch/write/think about the episode. It has no bearing on the entirely separate proposition of the fans themselves. This isn’t my first barbecue. But even if it were, the entire point of the job is keeping that stuff separate.

Who do you cast as the Scorpio of the Cylons? I would love it to be Tory.

Only Scorpios ever ask this question. I’ve always put the Eights as Scorpio, not just because of the Six/Virgo Eight/Scorpio thing, but because of all the secrets. I’m thinking primarily of S1 Boomer: she’s very sexual, she has secrets she’s not even interested in dealing with, but she’s very emotionally responsive at the same time. She’s very smart, and very adaptable. Although, as you say, all that fits Tory now too.

Given the quote above, what’s the flavour of the BSG board?

There’s a hard-science fascination with the mechanics and fake science of the show that seems very life-or-death. I don’t know if other sci-fi show fans are like that, I’m guessing that they are. So what’s most specific to BSG is the political stuff. There’s a lot of parliamentary procedure and worrying over the details of governance, that kind of thing. The Farscape people are also like this, but more emotional about it. BSG fans are like, “But how can we make this discussion more equitable without denying the central truth of our differing opinions?” And then there’s the whole lifeboat thing, because the show is so perilous and the ratings and attention paid the show are so up and down, that translates too.


16 thoughts on “Frequently Asked

  1. Interesting insight into your side of the TWoP recapping world. I’m sort of curious how your few weeks of bad mood affected your moderating on the forums, if at all? It seems like that – especially when combined with how emotional/involved fans can get – might have been a bad combination.


  2. I have always enjoyed your unique “voice”, especially with your AI recaps. Talk about a pop-cultural reference show-down! I am wondering what has happened between Sars, Wing Chun, Glark, and Bravo? When they decided to bring Bravo into the equation the feeling was that this was going to move TWOP into a whole other realm. It did, of course, and now good, bad, or indifferent, I am wondering what your take on the situation is. Did the originators not like what it ultimately became?


  3. I guess this might not be easily answerable given your working situation, but what in the tarnation is going on at Twop? The site looks like shit. They made it look like shit on purpose?


  4. I don’t have a question, but I wanted to let you know that your recaps are the reason that I watch “Gossip Girl.” I have friends who love the show and have recommended it to me many, many times, but it wasn’t until I read your recaps that I actually set my TiVo to pick it up, and now I love it, so thank you for that.Also, your “Gossip Girl” recaps are the only reason I’ll go back to TWoP now that Bravo has completely f*ed it up.


  5. My question is: you suck.Sorry — classic Miss Alli joke. And if fact quite the opposite of what I mean. I probably have a million cogent questions, but I’ll settle for being overwrought and tell you that for an especially dreadful year P.G. Wodehouse and Jacob Clifton were among the few who kept me afloat.


  6. How kind of you to take questions. This one is somewhat mechanical (or logistical)– is the re-cap for Second Coming still available? I was unable to locate it, despite a somewhat thorough search of TWOP. I ask, because it is (was?) brilliant…and I hoped to read it again.


  7. “There’s a well-known moderator maxim, just discovered by the newer recruits, that the flavor of crazy of your particular show equals the particular crazy that your posters will be. It’s true like mothereffing astrology.”re: Astrology: Who do you cast as the Scorpio of the Cylons? I would love it to be Tory. re: questions: Given the quote above, what’s the flavour of the BSG board?


  8. Just wanted to say that I love your <>Battlestar<> recaps, and loved your Dr. Who recaps, which I didn’t read until after I devoured the DVDs of the first two seasons of the reboot, and wish that they hadn’t been canceled.But I hate hate HATE the direction in which Bravo is taking TWoP, and worry that the overall quality of the writing is going to dissipate.


  9. Hahaha. I am indeed a scorpio. Well called, sir.And yes, SF people are terribly earnest about the whole science thing, particularly the hardline crowd. Mary Doria Russell took a lot of heat in SF circles for the Sparrow for exactly that reason.


  10. Hi, Jacob. You mention spiritual and philosophical themes a lot in BSG and Doctor Who, with intriguing allusions to all sorts of things. Is this something you studied or just a personal interest? Also, do you happen to have recommendations of books on those topics you particularly enjoyed? (I realize that’s really broad, but so am I, so I just thought I’d throw it out there).


  11. I’ve been so interested in comparing the Cylons to their counterpart astrological signs. If we assign them in order the only signs left for the Final Five are Libra, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius, and Pisces. I really wanted to hear your take on this and who you think would be each of those signs. Would Libra be the final cylon, or not necessarily? The only one I really think I figured out is Tigh as a Capricorn…I thought that one really fit. As always I can’t wait until BSG comes back, not only for the show but for your recaps as well!


  12. Hi Jacob,OK, I’ll bite. I have a question about the craft itself. I want to know what it’s like when you watch a show and write the recap. Are you sitting there hitting the “instant replay” button on your remote a hundred times to get the dialog right? Or do you record it and rewind repeatedly? Do you rely on captioning to know what’s happening? (I’ve discovered that you can understand more of the dialog when you have captioning turned on.) Do you write as the show is playing, or after you’ve watched it once, twice, or more? Do you take notes? I want to know what the process is like for you to recap these shows. I think my interest is two-fold. As a blogger, when I watch something that interests me, be it TV or a conversation or anything else, I’m constantly phrasing it my mind as a blog post. (Unfortunately, because of the recent addition to my family, I really don’t have the time to commit all my mental blog posts to bits so oh well.) Secondly, I really adore your writing. I’m not sure how to write that without sounding like a totally stupid fangirl, but it’s the truth. I love eeet! You recap some of my favorite shows, including Dr. Who, BSG and True Blood. So, I hope you will indluge me in giving us a little behind-the-scenes look at how you do what you do. Thanks!


  13. So this is twofold – First a chance to fangirl you slightly by saying that only thing better than finding a new favorite show is finding out that you write the recaps. You made my second watching of the second season of Dr. Who into a really obnoxiously introspective event that no one wanted to be around for. I had the whole place to myself, it was awesome (seriously). I decided not to wait with Battlestar and did the episode-recap-episode-recap thing just like it was actually airing even though it had been over for years. It's an entirely different experience to watch a show with your words in one ear and the dialogue in the other.

    The second thing is an honest-to-God question. I just finished the recap for S4E08 of True Blood and I read the LARP paragraph out to my husband who laughed dutifully and then said “Wait… what other LARP documentaries are out there?” I'm not saying it's our favorite genre, but we've worn a groove in Monster Camp and Netflix is going to fire us if we try to get Drakmar or Darkon again. So if you have other suggestions would you mind passing them on?

    Thanks.. for so many things.


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