The (unexpected) pleasures and sorrows of writing TV recaps

You really get invested: The Voice Australia 2014.

You really get invested: The Voice Australia 2014.

I write a lot. 

It's a good thing that I do, because my ability to feed and clothe myself is largely dependent on my being able to write, and subsequently invoice for having written, at a fairly healthy lick. And believe me: society is the richer for my clothing myself. The alternative is… let's just say “unnerving”. 

One of the more recent things I've been writing has been television recaps, specifically for The Voice. It's been a surprising gig since much of what I laughingly refer to as my career has been spent writing about “proper” music (read: pale, nervous-looking men with guitars) and I've had a less than passing interest in pop music, reality shows, talent quests, or reality show talent quests about pop music.

Yet after a few weeks spending my Monday evenings closely watching a programme that would normally never grace my screen, I've discovered a few things that surprised me. Most of them take the form of questions like “how does Darren McMullen explain his job to people, given that he's on screen for about 40 seconds per show?”, but others are more philosophical in nature – such as: 


The pleasures

1. It's 100% involving

A lot of writing is spent desperately wishing that you were doing pretty much anything else, and I say that as someone who loves writing disproportionately much. It's just not a particularly fun thing to physically do, as things to do go, and it's done on computers which are generally hooked up to the much more interesting internet. It's not hard to get momentarily distracted and lose a day down  a Wikipedia hole.

However, when you're doing TV recaps, you're writing as you go – you're processing what you're watching on the fly and hastily banging out words, not painstakingly crafting shimmering prose while fighting the urge to check Facebook.

2. It's about content, not taste

One thing that I've attempted, with limited success, to bang into the skulls of countless young writers over the years is that there's a fundamental difference between a review and an opinion. The former is about assessing the strengths and weaknesses of a piece of work within the context in which it's being presented, and the latter is about expressing your special precious feels because you're a beautiful snowflake unicorn. 

And it's an easy thing to say – especially when you get to a point of editorial seniority where you can largely pay attention only to the things that seem interesting – but can be maddeningly hard to actually do. Writing about something that's not to one's particular taste occasionally leads to discoveries, but more often is a welcome reminder of the discipline of this whole “writing” lark. Although, that being said…

3. You still get invested

I have enormous problems with the whole notion that a great voice is by definition a versatile one – almost all of the singers that I have adored over the years have voices perfect for what they're doing (again, largely overlaying noises made by pale, nervous-looking men with guitars) but utterly unsuited to the vast majority of different musical genres. Judging a great rock singer on how she handles a showtune makes as little sense to me as assessing Swans captain Adam Goode's sporting ability by his tennis backhand or Mario Kart ranking. 

And yet, after watching people collapse into relieved tears in their family's arms after pulling off a surprising victory is so immediately relatable that it's absolutely impossible not start caring about them, even if they've just been singing an objectively ghastly song. I never thought I'd care about the professional fate of people who consciously made the decision that yes, they'd perform 'I Know Him So Well' on national television, and yet here we are.

The sorrows

1. You can't put it off

This is technically also a plus because offering a writer any sort of opportunity to procrastinate is dangerous and foolish, but doing a TV recap is necessarily time dependent and does mean that your evening is pretty much sewn up. Great gig happening, or got old friend in town? Tough, pal: you're not leaving the house until you hit send, and those credits don't roll until 9.30.

2. Everyone's a critic

Woe betide the writer who suggests that a performer or episode is sub-par, for the glorious interconnected network of mad screaming people that is the Twittersphere will have feelings on the subject and express them via 140 characters of passionately-taken umbrage. It's generally a good thing too, although every so often it'll make one hanker for those innocent days when furious defence of an inept vocalist could only be expressed via a strongly worded Letter To The Editor.  

3. You really get invested

Seriously, if Jhoanna doesn't make it through to the finals then there's simply no justice in the world. None. 





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