Tuned In

Honey, It's Our Anniversary!

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Back in 2005, my editors agreed to the idea of a temporary, daily blog reviewing the new fall shows that season over the course of a few weeks. The first post, five years ago today, was about the new daytime talk show from newly minted parolee Martha Stewart. The fall 2005 season came and went—farewell, Head Cases!—but I kept the blog going until it became the Tuned In empire that you know today.

At the start, I’ll admit, Tuned In (the first of TIME’s regular blogs, pre-Swampland) was an irregular thing; it was not one of my editors’ top priorities, and it took me a while to get into the rhythm of blogging. Eventually I got hooked, though, and was putting up content on a regular—maybe too regular!—basis. But the blog really came into its own after time.com began allowing comments on blogs (no, seriously, there was a time that they didn’t)—in other words, after your voice became a part of it.

So If I can be gushily sincere for a rare moment: thank you, Tuned Inlanders.

I won’t bore you with an exhaustive history of Tuned In (if nothing else, multiple deadlines are a cure for sentimentality). But the blog and its stable of commenters grew over the years, covering topics from politics to American Idol to The Office to children’s TV to the entire run (or at least most of it) of Lost.

The breadth and the quality of discussion we’ve had here has always made me proud. TIME doesn’t have staffers assigned to moderate and monitor Tuned In’s comments, and save for the spam and profanity filters, Tuned In’s comments generally post immediately. And yet there have only been a few cases in all this time when I’ve had to step in to delete or otherwise police comments. Other bloggers—whether guest-posters here or colleagues at other outlets—continually tell me how impressed they are with the intelligence and civility of the comments section here.

That may sound like sucking up, but you’ve seen the rest of the Internet: you know I’m right.

You Tuned Inlanders—and I don’t want to leave anyone out by naming names—have over the years given me great ideas and sharpened my thinking. Most important, you’ve advanced what I’ve always wanted to do with this blog and my writing in general: to write about pop culture without dumbing it down, and to write about important media issues without making them boring. Whenever anyone claims that TV is “just entertainment” that shouldn’t be analyzed, or that intelligent writing about pop culture is an oxymoron, I have you all to point to.

Tuned In has been a lot of work over the years—sometimes, like anything else in a job, too much work. But it’s also the best thing that I do as a writer. As journalism has changed—for instance, when fellow critics Alan Sepinwall and Mo Ryan went to online publications—people have asked me what it’s like to still work in “print media,” and I have to laugh: 95% of my writing for “print media” in recent years has gone straight online. I wrote for an online publication (Salon.com) before I went to TIME, and I think like a lot of writers of my generation, I don’t particularly romanticize either print or online: each has its advantages and idiosyncracies, but they’re both just ways of communicating.

But working online, especially for a community like the one here, is like crack for a writer: I get to have near-complete control over my subject matter, tone and style, and when I write something, it’s only the beginning (if that) of a conversation. I’ve said often that when I watch a show like Lost or Mad Men, I can’t wait to get a post up, not just to have my say, but to read what the rest of you have to say.

So thanks again for making this place work all these years, and I hope that five years from now we’ll still be communing, on whatever cranial-ocular device Steve Jobs will have implanted in our heads by then. And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some TV to watch.