Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
'The End of the Tour' Sundance Reviews: Jason Segel Impresses as David Foster Wallace 'The End of the Tour' Sundance Reviews: Jason Segel Impresses as David Foster Wallace Why the Unanimous Praise for 'Boyhood' Is Bad for Film Criticism — and for 'Boyhood' Why the Unanimous Praise for 'Boyhood' Is Bad for Film Criticism — and for 'Boyhood' Daily Reads: The Epic Uncool of Philip Seymour Hoffman's Career, How Scarlett Johansson Subverts Her Good Looks and More Daily Reads: The Epic Uncool of Philip Seymour Hoffman's Career, How Scarlett Johansson Subverts Her Good Looks and More Cahiers du Cinema's Top 10 Movies of 2014: 'Goodbye to Language,' 'Under the Skin,' 'Love Is Strange' Cahiers du Cinema's Top 10 Movies of 2014: 'Goodbye to Language,' 'Under the Skin,' 'Love Is Strange' Love or Hate 'American Sniper,' We're Brought Together By Its Bad Fake Baby Love or Hate 'American Sniper,' We're Brought Together By Its Bad Fake Baby The A.V. Club's 25 Best Sitcom Episodes of the Past 25 Years: 'Seinfeld,' 'The Simpsons' and More The A.V. Club's 25 Best Sitcom Episodes of the Past 25 Years: 'Seinfeld,' 'The Simpsons' and More First Reviews of Johnny Depp's 'Mortdecai': Scraping Bottom With a Waxed Moustache First Reviews of Johnny Depp's 'Mortdecai': Scraping Bottom With a Waxed Moustache 'Girls' Outrage Tracker: Season 4, Episode 1, 'Iowa' 'Girls' Outrage Tracker: Season 4, Episode 1, 'Iowa' Not at Sundance? Watch 14 Festival Films Via Sundance's #ArtistServices Not at Sundance? Watch 14 Festival Films Via Sundance's #ArtistServices 'Girls' Outrage Tracker: Season 4, Episode 2, 'Triggering' 'Girls' Outrage Tracker: Season 4, Episode 2, 'Triggering' Now Streaming: 'The Interview' and Other Movies That Didn't Get Us Threatened Now Streaming: 'The Interview' and Other Movies That Didn't Get Us Threatened 'Strange Magic' Reviews: Yup, That's Late Period George Lucas, All Right 'Strange Magic' Reviews: Yup, That's Late Period George Lucas, All Right 'Going Clear' Sundance Reviews: A Scorching Takedown of Scientology 'Going Clear' Sundance Reviews: A Scorching Takedown of Scientology Meet the Indiewire | Sundance Institute Ebert Film Criticism Fellows, 2015 Meet the Indiewire | Sundance Institute Ebert Film Criticism Fellows, 2015 'Better Call Saul': 'Breaking Bad' Prequel Accepts the Charges 'Better Call Saul': 'Breaking Bad' Prequel Accepts the Charges The Scrambled Sexuality of 'Frozen's "Let It Go" The Scrambled Sexuality of 'Frozen's "Let It Go" Daily Reads: Movie Monsters That Look Like Genitalia, Why It Feels Like There's Too Much TV and More Daily Reads: Movie Monsters That Look Like Genitalia, Why It Feels Like There's Too Much TV and More 'Disney Deaths' and 'Big Hero 6': How Children's Stories Process Loss 'Disney Deaths' and 'Big Hero 6': How Children's Stories Process Loss 'Dope' Sundance Reviews: A Smart, High-Energy Comedy 'Dope' Sundance Reviews: A Smart, High-Energy Comedy Daily Reads: Stop Pitting 'Broad City' Against 'Girls,' How Political Pundits Warp 'American Sniper,' and more Daily Reads: Stop Pitting 'Broad City' Against 'Girls,' How Political Pundits Warp 'American Sniper,' and more

Read Jeff Jarvis' Initial Proposal for Entertainment Weekly, and Time Inc.'s Negative Response

Photo of Sam Adams By Sam Adams | Criticwire June 11, 2014 at 10:52AM

In 1984, Jeff Jarvis thought the time was ripe for a magazine helping consumers deal with entertainment overload. Time, Inc. disagreed.
0
The concept cover for Jeff Jarvis' 1984 Entertainment Weekly Pitch
The concept cover for Jeff Jarvis' 1984 Entertainment Weekly Pitch

In response to Anne Helen Petersen's history of Entertainment Weekly, founding editor Jeff Jarvis has posted his original seven-page proposal for the magazine to his website. (The proposal is dated 1984, but it took six years for Time to give him the green light.) It's a fascinating read for what it reveals about how much -- and how little -- has changed. 

The goal of Jarvis' "ultimate entertainment guide," he writes, is to "come to the aid of the consumer in a very confusing time. Today, there is simply too much to choose from." Among the (then-)overwhelming array of choices: Movies; "Network TV and mini-networks"; videocassettes; "Music on radio, on records, on cassettes and now on compact discs"; "And let's not forget books."

Intriguingly, especially given Jarvis' latter-day career as a self-appointed tech visionary, his original plan for EW included reviews of the gadgets which readers would use to consume all this stuff: Not only which CDs to listen to, but which stereo to listen to them on. It's a shame that fell by the wayside, since in spite of the vogue, then as now, for bigger and better TV screens, audiences have stopped paying much attention to the quality of the viewing and listening experience; good enough is fine.

The section on "Editorial focus" is especially interesting. The magazine must, Jarvis writes, "be provocative and interesting," and review sections should be organized around the voice of a single critic so the readers can build an ongoing relationship him or her -- exactly what the present-day EW has forfeited by losing or getting rid of longtime critics like Owen Gleiberman, Lisa Schwarzbaum and Ken Tucker.

Even better is the response from Time, Inc. head Henry Grunwald, which in hindsight seems about as on-point as reports of smooth sailing for the Titanic:

The market for entertainment is so broad that I think it is difficult, if not impossible, to create a single magazine or guide for it. For instance, the people who watch television are not necessarily the people who read books....

Cassette reviews? Hardly needed weekly and perhaps not even monthly; I suspect that people are satisfied with the handouts they get in video shops and the occasional reviews in other publications....

Movie reviews? Plenty of those everywhere. Besides (and this is a very minor issue) I doubt there is really a broad market for Jarvis vision of opinionated and provocative reviews. I suspect the majority of movie goers don't pay any attention to reviews, although critics hate to admit it.

Read Jeff Jarvis' complete proposal for Entertainment Weekly and Time, Inc.'s response below.


EW proposal


E-Mail Updates