Sometimes, pundits are just plain … stupid

I used to think that it was painful getting bad reviews as a novelist. I had no idea that it’s even crueler when you’re in the TV business. Although I’m not involved with “Rizzoli & Isles,” the new TV show based on my series, I can’t help wincing when I see some of the breathtakingly ill-informed attacks critics have hurled against the show.

And the most common attack seems to be about the name of the show. Rizzoli. And. Isles. “What numbskull comes up with a stupid title like that?” they ask. “Why couldn’t they come up with better names?” says this article, proposing some better alternatives. And this blog.

“Worst Name Ever,” seems to be the theme on TV message boards. Critics have said it sounds like “A restaurant,” or “A wine cooler,” or “A law firm.” They just don’t get why anyone would call a show by that name.

Their prediction? This show is sure to fail because it has a stupid title.

Now that “Rizzoli & Isles” has debuted to the best-ever ratings of any scripted cable show, and has held its ratings in its second week, it’s time to look at just how wrong those critics were. And why.

I’m astonished by the ignorance of the pundits. They certainly can’t call themselves journalists if they didn’t know that the show is based on novels whose characters are named … yep! Rizzoli. And. Isles. And don’t they know that to change the names of those characters (as New York Magazine suggested) would, um, make the show NOT based on the novels which attracted the producer in the first place?

Did they not realize that those names may actually have been one of the reasons many viewers did tune in? That many of those viewers are readers of the books, which have been read by millions of readers? That’s a pretty hefty ready-made audience.

(Those same pundits would probably have thought that a movie with “Harry Potter” in the title was stupidly named, too.)

What it tells me is that too many TV pundits don’t read books. They’re ignorant of the book audience. They’re ignorant that, yes, fictional literary characters do have millions of fans. They’re so wrapped up in their TV world, that they don’t realize there’s an audience out there beyond their tiny little sphere of knowledge.

18 replies
  1. patbalester
    patbalester says:

    Knowing it was based on your books is the ONLY reason I tuned in to watch the first couple episodes, which I really enjoyed. I wouldn’t have known that if the show was called “Two Women and a Corpse”.

    Um, OK, I lied…maybe Angie Harmon was another reason I watched, but that was waayyy down on the list.

    The best part of the show is thinking how many viewers who’ve never read you will now pick up one of your books and become fans!

  2. Anthony Lee
    Anthony Lee says:

    You know what this reminds me of? How many people know about the character of secret agent James Bond from the movies, yet some aren’t aware that the character originated from a series of novels by Ian Fleming (even though Fleming’s name is in the opening credits of every Bond movie). It’s as if the book world is so foreign to the movie/TV world, even though more than half of Hollywood movies, it seems, are based on books.

  3. tvmaniac
    tvmaniac says:

    Yeah, right… TV shows with two names never work… Just look at Starsky and Hutch, Mork and Mindy, Sonny and Cher, Donny and Marie, Cagney and Lacey… to name a few.

    The critics have been less than kind in their reviews. And some of their comments make you wonder if they really even watched the episodes, or just “read the Cliff Notes” to do their review.

    And, IMHO I think a lot of the negative press is directed at Angie Harmon (and her political views).

    That’s why I love that the show is getting such fabulous ratings! It just goes to show that those folks in La La Land really don’t get what people in real world America are interested in watching.

    BTW… it was great meeting you at Davis-Kidd Booksellers this week!

  4. l.c.mccabe
    l.c.mccabe says:

    Tess,

    This proves once again that William Goldman was right when he said in his book Adventures in the Screentrade, “nobody knows anything” in Hollywood.

    That ignorance extends to media critics.

    Linda

  5. Inspiracy
    Inspiracy says:

    The connection to your books is the only reason I checked out the show. After watching 2 episodes, I am forced to the conclusion that the only thing these TV characters have in common with their literary counterparts are their names.

    Jane Rizzoli = literal plain Jane. Angie Harmon on her worst day couldn’t be described as plain, or her hair bad.

    Maura Isles = dark haired, polished, Queen of the dead. Sasha Alexander’s portrayal is more like Phoebe Buffay from Friends. A fluffy, flirty almost giggly blonde fashionista is not how I “see” her.

    I hope you’re getting paid well for licensing their names, but I’ll be sticking with your books. 😉

  6. cece
    cece says:

    AND YOU CAN’T FIX STUPID! Some of the greatest authors in the mystery genre who have given us who devour the ‘written word’ so much pleasure have been successfully developed into TV series using only the character name of the books.
    So much of the media today only choose to spout their opinion in order to sensationalize so-called ‘news’ without researching the subject thoroughly to understand the topic and glean complete information.

  7. IServeTheCat
    IServeTheCat says:

    I think Angie Harmon does a pretty good Jane.

    I have to agree with Inspiracy about Dr. Isles, though. I got so excited about your books getting turned into a show, I had everyone I know tune in.

    The ones who had not read the books were confused by the first episode, and I had to explain some parts. A few people said it was just plain bad writing. No one liked Isles. Least of all me, because I was expecting one character and got something drastically inferior to anything you ever wrote.

    The second episode was less confusing- probably because it wasn’t trying to cram two books into 45 minutes. Unfortunately, Dr. Isles somehow managed to get even stupider.

    I’ll give it three episodes. If it stays this bad, I’ll just stick to the books.

  8. petremihai
    petremihai says:

    I don`t like the show because those two ARE NOT Rizzoli and Isles. They act like two teenagers. The show is more like a cop comedy not a grim cop/forensic thriller like in your books. It`s not scary at all. I`ve expected something else. Knowing the show it`s called Rizzoli and Isles I thought, how stupid of me, that the main characters will act and behave like in the books. But no, I was deeply wrong. Since when Maura jumps from date to date (my God, Maura is the queen of the dead, not the queen of silly jokes), since when Jane is such a happy lady, since when Frank helps his mother, since when Jane is appreciated by her family, since when is Frankie a cop??? If the show had another name I would have enjoyed it. But not when it`s called Rizzoli and Isles and the only connection with the books is the names of the main characters. I don`t have a problem that the show doesn`t follow the books, but at least, I`ve expected Rizzoli and Isles to behave like in the books. Sorry for the long comment, but the name of the show it`s just an marketing trick to make people watch it. After 2 episodes in whick I was fooled, now I`ll stop watching it and I suspect that the real fans of your books will do the same. And so it goes down the show`s ratings.
    PS. Ice cold was an amazing thrill ride. Congratulations!!!

  9. CocoDiva
    CocoDiva says:

    I had never heard of the books before the series. I just had the same general disappointment I feel when another new show is introduced without a African American female in the lead role. I watched an episode. I wasn’t impressed, but will support the show because I enjoy seeing Lee Thompson Young and Angie Harmon in a weekly series. Knowing that the show is based on a book eases my angst somewhat…somewhat, as there is nothing I hate more than books being adapted to TV/film with no regard to the book or its fans that made it popular in the first place.

  10. leolovesleyla
    leolovesleyla says:

    i agree 100% with petremihai, i love your books but what they did to the tv show is horrible. i tried to watch the first two episodes because i love the books so much but i couldn’t watch anymore. The characters don’t match at all and its just stupid. i hope people dont think that this show is a fair representation of your books and your talent. Maybe the show would be better if i hadn’t read the books first. i hope the show gets cancelled soon because it is killing your well written thrillers. PS. ice cold was amazing, my favorite so far, keep them coming!

  11. annainchicago
    annainchicago says:

    I love your books as well. I hate what they did to Rizzoli and Isles. I don’t think the TV writers appreciated your books and what makes them so compulsively readable. They are serious, moody, intelligent and emotional riveting. The TV show does a disservice to you as a writer. I think that many of your books, especially the Mephisto Club, would make great films. I’ll give this TV series one more shot next week but it was painful tonight! I’ll be reading Ice Cold this week and looking forward to it. Love your books!

  12. My Friend Amy
    My Friend Amy says:

    I have to agree with the comments re: Isles. I was disappointed in that, but if I view the TV series as being a different entity than the books, I think I’ll end up really enjoying it.

    Angie Harmon has surprised me as Jane. I expected to hate her, but she hasn’t been bad.

  13. Tess
    Tess says:

    WJS, There’s no way to know why people tune in to a particular TV show. But millions of copies of the books have been sold, so there are certainly many people familiar with the names Rizzoli and Isles. And the fact that it debuted to such high numbers, and has already been renewed for a second season, would tend to argue that the title didn’t hurt it any.

  14. WJS
    WJS says:

    I agree with you Tess on that. I spectated TNT has ran an effective marketing campaign for Rizzoli & Isles which contributed indirectly to the success of the show’s beginnings. Best wishes!

    By the way, how are you doing and enjoying soaking in all of the fun?

  15. drkphant0m2
    drkphant0m2 says:

    This is my first time writing so I must say that I am a huge fan and have read all your books. But besides that, you know what’s funny; The first time I watched Rizzoli and Isles on TNT, I was with my cousins and after 15 minutes, they said that it was lame and began to make fun of the title. I must admit the title is a bit uncreative but you should never judge a book by its cover. People can be so critical.

  16. ishanu
    ishanu says:

    sorry i have to say this… the show DOES NOT do justice to the books… all the characters in the show are stupid and one dimensional…. the “technical jargon” used by Isles is often miserably wrong… it just infuriating… why not at least google up some of the facts before writing the script…. sloppy and shoddy screenplay…. also all the male characters have an extra dollop of stupid in them….

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