And what's interesting now is that I'm starting to hear from indie bookstores and college bookstores, whose professors want to use the book in their class.
A: I think the shows would have happened no matter what. At the same time, they were happening right when the Internet was becoming widespread. Technologically, it was really easy to write about shows that all but demanded to be written about at this length and at this depth.
Q: The shows' quality has clearly legitimized TV, but so has the writing about these shows.
A: Well, this is all happening at the same time when you have the Kardashians and Honey Boo Boo, so you're getting high and low at once. But definitely, I don't get the snobby "I don't watch much television" reaction when I tell people what I do for a living. I used to get that all ... the time when I was at a party or a social event.
Q: David Simon (creator of "The Wire" and "Treme" on HBO) doesn't like it when each episode of his shows is analyzed individually, which is kind of strange considering that's how TV is delivered to us, in weekly installments.
A: What he talks about all the time is that he's not making a TV show, he's making a novel for television, and you can't really appreciate it until you get to the end. And I do see his point to a degree. But you're right: This is the way we experience things.
Q: The irony is that "The Wire" is often described as Dickensian. Many of Dickens' novels were originally published in serial form — as "episodes," you could say. I have to think if the Internet were around at that time, people would have been blogging and posting comments about each chapter as it came out.
A: This is the way we're consuming things, but I want to see what happens with these new Netflix shows (the Kevin Spacey series "House of Cards" and new episodes of "Arrested Development"). They're going to release all the episodes on the same day. And I want to see what the (online) discussion is like in that case, if people are watching them all at once, or one day at a time or one week at a time.
Q: In your book, Tom Fontana (the creator of HBO's "Oz" and more recently "Copper" for BBC America) talks about the idea that the shifting economic environment will have a big impact going forward. What is he referring to?
A: Look at it like this: Film in the '70s had Scorsese and Coppola and Bogdanovich, who were sort of left alone to make these very special movies because the movie business at the time had no idea what it was doing. So it was, "Let's give these Young Turks a shot." And that resulted in one of the great periods of cinema of all time. And then Spielberg makes "Jaws" and Lucas makes "Star Wars," and the movie business says, "Oh yeah, we can make money. Let's do that instead."
I think we may be at that point with cable. You've kind of seen it with what HBO's done with "True Blood" and what AMC's done with "The Walking Dead" and FX with "Sons of Anarchy" — all of which have merit. They do better (in the ratings), but they're not aiming for the same quality. Once these cable networks see how big an audience they can get and how much money there is to be made, I do wonder if the impetus will still be there to experiment. But at the same time, FX is doing "Louie." If I had written this book two years from now, even though technically it's a comedy, "Louie" would probably be in it.
Q: The book became available in November. I read that you made changes to it as late as October. This sounds as close to blogging as book-writing can get.
A: That was one of the best things about doing it this way. If I had gone the traditional route, I would have had to wait about a year between when I finished it and when it was published, and I would have been going crazy for that year. Which isn't to say I wouldn't consider traditional publishing in the future. Since The New York Times review ran, a number of traditional publishers have reached out to me about the idea of acquiring the rights to this book or doing another book. We'll have to see what happens and if I decide to go that route.
Q: Which is the opposite of most authors who are like, "Please give me a book deal!"
A: Everything I've ever done in my career that's taken it to another level has been something I did on my own, just to see if I could do it. In college I created a "NYPD Blue" website, and that wasn't part of an assignment or anything for the school paper. That was just, I really wanted to write about this show. So I did. And that helped me get the job at the Star-Ledger. And the blog I started on the side ("What's Alan Watching?) was not part of my work for the Star-Ledger, that was just on my own.
Because of the blog's reach, I went from being a guy known only in New Jersey to a guy known in a lot more places.
Nina Metz covers film, TV and theater for the Tribune.
"The Revolution Was Televised"
By Alan Sepinwall, What's Alan Watching?, 306 pages, $16.99