Share this article

print logo

Living in TV land South Buffalo man takes his love of pop culture and turns it into a full-time job

Joe Reid has the 26-year-old guy's dream job.

It goes like this: On a typical morning, he wakes up, gets dressed, pops down to the corner store for a big cup of coffee, and then returns to his South Buffalo apartment where he perches himself on the couch, his laptop at the ready.

Then he fires up the DVR and watches TV.

And then watches more TV.

And more TV.

And then he writes about what he's seen -- being as sarcastic and funny as he wants to be.

Reid, 26, works full time for the Web site "Television Without Pity," a hugely popular and nationally known outlet for rapier-smart -- and very funny -- TV commentary.

His job is to write "recaps" of certain shows for the site -- "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" and "American Idol" among them -- so that people who missed an episode can catch up on what happened (and people who saw the show can relive it, moment-by-moment). A recap is like a detailed plot summary of the whole show -- sometimes running up to 15 pages or more -- with lots of humorous asides and semi-sarcastic ruminations thrown in for good measure.

"It's for people who love TV," said Reid, clad in jeans and a loose-fitting shirt on a recent weekday morning, his laptop open in front of him. "And who love to kick it in the shins at the same time."

The Canisius College grad is one of a mere handful in the country who get to do this for a living.

At "Television Without Pity" ad-hoc headquarters in New York -- where the site's motto is "Spare the Snark, Spoil the Networks" -- site co-founder Sarah Bunting said that Reid is one of only about two dozen "recappers" who work for the site. Reid also edits copy and monitors discussion boards for the site.

"Joe's smart and funny and well-versed in pop culture," said Bunting, who first met Reid in early 2005 at a party in Manhattan for the cast of "The Amazing Race." Reid had gone to the party on the off-chance that he might make some contacts in the entertainment industry.

"He takes TV seriously," she said, "but he doesn't take himself seriously. And he has a kind of humor our readers like."

"Television Without Pity" (www.televisionwithoutpity.com), called "TWOP," for short, is partnered with Yahoo! and gets 1 million unique visitors each month.

The site started in 1998 as a snarky fan-commentary site about the TV show "Dawson's Creek"; a year later it had expanded to include more shows and was renamed "Mighty Big TV." Since 2002, it's gone under the name "Television Without Pity."

And not only is the site popular with TV fans, it's popular -- is "feared" a better word? -- by those in the TV industry itself. Scriptwriters are known to haunt the recap pages and discussion boards, gauging audience reaction to their work. The creators of "Veronica Mars" stay in touch with TWOP. Aaron Sorkin, creator of "The West Wing" and other shows, reads the site and, Bunting said, he recently even asked permission to show a "TWOP" screen on a computer in an episode of his new show, "Studio 60" (but he later changed his mind).

"We do take television seriously," said Bunting. "We love television, and we want it to be better than it is. Because most of the time -- 85 percent of the time -- it's crap."

Sites like TWOP are changing the kinds of careers that young, Web-savvy writers like Reid can hope for, said Alex Halavais, a communications professor who specializes in technology and pop culture at Quinnipiac University.

"There have long been a group of professionals -- doctors, lawyers and executives of various stripes -- who could dictate their own schedules, and who could work from home," Halavais said. "That has now trickled down a bit, and a wider range of workers are able to work from home -- in large part by using their own computers and net access."

"I think many of our undergrads would love a chance to write for TWOP," added Halavais.

Reid, born and raised in South Buffalo, said he never expected that his career would include a full-time gig for such a popular Web site.

At college, he was a communication studies major but -- beyond vague dreams of working in movies -- never really decided on an area of specialization. After graduation in 2002, Reid worked for a while in the Canisius library.

"I didn't really have any specific career path in mind," he said. "All my ambitions kind of cropped up after graduation."

He sent some samples of his work to Bunting at TWOP based on his admiration for the writing on the site. That led to an invitation to try his hand at recapping a few shows on a trial basis. Before long, he was invited to join the site's small stable of writers -- and was given a great chance to shine when he was asked to write the recaps for the smash-hit show "American Idol."

"I would only watch 'American Idol' sporadically before that," Reid said. "But it's a fun show to recap. It's so wide open to everything. It doesn't take itself too seriously."

As far as his job is concerned, Reid doesn't make a ton of money, but he now makes enough to support himself by his writing and editing alone.

And hey, he just loves it. "There's a lot of late-night and early morning TV-watching," he said.

He finds one of the most challenging things is getting people to understand that this is what he actually does for a living.

"It's a lot of fun," he said with a grin. "I get to have fun writing. It's goofy."

-mail: cvogel@buffnews.com

There are no comments - be the first to comment