Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

The Critics: no-one likes us, we don’t care

So no-one pays any attention to The Critics, the Millwall of the journalism trade, do they? The Mrs Brown’s Boys D’Movie hubbub says otherwise

Wed, Jul 2, 2014, 10:34


Every so often, the vexed issue of The Critics raises its head above the parapet. You know The Critics, this annoying bunch of self-appointed know-it-alls who review stuff for a living and cause heartache, pain and angst for kind, gentle, hard-working artists and entertainers. You’re reading one right now in case you’re wondering.

This time around, it was the Brendan O’Carroll gang who popped up and let fire at The Critics over the reviews dished out to Mrs Brown’s Boys D’Movie, the film version of the comedian’s hit TV series.

O’Carroll himself led the charge when he presented the Marian Finucane Show at the weekend, egged on by RTE presenter Joe Duffy (who features in the movie). You can read my colleague Donald Clarke’s take on what ensued here, as he’s one of The Critics in the firing line, (though it’s clear that O’Carroll and Duffy got things rather wrong – perhaps even actionable – in their criticism of this member of The Critics).

Aside from the Irish Times, RTE’s own arts review show Arena (FOI: I contribute to the show) also got a kicking because The Critics, in this case Roe McDermott and Darryl Jones, didn’t like the film. Duffy was particularly exercised about their review for some reason. It was as if the station’s shameless love-in with O’Carroll’s new film – it was a huge PR coup for the comedian to present a national radio show with a huge audience on the weekend his movie opened so we can look forward to similar treatment when Irish directors Lenny Abrahamson or Pat Collins, say, release their next films – should mean in-house positivity all round. Or maybe Duffy was playing some other angle.

O’Carroll and Duffy, though, weren’t the only members of the Mrs Brown Boys’ crew having a pop at The Critics over their treatment of the hugely successful film and, indeed, the comedian’s work in general. Last week, Rory Cowan also let fly at The Critics on the Mooney Show, cheered on by the presenter who clearly felt he was on the side of the right and the good (again, like Duffy, Mooney has played a role in Mrs Brown’s Boys and again, he’s a presenter who seems to have a real bee in his bonnet about The Critics).

Cowan, who used to work as a PR and marketing manager for EMI Records back in the mists of time when they were a standalone record label, was also strangely annoyed by the fact that many of The Critics have been members of this class for a long time. It was if a career choice to write and review for a living was somewhat demeaning compared to deciding to dress up as a woman for a living.

Cowan, like O’Carroll, may claim that The Critics are meaningless and useless and do not reflect the feelings of the great unwashed and that they never read the reviews. Yet for people who never read the reviews or take a blind bit of notice of what they say or have no regard for the word of The Critics and believe it has no effect on them or their audience, they can recite each negative line verbatim. Or at least some sort of take on what they think the reviews say (see the attack on the “racist” Clarke).

And there’s the rub. Despite what they say, people read the reviews and take notice of them, especially the negative ones. Discussing this current bunfight with an actor last week, he said he’d find it hard to recall a line from any positive review, but he can remember a negative one from 25 years ago. Every single band who’ve ever got a bad review have the relevant lines learned off heart and pay more attention to them than the chords of that song they wrote six months ago. The Critics, the Millwall of the journalism trade, are always noticed no matter how much people claim to be blasé about their notices. It seems that that saying about sticks and stones doesn’t run quite as right as the saw goes.

O’Carroll and co will point to the gigantic box office success of their latest movie and bully for them. It’s a superb success for the comedian who thoroughly deserves every single cent he’s making at the moment because of all the hard work he’s done to get to this point and all the setbacks he’s overcome along the way. He strikes me as a smart, friendly, happy fellow. But all involved need to note that just because a film is successful doesn’t mean that everyone is going to love it or that the film is any good to begin with. You know this dualism is something which drives him and his team mad: you can admire the man, but you can hate the work.

But that’s life. Be it The Critics in the papers and on review shows or The New Critics on social media (if O’Carroll thinks Our Donald was a bad ‘un, he should see what people are saying about the flick on Twitter), there are a lot of people out there who think that the film and TV series are absolutely dreadful and are quite happy to voice that opinion. There are also, conversely, a huge number of people who pay good money to see the film and laugh their heads off. This difference of opinion is what makes this world such a wonderful, fascinating, remarkable experience.

If O’Carroll, Cowan and cohorts really don’t care about The Critics, that’s cool. That’s fine and dandy. I’m happy with that and you’re probably happy with it as well. The Critics are also happy. The Mrs Brown’s Boys’ crew don’t need The Critics judging by the massive audience for their comedy output. But instead of going on (and on) about the nasty pens of The Critics and how they don’t care about The Critics, could they please stop going on about them so much? It’s as boring and dull and predictable as an episode of the TV show. Leave The Critics to The Golden Dream and Clipping and stuff like that and everyone will be happy. Unlike the farmer and the cowman, The Critics and Mrs Brown’s Boys will probably never be friends.