19 October 1999 | Hermit C-2
Critics' opinions have long-lasting effects.
'Townies' was only on the air about a half a year, barely a blip on the radar screen, so to speak. But the critical reaction to it seems to have had a much greater impact on the careers of two of its actresses than one would think.
The show was about three young women from New England (Molly Ringwald, Lauren Graham and Jenna Elfman) who work in a seafood restaurant and dream of someday leading more exciting and fulfilling lives elsewhere. It had some appeal, owing to the three lead actresses and co-star Conchata Ferrell. But its male characters weren't drawn too well and overall the level of humor never rose too high and the show was soon cancelled. But that's not quite the end of the story.
TV critics seem to have a herd mentality at times, and one of the things they all seemed to agree on was now that Molly Ringwald is down, kick her. Story after story recounted her early success in some of John Hughes' movies, and her subsequent failure to attain the same level of popular acclaim when she sought more adult roles. 'Townies' was just seen as another in a line of inglorious failures.
If the critics decided that Ringwald could do no right, they were equally sure that Jenna Elfman could do no wrong. It almost became a requirement that anyone writing about the new TV show 'Dharma and Greg' had to include a line pointing out that Elfman was the sole shining light on an otherwise dismal show. As far as I was concerned, both the assessments of Ringwald's and Elfman's work on the show were exaggerated, but both became like articles of faith to many TV critics. They show this pack mentality all the time. Examples: 'The Simpsons' is the TV equivalent of The Second Coming; 'Suddenly Susan' is the worst comedy on TV; Tea Leoni was wonderful on 'The Naked Truth' no matter how bad the show was; and 'Encore, Encore' with Nathan Lane was an unredeemable bomb because its pilot wasn't made available to critics for preview.
Viewers deserve something better than these "company line" types of opinions from TV critics. As for 'Townies,' it hasn't been seen again, so many people will never be able to decide for themselves.