As a kid in a doctor’s office and looking for ways to suppress boredom, there was almost always Entertainment Weekly — at least in the good doctors’ offices.
We didn’t get the magazine at our home and our small, Southern town with its two (then one) grocery stores only had the basic of tabloids: National Enquirer or World Weekly News. Entertainment Weekly was a treat, a magazine shelved in book stores, one that covered ostensibly all the movies, shows, books, and music I knew about at the time; even covering some I didn’t know. Stars graced the covers. Frequently I wished I could take them home with me from whatever office or book store I was visiting.
When I became an adult with some disposable income, I subscribed. A bit of a thrill surged within me each Saturday when I knew that the newest edition would be in the mailbox.
Last year, something went awry. The heads of EW decided to switch to a monthly publishing schedule, creating a piece of cognitive dissonance within their masthead. But there were more changes, some of which stemmed from the now-monthly format.
In order to pacify readers by switching to once-a-month deliveries rather than their weekly standard, the editors have felt that the magazine needs to be larger to warrant the wait and price. What’s now in the pages, though, lack any generation of interest.
The biggest move that feels less-than-intelligent is the constant inclusion of recipes. In a magazine designed initially to cover entertainment options on screen, page, or music, it devoted three, full pages of how to cook something. Don’t ask me what. I don’t turn to Entertainment Weekly for my baking tips.
In a world where more and more shows, movies, books, and music are streaming at our fingertips, we need a faithful magazine to guide us through that fun minefield. Instead, the new EW has decided that every issue needs to cover a barely noticed, true crime story. It’s evident that their editorial staff saw the uptick of shows like Serial and Making of a Murderer and were compelled to try to capitalize on the trend. Talk about a glut of the genre! When’s the last time anyone looked for an entertainment magazine to spell out the details of an under-the-radar Hollywood crime? I’m betting never.
The February 2020 edition even brought a new page, “Confessions of a Red-Carpet Warrior.” I was hoping for insight on interviewing celebrities during award seasons at the least, perhaps some stellar tales of the best or worst moments this particular reporter had at the Oscars or Golden Globes. Nope. It was a fictional publicist rattling off an equally fictional memo to his secretary about prepping for the Academy Awards. It lacked any humor. Perhaps its funniest line — and I’m stretching here, for their sake — was that Denzel may have blown “his Deakins all over 1917.” Ugh. Spare us.
The magazine also has a habit of stuffing its pages with a “Where’s Waldo?”-type of art where the reader is to find something related to that month. Huh? (This month had a rendering of a bunch of rom-com characters one was supposed to spot.) Perhaps less dumb and more oriented to its initial purpose are inclusions of several oral histories, yet these are frequently covering movies you’ve long forgotten about because they weren’t any good. (How much have you thought about Any Given Sunday since 1999? Well, read that oral history on it in this month’s rag!)
But giving credit where credit is due, EW still excels in a few of their pages: their “Must List” where they offer recommendations on what should be on everyone’s cultural radar; their articles that superficially cover the newest big movies or stars thereof; their television previews that dole out just enough without spoiling; and their movie, tv, and music reviews that still give their classic A—F grades to help sort through the plethora of entertainment options.
Perhaps most deserving is their continued inclusion of books. Since expanding to a monthly magazine, at least they did seem to allow for an extra page on authors and reviews of their works.
If only they could focus their quality to what it was when they producing once a week, perhaps they could be that must-see magazine once again. Right now, though, it’s way too much diarrhea in print form. A doctor’s visit may be in order.