Originally part of The Onion, AV Club features, reviews and interviews were included in a separate section of Onion print issues before it started publishing exclusively online.
While The AV Club often features a snarky, irreverent tone, it is not satirical or parodic in the vein of its more famous sibling. In fact, the site is one of the more highly respected centers of criticism on the internet, especially its TV coverage. It also boasted one of the more pleasant and respectful comment sections anywhere on the web until a redesign that saw the site switch their commenting system to Kinja, which brought a mass exodus of the regular commenting community.
Recurring features on the site include:
- For Our Consideration: Long essays, usually opinionated, on some pop culture issue
- Scenic Route: Detailed breakdowns of one specific, notable movie scene and the technical work that went into it.
- 100 Episodes: Overview of a television series that went to 100 episodes or more.
- Roundtables: Multiple writers discussing a specific question or issue- for example, reactions to a particular episode of a television series
- Hatesong: A pop culture figure discusses his or her most-hated song.
The AV Club served as the big break for a couple of critics who have gone on to other work. Most famous is the film critic Nathan Rabin, who coined the term Manic Pixie Dream Girl before moving on to The Dissolve- he returned to The AV Club after The Dissolve's unfortunate demise. Former Vox critic at large Emily St. James began as a TV critic at The AV Club, where she was known for the passion, depth and staggering quantity of her work.
Tropes found on the site include:
- The Alcoholic: A running joke in the comments section is that Sean O'Neal, the site's former senior editor and the man responsible for most of the hilarious breaking news pieces, is a raging alcoholic.
- Bait-and-Switch: This is a popular headline type for Newswires. For example, "George RR Martin finally finishes writing his Game of Thrones suggestions."
- Broke the Rating Scale: Sonia Saraiya's grade of episode 11 of ''Hostages'' zooms past "D" and "F" and circles all the way back around to an "A".
- Butt-Monkey: The site's users openly scorn the "Tolerability Index" feature and use its comment section as a catch-all place to discuss any random thing.
- Hate Song is largely disliked by the site's readers- it's a feature that's all about openly loathing a bit of pop culture, on a site that, even when critical, is defined by its earnest passion for art.
- Great Job, Internet! has also earned much reproach for often providing links to websites and videos that the commenters frequently find to be inadequate.
- Emily St. James. Given she had to review 2 Broke Girls with a Broken Pedestal mindset and Glee while the show was going through Seasonal Rot earned her sympathy points from readers.
- Deconstruction: In Newswire articles, when someone or something shamelessly argues for something illogical, one of the writers (Almost always Katie Rife) will be on hand to dismantle their arguments through this.
- Fetish Retardant: In his My World of Flops article about Jupiter Ascending, Nathan Rabin says Channing Tatum and Mila Kunis (normally Mr and Ms. Fanservice respectively) "cut bizarrely asexual figures". He, like most other viewers, invokes Bestiality Is Depraved in response to Jupiter's line "I love dogs," and sees Caine as "a scowling, glowering, personality-free mass of muscles."
- Heroic BSoD: Reviewers who cover particularly awful series week-in and week-out often pretend to be experiencing this by the end of a season. Sonia Sariya's experience with Hostages is the quintessential example. "This caused a great deal of consternation. Mostly by me, because my brain is slowly melting into goo."
- Emily St. James's reviews of 2 Broke Girls are also cited as an example. She started out by calling the pilot episode "one of the best" from network TV for that season, only to gradually grow more and more disenchanted with the show as its first season progressed, to the point of giving it C's and D's frequently. It's joked that it caused Emily to lose her mind.
- Hurricane of Puns: Comment sections often have threads dedicated to awful puns.
- Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Trope Namer. Coined by Nathan Rabin in a retrospective review of Elizabethtown.
- Metalhead: Oddly enough, A.A. Dowd.
- Not Listening to Me, Are You?: The AV Club reposted a wildly popular shot of Allison Brie and Gillian Jacobs from Community re-enacting a famous picture by Bettie Page. About halfway through the one paragraph article, they conclude no one is there to actually read it and just start listing random factoids and making a grocery list. (Better yet, the image link is broken now, so the article is entirely pointless.)
- Orphaned Series: Most of their Features. Aside from those with one entry, many didn't even last enough for the index to need extra pages.
- Quote Mine: A.A. Dowd was the victim of this, when the promoters of a crummy movie took individual words from Dowd's scathing review and cut them together to sound like praise. Dowd wrote a column calling them out. While sympathetic to Dowd, the commentators mostly found the whole thing really amusing, because humorous quote mining had long been a Running Gag in the comment section for negative reviews. And, naturally, the comment section for Dowd's column included a thread of people cutting together words from the column to make it sound like Dowd was praising the movie.
- Running Gag:
- Newswires about one of the numerous Land of Oz gritty reboots tend to have a picture of Peter Dinklage Hula Hooping as a header.
- Newswires about Steve Carell often feature increasingly weird bits from a script for a Dan in Real Life sequel.
- Newswires about Brett Ratner almost always have this picture of Ratner reading The Big Butt Book.
- Emily St. James's A Gifted Man reviews ended with The Adventures of Frank Fisticuffs.
- Plenty of them in the comments:
- Any commenter who rushes to post "First!" is cursed with "CancerAIDS."
- "SIIIIIMS", an affectionate Take That! aimed at David Sims whenever he writes or does something particularly noteworthy.
- "Dawes", where an earnest article promoting a record by the band of the same name wound up being seen as a paid advertisement for the album, leading to commentors bringing it up in similar articles.
- On a similar note is "PWR BTTM", where news covering them was quickly overshadowed by the fact that there's a band named PWR BTTM to begin with.
- The AV Club, placed above an out-of-context quote describing something completely different, like, "The AV Club: A wretched hive of scum and villainy."
- Ever since the AA Dowd Quote Mine incident, cherrypicking phrases or even single words from Dowd reviews to look like praise, a Double Entendre or just old-fashioned Vulgar Humor is regular.
- "Clowning the rest of X." and "Monster Truck wheelies", mocking Joshua Alston's hyperbolic praise regarding The Leftovers.
- "The Depression Club" is used to rib their constant praise of shows that cover depression and other mental health issues.
- It wouldn't be a season of A.V. Undercover without one appearance from Wye Oak and GWAR.
- Suggesting that A.A. Dowd's full name is "Alphonse Aloysius Dowd."
- In a bit of Black Comedy, commenters will frequently bring up and joke about the scandal where former writer Leonard Pierce wrote a fake review of a book he hadn't read (and which wasn't even finished at the time).
- Show Within a Show: The Adventures of Frank Fisticuffs, Emily's rejected detective novel that she put at the end of her A Gifted Man reviews, operating under the assumption that so few people would actually care enough to read her reviews that she could put in snippets of an unpublished detective novel and no one would be any the wiser.
- So Bad, It's Good/Narm Charm: The reviews of the Under the Dome soon go from "This could be good!" to "This isn't much good", before settling on "This is ridiculous nonsense in the most entertaining way".Scott Von Doviak: And yet...those of us who stuck with it to the end will miss it a little, won’t we? Not in the same way we’ll miss other beloved favorites that expired this year like Mad Men and Justified, but as a delivery system for weapons-grade nonsense, Under The Dome has had few competitors.
- This is also invoked in "The Gentleman's F", which declares that there's a grandeur to earning an F - it immediately suggests to the audience, "you have to see this shit." As a result, the site tends to reserve F's for So Bad, It's Good productions, and ones that fit more clearly into the "just bad" pile are more likely D-minuses.
- Spinoff: The community that formed in the comment section eventually left and formed two of their own communities: The A.V. Club After Dark, which was later changed to The AVoCADo, and the Tolerability Index Forums.
- Take That!: Because of the site's snarky tone, writers often take shots at pop culture figures they dislike. Entourage and Adam Sandler are frequent targets in Newswires, while Aaron Sorkin is frequently excoriated in more traditional reviews and longform pieces.
- Take That, Audience!: Commenters mostly loved Sean O'Neal during his tenure with the site. His opinion of the commenters was rather more ambivalent, and he frequently took shots at the site's readers and their irrational obsessions.