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Website / Television Without Pity

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Spare the snark, spoil the networks.

Television Without Pity, formerly known as Mighty Big TV, was a TV recapping and discussion site that featured very snarky commentary related to numerous popular shows at the Turn of the Millennium.

Launched in 1998 as a recap forum for episodes of Dawson's Creek, the site would rebrand itself to Television Without Pity four years later. The site's purview expanded to encompass numerous dramas and reality shows, including Lost, America's Next Top Model, Big Brother and everything in-between. Shows that didn't have active recaps lapsed into "Permanent Hiatus" status, often due to the recapper disagreeing with the direction of a show.

The site's forums were notable for requiring posters to conform to standard written English. All-caps, no-caps, or textspeak would get a poster warned or banned. Flames and "talking about the boards on the boards" were also prohibited.

The site famously ran afoul of Aaron Sorkin, creator of The West Wing, after the site's forum moderation (referenced above, caused by a disagreement with writer-producer Rick Cleveland over writing credits for a Season 1 episode) led him to write a secondary plotline in a later episode that had lead character Josh Lyman interacting with an overzealous internet moderator.

NBC Universal/Bravo bought the site in 2007 and ran it until 2014, when they shut it down. There was some chatter about a potential relaunch, but those plans never came to fruition, and the site remains defunct.

Television Without Pity and its recaps provide examples of:

  • Accentuate the Negative: The entire purpose of the site is to review and discuss TV shows in as snarky a fashion as possible. Naturally, this resulted in a fair bit of focusing on the bad bits over the good bits. Depending on the reviewer and the show, however, this can sometimes tip into outright negativity, often with no readily apparent justification. On the other hand, when the show is doing what it does best well, the praise can be quite strong.
  • Apophenia Plot: Within the forums, certain theorists watching the third season of Game of Thrones were convinced that Jojen and Meera Reed were actually servants of the White Walkers, due to the mystery surrounding their Establishing Character Moment; the theory used everything from Summer trusting Jojen ("He must be warging him!") to the private conversations between Jojen and Bran ("he must be trying to brainwash him!"), from the fact that Jojen warned Bran that Hodor's panicked yelling would alert the Wildlings ("he wants to kill Hodor!") to the fact that Jojen is leading Bran Beyond the Wall ("he's taking him to the White Walkers!"). By the end of the season, the theorists were grumpily forced to accept the fact that Jojen and Meera are heroes; the mysteries around them were due to the fact that the showrunners had them randomly appear out of nowhere rather than formally introducing them as they were in the books. For added fun, some adherents to this theory were so adamant that Jojen had to be the secret villain that the treachery of Walder Frey caught them completely off-guard.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: From the recap of the Smallville episode "Roulette".
    Multi-task? Multi-task?! Woman, I just saved a bus full of nuns, burned an S into the sidewalk, and got my eyebrows done! Don't talk to me about multi-tasking!
  • Atomic F-Bomb: Omar G's reaction to Clark wiping Chloe's memories in the Smallville episode "Abyss".
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Occasionally a recapper, like Sep with Spike/Buffy or Sara M with House/Cuddy, will wish for a pairing in early recaps but intensely regret it when it happens and it's badly written.
  • Berserk Button: As an example of the site's recap team getting more and more irate over the direction of certain shows, mentioning the show 7th Heaven on the site after a certain point could send the reviewers into a frothing rage. And then we have...
  • Birth-Death Juxtaposition: Miley Cyrus was born the same day that country music legend Roy Acuff passed away (November 23, 1992). It was infamously suggested in one recap that Acuff's spirit transferred into the newly born baby girl ("Although i would not have expected that Acuff would go on to enjoy being female...").
  • Can't Take Criticism: As discovered to be the case on the message boards. Going against the grain or even questioning the recappers or board administrators was worthy of being banned.
    • This was most notably seen with the recappers war with fans of the US Queer As Folk show; the show was even banned from being discussed in the forums for several years, because fans of the show were upset at the negative recaps of the show by writers who considered it inferior to the UK version and never let up on their disdain for Showtime remaking it for the US market.
      • Similarly, the site's general blackballing of FX falls into this, to the point that in the "Recapper FAQ" for Charmed, the recapper basically cursed out fans of Nip/Tuck and told them to "shut up" asking when the website would recap the show.
    • Members of the community certainly saw Aaron Sorkin this way. Sorkin actually posted on the forum for a while, but he grew annoyed by some of the harsh criticism season three of The West Wing received, and ended up expressing some of that displeasure in an episode of the show. The site mostly saw that episode as proof they were right in their criticisms.
  • Caustic Critic: The recappers.
  • Could This Happen to You?: The Television Without Pity book that they released pokes fun at this in their entry on "News, Crappy Local."
    ...the broadcast segues into everyone's favorite local-news staple, the "Something Perfectly Innocent COULD KILL YOU"-slash-"Good God WON'T SOMEONE THINK OF THE CHILDREN" feature. First comes an assy graphic of, like, a bowl of oatmeal with fangs, subtitled something along the lines of "Quaker? MORE LIKE 'DAMNED LIAR'," and the revelation that oat bran is not all that good for you if you eat nothing but oatmeal, in which case you will get scurvy, which: doy.
  • Fandom: Many on the site are huge Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans (the recaps for Ringer in particular demonstrate this), and there will be allusions and guest appearances from the characters given half a chance.
  • Fauxlosophic Narration: Jacob, whose 30-page recaps can go on for pages and pages about philosophy and symbolism and literature without once mentioning the actual show he's recapping.
  • Fauxtivational Poster: Before the forum shut down, there was a thread for these on their recreational forum which must have been one of the prime places to find it on the 'Net, at over 1,300 pages (with another 500 or so missing for some reason). The main focus was split between the Ho Yay of Heroes and Supernatural, and shameless fangirl Mr. Fanservice posters of every attractive/shirtless/towel-clad male character ever.
  • Grammar Nazi:
    • The moderators.
    • The recappers once suffered from this. Unavoidable when your webmaster and her friends are all ivy-league English majors.
  • Heh Heh, You Said "X": The 24 recaps had this for "debrief" or variants of it.
  • Hypocrite: It was frequently noted that several recappers, despite being incredibly blunt and snarky when it came to their criticism of the works they recapped and their disagreements with the views of the people who created them (as was the whole raison d'ere of the site), could be incredibly thin-skinned when it came to people criticising and disagreeing with them.
  • In-Joke: Numerous.
    • Some of the recappers would occasionally slip up and admit that they were being pressured by the site maintainers to come up with these as well as numerous Catchphrase options when they did a show's reviews, as a sort of marketing.
  • Inherently Funny Words: Flounce.
  • Irony: The season 4 recaps of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (first recaps done of the show) have Sep and Ace totally crushing and in love with Spike, and want more of him. By late season 5, they're sick of the sight of him and their opinions keep dropping from there.
  • Insult to Rocks: Tippi Blevins said this during the recap for Smallville episode "Prophecy".
    It's so over-the-top, so awful]], that calling it cartoony would be an insult to cartoons.
  • Interrupted Bath: The site had the often-used phrase "God is in the tub." This phrase was typically used in association with contestants on reality shows such as Survivor or The Amazing Race praying to God to help them in getting ahead on the show, the idea being that doing so is like interrupting your mother when she's trying to take a bath. Praying to God for a safe flight to the next leg of the race, or to calm your fears before a task? Okay. Praying that you beat the other teams? Not okay.
  • I Reject Your Reality:
    • Lampshaded in the Buffy and Angel reviews. Strega chooses to believe Spike is off causing mayhem in some foreign nation, unaware that he's replaced by some dull lookalike named Brad.
    • In one Charmed recap, Demian refers to Chris's female sex partner as a man because he insists that Chris is gay.
  • The Nicknamer:
    • Tippi Blevins calls Clark "Emo Blur" and "Super Doofus".
    • Marcia Cross's character Linda in Everwood was nicknamed "Rinda" due to her character working as a doctor in China.
    • In the The O.C. recaps, Che was instead named "Bright" after Chris Pratt's character on Everwood.
    • Demian gives the characters of Supernatural a variety of goofy nicknames. "The Hardy Boys", Sammy's "Puppy Dog Eyes of Empathy", and "Metallicar" are some stand-outs.
    • Let's not forget his Charmed nicknames: "Raige" for Paige and "Big Gay Chris" for Chris. Also, Piper and Paige are sometimes referred to as "Phoebe's Fucking Backup Band."
  • Portmanteau: "Porquettishly".
    • The site's mascot, "Tubeelzebub" (shortened to Tubey).
  • Pet the Dog: Whenever a recapper praises a specific element or moment of an otherwise-bad episode.
    "I do know, however, that Melissa Benoist sounds absolutely lovely in this little bit, so good for her." -Demian, "Glease" recap
    • Strega and her Angel recaps hated Wesley, but mostly because she knew people like him and commented a few times that for all his obnoxiousness, he was probably the best developed character of the show.
  • Precision F-Strike: Strega usually avoids gratuitous swearing, but she loathed Fred and extreme sappiness. Both of those things were exemplified by "Mr. Feigenbaum", Fred's stuffed bunny, which Strega thought was designed purely to make her extra cute and sympathetic. Paraphrased slightly:
    "I really hate that fucking rabbit."
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: TWoP's forum was legendary for causing Aaron Sorkin to rip his hair out and base an entire episode of The West Wing around eviscerating the site and their perceived ill-treatment of him.
  • Reset Button: Sara M's House recaps get steadily more annoyed with the show's doing this (like when season 6 backtracked from him being insane enough to commit himself) that she leaves at the end of season 7.
  • Running Gag:
  • Shaped Like Itself: One of the more infamous rules of the site was "No talking about the boards on the boards" — namely, the intent was to focus on the show under discussion, not tangential conversations about the content of the recaps, the recappers, or other posters. As it was a bit of an unclear and circuitous rule to begin with, the recappers themselves were frequently the ones in-charge of enforcing it and it could be conveniently interpreted as preventing any disagreement or criticism of the views or running of the site, this gradually led to claims of unethical and overly draconian moderating. Many accusations arose that certain moderators / recappers exploited its nebulous nature to unfairly target and ban people whose only real crime was disagreeing with the mod's / recapper's opinion or otherwise bruising their ego.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Played for Laughs. Any line of dialogue which includes a name or reference to something the recapper is known for (no matter how obscure) is jokingly declared a "Shout out."
    • Demian has at least two from Charmed- in one episode, Piper said "Fricking ever-useless Elders!" ("ever-useless Elders" was one of his catch phrases when recapping) and in another, the entire episode revolved around a Darklighter named Damien who was trying to kill Leo (Demian's least-favorite character). He was overjoyed.
    • Supernatural featured a gay couple named Demian and Barnes.
    • Keckler's recaps of Star Trek: Enterprise dubbed Captain Archer's ready room porthole the "Weight Of The World Window" for his habit of staring contemplatively through it in times of momentous or weighty decisions. Somewhere late in the series, Archer turned away from it to Commander Tucker and said "Weight of the world, Trip", leaving Keckler briefly stunned in mid-recap.
    • Midway through the fourth and final season of the 2000s-era Battlestar Galactica, one of the members of the colonial Quorum of Twelve was named Jacob (same as the recapper). To the possible delight of those who disliked the real Jacob's metaphorical ramblings in his Door Stopper-sized recaps, the fictional Jacob was eventually shot to death during an attempted coup d'etat.
    • Veronica Mars had two overt shoutouts, and plenty of other potential nods - a few of the cast read and loved the recaps. In Donut Run, a flyer is visible on one of the school boards that reads "'Teenage Women of Propriety", laid out so as to highlight the acronym. In Versatile Toppings, mention is made of a student at the school named John Ramos - this was the real name of Couch Baron, the T Wo P recapper for the show. Ramos also appeared as an extra in another episode.
  • Strawman Political: Some recappers weren't exactly afraid to make their political opinions clear. Could be expected when commenting on actual strawman characters in the shows, but when a Star Trek: Voyager recap gets interrupted to bitch about then-President Bush, you know there's straw in them thar hills.
    • While the show did lean liberal, Jacob Clifton ironically rage-quit recapping Doctor Who over the crime of hiring a black actress to replace his beloved "goddess" Rose Tyler
  • Suckiness Is Painful: Certain reviewers recused themselves from recapping certain shows over the years, citing this phenomenon:
    • Sars resigning from the Dawson's Creek recaps in its final season, pleading concern for her stomach lining.
    • Sara M. resigning from doing House recaps.
    • Jacob Clifton also quit Ugly Betty in mid-Season 3, after an admittedly pretty terrible episode.
    • A subversion occurred when Jacob recusing himself from recapping the second season of the Doctor Who revival was met with glee from the site's users. The former had written recaps with an unhealthy fixation on Billie Piper's character, Rose Tyler, to the point that he barely recapped any of the episodes in favor of long rants dedicated to her. When the third season began, Jacob opted out of recapping episodes due to not liking the character of Martha Jones instead of Tyler (motivated by Piper quitting the series at the end of the second season). Though the forum topic would continue to be frequented by fans, no other Who episodes were covered for the remainder of the site's lifespan.
    • Omar G. gave an unprecedented F (the worst before was a D) to the Lana-heavy "Requiem" episode of Smallville and fled. He came back two episodes after that, but when "Doomsday" aired, he decided to permanently end his recaps of the series.
  • The Un-Favorite:
    • FX Network suffered this. The site infamously refused to recap the networks' various dramas and comedies, meaning fans of beloved and critically acclaimed shows like The Shield, Nip/Tuck and It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia were effectively denied recaps. Towards the end of the website's run however, they did SLIGHTLY loosen up their ban and recapped Rescue Me, Damages and Sons of Anarchy, but they only lasted 1-2 seasons and were quickly dropped as soon as the website could.
    • More infamously, Jacob Clifton's racist hatred for Freema Agyeman, which resulted in Doctor Who not getting recapped during it's third season due to his refusal to accept a black female companion replacing his beloved Rose Tyler.