That kind of recap is probably here to stay. Even TWoP, which still offers recaps posted (and written) several days after an episode airs, has given in to its readers’ demand for speed, and now offers “weecaps”—shorter versions of the recap, posted a day or two after the episode airs—as well as blogs and video content. All of these were introduced after NBC Universal bought the site from its three founders in 2007. Ariano, Bunting, and Cole stayed with TWoP for a year after the purchase, then moved on.
In their wake, the recap has become such an established form that there is a second wave of practitioners, who have studied and appreciate the medium and wish to refine it further. Consider EW’s Darren Franich, who came to EW.com as a production intern in 2009 and is now a staff writer. He says he had always wanted to recap for EW.com; when Jon & Kate Plus 8’s usual recapper needed a substitute, he got his chance. Franich believes he hit his stride while recapping Jersey Shore. His approach was to give the show “much more respect than it deserves”—to treat it as seriously as he would a fine piece of literature. Franich can recap an episode of a show, complete with overarching themes, in just a few hours. If I’m the Beverly Hills, 90210 of recappers, Franich is the savvier, more self-aware Dawson’s Creek.
With the increasing emphasis on speed and quantity over quality, I wonder how the recap will keep up. “You’ll have to predict what’s going to happen next,” Juzwiak jokes. He might not be far off. Ariano recapped Saturday Night Live for Vulture last season by writing a “Saturday Night Live Sketch Predictor” the day before each episode aired. Some sites get recaps up so quickly that West Coast readers can read the recap before the show airs in their homes.
And then there’s Twitter. Jezebel recently pronounced Parks and Recreation actress Retta “the best TV recapper on the Internet” for her 140-character-long live-tweets that have no context unless you’re watching the same show at the same time. Ariano and Cole will soon launch Previously.TV, which already has its own “live event” Twitter account called “Previously.TV Now.” Recapitulation, meet reaction.
I hugely appreciate what recapping taught me—that I could regularly turn out 7,000 words a week that were full of description, analysis, commentary, and, well, me. I’m also the beneficiary of good timing: I started my career when being able to express a unique take in an entertaining way was valued. And not just as a recapper: I can link most—if not all—of my subsequent writing and journalism work back to the website I came across one night in my dorm room.
I stopped by TWoP recently to read comments about my last recap, for the season finale of HBO’s The Newsroom. Some of the show’s fans did not appreciate my generally critical view of the series. “Do yourself and the rest of us a favor,” one woman wrote. “Get a job you are qualified for (I’m sure there’s a fast food joint near you that’s hiring).” She demanded that TWoP replace me with a “real writer.”
Maybe it’s not too late to win that dollar from my mom . . .