(Note: This discussion was inspired by Doug Walker’s announcement that he was retiring the Nostalgia Critic in September of 2012. As it turned out, it was more of a hiatus than a retirement, but the points made in the discussion below are, I feel, still relevant).
If you followed the blog section on TGWTG last year, you might remember a collaboration between James Daniel Walsh and James Bevan titled ‘Accepting Change’. There, they discussed James Rolfe putting his most popular creation, the Angry Video Game Nerd, into semi-retirement. Over a year later, another beloved Internet personality is doing something similar, so I thought I’d ask James Daniel Walsh to join in on a similar discussion.
I think I’ll start off by once again quoting Sad Panda’s Nostalgia Critic anthem. I know I already did that in Fluffyman’s big collaborative Nostalgia Critic tribute, but it fits in with the point I’m making here so here it is again.
“I hope he’ll never stop. Or else I’ll be nostalgic…
For the Nostalgia Critic. Oh, the irony…” — Sad Panda, ‘The Nostalgia Critic Anthem’
Chris: The quote from Sad Panda above is a brilliant illustration of my opening point. We all find ongoing forms of entertainment, be they television shows, musical groups, or other performers, that we latch on to and hope will keep entertaining us in the same way for years and years to come.
However, the old saying that ‘all good things must come to an end’ is the truth. Someday, Weird Al Yankovic will stop doing song parodies, Gail Simone will no longer write comic books, and Brad Jones will quit doing the Cinema Snob. Whether we like it or not, sooner or later our favorite performers will decide it’s time to retire. And some might decide to move on sooner than we’d like them to.
As I’m sure most have guessed by now, this is a reaction to the recent announcement by Doug Walker that he is retiring the Nostalgia Critic as a weekly series. He says that he and Rob felt that after 250 episodes, the show was running its course and it was becoming harder to keep finding new variations on the same old formula. So while he is not ruling out the occasional special or return appearance, the Nostalgia Critic is no longer going to be the big weekly show that they’re going to do.
I for one applaud this decision. I agree completely with Doug that just because something is popular, that doesn’t mean you should keep doing it after you’re creatively burned out on it. Some shows DO keep going even though the writers clearly aren’t inspired anymore, and the results aren’t pretty. Often they descend into bitter self-parody and become pale caricatures of their former selves. As an example of a show that’s been run into the ground but still keeps going, I’d give The Simpsons.
Don’t get me wrong. I loved the Nostalgia Critic, and have ever since I discovered his show back in February of 2009 (like others, it was hearing the phrase ‘Big Lipped Alligator Moment’ on TV Tropes that led me to the Ferngully review, and the Nostalgia Critic). And I’m definately going to miss having my weekly Nostalgia Critic fix. But I respect his decision to move on wholeheartedly.
Others, however, aren’t so accepting. While some, like me, understand his decision and support it, I’ve already seen a few nasty people flaming him for it, swearing at him and accusing him of abandoning his fans. And these nasty people claim to be fans of his.
I honestly don’t get it. Doug didn’t sound at all like he was abandoning his fans. In fact, he thanked his fans for all the support they’ve given over the years, and clearly hopes they will like his new project Demo Reel. So why the hate?
JDW: Well, this is a case of fans being d-bags, in my opinion. You know, I remember a letter in the back of a magazine, way back in the early 90s. George Lucas was working on some project or other, I don’t recall what. Well, this guy wrote an angry letter that the magazine published. In it he demanded Lucas comense work on the prequel trilogy IMMEDIATELY! …How’d he like those prequels when he got them, I wonder.
Look, I’m going to miss the Nostalgia Critic. Between him and the Angry Video Game Nerd, they changed the direction of my life. Without those two guys, there wouldn’t be a Manic Expression site. However, I think both Doug and James Rolfe have both grown tired of being one joke wonders, which accounts for why both are placing their characters into semi-retirement.
There are things that, as a fan, I have to accept. I’ll never get to go to another Phil Collins concert. I’ll never see Christopher Reeve in that Superman suit again. Robert Englund will never again wear that claw and stalk sleeping teens. That makes me sad.
But to get ANGRY!?
Chris: Yeah, the anger is something I just don’t understand. It’s not like he’s stealing anything from them or anything. He still intends to keep the old episodes available, and has already planned a Nostalgia Critic Retrospective in which he’ll answer some questions he gets asked a lot (which were his favorite moments, which are the worst films he’s reviewed, and so on and so forth).
The fact is, the Nostalgia Critic is Doug’s creation, and he has every right to do with it as he sees fit. And if he and Rob feel they should end the series before it gets too stale, then by all means they should do it and the fans should understand why he did it and support his decision. They should also be glad that Doug got to end the series on his own terms, as opposed to being forced to end it by some clueless corporate representatives who neither know nor care what the show is about. (Seriously, if the Nostalgia Critic was a weekly show on a television network, could you imagine it lasting any longer than, say, Firefly?)
JDW: If you mention Firefly once more, you’re going to make me cry…
I’ll admit that I’m not the biggest fan of To Boldly Flee. Don’t get me wrong, I thought it was fun, but it was my least favorite of the three TGWTG movies. That said, it accomplished one thing I NEVER imagined – a send off for the Nostalgia Critic. I always assumed that one day the episodes would just stop. Doug would get bored or life would get in the way or he wouldn’t have time any more, and the show would just end. Instead, the Nostalgia Critic got a send off usually reserved for characters like Frodo or Luke Skywalker. Who saw that coming?
I know what bugs a lot of people is that, as far as the show proper goes, the Nostalgia Critic ended on what many feel was a weak review – Scooby Doo. Any thoughts?
Chris: Actually, I thought the Scooby Doo review was one of his most clever episodes. He manages to make it funny, but also manages to work in plenty of legit criticism as well. The gimmick of having the Nostalgia Critic’s past, present, and future selves join together to approach the film from three different perspectives was, I thought, a pretty neat idea. We have the younger Critic approaching the film from the perspective of a fan of the original Scooby Doo show, the present day Critic questioning whether it works from a comedic standpoint as a parody of the original show, and the future ‘Doc’ Critic approaching it from the standpoint of someone who doesn’t remember the original Scooby Doo series and is critiquing it on its own merits as a film. In the end, they decide the film fails on all of those levels.
I especially thought the homage to “All Good Things”, the final episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, was well-done. Both it and the opening rant (where the Nostalgia Critic makes it clear he’s getting tired of the same, unchanging routine over and over again) strongly hint to observant viewers that things are going to change soon.
Honestly, I don’t see why others say it’s one of his weakest reviews. I thought both the jokes and the moments of actual criticism worked really well together. As for To Boldly Flee, I’m still undecided on where I rank it. I think Suburban Knights is still my favorite of the three feature-length specials, but To Boldly Flee really impressed me with how much work was put into it, and how Doug managed to give just about everyone involved their moments to shine this time around (if there was one thing that disappointed me about Suburban Knights, it was that Bennett the Sage wasn’t given much to do).
True, To Boldly Flee starts off slow. In Part One, it seemed the jokes, while still there, had a lot more space between them. Part Two is where both storywise and comedy-wise, things start picking up in my opinion.
Not everything in the movie worked — the whole ‘meet the writer’ thing has been done before, and done better. (My favorite take on that is still Grant Morrison’s at the conclusion of his Animal Man run). But all in all, I think To Boldly Flee (in contrast to the Scooby Doo movie) succeeds on all the levels Doug, Rob, and the gang were going for: It succeeds as an affectionate parody of geeks’ favorite sci-fi films/franchises, it succeeds as a sci-fi/action adventure film, and it succeeds as a comedy.
And it also succeeds as a good sendoff for the Nostalgia Critic. And yes, I didn’t exactly see this coming — at least not before the teasers or the trailers, anyway. But I can see why Doug did it this way — since the Nostalgia Critic is one of the most popular reviewers on the Internet, he couldn’t just disappear without saying goodbye the way lesser-known reviewers like Little Miss Gamer could. He needed a big last hurrah to give the many fans who’ve supported him over the years closure.
Personally, I think that both in the last regular weekly episode of his own show (the Scooby Doo review), and in To Boldly Flee, he went out on a good note. And I accept that some might disagree with me, particularly on the former note.
But as for those “fans” who got all angry about the NC’s retirement, I don’t think the Scooby Doo review is the issue. We saw this happen with the Angry Video Game Nerd, and we’re seeing it happen here too. There are some ‘fans’ who just don’t understand that Doug Walker, James Rolfe, and others have the right to do with their shows as they wish. And if they wish to retire or at least take a hiatus, it’s their decision — they shouldn’t have to ask the fans for permission.
I myself think that the true fans are the ones who will not only support Doug in his decision, but will give Demo Reel a chance. As far as I’m concerned, Doug’s not a one-hit wonder: He also has Bum Reviews, Ask That Guy, and Video Game Confessions. Also, he and Rob have put together three great feature-length specials, so I’m expecting good things from Demo Reel.
JDW: I am too. If nothing else, it’ll be different, and different is always good.
Honestly, the Scooby Doo review being the last NC video doesn’t bother me either. Was it the perfect movie to go out on? No, but then whatever the perfect movie was he probably already reviewed it. Batman & Robin probably would have been the perfect review to go out on, but he hit hat one out of the park years ago.
As for To Boldly Flee, I think my problem with it was it was a bit too epic for it’s own good, suffering from being too long and over dramatic at times. However, the good moments were great, I love that they went for it and went balls to the wall, and it was a touching send off.
I don’t know if there’s a fan backlash against To Boldly Flee, other than fanboys whining about “you can’t quit! We’re not done with you!” I have a feeling these same fans will decided to hate Demo Reel, and every comments section will be filled with “bring back the NC! Demo Reel sucks!”
Chris: It wouldn’t at all surprise me, sad to say. The thing is, this is related to another problem some extreme fans have besides accepting change: dictating to people what to do with their shows.
Some online personalities have more than one project that they do at the same time. As I said earlier, Doug also has Bum Reviews, Ask That Guy, and Video Game Confessions, and apparently Demo Reel is going to be replacing Nostalgia Critic as the ‘main’ project he focuses on the most. James Rolfe, in addition to AVGN, also has various Cinemassacre projects, Board James, You Know What’s Bullshit, and so on. Noah Antwiler not only has the Spoony Experiment, but also his V-logs and Counter Monkey (where he talks about his role-playing game experiences). And Lewis Lovhaug, aka Linkara, not only has Atop The Fourth Wall, but History of Power Rangers.
Some of these other segments develop a fanbase as well. And some of those fans can be just as extreme. When I read the previous ‘Accepting Change’ collaboration with James Bevan discussing the semi-retirement of the Angry Video Game Nerd, I was surprised to find that people were trying to pressure Linkara into making ‘History of Power Rangers’ his main project and de-emphasizing or even stopping AT4W. My thought was “Seriously? I think Linkara can get a LOT more material out of comic books than he can with Power Rangers, which, even though it’s been around a while and had a dozen or more incarnations, only has so many versions to discuss. Also, AT4W allows him to discuss lots and lots of franchises, and not just one.”
But more importantly, what Linkara does with AT4W, History of Power Rangers, and his other projects is his decision in the end. Just as what Noah Antwiler does with the Spoony Experiment is his decision, and what Doug Walker and James Rolfe do with the Nostalgia Critic and the Angry Video Game Nerd is their decision. We the fans can make suggestions (such as recommending them things to review) but we mustn’t cross the line between making suggestions and flat-out telling them what to do.
JDW: Agreed. A demanding audience can be death to an artist / performer. Like when you go see The Who in concert, and they’re trying to perform songs from their latest album and people keep screaming, “MY GENERATION!”
People grow and change. Will I be writing Stop the Hate forever? Probably not. Will I let others tell me when to give it up? Nope. I’ll do it till I don’t want to, then I’ll stop. Otherwise I’d end up resenting the series and my audience, and why would I let that happen?
Doug is a married man now, in a very different place than he was a half decade ago. He can’t be the Nostalgia Critic forever.
Chris: Indeed. I’ve seen a lot of my favorite performers retire over the past four years or so, and many of the retirements can be attributed to a combination of burnout and personal lives whose priorites have changed since they started. As well as a desire to get out of a rut and try different things.
And before we close, I’ll remind the readers that Doug and Rob have been wanting to do the Demo Reel series for some time. It was something they knew they wanted to do after they felt the Nostalgia Critic had run its course. And Doug, in his announcement video, sounds really excited about the new show.
I think we’d better wrap this up. In closing, I say this: It’s okay to be sad that the Nostalgia Critic is no longer a regular series. But give Demo Reel a chance. You might end up liking the new show just as much as Nostalgia Critic, if not more. As for me, I’m looking forward to seeing Doug and Rob try new stuff and do things they couldn’t do with Nostalgia Critic.
Any final thoughts?
JDW: I think fans have to decide, at some point, if they support the artist or the project. Is Doug someone you’ve come to care about, as an artist? If some, welcome his growth and be grateful for all he’s given us.
Chris: Indeed. Doug has given us not only five incredible years as the Nostalgia Critic, but also Bum Reviews, Ask That Guy With The Glasses, Video Game Confessions, various specials, and three feature-length anniversary films. Personally, I like all of them and support all of them just as much.
Doug’s a very talented performer. At times, when he’s had his characters cross-over, I almost forget that, for example, the Nostalgia Critic and Chester A. Bum are played by the same person. Here’s hoping he brings his A-Game to Demo Reel and whatever other new projects he has in store.
But that’s just me. Some might have only tuned in for his Nostalgia Critic videos. To them, I say treasure all the great moments he’s given us, see some of your favorite episodes again … and look forward to the retrospectives and the occasional special. Doug has said that while yes, the Nostalgia Critic will no longer be his ‘main weekly series’, we still might get a few reappearances by the Critic every now and then.
So in closing, I say it’s all right to be sad to see the Nostalgia Critic at the very least go into semi-retirement. But don’t be angry. Just be glad for all the many years of entertainment he’s given us, and give his new show a chance. In my opinion, true fans of an entertainer will still support an entertainer even when they decide it’s time to move on … and they’ll be there if and when they decide to make a comeback or an encore appearance.
I think I’ve said all I wish to say. James, thanks for joining in on the discussion.
JDW: Thanks for having me!
The article received the following comments:
5:30 PM on September 28, 2012
Thanks everybody. This was a lot of fun to write. Big thanks to Chris for inviting me over!
1:29 PM on September 28, 2012
You guys really did a great job, it doesn’t matter if I did something first, others can still have their own co-ops and this has the advantage of two people constantly interacting with each other, not just someone posting their thing like it was with mine.
Personally I think “To Boldly Flee” is probably their strongest effort, with “Kickassia” second and “Suburban Knights” third. I felt “Knights” felt a little too padded out to be as enjoyable as the other two.
11:51 AM on September 28, 2012
I’ve loved the Nostalgia Critic for the better part of a year. His videos helped pull me out of a grade-A depression when I was fired and had nothing better to do than look up YouTube videos. In some ways, I think he saved my life.
He also opened me up to Linkara, Angry Joe, the Nostalgia Chick, and by proxy Andre the Black Nerd, the Gay Comic Geek, and Long-Haired Creepy Guy (who I stalked here when YouTube stopped letting me see his vids) & Timdiana (who I found here and greatly enjoy!).
That said, I like the Nostalgia CHICK just that little bit more than the critic, and if anyone deserves to carry on the nostalgic legacy an TGWTG it’s her. And I’m just as psyched and revved up for TGWTG’s new projects as anyone.
I’m excited about the future of Internet reviewers everywhere. Doug Walker has left one hell of a legacy, and I for one am grateful. 🙂
11:11 AM on September 28, 2012
Excellent piece, Chris & James. I saw the writing on the wall that “Scooby Doo” was probably going to be Doug’s last NC review, and while I’m disappointed that the series is ending, I look forward to what he and the rest of the CA staff have in store (checked the site update today – they’ll have Brad Jones hosting a game show. Yes please!). Hell, I was upset when Leon Thomas stopped “Heart of Gaming”, but I’ve grown to be a big fan of Renegade Cut.
Unfortunatley, it was inevitable that we’d have pricks bashing Doug for his decision to retire the character… the same people who’d probably say he wasn’t funny anymore if he stuck with the Critic for another year. I know some of these people feel “betrayed” that he didn’t announce up front that he was ending the show until after “To Bolyly Flee”, but honestly, if he had, then these same unpleasable peons would be whining about how his exit didn’t live up to their expectations, or some shit like that.