Interview: Michael Ausiello

Michael Ausiello has been writing about the good, the bad, and the ugly of television for seven years for TV Guide.

Michael Ausiello has been writing about the good, the bad, and the ugly of television for seven years for TV Guide.

He covers breaking news in the "Ausiello Report," and answers viewers' questions and provides scoops in his "Ask Ausiello" column.

He spoke to PRWeek about television PR and the annoyance of Desperate Housewives.

PRWeek: How much TV do you watch a week?

Michael Ausiello: Probably 20 hours a week, which isn't really a lot when you think about the job I have. I really focus on the shows that my readers want me to have information about. I tend to not watch a lot of the procedurals, which eliminates 60% of what's on TV.

PRWeek: Aside from getting a guest appearance on Scrubs, what's the best part of your job?

Having a job in a field that [I] love and [am] passionate and excited about. A lot of people love, watch, and enjoy TV, but only a few of them get to actually be employed in a field where they get to watch it, talk about it, and write about it.

PRWeek: What's the downside to your job?

Sometimes watching TV feels like work. Before I was working at TV Guide, it was a much more enjoyable experience. Now, there is part of it that feels like work because you watch it in a different way.

You watch it nervously, looking to see if what happens in a given episode matches up to spoilers that I gave three months ago. Sometimes I end up having to watch shows I don't really like. That's a real downside. If I were not working at TV Guide, I'd never in a million years still be watching Desperate Housewives.

PRWeek: How do you get all of those spoilers?

It's finding people who don't actually work on the PR side of it. Publicists are obviously very hesitant to give out advance information, partly because they don't want to spoil the plot.

Most of the information I get is from people who work behind the scenes at these shows. In some cases, some of the best spoiler sources for me are the producers.

PRWeek: Favorite new show this season?

Ausiello: Friday Night Lights without a doubt. I have a hunch it will still be around next season. NBC prides itself on being all about quality and there is no show that has better quality right now than FNL. What they don't get in ratings, they get in critical support.

PRWeek: Worst new show this year?

Ausiello: A lot of the worst shows were cancelled, but Til Death on Fox is pretty bad. I wrote it off a long time ago. It could be obscenely entertaining now in a way that it wasn't in the past, but I'm guessing it's still the same old bad show.

PRWeek: What has been your experience with entertainment PR people?

: It varies. Most of my experiences have been really good, actually. You'd think, given what I do, it might be more of a hostile relationship, but it's not.

PRWeek: Favorite show to come out in the past couple of years?

Ausiello: Battlestar Galactica. It's a show that surprised me. I didn't think I would like it, partly based on the title and partly based on the original series that was fun but not one I'd get excited about and get up on my soap box and insist people watch it. But this incarnation blows my mind every week. It's so much more than just some campy Sci-Fi show. I get excited to watch it.


PRWeek: Opinion on entertainment/gossip blogs?

Ausiello: On the one hand, the entertainment blogs make it much more competitive. Five years ago it was The Hollywood Reporter and Variety that broke the casting news. And now it's those two casting publications and everyone else who has a Web site. It's made it more competitive and challenging to be the one who gets out there and breaks the story first. As far as the other more tabloid-y blogs, you never feel good about reading them, but you read them anyway, and I'm guilty of that too. So I'm not going to go off on some morals tirade and say they're horrible. They're entertaining and they're immediate. The death of Anna Nicole is one of the biggest stories of this new blog age where this information is just coming out by the minute. The story seems like it's just changing constantly and these blogs were made to cover this story.

And some of these mainstream news shows are taking their cues from these types of sites. Their mentality [seems to be]: if viewers are interested in seeing and hearing about this stuff, we might as well cover it too.

PRWeek: What's been your experience with entertainment PR people?

Ausiello: It varies. Most of my experiences have been really good actually. You would think given what I do, it might be more of a hostile relationship, but it's not. I do think as my stuff is out there more and people are more familiar with it and it becomes more popular they realize they can either work with me or pretend I don't exist and ignore me, but that's not going to get them anywhere. When I started doing it they saw me as the enemy. Now it's really coming around, and for the most part I really enjoy working with them.

The only thing that I ask of PR people is that they level and be honest with me first and foremost. I just don't like to be lied to. And there are some publicists that really just like to lie.

PRWeek: Is there an example of a show that wasn't very good, but succeeded because of good PR?

Maybe Desperate Housewives. In the first season, it had so much great press and positive buzz surrounding it, people lost sight of the fact that it never really lived up to the promise of its pilot. And still, so much is written about [it]. I'm amazed at how much pickup these stories get for a show that's a shell of its former self.

PRWeek: How important is PR to the effective launch of a TV series?

For that initial tune-in, it's essential. There must be an awareness of a show for people to tune in. After the launch, it's up to the producers to deliver a product people want to watch.

PRWeek: Your opinions on Lost and 24?

Ausiello: I'm baffled by the backlash to Lost. That show to me is, maybe not as good as it was in its first season, but still got damn near close to being as good as it was. It shocks me that people are bitching and moaning about how bad and confusing it has become. It's not a perfect show, and the season hasn't been perfect. But I have been riveted by almost every episode.

24 had a tough act to follow coming off last season, which I think was its strongest season ever. It was kind of doomed to disappoint and it has disappointed. This season has not been as good as last season. A lot of stuff is straining credibility. But that said, I still love it and watch it every week. It has not become anywhere near a chore to watch it.

Name: Michael Ausiello

Outlet: TV Guide

Title: Columnist

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