Among the many charms of Reference Tone proprietor John Cook — and they are legion — are his smug certitude and his obsessive devotion to a good bit. This, together with his previous job as a Chicago Tribune TV reporter, makes him the perfect investigator to examine, as he did today, just how wrong Times television critic Alessandra Stanley can be. While we prefer to ridicule Stanley's critical colleague Virginia Heffernan, we must give due credit to Reference Tone's exhaustive study, which unearths more than one correction a month since 2001 - and 11 percent inaccuracy rate in that period, Cook says, and a 14 percent inaccuracy rate this year — and lists them all.
They're not huge, but they're not nothing. And there's a lot of them. Some of our favorites:
March 4, 2005
The TV Weekend column yesterday, about "The Starlet," referred to the WB network incorrectly. It is a broadcast network, not cable.
May 1, 2005
The television report on the Week Ahead page last Sunday, about the return of "Family Guy" to the Fox network, misspelled the surname of its creator and misidentified a cable channel that carried reruns after Fox canceled the show in 2002. He is Seth MacFarlane, not McFarlane; the channel was the Cartoon Network, not Comedy Central.
January 30, 2004
The TV Weekend column yesterday about the political comedian Dennis Miller and his new talk show referred incorrectly in some copies to the background of Adm. James Stockdale, whose performance as a vice-presidential candidate was a discussion topic. The admiral ran as an independent in 1992 with Ross Perot, not as a Republican in 1996 with John McCain, who was not a nominee.
We've got a few more picks after the jump, John's got them all over at Reference Tone, and we know we're going to be taking the Times's TV recommendations a bit less seriously in the future.
April 24, 2005
An article last Sunday about Pope Benedict XVI's record of disciplinary actions against theologians while he was prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith misstated the timing of the Protestant Reformation, set off by Martin Luther. It began in 1517; it was not "more than 500" years ago.
An article on April 24 about Pope Benedict XVI's record of disciplinary actions against theologians while was prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith incorrectly described the population of Poland when Pope John Paul II was born in 1920. According to the 1921 census, an estimated 14 percent of the population was Jewish or Protestant. The country was not almost 100 percent Catholic.
September 14, 2004
A television review on Tuesday about "R-Rated: Republicans in Hollywood," an AMC documentary about politics and the movie industry, referred incorrectly to the box office performance of "The Day After Tomorrow," a feature film with a global warming theme. Its domestic receipts totaled $186.4 million, and its worldwide sales $540.4 million, according to Variety.com; it was not a flop.
October 20, 2004
The TV Watch column on Wednesday, about a televised dispute between broadcast personalities — Jon Stewart of "The Daily Show" versus Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson of "Crossfire" — referred erroneously to a past example from an era when famous people clashed bitterly and at length on the air. Mary McCarthy indeed criticized Lillian Hellman on "The Dick Cavett Show" in 1980, but Hellman was not present.
October 1, 2004
The TV Watch column in some copies yesterday, about the presidential candidates' body language in their first debate, misidentified a political commentator who said on Fox News that the polls would tighten a bit after the event. It was Ceci Connolly of The Washington Post, not Fred Barnes of The Weekly Standard.
July 23, 2004
The TV Watch column in Weekend yesterday gave an incorrect cable channel in some copies for "John Kerry: Bringing the War Home," on Sunday night. It will be on MSNBC, as shown in the program listing, not on ESPN.
May 6, 2004January 12, 2003
A TV Watch article on May 6 about the end of the NBC series "Friends" and "Frasier" misstated the political backdrop of the economic recession that preceded the good times that were the setting of "Friends." It occurred during George H.W. Bush's presidency, not also during Ronald Reagan's.
An article last Sunday about reality television shows misstated the given name of the author of "Let Us Now Praise Famous Men," who confided his reluctance to publicly embarrass the impoverished farmers he was assigned to study. He was James Agee, not William.
July 25, 2002
An article on Thursday about NBC's fall schedule referred incorrectly to the phrase "gay mafia," which arose in a discussion of the absence of new gay characters in the networks' lineup. The term came to prominence recently when the Hollywood agent Michael S. Ovitz, in an interview in Vanity Fair, blamed a "gay mafia" for his own professional downfall; he did not say such a group ran the entertainment industry.
October 12, 2001
An article yesterday about President Bush's manner during his news conference on Thursday night misstated the surname of the CNN commentator who drew a Shakespearean analogy to the president's growth. The speaker was Jeff Greenfield, not Greenberg.
The Wrongest Critic [Reference Tone]