September 2009 was a month that changed the world forever.
It was the month that a Paranormal Activity was given nationwide release. The month that The Good Wife, Community, and The Vampire Diaries made their TV premieres. The month that immortalized the phrase “Imma let you finish.”
But on the last day of the month, one event overshadowed them all.
I refer, of course, to the birth of Critically Touched, a website which launched on September 30, 2009. Founded by Mikelangelo Marinaro (or “MikeJer” to his acquaintances), this website has become a life-changing force for the Internet at large. Yet very few people know of its ever-so-humble origins.
The roots of CT can actually be traced back several years prior to its launch – to another website called SuperJer. Founded in 2000 by Jeremy Wilson (no connection to me), for whom it was named, SuperJer was a site dedicated to quirky videos and musings on popular culture. The Internet of the early 2000s was not nearly as crowded as the one we use today, and SuperJer was able to build a small but successful following, spearheaded by several of Wilson’s friends, who were blessed with “Jer” surnames of their own.
In 2005, Wilson’s friend MikeJer, a great fan of the TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer, had the idea to begin reviewing the series, episode by episode, to analyze its complex characters and weighty themes. Needing a site on which to host the reviews, Mike conferred with Wilson, who happily allowed for a subsection of the website devoted to Buffy. Mike’s first Buffy reviews appeared on the website in October 2005, and he began working quickly through the show’s first few seasons.
Early reactions were slow, but Mike earned some loyal appreciation. A few months after he began the series, a reader named Ryan Bovay contacted him, expressing interest in writing about the Buffy spinoff, Angel. Mike happily created a subsection of his own subsection, allowing Ryan to give Angel the same treatment Mike was giving its parent series. The first Angel reviews appeared on the site in April 2006, featuring the same pointed, analytical style as the Buffy reviews.
Growth for the website was slow at first, with only a small handful of Whedonites congregating during the early years. It was a minor player in the Buffy world, lost in the general shuffle of the Internet’s Whedonmania.
But things changed in January 2009 with Mike’s publication of the comprehensive Buffy Season 6 review. For years, Season 6 had been derided by fans as the show’s worst season, and certainly remained the most polarizing. But Mike’s lengthy review gave a fresh and uncommon voice of support to the season, and his review garnered new attention. Suddenly, the site’s reviews began gaining in traffic, and they soon elevated their status as some of the most respected Buffy writings on the web.
Following the spike in readership, Mike decided to spin off the Buffy and Angel reviews onto their own site – a site, he assumed, that could soon grow to encompass many other great TV shows as well. The idea would allow other critics to blossom and thrive by retrospectively reviewing TV shows of their own.
Wishing to emphasize the site’s commitment to both intellectual and emotional resonance, Mike named it “Critically Touched,” and formally launched it on the final day of September 2009. A few days later, Mike scored a victory lap in posting the review for “Chosen,” the Buffy series finale. (A supersized comprehensive review of Season 7 would arrive the following July.)
From its early months, Critically Touched faced creative issues. In the spring of 2010, shortly after beginning Angel Season 4, Ryan stepped away from the site, leaving 40 episodes still unreviewed. Mike responded by introducing the Angel Completion Project, allowing both longtime contributors and newcomers to review the remaining Angel episodes. The project proved successful, with nearly a dozen writers joining in to contribute to the website.
But despite the continued interest in the site’s two shows and the larger world of Whedon, no other new shows had been given the review treatment on CT. Mike continued his Buffy work by rewriting his reviews of the show’s first season, but the site spent several years with an exclusive focus on the Buffyverse.
That all finally changed in 2012. As the ACP was drawing to a close, a handsome young writer named Jeremy Grayson joined the site, contributing reviews for a few episodes of the show’s fifth season. Though not long out of high school, Jeremy had a brilliant mind and an extensive knowledge of television, and was more than thrilled to bring both to a public that so desperately needed him.
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In the years since that excellence began, CT has welcomed several other great writers, including Jay, Noah, and Guttersnipe, all of whom have contributed TV reviews of their own. And although Mike departed the site in 2017 to focus on his non-Internet life, Jeremy continues to run the site in a variety of ingenious ways.
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Okay…. All joking and egomania aside. This website has come to mean a lot to me.
I’ve grown a lot as a writer these last seven years. I started writing for this site as a teenager, and have stuck with its for what’s now approaching seven years. In that time, I’ve posted over 250 articles, be they TV reviews, film reviews, and random musings that just happen to pop into my mind. It hasn’t always been easy, but I enjoy what the work has brought – new friends, new perspectives, an abundance of great debate and discussion.
So I’d like to thank you all for your continued support – I hope the work at Critically Touched, be it mine or any other writer’s (but mostly mine!), has left an impression with you. Special thanks, of course, go to Mike – we couldn’t have done any of this without you.
Here’s to our second decade – may it be even more awesome than the first.