My name is Max Benowitz. I’m the Sultan of Television.
I started this website in the Summer of 2014 with one of my best friends (and now podcast co-hosts) Matthew West, under the working title of “Max and Matt.” We decided we’d each write an article a week, and try to keep things centered around television, but allow them to venture into the worlds of film, video games, music, or any other type of media. We made ourselves a Blogspot, and we were off.
However, by the end of the summer, Matt didn’t have the time to continue writing the blog, and given how few readers we received, I’ll cede it wasn’t exactly a lucrative investment of time. So, with one half of the “Max and Matt” franchise now gone, it was time to re-brand and start anew – just as Ebert moved on without Siskel, so too would I… only with a slightly smaller fan base.
Continuing forward as a solo blog now focused solely on television, I needed something to make myself credible. Why, in a world where Alan Sepinwall, Dan Fienberg, Tim Goodman, and others exist, would anyone want to listen to me? Though this is certainly an issue still present on my mind as I write this, at the time, I jumped to hyperbole. If I was the top television critic in my own mind, perhaps this ridiculous self-title could make some kind of press. I needed to be the King – the Lord – the Sultan (inspired by H.P. Lovecraft’s daemon Sultan character) of television. Around August of 2014, my branding was complete.
For the rest of 2014, as well as the first half of 2015, I did my best to publish at least once a week, sometimes twice. Since I’m not a full time TV critic and receive no screeners, I couldn’t write episode-by-episode recaps of my favorite shows, and thus resorted to a more essay style format, writing about the beginnings and endings of a given season or just talking through something holistically. The writing became stronger, but I still hadn’t quite figured out what this website’s brand would be beyond a funny, over-the-top title.
In July of 2015, to celebrate the one year anniversary of the blog, I decided to count down the fifty greatest TV villains of all time. This was at first just a fun activity, but when all was said and done, I had written a 16,000 word document that, if I do say so myself, was a pretty thorough look at the past, present, and perhaps future of TV, as seen through a lens of the villain. It was a fulfilling activity, and gave me the most readers I’d ever had to that point.
As 2016 approached, I decided that the blog was so much fun, and my summer project was so enjoyable, that it was time to take things to the next level. No longer would my website look trashy and amateur – it was time to look like a professional if I was going to try and write like one. I bought a domain name and employed whiz-kid Nathan Leung to build my dream blog. It became finished around February 2016, and I couldn’t have been more excited to begin writing on my swanky new site.
Since I discovered Rob Cesternino’s podcast in the winter of 2014, I’ve been an enormous fan of both Rob and the podcasting industry at large. And, being a person with too much time on my hands and too much to say about television, I naturally thought that a podcast would be a good fit for me to do some day. I never really knew how to do it, nor did I have the proper equipment or software to even try. In May 2016 however, I decided to take my first stab at it.
Another of my best friends, Zach Woodcock, pitched to me the idea of a “writing podcast” in April. Since both of us enjoyed writing creatively, he thought it’d be fun to do a weekly show about what we’re writing, what we’re watching, and how those two could crossover. We went halfsies on a cheap mic, downloaded Audacity, and recorded our first show under the title “M&Z In a Pod” – not the catchiest title in the world, but it stuck.
Zach and I continued recording each week for about a month, though due to the nature of the blog and my idiocy about all things technology, I didn’t even know how to post them on the website, instead storing them in one overcrowded folder on my desktop. Finally, with the help of Nathan, I uploaded the first five episodes to the website around July. It didn’t fit the blog’s aesthetic at all, but the podcasts were so much fun to record that I wanted them to have their own special area on the site. Soon enough, I realized that much as I liked blogging, the podcast was a lot more fun. I started wanting to do more.
As the year progressed, I found other co-hosts to podcast with. Matt rejoined me to talk Survivor. My Dad came on board to discuss Westworld. Zach and I continued to record and make our show more abstract, almost pulling away from television due to the overwhelming number of other TV podcasts I was doing. Soon enough, my passion for broadcasting began to outweigh that of written critique. The blog had become a podcast right under my nose.
In November 2016, the Sultan of Television Podcast became available on ITunes. A few days later it was on Soundcloud. Though still a small fan-base, I was suddenly featured on multiple platforms and could be downloaded right to one’s phone. No matter the listener count, that’s pretty cool. Much like Nucky Thompson’s decision to abandon politics and go full gangster, I was leaving the blog in the past and focusing all my energy on the podcast.
Once again, Nathan came through, helping me to completely recreate the website that you see today: a podcasting HQ with a blog archive still featured. Now, I can podcast as I please, and with the blog still a part of the brand, I plan to continue writing, albeit in more scarcity than at my height in the pre-podcasting days.
Sultan of Television is still a work in progress. It’s a project of sheer passion, and over three years in, I have yet to earn a penny off of the product. Going forward though, with the website finished, the transition to podcast complete, and the era of Peak TV more exciting than ever, I believe that success is on the horizon. The feet are on the ground, and from here, it’s a matter of marketing and popularizing a brand that’s finally found its footing.
I’m more excited than ever to produce content, and I hope that if you’ve gotten this far down the page, you’re excited too. Please, if you like Sultan of Television, hate Sultan of Television, or have any kind of comment in between, feel free to shoot me an email at: Mbenowitz33@gmail.com.
And thus concludes the story of how we got to where we are today. I cannot wait to see what the future of Sultan of Television brings, and I hope you’ll stick with me to find out. Until then, comment, subscribe, leave a review, or tell your friends about this site. Let’s make Sultan of Television a somewhat less hyperbolic title.