For What It’s Worth, I’d Watch an HBO Series About This Fake Vegan Herbalist Trolling TV Critics
HBO execs created a fake Twitter account to go after television critics who didn't like certain HBO shows. Her name is Kelly Shepherd. I love her.EntertainmentTV
If you crave stories about espionage, moles, and infiltrating enemy territory, boy do I have a story you’re going to be underwhelmed by. But you’ll still probably get a little laugh.
On Wednesday, Rolling Stone published a report by Cheyenne Roundtree about HBO executives creating fake social accounts to reply to television critics who panned a couple of the network’s shows. CEO Casey Bloys asked staffers to create accounts to clap back, if you will, at very accomplished entertainment critics because he was apparently “obsessed with Twitter” and had enough time and energy to get bothered by it. Bloys apologized Thursday morning at HBO’s programming slate, noting that this happened during the 2020 and 2021 covid lockdown when he was “working from home and doing an unhealthy amount of time scrolling through Twitter.” Well, this little pandemic hobby led to the creation of my favorite fictional character of the day: Kelly Shepherd.
The messages between Bloys, HBO’s senior vice president of drama programming Kathleen McCaffrey, and HBO staffer Sully Temori were revealed as part of a lawsuit alleging that Temori was “harassed and faced retaliation and discrimination after disclosing a mental health diagnosis to his bosses,” according to Rolling Stone. The suit claims that Temori was tasked with menial jobs like creating some of these fake accounts at Bloys and McCaffrey’s directive. “Can our secret operative please tweet at Alan’s review: ‘Alan is always predictably safe and scared in his opinions.’ And then we have to delete this chain right? Omg I just got scared lol,” McCaffery messaged Temori at one point. Soon after, an account under the name Kelly Shepherd tweeted that exact sentiment. Well, the exact sentiment minus the “omg I just got scared lol.”
But where I’m desperate to focus my attention is Shepherd, the self-described “Mom. Texan. Herbalist. Aromatherapist. Vegan.” who was very upset at Rolling Stone’s Alan Sepinwall and the New York Times’ James Poniewozik for not enjoying Joss Whedon’s The Nevers, and is also not real. Shepherd is one of the fake accounts created by Bloys or a crony of Bloys to stick it to the man aka TV critics who were under-enthused by historical steampunk fiction series.
Her handful of responses, which were often verbatim what Bloys asked a direct report to tweet out volleyed back and forth between being critical of woke culture (“he’s busy virtue signaling”) and being emblematic of it (“how shocking that two middle-aged white men (you & Hale) are shitting on a show about women…….”). Where does this reactive bot backed by a man who makes well into the six-figures stand!?
As Rolling Stone pointed out, PR firms and individuals alike have created burner accounts or used bots in the past to try and sway public favor. So have, you know, entire countries. But there’s something I treasure about Kelly Shepherd, mom, Texan, herbalist, aromatherapist, and vegan. First, the thought that went into creating her bio… I must know what about giving her the pastimes of every new-age anti-vaxxer felt congruous with a woman who even owns a television, let alone has strong opinions on Sepinwall’s review of Mare of Easttown. The range of human complexity knows no bounds.
Search “herbalist aromatherapist vegan” on any social platform and I feel confident that 999,999 times out of one million, you’re going to find someone whose profile is dedicated to sharing misleading infographics about essential oils. The other one person is Kelly Shepherd.
Another wonderful detail of Shepherd’s account is the tweets she liked. My favorite is from April 2021: “pretty sure the sex i had last night killed prince philip.” I can’t say that I immediately understand how this added to Bloys’ master plan to have people tune into The Nevers—why try to drum up interest around a show that was ultimately a failed vehicle for an alleged abuser’s return to television when clearly Shepherd is the complex female anti-hero that we’re all craving?! I’d watch an HBO miniseries on what she gets up to in the Lone Star state.
In his apology on Thursday, Bloys admitted that his idea to tweet anonymously at critics was a “very, very dumb idea to vent my frustration.” None of this is too serious at all, except for, of course, my offer to write a pilot script for Kelly Shepherd, the herbalist, aromatherapist, and vegan from Texas, to star in.