Everybody's a Critic -- you could be, too

New address, new offices, new technology.

Plenty has changed at the Daily News this summer, but I'd like to think the things that matter haven't.

Including the recipe for the chocolate-chip cookies I've been baking pretty much every fall since 1995, when we first started inviting Daily News readers to spend an evening watching TV with me.

We call it "Everybody's a Critic" and it works like this: A small group of avid TV watchers comes to the Daily News on an evening in September and spends a few hours with me screening pilots for new shows and offering opinions, some of which will later appear in the paper, along with my reviews.

I bring the cookies, the Daily News kicks in for pizza or sandwiches and at the end of the evening we hand out some not terribly valuable parting gifts, mostly things that networks send critics in some misguided attempt to influence our opinions (think: T-shirts and tote bags).

This year, "Everybody's a Critic" participants also get to be among the first to get a look at our shiny new newsroom, on the third floor of what used to be Strawbridge's.

Every fall, I hear from people who'd hoped to be chosen and didn't make it, so I'm repeating the guidelines for would-be reviewers so those who really want to participate will have a better chance:

* Please, please, please: Make sure your daytime phone number is one at which you can actually be reached before 6 p.m. I'll leave one message, but if it's not returned in a reasonable time, I'll most likely move on.

*  If it's easier for you to get a text than a call at work, write "please text" next to your cell number and I'll try to reach you that way first and leave a number to call me back.

* Photocopies are permitted, but only one entry per envelope, please.

* No faxed entries.

* Email entries WILL be accepted this year, but ONLY if they contain your full name, home address (and neighborhood if you're a Philadelphian), age, gender and an indication that you'd likely be available on a weekday evening in early to mid-September to come to our 801 Market St. offices to watch TV with me. Subject line should read: Everybody's a Critic. Email should go to graye@phillynews.com.

* Starting Aug. 27, I'll also be recruiting Reader Reviewers on Twitter (you can follow me at @elgray) and on my blog, EllenGray.tv.

* Your chances will NOT be improved by submitting separate entries for your spouse, child, parent or cat, because the one whose name is on the entry chosen is the one invited, and you could be left out in the cold. (This happens to someone just about every year.) Your cat may watch TV, but is probably unwilling to answer questions about it, much less appreciate chocolate-chip cookies. If you absolutely must enter other people, at least check with them first. You wouldn't believe how surprised some spouses have been to find they'd "won."

* If you're one of those people who can't resist filling out a contest entry but aren't really interested in spending an evening at the paper watching TV pilots, please skip this one. The Daily News has plenty of giveaways - there'll be another one along any minute.

* Feel free to include personal pleas along with your entry or to decorate your envelopes with shiny stars or smiley faces or ancient runes. None of this will necessarily improve your chances, but it does brighten my day.