Ask Matt: ABC Cancellations, Homeland, Anarchy, Good Wife, Midwife, and More
Timothee Chalamet, Morgan Saylor
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Question: Fellow Hoosier here. Love your column. I don't have a question really, but wanted to express my displeasure in the fact that ABC has canceled Last Resort and 666 Park Avenue. I was excited about both of these shows not only for the story lines but for the cast. I'm becoming rather weary of investing time in a show only to have it canceled. Any hope either series will be picked up by another network? OK, so maybe I had a question after all. — Bonnie
Matt Roush: Not an uncommon question, fellow Hoosier, but one with a standard answer: Almost never does a canceled series, especially this early in a show's run, get rescued by another network. Personally, I'm the most disappointed that ABC gave up this quickly on Last Resort, without trying it in a later or less competitive time period. (Sony, the studio that produces Resort, is well known for aggressively trying to keep its shows alive despite the odds, and it has been reported they're still holding open the options on the show's stars, but I wouldn't get my hopes up.) Resort was always a weird fit on this network, but like so many other ABC experiments — I still think fondly of last midseason's The River — I'm glad they at least took the swing. Best for now to think of these shows as a 13-episode miniseries, and enjoy them while they last. We frequently debate in this column whether it's a waste of time to watch a show with a questionable or (in cases like this) no future, and I always come out on the side of watching what interests you for as long as you can. I know I'll stay on board with Last Resort to the end. (I confess I gave up on 666 shortly after the Halloween episode; it just didn't spook me enough or make me care enough about the characters. In a world where The Walking Dead pushes the envelope for true character-driven horror, this felt awfully timid and thin. Still, for those who like it, why bail now?)
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Question: I'm not sure if you watch Homeland, but there's been something about the show that has been bothering me all season. I can't understand why the same writers behind the story lines involving Carrie, Brody, Saul and Jessica would create a story line about the relationship between Brody's daughter and the Vice President's son. Is there anyone who turns on the show hoping to see more about those characters? Homeland is one of my favorite shows, but those two characters are why the show isn't as good as Fringe. It may sound harsh, but I know I'm not alone in thinking this about the two teenagers. — Ryan
Matt Roush: Do I watch Homeland? I've only been plugging it all season, and I don't imagine there's a TV critic anywhere who isn't deeply engaged with the riveting second season of this year's multiple-Emmy-winning Best Drama. (And while I'm as big a Fringe fan as anyone, even this season, I'm not sure there's a valid comparison here.) But as much as I am fascinated by the interplay of Carrie and Brody as they play their dangerous and sexually charged game of espionage, I agree that the Dana-Finn subplot has been a drag on the narrative this season, including the fallout from the hit-and-run fatality. (One of my favorite things about Saturday Night Live's parody of Homeland a week ago was Nasim Pedrad's take on Dana's whiny moping.) One thing I've noticed about these Showtime dramas, including the current excellent season of Dexter, is that they often feel like they're stretching to fill a full hour (no commercials) of story some weeks. (On Dexter, it's especially noticeable with Angel opening his restaurant and Quinn's relationship with the Ukrainian stripper, all of which make my eyes glaze.) With Homeland, we're not quite in Kim Bauer-and-the-cougar territory — yet — in part because the writers have found a way to integrate this incident into the ongoing story of the CIA's desperation to keep the whole delicate Brody operation from falling apart. And it's just one more thing contributing to Brody's stress level, which is always fascinating to watch. So while I tend to cringe these days when I see Dana coming, it doesn't diminish the power of Homeland as a whole. It's still my current favorite drama on TV by a mile.
Question: I just have to say this season of Sons of Anarchy has been amazing. Everything from the action on the screen to the way the episodes are staggered has been beyond compare. For example, after several heavy episodes, including the one where Opie was murdered, bringing in the laugh-out-loud scene with Walton Goggins was just the kind of emotional break that the audience needed. Also: Watching Jax slowly turn into everything he hated about Clay to try and bring Clay down, and watching Clay, either sincerely or not, come to grips with what he's done and what it has cost him. Watching Gemma's actions finally catch up to her and even the Club-created slow motion destruction of Tara have all been spellbinding. So I suppose my question is, when will the awards shows take notice? There are so many great options to pick from in this show and there have been for years, but they never seem to get the credit come award season.
Oh, and to your comment about William Daniels from the last Ask Matt: To me he's not Mr. Feeney, he's not Dr. Mark Craig. To me and my generation, he's the voice of K.I.T.T. on Knight Rider! — Chip
Matt Roush: Before we get to Sons of Anarchy, let me address the greatness of William Daniels again by noting another e-mail, from Jason, who weighs in: "I'm in the age group that falls between St. Elsewhere and Boy Meets World (born in '75), but my thoughts of William Daniels predate both of them. As an avid reader of American History, I've become a fan of the Broadway musical/film 1776, so William Daniels is always John Adams to me."
Now that's what I call a career: a legendary Broadway turn ("Sit Down, John!" indeed), an Emmy-winning role on a groundbreaking medical drama, a spin as the voice of an infamous talking car, an authority figure on a long-running TGIF sitcom. The fact that he resonates with so many different audiences makes me very happy.
And I agree about Sons of Anarchy. This has been a very strong season because it has been all about consequences and facing the dark side of this club's actions (which in the first seasons seemed to be mindlessly celebrated), and now that Jax is pulling Gemma's strings to help him take down Clay, I am even more intrigued to see what will happen next, figuring it won't be pretty. Speaking of not pretty, Walton Goggins' cameo was an amazing surprise, and truly did serve to break the tension just when we (and they) needed it most. But when it comes to awards, as successful as the show has been, and as much as it has improved (for me at least), there's something about the grungy and depraved world it portrays that seems to be keeping the Emmy voters in particular at arm's length. Charlie Hunnam as Jax has grown on me, especially these last two seasons, but he seems to be overshadowed when compared to complex anti-hero characters like Breaking Bad's Walter White and Jesse or Dexter's leading man.
Question: When I first saw the cast for The Good Wife, I was shocked at how good it was, and shocked to see Matt Czuchry among those elite. I had only been familiar with him from Gilmore Girls, and figured he would just be playing the same entitled, smarmy character (and maybe he did for the first couple of years). But the Nov. 11 episode was really wonderful. The scene with Cary's father on the phone was tremendous. It seems as though Matt has been getting lost among the string of really excellent guest stars (an issue that may have been addressed rather directly in the past few weeks), but it was nice to see him be given something to do. And one more thing about this past week's The Good Wife: Did the first courtroom scene seem out of place to you? I originally thought the use of car horns and street noises to mask the "naughty" words to be clichéd and juvenile for a show as strong as The Good Wife. But then as the episode played out, I thought that the scene maybe was a fuller illustration of the FCC's influence in regulating the content of network TV. Your thoughts? — Erin
Matt Roush: I'm with you on Matt Czuchry, an unsung hero among that blue-chip cast, and I was likewise very happy to see him get a juicy story. Liked his standoff with his dad, but even more so, enjoyed the scene where he kicked back in the hotel room with Alicia, where it was so clear how much she had come to respect him. They've both grown a lot since their early rivalry, and I'm glad to see the show acknowledging his importance in a big, starry ensemble. Regarding the bells-and-whistles bleeping during the courtroom scene: Didn't bother me. One of The Good Wife's strengths is that for all of its qualities, it doesn't take itself overly seriously, and this was one of those moments. And yes, the running gag was clearly meant to illustrate the absurd and arbitrary nature of FCC regulations regarding network TV, which puts ambitious and sophisticated shows such as The Good Wife at a seeming disadvantage against the more creatively unfettered shows on cable. Which was the point.
Question: If Glee gets a fifth season, do you think the show will be retooled from the current split format? The NYC stories for Rachel and Kurt feel fresh and new, but the stories back in Ohio all feel like I've seen them before with more interesting characters. How many times can you redo the school play? It looks like they shouldn't have tried, since "The First Time" was such a beautifully executed episode, but this time there are no compelling stories surrounding the musical. None of the new kids have shown the charisma that made stars of Lea Michele, Chris Colfer and Darren Criss, so will they have anyone left in Ohio who can carry that side of the show? Coming back from hiatus, they tried an episode with no Kurt or Rachel and I was bored and spent the episode wondering how Rachel and Kurt were doing, which really makes me wonder how long they can maintain this format. — Traci
Matt Roush: I'm not even going to try to predict what next season of Glee will look like, given what a work in progress this one still is. But I'm betting it will never entirely lose sight of its roots as a high-school musical comedy-drama. In some ways, building the NYC spin-off into the actual series was a boon for Glee, giving it new energy and an infusion of starry-eyed novelty, but it does tend to accentuate the been-there, sung-that nature of what's happening back in Ohio. I do think that Melissa Benoist is a standout among the new cast members, and has a star quality that would have been noticed even if she'd been introduced before the original break-out cast members scattered to their various big cities. I also wonder when the show is going to stop pretending that all of the original cast members are still a part of the ensemble. It's becoming awfully forced even by this show's standards to keep bringing them back under flimsy pretexts, and for some of them, it's time to move on — as most of us do when we graduate. But for now, despite its flaws (the horrible Kitty!), I'm finding this season to be an interesting and mostly enjoyable experiment. And I'm as curious as anyone to see how they're going to maintain this balance and whether ultimately it makes sense to do so.
Question: I was just wondering what your thoughts are on Glee's Blake Jenner (Ryder Lynn) these past two episodes? I know that you are a big fan of The Glee Project like I am, and I have to say that I have been incredibly impressed by Blake's screen presence and acting ability so far. For me, he has finally made me care about what is happening at McKinley High this season and made the other new characters, especially Marley, more engaging. He is the best new character this show has cast since Season One's Jesse St James. Are you as impressed as I am? — Amy
Matt Roush: Liked him while he was competing for the role, and I like him now. He's a Glee natural, and already is making more impact than any of the other winners, with the possible exception of Alex Newell's Unique. Especially in those last scenes with Marley leading to the "You're the One That I Want" climax, Blake seemed to embody all the qualities of a Glee heartthrob — although I did agree with Finn that the "Greased Lightning" number could have used a bit more energy. To be honest, I'd be OK if several other of this summer's Glee Project cast showed up as well. Maybe as Sectionals approach?
Question: I was hoping for your thoughts on two shows. First, on Revolution, I really appreciate the writers using Lost-style flashbacks for the characters. I really think it informs the audience's perception of the characters and baggage they carry. That said, I'm somewhat irritated they continue to use a subtitle telling the audience that this is "before the blackout." It seems like this is really talking down to the audience, assuming we can't pick up the difference between present and past, which is something that always struck me about the bond between Lost's writers and its audience: They always trusted them to make those connections without feeling the need to explain every little detail. Do you think this is just a case of Revolution's writers not trusting their audience to make those connections?
Also, on The Office, I was really struck by the hoops characters went through in "The Whale" episode not to mention Michael Scott. I understand not showing archived footage from past episodes, which I'm guessing would trigger royalties to Steve Carell, but it seemed they went out of their way not to mention Michael's name. In a "talking head" by Pam re-introducing Jan, I can't believe she wouldn't mention that she used to date Michael, and I'm just wondering why they would seemingly omit any mention of the central character on the show for most of its run. — Alex M
Matt Roush: The flashbacks in Revolution, revealing what happened in the wake of the blackout, are often my favorite part of the show. While there's much about the series that is aggravatingly simplistic, I don't think the labeling of these scenes is necessarily a case of "dumbing down," in part because there's not always as much obvious separation between the "then" and "now" as there was in Lost, and we often revisit these characters at various periods of the "after" world. So it seems to me that it's mostly helpful, and as I've noted before, one of the reasons for Revolution's early success may be that it doesn't make its audience work that hard. Which may keep it from earning respect in some cult corners, but which may ultimately help its bottom line and longevity.
Regarding The Office: As far as I'm concerned, the show ended when Michael Scott left. I've tried (including with the first episodes this season) to give it another shot, but it's pointless, and there's too much else on Thursdays that I actually enjoy. I feel like I'm honoring Michael's memory by putting this show in my rear-view mirror, but I can't imagine why the writers would ignore his legacy in an episode like this.
Question: Last night I savored the last episode of the wonderful British series Call the Midwife. Even though I am an "Anglophile" in my television tastes, this series exceeded my expectations. All of the characters were wonderful, including the secondary characters, and the stories were heartfelt. I laughed, I cried and I will miss my weekly visits. Now my question: Will there be a second season? I thought I saw something on my PBS station about a special at Christmas. Is that true? Please tell me that this wonderful ride isn't over. — Allene
Matt Roush: I miss Chummy! Here's the good news: They have filmed a second season, and there is indeed a Christmas "special" in the mix. And while PBS has yet to make an announcement on any of these matters, just give it time and stay tuned. I have a feeling we'll be riding along with these marvelously entertaining midwives again before long, and I can't wait.
Question: I'm sure lots of TV viewers would like the answer to this one. Do the producers of various TV shows, particularly murder mysteries, not realize that we viewers can generally figure out "who done it" based on the actor or actresses they cast in a "small" role? Whenever I see a show with an actor whose face is familiar to me in a role that seems to be an afterthought, a small part where he or she isn't an integral part of the show, that person winds up being the one that did it. Just two examples of shows that ran within a single week recently: On CSI, Michael Gross (known for his long stint in Family Ties) was the university president of a school D.B. Russell's son attended, and I noticed him in the stands of the gym watching a practice game, and the coach had him and the person he was with thrown out because it was a private practice. We saw him again really briefly after the coach was killed and I was already saying it's him, it's him, and by the end of the show, it was. Then, on Elementary, I recognized the actor playing the owner of a small private plane company — one whose name doesn't come to mind — and the plane crashed, people were murdered, and I said it's him, and sure enough it was. I wonder, do they think we don't have this casting situation figured out, or is it an inside thing the networks purposely create to try to make its viewers feel smart about figuring out who done it? It couldn't be coincidence, because it happens far too often, could it? Just asking. — Dorothy
Matt Roush: Here's another example. In an earlier episode of Elementary, a seemingly innocuous hospital janitor was played by David Costabile, a prominent character actor who's been on a roll lately: the ill-fated Gale on Breaking Bad, this season's adversary on Suits, to name a few. The minute we saw him, a red flag went up, and while there were a few more twists in the case beyond his involvement, it took some of the sting out of the later reveals. This happens more and more in this sort of show, possibly made even more noticeable by the glut of procedurals on network and cable. I doubt, however, that the producers are doing this intentionally. Fact is: They want a solid performer like Costabile, Gross or Brian Kerwin (the Elementary guest star you couldn't quite place) to make those moments sing when the detective or consultant or CSI know-it-all lowers the boom. It helps if the show can cast more than one recognizable co-star per episode, to spread the suspicion around, but this has become one of the genre's Achilles heels: If a guest star shows up that has you wondering where you've seen him or her before, odds are fairly strong that they're the one whodunit.
Question: Music-licensing issues have been given as the reason some TV shows have not been released on DVD (like The Wonder Years) and other shows have had to replace much of the original music (like Roswell). Do current shows like Nashville make sure they have the music rights for the DVD release before they use the music in the show? I am looking forward to purchasing Nashville when it is released on DVD, but only if all the original music is intact. — John
Matt Roush: Nashville falls closer in line with shows like Glee and Smash where the music is the show, with songs created especially for episodes and with the music a major part of the marketing, including making some of the tune available for downloading, and in Nashville's case, with a soundtrack already in the works for next month. So I think it's safe to expect that the music you've heard on the show will not be missing or replaced on the DVD. What would be the point?
Question: I enjoyed the first season of Last Man Standing, and as a person who works Saturdays, I was happy to see some sitcoms coming back to Friday night. I watched the first episode of the new season, and it was pretty political with Tim Allen being a big Republican arguing with his eldest daughter (played by a new actress) who is a liberal. As an election episode, I thought it was funny, even though I didn't buy Tim Allen being a staunch conservative for one second. Then the second episode was once again about the liberal eldest daughter and her "baby daddy" against Tim Allen. It was all very reminiscent of Gloria and Meathead against Archie in the old All in the Family days. I was waiting for her to come out with a "daddddyyyyy" whine like Gloria used to use on Archie. It even included fighting about war being wrong, etc. Do you think that is what this previously cute, family sitcom has become? Why the big change? It was always Tim Allen's character against the four women in his house and his struggles with teen daughters and his getaway to a manly job. This week they even had to throw in comments about requiring ID to vote in Pennsylvania. I don't get it. This was never a 30 Rock, politically charged show before and I am only giving it another week or two before I tune out.
On another note, I think Malibu Country is a nice addition, and I think after the first couple of mandatory character development episodes it will be even better. Fingers crossed we can keep some light Friday night fare for those of us who stay couch-bound on those evenings. — Colleen
Matt Roush: Well, it doesn't get much lighter than Malibu Country, with its laugh track on helium, and Reba's fans have rallied to it, so I think you'll get your wish for a long life for that one. Perfect for low-impact Fridays. But what's happening on Last Man Standing is no accident. As our Michael Schneider recently reported, in advance of the politically charged season opener, Tim Allen and executive producer Tim Doyle are using All in the Family as inspiration for the second season. "We all really love Archie Bunker," Allen said in the story. "And that's where we're going. I push every button and love pushing them." (The story also notes that in real life, Doyle leans left politically, while Allen is slightly right of center, so I'm betting that's one of the more interesting sets to hang around these days.) This newfound topicality doesn't really change the sitcom dynamics — it's still a curmudgeonly guy living in a household of women — but if the show wants to be more relevant, I understand and even admire that, even if can come off as awfully heavy-handed at times.
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