Harry Connick Jr., Jennifer Lopez and Keith Urban
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Question: What do you think of the 13th season of American Idol so far, Matt? Have you watched any episodes of the new season yet? If so, what do you think of the new judge Harry Connick Jr. and the return of judges Jennifer Lopez and Keith Urban? I bailed on Idol midway through last season because I couldn't stand the childish feud between judges Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj. I tuned back in this season to see what the Idol judges were going to be like this season, and so far I am loving the great chemistry between Harry, Keith and J-Lo! I also especially love Harry's wacky sense of humor on the show, along with the great singing talent so far! I know that Idol isn't pulling in the very high ratings like it used to back in its heyday, but I feel like this season of Idol is miles away better than the Mariah-Nicki fiasco of last season. — Chris
Matt Roush: I'm afraid American Idol's most robust ratings days are behind it, but creatively and for entertainment value, Harry Connick Jr. is the best thing to happen to Idol in quite some time. Can't remember when I've enjoyed the audition episodes this much. Not only is he the life of the party, but he's serious about the music — at the risk of being labeled "Harsh Harry" — even when he refuses to take himself or his colleagues all that seriously. (When he needled J Lo about how she never flew commercial, Keith wasn't the only one cracking up.) I love how he doesn't swoon every time someone oversings, and I'm also impressed by how clearly excited he gets by some of the performers' potential. He sees a great vocal battle looming, and we'll all be lucky if the focus stays more on the singers this year than on the judges (as last year's mess warns against). As much as I enjoy The Voice's blind auditions, there's something so much more pure and simple about the Idol audition process when it's produced properly, as it has mostly been this year. Ratings aside (and most networks would still kill for these numbers), this is shaping up to be a very good season.
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Question: It was recently announced that Glee would move full time to New York City following the 100th episode, and I was wondering who do you think will move to NYC to be with Rachel, Kurt and Santana and who will be left behind. As much as I prefer the veteran actors of the show, it's sad to see the new cast members lose their jobs due to this creative change. Also, it was announced that Jane Lynch would still be a part of Glee, but I don't know how Sue would fit into the NYC storyline. Thoughts? — Lauren
Matt Roush: I honestly don't know how this is going to work, and I wish I were more enthusiastic to find out. (This is the first season where I've drifted away to the point that I've let some episodes, post-"Quarterback," go unwatched.) I'd have to assume that Blaine and Artie, at the very least (maybe Sam, maybe Tina?), will join the Lima exiles in the Big Apple, but beyond that, it's just a guessing game, and I'm not sure the show has it all mapped out exactly, either. Despite what has been reported, I'd be surprised if there still aren't callbacks to McKinley High from time to time, but it's also clear that the New York sections were working better than the blandly repopulated and recycled high school stories. I only hope that they don't somehow find a way to put Sue on the faculty of NYADA or some such eye-rolling plot twist. Just as Fox contends that there's no Glee without Jane Lynch, so do I wish that if they're bold enough to be cutting the cord to Lima, that they'd just acknowledge this should be the final season and not try to stretch it out to another.
Question: Is Sleepy Hollow going to have a full 22-episode run next season? — Rob
Matt Roush: Doubtful. Fox chief Kevin Reilly is convinced a mythology-heavy, densely plotted show like this works better in shorter cycles, with less padding and, they promise for next season, fewer interruptions and repeats. I'm OK with that, as I write in a column that will appear in the next issue of TV Guide Magazine. It's possible Fox might increase the order by a few episodes next season, but these limited "event" series are the wave of the future — as long as the shows actually feel like events. Which Sleepy Hollow certainly does. However, I'm aware that these shorter runs can have a downside, as the next question (a long one) demonstrates.
Question: I'm not sure if I've ever read any commentary of yours on Royal Pains, so I'm not even certain you really follow it. It's a show I have watched fairly often and enjoy (a nice break from the darker dramatic fare I have found myself watching more and more). In particular, I wanted to comment on Ben Shenkman's stellar performance as Dr. Jeremiah Sacani, which has turned me into a regular viewer of the show during the past two seasons. It's a truly nuanced and compelling performance that in the hands of a lesser actor could have turned into a one-note (and short-lived) addition to the show. Their decision to add him as a regular last season was probably one of the wisest moves the producers have made. Sacani is one of the most intriguing and fascinating characters on any of the shows I'm currently watching, and during this awards season as the same actors get nominated over and over, I'm always reminded of those unsung heroes of the acting world like Shenkman who consistently turn out amazing work and never seem to get the recognition that they should. Bravo, Ben!
On a slightly related note, I'd love to hear your thoughts on the cable standard 13-episode seasons (like Royal Pains, Justified and pretty much all of the original series on the cable networks). Initially, I thought a 13-episode story arc would work (with the promise of tighter plot lines, fewer "what just happened?" episodes), but now I'm not so sure. If not handled well (especially if cliffhangers are the standard ending to each year's season), it can get really annoying. Making your audience dangle from a cliff for a couple of months after the close of a 22-episode network season is SOP and the viewers pretty much expect it; however, dangling for nine to 10 months until the next episode after only 13 weeks of story narrative on feels pretty ridiculous to me — the wait is just too long. And if you have a show that is closely tied to the calendar as is the case for Royal Pains (the show is aired between June and September each season and the action on the show takes place during the same time frame), the writers are essentially tasked with telling a story that keeps going "dark" for the bulk of the year while the action presumably continues.
As an example, at the end of last season's Royal Pains, all five major characters had significant challenges that were going to be met in the upcoming weeks and months right after the season finale signed off (including the birth of a baby), all of which the audience likely won't see due to the timeline involved. I'm sure the action will be summed up in Episode 1 of 2014 with a couple of flashbacks and catch-up references, but I find that really doesn't work from a storytelling point of view. For me, the series that actually make it work more successfully are the ones where each 13-episode season is treated like a mini-series, where the new case/plotline begins in Episode 1 and pretty much concludes in Episode 13. At any rate, I am less and less intrigued by the format and wonder if you have any insight as to what (other than money) seems to be the rationale for the shorter seasons. The format is becoming so tiresome for me personally that I find myself less likely to commit to any new shows presented by the cable networks with that set-up. I would welcome your insight. — Nancy
Matt Roush: First point: Ben Shenkman. I've always enjoyed his work, from when I first saw him in the off-Broadway (later Broadway) production of Proof to HBO's Angels in America and now this. I'm not a constant watcher of Royal Pains, but I look in on occasion, and he's certainly a good fit. It's not the sort of show that gets on the Emmy radar, though, so don't expect miracles on that front. Regarding cable scheduling and episode orders, that's a tricky subject. Cable networks are obviously constrained economically from producing as many episodes per show as their network peers, but USA did expand the Royal Pains order in its second and third seasons, including episodes that aired in the winter. Not so this year, and a nine-month wait for episodes is awfully long, so I agree with your contention that for this sort of show, why not just wrap the main story or stories within the season, if it's not going to be split the way many USA shows are. (Which adds its own level of confusion to things.)
Question: I was just wondering if you think that the reason people might not be getting into Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is because it isn't about the "heroes" of Marvel? I tried the show and fell in love. I liked how it wasn't all about a hero like Arrow (which I didn't like at all) and was more about the people behind the scenes. Yes, it has that "daily catch" but pick a cop drama or anything else and it's the same. The fact we are getting such a back story on a character like Phil Coulson is awesome! I hope it comes back for a second season. — Christina
Matt Roush: Clark Gregg as Agent Coulson is the best reason to watch S.H.I.E.L.D., for sure, but the reason the show's reception has been underwhelming isn't so much premise as execution. If the team had the sort of electrifying chemistry that would make them the next "Scooby Gang," that would be great, and I like the idea of a show set in a world of superheroes where the heroics aren't super in nature. They just need to be more interesting.
Question: I know you probably don't do the Cheers & Jeers, but I hope you can pass this on: Jeers to Fox for starting The Following a full 11 minutes early on Sunday. Not everyone watches (or cares about) football, and just because the game ended early is no excuse for starting a scheduled program early. Those who programmed their DVRs (like me) for the scheduled program start time were confused when we began to watch and it seemed like we came in in the middle... because we did. Not cool. As always, love your column and all your reviews. Thanks! — Scarlett
Matt Roush: My Cheers & Jeers colleague wasn't able to use this, but it's a valid complaint. I've heard of football overruns (fairly common, especially on CBS in the East and Central time periods), but never a football under-run. Not that I'm a fan of endless post-game hype and commentary, but would it have killed Fox Sports to vamp a little longer so the show would have started on its scheduled time? The good news is that if you missed the first act of The Following's season opener and are dying to see what happened (which did, in fact, include a lot of dying), Fox is repeating the episode this week (Monday) in front of the second episode. But yes, not cool.
Question: I'd be interested in getting your thoughts about Arrow. I am really enjoying the current season so far, especially with the relationship between Oliver and Felicity. I know that her character was added as a regular member of the team because she became so popular and also am finding that I'm not alone in enjoying the bantering, fun, teasing nature (not to mention chemistry) that the characters have. I know that eventually Oliver will end up with Laurel, but it seems that the writers have filled her character with such angst and sadness (understandable with what she has been through) that I don't enjoy Laurel and Oliver together that much. In fact, there was a recent episode in which Laurel didn't even appear and I really didn't even miss her. I'm curious to get your thoughts on how the writers could possibly appease the many fans who are rooting for a pairing of Oliver and Felicity (especially now that Barry is on the show) and how they can drum up some chemistry for the pairing of Oliver and Laurel. — Virgie
Matt Roush: Be patient. No one can doubt Arrow is in it for the long run, with seasons and seasons ahead of them to play out these stories, so while Laurel is very much on a downward spiral these days and not the best of company, I imagine there will be twists, reversals and other complications that will keep this particular triangle percolating for quite some time. At some point, I would expect Oliver and Laurel to even smile again! My favorite triangle right now, though, involves Oliver-Felicity-Barry. When Barry fully manifests into The Flash, how will this girl choose between her two superheroes? Fun!
Question: Last week's rerun of NCIS, "Seek", was directed by Michael Weatherly and it was so good! I teared up at the end. Is he going to direct again in season 11? - Sandra
Matt Roush: You're not the only one who wrote in to ask — did the Michael Weatherly fan club organize a movement or something? — and while I'm sure he appreciates the positive feedback, I'm told there are no current plans for him to direct again this season.
Question: As I was watching last week's Almost Human, which was intended to be the second episode of the season, I started thinking about other series where the episode order was changed. The reasoning I've heard is that the networks feel they can draw in larger audiences to launch a series by showing the more captivating episodes first. I've seen this practice most often with sitcoms where there is not much of a serialized plot. That seems to be true for the most part with Almost Human so far, except the amount of contention/respect in the John/Dorian relationship seems to be fluctuating with each episode. Then with this last episode, they revisited some plot elements from the pilot which were not fresh in my memory.
I can see the logic behind networks trying to build audiences by rearranging the episode order, but my question is this: Is there a history of this tactic actually working to build an audience? Otherwise, why is the practice still so common? I often see it mentioned that this was one of the biggest downfalls of Firefly where the two-hour pilot, which set up the series very nicely, was not aired until close to the end of its limited TV run. — Todd
Matt Roush: The Firefly scheduling was a debacle, pure and simple. Audiences were thrown into the wild world of that sci-fi series without the grounding the pilot episode would have given them. That was a case of a network not believing in the show — they would live to regret it — and scheduling episodes with little regard for continuity. There's really no excuse for what's happening with Almost Human, either, especially if there's a noticeable disconnect in the character dynamics (the best part of the show) because of the order the episodes are airing. I'll admit the January midseason has been so overwhelmingly busy I haven't paid much attention to this situation, but unless the show is a straight-out procedural with no serialized threads, it's rarely a good thing to juggle episodes around like this. At the same time, first seasons of shows can be notoriously uneven, especially right out of the gate after the pilot, and if the producers and network are more excited about an episode further down the line, they may choose to move up its air date in hopes of winning over viewers, who are even more notoriously fickle these days.
Question: I was reading over some of your column on the app, and you answered a question about The Assets being canceled. That part wasn't of interest, but you mentioned Killer Women was already canceled and is still airing. I've been watching and my DVR is set for the season, yet I watched all of them live. What happened? Are ratings not good? While e-mailing, it crosses my mind that this is a niche in that the killer has to be a woman, what if they opened up the suspect storyline to anyone? I like this show and think it should stick around, even as a small season for a few years. — Heather
Matt Roush: The ratings and most of the reviews were not good for Killer Women, and its episode order was cut back. That's how it works. Still, beats the insta-fade of The Assets. Not sure expanding the range of villains to the male of the species would make much of a difference. I wonder if they'd have done better if they had promoted the hero (Tricia Helfer as Texas Ranger Molly Parker) over the "killer" angle. Parker, Texas Ranger has a certain ring to it — a CBS ring, true, but at least there's precedence.
Question: As a result of Olivia Benson's recent promotion, are the creators of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit planning on having a new detective join the squad and partner with Det. Nick Amaro? If the answer is yes, will the new detective be a returning character from either the SVU or the broader L&O universe, say for example Det. Monique Jefferies, Det. Megan Wheeler or Det. Carolyn Barek? I'm also curious that since his character's partner Det. Alexandra Eames has already appeared twice on the show, will Vincent D'Onofrio as Det. Robert Goren help investigate a case in an upcoming episode of SVU? — Alex
Matt Roush: According to reports from the recent TCA press tour, no new faces are expected in the SVU squad the rest of the season. (And if they're announced, such news would qualify as a spoiler, which is not what this column is about.) I would expect this means no returning faces from other Law & Order shows — but kudos to your deep knowledge of the various offshoots' dramatis personae (especially Criminal Intent, which I wouldn't look at as a breeding ground for new SVU regulars). Also haven't heard anything about Goren making an appearance — and if he does, it's not likely they'd keep that a secret. This is clearly a very transitional year for SVU, as often happens when a show gets this long in the tooth, and much of the current drama will likely hinge on Benson adjusting to being the boss (even if it's just a temporary position). If SVU does return for a 16th season, that's when I'd expect to see some new personnel in the precinct.
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