Stephen Amell, Emily Bett Rickards and David Ramsey

Question: I am loving Season 2 of Arrow. It is jam-packed with action and has been really fun lately. I can't believe I am saying it, but I think The CW may have beat a major network in creating a great show within the genre (looking at Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.). Felicity and Oliver's chemistry is off the chart, and I even like Grant Gustin as Barry Allen. Do you also think Arrow is doing better than Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.? Do you think the ratings of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. are enough to qualify for the people at Marvel to plan several rumored spin-offs or new series? — Aadil

Matt Roush: Can't quite tell if your main concern is quality or ratings, but my emphasis is almost always on the former, and by that standard, Arrow is by far the superior and more satisfying show, with a clearer focus, more dynamic action and character development. A lot of that has to do with creating a compelling world, and Arrow's crusade in Starling City and his harrowing flashback escapades on the island are more riveting than most anything that's going on with Coulson and his motley crew aboard their flying fortress. From a ratings standpoint, S.H.I.E.L.D. is no doubt a letdown for ABC and Marvel given the expectations (and post-Avengers hype), but it's probably doing well enough to hang on for at least another season, and there's no reason to think ABC and Marvel won't continue to develop more series from the comics canon. Whereas the bar is set so low at The CW that Arrow's modest success makes it look like a hit. Regardless, I am very excited to see how CW proceeds with Barry Allen and The Flash. Those episodes of Arrow were among my favorites to date, and Gustin is so immediately endearing in the role that I could see Flash taking over Arrow's current position as my No. 1 go-to CW show.

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Question:
Am I the one person that watched the amazing Hostages? All the other ---- that's on TV people watch. But put something that keeps you on the edge of your seat, let's cancel it!!! Whatever. — Zinnia

Matt Roush: If Hostages had been yanked before getting to the end of its self-contained season, I would understand the outrage. But CBS at least let this play out a full run to complete the story, which I only wish I felt had been as intriguing as its beginning. Read on for another take on this sort of limited-run storytelling.

Question: I would first like to say, I very much enjoy your well-thought-out and non-condescending responses and reviews. I may be aging myself, but I grew up watching movies of the week and miniseries and very much enjoyed these stories told from beginning to end and with well-known stars and unknown break-outs as well. My question is: What would be so horrible about having an expansion of that format over the course of a season? Like the show Hostages or even that series The Nine, which I was getting drawn into before it was canceled. You basically have a full story told in one season. You could draw some A-list actors (who might be more willing to commit to a limited run, well-written project). Things wouldn't end without closure and wondering what coulda or woulda happened. It might work especially well with these intense dramas.

For instance, 24 tells its story in one season. You would be able to develop characters and it wouldn't be such a shock if the main hero/heroine didn't make it, because the story would be told. Of course the writers would have to write the script knowing how it will end (which frankly sometimes it feels like they write themselves into a corner with no real clue to how they will resolve things). I think Deception is another example of that. It could have been a "one and done" story. What flaws do you see in this programming set-up for some shows? From a production point of view, if the show wasn't a success, it would still be done. Am I way off base with this? Are we too addicted to the cliffhangers? — Cheryl

Matt Roush: First off, thank you. And I'm happy to report that the miniseries is making a bit of a comeback, which includes several networks, not just cable, developing multi-part dramas — a mix of literary adaptations (NBC's Rosemary's Baby remake) and historical epics (influenced by the success of shows like The Bible and Hatfields & McCoys) — as well as limited-run experiments like Hostages and NBC's upcoming Crisis (which is cut from such a similar cloth as Hostages I wonder if CBS's failure is keeping NBC's execs up at night). Fox's reboot of 24 (in a cut-down 13-episode format) also qualifies. The main reason for this resurgence is the networks' desire to get back in the "event" business, a way to cut through the clutter of scripted programming. Another relatively new innovation is the season-long anthology series, like American Horror Story and HBO's new True Detective, which can attract marquee talent because of the factors you've already described. But the reason you don't see more season-long self-contained serials is, as usual, economic. The networks got out of the movie/mini business because there wasn't the sort of lucrative back-end you get with a long-running series. Now, though, with so many new outlets to share the cost and/or increase the distribution — like CBS's deal with Amazon for Under the Dome last summer — we're likely to see the networks take more chances with the types of stories they tell. Which can only be a good thing (provided the execution is better than we've seen in shows like Hostages and, even more to the point, Deception).

Question: I've watched Sleepy Hollow, and the answer to the Horseman problem is sooooo obvious! Cut off his legs! Obviously bits come off of him (see: head). He has to be trapped by chains in some super-special Masonic prison? And he escapes while Ichabod has a sword and no one thinks to chop off his legs so he can't get away and kill more people? I have been watching this show thinking "cut off his legs" for months and months, annoyed by this show. Someone needs to explain to me why a show with so many so-called intelligent people has never thought to chop off his legs. — Heidi

Matt Roush: OK, this one made me smile, in rather a cold-blooded way. (Shades of "Off With His Head!" which in this case would be a redundancy.) Given how easily Ichabod and crew have dispatched some of the other demonic threats this season, I guess it's fair to suggest that a lower-body dismemberment might vanquish this fiend. But honestly, why ask for logic when the battle is so much fun?

Question: The latest NCIS storyline with Parsa's return is really intriguing. One thing that bugged me a lot: the last we heard, wasn't Ziva at the top of Parsa's hit list? But no one even mentioned it. They can't drop that storyline, it was given as the reason she went underground in Israel. Will this get answered? — Lucie

Matt Roush: It would make sense for this angle to at least be addressed as the pursuit continues — even if I knew, though, I wouldn't spill (an early 2014 reminder that this isn't a spoiler column) — but a helpful suggestion: Watching NCIS these days only to see how often they don't refer to Ziva is a masochist's game. Just saying. Speaking of which ...

Question: Is there any word yet on how Ziva is coming back into the NCIS storyline? They must be planning it by now. And is it true that this is the last season of NCIS? I wonder if since the new spin-off is based in New Orleans, they will have Abby going there since her character is from that area. — Natalie

Matt Roush: No and no. Unless it's ever reported differently, Ziva is gone. The show has moved on, even if her fans haven't. And when NCIS (meaning its ensemble) decides to throw in the towel, we'll know about it long before the January of whenever that final season might be. I will give you props for remembering Abby's Southern roots, and it would only be fitting for her to make an appearance in the spin-off at some point, should that come to pass. (I would imagine the new show, in classic fashion, will be introduced within the context of the mothership. And we'll see if it gets the green-light that Red thankfully didn't.)

Question: I love NCIS, but why did the writers change the dynamics on the show with the addition of Bishop? It worked because it was a team headed by Gibbs. Now it is about an independent woman who doesn't have to participate in any of the discussions, does whatever she wants and sits on the floor/desk like she's in grade school with that darn laptop. Gibbs has been dumbed down. Instead of being the leader, he's letting her do anything she wants and just keeps smiling at all her like she's a cute puppy. I realize they wanted someone different than Kate and Ziva, but Bishop needs to be changed and soon. It seems more like The Ellie Bishop Show since they are forgetting about all the other characters. I truly hope they go back to what made the show work all these years very soon! On a side note, can you forward the following comment to the powers that be for NCIS? Please have the girl who plays Bishop either thin her eyebrows or lighten them, as they are very distracting! —  Vicki

Matt Roush: When a popular long-running show introduces a major new character, it would be more of a surprise if they didn't spend several episodes building her or him up. I get that fans are almost always resistant to this sort of change, and the probability of Bishop becoming everyone's favorite new character was about as high as the Congress becoming suddenly functional, but the last time I looked into NCIS (last week), didn't seem like the dynamic had changed all that much to me, with the obvious exception of Bishop in, Ziva out. I'm just glad McGee's squeeze didn't blow up fatally. And eyebrows? Really? Consider the opinion forwarded.

Question: You've been pointing out in your past "Ask Matt" columns that you think TNT's Dallas should be a summer series instead of a winter midseason show. You shouldn't really worry about that, since TNT announced some time ago that the second half of the upcoming third season of TNT's Dallas will debut during the summer this year! — Chris

Matt Roush: My bad for not pointing that out, given that it appears we may have broken that story. I still contend that whether in winter or summer, this next batch of episodes will be critical for the show's long-term future, given that J.R. is no longer a factor. No slight to Bobby, but those baby Ewings have some mighty mammoth boots to fill.

Question: Your reviews are one of the major reasons that I keep renewing my subscription to TV Guide Magazine. I read with interest your review of Chicago PD — the problem was, I read it after I had watched the show the previous evening. As an author myself, I was reminded of the criticism that Stephanie Meyer received when her Twilight series was launched. Although I cannot fault any of your criticisms regarding clichéd overkill, I found I didn't change the channel. I was never bored. Jason Beghe is perfectly cast as the flawed leader of a group that is not made up of misfits like him. I hope that the desk sergeant doesn't survive too long, because the ring sequence represented what your review was about, but still, I don't believe this will be another Ironside. — Kathy

Matt Roush: Again: thank you. But to clarify: I didn't find Chicago PD boring, I found it hateful and insulting. But I'm more than OK to agree to disagree on this one. (I actually didn't mind the gruff, manipulative desk sergeant, who rang kind of true to me — perhaps because I recognized her as Amy Morton, who I've enjoyed many times on stage, including in the "Julia Roberts role" in the superior Broadway version of August, Osage County, and more recently in the magnificent Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf revival opposite Homeland's Tracy Letts.) I also thank you for disagreeing with me candidly but not rudely, which is more than I can say for some other P.D. defenders. (You can only imagine how impressed I was by being told by another correspondent to "get your head out of your butt" because "obviously you don't know any Chicago police officers." Not that I can't take an insult, but even if I was on a first-name basis with Chicago police, I'd somehow champion this ham-fisted glorification of brutality? My job is to judge a show as drama, whether you agree with my conclusions or not. In any case, I've seen a number of good shows about morally questionable cops — The Shield comes first to mind — and Chicago PD is not one of them.)

Question: Last week's opener of Killer Women was interesting enough for me to watch again, but what really got me big time was what I think was the reunited Mavericks singing in the closing scene. The credits roll so fast and I couldn't be sure. Did some quick YouTube searching and spent the next hour savoring their sounds and Raul Malo's seductive voice, and not to be forgotten, that smile and pure enjoyment of what he is gifting. Please tell me it was really them. Their music adds flavor to the locale in this series and I would think a perfect way for the character to kick back and jam at the end of the day. — Yvonne

Matt Roush: Kudos for finding the silver lining in this show. And yes, those really were the Mavericks.

Question: Disney, ABC, Hyperion Books and Marvel have created a beautiful synergy bringing us real life extensions of the Castle TV universe. We have Nikki Heat novels that link to events in the show, and graphic novel versions of the original Derrick Storm novels for which Richard Castle was best known. In the TV series, Castle killed off his fictional character of Derrick Storm, ending the long-running series, and then started writing Nikki Heat books based on his experiences with Kate Beckett. The problem is that there are now short eBooks and a novel that chronicle the return of Storm following the events of "Storm Fall." The most recent, "Storm Front", even includes the appearance of Nikki Heat and Jameson Rook. As far as we know, Richard Castle (the character in the show) isn't writing new Derrick Storm novels, but yet new real-world novels are being written. Up until now, such careful effort has been put into creating the illusion of the existence of a real-world Richard Castle. Why has the decision been made to diverge from that? Does Andrew W. Marlowe plan on explaining this in future TV episodes? — Martin

Matt Roush: I'm told we'll see Castle reading "Wild Storm" (to be published in the real world May 20) in the episode airing Jan. 27. So Storm is apparently back in action in fictional Castle-land as well. Whether we get more insight into the situation beyond that, can't really say.

Question: I recently watched the PBS show about Sherlock Holmes's influence on crime-solving, and am watching a documentary about retracing Shackleton's journey right now. Both share a troubling feature: wall-to-wall, unrelenting, obtrusive, maddening background music. I can barely pay attention to the story. This can't be salutary for young people either. Have you noticed this trend? Please use your influence to drive a stake through its ill-begotten heart! With thanks for years of enjoyment of your terrific reviews. — Catherine

Matt Roush: Thanks for reading. And while the issue of deafening TV soundtracks is almost certainly No. 1 on the "Ask Matt" list of most frequently asked questions (or complaints, as it were), this is the first time I've seen one aimed at PBS. How dare they! I wish I could wave a magic "mute" wand and remedy this situation, but clearly it's only getting worse if it's spreading even to the supposedly refined world of public broadcasting.

Final note: In reference to last week's question about the traditional Christmas movies that seemed to have vanished, Chris H. writes in to say that many of these titles did air on cable, including on Hallmark, Hallmark Movie Channel and the inspirational UP! and INSP channels. So while they may fly under the radar, if you look hard enough — harder than I looked, for which I apologize — you might have a merrier TV Christmas next time around.

That's all for now. Keep sending your comments and questions to askmatt@tvguidemagazine.com, and in the meantime, follow me on Twitter!

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