Ask Matt: CSI: Miami Move, a Bones Scoop-let, Lone Star, NCIS and More!
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Question: Why would they move CSI: Miami to Sunday night? The football games always run over, and then everything else is pushed back by a half hour or an hour. Not being a football fan, it will make it hard to set the DVR for the actual time. — Claudette
Matt Roush: To answer the simple question: As has always been the case when it comes to CBS on Sunday night during football season in the parts of the country that's affected by these overruns, if you're recording and not watching live, it always makes sense to set the recorder for an extra hour past the show's regularly scheduled run time. With that said, why is this happening to CSI: Miami? The answer is strategic, and has more to do with CBS looking to its own future than worrying about any ratings shortfalls for Miami in the new time slot. At this point, nine years into the show's run, the audience that's still hooked is probably loyal enough to follow it anywhere and make the suitable adjustments, and Miami will help shore up what has long been a problematic hour on Sunday for CBS. But more to the point, networks often get criticized for being complacent and not developing a new generation of hits once the old ones begin to fade. In this case, moving Miami opens up a critical Monday time period to launch Hawaii Five-0 in one of the bolder moves of the year. (Moving The Big Bang Theory to Thursday, which is already paying off, is seen as even bolder.) Miami fans have every reason, and several good ones, to complain, but most TV analysts seem to applaud the move as being rather forward-thinking. (Now look at ABC on Sunday nights on the other hand ...)
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Question: I'm a huge fan of Bones, and I would like to know what happened to the black-and-white episode of Bones that Hart Hanson planned on doing last season, but it never happened? Does he plan on doing the black-and-white episode this season and what will it be about and when will it air? — Marie
Matt Roush: I asked, and got what I guess is a bit of a scoop from none other than Hart Hanson. He writes: "We were anxious to do a black and white episode: a noir episode last year. However, once Fringe did it, we reconsidered because it would just look like a stolen idea. This year, our 'out of the box' episode is coming up. We are telling a story completely from Brennan's POV, meaning we will see the world the way she sees it. We hope this will give a little insight into how Brennan perceives all around her."
Sounds like a great episode to me, even better than another spin around the noir block. Thanks, Hart.
Question: I was deeply upset to learn Lone Star was a ratings flop. Pretty much every TV critic out there absolutely raved about it and declared it the best new drama of the fall, and the must-watch show of the new season. I was impressed, though not blown away, and ready for the show to grow on me some more. But with such abysmal ratings — only 4 million people watched? Really? That would have been bad even for Heroes last year — is the show that critics were declaring fall's best new drama going to fall victim to being the first new show of the season to be canceled? How long is it likely going to stick around? A couple of weeks, or a few months, or a full season? If Fox does decide to cancel it prematurely, is there a chance that it might find a new home somewhere on cable, where it would feel much more at home? I really did enjoy the show, but I just don't feel like getting too attached is a very good idea at this point. — Alex
Matt Roush: You weren't the only one upset. Anyone with a stake in networks continuing to attempt quality, non-formulaic programming has a right to be discouraged at the low numbers for Lone Star, which seemed to fulfill a self-fulfilling prophecy about the most challenging work only being done on cable. Lone Star has the feel of an AMC or FX show, in part because it's built around an anti-hero (albeit a charming and sympathetic one). It's original, it's intriguing, and it very well may be doomed. A lot depends on what happens this week. And while the show's new-to-TV creator Kyle Killen makes a valiant plea to viewers in his blog, and while I'm tempted to make a comparison to another Texas-set series — Friday Night Lights — to get people to tune in to this underdog, it's pretty clear this is going to be an uphill battle. Mondays are murder — possibly even tougher than Thursdays, which no longer has a reality juggernaut on the night like Dancing With the Stars presents on Mondays.
I would like to think Fox would keep the show on the air a few weeks to see if word of mouth helps build a slightly healthier cult audience, but it's a cutthroat ratings environment and I won't be surprised if it's benched quickly if the numbers stay this low. (It would take a miracle for the show to make it until sweeps, although stranger things have happened.) Fox has the option of trying to relaunch it on a less treacherous night, but I'm not sure how they get any momentum for that. And where to put it? Fridays? The likelihood of a cable network picking it up is next to nil. FX, the most logical candidate, has a pretty full stable of shows and isn't in the business of picking up castoffs. And the show doesn't seem established enough yet to earn a save from DirecTV (although I didn't see the Damages rescue coming either). With Lone Star, I'm hoping against hope for the best and fearing the worst.
Question: I enjoy Mad Men, but as a member of an ethnic minority group, I have been increasingly infuriated by the amount of adulation Mad Men has been given lately. Other than the now barely seen Carla, ethnic groups have been absent from the show. Even worse, I've endured derogatory comments aimed at Japanese and Jewish communities as well as unnecessary comments like, "If I want to see two Negroes fight, I'd throw a dollar out the window." Unless you count the news photo of Muhammad Ali, the first black man seen since season 2 was a mugger with a gun! I'm not asking that a minority be pigeonholed into a story, but for a show set in New York City, it's odd there are no minorities walking in the streets, dining in the restaurants or drinking in the bars the characters visit. For a show this un-inclusive, it shouldn't win another Best Drama Emmy. — Brian
Matt Roush: Interesting timing, as this came into the e-mailbag shortly before the most recent episode, which introduced Lane's infatuation with the "chocolate bunny" Toni Charles, bringing up an interracial romance angle that seemed in its own peculiar way more genuine than the self-conscious relationship between pompous former employee Paul Kinsey and his black girlfriend.
Still, it's an interesting issue, although it seems to me that Mad Men has taken pains lately to confront this paradox, sometimes almost too head-on. Blame the times, don't blame the show. As unpleasant as the reality of the depiction or absence of minority characters is, that's hardly a reason to turn on the show. It's not like Mad Men is celebrating these things. This is a series that has never shied from portraying the racism and the sexism of the times, as well as overt anti-Semitism and homophobia. In the recent episode where Peggy was set up with the activist journalist, he made it clear there's a larger civil-rights struggle going on out in the world that advertising (a clubby, white, mostly male power enclave) is largely ignoring. Peggy's defense — that she fought her way in so why can't blacks — rang hollow, and it was meant to. Peggy does bring the subject up in a meeting about their client (Fillmore Auto Parts) that doesn't hire blacks in the South, and she's told by Don in no uncertain terms that their job is to get men to like Fillmore, not to get Fillmore to like Negroes. Again, not an admirable statement, but in those un-p.c. times, an honest one.
Going to more specific examples, I do recall when Don Draper emerged from one of his cleansing swims, he stood on the street and among the pedestrians was a black couple. Which seemed rather startling given their invisibility on this show in anything beyond domestic and service-oriented jobs. Mrs. Blankenship's crack about African-American boxers was offensive but also perfectly in character (and, frankly, funny, as most things she said was. RIP). You have a point about the mugger, but that whole scene felt forced to me, and that element was just a part of it. If Mad Men isn't a perfect show, it wasn't a perfect time, but I do think what you see as a flaw is an attempt for the show to remain truthful.
Question: I was a huge fan of NCIS and loved the wonderful Mossad storyline packed with drama, lies, scandal, etc. I was anxiously awaiting the ending of season 7 for the renewal of the Ziva character after she had been thrown under the bus at the end of S6 and beginning of S7. All I ended up seeing was a new NCIS show with a different slant. Now Gibbs and Tony are the bosses and everybody else has to fight for scenes. There are so many wonderful storylines waiting with Abby's back story, Ducky is awesome, even a little Palmer, McGee why is he losing so much weight and also another huge story with Vance. So can I assume that Tony and Gibbs will now be running the show and will they ever take Ziva from under the bus and explain the reasons that things weren't as bad as what they made out and she did try to save Gibbs life? I will say I was a huge fan of NCIS but am finding it more difficult after each episode to remain a fan. I don't think I can live through another Mexican drug cartel story and the show is turning into a Cagney & Lacey (Gibbs and DiNozzo). — Salvatore
Matt Roush: As noted in previous columns, there is a very vocal outcry from fans who think Ziva has been too marginalized, especially in the latter part of last season. I'd still advise giving the show a chance, since the season opener had to resolve the conflict from the cliffhanger — and at the end of the episode, the name of Ziva's father was evoked, suggesting she'll be brought back into the core of the story fairly soon. Nothing we've been told as we prepared our Returning Favorites issue and plan our future NCIS coverage suggests Ziva won't be an important part of the ensemble. Everyone will get their moments. But there's no question Gibbs is the star and the engine of NCIS, and Tony's antics are spotlighted as a comic-relief contrast to the boss's gruff demeanor. That's how the show works.
On a side note, Salvatore isn't the only one who noticed McGee's weight loss. Judy wrote in to remark: "I am concerned about the actor who plays McGee. He had lost weight before last season, now it looks like he has lost another 50 pounds. Is he ill? If not, tell him to stop losing weight." Diana noted: "He's lost too much weight and I kept looking at him instead of what was going on." OK, point taken. I checked in with CBS, which assures me that Sean Murray is not ill but has been on a diet and exercise regiment for some time. If I get more info on this front, I'll be sure and pass it along. But yeah, the former Probie's really skinny these days.
Question: You had a question in last week's Ask Matt column about sexual tension being frustrating to handle as a viewer. While in my heart of hearts, I think Booth and Bones will end up together and that Castle and Beckett will also end up together, I don't want it to happen yet. The reason why Castle went off to the Hamptons with his ex-wife is good old human behavior. He was going to be alone for quite possibly the first time in his adult life, and being with his ex seemed far more palatable than the alternative. How many of us have friends who go back to exes they can't stand just because they don't want to be alone? Granted I may be reading too much into this, but TV characters are also people, too. They become more relatable when they act like people. On a side note, in reference to the recent question about Thursday TV, I intend to watch The Big Bang Theory in real time, and then time-shift Bones and Grey's Anatomy by a half-hour. — Veronica
Matt Roush: Another side of the equation heard from, and I tend to side with you. As long as they don't tease us too much and then pull their punches — as Bones did a while back, when a Bones-Booth liaison was actually promised and then turned out to be, yawn, a fantasy — I'm more than OK for a show to play out its characters' sexual/romantic tension for as long as makes sense. It's all about chemistry, and if the show's stars have it, why not use it to their best advantage. I don't want Castle to become a romance just yet. The looks and the moments of lost opportunity are still entertaining enough. But it is true that when there's too much of this sort of thing going on, it gets tiresome. Read on for a few examples of exceptions to the rule.
Question: I enjoyed reading the letter and your comments about relationships on shows and the "Moonlighting curse". So many shows seem to fall into the same tired story line. One show that has been refreshingly different is Warehouse 13. The main characters of Myka and Pete seem to actually enjoy each other's company. So many shows either have the character flirting with each other, like on Castle, or begrudgingly working together, as in The Mentalist. Myka and Pete almost have a sister-brother relationship that is so different than most other shows. If the show is doing well and comes back for another season, I hope the writers don't mess up the best aspect of the show. — J.C.
Matt Roush: Totally agree. The characters on Warehouse 13 actually seem to root for each other to be happy with other people. Rarely turns out well, but the show's young still, and as we learned with Pete and his veterinarian girlfriend, the job tends to get in the way. (And not to worry. Warehouse 13 will be back next year. That's a no-brainer.) The affection Myka and Pete have for each other is as genuine as their exasperation over their clashing personality traits. Their sparring is part of the fun of the show, and it's refreshing to not have it be clouded by the question of when they're going to fall into bed together.
Question: Don't you just love how on Terriers, they have a happy, healthy couple like Britt & Katie? Sure there is conflict in the relationship, but because the characters are fully fleshed-out people who have different opinions from time to time. Writing is NOT centered on "will they or won't they", or how dumb he is/how shrill-bitchy she is. — Liz
Matt Roush: Again, couldn't agree more. Even when Britt revealed he burglarized Katie before he actually knew her, she eventually took that in stride. Terriers looks at all of its flawed characters with such affection, it's part of what I admire about this show — and, for that matter, it's a tone that distinguished Justified, making these my two favorite FX dramas at the moment. But the Britt and Katie relationship is a winner, no question.
Question: Please tell me that not all is lost for Elena and Damon on The Vampire Diaries. It killed me when she said he's lost her forever. Does she ever forgive him? — Lesleigh
Matt Roush: Answering this directly would qualify as a spoiler, and I won't go there. But realistically speaking, Vampire Diaries is burning through a ton of story each week, which of course is great fun, and when declarations like this are made, I tend to silently add on a little phrase I got from the musical Avenue Q: "For now." The chemistry between Nina Dobrev and Ian Somerhalder (whether they're Elena and Damon or Katherine and Damon) is palpable, and there's a long way to go for all of these characters before "forever" kicks in. I don't know if she'll ever truly forgive him, but hope (like vampires) springs eternal, and I'm betting Elena and Damon have many chances to make up, if not kiss, in the weeks and months ahead.
Question: I was watching the season premiere of Chuck and, naturally, was bombarded with the commercials for the premiere of The Event following it, but that's not what bothers me. What got to me was that almost every single spot mentioned either Lost or 24 or both. One even said, "If Lost and 24 had a baby, it would be The Event." Regardless of the quality or non-quality of The Event, when are the networks going to realize that this approach is not going to work? It places incredible expectations on their new shows to compare them so directly to former hits, and frankly it turns me off. Lost and 24 both worked so well out of the box because frankly no one had ever seen anything like them before, and they excelled at telling fresh stories in a new, inventive way.
For my 9 pm viewing, I had to make a choice between The Event and Lone Star. Due to your strong recommendation of it, I was already leaning toward Lone Star, but frankly The Event's desperation to copy Lost and 24 made my choice even easier. I flipped the channel from NBC to Fox and discovered what seems to me the most original new show any of the networks are rolling out this week. Like you, I love that I don't have a clue how Lone Star is going to evolve next week, whereas The Event is seeming more and more like it is trying to box itself into the Lost/24 "mold," which is ridiculous because they never had one. This is not to say that I am pre-judging The Event or that I won't try it, just an observation that the shows I love most try to do their own thing instead of duplicating what other hits have done. If the network executives got that through their collective heads, we might have more new shows that look interesting to me. — Jake
Matt Roush: What can I say? In this case, the hard sell and the high concept of The Event won the day, helping crush Lone Star (although Dancing With the Stars, ESPN football and Two and a Half Men were even more significant factors). I try not to hold a network's promos against a show, but I can understand why you'd resent The Event's attempt to co-opt the breakthough natures of Lost and 24. Truth is, The Event for all of its lavish production values is nowhere near as groundbreaking as either of its predecessors, and promos aside, it doesn't really aim to be. Once you get past all the convoluted time-jumping of the pilot, which thankfully settles down in these next episodes (which I mostly enjoyed), what you have is an old-fashioned action serial, with cliffhangers built around a very engaging central character in peril (Jason Ritter) who you can't wait to return to while various authority figures blab on earnestly about conspiracies and hidden agendas and all the usual conspiracy jabber. If we're lucky, The Event will survive its overblown though successful hype. And if we're really lucky, Lone Star will survive competing with The Event. But that's another story.
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