Ask Matt: Cancellations, Renewals (Sleepy Hollow), Breaking Bad, Person of Interest
Nicole Beharie, Tom Mison
Question: So we had the first cancellation of the season with Lucky 7 after two showings. There are no tears from me as I never watched it. My question is: On what planet did anyone ever perceive this show's premise to be interesting or sustainable? Out of the hundreds of pilots, it is sometimes hard to believe someone at ABC thought this was one of the best. What do you think is next? — Rob
Matt Roush: Next for ABC, or next in the long annals of "what were they thinking" pilots? (That sound you hear is ABC kicking itself for not keeping Body of Proof around as a back-up, because for the time being, Scandal repeats will be airing in place of the unlucky 7.) To be fair, Lucky was based on a more successful British series, The Syndicate, but something clearly got lost in translation. (Same thing must have happened regarding ABC's equally mediocre Betrayal, based on a Dutch series and adapted by the same exec producer, who's batting 0 for 2 right now.) Your point about the sustainability of a pilot's premise is a good one, and comes up frequently when analyzing the failure of shows as disparate as last season's Last Resort and (though it may be premature) this season's Hostages — more on that one later. But from the moment many of us saw clips of Lucky 7 at last spring's upfront presentation, it felt like nothing we could imagine almost anyone would want to see. And we were right.
Want more TV news and reviews? Subscribe to TV Guide Magazine now!
Question: I was thrilled to hear of Sleepy Hollow's early renewal — the show is fun, and I'm crazy about Tom Mison — but was puzzled about why the pickup is for a second season and not a continuation of the first. Given how well it's doing, why would they let it end so soon? — Meg
Matt Roush: Sleepy Hollow was always intended to be a limited-run series that would make way in the winter for the return of The Following. It's one of the ways the networks are reflecting cable strategies to keep their lineups fresh, airing entire seasons straight through and avoiding aggravating spells of repeats. It would only be natural if Fox contemplated extending the run, considering how well these early episodes have held up in the ratings. But given what a thin tightrope the show is walking between actual horror and wackadoo apocalyptic mythology, it may be a blessing not to force the writers to crank out 22 a season. Leaving us wanting more is better than the opposite (see Once Upon a Time, Season 2).
Question: I remember you put together a "Greatest Finales" list earlier this year in TV Guide Magazine, around the time of last season's May finales. Given the nearly universal accolades, including yours, for the Breaking Bad finale, was wondering where it would land on your list if you were assembling it now. I'm assuming top 10? And if so, what would you kick off that list to make room for it? — Gordon
Matt Roush: Definitely a top-10 contender, not just because of the excellence of the actual finale but because of the momentum and intensity of Breaking Bad's entire final season. It built and built and then paid off, everything you want from a true finale. (The final season's greatest episode was undoubtedly the harrowing "Ozymandias," but the finale was no slouch.) If I were to redo the list now — and here's the actual Top 60 to refresh your memory — I'd probably put Breaking Bad where The Shield is, and move that a few notches down, because the genres are so similar. I'd probably take the Lost item — given that it was for a season, not series, finale — off the Top 10 altogether, and from the "other top 50," remove one of the sitcom season (not series) finales.
And while the reaction to Breaking Bad's finale was overwhelmingly positive, I wanted to address one of the comments to my own review that bears further discussion. So here goes.
Question: I agree this was the best way to end the show (no "let the viewer decide what happened" BS) and tied up all of the loose ends, etc. But I personally think the whole massacre at the end was sloppily written (though beautifully executed) in the sense that Walt's plan was impossible. He'd never been to the compound, yet somehow built a rotating base for a gun mounted in the trunk of a car somehow knowing that not only would no one check the trunk, but that he'd be driving right up to the small building where not just Jack would be, but every single person on the compound. And have them all within the 10-foot radius the gun could fire at. I'm not saying it was bad - it was pretty much the definition of fun popcorn TV, but if we're gonna really analyze the episode, it has to be mentioned. If I had to find a fault, it would be that. They left the final confrontation for the last five minutes and there was really no other way to get it done in that amount of time.
But I digress: I thought for sure he was gonna fade out after Walt fell to the ground, leaving the blood smear behind and leaving us to wonder if he lived or died. But like everything else in the episode, Vince Gilligan didn't do what I expected. Dude said he was gonna end it and he did. — Mike
Matt Roush: And that's the beauty of it, isn't it? We feel satisfied, even if we don't entire buy that last set piece. As exciting as the massacre at the neo-Nazi compound was (with the satisfying coda of Jesse strangling Todd and then being set free), it did smack of convenience and contrivance in a way that Walter's final scenes with Gretchen and Elliott, and especially with Skyler, did not. But ultimately, Breaking Bad lived up to its noir ambitions, and that's what really matters.
Question: I can't believe how dreadful and disappointing this fall TV season has been. Not only the new shows have been mediocre at best, but our returning favorites are all down ratings wise. First of all, I would like your opinion on the quality of the new shows: the most disappointing story was CBS' Hostages, a great ensemble and interesting premise but falling short on the execution is just unforgivable. ABC's new comedies are appalling; I can certainly say that Super Fun Night is the worst pilot I have ever seen in my life. Furthermore, Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. should have been an instant success, but the story is forgettable and I really can't see anything special as of yet. Fox's revamped The X Factor is just a bad caricature that should be put to rest immediately, and with the exception of Sleepy Hollow, I see Fox's schedule as a waste of both energy and time. Finally, we have NBC's The Blacklist, which even though successful, does not bring anything new to the table, since we can see the plot twists miles away before they actually happen.
On another note, I am shocked to see Person of Interest losing to the mediocre Chicago Fire. CBS should have never moved Person of Interest out of Thursday night. This was a proven hit, and if the network wanted room for new comedies, then they should have moved Elementary, which is not the hit CBS wants us to think. Now I am seriously worried that POI might not make it past this season if its demo numbers don't improve. I would love your input on this chaotic fall season and your opinion on Person of Interest's future chances. — David
Matt Roush: It's no secret that most critics greeted this crop of new network series with a collective yawn, and even with the shows we're championing, the cheerleading is rather muted. So taking on each of your points as briefly as possible: I enjoy Sleepy Hollow, but I describe my feelings about that show as a love-"huh?" (as opposed to hate) relationship because of all that convoluted mythology. But it's still among the most fun and certainly most original of the fall shows, and its success is a pleasant surprise. I won't argue with most of the rest. Hostages gets sillier by the week, but like last season's The Following, I'll probably stick with it to see where it goes, at least for a while. Super Fun Night is no great shakes, but the original pilot was even worse. I like most of Fox's struggling Tuesday comedies, especially Brooklyn Nine-Nine and New Girl (though wish Raising Hope was back on that night, and given what a dud Dads is, we can still hope), so that and the Monday lineup are bright spots, even if they can't erase the ongoing time-sucking debacle that is The X Factor. I think you're a little hard on The Blacklist, which had a terrific pilot (even if you saw some of the twists coming) but stalled a bit in week two, which is not unusual, though James Spader was still terrific. And my thoughts on S.H.I.E.L.D. are complicated. I'm disappointed in some of the casting (though not Ming-Na Wen and Clark Gregg), but am willing to accept the fact that the show is aiming for something more of a throwback to the days of hokey-jokey action shows that I grew up with like The Wild Wild West. It's clearly not aiming for anything much deeper, and again, if "fun" is the point, I may be OK with that. And if that makes it something less than the sort of appointment TV I expect from the Joss Whedon camp, its broadness may keep it out of the cult niche basement that could doom it in the long run.
As for Person of Interest: I'm hoping it will chug on like The Good Wife in its new time period and not be punished for the move. CBS shouldn't (and I'm betting doesn't) expect miracles from a show that is so unlike the more standard procedurals on its line-up, including the NCIS combo that precedes it. I moderated a panel with much of the POI cast and executive producer Jonathan Nolan last week at the "Made in NY" PaleyFest, and there was no sign of concern, maybe because they're so busy creating such a great show. This Tuesday's episode (which they screened for the rapturous audience) is one of the best, making great use of the show's awesome female cast: In addition to Taraji P. Henson and new regulars Sarah Shahi and Amy Acker, Paige Turco is back as Zoe. The show is suffering on Tuesdays not just because of the new night, but also because of the later time period, which has long been a challenge for CBS. (I agree about Chicago Fire, but it's also a much more easily digestible series, and is being boosted by the power of The Voice.) And even if CBS had left POI on Thursday, taking over Elementary's time period — the push to add comedies on the night was inevitable, and so far is paying off — it would be going up against the red-hot Scandal, so no guarantees it wouldn't have taken a hit wherever it would have landed.
Question: Is there a possibility that they will bring Zack back to help catch Pelant on Bones? I know that he is not as computer/hacker smart as Pelant, but he did escape the facilities that he is currently residing in so he must know some tricks. Also he probably isn't even in Pelant's sights to mess with. He has motive to help: Hodgins is his best friend and he got messed with and he admires and respects both Booth and Brennan. I just feel that he could have worked in the background to collect evidence to present to Booth and than help plan the take down. I miss Zack and I really enjoyed the episode where he escaped and helped crack a case. They could bring him back for a one or two episode arc. Not that I don't enjoy the rotating squinterns, I would just like to see him occasionally. And I'm tired of the Pelant plot. — Andrea
Matt Roush: Yes, the Zack fan base still lives. I don't know if he's coming back, and since this isn't a spoiler column, I wouldn't let on if he were (unless the show itself was unwise enough to let that cat out of the bag in advance). Personally, I'd doubt it, but you never know, and your wishful-thinking brainstorming makes as good an argument as any. But Zack is nowhere mentioned in the storyline for Monday's episode, which revisits the Pelant case again — and like you, I wish it were for the last time.
Question: I was wondering how long CBS will stick with the Hostages series before canceling it. I watched the first two episodes but I am giving up: 15 episodes for a tired story that could be told in three or four. I am disappointed considering the talent involved and find the show absolutely ludicrous. It is trite, hackneyed and lacks tension. In fact, you could devise a game around it called Spot the Cliché or Scene From Other Works. — Jim
Matt Roush: I would be surprised if CBS doesn't let this story play out to the end of its limited-run season. But if Hostages continues to slip, I also wouldn't be shocked if it moves to a less prominent time period (maybe flipping with Hawaii Five-0 to Fridays and restoring that show to its old time period). Most of the mail I'm seeing about Hostages takes it to task for being so derivative and uninspired, which makes me wonder how NBC's similarly themed midseason thriller Crisis will fare (another kidnapping plot, although that one's far more public). The battle of wills between Toni Collette and her captors (and their puppet-masters) will keep me going for a while, but the subplots aren't getting any better, and a few of the scenes in this week's show are ludicrous even by the genre's loose standards.
Question: It's funny that your Sept, 30 Ask Matt column started with someone complaining about laugh tracks. I'm just the opposite, I prefer shows like The Big Bang Theory and Last Man Standing to those like Modern Family in part because of the "live studio audience" feel. But that's not why I'm writing. So far I really like The Blacklist and Sleepy Hollow and, even though I fell asleep watching it, I'm going to give S.H.I.E.L.D. another chance because I'm a big comic book fan. But I'm very disappointed by The Crazy Ones, The Michael J. Fox Show and Hostages. The Crazy Ones just strikes me as Robin Williams doing shtick for 30 minutes with other people trying to keep up around him (and failing); Michael J. Fox feels like it's trying to tell me that it's OK to laugh at Parkinson's because he's trying to make it funny — which is sort of uncomfortable; and Hostages is just so bad that even if there hadn't been a similar movie made a few years ago with Harrison Ford and Paul Bettany (Ford is a bank exec who is forced to rob his own bank when Bettany takes his family prisoner in their home) that I still wouldn't watch it. Curious as to your thoughts? — Chip
Matt Roush: I guess there are only so many ways to tell a kidnapping/hostage story after all. But on to the comedies. I've heard others remark that watching Michael J. Fox mine human comedy from his condition isn't necessarily something they want to see in a family comedy, but at least there's a sense that something real is happening in that household (it helps that Betsy Brandt is so good as his wife). The real problem with Fox's show is that it needs to be funnier and bolder. And while Robin Williams is carrying the comic load of The Crazy Ones for better or worse, I like his chemistry with James Wolk and in the second episode with Hamish Linklater. But nothing's going to salvage the Sarah Michelle Gellar part of the equation if Williams is going to keep delivering her life lessons like, "The best things in life come from not playing it safe." For now, both shows are doing just that when it comes to showcasing their stars.
Question: I just wanted to say, and for lack of anyone else at TV Guide to say it to, that I think FX's series The Bridge was exceptional and I hated to see it end. I hope it comes back! — Judy
Matt Roush: Let's end this week on a positive note (at least for Bridge fans). FX has already renewed the show, and my main reaction to that is: The more Demian Bichir, the better.
That's all for now. Keep sending your comments and questions to email@example.com, and in the meantime, follow me on Twitter!
Subscribe to TV Guide Magazine now!