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Questions: A couple of questions on NBC's Monday night lineup. First, what has your opinion been on Chuck this year? I never thought I would say this, but I find myself wishing they had tied up everything last year, when I thought Chuck was at an all-time high in quality. This season has seemed extremely uneven and uninspired to me, with the usually unbearable Buy More plotlines made even worse by the fact that there isn't a whole lot going on in the A-plot week to week either. Your thoughts?
Secondly, I have been enjoying The Event a great deal, but find myself not caring at all whenever the scene shifts to Sean and Leila. Everything they are involved in just seems so small and trite compared to the big conspiracy storyline, and I also don't find myself impressed by those actors' performances. I understand that since Lost and the brilliant work that show did with its characters, all of these high-concept shows have tried to incorporate the everyday hero to resonate with viewers, but the difference there (other than character portrayal) is that those heroes were thrust into the meat of the plot, rather than being relegated to the side plots we have seen in The Event. I just find myself thinking it would be a better show if those two weren't involved. What are your thoughts? — Joe
Matt Roush: First, Chuck. While I wouldn't go so far as to say that the show should had ended last season, I'd be lying if I didn't admit I'm less than enchanted by much of what's going on this year. I did enjoy last week's episode quite a bit, when Sarah came (with Casey and Morgan in tow, naturally) to Chuck's rescue. But I'm not as fascinated as the show wants me to be in the is-she-good-or-evil nature of Chuck's mom, though on the upside, I thought Timothy Dalton was sensational as Volkoff, especially before he revealed himself, and I'm looking forward to his return this week. And I have enjoyed having Morgan being part of the team. He brightens every scene, as does Casey — and their scenes together are a joy. There are always going to be things to enjoy in Chuck — it's a fun show and always has been — but I feel the show is spinning its wheels a bit as Chuck and Sarah continue working out their relationship-vs-work issues. And the latest wrinkle in the Intersect saga ... sigh. A lot of it feels played out to me, though I still enjoy the game. (FYI, my fave spy show of the moment — which I caught up with over the Thanksgiving break — is the CW's Nikita. But that one's not playing anything for laughs.) I won't bore you with my boredom where the Buy More subplots and Jeffster are concerned, but I will say that while I'm glad Chuck is still kicking and will always appreciate the show's passionate fandom, I agree this is not its strongest year.
Regarding The Event: You have a point, and a rather surprising one considering my first impressions of this convoluted show. When it started, the character of Sean felt like my touchstone through all the mayhem, and I was more engaged by Jason Ritter's portrayal than anything else, especially as he played the fugitive. But once he found Leila, the wind seemed to go out of that particular subplot — hitting a contrived low when he was shot and Leila took a doctor hostage for some emergency triage. It does feel lately that their part of the story is the hokiest and most disconnected from the actual conspiracy and the more compelling situation of the conflicted "visitors." Once we get past the upcoming (and potentially show-killing) long hiatus, the writers need to do a much better job of integrating them back into the main storyline so that it doesn't feel like we're watching two or three shows at once. I'd settle for one good one.
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Question: I know I may be the last person watching The Event. However, I do have what may be the stupidest question about the show. What exactly is "the event?" Was it the crash landing? The assassination attempt? Is it still coming? — Nathan
Matt Roush: Good, and funny (not stupid), question. In the promotions before the season began, they made a point of telling us that the assassination attempt was not the event. I'm not sure if the crash-landing of the visitors all those years ago was the initial "event," but that would make sense. (Which means I'm probably wrong.) What the actual "event" is that the series has been building way too slowly towards I haven't a clue, but it hasn't occurred yet. And I'm hardly the only one who's impatient. I'm also betting the show's creators wish they could take back that title, because it has brought them nothing but grief from critics and other detractors who delight in pointing out ad nauseum that The Event is far from one itself.
Question: I'm sure you get sick to death of questions about the Emmy process, but I just have to ask this one. When a show doesn't fit completely in one box or the other, when it has equal proportions comedy and drama, do all of its stars have to necessarily go into the same category? I'm thinking mostly of Glee. It puts itself in the comedy category, and no one would argue that Jane Lynch is the most deserving of all actresses out there for the Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy award. But Chris Colfer is amazing, truly one for the ages. His performance in "Never Been Kissed" was phenomenal, transcendent, and definitely should be rewarded with an Emmy. But not for comedy. Glee brings so many different things to the table, why can't its stars nominate themselves in the category in which they fit best? Jane Lynch stays in comedy, Chris Colfer nominates himself in drama. I know it's probably never been done before, but is there any reason why it can't be? Not a fan of the status quo. — Melissa
Matt Roush: I don't know if there's a rule that an actor doing fine dramatic work in a show otherwise classified as a comedy would be forbidden to submit said work in the proper drama category. But perceptually, it probably would be advised against at the network and studio level. These comedy-drama (and in this case, musical) hybrids have it tough enough without adding more confusion. And while I agree with the gist of your argument, especially given the seriousness of the bullying storyline Kurt is currently embroiled in, I also wonder if the solid emotional work Chris Colfer is doing this season might actually boost his chances against fellow comic actors. Whereas putting a flamboyant character like this in the running against supporting drama players in terrific ensembles like Mad Men, Breaking Bad, The Good Wife and Boardwalk Empire could just as easily backfire. No perfect solution, that's for sure. But if Colfer were to submit for drama, the choice would likely be seen as bold and controversial enough to raise his visibility if not viability.
Question: You recently gave thanks for Yvonne Strahovski's performance in "Chuck vs. Phase 3." Many of the fans think it is an Emmy-worthy performance and I was wondering what you thought. I also think Chuck has been amazing this season, with many stand-out episodes. I certainly think it is Emmy-worthy as one of the few hour-long comedies on TV, but unfortunately it is a show that tends to defy classification (action comedy would be my best description). Where do you think it would fit in the current Emmy categories, and exactly how could you make that happen? — Spyros
Matt Roush: For the reasons articulated in the first question, I don't see myself beating the Emmy tom-toms on Chuck's behalf this year. (I'm not sure I ever have. Even when I fought for its survival, I always saw it as something of a deluxe guilty pleasure — not that there's anything wrong with it.) This season just feels too uneven, more so than usual in how it's forcing the comedy now that they've raised the stakes of the drama. And while I admired Yvonne's all-out bravado in the most recent episode, the character just isn't defined enough and certainly isn't funny enough to merit inclusion in the top tier of drama or comedy performances. Again, I'm not looking to beat up on Chuck here. I still like it, even if this season not always loving it. Just trying to keep things in perspective.
Question: While I thought NCIS' two-part Enemies Foreign/Domestic Eli/Vance episodes were very good, I am left disappointed that no mysteries remain. I have so loved the mini-arc Vance background, Ziva's Mossad loyalties, Eli-Ziva reunion and Gibbs Shannon/Kelly storylines that passed through other episodes as we tried to piece the truth together. After the last 12 shows I feel almost empty after all my long-awaited questions have been answered. I was disappointed in a promised intense reunion of Ziva and her father that I had waited a season for. All the fans were left with was a 50-cent Israeli flag and we are to believe now that Ziva has forgiven her father for sending her on a suicide mission and then left her to die in the desert. I also assume that we will not be seeing the wonderful actor Michael Nouri again. It's great to get some closure but I'm finding that these are the reasons I was watching. What I would like to know is do the writers have any new mysteries lined up? Usually it takes a while to feed the crumbs before we have questions. I haven't seen any big stories that might carry through a few years. — Peter
Matt Roush: Such is the danger when a long-running show attempts to bring closure to a long-running story. Play it out too long, and fans are unhappy. When you do wrap it up, there will always be those who find the resolution unsatisfying or still want more. I'm more of a casual than a die-hard NCIS viewer so was actually OK with the way this two-parter played out, and I don't know why you'd assume this is the last time we'll see Eli David (Nouri). Maybe not for a while, but why say never. Regarding future long arcs, I can't say what or when to expect, as I prefer not to get ahead of the storytelling. But shows like this tend to operate under the principal that when you close one door, it's time to open a bunch more. NCIS has plenty of characters with back story to explore. Can't guarantee they'll be as compelling as the Eli/Vance/Ziva material, but I'd be surprised if they didn't try to top it.
Question: I'm the only person I know who watches In Treatment, so I'm hoping to get another person's take on the current season. I think it's been great — probably the best season so far. The actors have been mesmerizing. Especially Dane DeHaan as Jesse (definitely the showiest role). Debra Winger, too (no surprise there, I guess). All right, I already regret trying to single out any one performance. I will say, though, that I think Adele should get her own spin-off. What do you think of the current season? Why doesn't anyone else watch it? — Mark
Matt Roush: I can't speak for anyone else, but I can tell you why In Treatment has always been a chore for me and why I'm not surprised at its extremely tiny following. Not that ratings is ever a barometer for quality. (Mine is not a popular opinion, because anyone who tends to ever express or write an opinion about this show is usually a fan — and I've always maintained that you would have to really love this show to commit fully to it.) As in past seasons, I made myself watch the first few weeks worth of episodes to acquaint myself with the new patients and the thrust of the stories in hopes of getting hooked, but once again, I bailed. Not because of the acting, which is mostly brilliant — if anything, In Treatment is an actor's exercise, and I do plan to at least watch all of the Amy Ryan episodes at some point. (I tend to enjoy Paul's trip to his therapist more than his own sessions. For me, those episodes are the core of the series.) It's not even about the writing, I suppose, which in some stories is strong (Jesse's and Sunil's impressed me the most), but this simply isn't a show that works for me as anything but a narcotic. Call me shallow — it's been known to happen — but this show literally puts me to sleep. I'm a theater buff, but I tend not to enjoy most "two-hander" plays, which is what these very long (for me) half-hour episodes remind me of: theater at its most static, talky and mannered. I have had many instances of people telling me this is the only TV show they watch, and I get that, because in my mind In Treatment is perfect for people who don't actually like TV. (And I'm trying not to generalize here; everyone has their reasons for liking what they like, and what they don't like. I'm just giving you my own point of view.) I applaud HBO for being brave enough to keep this show going despite almost universal disinterest. I am aware those who watch it are passionate about it. They'd have to be.
Question: I would greatly appreciate your explanation on some Bones-related questions. In a recent interview, executive producer Stephen Nathan said the following: "I know so many of the fans are upset that Booth is with Hannah and asking how could we do that, and when are Booth and Brennan gonna get back 'together,' or when are they gonna get together ultimately. I think it's the difficulties and the dissatisfaction that propels the show forward in a way. That there's some frustration with these characters that we've grown to love over five and a half years: We want them to do certain things. We want them to see what's right behind that door. But obviously, if they did right away, fans would be very disappointed, and then they would go and watch whatever's on the other channels." My questions: Why would a show want to cause dissatisfaction amongst its fan base? Does this actually increase ratings? Why do both Hart Hansen and Stephen Nathan say they don't believe in the Moonlighting curse and then say people will change the channel if two main characters are in a romantic relationship?
I also have a few questions about the recent Fox announcement that Bones is moving an hour later on Thursday to 9/8c. Do you think that Fox took into account that the Hannah storyline would not be popular with a segment of the fan base and to protect Bones' ratings they moved it behind American Idol so that any fans they lost would be made-up by casual viewers? They could have just as likely moved their new show The Chicago Code into this slot and moved Bones behind House on Monday. Isn't it traditional to place a new show behind American Idol to build a fan base? What is the purpose of putting a well-established show behind American Idol? — Rose
Matt Roush: Let's take the easy part of the question first. Bones' shift to an hour later on Thursday has nothing to do with anything the show is doing internally and everything to do with American Idol, which is Fox's No. 1 priority in the new year. Idol invading Thursday is a major change and a calculated risk, and Bones has already proven itself on the night, so it makes more sense for Fox to pair Idol with a proven commodity in a very tough time period (opposite CSI, Grey's Anatomy and The Office, each with dedicated fan bases) than to try to launch a new show on Thursday, even with the Idol lead-in. (In April, Fox is planning to use the Wednesday Idol performance show to launch the new sitcom Breaking In, so that strategy hasn't entirely been abandoned.)
Regarding Bones and Booth and fan discontent: There's never an easy way to address this subject, just as there's no easy way for the show to resolve the problem of when, how and whether to resolve this sexual-tension situation. Clearly, the producers feel that if Bones turns into an all-out romantic procedural where the leads are sleeping together while solving cases together, something will be lost. (Same goes for the Castle-Beckett dynamic over at Castle.) If that is truly the way they feel, I wish they'd just stop teasing everyone, because that's where the real discontent sets in. If anyone believed Hannah was the real deal for Booth, that would be one thing. But she's obviously just another road bump, so it's irritating. Personally, I'd love it if Bones found an intellectual equal who attracted her in a way that we (and Booth) might believe she'd found a soul mate and see where that goes. But even that would likely frustrate fans to no end. I appreciate Stephen Nathan acknowledging that frustration and dissatisfaction can be useful dramatic tools, even if fans predictably turn those words against him. But such a ploy can only take you so far. Bones is one of those litmus-test shows that continues to test the limits of how far a show can go in trying its audience's patience. To be quite honest, the show is still doing well enough that it doesn't seem to have alienated the fan base to the point of no return.
Question: Please tell me that Luther's six-episode arc on BBC America was a success and that we will be treated to a subsequent series. I can't believe they will leave us hanging, after that wonderful season finale. Of course, this cliffhanger seems to leave the door open for more. What will happen to Luther? Will they try to pin the latest shooting (Ian Reed) on him? Will the brilliant but disturbed Alice Morgan character continue to help Luther or disappear to leave him with no alibi? Too bad Indira Varma's character of Zoe was killed off. (A necessity as she is also now starring on Human Target?) Such interesting, eccentric characters with enough twists to keep the audience interested. The only show other than HBO's offerings (and Mad Men) that is truly worthy on Sunday night. Six episodes are not enough! — Pam
Matt Roush: Have there ever been better last words than Luther declaring "Now what?!?" as that intense finale came crashing down around him? Sensational stuff. The good news is that the story of Luther will continue next year with two two-hour movies. Now we just have to wait for BBC America to schedule it. Perhaps easier said than done, given how far the channel has moved away from crime-drama programming — which is a pity, given how good the British are at making them (though they tend to fall short of the ratings BBCA gets with sci-fi/fantasy and reality).
Question: I was wondering about the rest of HBO's schedule. With the awesome Boardwalk Empire having only 1 episode left, I was thinking that they would go with the next season of Big Love and then after that, run that new show Game Of Thrones. The only thing I am sure about is that the horse racing drama with Dustin Hoffman called Luck is the farthest out. It seems that HBO has a lot of programming ready for the next year, and it's all quality. Guess the disaster of the one miss, John From Cincinnati, is way behind them. Any more information about Luck, though? — Richard
Matt Roush: I think you're generally on target about HBO's much-anticipated 2011 lineup, with the final chapters of Big Love airing first in January, Game of Thrones following at an unspecified-as-yet date, True Blood taking over the summer as usual, and Luck arriving at some point down the road (plus second seasons of Treme and Boardwalk). Thrones and Luck are so far sight unseen, but expectations are high, because these are all very ambitious and provocative projects. Now if only HBO could light a fire on the comedy development side. That's the channel's Achilles heel.
Question: I love The Good Guys. Colin Hanks has really grown in the show, and of course Bradley Whitford is fantastic. How is the show doing in the ratings? It is too bad it is not on USA. I think it would be a hit there. — Linda
Matt Roush: You're absolutely right that a show like this might have looked like a success on USA, where light-hearted action capers are a house specialty. But on Fox, not so much, and The Good Guys never caught fire either in the summer run or in the move to Fridays this fall. It will play out the rest of its season in December, but come the new year, it will be gone for good. I'll miss that mustache.
Question: I have to say that I am starting to agree with you that the Cristina PTSD storyline on Grey's Anatomy has run its course. At first I loved how everything seemed to be going, because Sandra Oh was just amazing with the material. Now it seems like the writers are just milking it. Sandra Oh deserves better than Cristina Yang lap-dancing and bartending. What irks me more is that we clearly see Owen being supportive, but we are not seeing what their home life is like now that she's not at the hospital. Instead we see him talking to other people about it, trying to figure out what to do. I have to be one of the most dedicated Cristina/Owen "shippers," and I am getting irritated with how long this is taking to wrap up. Even though nothing is as bad as the triangle last season, it just seems like nothing is happening. I do like the developing understanding between Derek and Cristina, which is overdue, but it seems like something is missing. I am also tired of the characters telling instead of showing. When Owen said she sits at home watching infomercials eating out of a cereal box, why not show us a scene like that? Instead we get the mean drunk Teddy ranting about Internet dating for 5 minutes. — Maya
Matt Roush: This rant went on for a while longer, but I think we get the point. (And I get enough grief for letting some of these questions run on, although that has always been part of the point of this column.) Memo to Grey's: Enough already. I respect the show for not minimizing the effects of the season-ending trauma, especially where Cristina is concerned, but the detour into bartending crossed the line into indulgent silliness, and she and the show need to snap out of it. I'm hoping this week's camping trip with Derek will be, as they say, what the doctor ordered.
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