Ask Matt: Dance, Downton Abbey, CSI, Guilty Pleasures and More!
So You Think You Can Dance
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Question: I heard somewhere that Fox will be canceling So You Think You Can Dance after this season and that this season will be shaved down a bit. How can this be true? This is one of the very best "reality" shows on TV. It's classy, inspiring, emotional, and I keep being amazed by the amount of brilliant talent there is out there and each season the talent gets better, if that's possible. These are truly extreme athletes. Can anything be done to keep this gem on? — Corinne
Matt Roush: It never hurts to turn more people on to your favorite endangered show, but I'm not sure So You Think You Can Dance is quite ready for its last dance yet (inadvertent Donna Summer reference). It's true that Fox plans to tweak the format significantly this summer, including eliminating the weekly "results" episode. I'm not sure yet how that's going to work, and I'm not sure they know yet. (Couldn't they just make it a more manageable half-hour results show? Couldn't everybody?) So while this sort of chipping away is certainly worrisome, I'll hold Fox's entertainment chief Kevin Reilly to his statement over the weekend that none of the network's reality franchises — this being my favorite, including (most weeks) the results show — are going away.
Question: After reading your many postings regarding American Horror Story, it is evident that you dislike this show. I felt similarly in the early episodes, but then as it started to tie up storylines, it became a guilty pleasure for me. It got me wondering whether you have any shows that you love that are just plain bad where you disregard the professional critical side of you and just enjoy it. What are some of your favorites? — Rob
Matt Roush: There's bad, and then there's reprehensible, and I honestly still have trouble imagining a single pleasurable aspect to American Horror Story (save Jessica Lange), which disgusted me without ever actually scaring me. But that's old news. Of course I have "guilty pleasures" — who doesn't? — although for the most part, I refuse to feel guilty about anything that brings me actual pleasure. The most obvious current candidate for guilty-pleasure status at the moment is ABC's Revenge, which I find preposterous and often comically badly acted, but it has no pretensions about being anything but a juicy, go-for-broke soap, and as it found its voice, the formula of Emily-takes-down-an-enemy has thankfully expanded to give her some truly memorable antagonists in the psycho Tyler (whose farewell, for now, was a series high point last week) and the "real" Emily-now-Amanda, a vixen of the highest low order. It reminds me of the heyday of the prime-time soap, which really were guilty pleasures of mine, most memorably Knots Landing, which I loved and during the most primitive VCR era was able to keep up with, even while doing my critical duty regarding the more culturally important NBC dramas that aired in that same Thursday time period, including Hill Street Blues and L.A. Law. I guess I'd also classify my few reality addictions, almost all from the competition genre (Top Chef, the upcoming Face Off on Syfy, etc.) as guilty pleasures, because I can't really justify the time I spend with them as anything but relaxing and enjoyable. No shame in that. And as previously discussed, a show like So You Think You Can Dance is not a guilty pleasure. It's one of the best shows on TV. I sure hope Fox doesn't screw it up.
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Question: I was wondering if you know anything about the second season of BBC's updated Sherlock. I know it aired on BBC One in Britain last week. Will we have to wait six months to see it in America on PBS? — Jeffrey
Matt Roush: Would you settle for four? Sherlock will return to the Masterpiece lineup in May, and I've heard nothing but good things so far. I know the wait is aggravating, but Masterpiece tends to save its key mystery franchises for spring and/or summer. And really, who can complain, as long as Downton Abbey is on? Speaking of which:
Question: Loving Downton Abbey and I heard somewhere that this is a limited series. I wish there were more episodes in a season. I enjoy all the cast and the storylines. Do you know if there is an end in sight or if they plan on more episodes next season? All of the critics seem to like it as well as the public. The ratings have been very good in the UK, but I am not sure how ratings are in the U.S. and how that works. I would love to see a dozen or more episodes next season, like our cable series. Are you a fan? — El
Matt Roush: Downton Abbey is a hit on both sides of the pond, and there will be a third season, which is cause to celebrate — in case you missed my review of the second series, I'm a huge fan, and the first season ranked second on my Top 10 list for 2011. The popularity of the show has nothing to do with how many episodes air; it's a function of the model of British TV, which (usually to its benefit) tends to produce fewer episodes a season than the more-is-more American way. I'm OK with a series like this leaving us wanting more, because what there is of it is so very satisfying.
Question: I've seen reported that the second season of Downton Abbey will air in seven episodes on PBS, but in the UK, it was eight episodes plus a two-hour Christmas special. Will PBS be showing all of it, including the special? They edited season 1 together oddly, so it's certainly possible they're going that route again, but they've been pretty uncommunicative on the subject. — Jessica
Matt Roush: The first and last nights of the PBS run combine two episodes — with the final night on Feb. 19 being the two-hour Christmas "special" — so nothing is being lost in the translation here. (There may be some minor edits, but not to the extent of last season, which was blown way out of proportion.)
Question: Is George Eads leaving CSI? He's hardly been on this season and he wasn't on the last episode before the break. — Connie
Matt Roush: Not that I'm aware, and while I tend not to keep up on contract negotiations, I'd be surprised if he's contemplating an exit at this point. I get that you're a fan, but a reality check is in order. This has been a very busy transitional season for CSI, introducing a key new cast member (Ted Danson) very successfully, while laying the groundwork for one of the originals (Marg Helgenberger) to depart later this month. With all of that going on, it's only natural for the rest of the ensemble to recede a bit into the background. I'm sure Nick's time will come again.
Question: It seems like every time I write, it is to complain about NBC, and the new year is not changing that. I was talking with my wife and I think it's entirely possible that the Peacock hasn't aired and developed a quality show (non-reality/news) since 1999 when SVU and The West Wing debuted. How is this possible? Over the course of 12 years you would think that by accident they would be able to develop some quality programming. It seems like whomever runs NBC is so afraid of sticking with a bad show too long that they pull the plug on shows the instant they falter, or in the case of Law & Order vs. Law & Order: Los Angeles just have a case of terrible decision-making. I just don't understand how a company that is so great at developing shows for their cable network (USA) can't figure it out for their flagship. Do you think that due to their lack of creative programming, NBC would be wise to abandon creative programming altogether and become strictly reality and news-based programming? — Chip
Matt Roush: Heaven forbid. Just look at NBC's current Monday lineup, and tell me anyone deserves a week full of that. However ... While NBC's woes are well documented and in most cases self-inflicted — especially during the Zucker era, and the network may never live down that Jay Leno prime-time debacle — this overgeneralization that NBC has nothing of merit is unfair. Several of NBC's Thursday comedies are justifiably acclaimed, though not mass appeal like in the glory days of Friends, Seinfeld and Will & Grace, and until Modern Family came along, 30 Rock (finally returning this week) was the awards-show darling. There have been a number of noble failures in the last decade, the wonderful Boomtown for instance, scattered among the onerous duds, and currently I'd put Parenthood in that classification as one of the few solid network attempts at the family drama in recent years. Plus, NBC has two of the more interesting midseason experiments this year — Smash, which is getting a huge promotional launch, and Awake (if they don't end up being too scared of it) — so instead of condemning the network to the scrap heap, let's project some cautious optimism that with the new entertainment boss and the new corporate owners, things may slowly begin to turn around. But it's not likely to be easy or pretty.
Question: I was watching an episode of How I Met Your Mother from last season the other day which involved Robin's "big crush." At the end of the episode, Narrator Ted said that her crush would come back into play and that there was "more on that later." We're about halfway into the new season and it doesn't appear that Robin's crush is coming back anytime soon. Did the writers forget about this story line, or did they simply decide to go in a different direction with the show? — Lauren
Matt Roush: Oh, who knows? I'm so fed up with the teases on this show. The best I can tell, from an interview last summer, is that Michael Trucco (who played the crush) wasn't as available as the producers had hoped, because of his role on USA Network's Fairly Legal, which may explain how Robin got saddled with the miserably unfunny love interest of Kal Penn this season. Which isn't to say the crush won't return at some point for another payoff or punchline, since they did set it up. But for now, with Robin's career apparently about to take off again and her infertility subplot having been revealed, she has plenty to keep her busy.
Question: Pretty Little Liars and The Lying Game returned last week from hiatus. Is it just me, or are they suddenly soapier, as indicated by such characters as Hanna's dad (and his new bride) in PLL, and Annie "Rebecca" Sewell in TLG "returning to town" to disrupt the lives of those with whom we've become familiar so far. Did these shows get new runners, or are ABC Family's "teen mysteries" turning into "teen soaps?" — Hal
Matt Roush: When were these shows not soaps? Their premises may be built about central mysteries or quests, but being in no rush to wrap up those central stories — otherwise the show's over — new characters and new complications are always being introduced. Just like in a soap opera.
Question: On Once Upon a Time, what has Snow White done to the Evil Queen for her to go to such lengths to punish her? - K
Matt Roush: The key word here is "evil." No matter who's telling the story, the queen's murderous ire toward Snow White is all about envy, jealousy and irrational spite. In this version, the curse is the queen's way of denying her nemesis a happy ending. For now. Besides, what fun would it be if they actually got along?
Question: Okay, I accept that the cancellation of Prime Suspect is final and there is no saving this show. But for those of us who actually became interested in these people, is there any chance we are going to see the final few episodes? — Kathy
Matt Roush: Mark your calendar for Sunday, Jan. 22. NBC will burn off the final two episodes of Prime Suspect against Fox's broadcast of the NFC Championship game (leading into a special American Idol). Not ideal, but better than not showing them at all, which is what tends to happen to shows with this kind of ratings.
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