Ask Matt: Dance Shows, Suits, Breaking Bad, the TV Olympics, More
Cole Horibe and Lindsay Arnold
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Question: Any thoughts on this season of So You Think You Can Dance? I know this show is one of your favorites. I think the show has done a pretty solid job of compensating for the loss of the results show this year, and I have to commend the producers for still putting on such a well-produced show that fits in practically everything I love about it while still ending it on time (big kudos to Cat Deeley for keeping things moving along so effortlessly). But while it's still the show I love, the format change and unfortunate interruptions this year from Independence Day and the Summer Olympics have forced multiple eliminations in some episodes to keep them on schedule, and we've lost a few promising contestants that I feel may have been cut too early on. Maybe this speaks more to the amazing talent and great casting that's making almost every elimination feel so hard to take, but despite the show's commendable efforts this year, the revised format and scheduling seem to be working against it this season. I'd love for it to go back to two nights a week next year, but considering the recent ratings, I'm assuming Fox sees value in this new format to keep it cost effective if it renews it next summer (fingers crossed!). How are you finding this season so far? — Brodie
Matt Roush: First off, I wouldn't worry about this show being renewed, given that Dance was the only Fox show of any genre (besides animation) that got Emmy nominated for best series. And bravo for Cat Deeley's second straight nomination. She never lets me, or those inexhaustible dancers, down. Dance is a prestige item, if not a ratings blockbuster, and it does well enough, even though this season has had trouble building momentum, for the reasons you've already mentioned. The multiple eliminations before we even know who some of these dancers are and what they can do; the unfortunate preemptions (though I'm not complaining about the show sitting out the Olympics; I wish more summer shows had done the same); and most particularly the lack of even a shortened results show has kept me from feeling fully engaged, at least so far. I'm excited that they're bringing back some all-stars to dance with the contestants starting this week, and now that we're down to the Top 10 with no breaks till the finale (I hope), and now that all of those plugs for "National Dance Day" are behind us (I also hope), I expect I'll get caught up all over again. I am glad they're crowning a boy and a girl this season — I wish they'd though of that the year Kent Boyd somehow placed second. Final thought, looking back at last week's experiment at re-creating so many of Mia Michaels' amazing routines, almost always to lesser effect: Maybe this just isn't one of the show's most standout casts (though I do have my favorites, including the gone-too-soon Amelia), although it's also true that the way the show has been scheduled this summer has made it hard to know for sure.
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Question: What do you think about having past champions like Kelly Monaco, Drew Lachey and Apolo Anton Ohno compete in the All-Star season of Dancing With the Stars? I personally don't think it's necessary to have past champions compete against past contestants that haven't won the previous seasons of the show, because I think only the past contestants that haven't won the mirror-ball trophy should only compete on the DWTS all-star season, and having past winners on the show competing for a chance to win another mirror-ball trophy is very unfair for the other contestants! How come they couldn't ask more past contestants like last season's Katherine Jenkins and William Levy (who I felt were both really robbed of being winners last season) to the all-star season this year? — Chris
Matt Roush: If these "stars" were competing for something more tangible than a silly mirror-ball, I might agree with you. (For example, I don't think it's appropriate to bring back past winners of shows like Survivor to get another chance at the million dollars after having already won.) The notion behind Dancing With the Stars' all-star season is to see how audience favorites from different seasons, including past winners, will fare when pitted against each other. This actually has the feel of an "event" to it, which might not be the case with a cast made up entirely of also-rans.
Question: I was a Suits fan from the beginning, but now it's starting to grate on me. Daniel, Mike and Jessica are coming off as much too self-righteous, especially given the lie they're hiding. And piling on Louis is getting to be a bit much. Mike making fun of Louis was just awkward; the kid is pretending to be a lawyer, but he makes fun of Louis. Give me a break! I will be unable to watch this show if Daniel, Mike and Jessica don't tone it down. Do you have any idea what the writers have in store for this series? Please tell me Louis will continue to be senior partner. I'm tired of the liars looking down on him. — Angela
Matt Roush: I've only seen up to this Thursday's mid-season finale, where quite a bit is resolved regarding the office power struggle, and I wouldn't care to project beyond that. But consider that you're watching a show about lawyers, fairly ruthless ones at that — including Louis, who went so far as to surreptitiously record his rivals to use as blackmail. The fact that you feel empathy toward that toadie is a testament to Rick Hoffman, who is doing some of his best work in the best role he's ever had. But do I think they're ever going to stop picking on him and belittling him? Not likely, and not soon. These aren't particularly nice people, even though we find ourselves rooting for them (or most of us do, anyway). Mike's youthful arrogance and Harvey's seasoned arrogance aren't always shown in the most positive light, but no matter what she does and says, Jessica is never anything less than fabulous. This is one of my favorite Gina Torres characters ever, and should she or any of her cohorts "tone it down," the show's over. I think I prefer my USA shows to have a little edge — if not so much self-conscious swearing, which as we've previously discussed gets old and looks desperate.
Question: This season of Breaking Bad is absolutely fantastic! The train-robbing scene from last week was so incredible! I am, though, shocked with what happened with the boy on the bike in the last scene of that episode. Please tell me that will not go unpunished, because I have kids of my own and it was hard to see a scene like that. A lot of stuff happens on the show which is sometimes hard to watch, but that was just terrible! — Mike
Matt Roush: It's without doubt one of the most disturbing moments in this show's dark history, and that's saying something. If you watched this Sunday's episode, you've seen the immediate fallout from this fatal mishap as it effects the team — which is getting seriously close to Treasure of the Sierra Madre meltdown level these days. Walt's moral relativism as he tried to look on the bright side of this ill-fated caper was one of his most chilling displays of inner rot yet. I don't know if they will ultimately be punished for this specific horrible crime, but we're getting closer and closer to the endgame, and I can't imagine it will be pretty for any of them.
Question: I found myself very disappointed in NBC's Olympics coverage, for a few reasons. Even when trying to avoid spoilers, quite often the NBC Facebook page would give away who received medals before they played the tape-delayed footage during prime time. Also, I compared what we saw of the opening and closing ceremonies with what friends overseas saw, and we seem to have gotten a much abbreviated version of both. And then after the prime time Closing Ceremony, NBC tweets that The Who would be aired after the broadcast of Animal Practice. Perhaps instead of the 7-8pm hour being filled with "things we didn't see during the last two weeks," they could have shown the entire ceremony. Is there a reason the powers that be at NBC chose to show only parts of certain ceremonies and events such as the decathlon? And how much longer do they have the Olympics contract? I'd like to know how much longer I have to put up with their coverage, or lack thereof. — Gwen
Matt Roush: You're stuck with NBC's Olympics coverage at least through 2020, and given how well their coverage did in the ratings, I doubt seriously they'll change their approach anytime soon (although with Rio's Summer Games four years from now, there will be many more opportunities for live event coverage). Trying to make it through this year's Olympics spoiler-free turned out to be a fool's errand, but the Olympics aren't like regular sports, and even when we knew what the results would be (often positive from the USA point of view, but not always), it didn't seem to lessen our appetite for watching the drama play out, even in overly packaged and edited form. NBC has paid a fortune for these rights and has the discretion to chop up some of these events as they see fit, putting together a polished package in prime time that might aggravate purists (and tweeters) but more often than not still resulting in a pretty compelling show. Plus, for die-hard Olympics fans, this was the first time NBC gave viewers the option to watch nearly everything streamed live if they wanted to watch the entire event in real time. Regarding the Closing Ceremony, though, it was unconscionable for NBC to delay the big finish with The Who until after midnight ET, so they could promote that idiotic sitcom with the monkey. It was one of the network's worst judgment calls, and left a very bad aftertaste for the entire Olympics experience.
Question: At the end of last Sunday's episode of Army Wives, the tag line for the preview mentioned three more episodes "before it all ends." Is this the last season? I don't think it is, but I haven't been able to find anything about it being renewed either. I believe they were splitting the current season, but I'm not sure if we're on the front or back half of it now. Any scoop on if it's coming back? — Beth
Matt Roush: No word yet. The promos (clumsily worded, I agree) are all about this current season ending, not the series as a whole. Although it's also true that Lifetime hasn't officially renewed the show, which is now ending its super-sized sixth year. Given how important Army Wives has been to the Lifetime brand, I'd be surprised if the network doesn't give the show a proper sendoff and buildup to the end when they decide it's time to close shop. If it were to end its run abruptly in a few weeks — the season finale airs Sept. 9, with J.R. Martinez the high-profile guest star — that would be awfully bad form. Even for TV execs.
Question: I wondered if you knew what the deal is with the cable networks (A&E, USA, TNT) having the 10 pm (9c) shows run over by a minute or 3 now? It makes it really hard to record shows when none seem to fit in the one-hour time frame anymore. I often record during prime time and then record some replays over night, but now they're all off by a few minutes which just builds as the night goes on. What gives? Just more commercials during prime time? Just want to frustrate the viewers? It's working. It's like they're all taking after American Idol, which can't quite seem to fit "You're going home" into a two-hour show and has to run over. I've also noticed that for some, they're not putting the last episode online until the next show has aired, or even waiting a month, by which time I don't remember if I missed the beginning or end and don't care anymore, which lessens my interest in the show in general. Not a good plan for keeping viewers. — Sue
Matt Roush: First, the overrun issue. Cable appears to be taking a cue from the broadcast networks, in extending some of their hit franchises a minute or more to lead into the show that follows, thinking that's the best strategy to keep viewers from flipping away. (In some cases, like Mad Men, the show runs longer for creative reasons.) This strategy has been going on for some time on the broadcast networks, and has been an aggravation from the start. The cable scheduling seems to take into account that everyone has DVRs that automatically account for this extra time — if the networks hold to their schedules, which isn't always the case; I've recorded a few USA Network shows this summer that still stopped short of the final few seconds of the climax. What a pain. But when it comes to networks (again, I'm assuming this gripe is aimed at USA) not putting their episodes online for a month (although they do go On Demand fairly quickly), that strategy is designed to force people to watch or record their shows when they air. Which is how they make their money. Which is their right.
Question: I've just now heard about Alphas on Syfy. I missed Season 1, and jumped in by watching the first episode of Season 2. It seems to be X-Men's cousin, from what I can tell. Have you seen it? If so, do you enjoy it? Is it worth investing my time into it? I know, that's kind of a subjective question. — Don
Matt Roush: Nothing wrong with a subjective question, as long as you take into account that not everyone agrees on what's worth watching. (I would venture that several of the shows that have come up in this week's column aren't ones I would necessarily recommend, but I can appreciate that others enjoy them.) My initial impression of Alphas wasn't all that enthusiastic. I like some of the actors (David Strathairn as team leader Dr. Rosen and especially Ryan Cartwright as Gary, the boyish human computer), and appreciate that these superheroes don't always play well together, but the whole enterprise felt a bit less than fantastic — bland, to be honest, and I only watched sporadically through the first season. (Bottom line: If you're just starting to watch now, that's probably OK.) Things seem to have improved this year with more of a serialized through-line as our heroes chase down the escaped rogue Alphas, and Rosen spars with the possibly immortal Stanton Parish. Still, it doesn't exactly scream "must-see." In the bigger picture, while I enjoy the whimsy of Warehouse 13 and already miss Eureka, I still yearn for Syfy to give us a show that's a little more out-of-this-world than Alphas manages to be.
Question: I am pumped that Unforgettable lives on another day, even if it is in the summer, but I'm concerned about the news that a majority of the supporting cast is not returning. I love Kevin Rankin as Roe. Actually, he is who I am going to miss. He is the comic relief that is needed at times in an intense story. Was it just the late reprieve by CBS that these actors will not be back? On that note, I will be very upset with CBS if they pull an Old Christine on this show. ABC showed interest in The New Adventures of Old Christine, and like a kid in a sandbox, CBS renewed it so that ABC could not have it, then proceeded to treat it like dirt and in the end canceled it. Of course, ABC then did not need it with Modern Family and The Middle doing so well. TNT and Lifetime showing interest in Unforgettable makes me think it might be the same song, just a different verse. — Amy H
Matt Roush: In this case, a fan's proper response should be relief and maybe even gratitude that the show got a second life. Dropping cast members sounds to me like more of a money issue, given that Unforgettable will now be operating under a summer budget, which logically would be less than that for a regular-season contender. On the other hand, I'm also betting that, as one of the few (possibly only) new scripted series CBS will air next summer, it will get more promotion when it returns than it would if it were struggling for attention during the fall or winter seasons — which would make it the opposite of how CBS treated Old Christine in its latter years. CBS won't want people to forget Unforgettable exists when it comes time to exhume it.
Question: I just finished watching the last episode of NYC 22 and thoroughly enjoyed having it around this summer. I was surprised CBS canceled it so quickly on its regular run. Saturday nights fit it very well and I'm curious as to what kind of ratings it garnered. I also know CBS is bringing Unforgettable back next summer, ostensibly to compete with Rookie Blue, but wouldn't a better fit have been NYC 22? I know it's too late, but could CBS have missed the boat on this decision? — David
Matt Roush: Can't see how. The show tanked on arrival, which is why CBS burned off NYC 22 on Saturdays during the summer. Even by the standards of the network-of-procedurals, this one was a derivative dud, and it was pretty easy to see the network was never really behind it. Unforgettable at least has a twist and a gimmick. NYC 22 and Rookie Blue are cut from such the same thematic cloth that I don't really see the need for both — and Rookie, being a Canadian import, is a much cheaper proposition for ABC to use as summer fodder — so I'm not really buying this argument.
Question: In your recent analysis of the Emmy nominees, you wrote, "Kudos to History for reviving the old-fashioned Western miniseries in Hatfields & McCoys." I agree with the kudos to History, but disagree with your characterizing this story as a Western. It takes place almost exclusively in eastern Kentucky and southern West Virginia. Neither state could be considered Western by the 1860s, the "West" in West Virginia notwithstanding. I suppose you will also consider the New York-set Copper a Western as it has an 1860s time setting, a lawman (anti)hero, robber baron class villain and saloon girl prostitutes. To my mind, Hatfields & McCoys is more in the tradition of historical dramas like North & South and its sequel, which follows families before, during and after the Civil War. However you classify it, Hatfields & McCoys will be deserving of any awards it wins. — Frank
Matt Roush: Would you settle for calling it a "Mid-Western?" (I hail from the nexus of Indiana-Kentucky-Ohio and always considered myself a "Midwesterner.") Geographically, you have a point. But tonally, Hatfields & McCoys had the feel of a rural Western, whereas Copper is much more urban in feel — but both are more accurately classified as "historical dramas," and like you, I think Hatfields is very well positioned to take home a bushel of Emmys (something not likely to happen to Copper unless it improves beyond the first two episodes I've screened).
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