Ask Matt: The New Doctor, Fosters, Emmy Snubs, Dance, Glee
Question: What are your thoughts on the selection of Scottish actor Peter Capaldi as Doctor Who's Twelfth Doctor? I have to admit that I had no idea who he was — I assume he's more of a household name in the U.K. I don't want to prematurely bash the selection and I'm willing to see how things work out, but it seems to be a traditional choice and even more so since the modern Doctor Who series has featured younger actors. During the special that announced the selection, the show runner floated the possibility for a female Doctor, yet the selection did not seem to do much in terms of moving the show into modern times. — Brian
Matt Roush: "Modern times" is a rather quaint concept for a Time Lord, don't you think? But I get your point. I wish Steven Moffat hadn't teased the notion of a female Doctor so strenuously if it weren't an actual option, but otherwise, I have nothing but high hopes and great expectations for Peter Capaldi's reign as the next Doctor, though I'm going to miss the verve of Matt Smith tremendously. Besides, I don't see this as a particularly "traditional" choice, in part because the recent history of Doctor Who has favored younger actors, and this is a chance for someone with a fairly high media/TV profile to put his stamp on this iconic character. If he's not a household name here, he should be, and Capaldi's credits are sterling, from the vicious political satire of The Thick of It to his devastating performance in the great Torchwood miniseries Children of Earth and more recently as an enigmatic boss in BBC America's The Hour. As many have noted, he has a history with Doctor Who, having guest starred during the David Tennant era in the 2008 "The Fires of Pompeii" episode. I see no negatives here, although I do hope a female Doctor is in the franchise's long-term future.
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Question: I am not going to claim that The Fosters is my favorite show, but I am enjoying it. More importantly, it makes me deeply happy that the show exists. It's fantastic that we can have a show oriented around a bi-racial, same-sex couple. Oddly, I haven't heard much in the way of screaming from the direction I would expect to. I haven't looked for it, but I would have expected this to cause enough moaning from the sorts who moan about this sort of thing to make it to the webpage of TV Guide or the New York Times. How much flack is ABC Family getting for this? And what are its renewal chances? — John
Matt Roush: Like you, I haven't gone in search of nay-sayers, but refreshingly, it doesn't appear that there was much if any of a backlash, which may have something to do with the show's matter-of-fact presentation of its ethnically blended family led by two moms. From what I saw of The Fosters, it struck me as a very earnest attempt to reflect the reality of today's unorthodox extended families. (Try finding one that hasn't been touched by divorce or dealt with issues including adoption, foster parenting and the wide array of human sexuality.) I agree that while it may not be great drama, it may be viewed in retrospect as an important step forward in the presentation and redefinition of families. And renewal is a mere formality, given that ABC Family extended the first season, which will resume with new episodes in early 2014. There's little question it will be back for a second season next summer.
Question: The characters in The Big Bang Theory are the best on TV. The continued snub of Kaley Cuoco is hard to understand. She is fabulous and deserving of an Emmy nomination. What is the criterion for nominations? Why not separate cable from traditional TV? Has NCIS ever been nominated? It's very discouraging to see the same shows nominated year after year. — Efmelt
Matt Roush: I would love to see Big Bang rewarded this year — it's as funny as it has ever been, and that style of comedy has been too long neglected at the Emmys (not since Everybody Loves Raymond in 2005 has a multi-camera comedy won the big prize) — and couldn't agree more about the underrated Kaley Cuoco, who may be considered by some as the show's "straight man" but has proved as adept at delivering zingers as any of her co-stars. To address your question, there are no set criteria for nominations. It's purely subjective. As long as you're on TV within a given time frame — or in the case of Netflix, streaming on TV — you're eligible. But fair or not, nominations tend to go to shows that are more distinctive and envelope-pushing than formula franchise fare like NCIS, which the masses tend to watch and enjoy more than those in the industry. The irony in all of this is that the people who work in TV don't necessarily watch a lot of TV — and their tastes tend to run toward cable and/or shows with more of a niche sensibility. Even so, segregating network and cable series in not an idea that appeals to me, despite the inequity at the Emmys. Beyond the issue of adding even more categories to the clutter, look at the current comedy field, where network and cable shows are both fairly well represented. Wouldn't it diminish a win by Modern Family or Big Bang if they weren't allowed to compete against shows like Louie and Veep? That said, there's no excuse (except for the glut of first-rate drama) for The Good Wife to have dropped out of the best drama category for two years running.
Question: Another Emmy season is approaching and I am again shocked, confused and ticked that The Walking Dead received not a single Emmy nomination. Not only is it one of the most popular cable drama series ever, it is also one of the most well-written, unique, complex, engrossing and well-acted series on TV. There are at least five or six characters who are deserving of nominations, not to mention the writers and the producers who basically create and produce a mini-film each and every episode. The sheer volume and quality of work that goes into the show is beyond compare. It almost seems that there is a bias or jealousy by Emmy voters that this show is so popular. Your thought please, on why The Walking Dead has been passed over time and time again by Emmy. — Kimmy
Matt Roush: Well, it did earn a nomination for prosthetic make-up (and for some "interactive" category), but yes, a real blind spot here regarding one of cable's most uncompromising hits — especially glaring when you see how many nominations the overheated, overrated American Horror Story snags for being able to qualify as a miniseries. The Walking Dead has the same problem of so many terrific hours: how to break into a category dominated by industry faves (Breaking Bad, Mad Men — which probably deserved to sit out this year — and now Homeland), a beloved institution (Masterpiece phenom Downton Abbey), a noise-making upstart (Netflix's House of Cards) and a prestige genre sensation in HBO's Game of Thrones, which refutes the theory that Emmy voters are immune to fantasy/sci-fi/what-have-you. I doubt it's Dead's popularity that's holding it back as much as a long-standing industry reluctance to take graphic horror seriously as art.
Question: I love So You Think You Can Dance, but have stopped watching because the camera guys make it so that not only do we not see the dancers' footwork, but they make us watch from the back, the side, the farthest-away seats, etc. We want to watch the show from the front center seat. Not the sidelines — or the worst seats in the house. We want the camera to be in the front and staty in the front. Just put the camera there on autopilot so that those of us who love dance can actually see the technical proficiency of the dancers, as well as see the choreography the way that it was intended for us to see, from the front. If it were a singing show, or a band, or a person taking care of 12 infants, we'd want to see from every angle, but not choreography. Sorry to yell at you, I'm just so disappointed. I actually get seasick from all the camera movement. Would you please figure out how to get this message to the people at So You Think You Can Dance? I saw a blog about the camera issue, and they say that SYTYCD in Canada doesn't have that same problem. I bet a lot of people feel this way. — Sandee
Matt Roush: Consider the message passed on. I don't mind some camera movement in the capturing of dance, but SYTYCD probably does get carried away with the multi-camera cross-cutting, and there should be some happy medium between the overkill and a purely static shot, which might make us miss out on some of the performance/acting aspects of the routines. But even while watching an episode after reading this rant, I have to admit that as I was trying to pay attention to the editing and camerawork, I got so caught up again in the talent on stage and by the range of the choreography that I forget to notice. I guess I'm immune to this problem.
Question: Have you heard anything about what will happen in Lima without Finn on Glee? Will and Emma are barely around anymore and none of the new kids really became breakout stars last year. Without a beloved character like Finn to anchor that half of the show, I'm not sure what they are going to do. — Julie
Matt Roush: From what I can tell, they're still figuring all of that out, with the show's priority for now how to best pay homage to Cory Montieth in the season's third episode. They'd already written Finn out of McKinley more or less by sending him off to college, and through most of last season, I found it more awkward than not to have the graduates still hanging around the high school (including the frankly silly subplot of Finn stepping in to coach New Directions). You're right, though, that the character's absence leaves a huge void in the Ohio half of the show's still-evolving split personality. But the New York storylines will also be affected by this tragedy, as Rachel copes with this loss while pursuing her career dreams. Whatever happens when Glee resumes after the post-season baseball hiatus, it will be uncharted and very emotional territory.
Question: I've been following with mild interest all the comments regarding the death of Glee cast member Cory Monteith and how the show should handle it. All you have to do is look up the classic Barney Miller to see how classily they handled the death of Jack Soo (Sgt. Nick Yemana) when he passed away in 1979 from cancer. The actors shed their characters and, from the set, addressed the camera and spoke from the heart about their feelings for Jack. They also showed his best scenes from the show. At the end of the episode the entire cast saluted Jack/Nick with cups of coffee, a gentle reminder of the terrible pots of coffee his character made. Class. — Charles
Matt Roush: An excellent example, and we all hope Glee rises to this tragic occasion with similar dignity. But each case is different, and the suddenness and circumstances of Monteith's death make for a trickier-than-most situation. From all accounts, Glee will allow the performers to step out of character to speak about their co-star, and there will be PSAs addressing addiction. How the episode itself will take shape remains to be seen, but I imagine it will be cathartic for the Glee cast and crew and for the show's, and Montieth's, many fans.
Question: I've seen you deal with this subject from time to time, but I'd love to hear some of your thoughts as cable TV (and now Netflix) continues to push the envelope as far as content is concerned. Full disclosure: Yes, I'm a Christian and have certain standards I choose to live by, but I don't hold my TV to the same standards (and I vehemently oppose groups like One Million Moms and the Parents Television Council that try to do so). I understand the need for certain content to tell a story, be real to the characters or ideas that might be different from mine that help express the ideas that the writers and producers are trying to convey. So I'm no prude. I watch everything from True Blood to Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad (and God help me, even American Horror Story, one of your favorites) and many more. I have at times felt that some profanity and nudity was a bit gratuitous, but I don't tend to raise a fuss over it. I do have to ask: Do you think there's ever a line that shouldn't be crossed? Does it ever get to the point that any bit of good taste has completely gone out the window?
I'll pick on Orange Is the New Black since it's what I've been watching lately (and immensely enjoying for the part, by the way). I just finished episode 5 and already there's been a few sex scenes that were so graphic, I was wondering, when does a show go from depicting sex and just being straight-up porn? This goes for gay and straight sex scenes, by the way, and Orange is far from the only culprit here. Even dialogue sometimes enters territory that I can't help but think, Geez, I really don't think I'm being overly sensitive here, that was really messed up! For example, in Orange (again, far from the only culprit in this arena) the correction officer with the porn stache taunts a Christian inmate by saying he was going to "f--- Jesus in his hand hole." Again, I can certainly endure characters being profane, vulgar and even blasphemous for the sake of moving the story along and establishing certain things about a character, but come on! I don't know, I just feel conflicted about this. I'm not for censorship, I'm all for free expression of ideas and I certainly have no problem with indulging in entertainment that represents ideas and lifestyles different than mine, but is there a line anywhere? A certain level of decency that should still be attained out of respect for the audience no matter what story you're telling? I don't boycott shows and you can bet I'll be finishing up Orange Is the New Black, but I still can't help but think about these things and wonder if you had any insight on the matter. — Josh
Matt Roush: It's a fascinating subject, and as shows attempt to make noise by getting bolder and more explicit in every way imaginable, we'll find ourselves confronting our taste threshold and comfort level more frequently, I'm sure. Without dealing too much in specifics, I'll just say that the only times I'm truly offended is when a show doesn't earn its shock value, which is one of the main problems I have with the everything-but-the-kitchen-abattoir approach of American Horror Story, which I find more disgusting and ridiculous than scary most times, and that's where I get turned off. With a drama like Orange, you're dealing with an institution and characters like Porn Stache whose goal is to dehumanize and break these characters down. Enter at your own risk, and while it's sometimes hard to watch, the rewards are great.
Question: I know I can't be the only one not feeling the love or chemistry between Auggie and Annie on Covert Affairs. I find myself cringing now at their scenes. Auggie has become way overprotective of Annie, who's now an experienced spy. I can only hope that they go back to being close friends sooner than later. On another note, why have several of the USA shows gone from stories with interesting new characters every week to nothing but long-drawn-out infighting? On Suits, we no longer see Harvey in court fighting other lawyers. Remember the blood-drive judge? That was a hoot! When is the last time we have seen Harvey in an actual court with a case outside of the takeover? Annie is now solving problems for her bosses on Covert Affairs instead of going on spy missions assigned to her. When is the last time she was sent out to retrieve something for the good of the country? Burn Notice became all about Michael's problems and not about helping the little guy/girl with righting a wrong. It just lost its fun storytelling altogether. Just my opinion. — Teresa
Matt Roush: A disclosure that because of the TCA press tour beginning just after the premiere of Covert Affairs and Suits, I haven't been keeping up the last few weeks (simply no time), but really, how can anyone not feel the love between Auggie and Annie? Such a great character, and given the frustration I tend to encounter in my mailbag when shows overextend the whole romantic-tension angle season after season — hello, Tony and Ziva — I'm glad they went there as relatively quickly as they did, and I'd be surprised if most fans don't agree. This attraction was built into the show's DNA and felt inevitable to me. Again, I'm a little in the dark where Suits has gone this summer, but I'm OK with a legal drama that spends minimal time in an actual courtroom. Probably reflects the process at that heightened level a bit more realistically than if it were a case-of-the-week show. But it has been interesting in the last few months to see the pushback in my mail against the USA shows that have gone darker, more serialized and more character-driven as opposed to the more formulaic and lighter case/client-of-the-week format. I admire some of these shows' ambition to break out of their rut and wonder if it isn't a reaction to the more acclaimed (and Emmy-rewarded) dramas on other cable channels, but it does seem to be alienating some of USA's base.
Question: What is your take on Motive? I love the characters and how they play off each other and with no real relationship issues. Haven't heard, has it been renewed? Or will it die after its first season? — Jean
Matt Roush: Watched the first few, and it didn't do much for me. The we-know-whodunit structure is not without interest, but the motives tended to be so unmemorable that it seemed a pretty pointless exercise. Regardless, CTV has renewed it for a second season, and these Canadian imports are a pretty cheap way for a network to fill a summer lineup, so I wouldn't be surprised if it returns.
Question: Crossing Lines may be derivative, but it's exciting the way Mission: Impossible was exciting. It has violence, but unlike Criminal Minds, it doesn't revel in the victims' excruciation. It retains the human factor, but unlike Law & Order: SVU, it isn't restricted to domestic crimes. The stories revolve around brainy people operating brainy equipment to capture brainy villains (like in Person of Interest and CSI). You've also got international settings (and bullet trains!), not just a single city, and you have a variety of characters speaking a variety of languages. It might need some time to find its voice, and I doubt that it will get that time (most of the viewers seem to find it too cerebral), but I'll be sorry to see it go after the summer. — Mary
Matt Roush: The global aspect of the storytelling does set Crossing Lines apart, and William Fichtner makes any show more interesting, but it's the international aspect of this co-production's financing that makes it so cost-effective for NBC. It doesn't appear to have made much of a ratings splash on a Sunday night with so many options, but if the show continues in production (hasn't been renewed yet as far as I know), it might have a future on NBC, though it seems a long shot.
That's all for now. Keep sending your comments and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, and in the meantime, follow me on Twitter!
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