Ask Matt: Under the Dome and Summer TV, Burn Notice, True Blood, Emmy Noms and More
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Question: I, like many others, read the novel Under the Dome and was sorely disappointed with the ending. I read an article about changes that are coming to the TV version. I was glad about that and am now going to give it a try. But I also read that it may become a series instead of a 13-episode miniseries. Is that true? I'd much rather this be a miniseries as opposed to a series lasting multiple seasons. The story doesn't really lend itself well to playing out over several years. Do you know if it will continue past 13 episodes? — Beth
Matt Roush: Too early to know for sure, but if the ratings hold up from the spectacular opening week, CBS and the producer/writers will probably see no other option than to keep it going for (presumably) at least another summer season. Stephen King projects are fairly notorious for their final reels not living up to the promise of the premise, so maybe extending the story into another season or beyond isn't the worst thing that could happen. Although I'm puzzled as well as how something so literally self-contained as a town trapped under a dome continues to generate infinite stories. For now, let's see how it plays out and be glad that a broadcast network finally got rewarded for investing in first-rate summer entertainment.
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Question: I keep waiting to hear from you about a promising or fun new or great returning show to watch this summer. Unless I missed something, there hasn't been (just bad to mediocre reviews). So I scanned the TV listings (of course, they only go out two weeks) but I couldn't find anything. Is this going to be a summer of repeats and duds? (Exception: Falling Skies, which is fairly entertaining.) Major Crimes last year was a huge disappointment. Justified was so successful in the past that they moved it to the regular TV season. It seems they do that a lot with summer successes. It was fine with me that they used summer as a testing ground. But shouldn't that have spawned more of the same type of experiments? Are too many original programming experiments financial duds? Right now, my husband and I are on a paltry diet of The Daily Show, The Colbert Report and Falling Skies. Please tell me something is on the horizon! Note: Premium channel shows don't count as we aren't on a premium channel budget! — Beth
Matt Roush: If you can find someone in your circle who gets Showtime, by all means befriend them so you can enjoy the sensational Ray Donovan (see my weekend review), and the final season of Dexter is off to a terrific start as well. But looking beyond the premium nets, as previously discussed there's Under the Dome, which has the feel of a perfect summer diversion. On the horizon: FX's new The Bridge, a murder mystery set on the Texas-Mexico border, which isn't quite up to the level of The Americans (from earlier this year), but it's intriguing and a welcome addition to the summer lineup. (For the record, FX never aired Justified in first run during the summer; it has always aired in spring or winter.) I'm OK with Falling Skies — this week's episode was my favorite of the season to date — and am eagerly awaiting the return in a few weeks of my two current favorite USA Network dramas, Covert Affairs and Suits. Looking to August, I hear nothing but good things about BBC America's mystery series Broadchurch, and of course there's the long-awaited final season of AMC's Breaking Bad. Back to the premium channels (sorry), Starz will premiere The White Queen, based on a series of Philippa Gregory's historical novels — love those — and Cinemax will bring back the rock 'em, sock 'em Strike Back. And as long as Fox gives me a weekly dose of those talented kids on So You Think You Can Dance, I'm a happy camper. So there's plenty to keep a TV fan happy, although with the exception of Dome, the broadcast networks' summer fare is mostly pretty thin gruel. Whodunnit, really?
Question: Who made the decision and why was it made to end the excellent Burn Notice? It had been a consistently high-quality and entertaining program, and its cast has maintained the high energy and chemistry that has made it so popular. It will be greatly missed. — Jane
Matt Roush: I'm liking what I've seen of this season so far, but I'm a firm believer that shows should be allowed to go out on their own steam, before they've run out of gas and we're begging them to go. (Hello, True Blood, How I Met Your Mother and so many others.) If you're still enjoying Burn Notice in its final season, that's not such a bad thing. A seven-season run with more than 100 episodes is a great achievement for any series, and at this point in a show's life, extending actor and producer contracts often becomes prohibitively expensive, especially on cable networks. That factor no doubt helped force the timing of the decision, but giving Burn Notice a full season to tell its last story is better than pulling the plug without notice.
Question: My wife and I just finished watching the new Arrested Development season and found it to be very disappointing. The bottom line is it just wasn't very funny. We laughed like crazy when we watched the original three seasons, and we laughed maybe a couple of times in each episode of Season 4. I agree that the extended length of the episodes didn't help much, but the narration didn't bother me. I think the fundamental problem was they didn't have the cast together enough of the time. The individual characters aren't that funny when they aren't playing off each other. — Dennis
Matt Roush: It was a critical flaw of this Netflix season, and a mystery to me that if they couldn't revive the show properly, why do it at all. Or do a more limited number of episodes, or even the proverbial movie-length episode, anything that might have better capitalized on the show's former ensemble magic. That said, whenever I think of Lucille 2 and the ostrich, it brings a smile to my face.
Question: Since nothing else was on, we watched NBC's Crossing Lines. It seemed like five or six different serials all wrapped up in this mess. No one could decide on accents, so there were several different ones. In the middle of tracking a serial killer, they threw in a flirtation. A simple procedural was veiled as some silly international babble. Now I can't get that one hour of my life back, but I can get some validation from you. What's your opinion? — Adrienne
Matt Roush: I wish I were in a position to be able to refund the hour you wasted on this one, and I also regret in retrospect that I tossed this one off in a recent weekend roundup with a one-liner: "[It] merely proves that dreary procedurals speak a universal language of mediocrity." It deserved to be red-flagged with more of a warning, so my apology. If it weren't for William Fichtner, who I always find intriguing, and the international settings (triggering as always my wanderlust), there'd be nothing to recommend a show this derivative.
Question: When it first came out that the Fox network was going to air episodes of Anger Management, I thought maybe Charlie Sheen was really back and devoted to the show. However, the recent blow-up that has resulted in the firing of the delightful Selma Blair, who I thought was perfect in that role, has me believing that Charlie is beyond repair and any hope of a long run for the series is just wishful thinking. To continue a few rants of mine, I agree with your sentiment on Defiance, which I was hoping would be more along the lines of Firefly. I tuned out after episode 2 because it was just blah. And The Client List jumped the shark when Jennifer Love Hewitt brought back her real-life beau to reconcile after we learned to despise him in Season 1. Sorry, I still don't like him, so that guilty pleasure is now gone for me.
My last comment has to do with summer scheduling. Why does every network, large and small, feel they have to place their new shows opposite other new shows? If CBS thinks I'll watch Under The Dome instead of Longmire, they are sadly mistaken. I might DVR it, but so many Stephen King stories don't translate well to the screen, big or small, that I probably won't bother where I might have if it was opposite some reality garbage. — John
Matt Roush: The summer run of Anger Management on Fox was just a way for the company to try to squeeze more profit out of a shoddy deal that has nothing to do with creativity and everything to do with exploiting a celebrity that we'd all be better off ignoring. Selma Blair's the lucky one, if you ask me. Regarding Defiance, to say it's gotten a bit better lately is still damning it with faint praise. And Client List I'll just have to take your word on. I read the stories, but it didn't intrigue me enough to get me to check back in on a show that airs on one of TV's busiest nights. Regarding Dome vs. Longmire: That's why DVRs exist. I intend to watch both as often as my summer schedule allows. But that Monday-at-10/9c time period is truly and ridiculously overstuffed. All three broadcast networks have scheduled original dramas against each other — although calling ABC's Mistresses remake "original" is a misnomer, and I'm not sure what to make of NBC's bizarre reality-thriller hybrid Siberia. Plus there are scripted alternatives on MTV (Teen Wolf), TNT (King & Maxwell), Syfy (Warehouse 13) and possibly others. Summer TV never really lets up anymore, and some nights are worse than others. But just like during the rest of the year, there are very few open time periods throughout the entire week where there won't be a conflict for somebody.
Question: So I have been looking at Emmy nomination predictions, and I have to say, I'm pretty sick of seeing the same names over and over again. Is it just laziness? It's crazy that there are shows that have had great years with actors in them that have done great jobs (Jake Johnson and Max Greenfield from New Girl come immediately to mind; Johnson has had an amazing year and deserves a nod) but will probably be shoved aside so the same actors in each respective category can be nominated again out of what seems like habit, not because they have done exceptional work. Modern Family has had a weak year, but surely they will dominate the acting nominations all around, and then we have to have the requisite "Oh, their show is ending, better nominate them!" names, and so there is virtually no room for up and coming actors and shows to get the attention they deserve. Just my little vent. — Meg
Matt Roush: Expert "predictions" aren't the same as "dream ballot" preferences — we tend to do both as the Emmy nominations near (our "dream" picks can be found in the new issue of TV Guide Magazine) — but when it comes to actually predicting the nominations, we're often locked in by Emmy's history of going back to the same well year after year. I'd like to see Jake Johnson rewarded with a nod for his romantic arc with Jess this season — I'm fairly confident Max Greenfield will be nominated again — and I'm growing more confident by the day that Orphan Black's Tatiana Maslany and Bates Motel's Vera Farmiga will break through into the drama actress category, as well as (I hope) The Americans' Keri Russell. Any new blood is welcome in the Emmy ranks, but we've learned by experience not to get our hopes too high.
Question: I read your comment in this week's TV Guide Magazine [a version of which can be found halfway down this column] about True Blood. I agree with your comments about the current episodes. I thought it was just me, but the show is now way off base. It was great the first two years or so, but it's gone in a totally different direction that really means nothing to me. I'm really bored now. The character relationships are gone and it just seems to be a lot of small ridiculous pieces that don't matter, are so "out there" and lead nowhere. There is plenty of blood, but it almost borders on sci-fi now. I expect to see some aliens and a spaceship next! I'm still watching, but why? — Sharon
Matt Roush: Some habits are hard to break, but there's a point when it becomes almost too painful to endure. It was true of the book series (which sputtered out several volumes short of the end) and now applies to the show, which is juggling too many extraneous and silly subplots while largely ignoring the potent chemistry among the lead players that hooked us on the show in the first place. I'm not sure a little sci-fi wouldn't actually improve matters at this point.
Question: I watched the first episode of Discovery's Naked and Afraid, and though it wasn't bad, I did have a few issues with it. First of all, the nudity seemed unnecessary. I have no problem with nudity on TV when it's appropriate, but other than justifying the title of the show, the fact that the two contestants started out naked really didn't seem to affect the challenges that they had to endure. I don't think having the contestants start out in a pair of shorts would have made a difference. My second complaint is that the contestants didn't seem to make any actual progress throughout the episode; they remained at their camp for almost the entire time, then they somehow showed up at the extraction point on time. It was basically "We may not make it, we're not going to make it, we may not even survive, Viola! We made it." My last complaint, which is actually more of a question, pertains to the show's format. Is this a competition among other contestants? Is there a prize for making it to the end? Or is the personal satisfaction of completing the challenge the only reward? The show wasn't really clear on this. Your take? - Carl
Matt Roush: I stand by my opinion after watching the first hour — I'm not inclined to return for a repeat inspection — that if misery loves company, Naked and Afraid should be a hit. But if the nudity (mostly pixilated, except from the rear) was meant as a titillating come-on — and really, why else do it and put it in the title? — it's an abject failure. But to answer your question, it's not a competition show. The challenge, and surviving the ordeal, is its own reward. That and exposing oneself on TV. I'm still not sure what's in it for us at home.
Question: What's your opinion of Continuum? It's really an all-around good show even if it's considered "science fiction." The episodes this second season are more dramatic in the storylines, all of the actors are very good, and the way that parts of the stories from 2077 are being melded into the 2013 stories is fantastic. It's a shame that the basic networks cannot bring us shows like this instead of all of the celebrity/reality shows that they waste their time on. — Karen
Matt Roush: You make it sound like science fiction is somehow some sort of second-rate pastime. Which makes me wonder why you'd be watching something on Syfy if that's the case. Regardless, I think I'd enjoy Continuum more if it felt a bit more sci-fi (a feeling I've had about many of Syfy's shows in recent years). I'm much more intrigued by the glimpses we get of the future than much of anything that's happening in the present (not unlike how I felt about the first season of Revolution, when the flashbacks to the world right after the blackout were so much more compelling than most of what was happening in the hear-and-now). I wish I was as gaga over the acting on Continuum as you are, but I'm afraid that in a year that gave us Orphan Black, this pales in both vision and execution.
Question: Is it just me, or are they playing the episodes of How to Live With Your Parents (For the Rest of Your Life) totally out of order? The dad moves into the kid's playhouse, and weeks later they build the playhouse! One episode he works in an ice cream cone costume and weeks later he gets the job as the cone! It's very annoying, even though I do enjoy the show very much! — Shelly
Matt Roush: Well, this is all a bit moot since the show just finished airing its entire run of episodes and won't be back. I stopped watching when I knew there was no future for it, so didn't notice this continuity problem, but this is not uncommon when a show's being burned off and no one's really paying attention to detail. Maybe if the show is ever released on disc (not a sure thing for such a short run), they'll present the episodes in the proper order.
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