Ask Matt: Emmy Reactions, Plus True Blood, Glee, and More!
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Question: I thought the Emmy nominations were spot on except in the following areas. I love Kathy Bates, but can't stand her in Harry's Law, a show I find to be lazy. Tina Fey and NBC should in no way be proud of 30 Rock's nominations, a show that has been running on fumes since the end of season 3. I don't understand the love for this show anymore. When this show first came out it was a breath of fresh air in the comedy genre. Now it reeks of stale, recycled storylines. It all revolves around Tracy Morgan's character and his stupid antics and Tina Fey's character constantly playing babysitter. For a show that's paced in real time, it amazes me how the only character to have evolved on this series is Baldwin's Jack. I'm also delighted that Cougar Town was allegedly snubbed; I find it to be a dreadful series. Ecstatic about Parks and Recreation, a show that truly deserves to be nominated. Now that I've ranted, I think I'll go to bed. Love reading your column. — MW
Matt Roush: As you'd expect, there are as many opinions about the Emmy nominations as there are Emmy nominations. Not a bad way to be welcomed back from a summer break. The first part of this week's column will deal with some early reaction — I'm sure there will be more — so let's get started. (For my own take on the highs and lows of the nominations, go here.) Kathy Bates and Harry's Law? Sigh. Love the actress, am not a fan of the role or the show, but Oscar cred can take you a long way. (Unless you're Jeremy Irons, who was passed over for The Borgias and for his guest work on Law & Order: SVU, one of the year's more surprising snubs.) 30 Rock? As with The Office and now Glee, this is a case of the Emmy voters being creatures of habit, voting in lockstep with what they've voted for in the past, regardless of the quality of the specific season. In a "dream ballot" column I wrote for the magazine, I said I would have been OK if 30 Rock, Office and Glee had all been ignored for their uneven (to be kind) seasons, knowing that wouldn't happen. The real casualties in this for me: ABC's The Middle and NBC's Community, my favorite of the Thursday night sitcoms.
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Question: Why is it that shows like Glee and Grey's Anatomy get nominated for Emmys, yet NCIS, whose viewers every week outnumber other shows by millions, and the acting, writing and directing is top-notch, gets no credit whatsoever? I don't get it? Why do certain shows every year get nominated and others are left in the dust? — [A Very Angry] Carlee
Matt Roush: First off, and this has become even more the case since cable and pay cable began assaulting the Emmy ranks, the Emmys aren't a popularity contest, and many of the highest-rated shows quite often get overlooked, especially if they're from the unfashionable (with Emmy voters) and oversaturated category of formulaic crime procedurals, like NCIS. In the drama categories, more attention tends to get paid to the more challenging and distinctive (and thus relatively low-rated) cable dramas. CBS' The Good Wife is a happy exception to that rule. Secondly, Grey's Anatomy is no longer an Emmy darling — it came up empty-handed in the major categories this year — so you can get over that. Whereas Glee is a very trendy pop culture phenom, still in its early days, and while the second season wasn't nearly as satisfying as the first, that didn't seem to matter to the voters. Glee doesn't get the ratings of NCIS, but it gets much more media attention, and in the industry's eyes, that tends to translate into nominations.
Question: [From online comments] I'm glad to see you mentioned Fringe and Anna Torv's wonderful portrayal of dual Olivias last season [in your Emmy commentary], but no mention of the brilliant John Noble? He's been consistently awesome since day one. — XFsista
Matt Roush: An unintentional oversight. I've given John Noble shout-outs many times in the past, and he certainly deserved another on Thursday. Even more than his co-stars, Noble has invested Walter Bishop (and now the "Walter-nate") with so much quirky character and depth of feeling that it's a shame Fringe is so far off the Emmy radar. I guess we just have to accept he and the show will never get their due in this arena.
Question: [From online comments] OK, my 2 cents worth. No Kyra or Katey? Really? Mariska and Kathy are better? And when did Elisabeth Moss become a leading actress contender? Wouldn't this imply she and Jon Hamm are the leading stars of Mad Men? Certainly, Hamm is the star of the show, but does he interact with Moss more than any of his other co-stars throughout the season? This ploy of garnering nominations in alternate categories (a recurring character is a guest nominee?) should be stopped. I also think it's time the Academy recognizes the "dramedy" format and creates its own category. Ridiculous to dump Falco & Linney in the same category as Fey and Poehler! — Queenie
Matt Roush: I'll respectfully disagree with the notion of adding more acting categories to an already cluttered field, but the subject of when an actor is a "lead," a "supporting" or a "guest" (as in the case of Raising Hope's Cloris Leachman this year) is a good one. Where Elisabeth Moss is concerned, the point here is to try to separate her from the rest of a large and accomplished ensemble cast, and I think it can be argued that Mad Men (its title aside) is as much Peggy's story as a female pioneer in a men's club as it is anyone's, although there's no question that Don Draper is the show's main character. When she gets a big episode — most notably "The Suitcase" last season, sharing top honors with Jon Hamm — she qualifies in my eyes as a lead actress. If it weren't for Julianna Margulies, she'd be my first pick in that category.
Question: I just re-read your column on the return of True Blood a few weeks ago and I think you zeroed in on exactly what is most appealing about the show, most notably, the dynamic between Sookie and Eric and the introduction of witches into Bon Temps' supernatural milieu (which seems to be bubbling over like the cauldron I have to believe will be in an upcoming episode). The season is only three episodes in and I must say I'm already more enthralled by witches than I ever was with werewolves. From what I've heard from devotees of the book series, the amnesiac Eric storyline is one of the very best and from what I've seen so far, I can see why. Alexander Skarsgard's performance is hilarious and heartbreaking at the same time, delivered in a surprisingly subtle and effective way. As with previous seasons, the interactions between the human world and the vampires is the true heart of the show for me and is far and away the most captivating aspect. Even Bill, who has long played the lovesick puppy, finally has a storyline that has drawn me in and injected him into the action in a more interesting way.
Bearing that in mind, over the course of last season, I began to realize that not only do I find the vampire/human interaction the most enthralling part of this delectable guilty pleasure, but more and more, this interest is to the exclusion of other storylines on the show. Whereas the first two seasons had a central storyline to tie all the characters together in a cohesive way (a season-long "big bad"), seasons three and four (so far) seem disjointed and sprawling. With so many characters engaged in so many disparate arcs, I find myself losing interest in the periphery. Characters that I once loved and who seemed pivotal to the show now seem inconsequential, and at times, boring. I keep assuming they'll be re-integrated into the meat of the show at some point, but it never seems to come. As I watched the last couple of episodes, I found myself desperate to watch the brewing battle between the witches and vampires, but was instead pulled away by Andy's addiction to V, Jason's were-panther problems, Sam's new shifter social circle, Tara in general, Tommy's induction into the Fortenberry clan, Arlene's demon baby, the reintroduction of werewolves and Jessica and Hoyt's relationship woes. While some of these storylines are working better than others, at the end of the day they all seem so distant from the rest of the action that I'm having a hard time really investing.
I think the show could learn a few things from The Vampire Diaries. Rather than allowing the cast to swell and the storylines to spiral out of control in every direction, I think True Blood would be well-served by a willingness to kill off characters. It seems ridiculous to accuse True Blood of being gun-shy about killing people, but in terms of the principal cast, there have been surprisingly few deaths and an alarming number of additions. Paring down the cast would make for a more cohesive narrative and it would raise the stakes, so to speak. For all the insanity that happens on this show, I'm never all that worried that someone I love might get killed. One of the most compelling aspects of The Vampire Diaries is that viewers genuinely don't know who might die at a moment's notice. It keeps the cast at a manageable level and keeps the audience on their toes. Do you find yourself losing interest in various aspects/storylines of the show? Does it still have the same bite it once did? Is the best yet to come and I'm just being impatient? — Lacy
Matt Roush: I'm enjoying this season much more than last year, and a lot of that has to do with how marvelously Alexander Skarsgard is playing the vulnerable amnesiac Eric. Sunday night's drunk scene was a new high of feisty hilarity, and his hissing match with Alcide in the water was a riot, but then after his sunburn, watching him submit to Sookie's ministrations was awfully touching. Loving it. The witch storyline is fairly strong as well, and the great Fiona Shaw is killing it as Marnie. I agree that the Sam/Tommy subplot dragged down much of last season and feels tacked on again this year — but that's the only part that feels off to me right now. Andy's V addiction, Jason's gory misadventures with the were-panthers in Hotshot, Alcide and Debbie Pelt, Arlene's demon baby (those scenes crack me up, and they're not overdone yet) and anything involving Hoyt and Jessica all feel germane to me as this sprawling cast of characters continues to deal with the supernatural in their midst. As long as the focus stays primarily on Sookie, which the Eric storyline should ensure, I'm at peace with it. You make a good point about Vampire Diaries' ruthlessness when it comes to sacrificing characters and I marvel at the way that show burns through story, but I have to say that True Blood does a better job for me at conveying a milieu, which is to say I believe in Bon Temps and feel transported there in a way I don't where the phonier Mystic Falls is concerned.
Question: On True Blood, I felt a little robbed not seeing the fight scene between Bill and Sophie Anne play out on screen. Do you think this was done to convey how Sookie must have felt losing a year of her life? I do think it is exciting that they found a way to move ahead a year. Now all the characters are different from when we saw them the last time. My only problem is that all the characters are scattered out doing different things, which means less screen time for my favorites. I know everybody has their own favorites but I really hope they do not waste much time on Tommy or Arlene. Do you like those characters? It seems like each year brings more and more characters, which leaves less time for the core group. For me the core group includes Pam, and I would love it if they could flesh out her character more. What do you think? — Susan
Matt Roush: I think Pam got a pretty good (though devastating) scene this week with the witches, but otherwise, the complaint about True Blood servicing too many characters at the expense of the "core group" is a fair one, although as noted above, I felt it was more problematic last season. I was actually delighted by the Bill-Sophie Anne flashback, because it was such a surprising and brutally quick end to that conflict. And from what I could tell from the feedback last season, Sophie Anne was one of those characters that viewers didn't have much use for, so this seemed a suitably nasty way to send her out. I like your theory that some of this shorthand has to do with Sookie losing a year of her life in FairyLand. It should feel disorienting to her, and to us.
Question: I'm still confused by the portrayal of the fairies in the season 4 premiere of True Blood. I am a huge fan of both the books and the show, and have been equally delighted by Alan Ball's loyalties to and departures from the source material over the first three seasons, but I'm very confused about the way he has decided to portray the fae. Yes, in later books, we certainly see a vicious side to the fae underneath their beautiful and helpful facade but nothing quite so sinister as what we saw in the season premiere. I'm hoping you have some insight (or insider knowledge) into this story arc that can help me understand Ball's portrayal. — Jolene
Matt Roush: I guess we'll have to see how it plays out, but I'm thinking the less time we spend with the fae the better. At least for now. I know I wasn't the only one who was shocked when Eric killed Claudine so suddenly, given the role she played later on in the book series. I love how Alan Ball is using the books as a template but not as a bible, which guarantees surprises for those of us who are hooked on both versions of Sookie's story. Given the "meh" quality of some of the more recent novels, I encourage Ball to keep going his own way. The more out there, the better.
Question: I, like so many Glee fans, am aflutter with worry over what will happen if/when the core group of students graduates. I don't want them to go the Beverly Hills 90210 route and have them all attend the same local college. I agree with your recent assessment that Rachel and Kurt, in particular, could not believably stay in Ohio, nor would I want them to. As a fan of these characters, I want to see them continue reaching for their dreams. Do you think that Ryan Murphy would produce a spin-off following Rachel and Kurt to the Big Apple? The season finale with these two discussing their future on Broadway sure seemed to be laying the foundation for this possibility, in my view. And there could be opportunities for other Glee alumni to guest star on such a show, as well as for some crossovers with the new Glee kids (e.g. past characters going back to McKinley to visit/mentor for an episode; the new Glee club running into Rachel and Kurt while visiting NYC for nationals, etc.) Do you think this idea has any hope of going forward? I just don't want to imagine a near future where Chris Colfer and Lea Michele aren't on my TV screen every week! — Amanda
Matt Roush: I'd be surprised if next season really is the last we see of some of these characters. Whether Ryan Murphy actually produces a spin-off is questionable — although I wouldn't put it past Fox to try to milk as much juice out of this franchise while it can — but having them guest-star or be the focus of a "very special" Glee episode on occasion would make sense. The real challenge will be to bring on enough new talent after next season to keep Glee fresh in the long run. (Maybe Mr. Schue could move to a new school at some point.) Watching The Glee Project, one of my new summer addictions, gives me confidence there's plenty of undiscovered talent out there to fill the original cast's sizable shoes. (Honestly, they could give jobs to at least half of the Glee Project cast and I'd be happy.)
Question: After watching the finale of The Killing, I realized I'm tired of cliffhangers. It seems that almost every series now has to end their seasons with one, even comedies. My real annoyance is with the cable series that have short runs and we have to wait nine months or a year for the next season to start. At least with most of the major network series, the wait is only about four months. With the cable series, by the time the next season starts, I've forgotten what the cliffhanger is or stopped caring. I understand wanting to leave something to draw the audience back, but if it's a good show, the viewers are going to come back whether or not there's a cliffhanger. And good writers can provide an ending that resolves the season and still brings you back. The Dexter finale with Rita being killed is a perfect example. All the threads were wrapped up, but you couldn't wait for the next season to see where it went from there. Why can't more shows do that? — Dennis
Matt Roush: Ah, The Killing finale. The gift that keeps on giving (in my mailbox anyway, where the opinions remain pretty evenly split). But this is an interesting twist on the subject, because the long breaks between seasons of many cable shows — especially on AMC these days — may beg the question of a classic cliffhanger's long-term efficiency. The Dexter finale cited here is a good example of a way to end a season on a strong note of finality while leaving you hanging as to what comes next. Just as powerful (keeping things current) was the third-season finale of Breaking Bad, with Jesse firing a gun into the camera, killing Gale and setting up the incredibly intense standoff between Walt and Gus that kicked off the fourth season Sunday night. Whether you liked or loathed the Killing finale, the lesson learned here is that it's probably a good idea in a season finale, especially when the gap between seasons could be as much as nine months or longer, to satisfy the viewer with some big "ta-dah" moment, even if many other story threads are left unresolved. Leaving absolutely everything up in the air can just seem perverse — and that's how many seemed to feel after The Killing signed off so abruptly.
Question: I was looking forward to Weeds' return, but found myself looking at the clock, waiting for the episode to be over. The past couple of seasons for me were disappointing, in that the show derailed. I loved the idea of a drug-dealing mom in suburbia. I adored Elizabeth Perkins and the political Kevin Nealon — they were fabulous. The fire burned down more than Nancy's house. It demolished the show. A mom on the run with her kids, trying to escape capture from her Mexican drug-dealing mayor/husband, was ridiculous. I suppose I just got tired of where the characters were going, and when Nancy was arrested at the airport last season, I decided to call it quits. Well, I did try, but simply can't follow it any longer. How does a show know when it's gone too far and simply can't fix itself? Or, how does a show know when it's time to end? — Ellen
Matt Roush: Those are good questions, and it bedevils many a hit show. Even now, we're debating the wisdom of The Office continuing without Steve Carell, and House without Cuddy, SVU without Stabler, and so on. But Weeds is a case of a show reinventing itself so frequently, and with decreasing returns, that it can be hard to remember what we enjoyed about the show in the first place. It lost a lot of its satirical edge when the Botwins fled Agrestic, and I found it hard to stay engaged during all the border-crossing melodrama, and last season was the breaking point for me as well. I've had a busy summer and haven't had a chance to check into Weeds this season, but it's on my list. If only to say a final, mournful goodbye to a show I once got quite the buzz from.
Question: I really enjoyed Timothy Hutton's tip of his hat to his late dad Jim Hutton's character from the Ellery Queen series in the July 3 episode of Leverage. I knew right away that he was dressed as Ellery Queen. I wonder how many other people caught on? — Ginny
Matt Roush: I was away when this aired, but those who picked up on the homage appear to have been delighted by it, so it's high on my list as I continue playing catch-up. For those who don't remember, the Ellery Queen series, a clever adaptation of the enduring mystery novels, was a too-short-lived highlight of the 1975-76 TV season. Jim Hutton was a charming actor who died way too young (at 45) the year before his son won an Oscar for Ordinary People.
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