The Glee Project
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Question: Frankly, the Emmys should just be the Cable Television Awards now, and they can have a "special mention" category for everything on broadcast. I don't have cable, I don't want cable, and I haven't seen any of the nominees from cable. There just isn't enough room these days for the leftovers, no matter how good broadcast shows may be, so there's not much point watching the awards. — ACS
Matt Roush: I'll spare you the lecture on how much great programming you're missing out on, but your reaction to the Emmy nominations reminds me of the days — not so long ago — when cable was an outsider looking in, hosting its own awards show (the ACEs) before they were invited to the Emmy party. I doubt anyone expected cable to take over to the extent it has now, where this year for the first time not a single show from the Big Four broadcast networks cracked the Best Drama category. (PBS, however, is nicely represented by Downton Abbey.) Some are wondering if the Emmys should set up separate categories for cable and broadcast because the playing fields, creatively and economically, are so uneven. Not a slippery slope the Emmys are likely to go down — for one thing, network comedies are competing fairly well these days, and who's to say another breakout like Lost or 24 isn't around the corner (and let's hope The Good Wife's omission from this year's list is an aberration; it's definitely a mistake). But to your final point, one of the first topics discussed in our office after the nominations came out was how low-rated this year's Emmys might be, with so many niche programs battling it out for the top honors.
Question: I have to agree with Leonard Nimoy's gripe about the lack of Emmy love for Fringe. Seriously, I know there are more important issues in the world, but as far as TV goes, when will the Emmy voters get with it? Since as far back as The Twilight Zone, science-fiction shows have told terrific allegorical stories about society and humanity as compelling as, if not more than, any police or medical or legal drama. At least Fringe is a serialized procedural and they wear regular clothes, not space suits or costumes. With The Avengers making a box office fortune and The Walking Dead getting record cable ratings, can we get the powers that be to see sci-fi as legitimate as any other genre and thus worthy of being celebrated? Is Rick Grimes any less of a textured, layered, complex human being than Don Draper? And yes, I know Game of Thrones kind of helps ease the pain, but still. — Adam
Matt Roush: You'll get no argument here, but even if the industry could shed its bias against sci-fi, fantasy and horror, it would be hard these days for a show like Fringe to compete against the tonnage of prestige cable (and now PBS) dramas that currently clog the category. Plus, Fringe is awfully dense in its mythology, making it inexplicable for non-watchers to appreciate, so while I won't excuse the snub, I understand it. Even so, it should be apparent to anyone that John Noble is giving one of TV's best performances as the tormented Walter (and the chilly Walternate). Too bad Fringe doesn't air on HBO. He'd be a shoo-in. On the other hand, as much as I enjoy The Walking Dead and Andrew Lincoln's still-waters-run-deep take on Rick, there are very few characters on TV as complex and fascinating as Don Draper, and I'm still waiting for Jon Hamm to get his much-deserved first Emmy.
Question: As an adult that still can't seem to turn away from shows like The Vampire Diaries, The Secret Circle, Smallville (when it was on), etc., I have to wonder why shows from the CW never, and I do not remember them ever, get nominated for awards? Or are even acknowledged in an award-type setting. I understand it is geared toward, perhaps, a younger demographic but denying that effort on the part of cast, writers, directors and so on is a little biased. Please clear this up for me if you can; it kind or irritates me a bit to feel like these people are not getting their fair shot at accolades. — Nezette
Matt Roush: See above question regarding genre bias, and compound that with a similar Emmy disdain towards younger performers and shows marketed specifically to that audience. But looking at it realistically, while I embrace some of the CW's shows as guilty pleasures (Vampire Diaries and Nikita currently highest on that list for me), I would never expect them to factor into anything beyond People's Choice or Teen Choice sorts of fan-based awards. These are cult series, first and foremost, with no pretensions or expectations of awards glory. Just be glad the CW gives (most of) them a long leash to keep achieving their main goal: entertaining a small but avidly devoted audience.
Question: I am watching The Glee Project for the first time. It has joined a very short list of reality competition shows that I like. It has an appealing, inspiring cast, intelligent judging and a minimal emphasis on melodrama and conflict among the cast members. Because the judges are going to actually be working with the winner on Glee, their criticisms and comments for the contestants are spot on. I have yet to disagree with an elimination, but each one is tough. As you have pointed out, this show gives viewers a glimpse into what goes into preparing the musical performance parts of an episode of Glee, as well as how the contestants work as an ensemble and show their spark as individuals. I find myself wishing the show was longer some weeks, as we don't see much of them preparing for their homework assignment number. Do you think they will do a better job at finding this year's winner something great to do on Glee? As much as I liked the winners and runners-up from last year, only Alex Newell really got a splashy part, while the two winners rarely made it out of the background. I barely remember the girl runner-up. With such talented castoffs from The Glee Project, is it likely that the producers will reconsider any of them later for parts on Glee?
For a couple of weeks after The Glee Project, Oxygen ran The Next Big Thing NY, which I watched and enjoyed. It seemed to be a good companion show with its talented youngsters and their outrageous performance coach. It was then trundled off to an earlier time period on Wednesdays for two weeks before finishing its run with a two-hour season finale beginning at 6/ET on a Wednesday. Fortunately, I had the TV on and was flipping through the program guide when I saw that a new episode had started. I missed the first 20 minutes of the show but caught it later On Demand. I have seen promos for the new Oxygen show All the Right Moves which looks good, but the premiere date and time has been changed a couple of times already. I don't know whether to try to watch it or not. Do they not understand that viewers might get frustrated and give up trying to find shows they keep moving around? — Frank
Matt Roush: First, The Glee Project, which I agree is one of the very best competition shows, at least as Emmy-worthy as some of this year's nominees. It's so fresh and engaging I find myself wishing they were gunning for a prize more relevant and promising than being shoehorned into a past-its-prime Glee — although who knows how this transitional season will play out. We can only hope that whoever wins will get a role with more dimension than either Damian or Samuel was able to work with. And while Ryan Murphy insists that there will be only one winner this season, he and his colleagues would be crazy to let some of this talent slip away.
Regarding The Next Big Thing, which I didn't like nearly as much as you did — the coach was so preeningly obnoxious I could barely make it past the first episode — that's a case of a network burning off a toxic dud where it would do the least damage. I have higher hopes for All the Right Moves, in part because I'm such a huge fan of Travis Wall (from his So You Think You Can Dance history), and I look at the revamped time period as an upgrade: initially scheduled for 11 pm/ET, now airing at 9/8c in front of The Glee Project, but from what I can tell it was always intended to premiere July 31.
Question: I am so happy to see that ABC is demonstrating some good taste in reviving the excellent medical documentary series, this time in New York City, as NY Med. This series, which featured hospitals in other cities in years past, like Baltimore and Boston, is outstanding. It is a nice alternative to the standard reality programming, showing real people in dramatic situations with none of the crass fighting and silly antics. It brings tears to my eyes almost every week. Bravo to ABC for putting something of quality on their summer programming lineup. — Laurie
Matt Roush: Agreed. Watching the first few episodes this season, I found NY Med to be the most honest of tearjerkers. Some of the "subplots" following the doctors and nurses outside the hospital fall flat for me, because they can't help but pale next to the intensity of their daily routine. But the life-and-death stories are very compelling, and this is a rare bright spot among the networks' otherwise disposable summer time-wasters.
Question: Since Eureka was left wide open for a new and improved show, when will Syfy be stepping through the portal and giving us back our show? Can we expect a fall offering or will we have to wait a year until next summer? My eldest thinks they are going to drop the ball on this. I hope he's wrong. — Debbie
Matt Roush: Your eldest is right. What you saw as "wide open" the rest of us saw as closure. This was Eureka's swan song, unmistakably billed as a series finale, and giving the town and its characters a happy open ending is probably as much as we could have hoped for given the circumstances. I found the finale to be very satisfying, although as a fan of course I would have liked there to be more. But that's not going to happen. It's over. Job well done.
Question: Am I the only one watching Longmire? I found it because I'm a huge Lou Diamond Phillips fan, but all the characters are great, and it can be funny as well as very moving. I was just wondering if any of the networks are planning a new "Western" since Justified and now Longmire have paved the way west again? — Gena
Matt Roush: You're hardly the only one watching Longmire. It's successful enough that A&E has already renewed it for a second season, which is a very good thing. And while several networks developed Western project for next season, only one made the cut for the fall, and it's a bit of a hybrid: CBS' Vegas (Tuesdays at 10/9c), a crime drama set in the '60s when Las Vegas was still something of a frontier town, with the glittery gambling oasis just beginning to take shape, pitting a rancher sheriff (Dennis Quaid, every inch a CBS star) against an interloper of a Chicago mobster (Michael Chiklis). Also of note if a darker shade of Western is your taste: the second season of AMC's railroad melodrama Hell on Wheels, starting Aug. 12.
Question: Really enjoy your column and your taste in material (Happy Endings notwithstanding ;), so I'm curious for your take on this. Suits is an intelligent, stylized and fun show (Gina Torres even when lounging is the epitome of awesome). I look forward to this show, but the amount of profanity throughout Season Two is taking this classy series down a notch. On the July 19 episode, the show had almost every actor utter either s*** or bulls*** for a total of 10 times in just 43 minutes. Not to mention the amount of "GDs" which I lost track of. I get that cable series like to push the envelope, and USA Network is obviously really behind this particular show, but why the sudden gutter dialogue? It makes these witty, powerful characters so much less than. Could you please let USA know that foul language is not the way to darken their "blue sky" mantra? It's taking the fun right out of the show. — JP
Matt Roush: It does seem like Suits is operating on a quota system of casual profanity most weeks, obviously trying to demonstrate a cable "edge" but which comes off as awfully forced. Yes, we can all assume big-city lawyers swear, but on this show and this network, it tends to make things feel more artificial, not more natural. That said, I think Suits is having a much stronger second season, plot-wise, and the salty language has been a device from the beginning, so I find myself being able to look past it while still wishing they weren't so insistent in rubbing our noses in it.
Question: After looking forward to Bunheads immensely, I immediately abandoned it after its second episode. I'd been iffy about the show in the first place, since the parallels to Gilmore Girls were so blatant (Michelle = Lorelai, Fanny = Emily, Paradise = Stars Hollow), but because the dialogue was still snappy and the setting (a ballet school) so inherently interesting, I gave it another chance. You know how that turned out. However, my nagging curiosity is getting the better of me: Has the show improved? Thanks to the miracle of On Demand, a catch-up session might be in order, so I ask you, is it worth it? — Ryan
Matt Roush: The second episode was by far the worst of the ones I've seen, but I've fallen behind a few weeks myself, which probably isn't a good sign (though it's also an indication of how much summer programming there is to keep up on, plus prepping for the current TCA press tour, which ensures I'll fall even further behind). My advice is to give it another shot, for one or maybe two more episodes, and if your reservations are still that strong — and my guess is they will be — then let it go. My goal is to make it at least through the first season (though obviously not in real time), and if things improve, I'll weigh back in.
Question: I just read your most recent column and I have to somewhat disagree on your thoughts behind CBS recycling the reality stars. You said you don't mind the occasional "all-star" season, and I would agree. I'd like to see them switch it up and do all-new all-star seasons with players who have never played the game before. It would be fun to see an edition of Survivor made up entirely of Big Brother contestants or an edition of The Amazing Race with nothing but Survivor contestants. Imagine a season of Big Brother where they took a group of Survivor or Amazing Race contestants, used to a fast-paced game, having to switch gears for a long, slow burn in the Big Brother house. — Scott
Matt Roush: Sorry, this all sounds perfectly dreadful to me. But then, and this is no big surprise to regular readers, anything with the words Big Brother in it tends to chill my blood. I have always considered that show the opposite of good or riveting TV, and the difference between adventure-based competitions like Survivor and The Amazing Race and a claustrophobic exercise in fame-whore narcissism like Big Brother is incalculable to me. While I'm sure Big Brother contestants would embrace any opportunity to get back in front of the camera, I'd like to think (perhaps naively) that the entropy of the Big Brother experience would not appeal to many, if not most, of the Survivor/Race alums. In any case, I still feel all-star stunts should be done sparingly, and exploiting reality "stars" with repeated exposure is never a good or healthy trend.
Question: I just read the comment in your recent column about the return of Dallas. As an original fan, I'm enjoying it like the others. But I wish they would bring back thirtysomething, only they'd be fiftysomething now! Have you heard anything about thirtysomething coming back? I had heard there would be a reunion years ago but nothing ever happened. — Linda
Matt Roush: As far as I know, no such reunion is in the cards, but just thinking about it makes me feel kind of old. And, of course, nostalgic for a kind of drama too rarely seen on network TV anymore. If we can't get Michael and Hope and Nancy and Elliot and Ellyn and Melissa back on our screens (the ship sailed long ago for Gary), wouldn't it be grand for Marshall Herskovitz and Ed Zwick to bring their warm, humanistic vision of relationships and life back to TV? We can hope.
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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