Ask Matt: Falling Skies, the End of Housewives and Eureka and More!
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Question: I just finished watching the season finale of Falling Skies and I am very happy the show got renewed for another season. I just hate that we have to wait until next summer before the show comes back on again. I have seen where people have described the show as boring. Did you think it was boring? I found it interesting and suspenseful that the audience did not know any more than the characters did about what was going on in their world. When we saw the bipedal aliens for the first time, it was a shock. We thought the Skitters were in charge, but it appears they were just drones. That was shocking to me. What did you think? The cast is great! Noah Wyle did an excellent job as Tom Mason. Colin Cunningham was perfectly cast as Pope, who's such is an interesting character. I was so happy to see Fringe's Blair Brown on the show. I hope Falling Skies continues for a long time. The summer shows are so good. I am not nearly as excited as I once was about the fall shows coming back. Which shows do you look forward to more, summer or fall? — Susan
Matt Roush: Let's start with Falling Skies, which I never found boring. Overly earnest and preachy at times, yes, but there was always a tension afoot given the way the series was set up, thrusting us directly into the resistance movement against the aliens, and not stalling in the build-up to the attack the way V did. I agree that the reveal late in the season of the new aliens (presumably in charge) and the harnessed nature of the Skitters were good surprises. I was even OK with the Close Encounters nature of the season cliffhanger, though I gather some were put off by it. And you called out my favorite characters. This is by far Noah Wyle's best TV role since the glory days of ER, and Pope is a great foil. Hoping in Season 2 for there to be more unsettling cameos like the one Blair Brown performed so memorably. As for summer-vs-fall, it's not really an issue for me, because TV pretty much goes year-round anymore with barely a pause (except around the holidays), and there are high and low points in each period of the year. Summer is especially critical for cable networks to present many of their best signature shows while attempting to launch new ones, and there was a glut of them this year, while network TV takes a step back with very little to recommend. But soon, network TV will be back in full force, and as much as I enjoy many summer series, I'll be happy to welcome back the shows (from Modern Family to The Good Wife) that take us through much of the rest of the year. But back to Falling Skies, which has been especially prominent in my mailbag lately.
Question: The more I watch Falling Skies, the more excited I get about its future. The way the first season ended opens a tremendous amount of potential directions for this show to move towards. I still believe that, at its heart, it's a mediocre show that is elevated by some wonderful performances and a creative over-arching storyline. Most of the supporting characters are one-dimensional archetypes: the empathetic doctor, the motorcycle chick, the hardened criminal who's never at a loss for clichéd wisecracks, etc. But at the same time, I can't imagine a better pick for the heart of the show than Noah Wyle. His character and performance are the highlights of the series. And surprisingly, I find myself enjoying Will Patton's Capt. Weaver, who at the outset looked like he was going to fall into a typical gruff commander stereotype, but was given some great development in the last few episodes. Nothing about the first season excited me enough to think that I needed to watch the entire series, but every episode made me want to watch the next one (if that makes any sense). What has been your opinion of the first season, and what is your outlook for the second? — Chris
Matt Roush: What you're expressing here is ambivalence that accentuates the positive, and I get that. It's pretty much how I felt about the show through most of the season. Completely agree about the wooden acting in many of the stock supporting roles, which only accentuated the hokeyness at times. This never actually became appointment TV for me — in part because I moved around a lot this summer, and there are very few shows I've been able to keep up with regularly — which meant I tended to watch Skies in multiple-hour blocks, like a miniseries, and in that regard, it played well for me. I'm very curious where the show will go in its second season in the aftermath of Tom's Close Encounters experience, which I hope won't defuse the tension in the story's next act.
Question: The cancellation of Desperate Housewives after Season 8 is surprising, because I know ABC renegotiated for two additional seasons on the main ladies' contracts, so I had expected its final run to be 2012-13. The show is nowhere near its terrific first season in quality, and has been more erratic than any show I watch besides Glee, but I'm still going to miss it because despite the ridiculous storylines, the characters remain appealing. Honestly, the show has become such an ingrained Sunday night habit that I can't quite imagine it ending. (The ending of Lost was easier to wrap my head around because it always moved time slots anyway, so the "habit" factor wasn't part of the equation.) I'm sure I will accept it by May, but I am wondering why this is happening to this show this year instead of to Grey's Anatomy.
We know that all of Grey's original cast who are still there (Ellen Pompeo, Patrick Dempsey, Sandra Oh, Justin Chambers, Chandra Wilson and James Pickens, Jr.) have deals expiring at the end of this season. Other cast members who came in later are probably still under contract, but Sara Ramirez, Eric Dane and Chyler Leigh have, at most, only a few years more themselves. They've weathered cast departures before, but I'm not interested in watching the show if they have a mass exodus of main characters all at once. But it seems impossible that ABC would allow Grey's Anatomy and Desperate Housewives to both end this year, so I'm not sure why they chose to let Desperate go yet. It seems Grey's would be the more logical choice to let go off, and Desperate could hang on for 2012-13 because they already renegotiated with the key cast. Grey's has a much larger key ensemble they need to keep, and I'm afraid of what happens if Meredith, Derek, Cristina, Alex, Bailey and Webber walk out of Seattle Grace at the same time. — Jake
Matt Roush: The difference here being that Marc Cherry, Housewives' creator, saw the end looming and took what appears to be a pro-active move to stem further creative (and possibly ratings) decline, whereas Shonda Rhimes doesn't appear to be at that stage yet with the show that put her on the map. Whether that's denial remains to be seen, but it's not a foregone conclusion yet just which or how many Grey's cast members will stay beyond this season. A mass exodus seems unlikely, but should it become clear that major core characters like Meredith, Derek and a few choice others may not return, that would be the beginning of the end. And I would hate to see Grey's end up like ER, limping along with second-tier characters for years and fading into the sunset, which is exactly the fate Cherry is hoping to prevent for Housewives by ending it a season early than many expected. I applaud this move, by the way, but am worried that if ABC can't generate a new hit from this year's development to become a new Sunday anchor, the network will be in serious trouble. And it's also why ABC can't afford to lose its Thursday centerpiece of Grey's just yet, regardless of how things work out on the show this season.
Question: I just saw the promo for ABC Family's The Lying Game and it looks an awful lot like the storyline for the CW's Ringer, starring Sarah Michelle Gellar. Are they THAT similar? And which do you recommend? Thanks! — Diane
Matt Roush: There's no explaining it, but yes, within the space of a few weeks, two shows will premiere (The Lying Game this week, Ringer in mid-September) involving identical twins from wildly different backgrounds: one rich, one poor, and the poor one takes over the rich twin's life, with ensuing complications. The circumstances are different — in The Lying Game, the twins were separated at birth (one adopted, one in foster care) and only just learned of each other's existence, while Ringer's twins are merely estranged — and Ringer is more of a mystery/suspense thriller while I haven't quite figured out the tone or direction of The Lying Game from the pilot. They're not carbon copies, but it's weird for two such similar shows to arrive at the same time. Still, these things do happen. In terms of preference, both seem like solid enough melodramas, but I'm a Sarah Michelle Gellar fan and enjoy Ringer's more deluxe and sinister tone, while Lying Game saddles its main character (well played by Alexandra Chando, a dead ringer, so to speak, for The Vampire Diaries' Nina Dobrev) with generic clique-ish rich brats who feel interchangeable with any number of ABC Family or CW dramas. Not exactly my thing.
Question: After seeing a whole whack of new shows at the TCAs, level with me: Which new shows should I add to my already bloated TV schedules, if any? — Matt
Matt Roush: Without knowing your tastes in TV, I'll just cut to the chase by saying I'm more impressed with the new fall comedies than with most of the new dramas — although that proportion changes if you project forward to midseason where hour-long faves like Smash, Awake, The River and Good Christian Belles await. So here's a short list of fall shows that have captured my attention and which I'll be watching with the most interest: Fox's The New Girl, hands-down my favorite pilot; then 2 Broke Girls (CBS), Person of Interest (CBS), Suburgatory and Pan Am (both ABC), and I'm very eager to see NBC's retooled Up All Night, beefing up scene-stealer Maya Rudolph's role. Plus, I have high hopes for the unseen The X Factor and (for spectacle's sake alone) Terra Nova, both of which I hope will be big hits for TV's sake.
Question: I've been a fan of Eureka since the beginning. It got off to a great start, but I'm confused about the number of episodes in each season. For the last two seasons, Syfy has had 8-10 episodes in the summer and then the 2nd half of the season the next summer. Instead of calling it season 4.0 and 4.5, wouldn't that be seasons 4 and 5 since there are around nine months between each half-season? Will they get back to a normal summer season of 13 episodes, like Warehouse 13, or 10 episodes in the summer and then 10 episodes in the winter, like the Stargate shows? — Ryan
Matt Roush: This question came in before it was confirmed that Eureka's fifth season, currently in production, will be its last — with an extra episode tacked on to the original order to allow the writers to bring the show to a close. It isn't yet clear when and how Syfy will present the final episodes of Eureka, but it would be nice if the network didn't try so hard to confuse the audience with its bizarre scheduling. Syfy has done Eureka no favors in the way its last few seasons were split over such a long period of time. Ryan is absolutely correct that to run one half of a season in July of one year, and then to finish the run the following July, it's basically two separate seasons. Which may take some of the sting out of the recent news, if we pretend that seasons 3 and 4 were actually two seasons each, that would mean next season will be in some ways its seventh. (Got that?) Either way, it has been a nice run for what is currently my favorite Syfy series.
Question: With the news of the cancellation of Eureka, it seems like Syfy is sliding even further out of its SF niche. While Eureka has had a good run and I don't think Syfy is making a mistake with canceling it (besides not deciding a little earlier to give them enough time to wrap it all up), the lack of any news about a replacement show is concerning. For a die-hard SF geek like myself, the fact that there are only 2-3 shows on Syfy that I watch is indicative of the lack of focus from that network. I compare that to USA, which is under the same corporate umbrella, where they have put together a great track record of solid shows from Psych to Suits, and I realize I spend more time watching USA than Syfy these days. Is there any reason why one branch of the NBC (now Comcast) umbrella is doing so well with their series and another is doing so poorly? — Jason
Matt Roush: In this case, it does seem an apples-and-oranges type of comparison. USA Network is doing very well at programming for the broadest possible audience, hewing to an escapist formula popularly described as "blue sky" while working just enough tweaks in most series so it doesn't feel like you're sitting through the same show hour after hour (some more successfully than others). Whereas Syfy is trying to find variations within an expansive genre, with a mix of scripted and non-scripted (quasi-reality) shows that, in the scripted arena, have tended to veer toward the whimsical light-fantasy side of late, because that's what's been working best for them. And while the purist may be disappointed by Syfy's current slate, from a business point of view they're doing pretty well, all things considered. And don't be surprised when USA broadens out to include comedy and reality in its portfolio, which will surely earn it some critics. Personally, I'm putting almost an absurd amount of hope on the Battlestar Galactica prequel (Blood and Chrome) to return Syfy to classic form and improve upon the disappointing Caprica, because I've also missed the weightier (read: risky), more allegorical and less earthbound dramas that some of us tend to associate with sci-fi.
Question: This is not a question but instead a statement regarding last Sunday's episode of Breaking Bad: "Breathtaking!" Everything you could ask for in an episode was in this one! When Hank put that video of Gale on, I loved the expression of Walter's face like: "Oh S$$T!" LOL! How Walter was playing "nice" with Hank, and trying to get info regarding Gale while looking into the lab book. That scene was incredible! The end game certainly comes closer from what the past four episodes have shown, but I know the writers have a plan and I am sure there will be plenty of twists and turns before the season ends! — Michael M
Matt Roush: Well, now we know for real what the endgame will be: a final season (possibly split in two) of 16 episodes after this season, which has been absolutely and brilliantly riveting. Breathtaking, as Michael M rightly notes, although as amusing and surprising as Gale's karaoke video was to watch, I did anything but LOL when we got that extreme close-up of Walt's face, so full of remorse and panic. And the sustained tension in this Sunday's road-trip episode for Jesse and Mike was incredible, up to the final twist revealing how much we (and Jesse) had been manipulated. Genius. And then we have Walt's drunken arrogance and pride putting Hank back on the trail of the real Heisenberg. The twists are unfailingly amazing, and I am looking forward to what we now know to be the final season with equal measures of apprehension and dread, because Vince Gilligan pulls no punches in this series and I can only imagine the body blows these characters will endure before it's all over.
Question: It appears on Breaking Bad that Skyler is becoming Lady Macbeth here. Brilliant manipulation of the car wash owner — and all from cleaning a baby bottle. How about that? But is it strictly the money turning her head? Because she did seem genuinely concerned about Walt's black eye — and you would think a mother with two kids at home would be a bit reticent about getting all in with some very dangerous people. — Michael E
Matt Roush: I love how Skyler is turning into a character every bit as layered, complex and frighteningly resilient as Walt. Her toughness in sealing the car-wash deal was a wow moment, and she is undeniably ruthless when it comes to protecting her family (the same motivation that led Walt into this vortex of crime), but to liken her to Lady Macbeth is to ignore her humanity, her fears of the consequences of Hank's actions, and her ambivalence regarding the fruits of their labors. Next week's episode is one of the best showcases yet for Anna Gunn. Her confrontation with Walt, following his drunken transgression, is searing, and we find her at a literal crossroads. It's not to be missed.
Question: Personally I have to disagree with your assessment of Torchwood: Miracle Day. As a long-term fan of both Torchwood and Doctor Who, I am very pleased with this particular show. Each week I am left with a gasp and a panic that it has been almost an hour already. I just want it to keep going. Re: Bill Pullman's creepy performance, while it leaves me questioning how the character got where it is, there is no denying his acting chops. I do agree that Rex is just annoying, but I love Esther and how she reminds me of the first days of Gwen with Torchwood. For me, Children of Earth didn't leave me eagerly waiting for the next week the way this one does, and I can't wait for the big bad scheme to reveal itself. I am so glad they brought the show to Starz and can't wait for more seasons and more fantastic stories, although I do pray they go back to the original format, one story a week with some things spanning more time, especially character back stories. — Terri
Matt Roush: If you like back stories, you're in for a treat in next week's episode ("Immortal Sins"), which delivers a doozy of a flashback for Jack that finally starts getting to the heart of what's behind the "miracle." This is easily my favorite episode of this particular series — which is a good thing, because the most recent episode ("The Middle Men") may have been my least favorite, with some of the clumsiest action sequences in recent memory, especially in the San Pedro facility, where bad acting and ridiculous plotting proved as lethal as the ovens. As someone who found Children of Earth one of the most thrilling pieces of TV in years, and the apex of the entire Torchwood experience, I'm obviously going to disagree that the overextended, often unfocused Miracle Day is better at delivering the goods, but I do agree that I'd love to see Torchwood revert, even briefly, to its more episodic format, if that's even possible given the current state of Torchwood itself. But again, even though I've found this miniseries to be awfully uneven, I recommend this Friday's episode very highly.
Question: First of all, I respect Cameron's moral principles on The Glee Project. He sticks to them and he should be commended for it. Having said that, I don't know what he expected when he tried out for Glee, which isn't exactly a wholesome show. It is edgy, racy and many times quite sexual. It seems he was very naïve to the whole process. I do believe Ryan Murphy would have been respectful to Cameron's beliefs on the show. It would have been nice to see a relationship that didn't revolve around sex at all. But it seems Cameron didn't even want to go there. What are your thoughts on what transpired here? — Eric
Matt Roush: I too respect Cameron's convictions, and I'm glad for his sake that he has no regrets about quitting (as he reiterated during a panel at the TCA press tour), but the more I think about it, the more annoyed I am that anyone would participate in a competition like this without being willing to go all the way — and I don't mean that in a sexual sense. Cameron had a terrific look and style, but the absolutely wrong attitude, and it wasn't just the kissing stuff that threw him. I wondered several times what show he possibly thought he was auditioning for. When you think about how many people would have killed to be in his position, it's more than a bit aggravating to see someone just walk away and shrug it off. That said, The Glee Project has been a terrific show, revealing much about the process of making TV and what it takes to be cast on TV (it isn't pretty). I was rather disappointed that Ryan Murphy and Ian Brennan didn't make a tough cut before the finals, but I'm certainly curious about who will win. An argument can be made for any of them, although I'm now of a mind that Damian would be the most original, entertaining (and potentially beloved) character to add to the cast. We'll see.
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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