Billy Bob Thornton
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Question: I am shocked how some of your readers think Fargo should have been just a follow-up to the movie with let's see how Marge is doing since everyone else involved in the movie was either dead or in prison. I agree that the show is terrific. The episode last week was one of the most amazing episodes of TV I have ever seen.
I have also wondered, based on the feeling that I share that Knots Landing was the best nighttime show of the '80s and early '90s, why it has been lost to the viewing public? That and St. Elsewhere are shows that I wish would somehow find its way either online or DVD. St. Elsewhere had one season on DVD and they gave up bringing out anymore. Same with Knots, only a couple of seasons and none of the best seasons you and I liked. Seeing William Devane again on 24 always reminds me of what I consider his best role as Greg Sumner. I think the binge-watching TV market would take to a show like that. — Doug
Matt Roush: While I obviously part company with those who aren't enjoying FX's new variation on Fargo, I'm not sure their objections are all about it not following the characters from the movie. I get that something this offbeat (in its mix of violence and comedy, juxtaposing gentle whimsy with stylized and exaggerated mayhem) won't be to all tastes. If it were, it would be less memorable. But I'm leading with this to draw attention to Tuesday's episode (10/9c), which goes in a direction I would never have predicted and which I found exhilarating, surprising and very satisfying. At the end, I was left again marveling at how little I can predict where the final two episodes will go and how eager I am to see them.
On the second topic of vintage shows out of circulation: I'll caution you I'm not an expert on the afterlife of series (on DVD or streaming sites), having trouble enough keeping up with the volume of TV in the here-and-now. But given that such terrific and influential series as Hill Street Blues and China Beach got their long-awaited (and well-deserved) deluxe "complete series" box-set releases within the past year, there's always hope that St. Elsewhere will eventually get its due. One of the issues with Knots Landing (about which I got a lot of positive feedback for my recent call-out) may be that it ran so long and the library of episodes is so extensive. I don't know much about how such deals get made, but it seems more likely for shows like that to resurface on streaming platforms — I've noticed an entire channel devoted to the Warner Bros. archive on Roku, which would be a great place to start — and I couldn't agree more that only having the first few seasons of Knots out there doesn't do justice to how the show evolved. But be patient. I never thought I'd get to see China Beach in its entirety again. Anything's possible.
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Question: I've recently found your column via Twitter and love it! Thanks for answering our burning TV questions. A couple things: I love The Good Wife — that's all, just wanted it to be known. Secondly, I know you didn't enjoy Friends With Better Lives, but I thought it was funny and light, and a decent replacement for How I Met Your Mother, so I'm sad that its run is over (poor Dawson). And finally, I was really enjoying watching Crisis and then heard it was canceled — but just last night saw a commercial promoting it on Sunday nights. Isn't it strange to promote a canceled show? This gives me hope that it's continuing, or at the very least that the storyline will be concluded. Can you give me any scoop on what's happening with it? — Lena
Matt Roush: I'm doing everything shy of signing a Rosemary's Baby contract to try to shame the Emmy voters into putting The Good Wife back on the best-drama radar. So deserving this year. (The Americans too, for that matter.) My take on Friends With Better Lives is that the mostly terrific cast merited much better and less smarmy material. And with Crisis, it looks as if NBC is airing the season (always constructed for a limited run) in its entirety, and as long as it's on the air for the next few weeks, they'll likely air (limited) promos. Not as much as for the network's new summer programming, naturally. Regardless, don't let this give you false hope that there will be a second crisis for these (or other) characters to fix.
Question: I know it has been a while since A&E killed The Glades (which I loved, BTW), but can you tell us why they would cancel a much-loved show and why in such a dreadful manner? Are they planning a TV movie to close it out? We die-hard fans deserve more then a final image of Detective Longworth being shot and left to die alone on his wedding day. — Robert
Matt Roush: Given that The Glades' star Matt Passmore is attached to a new USA Network drama, Satisfaction, that premieres later this summer, it's probably time to let this one go. But a new wave of unhappiness from Glades fans has emerged in my mailbag, no doubt because this is the time of year when The Glades would normally have been returning — formerly paired with the terrific contemporary Western mystery drama Longmire, which returns Monday (in good shape, I'm happy to report). I'm hearing from fans who are just now realizing The Glades was canceled on that inexplicable cliffhanger note, and also from those who are still upset (understandably) nearly a year later that there was no attempt made to wrap this story up. Inexcusable on the part of A&E, regrettable on the part of the show's writers to contrive such an unsatisfying finish to last season. Among the many e-mails on this subject, Tina added this question: "ION picked up Flashpoint from CBS, why can't it be done for this show?" The quick answer to a complicated situation that is that Flashpoint was an acquisition and/or co-production with Canadian TV, so CBS's cancellation wasn't the end of that story. The Glades had no such Plan B, and when most shows get canceled, even when unresolved, they tend to stay that way.
Question: I saw that a second season of Case Histories will be released on DVD this July. I can't believe I missed it, and believe even less that you wouldn't have mentioned it in your column. Was this series ever aired in the United States? And if not, will it be? — Rick
Matt Roush: Never mentioned it because the second series, consisting of three 90-minute mysteries, never surfaced here, and I'm told the original presenter, Masterpiece Mystery!, has no plans to air them. So this release (from Acorn Media) will be your best shot to savor Jason Isaacs once again as Kate Atkinson's Jackson Brodie. And if you're an Isaacs fan (as I am), take solace that he'll back on U.S. TV in USA Network's limited-run action-adventure "event" series Dig sometime in the next season.
Question: Why does everyone keep bagging on the Castle finale, saying it was ridiculous and had zero emotional impact? I for one thought Stana Katic did an amazing job in that last scene; her facial expressions alone can bring me to feel that emotion the writers want us to feel. As far as no one believing Richard Castle is dead, obviously, when it comes down to it it's not about whether or not he's dead, its about "Where is Castle?" "Who was in the SUV?" "Did the people in the SUV kidnap Castle or is he passed out in a ditch nearby?" "If he's kidnapped, will they time jump to September and not found him yet?" Those are the questions I have that I believe have set up a great Season 7. I know Caskett is a strong couple and I know Andrew Marlowe will eventually give us a wedding in true Castle fashion and I'm looking forward to that. - Tiffany
Matt Roush: Of course no one was meant to think Castle had been killed. That's not the point. The issue here is that there's only so long many fans will put up with delayed gratification, and while I'm sure you're right that eventually there will be a happy ending and a memorable ceremony of some sort (perhaps not traditional) for Beckett and Castle, this latest bump in the road felt like an unnecessary and cheap twist, and I pretty much have to agree with that assessment.
Question: Will there ever be an Emmy category that honors opening credits? There are so many amazing ones right now: Elementary, American Horror Story, The Americans, Bitten, to name just a few. An Emmy category seems like a natural. — Linda
Matt Roush: There already is a category for Outstanding Main Title Design, you just don't see it on the main broadcast. (This and many, many other Emmys are handed out a week earlier.) Recent winners include Mad Men and Game of Thrones, for their immediately iconic title sequences, and American Horror Story's ghoulish title credits have been nominated for both of its seasons to date (and I imagine it will earn a third for Coven). I'm glad you mentioned Elementary, because I never tire of watching the Rube Goldberg-inspired opening credits and am irked whenever it's cut for time. (That sequence was nominated last year, but lost to DaVinci's Demons.)
Question: I'm a big fan of Shonda Rhimes, and I think she deserves all of the awards for showing studios that diverse TV casts are ratings winners. I am so happy to see the upcoming TV season featuring even more diversity. It's not enough, but when you realize that the last time a drama had a female African-American lead was back in the '70s, that says everything. So major hat tip and then some to Ms. Rhimes.
That said, the recent spate of diversity just makes it so much more clear that Once Upon a Time, a show that purports to be a "modern" retelling of fairy tales, is almost the exact opposite. After three seasons, the only characters on Once Upon a Time to get happy endings are white and obviously straight. Not only that, but all too often when casting people of color, they are villains or token "good guys" without personality or follow-up. Superheroes and fairy tales are powerful vehicles to teach simple lessons. When imagining a modern retelling, the very first thing I'd expect writers to consider is inclusion and showing that all people, races and sexual orientations are deserving of the fairy-tale happy ending. How has something that seems like a no-brainer been ignored on this show that purports to be about hope? - Jen
Matt Roush: Agreed 100 percent on Shonda Rhimes' influence on color-blind and/or color-conscious casting, especially as it's represented in the upcoming TV season. However one feels about Grey's Anatomy's storytelling, the inclusiveness of that cast was and is something to behold, and Scandal took it to the next level by putting Kerry Washington in the center of the steamy action. Regarding Once Upon a Time, I haven't seen enough of the last season to be able to back up or rebut this assertion, but I do remember around the time I bailed in Season 2 how unimpressed I was by the wan depictions of minority-played characters like Mulan and Lancelot, and how poorly used Giancarlo Esposito had been earlier on as the Magic Mirror. I agree a show like this with such a revisionist point-of-view of the fairy-tale legends has a great opportunity to go bolder with its casting and writing choices. Maybe next season will be the charm?
Question: My question is on NBC's spring shows About a Boy and Growing Up Fisher. I have enjoyed both short seasons, but my initial reaction was that Fisher was a much better show than Boy. I was a little surprised to see that Boy was on the fall schedule and Fisher was not. Was the general reaction to these two shows that much different? Any chance that Fisher might be a mid-season replacement next season? In many ways it reminds me of The Wonder Years and I'd like to see more episodes of it. — Kit
Matt Roush: Alas, it's not to be. Most (but not all, I'm sure) critics did tend to champion About a Boy more than Fisher, but that wouldn't have mattered if the latter had somehow broken out. My impression of Fisher, from what I saw, was that besides J.K. Simmons' playful and nuanced performance as the blind father, I didn't find much of exceptional interest in this particular family memoir, and except for the voice-overs being reminiscent of The Wonder Years' meditation on childhood, I wasn't sure why we were hearing it from the kid's, instead of the dad's, point of view, given that he was a much more intriguing and original character.
Question: In spite of the drubbing it takes from critics, 2 Broke Girls still presses on. Why? Well, one thing that keeps me coming back to it every week — at least the first-run episodes — is that I keep hoping these two gals will come out ahead financially and get something they're aiming for. I don't expect them to become millionaires overnight, but deep down, they both have a faint amount of likeability that wants me to root for them enough to not be total losers in everything they attempt to do. This is not unlike another sitcom CBS had back in 1968-70 about two best buds who worked in a crummy diner, hoping to hit the jackpot someday despite the fact that they seemed to be losers. That show was The Good Guys, starring a post-Gilligan Bob Denver and a pre-Golden Girls Herb Edelman, which ran two seasons (42 episodes) and to my continuing disappointment, has yet to see the light of cable or broadcast reruns or a DVD release. Okay, so maybe it wasn't the greatest comedy CBS had back then or the series with which everyone immediately associates Bob Denver, but this was his only sitcom to be filmed before a studio audience (at least in the first season), it had some good lines and sight gags and a great Jerry Fielding underscore and theme song, and unlike 2 Broke Girls, it didn't have to rely on punch lines with the words "penis" or "vagina" in them, or cheap shots at diminutive or ethnic characters to get a laugh. Plus, Denver and Edelman's characters used to try and help out other folks down on their luck (hence the title The Good Guys), which increased their likeability. Maybe Kat Dennings and Beth Behrs' characters should try some of that as well, and lay off some of the unrestrained raunch. Your thoughts on all this? — David
Matt Roush: Thanks for the history lesson. I know I'd be more inclined to watch The Good Guys if it were reissued than ever subject myself to another episode of the revolting 2 Broke Girls (for which you put up a rather half-hearted defense, I must say). I have zero sense memory of The Good Guys (which is rare for me with late-'60s TV), and I can't imagine what I was watching instead on Wednesdays in its first season (maybe homework?), but I know in its truncated second year, when CBS moved it to Fridays, I was glued to the new sensation The Brady Bunch over on ABC (being the target demographic of a 10-year-old). This is the first comparison I've seen of the two shows, and it seems an appropriate one, so thanks again.
Question: Thanks for your clever commentary and good advice on which shows to view or skip. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed Playing House on USA Network. I use the word surprised because I remember when the lead actresses tried to do a similar show on another network. That show had one of the leads still married and the other moving in with the couple. I wanted to like it, but the husband felt intrusive to the friendship between the two women. The chemistry and connection between the three was off. It failed quickly. The new series eliminated the husband in the first episode, which has worked very well as the chemistry between the two female leads is endearing and very funny. My question is why don't they do this more and/or how often do they do this with existing shows? So many shows have great potential if some changes could be made either to the cast, the writers, or, as in the case of Trophy Wife, the title. They go to all of that money and effort to create, cast and produce shows, why don't they consider real changes before getting rid of the show entirely? — Kristine
Matt Roush: I agree that Playing House is proving to be a better showcase for Lennon Parham and Jessica St. Clair's comic partnership than their previous show (NBC's quickly forgotten Best Friends Forever), but it's still a rather precious and limited vehicle. Generally, when a show isn't working, a network or studio has to have considerable faith in the project to retool and nurture it rather than drop it and move on. Which might be a loss, but in many cases seems a mercy. The most significant show of recent times to undergo this kind of creative transformation and come out the other side a much better show (if still marginal in the ratings) is Parks and Recreation, whose first season gave little indication of the charmer it turned out to be.
Question: I read your review of the pilot of Believe and I had to completely agree with everything you said. Everything about the pilot was cliché and predictable and, worse, not that well done. However, the "reveal" that Tate was the long-lost father of Bo, while predictable, was enough to get me to tune into the second episode. Boy, am I glad I did!! No, Believe has not suddenly turned into great TV, even though it has gotten better with each episode. I did see some potential for a good, or even great, show if it had come back for a second season. But what had me tuning in every week were Jake McLaughlin (Tate) and Johnny Sequoyah (Bo). Kudos to them!! Watching them portray a father who never knew he had a daughter and a daughter who never had a parent building a relationship together has been a joy to watch. Honestly, I could watch Tate and Bo interact the entire hour and be perfectly happy. I know we sometimes wonder whether or not investing in a TV show that seems doomed is worth our time. But I don't regret watching Believe. Although I am crossing my fingers the series doesn't end with some crazy cliffhanger. I've been surprised by how much I've enjoyed it and looked forward to watching it every week. I hope to see McLaughlin and Sequoyah on my TV screen again soon. — Lindlee
Matt Roush: Bravo on taking such an upbeat attitude during this season of cancellation angst. The actors weren't the problem with Believe, it's true, and I'm glad you found a reason (the relationship) to get past the parts of the show that were otherwise so derivative. I do believe (that word again) that if you're enjoying a show, even if all the signs are pointing that it's not going to last, there's no reason not to stay on the ride to the end and appreciating the work that's already in the can.
On that note, a heads-up that this is it for a few weeks, but keep sending your questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll continue the conversation about all things TV later this month.
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