Ask Matt: The Following, Elementary, Big Bang, Bones, Last Resort, Happy Endings and More
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Question: I rely on your advice for new shows, so is The Following worth watching? I love Kevin Bacon, but I have given up on The Mentalist because of the whole Red John thing. If they had laid that to rest when it appeared that they did, I would still be watching. It seems like this new show will be very similar, but I haven't heard enough to make a decision. What do you think? — Tom
Matt Roush: The Following couldn't be less similar to The Mentalist. I'm recommending The Following in a review that will be in this week's issue of TV Guide Magazine (Kevin Bacon is the focus of the cover story) and posted online when the show premieres, but the show's not going to be for everyone. Where The Mentalist is an agreeably escapist procedural befitting the CBS brand, with a charming if haunted hero and an over-arcing manhunt story that I agree has been teased and played out for too long, The Following is a total thriller, aiming more for a cable-weaned audience thirsting for extremes of violence and ghoulish plotting. (Think Dexter, the early years.) There is a cunning mastermind psychopath, but we know his identity immediately (played with creepy charisma by James Purefoy), and while like Red John he has minions carrying out his bloody bidding, this isn't so much a manhunt as it is a cat-and-mouse dance of death that builds much of its suspense out of making us wonder who among us might be lying in wait to turn the tables on our damaged hero (Bacon, who's also very good). Some of the villain's deranged acolytes also become characters with their own subplots, and the show is much more serialized than the likes of The Mentalist. It's a risky, gutsy, dark and sick and scary show. If that sounds like your sort of thing, you should at least check out the diabolical pilot. It's been making noise for a reason.
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Question: While I personally thought that the introducing of the Moriarty persona on Elementary went quite smoothly, my mother was a bit alarmed by the fact that Holmes went as far as to pretend to be about to torture a man who turns out to simply be a hired hand for the real one and, after getting info out of him, stabbing him — which was shown graphically, a first for violence on the show (and yes, I have kept track) — albeit not in an area of vital organs. After the episode was over, she asked me if he was going to continue to do acts of that nature in the future, and, while I assured her that he probably wouldn't, it's not like I have a crystal ball, so my question is: Will he actually continue to do illegal acts of that nature in the future (it counts as assault)? — Luke
Matt Roush: I don't know for sure, either, and wouldn't really want to, because at this stage, we're meant to be left wondering just when and what it would take for Sherlock to lose control again. Like you, I doubt we'll see him go this far very often. It seemed to me that the "M." storyline is intended to bring out the worst and most extreme behaviors in Sherlock, which Jonny Lee Miller played very well. The Holmes presented in Elementary is that of a broken and unstable hero — Watson is keeping close watch on him for a reason — and viewers may well be disturbed, but shouldn't necessarily be put off when a character like this is taken to the edge from time to time. Even on CBS.
Question: I really like The Big Bang Theory on CBS. One thing I was wondering is whether or not we will ever meet Sheldon's infamous Meemaw. In one episode he said that he would be "one inconsolable moon pie" if anything ever happened to his Meemaw, so we know that she is still alive somewhere. — Becki
Matt Roush: Nothing on the immediate horizon, though executive producer Bill Prady puts it this way: "As with all questions about characters' relatives: Maybe, if we have a good story!" But wouldn't that be a great role for Frances Sternhagen (Brenda's mom from The Closer)?
Question: I've loved Bones since day one, and am thrilled they'll get another season, but the goo and slime (with sound effects!) are simply getting too gross. I've actually begun DVR'ing the show just so I can fast-forward through the ickiness. I expect they were trying to appeal to the teenage boy aesthetics, but c'mon, is that really the demographic that is watching? I think not. To whom can I appeal that this characteristic of the show is simply unneeded? The stories don't need the gore. And I suspect the more of us who DVR to avoid the gruesomeness are also avoiding the commercials, not what I expect the show's sponsors want to hear. — Connie
Matt Roush: Maybe I'm just an immature fanboy at heart, but those icky bits are part of the appeal of Bones to me, and these kinds of sound effects amplifying our squeamishness have been with us since the days of radio (sample Arch Oboler's classic Lights Out if you doubt it). One of the charms of the Bones character is that she's absolutely unfazed by any of these gross-outs. In one of this week's Monday episodes, she nonchalantly asks Hodgins at a crime scene, "Can you please get the bugs off my eyes?" Made me giggle. This is not an uncommon complaint about this show, however, and the producers are very aware of it. Probably makes them take even more delight in making us squirm through those moments. As for the DVR issue: I'm pretty sure the gore isn't the main reason most people are DVR'ing this or any other show. It's convenience, and the way many of us are consuming TV now regardless of content.
Question: What can we as viewers do to keep Last Resort going? We saved Friday Night Lights after NBC decided to cancel it. Now we have to save this show as well!! Just when we were getting to the nitty gritty, ABC announces they're canceling the show! This show is riveting. The show is populated with outstanding actors. It offers twists and turns in each and every episode that keep my attention throughout. Please give us some help on how to go about keeping the show on the air. The time slot is putrid! This is an adult show with adult topics: national intrigue, rape, adultery, etc. Why was it put in an early time slot and against The X Factor? Makes no sense to me!! — Eileen
Matt Roush: To be honest, viewers didn't save Friday Night Lights. DirecTV did. (Although it probably wouldn't have if there hadn't been a passionate fan base.) If it had been left to NBC, it wouldn't have made it past two seasons, regardless of the outcry. Any time shows are canceled, there is an impulse among fans to rally to its cause, and my best suggestion would be to go to social media on Twitter, Facebook or the show's fan sites to see what campaigns are underway. In this case, though, I'm afraid it may be too little too late, though I would never discourage viewers from becoming activists. Last Resort was very badly scheduled in an unfriendly and unwise Thursday time period — although hits like The Big Bang Theory were more of a hindrance than the middling X Factor — but it was also the right show on the wrong network, and it never really fit with ABC's soapier brand. Because of the cost and logistics of this exotic production, filmed in Hawaii, it's unlikely that anything could get this particular show back on its feet. And it's even harder when a show is cut after just its first 13 episodes, before it had a chance to catch on. I really thought ABC would give this one a full season to figure things out. I'm as disappointed as anyone.
Question: Do you think that 666 Park Avenue and Last Resort will get released on DVD? I know sometimes they do and sometimes they don't. For example, last season's Alcatraz and Terra Nova were released on DVD. I was just wondering if you think they have a good chance at releasing them. Also: Very upset with ABC over pulling the remaining 666 episodes off the schedule and holding them (possibly) until the summer. They told us even though it was being canceled, they would still air all the episodes as planned. Liars!| — Dylan
Matt Roush: It's not like the transplanted comedies are doing any better on Sundays, so I'm not sure what the logic was in pulling 666 altogether. All it did was make the fan base annoyed, obviously. As for DVD releases, it's really up to the studios (Sony for Last Resort, Warner Bros. for 666) to decide if it's potentially worth it. (I was happy to see, for instance, that ABC released The River, one of my favorite midseason experiments, last year.) Given that both shows represent popular genres, and Last Resort in particular may end up feeling more like a miniseries (shades of The River), I'd be hopeful that both will have a bit of a shelf life.
Question: While I am never happy to see actors lose their series, there is always the light at the end of some of their tunnels in the form of being able to come back to previous characters established on other shows. Case in point: Hawaii Five-0. Now that Terry O'Quinn is no longer residing at 666 Park Avenue, I'd love to see his Joe White character re-emerge. And I'd be thrilled for Autumn Reeser, who has lost Last Resort, to return as Danny's girlfriend Gabby. They had great chemistry and it's a relationship that hasn't ended but has just been off-screen. Any word on these possible returns? — Karen
Matt Roush: According to this recent story, Terry O'Quinn is a lock to return — makes sense, given that the producers had said even before the season began that they hoped to get him back if his schedule worked out (and now it has). No word that I'm aware of regarding Reeser's character, but since she was already filming in Hawaii for Last Resort, I can't imagine it would be much of a stretch if they wanted to bring her back.
Question: I loved Parenthood! Never missed a week. Now I'm upset about Sarah and her relationship with Ray Romano (Hank). It made her so slutty. She was already in a relationship, and I loved the two of them, Sarah and Mark. The other cast members are excellent! I will miss the show overall. — Jean
Matt Roush: Why talk about this show in the past tense? Yes, there are only two more episodes to go in another shortened season — Parenthood is scheduled more like a cable series, which may be the direction more of network TV is headed — but I'm optimistic the show will return for a fifth season. But yes, I agree about the Sarah triangle. Though I like Ray Romano a lot, and he's just fine as the moody and smitten Hank, I was annoyed by Sarah's ridiculous dithering that led to the predictable break-up. I wouldn't be so judgmental as to call her a slut for falling right into bed with her boss afterward. Maybe unwise would suffice. But if the promos are accurate, it looks like this week's episode will be a watershed moment for the storyline. Hope so, anyway.
Question: Is it just me, or does it seem to you that ABC never really knew what to do with Happy Endings? It's like a strange, wildly off-center version of Friends, and even though quirky comedies are "in" on network TV, this show is still quirkier than most, which is probably why I like it so much. Unfortunately, I think it's only a matter of time before it gets canceled, which is a shame, because it's one of the few comedies out there that actually makes me laugh. Do you think a cable network might resurrect it if this happens, the way TBS did with Cougar Town? I think Happy Endings fits in much better with TBS' primetime comedies than it does with ABC's. The same goes for Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23. Are those shows just too "weird" for network TV viewers? — Brandon
Matt Roush: Not so sure that "weird" applies, but the smug snarkiness of their brand of comedy is certainly self-limiting. I like B---- more than Happy Endings, which I've never warmed up to (Max and Penny aside, who are worthy of their own show), but the suffocating absurdism and self-aware irony they often traffic in hasn't worked that well in the long run for NBC, either, which is why that network is trying fitfully to broaden its approach. I do believe ABC is fond of Happy Endings and wants it to work, and it probably has a better shot at renewal than B----. As always when it comes to bubble shows of any sort, an actual happy ending may depend on how well the network's development goes for next season. And while I'm glad TBS picked up Cougar Town, the downside is that it's going to get a lot of people's hopes up that the same thing can happen to their own favorite failed comedy, when this situation tends to be the exception to the rule. But as a demonstration of just how polarizing the subject of comedy is, here's the opposite take on Happy Endings.
Question: Please explain to me why Happy Endings wasn't canceled halfway through the first episode. I gave up after the first few episodes because the writing and acting were beyond horrendous. I notice that it seems to be a darling of the critics and I have no idea why. The characters are poorly drawn, as each one is an over-the-top stereotype: the overbearing wife and her docile husband, the quirky hot chick and her lovable doofus ex, the mandatory gay guy that every show must have in TV today. And the worst is Penny, who is so ridiculously neurotic that she is basically a cartoon character. All of the critics normally trash better garbage than this train-wreck of a show. So what's the deal? Is ABC paying for positive reviews or something? — Bob
Matt Roush: If so, they didn't pay me. But I beg to differ about Max, who is most certainly not your typical "mandatory gay guy." Gay, yes, but he confounds the stereotype in every way except sex drive. And while Penny is certainly cartoonish, at least Casey Wilson makes her funny. Which, again, is a matter of personal taste, as comedy almost always is.
Question: In regard to a previous question about the interruption football makes on CBS's Sunday night lineup, has CBS ever considered editing 60 Minutes to make it end at or near the 8/7c mark? None of the stories are pressing news on that program, so what makes a difference whether the stories that get edited out are seen this week or next? Is 60 Minutes even very highly rated? — Jason
Matt Roush: On the contrary, many weeks 60 Minutes produces segments that qualify as breaking news, often resulting in headline news. Even when the features are more timeless, they're still the best produced and most relevant of any TV newsmagazine (with the possible exception of PBS' Frontline). Which is my way of saying that 60 Minutes is still a valuable and profitable part of CBS's schedule and CBS News' identity, and while not at its ratings peak — what is, besides football and The Big Bang Theory these days? — the series still does quite well, although saying it skews old is an understatement. When I took on this subject again last week, I considered adding to the discussion a tangent about how the most obvious solution to CBS's Sunday-night overruns would be tampering with the length of 60 Minutes (because every show on the lineup is an hour, there's no flexibility elsewhere), but this show's reputation makes it pretty much untouchable. And being a lifelong fan, I'm OK with that.
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