Ask Matt: Fringe, The Voice, Justified, Glee and More!
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Question: To say that I loved the season finale of Fringe would be an understatement. It was amazing! And I know I will be thinking about it all summer long, so I applaud the fantastic writers of this show. What did you think? — Rachel
Matt Roush: I thought what most of the readers of this column probably imagine I thought: Wow! As an hour of emotionally engaging and suspensefully perplexing entertainment, I thought it was a terrific way to end the show's very best season to date. (And so, it seems, did those who've weighed in so far in my mailbox.) Time paradox storylines are always tricky, and risk annoying fans who may see it as a tool to paint the writers out of sticky corners. And I admit, when I hear mumbo-jumbo like Future Walter telling Future Peter, "I can't change what happens because it's already happened, but you can make a different choice within what happened," I'm like, "OK, if you say so." I was shocked when Walternate shot Olivia in the head point-blank, and thrilled at the leap the show took by bridging the two worlds together in the present so the two Walters and the two Olivias come face to face. When Peter vanished mid-pep talk, I did an "uh-oh" followed by a (probably universal) WTFrak when the Observers announced that Peter never existed. That might have been one too many cosmic twists to suit me, but I am enjoying this Fringe ride more than ever, and I'm not about to caution these writers to ease up on the mad fun.
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Question: I'll be the first to admit that I was a bit biased against The Voice before even watching one episode. It had celebrities for "judges" that would probably make the show all about themselves, and was another singing competition — but I was immediately drawn in by the fancy swivel chairs, and far less contrived drama than I'm typically used to in reality TV. Naturally, there are comparisons to be drawn between The Voice and American Idol. Both feature celebrities on the panel,and amateur singers trying to make it big. Where American Idol seems to have especially failed this season, The Voice absolutely soars. We were given a bit of background information about the contestants on The Voice, but no one contestant was really given much more screen time than another, and the focus was entirely on how well a contestant sang. We said American Idol was bad last year, and blamed it mostly on a lackluster pool of talent, but this year I believe that the judges and producers are almost entirely to blame this year. How much longer can American Idol survive in a post-Simon world? What are your thoughts on The Voice? What do you think of The Voice in comparison to American Idol, this season alone? — Alex
Matt Roush: I like what I've seen so far of The Voice. It's just different enough not to seem a rip-off, and I very much appreciated the clever "blind audition" episodes focusing almost exclusively on good and worthy singers, sparing us of the freak-show ridicule Idol so gruesomely wallows in. But it's a bit early to crown it the champ. We haven't yet seen the "battle" rounds or the live performance episodes to see how they measure up against Idol or other talent shows. I am confident, though, that it will rank higher for me than NBC's cheesy America's Got Talent, which isn't saying much. But your overgeneralization of Idol this year ignores the fact that the show hasn't slipped in the ratings despite the new judges, and whether you like or loathe what this group of singers is doing (not counting those atrocious medleys), you have to admit they're each distinctive, and I know many viewers who are passionate about Scottie and James (and even the remaining girls) for very different reasons. I think Idol has discovered a few authentic stars this season, and I hope Voice will be able to say the same.
Question: After a terrific season of Justified and half a season of the equally outstanding The Killing, who wins the Emmy for best supporting actress, Margo Martindale or Michelle Forbes? I wouldn't be able to pick between the two. — Joel
Matt Roush: Neither can I, and there is one scenario by which no one will have to: if FX decides to submit Margo Martindale as a guest actor (the way John Lithgow was for his season on Dexter), since she was billed as a "guest star" throughout the season, although she was for all intents and purposes a regular. Michelle Forbes, being listed in the title credits, has to be considered a series regular, I'd think, and wouldn't it be amazing if both of these terrific actors won Emmys for their incredible work?
Question: I love Justified, but didn't you think there was just a little too much Deus ex Machina in the finale? Every time Raylan was in serious trouble, someone showed up with a gun to rescue him. The first time with Boyd made sense. But the second time when Doyle was drawing down on him was just too much. After all, the Marshals had stayed out of this Harlan mess all year. Why show up now other than just to rescue Raylan? Great season. But that just didn't work for me. — David
Matt Roush: Didn't really bother me, but I get your point. The two circumstances were so different, and the Boyd/Dickie rescue had so much personal resonance given the intertwining of all their families. It may be true that the Marshals coming to the rescue in the 11th hour was awfully convenient, but given all the mayhem that was going in this endgame — the disappearance of Loretta, the explosion at Cousin Johnny's, the high body count elsewhere — I don't think it's out of the realm of possibility that Art got over his pique at Raylan and decided to give the state police a hand. And where better to get to the root of the situation than at the Bennett compound? Gotta admit: I was glad to see him and the rest of the crew.
Question: I just read your ranking of Glee's second season in the "Sophomore Class Clowns and Class Acts" column in the magazine. The Kurt bullying/Dalton storyline has meant a lot to me. It's a story that needed to be told and it's helped many people who have felt lost, alone, hated and hopeless. You are entitled to your opinion, but I am disappointed that you used this storyline to point out where Glee was failing. — Matt
Matt Roush: You have a point. The storyline itself is an important one, and Chris Colfer really sells Kurt's isolation and terror — and delight upon finding a safe haven at Dalton. There's no doubt the issue of gay bullying is even essential for a show like Glee to tackle, given its fondness for misfits and abused but proud outsiders. I often applaud Glee for being an over-the-top musical-comedy fantasy, even when its cartoon excesses and inconsistencies prove aggravating (hello, Sue), and I've enjoyed many of the Warblers' numbers. But the portrayal of Dalton as such an "Up With People" retreat from reality is so ludicrous and precious that I often felt it took much of the sting out of Kurt's very real dilemma.
Question: I know that you're a fan of the new character Lauren on Glee, but I unfortunately find nothing to like about the character. I feel like I have given her a number of chances, I just don't see the same appeal that the other characters have. I am a "fatty" myself and so it has nothing to do with being shallow on my part. I just can't find anything to like about the character. She's not really a nice person, I find her as bitchy as Quinn and Santana if not more because she chooses to use the "big girl" card which I find annoying and useless. If we are supposed to read that as confidence, then more power to her. But I honestly don't see it. I also didn't really think the actress is as talented as the other cast members in terms of singing. And the so-called romance between Lauren and Puck is not believable, but that's Ryan Murphy. I know some will see this as harsh, but that is just my honest opinion. I was just putting forth the idea that it's OK to not like a character like Lauren Zizes because she's just a jerk?
I also wondered your view on the Callie and Arizona wedding possibly being undercut by the last-minute legal wedding of Meredith and Derek. It seemed to be a mixed message to me on the part of the writers after such a preachy speech by Bailey. Then again, that's Grey's Anatomy. — Maya
Matt Roush: The last time I remember referring to Lauren, I think I called her "toxic" because of her attitude, so I'm not sure where you got the idea I was a fan. (Maybe early on I was intrigued because she was different, but she wore out her welcome pretty quickly.) Whatever positives she represents by going against the usual body-type images in teen TV are mitigated by her being such an annoying boor. Regarding the Grey's nuptials: Weddings are always going to be unconventional on this show, and while Callie and Arizona ultimately got their storybook wedding with the affirmation that God is everywhere, Meredith and Derek as usual did it their way, on the fly and by surprise. I'd think fans would be pleased they have something more binding than a Post-it note. If anything, the ease with which MerDer got hitched provides a stark and symbolic contrast with the hoops gay couples are going through to try to legally and spiritually seal their bond.
Question: What did you think of Meredith's little stunt a few weeks ago on Grey's Anatomy? Personally, it made absolutely no sense to me, considering just a couple of episodes before that she wouldn't let Derek lie to get Adele in the trial because it would "ruin the trial for everyone else that we're trying to save," yet Meredith not only risked the trial but also her AND Derek's career. She betrayed him and it makes no sense. I'm really worried that Shonda is doing this as a ploy to break MerDer up. I know she promised they were "together forever" but she also said she would be breaking a lot of promises in the finale. Quite frankly, if they're breaking up in the finale, it would diminish every moment since S5 and I would definitely be done with the show. MerDer being together is one of the best decisions Shonda has made. I've wanted a real storyline for them all season and I did not suffer through CAM's baby drama and all the other gimmicks this season just to end up going through the whole 'will they, won't they' with MerDer again. — Zaynab
Matt Roush: This question arrived before last week's instant wedding/adoption scenario, so I hope that helped put the frantic MerDer shippers' minds to rest that the writers aren't going to break this couple up at a moment's notice. Not that they won't be tested. When Meredith pulled the stunt with the files, which was contrived to be sure, though explained to some degree by her and the chief's concern over Adele's worsening condition, it was a groaner. Because you know it's going to come back and bite her, and by extension Derek. That moment of joy at the end of last week's episode? You know on a romantic melodrama like this, it's going to be fleeting. But I find the panic premature and unwarranted.
Question: What are your thoughts on Round 3 of Top Chef Masters? I think the show has lost its spice. Perhaps they should keep the courses of this series further apart. First, the talent pool of "named" Master Chefs is dwindling, and this season seems to have few stand-outs (even with our "local" boy Hugh Acheson). But the fun part of Masters was the mutual respect of the chefs, and that they appeared to be having fun getting back in the kitchen. It didn't have the pettiness and gamesmanship of the original Top Chef. So I was very disappointed to hear Floyd Cardoz recently complaining about Traci Des Jardin's Quickfire win, saying that her dish wasn't complicated enough to win (when his dish was corn on the cob rolled in cheese and chili powder — because that was so complex). And reverting to the Top Chef/Just Desserts competition format has taken some of the heat out of the episodes. While I would have enjoyed seeing some of the chefs from the first two seasons stick around longer, and they did in effect waste some tremendous talent each week, it had a greater sense of urgency to see which one of the very talented Masters was going to make it through each week, rather than which one was going to go home. The two aspects of the show that I am enjoying more than in past seasons is the ditching of the tedious "star" ratings and the addition of host Curtis Stone. All in all, however, I feel as though I am just watching another season of the normal Top Chef, but with different judges. — Kristina
Matt Roush: Not just different judges, but these baby blogger judges aren't cutting the mustard for me (so to speak). I agree that Bravo may be doing the Top Chef franchise a disservice by piling these various versions on top of each other like an endless progressive dinner, instead of giving us a chance to digest one before the next begins. Exhaustion is bound to set in, and this one hasn't really caught fire with me, either. Could be I just don't have the energy for a show like this during a busy May sweeps, or it might be that reverting to the classic Top Chef formula has robbed the Masters series of its specialness.
Question: I am one of your fans, both online and in TV Guide Magazine. I've been wondering how I could find out when some of my favorite "summer" shows would be coming back, and then realized I could "Ask Matt." So ... do you know when Rizzoli & Isles, Burn Notice, The Glades, Fairly Legal and White Collar will return? Also, I was distressed to read in your Q&A column that Lie to Me and Human Target might not be renewed. Is that true? I'm so sad, since I think Human Target is a perfect role for Mark Valley. I loved him on Boston Legal and Fringe, but this role seems tailor-made for him. — Kathy
Matt Roush: Well, since you asked so nicely, how can I say no? Keep an eye out for TV Guide Magazine's summer preview issue in a few weeks, where we'll lay out the torrent of summer programming that will keep us busy until fall. Rizzoli & Isles will return July 11, paired once again with TNT's breakout hit The Closer. USA's Burn Notice is back June 23, and White Collar is back June 7, paired with the second season of Covert Affairs. The Glades returns June 5 on A&E. But Fairly Legal, which ended its first season recently and just got renewed for a second season, isn't part of the summer fun. Look for it sometime in 2012. And regarding Lie to Me and Human Target: We'll just have to wait until the network Upfronts next week to see what Fox has planned for next season. I'm hoping at least one of these shows is back, even if it's as a midseason backup.
Question: I have a solution to the All My Children and One Life To Live cancellation situation that I haven't seen yet and I can't understand why. ABC has built a following for these shows for 40 years. I understand that viewing habits have changed, but why wouldn't ABC look to retain these legendary shows by turning them into a prime-time drama that would air once a week? The network has a built-in audience for these shows that would give them a decided advantage over anything untested that they might put on the air. I think there would be tremendous fan support, which would provide a built in-audience — at least to sample the shows — and if they are good they would continue to watch. You have mentioned before that ABC has been looking to launch a show after Desperate Housewives but hasn't found a good fit. I think that Desperate Housewives followed by All My Children would prove to be a very successful combo. I'd love to get your thoughts on this idea. — Dave
Matt Roush: It's certainly an intriguing notion, but I fear it would be looked at as a desperation stunt. And from the prime-time programmers' point of view, I can see how these shows, so long on the decline, would seem like damaged goods. But I've heard worse ideas, and anything that would spare us from another season of the played-out Brothers & Sisters is OK by me.
Question: Regarding a recent "Ask Matt" exchange about spin-offs: I know that for the most part when we think "spin-off" we think of the failures that are CSI: Miami and CSI: NY and Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior and maybe even NCIS: LA (though I disagree on that one), but it's important to remember that a bunch of really good shows grew out of spin-offs: NCIS (from JAG), SVU (from the original Law & Order), Frasier (Cheers), King of Queens (Everybody Loves Raymond). I get the impression that some people confuse "spin-off" with "an extra hour of the show I like" which is not always the case. You have to give these new shows room to breathe and create their own identity. Sure sometimes you're going to wind up with a Joey, but better that these networks take chances than saddle us with more Reality TV. — Chip
Matt Roush: Yes, sometimes you get a Laverne & Shirley (out of Happy Days) and sometimes you get Joanie Loves Chachi. We often wring our hands over the proliferation of uninspired spin-offs as a sign of creative bankruptcy at the networks, but that's mainly because the current trend is to clone a pre-existing show and just change the setting. When Norman Lear used All in the Family as an incubator for shows like Maude and Good Times and The Jeffersons, no one seemed to mind. The point being that the best sort of spin-off is one that pays homage to the creative spirit of the original while building an entirely new world — Frasier's Seattle couldn't have been more different from the Boston of Cheers — around a new set of characters.
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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