Ask Matt: Glee vs. Grey's, White Collar, Army Wives, Morning TV and More
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Question: So you know that Glee is moving to Thursdays at 9/8c, though I haven't the slightest clue why. Anyways, it is going up against my all-time favorite, Grey's Anatomy. Yeah, I know half of TV viewers say the show has run its course, blah blah blah. But I just can't shake it, and I'm just too invested to stop now. My question, actually it's not even a question of Grey's vs. "The Rachel and Blaine Hour," I mean Glee. It's the question of whether or not I should spend 40 minutes on the Internet (I don't have DVR) to watch it when for the past last half of the season, it has always been the same characters in the spotlight. I love Artie and Tina, I really do, mainly because she was right when she said that she was there since, "Sit Down, You're Rocking the Boat." And if it's just going to be the same characters over and over again, why should I waste my time? And if Ryan Murphy is reading this, I have nothing against him. American Horror Story: Asylum? I'm already there. Is it time I left the Glee boat? — Martin
Matt Roush: As noted in my review last week, I was pleasurably surprised by the season opener of Glee: both the Rachel-and-Kurt material in New York (capped by the heart-wrenching goodbye scene between Hummel son and dad), the guest-star bravado of Kate Hudson, and especially the introduction of several promising new characters back at McKinley High, making me think they've discovered some much-needed fresh talent this season — not to mention the impending arrival of this summer's Glee Project winner, Blake Jenner, in a few weeks. But if you've never been able to accept the fact that Rachel, Kurt, Blaine and a few select others will always be first-among-equal stars of a large ensemble, maybe it is time to bail. Still, I'd give this season of reinvention some time to prove itself. I thought it got off to a strong start.
As to why Fox moved the show: The network has several priorities this season, including assembling a two-hour comedy block of quirky half-hour comedies on Tuesday (this year's best-of-fall-season newbies are The Mindy Project and Ben and Kate). And the strategy of the Thursday move is to pair Glee with the musically compatible The X Factor. There's no question Thursday is a tough and overstuffed night, especially for someone without a DVR, but if this move damages Glee significantly, I'd expect Fox to remedy the situation before giving up on this franchise.
Question: White Collar has become known for exciting cliffhangers — but with the mid-season finale coming up on Tuesday, there have been few clues as to what to expect. Any inside info? Will we be treated to another exciting, dramatic cliffhanger to keep us in suspense? — Laura
Matt Roush: It's no secret I'm spoiler-averse, but since I have screened the episode, let me just tease that the show goes on its hiatus with not so much a cliffhanger as it is a reveal that could change everything — about what, I won't say. But much of the episode, as hinted last week, hinges on the issue of trust. Can Neal ever trust Peter again? Can Peter win back Neal's confidence and good humor? Can anyone trust Sam? It all sets up the back half of the season (in early 2013) pretty nicely.
Question: Quick Matthew Perry questions. I loved him and kind of despised him on The Good Wife. I know he is a comedic actor and has done some serious made-for-TV movies, but why can't a network give him a drama series? Don't get me wrong, I'll watch his new show, but I wonder if he's not considered a serious dramatic actor? — Jean
Matt Roush: The way I see it is that Matthew Perry is considered a major TV star, whatever the genre. He has dabbled in drama quite effectively, in The Good Wife as well as The West Wing years earlier, and I suppose you could call his starring role in Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip serio-comic. As a dedicated teacher in the TNT movie The Ron Clark Story, he gave one of his very best performances outside his star-making role on Friends. For whatever reason, when he decides to take on a full-time series role these days, it's in the half-hour sitcom format, though he does try to lace these vehicles with edge and, in the case of Go On, tragedy. But should he decide to do drama again, I can't imagine who'd try to dissuade him. He's got chops and range and has proven himself repeatedly, even if some of his projects don't quite measure up.
Question: I have a couple of questions for you in regards to Army Wives. I've heard a couple of rumblings that the season 6 finale was indeed a series finale and not a season finale, but after watching it the other night, it definitely felt like a season finale. If this is what the producers behind the show felt would be a proper way to end a series that I felt by Lifetime standards was actually a very well thought out, provocative series that depicted Army life in a positive manner, then they totally disrespected the loyal viewers by ending with a possible plane crash. Also, what on earth happened to the star Kim Delaney the last several episodes as I was hoping she would re-appear for the finale? Have you heard anything about a season 7? I know the show is still a strong utility player for Lifetime, but I also read that the contracts were up for all the principal actors. Also, what were your thoughts on the finale (if you had a chance to watch it)? — Tom
Matt Roush: My e-mailbag has runneth over for some time with Army Wives questions and concerns, but for now, it's still wait and see. I only watched the very end of last week's finale to see if it looked like a wrap-up, which it most definitely did not. And given the show's importance to the Lifetime brand over the years, I am confident it will get at least another season, and this is one of those cases where when the time comes to call it a day, the network and studio had better be on the same page to give the loyal fans a satisfying ending. A possible plane crash is the very opposite of that scenario. It's worth noting that just last week, the network's president was promoted to a new position overseeing all of the A+E Networks (including A&E as well as Lifetime and History), so there was more on their plate than deciding the fate of this one show. It wouldn't surprise me if some announcement regarding Army Wives is imminent; just can't say when, or whether it will address the fate of individual cast members, including Delaney, whose recent extended absence on the show has been much remarked by fans but unaddressed as far as I can tell by the show itself, whose response to questions has been "no comment."
Jackie also wrote in to ask: "Is Sally Pressman (Roxy) really leaving the show? If that's the case, three of the original five 'wives' are now gone, and the show, while still very good, is certainly not the same. The new characters aren't getting it done for me; if their purpose was to pick up the slack, it didn't work. I know the show hasn't yet been renewed for the new season, so maybe these questions are moot, but I do wonder if you have any insight to offer."
Matt again: The only perspective I can give is that shows like this can be a victim of their own longevity, and when actors decide to move on for whatever reason — for the record, I have no idea who's returning or not if and when Army Wives is renewed — it does tend to change the dynamic of a show. On a much-larger canvas, I'm always reminded of ER, which by the end was almost unrecognizable character-wise (and to me, quality-wise) from where it started.
Question: There seems to be a recent phenomenon of shows growing audiences later in their runs. Mad Men, Breaking Bad, How I Met Your Mother and Sons of Anarchy have all reached highs in their most recent seasons (fifth season for all but HIMYM, which peaked in season 6). Not coincidentally, these shows are all available for streaming on Netflix. (It also helps, of course, that fan consensus seems to be these shows have not significantly dipped in quality throughout the course of their runs, which explains why other Netflix shows — 30 Rock, The Office, etc. — aren't experiencing the same boost.) I'm wondering how this changes the game for networks. I'm sure they're noticing, and I wonder if Netflix will now have an easier time getting the rights to air current series. (I can't help but think, we could have saved Veronica Mars!) Could networks also become a little more patient with sluggish starts? Breaking Bad/Mad Men could be the new Seinfeld story. — Dan
Matt Roush: Purely anecdotally, I do get a sense that long-running shows are benefiting from new fans being converted after "binge viewing," whether on Netflix or other streaming venues or by viewers plowing through old-fashioned DVD sets from past seasons. A show like Mother is also helped, maybe more than most, by surviving long enough to be airing alongside syndicated and cable repeats — and I personally don't think that show has held up in quality in recent years. I barely made it through last season, and credit much of its current popularity to its increased exposure on TV. But these examples do make a persuasive argument for networks, not only cable, to exhibit more patience with shows in hopes of a payoff down the road. This could become a determining factor for marginal shows with strong cult and critical buzz, but I'm not sure it's a game-changer yet.
Question: I agree with you about Major Crimes. Just an absurd destruction of a great franchise. Mary McDonnell is unlovable and unwatchable in this show, and the kid angle is so contrived and irrelevant that it stops the show in its tracks. What police force would allow a Chief to bring her "kid" to work every day and make police officers watch him? Also, the reason for him being her ward is so contrived as to be unbelievable; Brenda Leigh will be the only witness to put that guy in jail so who needs this kid to be a material witness? And this "plea bargain" angle is even more absurd. Why is that better than a confession? It has so destroyed the show that I stopped watching. — Harold
Matt Roush: To address one of the questions in your rant (most of which I agree with, though I'm still hanging in — for now — out of residual affection for characters like Provenza and Flynn), the plea bargain angle is, I suppose, meant to bring some realism to the show, because that's how the system most often works. And for this squad, or at least its leader, it's said to be more fiscally responsible. Does it make for a better show? I think we already have that answer.
Question: I wanted to start out by saying that I am a huge fan and read your pieces religiously! My question is in regards to morning television. When you have time in the morning, do you watch Today, Good Morning America or CBS This Morning and why? I know a lot of people in general don't watch morning TV (work, school, etc.) but why do you think GMA, as of recently, is doing so much better than Today? Is it the chemistry of the co-hosts? And why, even after the Olympics, did people flock back to GMA rather than Today? I know this may seem like an afterthought, but what do you think of the new format of CBS This Morning with Gayle King and Charlie Rose? At this point, after so many changes and trying so many different things over the years, is there anything CBS can do to make their morning news program just as popular as Today or GMA? - Cyrus
Matt Roush: My own morning-TV habits are sporadic; I tend to check in on these shows at times of transition, or during major news events, but I'm not a constant viewer, in part because I keep a late schedule watching so much prime-time TV into the wee hours. When I do watch, I tend to flip around to check out the dynamics of the various teams, the presentation, etc. But taking the long view, the best explanation of the current situation is that the departure of Meredith Vieira from Today (breaking up a truly winning formula), followed by the clumsy handling of the Ann Curry situation, opened the door for the undecided and/or disgruntled to look around and get attached to the GMA team, which beyond the compelling human-interest draw of Robin Roberts' medical situation (wishing her well and a speedy return) is aided immeasurably by winning personalities like Sam Champion and Josh Elliott. These tectonic changes in morning viewing patterns occur slowly, but right now GMA has the momentum, which became clear when viewers came back as soon as the Olympics ended. As for CBS: I like the fact they're not copying their rivals. It's a clear and substantial alternative. But hard to imagine anything catapulting this or any other incarnation into becoming significant competition for the institutions on ABC and NBC.
Question: I have been a long-time follower of NCIS. I so loved season 2. I thought that Ziva David's character had so much depth. The fact of being a trained killer for her government and the humor of trying to fit in to the NCIS dysfunctional family was great. That's really the season that I became a loyal never-to-miss fan. Lately I have missed the dangerous, spur-of-the-moment Ziva. I read that the actress (Cote De Pablo) has mentioned she too misses the "old" Ziva. Is there any chance this season that we will see some of the spontaneous and dangerous Ziva? Last season was the first time that I was beginning to yearn for a bit less perfection from the characters. — Cindy
Matt Roush: You've got to think that having the entire NCIS headquarters blow up on them in the season finale would rattle their composure a bit. Maybe that will shake Ziva out of her torpor. I wouldn't lose hope.
Question: I enjoy your column. I hope you will encourage your readers to watch Parenthood. I think it's the best show on now. — Richard
Matt Roush: Does it help that I touted the show last week? And I'll do the same again this Tuesday (though this is the last of the episodes I'll have seen in advance). It looks like we're in for another emotional roller-coaster this season, and as a longtime advocate for the endangered species that is the family drama, I will continue to recommend people seek it out. It isn't a perfect show, but what family doesn't get on your nerves now and then?
Question: With Damages ending, I am sad to be losing what is probably my favorite show, but as has been previously discussed, I am also glad it got to last this long. I imagine they probably want a post-Damages break, but have you heard anything about what the creators of the show will be doing next? Even though Damages is ending, I would like to think we haven't seen the last of their compelling writing yet. — Jake
Matt Roush: Nothing yet that I've heard or seen, but I agree. If you see the names Glenn and Todd A. Kessler and/or Daniel Zelman attached to any project, take notice.
That's all for now. Keep sending your comments and questions to email@example.com, and in the meantime, follow me on Twitter!
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