Ask Matt: Glee Project, Summer Finales, Strike Back and More!
Damian, Samuel, Lindsay, Alex
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Question: Regardless of who wins, I have to say that watching The Glee Project this summer has been a total pleasure. I can't remember another reality competition where I was actually rooting for every contestant, and if Ryan Murphy wanted to add the entire final four to the Glee cast, I don't think I'd mind. But beyond the competition aspect, I love how the show gives us a behind-the-scenes glimpse into how Glee is written and choreographed each week. As a bona fide TV nerd, that's the kind of stuff I find fascinating, and it's given me a new respect for the hard work the regular cast must put in. What are the chances of The Glee Project getting a second season, and what do you think of the winner (who I assume will be announced by the time this is published)? — Donnie
Matt Roush: Sounds like you got your wish. As Lindsay put it, after Ryan Murphy pulled an Oprah-like "everyone gets an arc!" surprise in the finale: "Did we all just win a little bit?" Samuel and Damian (my pick, so yay!) both got seven-episode arcs, but Lindsay and Alex each scored two-episode appearances. So it's a win-win, and I'm very cool with that. I honestly couldn't imagine Glee turning its back on this much talent, and given what we understand about the upcoming season, the more new blood the merrier, right? As for the show itself: I completely agree about its merits. The process of each week's challenge did give us a sense of what's required to pull off Glee on a weekly basis — harder than it looks, which is why I tend to cut it some slack when it goes off the rails — and up until the last two weeks, the hard choices being made by Ryan & Co. remind us that rejection is a part of the business, unfair as it sometimes seems. A second season? Nothing's official, but didn't I see a promo urging fans to audition? Seems pretty much a given.
Question: I've really been enjoying The Glee Project, but I find one aspect of it to be incredibly annoying: the teasers at the start of commercial breaks. I know they are trying to make sure people keep watching, but I find it ruins the "big moment" when you've already seen part of it. Maybe other reality shows do this as well, but this is the first one I've watched in the last five years or so. — Dennis
Matt Roush: Time for one of Matt's "how to watch TV" tips, because The Glee Project is hardly alone in teasing/spoiling what's to come in its bumpers and is probably far from the worst offender. Annoying moments like this are why the mute button was invented. I reach for it any time I hear those magic words "coming up next ..." and I suggest you do the same. Preserves the surprise of the best sound bites to come and maybe even a twist or two. What I detest even more than these teasers is the tendency of some of the more bloated reality shows to replay what happened just before the break as if somehow we'd forgotten during the commercials. Oh, the agony.
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Question: I was wondering what you thought of the White Collar summer finale. I thought that it was a great episode with quite a cliffhanger, but am worried if Peter and Neal's relationship will ever be the same after this latest development. The bond that they developed in the first two seasons was my favorite part of the show, and that wasn't as strong for me this year. I was surprised, when the building exploded at the end of last season, that Peter immediately accused Neal of stealing the treasure, and throughout the season he seemed to be trying awfully hard to prove that his "friend" is still a crook. There were times when it seemed to bother him, but he actually seemed to be enjoying going after him in the finale, which I thought was weird. It was also hard to watch Neal struggle with the position Mozzie put him in. He didn't steal the treasure, but because Mozzie did, he was forced to either keep the truth from Peter and try to cover Mozzie's tracks, or turn his best friend over to the feds. Now, because Mozzie stole the treasure, Elizabeth is in danger, and I wonder if Peter will ever forgive Neal for the part that he played in it. Weirdly, it reminds me of BBCs Being Human a little bit. When Mitchell killed all those people, they took the character down a road he could never come back from. I hope that they don't do that with Peter and Neal. To me, their friendship is the core of the show. January seems like a very long way away! — Kelly
Matt Roush: Never worry that a show like White Collar will ever go down as grim a road as the British (and superior) Being Human. USA Network is about "blue sky" escapism, not so much the dark alleys of the soul. That said, the better USA shows (a list that includes Collar) tend to have at least a little dramatic tension at their core, and in this case, the Peter-Neal relationship is that core, built on a shaky foundation of trust and deception. This same fear that their partnership would never be the same came up at the end of last season (when Neal discovered the treasure hadn't been destroyed), and now is intensified because Peter has been attacked where it hurts most: the homefront. If you didn't care or worry about the impact of this, the writers wouldn't be doing their job. I'm fairly certain once this latest crisis is resolved, Peter and Neal will get back to business, though I'm curious to see how they get past this whole hidden-treasure mess Mozzie got Neal into and how it forces them all to redefine their relationships. For a show like this to work, we need to be reminded at times that Neal's motives aren't always pure, that Peter lives for the cat and mouse game (even if Neal is sometimes the target) and that when the day comes there is no longer a hint of suspicion between the two, the show is over.
Question: Having been a fan of In Plain Sight from the first episode, I was shocked and at first disappointed when I learned it's being cancelled after eight episodes next year. But the more I thought about this season, the more I decided it's time to let it go. The reason? The baby! For a smart, hip show like this, the pregnancy storyline was like fingernails on a chalkboard. It SOOO didn't fit. Yes, I know Mary McCormack was pregnant during the filming, which presented obvious "logistical" problems. But Mary Shannon is (or was!) so much smarter than to let herself get pregnant. Then to have to deal with all the "what am I going to do about this?" drama, just a big downer, in my opinion. So if the show is going to end with Marshall Shannon carrying a baby around on her hip and doing the whole "mommy track" for eight shows, count me out! It'll be time to end it. If, however, they "write the baby out," as in miscarriage, adoption, etc., then the show has a chance to regain its earlier sparkle and go out on an upbeat note. What's your take on this season, and the cancellation itself? — KC
Matt Roush: The flaws of a character like Mary Shannon are why we watch shows like In Plain Sight, so I don't judge her for getting pregnant as long as it makes for good "character" (the USA Network buzzword) drama. I only caught the show sporadically this season, but from what I saw, this complication fits well with Mary's overall exasperation with the messiness of life in general. I don't see them having her lose or abandon the baby, though. That would be out of character and terribly off-putting. Even so, I'm at peace with the show folding tent after next season. It's been a good run.
Question: I just watched the season finale of Teen Wolf, and I think it was the best season finale of the year. It wrapped up the major storyline for the season while dropping clues for the direction of next season. I thought the series was mediocre and was ready to sign off, but the clues actually make me want to see what happens next year. I was also impressed with how they put the whole story together. It actually flowed rather than feeling forced for dramatic effect. I know you wrote extensively on the issues of the finale for The Killing (I was in the "hate-it" crowd). What do you think was the best season finale this year? — Megan
Matt Roush: Except for the laughable CGI of the "alpha" wolf, I enjoyed Teen Wolf more than I expected through most of its first season, including the finale, which took pretty much the opposite approach of The Killing in giving all sorts of closure to various storylines (killing the alpha while creating a new one, and offing the most vicious of the hunters) while setting up nifty cliffhangers involving some of the more interesting supporting players. And bottom line: Stiles rules! (What a great character.) As for my favorite finale of the year to date — I assume you're not limiting me to summer, since not all of these finales have aired yet — I'll just turn to my favorite drama of the year to date, FX's Justified. A great season start to finish, and the way they wrapped the story of Mags Bennett (the great and oh-so-Emmy worthy Margo Martindale) is something I'll not soon forget. Now on to another finale:
Question: I realize that The Nine Lives of Chloe King on ABC Family isn't going to set in motion a series of copycat shows by other networks, but what was your take on the finale? I admit for a show about a girl with a myriad of powers it was way too slow at times, but Skyler Samuels kept those slow moments engaging by her character being witty and likable. I thought the finale outdid any expectations by actually being thrilling, suspenseful and sad, with an extremely well-edited dual fight scene added to top it all off. Any word yet on a second season? — Jeffrey
Matt Roush: No word yet that I'm aware of on a second season, but breakout hit Switched at Birth (the only ABC Family show I enjoyed, and kept up with, this summer) was renewed before its own summer season ended, so this may not be a good sign. Still, it can be hard to predict with cable, especially when it comes to shows that could develop a cult following given time. Chloe never really caught my fancy — too much wackadoo mythology, too few full-blooded characters to care about, and yikes on most of the casting — so it all felt like a dumbed-down Buffy to me and I had no desire to follow it closely after being turned off from the start. But you're right that the finale did have plenty of action. Mostly of the everyone's-in-peril variety, which is why I preferred Teen Wolf wrapping up many of its conflicts, though Chloe's cliffhanger involving Chloe and Brian's seemingly fatal lip-lock was a good one. Not, however, the happiest final image to go out on if the show isn't picked up.
Question: I just watched the first two episodes of Strike Back on Cinemax. I really enjoyed them and I thought the show was well done despite Cinemax's typical overemphasis on sex and nudity. The production value seemed pretty high, maybe because this is a joint production with Sky Network in the UK. Have you checked out this new show? — Kathy
Matt Roush: I generally agree with you. Here's an excerpt from how I reviewed the show in the magazine: "Overheated and oversexed, with shades of 24 — had Jack Bauer paused after every gunfight for international tail. Violent and profane, awash in gratuitous Skin-emax nudity and gruesome overkill, the unapologetically crude Strike Back is unsparing in its body count. Plenty of twists in [these] shag-and-frag exploits of a covert British black-ops unit. It's rather nasty, in every way imaginable." I've made it so far through four episodes — and will probably watch more if they're supplied to me — and was even reminded at times of a more cartoonish MI-6 (one of my spy faves) in the way it's willing to sacrifice key characters, so also like 24, it keeps you a bit on edge even as it traffics in its almost ridiculously macho shoot-em-up antics.
Question: I've followed your column in TV Guide Magazine for over 10 years. I have a dilemma and I need your help. Way back when, TV shows like The X-Files, Farscape, Battlestar Galactica and Lost captured my imagination and forced me on "roller-coaster" rides for season after season. Well, maybe not "forced," but more like a Stockholm Syndrome type of fascination with great writing, directing and solid dialogue. I haven't found a "new fix" yet. Since Lost and BSG went off the air (sadly, Farscape many moons ago), I have found True Blood to be juvenile and nothing from the Syfy channel fits my fancy. Can you please recommend any shows from the last few years (or new shows) in sci-fi that are compelling? My co-worker recommended Game of Thrones, which I'm considering... just wanted your opinion. BTW, it was your Farscape recommendation years ago that made me a fan of the show. It is sorely missed. — Derek
Matt Roush: Ah, Farscape. Gone too soon, but never forgotten. I get where you're coming from, because I believe many of us will never stop looking for the next Lost, but I'm surprised not to see Fringe on your genre playlist. Get past the uneven first season as the show finds its way, and you're in for a real treat. Lately, it feels very "classic" to me. And you generally can't go wrong with the British. Even if you resisted (as I somehow did) past incarnations, the new Doctor Who (with Matt Smith) is a mind-blowing delight, and the Who spinoff Torchwood is a gas, reaching a terrifying peak in the Children of Earth miniseries — although the current Starz Miracle Day series has been mostly a disappointment. Start with the weekly series and work your way toward Earth. Also very high marks for the British version of Being Human, which grounds what could have been a laughable premise in harrowing and emotional character stories. I'm sorry you find True Blood juvenile — it's definitely over the top, I'll give you that — because it has raised its game this season with the Eric and witch storylines. Which makes me think you might want to steer clear of CW cult items like Supernatural and especially The Vampire Diaries, which I enjoy but more in a guilty pleasure way, never with the depth of the landmark shows you mention. (With this question, it's probably worth checking the comments below, because I'm sure I've forgotten something I should have recommended.)
Question: I'm not alone in being a Torchwood fan who is very disappointed by Miracle Day. It's not a case of American TV dumbing down a British show — it seems like show creator Russell T. Davies thinks he has to personally dumb it all down to appeal to the stupid people on this side of the pond. The plot takes forever to move and the characters seem to have gotten lobotomies. And all the obvious gay jokes make me long for the Doctor Who episode where Jack was casually flirting with both Rose and the Doctor or when Jack and Ianto were carrying on their affair at Torchwood headquarters. Where's the humor? Where's the action? Where's the point? They've got a decent amount of cash and the freedom of Starz and this is the best they can manage. Why do they assume the audience needs to have everything explained to them as slowly as possible? And what's up with trotting in all these guest stars just to shuffle them off? As a friend and fellow fan said, "I'm getting really mad because they're making me hate my favorite show." What a waste of talent. — Cyn
Matt Roush: I'm a little puzzled, though not entirely surprised by this rant, because it appears to have been posted almost immediately after Friday's "Immortal Sins" episode ended, which I found to be the best of the season to date, going way beyond the "obvious gay jokes" to tell a profoundly moving and disturbing back story for Jack, revealing another lost love (though apparently not yet lost entirely) who haunts him through time. But I will agree the pacing overall has been way off this season, along with other narrative and execution problems. Spreading out this story over 10 episodes hasn't worked the way I'd hoped, but if there's still life in the franchise after this, I hope it's back to Wales with some more memorable monsters.
Question: I have had a hard time warming up to Teen Wolf even though I have come to like werewolf stories via Being Human on BBC America. I guess Teen Wolf's werewolf mythology seems too complicated compared with Being Human, which carries vampire and ghost mythologies as well. Scott seems to be able to partially transform any time he gets really angry, but can't completely transform even on the full moon because he's not an Alpha or something, while George undergoes a complete transformation only on the full moon while feeling the wolf stirring in the few days leading up to it. As a fan of many of these monster shows, do you ever find it hard to accept the mythologies and keep them all straight? Or do you just go with whatever is presented? George has made such an indelible impression that even though I like Scott and his Teen Wolf world, it's hard to fully accept what goes on sometimes. — Frank
Matt Roush: My rule of thumb, and it dates back to The X-Files (a brilliant series, but not without flaws): If the mythology takes over the show, obscuring the story and especially the characters, it's rarely a good thing. While I agree with you that none of the Teen Wolf wolves are as compelling as Being Human's lovable George, the details of when, how and why Scott would turn didn't really bother me. (I saw his transformations mostly as a metaphor for adolescent, often sexual urges, hardly a surprise there.) Unless it takes me out of the story, I try not to sweat the details in shows like this, including worrying why the vampires of Bon Temps (True Blood) can or can't do things the vamps of Mystic Falls (Vampire Diaries) do. For me, it's really about whether these stories are entertaining and if they make me feel anything.
Question: Have you heard of any date for the airing on the TV movie based on John Sandford's "Prey" series, specifically Certain Prey starring Mark Harmon? The similarity of the main character "Lucas Davenport" to Leroy Jethro Gibbs is uncanny. Can't wait to see it. Will the movie also be called Certain Prey? — VL
Matt Roush: Everything I've seen indicates the movie will be titled Certain Prey, and last word I got from USA Network is that it should air sometime in the fourth quarter. It's a smart idea, I agree. NCIS is such a popular staple of the USA schedule, why not exploit that with a movie franchise for its star? If this role is as good a fit for Harmon as Jesse Stone is for Tom Selleck — and having read many of the books as well, I don't see why it wouldn't be — I'd bet this won't be the only one we'll see. I'm also happy to see TNT getting back in the movie business with a series of Tuesday night mystery movies later this year. Who knows? If they take off, maybe the broadcast networks will get back in the game. They keep talking about how they need more "event" TV. With the right project, movies and minis more than fit the bill.
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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