Ask Matt: Globes Weirdness, Dexter, Person of Interest, Charlie Sheen, and More!
Jim Caviezel, David Costabile
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Question: I often appreciate the Golden Globes because they show greater range in the nominations than the Emmys, which tend to nominate the same people long after the bloom is off the rose. However, this year's nominees are just weird. Boss and American Horror Story instead of Breaking Bad, Justified or The Good Wife (or Friday Night Lights, if it was eligible)? Callie Thorne? Jeremy Irons? David Duchovny? Of the five nominated comedies, only two (Episodes and Modern Family) seem to be fitting. The Middle, Community, Parks and Rec, Big Bang Theory and Cougar Town deserve praise ahead of the others (especially the highly problematic Glee). I know that the Hollywood Foreign Press tends to be eclectic in its choices, but this is somewhat ridiculous. What do you think? — Erin
Matt Roush: Somewhat ridiculous? Try laughably. This group is so desperate to seem with-it that once again, they end up lacking any credibility whatsoever. I'm all for including new blood into an awards mix, but this year's transfusion went way overboard. Embracing niche shows like the dismal Boss over the spectacular season of Breaking Bad (among the other terrific dramas you pointed out) or the peculiar Enlightened over the best of NBC's Thursday night comedies goes beyond head-scratching. If we didn't know better, we'd think they were being incredibly elitist instead of merely desperate in their slavish embrace of cable (especially the pay channels). But at least they acknowledged Homeland, which is more than the astonishingly lazy SAG Awards nominations could muster last week.
Question: I saw the Golden Globes nominations and was quite surprised to see American Horror Story got the nod over The Walking Dead in the best drama category. I like American Horror Story (I know you are not a big fan), but I love The Walking Dead and think it is a much better show. What are your thoughts about this? — Cathy
Matt Roush: Obviously I agree with you. The first half of The Walking Dead's second season wasn't perfect — even I got restless toward the end of those episodes on the farm, though the final sequence was as powerful and disturbing as anything the show has ever done — but at least it seems to be about actual humans in a truly horrific situation. And when it goes for the jugular, it's truly frightening, because it feels like there's something truly at stake. Whereas American Horror Story is just a lurid sick joke badly told, and the only nominations I'm on board with regarding that show are those saluting Jessica Lange's wildly entertaining performance — she runs circles around everyone, and if the rest of the cast were on her level (Denis O'Hare comes close), they might be able to salvage the dreadfully obvious and vulgar writing. I've always loved the horror genre when done well, which is why I'm rather dismayed (but in a way, almost amused) to see people egging on this indulgent train wreck with nominations and Top 10 mentions.
Question: I am assuming with awards season around the corner, due to its schedule everyone will forget what a great final season Rescue Me had. — Glenn
Matt Roush: You're probably right. But I hope you saw our Cheers & Jeers year-end issue, where we singled out Rescue Me among the year's finest series finales (along with Friday Night Lights, of course). But it really isn't so much about the timing of the final season as much as the perception that Rescue Me had peaked a few seasons ago. Which is mostly accurate. And while the show did regain much of its power in its final season, it probably wasn't enough to get back on many people's radar, especially those handing out awards, who generally are more keen on acknowledging shows that still have a future.
Question: I know "jump the shark" can refer to a show's general decline in quality, but for me it means the introduction of a plotline so outrageous or clichéd that we can no longer watch and suspend disbelief. I have been thinking about shark-jumping ever since I saw Deb's dream sequence on Dexter last week. And I want to know: Is it me, or were the writers winking at us as they water-skied over the cage? The Dexter writers seem too savvy to me to have made this plot decision without knowing how viewers might react. The dream sequence itself seemed deliberately scripted to remind of us of every other romantic dream sequence we've ever seen in films or TV, so that viewers knew long before the cut to Deb in bed that it was in fact a dream. And in a show about a single dad/vigilante serial killer, who hides in plain sight in a homicide division forensic lab (where his adoptive sister is a cop), who talks to a hallucination of his dead adoptive father, who has murdered people just yards away from colleagues and who has shared Thanksgiving dinner with another serial killer's family, I suppose one could ask whether any plotline is too outrageous. But then I could be giving the writers too much credit. I am withholding judgment on this plot twist until I see the finale, but I am really curious to read what you think. — Michelle W
Matt Roush: My own notes during that dream sequence of Deb and Dex getting uncomfortably intimate read: "STOP IT! NO!!" followed by a few "ewwwwws" for good measure. But as we now know (SPOILER ALERT for those who haven't watched Sunday's finale yet), this icky epiphany was a set-up for the long-awaited climactic twist of Deb finally discovering the truth about her adoptive brother (and, in her mind, the love of her life: again, ewww), that he's a murderer of murderers. I agree with you that the way last week's dream sequence was filmed made it obvious it was a tease, so there was a wink (and perhaps a leer) implied. And in the finale, when Deb cried to her therapist, "Is this just horribly wrong?" any viewer with sense had to be screaming back to the screen, "Yes!" The therapist, as they so maddeningly do, merely prodded her, "Does it seem wrong?" So I guess my knee-jerk answer to your question is that if this is the catalyst the show needed to clue Deb in on Dexter's secret, maybe it was worth it. Because I have to think the sight of Dex plunging the knife into Travis' chest kind of spoiled the mood, don't you think? I guess we'll find out next season.
Question: I'm a huge fan of the new CBS crime drama Person of Interest. I have been a great admirer of Jim Caviezel and Michael Emerson, who has always impressed me. I love the story lines and think it is the best show to come out in a long time, but it has not raised that much popular support and the ratings, while good, are not as great as CSI. What are your thoughts about the show and do you think it will be granted a second season, because it feels like the best shows get canceled. And also what are your views on the final season of Chuck, and do you think it's a possibility that it gets a back order to reach the 100-episode mark? — Ishaan
Matt Roush: I wouldn't worry about Person of Interest. It's not quite a breakout hit, but it's performing solidly on Thursday, and has been picking up steam lately, both in the ratings and creatively. The last few episodes, introducing the Elias nemesis and bringing Detective Carter closer to the worlds of Finch and Reese, have been very strong and surprising. It's not as conventional as many of CBS's procedurals, which may ultimately work against it being as popular, but I don't see CBS dropping it when the network has so many long-in-the-tooth series waiting to be put out to pasture over the next few seasons. Regarding Chuck: There is no possibility I can imagine where it will continue past its scheduled finale (titled "Chuck Vs. the Goodbye") to reach any other sort of milestone beyond the miracle of scoring this shortened fifth season. Which I'm sorry to say feels like a misbegotten one. My fondness for this series waned a while ago, though I stayed with it through last season, and watching the first few episodes of this season put me off so completely I had no inclination to go the extra mile to follow it through on Fridays (where I'm already trying to keep up with more intriguing and/or fresher low-rated shows like Fringe, Nikita, Supernatural and Chuck's new NBC companion Grimm).
Question: I'd like to get your opinion on the departing Desperate Housewives, which I see you haven't really addressed so far. I know you've been quite critical of the show in the past and with good reason. With the exception of Seasons 1 and 4 (thanks primarily to Dana Delaney), the show has been, at best, uneven. I found Season 7 particularly frustrating. Susan's storylines as well as the Gaby baby switch drama were completely out of step with the tone of the show, and with the exception of the season finale, most of the season felt like a rushed and empty effort. I've stuck it out with the show despite its problems, because there are a few episode gems to be found amongst the terrible ones.
When this final season of Desperate Housewives started out, I was under the impression that it may unfortunately go the same way as the other seasons. But over the last couple of weeks, it seems to be picking up a significant amount of steam. For one thing, the murder mystery might not be the best the show has ever had, but at least it's given us an opportunity to see the housewives working together or, at least, interacting with one another more than usual (the Bree/Gaby moments have been a particular highlight). Also Marc Cherry, Bob Daily and Co. seem to be doing a nice job of bringing the show back to its roots by bringing Mary Alice back into focus, particularly in the last episode with the Bree suicide cliffhanger. What do you think? Has Housewives got a chance of going out with a bang? — Adam
Matt Roush: A "bang" sounds a little hopeful for a show that lost its oomph quite a while ago, and which lost me for good last season. I tried watching the first few episodes of the season, but much like the Chuck situation, felt the show was running on fumes (and not very enjoyable ones), so haven't been keeping up. (With terrific shows like Homeland, The Good Wife and Once Upon a Time on Sundays, there are much more satisfying options.) I do agree with you, though, that any storyline in which the ladies of Wisteria Lane are operating in tandem instead of in separate universes tends to make for a better season. And the Mary Alice element does bring the show nicely full circle. I will probably rejoin Housewives at some point closer to the end of the season so I can prepare a proper eulogy. Maybe Chuck, too, both being series I enjoyed during their long-ago peak. (And I stayed loyal to both long after the point of it making any critical sense.)
Question: I won't argue the cutesiness of Hart of Dixie, but it's not phony: It's just set in another universe. Bluebell is to Alabama as Stars Hollow is to Connecticut, but eleventy-seven times more so. A little gentle chivalrous sexism lives on, but racism and its legacies are erased by the warm sun and the gentle breezes off the Gulf of Mexico. Everybody eats in the same restaurants, sees the same doctor(s), celebrates the same daft holiday variants in that precious little town square. Dogwoods bloom just in time for the Alabama-Florida football game. The mayor, a former NFL star (Cress Williams, really?), lives in the old plantation house and has a pet alligator named Burt Reynolds, apparently the only gator along that stretch of coastline. And this same tall, handsome black mayor had a hot romance with the local doctor's pearlescently platinum daughter, and no one took a shot at him — or, for that matter, even noticed. There are some fine and admirable people in Alabama (our Alabama), but Bluebell and its citizens aren't among them. Their home is much farther from here than Fringe's Over There, and those who can't abide an alternate-universe tale should steer well clear. — John
Matt Roush: Letter of the month! Kudos! Thanks for the laugh. But even an offhand comparison to the bliss of Gilmore Girls feels like sacrilege. Yes, Stars Hollow had more than its share of precious qualities, but the premise, the characters, the rapid-fire dialogue were all so distinctive and smart, truly charming, leaving a happy afterglow and not the sense that you'd just bitten into a poisoned praline. You're right. The Fringe team really should be called in to investigate these aliens in Bluebell.
Question: When are they going to realize that without Charlie Sheen, Two and a Half Men stinks?!?!?! The character of Walden is ridiculous, they brought back Herb's sister as Walden's wife (what's with that; do they think viewers are too stupid to remember the actress [Judy Greer] as the one who broke Charlie Harper's heart?), they're wasting Jake and Berta's characters, and as much as I like seeing more of Alan, one person can't carry a show. Did Charlie Sheen do moronic things? Yes. Would a mentally fit person do the things Charlie Sheen did? No. The man has a mental illness. Now that he seems to be taking his medication or getting help in some way or another, Charlie Sheen needs to "man up" and apologize to Chuck Lorre and the rest of the Men staff in whatever way they deem acceptable (privately, publicly, huge donation to a favorite charity), Lorre and company need to accept said apology, and they need to get the show back to what it has always been about: Charlie Harper and his hysterically vile lifestyle. JMHO
People who have mental illnesses have relapses and setbacks. Being mentally ill is no different than having a medical problem such as diabetes. If Charlie Sheen had stopped taking his insulin and gone into a diabetic coma, spent copious amounts of time in the hospital to recoup, would they have fired him for that? No, I don't believe so. And believe me, a diabetic whose blood sugar has dropped can say and do some outrageous things. If they wouldn't fire a diabetic who behaved poorly, why should it be OK to fire someone who is mentally ill?!?!? That is wrong on so many levels. Thanks for letting me vent. — Cindy Lynn
Matt Roush: Vent all you want, but that ship has sailed. Charlie has moved on, developing a new sitcom (Anger Management) for FX, which is likely to be one of the most anticipated and analyzed comebacks in TV history. I recommend you read Michael Schneider's excellent and thoughtful interview with Men's executive producer Chuck Lorre, who was already well acquainted with substance abuse and recovery well before the Charlie Sheen debacle went into its final tailspin. These decisions weren't made lightly, and there was no guarantee the show was going to come through it, but regardless of your feelings for Men 2.0, it's doing better than CBS and Warner Bros. could have anticipated. I'm not arguing the show wasn't better in its original form — it was — and if they could have kept it going with Sheen on board, they would have. But he made it impossible, and there's no rebuilding that nuked bridge. The best news would be that Sheen, now that he's put his public rantings and self-congratulatory embarrassment of a concert tour behind him, is on an actual road to recovery and Anger Management is as good a fit for him as Men was. If, that is, the rest of the public is as forgiving as you are.
Question: I'm a huge fan of the Owen/Cristina pairing on Grey's Anatomy, but I haven't been thrilled with their storyline for the first half of the season. I can live with the abortion that took place early in the season, because it would seem that it would provide a deep, engaging storyline for the characters and for the amazing Sandra Oh and Kevin McKidd to act out, but there has been very little fallout thus far and almost no reaction on the part of either character aside from the first couple of episodes of the season. There hasn't even been the usual brilliant, subtle expressions that Sandra Oh is so good at to indicate that Cristina is at least thinking about the impact on her marriage, such as during the scene in [episode 5] where she is fawning over Zola, Derek and Meredith's baby, and Owen leaves the room. Do you think the lack of reaction and the delaying of any real discussion of the abortion is due to contract talks taking place and whether or not Sandra Oh will come back next season, and do you think that the dragging out and lack of addressing the issue over the first half of the season has done damage to the pairing in the long term, assuming Sandra Oh comes back? It's very difficult to understand where the writers are going with Cristina and Owen or whether or not it is worth sticking out the rest of the season to see if the situation will be addressed at all. — Michelle
Matt Roush: Seems to me it's more a case of the writers not wanting to belabor (no pun intended) this particular storyline. The dynamic in the scene you described between Cristina and Owen, with Zola as the catalyst, said volumes without it having to be spelled out. Sometimes less is more, though I imagine "shippers" wouldn't be satisfied until these characters get their own spin-off. I doubt the ongoing contract uncertainties have that much to do with how the first half of the season played out. That's no way to write a show. And should both actors stay on Grey's, which I hope they do, I don't think long-term damage has been done, if any. This situation is something that will always be a part of their history, and who's to say it won't come up at the next turning point in their relationship? The way these actors played out their roles in the midseason finale, in the wake of Henry's death on the operating table, with Cristina's meltdown seen but not heard, is the kind of drama I'm more interested in, anyway, and I'm gratified that Grey's can still deliver the goods when it wants to this long into its run.
Question: I have written you before about CSI: Miami. I have commented on some of the things that Horatio does. After the Dec. 11 episode, I wonder why I still watch. The writers have ruined this show by the way Horatio is being written. The team will criticize people for taking the law into their own hands. The end of the episode shows the child molester hanging from a balcony. He tells H that he has to help him. H says, "Do I?" and then lets him fall to his death. Apparently H is now judge, jury and executioner. I am almost hoping that the last show has him on trial and going to prison for the stuff he's done. There was that incident in Brazil and he punched a suspect that was being questioned on Dec. 4. — Foster
Matt Roush: If your scenario ever plays out, with Horatio brought back to earth from whatever delusional superhero Valhalla he thinks he's operating in, I might actually watch. But until then, I just have to echo the most pertinent part of your commentary, namely: Why again are you still watching?
Question: Long-time reader of TV Guide Magazine and fan of your column. I am a voracious reader and have been a fan of Stephen King forever. In your review of Bag of Bones, you describe the "rearranging the magnetized letters on his fridge door." You call it a classic King touch: the fantastic within the ordinary. Completely true. However, I dare suggest, that the first time I read that "classic King touch" was in a book by Dean Koontz. The book, Watchers, was about a golden retriever. A very special golden retriever who used Scrabble letters to spell out words. From what I've read, King and Koontz are at least acquaintances, and probably genuine friends. I would be willing to bet that particular "classic King touch" started with Dean Koontz. Just sayin' ... — David
Matt Roush: Good catch. And you may be right. Like you, I'm a longtime King fan (not so much with Koontz), though Bag of Bones is one of his books that didn't grab me or stick with me — it was still better than the miniseries — and I can't say if the magnetized-letters trick was his invention or not. I guess there are only so many ways for spirits to reach out, and I might have been even more impressed if Scrabble tiles had been used. But thanks for reading, and for writing.
And that goes for everyone who has written in and/or followed this column through the year. That's a wrap until 2012, and I can't thank you all enough for keeping me challenged and entertained with your questions and comments. Please keep them coming to email@example.com, and we'll pick up the conversation again in the new year. In the meantime, have the happiest of holidays in anticipation of what I hope will be a Smash-ing 2012 TV year!
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