Ask Matt: The Good Wife's Move, Community, Sons of Anarchy and More!
Question: In previous years I followed CBS shows Shark and The Unit to their new time on Sunday evenings that ended up to be their last season. Because of the preceding football game, one never knows when a certain program will start, with delays that can last as long as an hour. This, of course, prevents one from switching to another network for a later program. Since we still have a video tape recorder that automatically fast-forwards over commercials (most of them), I would end up taping those shows, with an extra margin of half an hour. I don't know whether a TiVo type recorder can even adjust to such delays. It appears that The Good Wife will follow the same pattern. Perhaps this time I will watch it online, or On Demand. But I have to wonder how much this new time slot will affect its viewership (in addition to the new direction and hair style). — Hanna
Matt Roush: This is a perennial problem for viewers in the time zones where football overruns impact the start of CBS' prime-time lineup. (Rule of thumb: If you're not watching live, set the recorder for at least a half-hour after the original end time.) For some shows, the move to Sundays has been a kiss of death, especially those that air in the last hour of prime time (although CSI: Miami refuses to die). This isn't necessarily the case for The Good Wife. CBS is not blind to the time-shifting problem on Sundays, and has realistic expectations for Good Wife's performance. The show is more complex than the average procedural, which is why CBS moved it from Tuesdays, figuring (rightly) that a formula show like Unforgettable would mesh better with the NCIS combo. Sunday is a good showcase spot for a network drama that's as good as what you find on cable, and unless it absolutely tanks (which isn't likely), CBS isn't going to mess with this one. It's the only network drama taken very seriously at the Emmys these days, and CBS is understandably very proud of it. Even with Alicia's new hairstyle and sexual freedom, it should be OK where it is for a while to come.
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Question: Give it to me straight: How much time do you think we have left with Community? As much as I love this crazy show that's so perfect for an avid TV fan like myself, I realize that it will never be able to attract a bigger audience, not while remaining the same wacky fun that it is now. So what do you think? How much longer can I expect to enjoy my favorite study group? — Ainav
Matt Roush: The only upside to NBC remaining entrenched in the ratings cellar is that it tends to provide a longer lifeline to cult shows like Community, Parks and Rec, Parenthood — and of course Chuck — all of which almost certainly would have been canned early on at most other networks. As long as critics continue to love Community (and really, what's not to love?) and the media keep beating the drum, I wouldn't give up hope. Plus, the new head of NBC Entertainment, Bob Greenblatt (who hails from Showtime), appears to be taking more of a cable approach to his schedule, nurturing the shows he believes in — and given that he hasn't pulled the plug on anything yet, perhaps even a few he doesn't. At the very least, we can expect to see a full third season's worth of Community episodes, although I'd love to see NBC try it out in a more protected hammock position — airing between Up All Night (which should be moved to 8/7c on Thursdays pronto) and The Office, for instance. (Because Parks and Rec should really be airing after The Office, no?) As with many of these shows, renewal will always be a season-to-season nail-biter, and I'll stay optimistic as best I can that we get to see these kooks graduate some day.
Question: Greetings from Sin City, Las Vegas, NV! I love your column and follow on Twitter. Here's my first-ever question submission. With regards to Sons of Anarchy on FX, I firmly believe our beloved one-eyed driver Kurt "Big Otto" Sutter has really put together a great cast, crew and team of writers. Do you think that FX will give them the chance to go to the beloved 7-season goal? With most awards shows not even acknowledging any of the greatness that is Charming (save Katey's Golden Globes win), what are the chances some of those voters can put a show near the chopping block or at least influence the network to make some decisions? Thank you for any light you can shine into my eyes. — Scotty
Matt Roush: This is an easy and safe bet, Scotty. FX will keep airing Sons of Anarchy for as long as Kurt Sutter wants to tell the story. The show kicked off its fourth season with its best ratings yet, and no amount of Emmy apathy can put a dent in that. (For the record, while Emmy attention can help keep a marginal series alive, lack of same has no effect whatsoever on a successful show like SOA.) In the tradition of The Shield, I'd like to think this is a narrative with a definite end point, and whenever happens will be up to the guy running the show. I'm liking the conflicts this season, within and outside the club, more than usual, but I'm not sure what it would take to boost its profile within the Emmy community. It may just not be their kind of show.
Question: As much as I loved the premiere episode of 2 Broke Girls, I was disappointed in how low the second episode went. Did we really need horse poop jokes? And on the subject of the horse, it is so unbelievable that they are boarding it in their backyard, in New York City, that it just completely takes away from the story. Why not sell the horse to further their cupcake dream? Does this show get any better in future episodes? — Larry S
Matt Roush: I suppose we'll all find out together, because CBS hasn't made any future episodes available for preview yet. (Compared to Fox sharing multiple episodes of New Girl in recent weeks, which I enjoy more every time I see it.) I still like the two Broke stars, but even in the pilot, I found many of the jokes (and ethnic caricatures) cringe-worthy, though the quotient of laughs to cringe weighed in the show's favor. In week two, it veered the other direction to the point that I've already started second-guessing my earlier recommendation. I'm going to give it a few more episodes before I decide once and for all, but anyone shocked by its raunchiness — and willingness to stoop to horse poo for a slapstick punch line — hasn't been watching Two and a Half Men over the years, because that's the level of humor this show is clearly trying to emulate. Love it or hate it, broad (so to speak) comedy is popular. And I like your idea of selling the horse to fund the cupcake venture. The horse gag is getting old, and ridiculously stupid, even two weeks in.
Question: What is a good lifespan for a reality show? I've considered this question based on a few things: The Amazing Race's 317th Emmy, the debut of Survivor 23 (?!) and the current season of Project Runway. It seems like we're in a stage where the long-running/good reality shows are really getting old. Don't get me wrong. I have been a die-hard fan of Race since the "Swing you fat bastard!" glory days of Season 1, but each season has been less and less fresh. Survivor always has its up and down seasons, but as long as they are still ratings and award winners, will producers keep just churning them out? It's different of course for scripted shows, since by a comparative time they would have been through a zillion cast changes and everyone would be clamoring for their cancellation. But it seems like reality shows have either gone on for the long haul — like these (and American Idol and others) — or crashed and burned. Again, I'm not wishing for these shows' demise, but I'm just curious on your thoughts: How does one gauge when enough is enough and leave on a good note?
As for Project Runway: Has the move to Lifetime hurt this show in the ratings? I admit, this season has been somewhat better, but week in and out, I forget it's on. It doesn't play a million times nor do they have marathons like on Bravo, and it just seems to be forgotten. Plus by bleeding into the new fall season, it's really getting lost. Now I see ads for Project Accessory, which seems a little lame. So is it time to close up shop on this once great show? — Larry B
Matt Roush: These are fair questions, because TV is still on a learning curve when it comes to the genre that changed the landscape of prime time. Many of the shows that pioneered the reality revolution are long in the tooth, and few (excepting Idol, perhaps) pack the ratings punch they once did. The novelty has worn off long ago, to be sure, but these are still reliable draws, and because the producers can change the rules and switch up the game from season to season, they do seem to have a longer shelf life than most comedies and dramas. I know others would argue that many of these shows have run their course, but the ones I enjoy — a list that does not include dating shows, Big Brother or anything involving Donald Trump — I tend to find myself going back to them season after season, with a new cast of "characters" keeping me engaged (although all of them have their off seasons). It will be big news when one of these longtime tentpoles is finally taken off the air, and I don't see it happening anytime soon.
And that includes Project Runway, which Lifetime spent a fortune acquiring and promoting. I haven't been tracking its ratings, but in this case, it's all about enhancing the network brand, which is why they're doing the upcoming all-star season as well as the Accessory spin-off, which I agree may be one too many even for me.
Question: I know that this year's Emmys have just aired and we have a year to wait until the next one. Keeping that in mind, is it too early to declare that this season of Breaking Bad should and deserves a clean sweep in every category it can get nominated in? The writing this season has been fantastic, and Giancarlo Esposito is killing it as Gus, with Brian Cranston and Aaron Paul holding their own, creating a triangle of incredible talent balancing this show. What are the chances of any other show being able to compete against this juggernaut? — Geoff
Matt Roush: The drama competition is always fierce, and we're a long way (and an entire new season of Mad Men) away from being able to make this call that definitively. But no question, the races will be even more tight and meaningful with Breaking Bad back in the race after sitting this year out. Cranston and Paul (previous winners) are sure to be nominated, and Esposito deserves it as well for his quiet intensity. The writing, the directing, all just brilliant. My only worry is that this season will have aired so long before the nomination process begins, the odds may favor shows that air later in the calendar year. But this season of Breaking Bad has been so incredibly riveting, I do ultimately believe that attention will be paid.
Question: My question is regarding Breaking Bad, following the incredible 11th episode "Crawl Space." First of all, I have to say that the first few episodes this season were a bit too slow and quiet for my taste, but I'm glad that's turned around as the last couple of episodes (starting with "Bug") have been crazy intense and arguably some of the show's strongest ones. After watching "Crawl Space," I just got the sense that the series could end perfectly in two more episodes. I trust Vince Gilligan's magical abilities and I know he'll be able to shock us and keep us on the edge of our seats for another season (and a longer one at that) — but I still find myself wondering what they could possibly do to keep it going for another 16 episodes after Season 4. I guess we'll have a better idea on October 9 when the current season comes to a wrap! Do you have any idea how AMC will roll out the final season? I vaguely recall reading somewhere online an interview with Aaron Paul where he speculated that the final 16 episodes would be split into two seasons, which — given this is a cable network — is not too far a stretch, right? But I would hate if they did that. I think they should air all of them consecutively as one season, any other way would be unfair to the fans and just seem like they're trying to milk the cow for as long as possible, and I just don't see the point — they've set an end, so why drag it on? (Plus I don't think I can handle the wait!) — Jonathan
Matt Roush: I hear you, but a split season does seem like a viable option. That's how TNT is handling the final season of The Closer, also a signature show for its network. The negotiations for this final season of Breaking Bad were almost as harrowing as what happens on the show, so I'm mainly relieved that Vince Gilligan will get to dictate the creative terms of the show's final chapters, however they're scheduled. But I would expect that we will be in for a wait, one way or another. And it will be excruciating.
Question: I started watching Fringe this summer and was able to catch up before Season 4 began. While I love the show and am sorry I haven't watched it from the beginning, I am finding myself falling down the Lost rabbit hole of reading the fan message boards and getting upset by what I read. (I know, I know, I need to just stop reading them!) The common comment is that the new Peter-less worlds are better off without him and Lincoln Lee should replace him. While I love Lincoln Lee (both of them), I just can't believe that is true, especially where Walter is concerned. He may be just as crazy (no one can change that), but he is a sadder, less connected and adjusted person without his son. I am really enjoying this "reboot" and am intrigued to see where this season is going. Not since Lost has a show required me to be so engaged, which I love. So as a long-time Fringe viewer and less crazed fan, what do you think of the new season so far and the world without Peter? - Amy
Matt Roush: I'm loving the season so far, last Friday's in particular, as both worlds worked together to solve a case. The clash of the Olivias is always exciting and amusing, and the contemplation of "the path not taken" by the professor and his doppelganger villain was provocative and poignant. Even so, I'm itching for Peter to be restored to the universe, and can't wait to see how that is executed and explained. As glad I am to see the Lincolns (aka Seth Gabel) upped to full-time status, the thought that he's a suitable replacement for Peter is just silly. Ignore any chatter that lessens your enjoyment of Fringe. The show needs all the support it can get.
Question: I've been an avid viewer of Eureka from day one, and I am truly upset that it has been so unceremoniously cancelled! And as it will take forever until the last season is coming around, I was happy to hear that we will at least get another Christmas episode this year. However, while I really enjoyed the final episode of the season as it was the funny, touching and poignant Eureka that I love, it ended on such a cliffhanger that I am somewhat stumped as to what will happen with the Christmas episode. Last year, the Christmas episode was completely stand-alone from the previous season's story arc. I can't imagine how they would accomplish something similar this year. There are too many dramatic happenings, loose ends and people somewhere else, rather than in Eureka, for a stand-alone episode to work. Do you have any word on what's planned, and whether this time around the Christmas episode will be a continuation of the ongoing storyline? — Anna from Cologne
Matt Roush: Cologne, how cool! But best to think of these holiday specials as fables, long-lost chapters in a show's history. Eureka's Christmastime episode is not merely a stand-alone, it's animated. Titled "Do You See What I See," it will tell of an anomaly (so what else is new) that renders everyone and everything in Eureka as a cartoon. Thus, we get The Big Bang Theory's Jim Parsons as the voice of Sheriff Carter's long-suffering Jeep, Edward James Olmos as a sled dog who befriends Deputy Andy, and so on. The episode will use a variety of animated styles — Looney Tunes, anime, claymation — and it sounds like a great deal of fun. And yes, I'm also sorry that next season will be its last. This has long been one of my favorites of the Syfy lite series.
Question: As I do each year, I studied TV Guide Magazine's Fall Preview issue to decide which new shows to sample. This year, I had nine new shows on my list and have so far seen seven and bits of others. I was particularly interested in New Girl, which you had mentioned in an Ask Matt column before the Fall Preview came out. I watched it On Demand and thought, "What a quirky mess is Jess!" After reading your gushing blurbs in the Fall Preview, I watched it again, thinking I'd missed something. I still didn't like it. So my question is this: How many episodes of a show do you and your colleagues usually get to see before you anoint it the best new comedy (or drama)? For the record, of your five Best, I agree with your assessments of Person of Interest, Pan Am and 2 Broke Girls, and have not seen The X Factor. — Frank
Matt Roush: With New Girl, you either fall for Zooey as Jess, or you don't. Thankfully, lots of people did, making it the first full-season pickup of the season. But in terms of producing the Fall Preview issue, I (like other critics putting together these fall overviews in late summer) only had the pilot episode to go on. Especially with network series that are green-lighted in spring and only go into production in the summer, it's very rare to have anything but the pilot to go by when filing these first impressions, which is pretty much how I look at my critical "takes" in that issue. (We typically don't start seeing second episodes of shows, and by no means all shows even then, until after Labor Day.) I also tend to factor in what I learn about the individual shows by attending the TCA press tour in the summer, where the producers and actors shed light on their vision for the shows and their characters. Sometimes what they say urges me to give a show the benefit of the doubt, sometimes it just confirms my suspicion that a show is a stinker. As noted in an earlier question, I'm not sure I'd put 2 Broke Girls in that "top 5" feature now. The Fall Preview issue is so targeted toward network series I wish I'd thought to include Showtime's Homeland instead. (Our Fall Cable Preview is out now.) Live and learn.
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