Ask Matt: The Good Wife, Scandal, Smash, Walking Dead, NCIS, Grey's, Once Spin-off
Kerry Washington and Tony Goldwyn
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Question: Along with Parenthood, The Good Wife is in my opinion still one of the best dramas on network TV. And the mock trial episode was, as you recently noted, the best so far of the season. However, I have recently been feeling that this show has been lacking, not necessarily in quality (with the exception of the whole Kalinda's husband debacle), but in freshness. For me the show has been very stagnant. A case here, a little Will/Alicia flirtation there, mixed in with Peter's campaign and/or Eli's troubles. Every week is pretty much the same thing with a different guest star. Nothing seems to be new or fresh. What's most frustrating about the lack of freshness is how easily they could remedy that. I would be extremely interested in watching what Cary proposed unfold, for he and Alicia to form their own firm. Watching Cary and Alicia go head to head with Will and Diane would be a welcome change to the same old same old.
Second topic: I am a Scandal newbie. I watched the episode where President Grant got shot only because nothing else was on and was hooked by the end. It's an insanely good guilty pleasure and I've enjoyed every minute of watching the drama unfold. My comment, though, is on the pairing of Olivia and Fitz, which I think should be applauded beyond great chemistry. When I watch Kerry Washington and Tony Goldwyn together, I simply see a couple. I do not ever see an interracial couple. I'm 27 years old, from a generation where race is much less an issue than it used to be and interracial couples are accepted and even somewhat common where I'm from. However, race is still very much an issue in this country, and I am willing to bet that when many people see an interracial couple, while they may have no issue with it, they still notice it. I don't think that's racist or judgmental, it's just sort of a human reaction that will hopefully become less frequent with each generation. Yet when I watch Olivia and Fitz on screen, I don't see race at all. It wasn't until Cyrus mentioned Olivia's race potentially being a problem if Fitz divorced Mellie and started a public relationship with Olivia that I realized it could be an issue. I don't know if this speaks to the actors, the chemistry, the writing or a combination, but I thought it should be pointed out, since for me at least, it is really the first time that I have seen an interracial couple depicted so beautifully that you forget about race altogether. — Katelyn
Matt Roush: With Scandal, it's really a testament to Shonda Rhimes' wonderful penchant for color-blind casting, established from the very start of Grey's Anatomy but taken to a new level in Scandal, where the lead character is a powerful woman of color — and you sort of bury the lead here, because we're not talking a mere interracial romance, he's the President of the United States. It's bananas! But I love it, too, and wait till you see Kerry and Tony on the cover of TV Guide Magazine later this week.
Regarding The Good Wife: I'll respectfully disagree with your assertion that the show has grown stale. This season hit a snag with the Kalinda subplot, but otherwise I've greatly enjoyed the conflicts regarding the turmoil in the workplace and the way it played out, with Alicia getting the sole bid to become an equity partner, and taking it despite it feeling like a betrayal of Cary (more on that below). The political subplot may not be as gripping as when Peter was on trial, and the reconciliation of sorts between the Florricks may not be wholly satisfying to the Alicia-Will "shippers," but I like Maura Tierney's ruthlessness as Peter's rival, and with Eli's legal troubles bringing the delicious Carrie Preston back into the picture — and has Kyle MacLachlan ever been more appealing than as her smitten adversary? — I'm finding much to savor. What may be happening here is that no show, not even one as terrific as The Good Wife, is likely to feel as fresh in its fourth season, and while this operates on a higher plane than most CBS series, it's not likely ever to blow the whole thing up by having Alicia jump ship, which could come off as feeling contrived. This latest twist, in which she now has to learn the painful lessons of being part of management, seems much more realistic and satisfying to me.
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Question: The Good Wife is one of my favorite shows on TV. However, I've noticed recently that the kids, Zach and Grace, have barely been on the show this season. I love when they appear on the show. Why have they been sidelined this year? Will they still be making appearances this season? Also, my favorite character on the show is Cary. However, he never seems to "win" over Alicia. For example, in Season 1 Alicia gets hired over Cary and this season Alicia is made partner over Cary. Will Cary ever one-up Alicia? Ever? Yes, Alicia is an amazing lawyer, but are viewers just supposed to believe that she would get all of these things had Will not been attracted to her or had he not been sleeping with her? In one of the last episodes, Alicia asked Will if the reason why she was being made partner was because of what happened between them. He said no, but how naive is Alicia? Great lawyer yes, but open your eyes! — Cyrus
Matt Roush: These are among the most appealing young actors on TV, and the cast of The Good Wife is an embarrassment of riches to be sure, but while the family dynamics have always been a strong part of Alicia's story, this isn't a family drama and Zach and Grace are more on the level or recurring regulars than core cast members. This season, with Peter running for higher office and more or less at peace with Alicia — especially in the wake of the latest trumped-up scandal — there just may not be as much story to play on the home front, and this year has been awfully heavy on workplace intrigue. I imagine when a story comes along that makes sense to put them center stage, it will happen — but I don't look ahead to future storylines or spoilers in this column, so I can't say when or how. Regarding the Cary factor: I like how the show goes to great lengths to make him sympathetic, and that often comes at the expense (especially lately) of "Saint Alicia." But I'm reading some of Alicia's "wins" differently from your analysis. Her fling with Will was probably not a great career move in the long run, and her ascension seems less attributable to her courtroom prowess than to her personal connections. The Good Wife is fairly blunt in its cynicism about that aspect of things, and Alicia's discomfort at having to backstab Cary and then manage his hours only makes the show more interesting to me.
Question: I eagerly anticipated the first season of Smash and enjoyed it more than many fans and TV critics. Although the subplots were problematic, I found the evolution of Bombshell interesting and the lead actors first-rate. I could even overlook the less-than-compelling acting performance of Katharine McPhee because her Marilyn made me actually believe that she could be cast in the part instead of Megan Hilty. However, the second season retooling of the series is a train wreck whenever the focus is on anything other than Bombshell. The development of the alternative Broadway musical is a snooze-fest, and there is no chemistry between Katharine McPhee and Jeremy Jordan. Megan Hilty is being completely wasted in the Liaisons production, and the talented Sean Hayes' performance in last week's episode was ludicrous. And as much as I love to hear Jennifer Hudson sing, her story did not really blend with the rest of the show.
As we watch this great concept implode in Season 2, I'm wondering how this story could have been told better. It seems that the good old-fashioned miniseries would have fit the bill. A miniseries could have taken us through the initial writing, casting, workshops, recasting, first staging, Broadway opening, awards, closing and revival without the excess baggage. I can't imagine the ratings would have been worse than this season's. What would NBC have had to lose by trying it? — Steve
Matt Roush: In retrospect, you may be right. But when's the last time you saw an "old-fashioned miniseries" on network TV? (The executive producers' Judy Garland biopic was one of the last and best, and that was back in 2001.) It's a dead format at the moment, sorry to say, although I keep waiting for the networks to wake up to the need to create "event" TV with more limited-run projects as a way to compete with cable. We may see a gradual shift to this strategy again, if experiments like this summer's Under the Dome pay off, but Smash came along too soon for that. Or maybe too late. Besides, no one involved with Smash could be expected to foresee what would become of the franchise — and I'm not arguing your various points; the Sean Hayes subplot was among the most painful calamities yet — and when developing something as ambitiously big-budget as a weekly musical series, the impulse is to go for more, not less. If the miniseries does come back into vogue, though, I'd love to see someone tackle an original musical comedy or drama in that format.
Question: There's a conspiracy theory that there can only be one strong African-American on The Walking Dead at one time, and when a new one is introduced, the old one is killed off. I believe it goes deeper, that they only seem to have one of each type of character on at a time. You had two kids until they killed off Sophia, then you had the elder statesman who was the voice of reason in Dale, who was killed off soon after Hershel took over that role. Lori was the strong woman of the group, but died just as Maggie was taking more of that role and Michonne was about to appear, and of course you had the two alpha males with Shane and Rick, so Shane had to die. Right now the only character types I see more then one of are Daryl and Merle, the hillbilly loners who will do anything to survive, and Carol/Beth who are more wallflower then fighters, so it's only common sense that one of them will be getting a bullet to the head soon. So out of those two pairings, which ones won't see Season 4? — Ruth
Matt Roush: This seems an awfully simplistic reading of things — where would Andrea fit into this "strong woman" theory, or Tyrees and Michonne inhabiting the same universe (albeit in different camps for now), and the Rick-Shane conflict went way beyond alpha-male dominance, plus the introduction of the Woodbury characters expands the template of character types (I'm fascinated by Milton) — but I have to say I was surprised that when Saturday Night Live spoofed The Walking Dead during the otherwise forgettable Kevin Hart installment, the ultimate joke wasn't about the "tokenism" issue. To your morbid "who's next" question: It does seem that Carol or (especially) Beth would be the most expendable — I love the Carol-Daryl moments, so hope it won't be her — and Merle is such an antagonistic figure you have to think his number will come up eventually, but I won't speculate beyond that. This show makes me nervous enough already every week.
Question: I have so loved this season of NCIS. I am confused, though, about Ziva's behavior after the death of her father. She seems like she is having the best year of her life, while I was expecting some sort of down time for her as they have shown numerous times with Vance. I was so hoping that they would not brush her response aside as they did with Somalia. While I thought that "Shiva" was the best episode ever of NCIS and the acting was unbelievable, I guess I was expecting some revenge or response from Ziva. Have you heard of any upcoming episode that we can at least get a hint of Ziva's response? If they don't give Cote de Pablo another chance to sparkle as she did in "Shiva," they are making a huge mistake. She was spectacular and had me in tears. — Kathy
Matt Roush: As noted earlier, I try not to look too far ahead in this column, but I have seen some teasers that indicate that as you'd expect, Ziva isn't done with her quest for justice yet. How could she be? NCIS tends to measure out this kind of storyline, although in the case of Vance, the tragedy shattered his domestic situation so violently that it had to be addressed immediately and at some length. Ziva is much more likely to use work to repress her feelings, or at least to help her put up a tough façade, until the next explosive turn of events. But I get your point that given the severity of this particular setback, even for someone like Ziva, it's jarring and less than satisfying to see her go back to business as usual.
Question: I am quite disappointed with how Grey's Anatomy is handling Meredith's pregnancy. Meredith hasn't had a real storyline in a while now, and was I excited when she became pregnant. I figured this would give her a consistent storyline over the rest of the season. However, aside from one ultrasound appointment and one episode where Meredith felt the baby kicking, there has been no focus of her at all. If not for Meredith's growing baby bump, it's easy to forget she's pregnant at all. It's so disappointing how Meredith, the lead character after whom the show is named, is pushed to the sidelines. The hospital-buying storyline just had her as a prop — it focused on Derek and Callie. In addition, Meredith and Derek scenes are cut to a short 10-second scene at the end of the episode-if we are lucky. The fans love Meredith and Derek. It's safe to say many tune in only for them. Do you agree there's a severe lack of focus on them and Meredith's pregnancy? — BP
Matt Roush: The paradox of Grey's Anatomy is that when things go badly for Meredith and Derek, fans get up in arms and wonder why the writers are torturing them. And when things go well for them, like this (so far) smooth pregnancy, fans still get upset because they're not getting as much attention. Shows like Grey's thrive on conflict, and I'd argue that Meredith hasn't been all that invisible as the story dealt with Derek's recovery and the debates over the lawsuit and the hospital's future. But where the pregnancy is concerned, I'm happy that it hasn't been a weekly trauma for her. Hasn't she suffered enough?
Question: 1. Will Vegas be renewed? 2. With shows like The Following, Justified and White Collar, how can the FBI tolerate how these TV shows make them look so inept and on the take? 3. Body of Proof killed off so many cast members, why bother to come back only to die off? The show should just go away! — Colina
Matt Roush: 1. Hard to say, but CBS' decision to move Vegas to Fridays in April (as Golden Boy takes its spot full time on Tuesdays) is a setback and makes renewal seem a lot less certain. 2. What is the FBI supposed to do, jail the writers? The Following really does make the feds look incapable of doing anything right, including a prisoner exchange, so I'm with you on that one. But Justified casts a jaundiced eye toward anyone in authority, so I'd let that one off the hook. White Collar is one of those shows (like Castle and The Mentalist) where you wonder how the feds or police ever solved a case before the consultant arrived to show them how it's done, but thankfully, no one mistakes any of these shows for documentaries, including the FBI. 3. Dana Delany. ABC still believes she's a star. I happen to agree, but constantly revamping this show probably isn't the way to prove it.
Question: One of this year's shows that I'm eagerly anticipating is A&E's Bates Motel. I loved the old Psycho movies and I think the promotional trailers for this modern reboot look awesome. Have you seen any of the show yet? If so, what are your first impressions? How does Freddie Highmore do as Norman Bates and how is Vera Farmiga as his mother, Norma? — Kevin
Matt Roush: For the record, there is only one Psycho movie worth remembering, and it's among my all-time favorites as well. Which meant I went into watching Bates Motel with some skepticism, but after the wretched midseason we've been having, I was pleasantly surprised and intrigued by this offbeat show and by NBC's upcoming (and even more twisted) Hannibal, both of which I'll review in full when they premiere. I hope both of them find an audience. What's interesting about Bates Motel is that Norman and Norma (both actors are fine, especially the fascinating Farmiga) are hardly the worst monsters in the coastal town where they're set up shop. I'm very curious after having screened three episodes to see where it's going next.
Question: I have two questions, both related to Once Upon A Time. The showrunners are considering doing a Mad Hatter spinoff without Sebastian Stan, getting someone to replace him. Sebastian Stan is busy on Broadway and elsewhere, but I feel whoever takes his place will be compared to Stan no matter what the new actor does. So here are my two questions: 1) NBC is doing its own version of Alice in Wonderland. Are the OUAT show-runners just trying to do it bigger and better and compete with NBC? 2) Once Upon a Time has a huge cast of characters and story arcs in progress and is just nearing the end of its second season with a lot still unexplored, and ratings have been down due to all the awards shows, etc. Wouldn't it be better for ABC and the showrunners to focus on stabilizing this show before they consider a spin-off? As a long-time TV watcher, I have noticed that most successful shows stabilize and hit their enduring long runs in the third season. — Jacki
Matt Roush: 1. From what I can tell, yes. Classic hubris. 2. Also, yes. The increased competition isn't the only reason for the show's decline. Once has made enough creative missteps this season that the last thing they should be doing is considering juggling yet another show.
Question: I just learned that the last new episodes of Merlin will not be on now until May! This is the second postponement. Sure seems like yet another example of Syfy kicking a show to the curb and treating fans like, well, suckers. Why would they think a two-month delay would help ratings? (Just curious: Anyone know what happened to Warehouse 13?) Thank heavens Grimm is back on Friday nights. A great way to kick off the weekend, and we sure had to wait long enough for that! — Lois
Matt Roush: Syfy (like its cable sibling USA) makes a pretty consistent practice of splitting up the seasons of its various properties — example: Warehouse 13 resumes the back half of its fourth season on April 29 (the last original episode aired in October) — so it's not like Merlin is being singled out. But yes, given that it's already ending, what's the point of stretching it out like this? Some things are beyond our understanding.
Question: Is there any news about the renewal or cancellation of Malibu Country? It's really worthy of another season. Reba and Lily Tomlin are always perfection and can anchor a true hit deserving of a long run. The rest of cast is beginning to pull it together. Stronger scripts, funny adventures out of Malibu to Hollywood? NYC? Broadway? Oklahoma? Texas? A zany bunch, a riotous posse, crazy exciting guests? "Starstruck" madness with pied piper Reba taking us and her family to the places she knows best and can conquer anew: concerts, arenas, rodeos, mountains to climb, songs to sing, a heart to match, a smile to kill and it'll be the place to be no matter what night it's on. ABC, follow Reba, and you will not be sorry! — Roz
Matt Roush: A fan, are we? No news yet, and there may not be until May, when the next season is announced. I wouldn't necessarily read anything into the fact that Malibu's season finale airs relatively early, on March 22. ABC has bigger problems to deal with than what's happening on Fridays, so unless ABC develops something it feels is more compatible with Tim Allen's Last Man Standing, this one could slip in under the radar.
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