Raul Esparza

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Question: I've been enjoying the insights into the early Hannibal Lecter and Norman Bates on Hannibal and Bates Motel. I know that both shows are just based on the original works and can certainly invent stories for the characters. However, I expect the TV series to at least honor the future stories that we're so familiar with. What I mean: Bates Motel is terrific at bringing young Norman along where we can understand the Norman in Psycho and how he got that way. The taxidermy and now the blackouts are both critical, as is the relationship with Mother. However, I was very upset that they killed off Dr. Chilton in Hannibal since he is an important character in the novels. We can accept that what we see in Jack, Will, Bloom, Lounds, etc. are consistent (genders aside) with what we see later in Red Dragon and Silence of the Lambs. But now, there is no place for Chilton in the future stories. Am I out of line and the only one who has complained? — Jerome

Matt Roush: You certainly weren't the only one caught off guard when Chilton took a bullet in the face. I get your point, but I'm generally comfortable with any liberties these shows take with the pre-existing mythologies as long as they work within the context of the series. And given the abuse Dr. Chilton had suffered to this point, that twist felt very much in keeping with the fiendish and ghoulish tone of Hannibal, and it was a pretty powerful payoff. If that's what it was. Because while the gunshot looked pretty fatal to me, Hannibal's mastermind Bryan Fuller has been teasing, including in an interview with TVGuide.com, that maybe we haven't seen the last of Chilton: "As far as canon goes, I wouldn't put it past me to have [Chilton] show up looking like Ed Harris in A History of Violence in Season 3 or 4. ... Serpico survived a shot to the face! That's not exactly where we're going, but I would never count out Dr. Chilton." If that's the case, I can almost see the character as a running gag of mutilation, by the end of the series being the equivalent of the limbless Black Knight of Monty Python infamy.

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Question: When will the networks be making final decisions on the "bubble shows?" I'm going to be incredibly disappointed if Hannibal doesn't get renewed! It's such an amazing show. Maybe if NBC would go ahead and announce a renewal, more people would watch it. Why would anyone start watching a show if they think it is just going to be canceled? Also, in this same vein, have you heard anything about a cable network perhaps picking up Hannibal if NBC is too shortsighted to do so? — Wendy

Matt Roush: While it's possible some network shows that haven't yet been picked up may hear a definitive yay or nay before Upfront week, most of these remaining decisions will be confirmed and announced the week of May 12. And because Hannibal is currently scheduled to run through May 23, it may take longer for its fate to be decided, though maybe not. I can't imagine NBC has expectations for Hannibal beyond the Friday niche it currently occupies, and I hope that's enough to warrant a third year. (I'll spare you my argument that if a show's good enough, it deserves to be watched regardless of its chances for renewal. Enjoy it while it lasts, however long that may be.) And no, until NBC decides one way or another, it would be premature for any cable outlet to start bidding for it, and the chances for that happening are probably fairly slim, though with a brand name this potent, it's not out of the question. (It would be a golden opportunity for a streaming service like Netflix, Hulu or Amazon as well.) Whatever happens, I give NBC lots of credit for putting something this bold and uncompromisingly creepy on the air in the first place.

Question: I'm a huge fan of The Amazing Race. And I may have witnessed something this season I'm not sure I've ever seen in reality TV before. Usually obnoxious contestants get even more obnoxious when they come back for second go-rounds, but I have been kind of amazed at the transformation in Leo and Jamal. Last season, the cousins were downright annoying as they played their "Afghan-imals" shtick to the max. This season, it seems like the guys might have watched themselves on TV and said, "We seem like jerks." Or maybe their mothers had a stern chat with the fellows. But this time around they seem happier to be there, more polite and helpful to other racers and all-around good sports. They remind me of Cowboys Jet and Cord. As much as I spent last season wishing for them to just go away, I'm rooting for the new and improved cousins (still not as much as the CowBros). And that's the amazing thing about The Amazing Race: getting to see (mostly) nice people go fabulous places and do interesting things. — Cynthia

Matt Roush: It took me a while to get past my own dismay that the producers had welcomed this aggressively annoying duo back so quickly, but I do agree they have been much more enjoyable company this season. What once looked like smug cockiness has now evolved into an infectious exuberance that is one of the more enjoyable aspects of any season of The Amazing Race. That said, I am not a fan of these "all-star" seasons, and for some of these teams to be on their third race, enough already. Give someone else a chance.

Question: On last Monday's episode of The Blacklist, Red Reddington (played devilishly by James Spader) confronts an individual at the fictional Burdell College of Technology in Laurel, Md. I happen to be an employee at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, and our most famous fictional alum is George P. Burdell. George first appeared in 1927 when he was registered for the first of many semesters at Georgia Tech. When Tech computerized its registration system in 1969, the administration thought it had finally found a way to keep George from registering for classes, yet hackers managed to register him for every section offered that term, over 3,000 credit hours. George also managed to register for classes in 1975 and 1980, despite administration attempts to keep him off the student rolls. George has also been listed as a production assistant for South Park on their website. In 2001 Time took a poll to determine the Person Of The Year, and George P. Burdell got 56.8 percent of the vote, handily beating the No. 2 contender of President George W. Bush, who only managed 7.2 percent of the vote. So it would appear to be more than a coincidence that George, coming from a Technical Institute of higher learning, would have a Technical Institution named after himself. So here is your challenge: What's the connection between Georgia Tech's George P. Burdell and the fictional Burdell College of Technology on The Blacklist? Good luck, Matt! This message may self-destruct in seven seconds. — Dan

Matt Roush: Although you're mixing your thriller metaphors a bit, good catch — and hardly a mission impossible. The Blacklist's executive producer Jon Bokenkamp explains: "Burdell College of Technology is indeed an homage to the Georgia Institute of Technology (aka Georgia Tech), the alma mater of our assistant editor, Rhett Finch. We needed a fictional university for the Chyron, so Rhett came up with the name to use over the stock shot as a temporary placeholder. A little Georgia Tech love from The Blacklist."

Question: I am finding both Silicon Valley and Fargo terrific (thanks for the recommendations). Fargo came out of the gate at full speed and I can't wait to see where it's heading. But I was amused at the comment from Kevin a few weeks ago showing disappointment for Silicon Valley because it was full of stereotypes. I'm guessing he doesn't find The Big Bang Theory funny either; it is nothing but stereotypes. Barney Miller, Mary Tyler Moore, Modern Family and countless other classic comedies are full of stereotypes that didn't keep them from being hilarious, and didn't keep the characters from connecting with the audience. — Rick

Matt Roush: A distinction should be made here between types and stereotypes, and what keeps the former from turning into the latter (which is often seen as a pejorative, because it indicates a lack of imagination or surprise) is usually a specificity and quality in the writing and acting that transforms familiar sorts of characters — the science geek, the computer nerd, or to use the Modern Family example, gay couples and a spitfire trophy wife — into memorable individuals. On that count, Silicon Valley is a resounding success. As for Fargo: I'm a few weeks ahead of you, and I still have no idea where the story is going next. How exhilarating is that?

Question: I wanted to hear your thoughts on the most recent episode of Person of Interest, "Death Benefit," and I'm absolutely thrilled that 24 is coming back in a week. Do you think it will be able to meet expectations? — Ishaan

Matt Roush: As usual, I found that episode of Person of Interest fascinating, exciting, entertaining — and a bit mystifying. (As discussed last week, I'm OK with that.) I was especially intrigued by the notion that the Machine was apparently urging them to kill, not save, their target, and watching the team struggle with this directive gave the story a nice flourish of moral ambiguity. Can't wait to see where the remaining episodes take us. Regarding the new 24: Live Another Day miniseries, I've seen the first two hours, and while it's a little slow out of the gate — four years of exposition will do that — by the end of the two-hour premiere, I was more than pleased to have Jack Bauer back, dodging violent curveballs and once again trying to prove to the rest of the world that he's trying to save them, not kill them (the good guys, anyway). If your expectations are that the new 24 will blow you away the way the old series did (especially when it was at its peak), the answer may be no, because the novelty and some of the edge is gone by now. But will it satisfy fans who've been aching for the show's return? I think and hope so.

Question: I love The Goldbergs. A lot of that has to do with the fact I am from Philly (a great place to be from, IMHO). I'm a huge Flyers fan and loved the hockey episode. Do you know if it has been picked up for next season? Also: They are obviously Jewish (as am I), but there is no reference to that at all. I was not expecting Sabbath dinners, but Hanukkah or Adam's Bar Mitzvah has to have some laughs. And finally: Why do the end credits have the disclaimer that the people and events are fictitious and any resemblance to actual persons is purely coincidental, then they show the actual person. I've seen that in other shows and movies as well. — Bob (Phoenix via Philly)

Matt Roush: ABC hasn't officially announced any of its renewals for next season, but I wouldn't worry about The Goldbergs, which seems like a safe bet for the next few years. Regarding the Jewish question: I haven't tracked the show as carefully as you — it's a little broad for me, so I watch it more sparingly — but if they've downplayed the religious aspect of their lives, it's still fair to assume they're Jewish at heart, and now that the show has struck more universal chords of family wackiness, maybe they can get more specific about their faith (or possible lack of) later. I love how The Middle, which by all rights should be its lead-in on Wednesdays next season, has dealt over time with the issue of religion without getting preachy about it. The Goldbergs has a similar opportunity and I'd like to see them go there. As for the disclaimer: This series is so clearly autobiographical, including the credits gag of showing the real-life Goldbergs in home-movie footage, that the "disclaimer" is obviously a joke — not unlike how Fargo introduces each episode (as the movie did) by saying it's based on a true story, when it obviously isn't.

Question: What is your take on this year's late-night shift? My focus is on The Tonight Show. While Jimmy Fallon has tons of talent, he is annoying. He has to pant over every guest and he has to ruin every musical guest's appearance by jumping in and reminding us that he has musical talent as well. Let them have the stage, Jimmy! I see The Tonight Show as a Midwestern, gray-haired, fatherly man who connects with the 35-50 demo. I know, it sounds like Johnny Carson. That's what it should have been. Having some 39-year-old jumping up and down with a hip-hop band doesn't wind me down and comfort me as I end my day. — Tim

Matt Roush: Sorry to inform you: The Carson era I grew up with is over. (I miss it, too. Always have, always will.) And so, almost, is the Letterman era. Change is inevitable, especially in the demographically driven world of TV ratings and late-night TV, but it isn't always a bad thing. I'm actually gratified that NBC is finding success in its rejuvenated Tonight Show. The new energy Fallon is bringing to the show is most welcome after the calcified last regime, which I concede was a much more relaxing (though rarely more memorable) way to end a night. We can all agree that interviewing isn't this Jimmy's greatest strength — a little less gush, a little more actual conversation would be appreciated — but his ability to perform comedy and music and mix it up with his guests often makes for moments that are truly special. I suppose he could tone it down a bit, but if you're not making noise in late night these days, you're not playing the game right.

Question: Well, the numbers are in and the season premiere of Mad Men had numbers that are far from what I'm sure TPTB were hoping for. Do you think if the numbers stay down that AMC might scrap this whole ridiculous idea of splitting this last season in two and just air it all at once? If they think anticipation has waned over this last year, what do they will expect will happen by 2015? The show had a good run. They should let it have one last hurrah of a season instead of having it limp out disgracefully. P.S.: It was cool seeing you on TCM the other night! - Jeannine

Matt Roush: Thanks! The TCM "guest programmer" gig was one of the coolest things I've ever been lucky enough to do. And I couldn't agree more about the way AMC is handling Mad Men's last, long hurrah. Disrespectful to the audience and to the show, which lacks the narrative urgency of a Breaking Bad or Walking Dead, so any momentum this final run may have will likely be lost in the interminable break between half-seasons. But it's not as if Mad Men was ever a ratings blockbuster, and opening-night ratings rarely tell the full story anymore. (From what I gather, when you factor in DVR numbers and viewing on other platforms, the show hasn't lost that much steam.) So to answer your question: AMC is committed to this split-season strategy (and should be committed for it), so we're stuck with it. Gee, can you believe we're already almost halfway through this stunted not-quite-season?

Question: Are actors not contracted with a series or network anymore? Not that I didn't enjoy more of Amy Acker on my TV screen, but she's now full time with Person of Interest on CBS, but then was a guest on Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. on ABC last week. I didn't know they could do that. — Cynthia

Matt Roush: They can if everyone plays nice. Consider Amy Acker's long history with the Whedon troupe (from Angel through Dollhouse to Much Ado About Nothing), and it's not such a surprise they would enlist her for this very special S.H.I.E.L.D. role even though she's a recurring regular on another network. (If the shows had directly competed with each other, that might have been another issue.) Also keep in mind that there are a number of Person of Interest episodes in which Root is barely heard or seen, so it probably wasn't that difficult to arrange her schedule accordingly. Besides, there's no such thing as too much Amy Acker on TV.

Question: With all the news stories on TV in the last few years regarding teachers who went waaay over the line, do we really need a network offering viewers a showcase for this in Bad Teacher? Don't remember what network wasted time and money on this kind of awful programming, nor do I care. I even try to avoid promos for this drivel. There are a lot of great shows on TV, so I know they can produce much better than Bad Teacher. Is this what viewers can expect from major networks in the future? Or is this just something to use as a "filler" till the good shows are ready to air? Please! 
— Susan

Matt Roush: As the brother of one of the world's finest and most dedicated teachers, I wish I could agree with your knee-jerk condemnation of a show you almost certainly haven't sampled, but I believe there's plenty of room for politically incorrect humor almost anywhere, even on CBS — although as I noted in my review, it needs to be done better than in this crude and compromised translation of a funnier (though hardly classic) film. For all of the show's flaws, starting with the casting of the title character, it's not as if it's promoting being a bad, dishonest, in-it-for-the-single-dads teacher as a good thing. It's comedy. Comedy is often rude. But on the plus side, you're absolutely correct that Bad Teacher was slapped onto the schedule as midseason "filler," and I'd be surprised if it's still around come fall semester.

That's all for now. Keep sending your comments and questions to askmatt@tvguidemagazine.com, and in the meantime, follow me on Twitter!

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