Claire Danes

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Question: I have a hard time reconciling the stories of two attractive women on Homeland and Revenge who make up to and sleep with the enemy. I can see a guy doing this, but not two attractive intelligent women. This does not seem like human nature to me. I really like both shows, but this is too incongruous for me. — David

Matt Roush: I'm not sure why it would be more appropriate for a guy to do the sort of things that Carrie and Emily are up to on Homeland and Revenge. But I am sure that it's a very good thing that women are being allowed to play such deliciously damaged and twisted lead roles, especially in the case of Homeland, and I'll be shocked if Claire Danes isn't a front-runner in all the awards races this year. I'm not sure "incongruous" is the right word, though. Maybe improbable? Because, after all, these are high-concept melodramas (although Homeland feels more real and raw), and maybe you're unsettled by the female lead being the aggressor. If you're disturbed by their actions, and I know I was when Carrie took her flirtation to the next level and then spent the weekend with her prey (Brody) in the cabin, then the shows are doing their job. I must say I was expecting Saul's reaction, upon learning just how personal her contact with Brody was, to be stronger than a reprimand and a hug in Sunday's episode. With Emily in Revenge, the consequence of "sleeping with the enemy" is that she's actually falling for the guy, which is how in tends to work in classic soaps like this. This genre has always had its shares of vixens and scheming divas, but not usually in the lead "hero" role. Which is maybe a refreshing change.

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Question:
Do you have any idea about what happened to Cougar Town, or thoughts on its disappearance? I hadn't even realized it was in trouble last year. To have it be "renewed," and then just vanish like this, seems a little bizarre. — John

Matt Roush: More than bizarre, it's aggravating. And the situation got even worse late last week (after this question came in) when ABC laid out its initial midseason plans for early 2012 and Cougar Town was nowhere to be seen, or even mentioned. And then it turns out because it won't be premiering until very late in the season — unless one of the midseason comedies is a fast flop — the episode order has been cut back from 22 to 15. We still don't know when or where ABC will air it, and that's no way to treat a utility player. How Cougar Town fell out of favor while Happy Endings is sitting pretty on the Wednesday lineup is beyond me. I sure would have liked to see how Cougar Town performed behind Modern Family when there was a decently performing show (like Revenge) in the lead-out position. None of this means the show is in imminent danger of cancellation — for all we know, its audience will find it wherever ABC puts it, the way it seems to work for shows like CBS' Rules of Engagement — but this is hardly a promising development.

Question: When NBC released its midseason schedule, I (and other fans) noticed that Awake was missing from the lineup. Being a long-time Jason Isaacs fan and someone who is looking forward to the show, it is puzzling. Do you know what they intend to do with this program that showed so much promise last May? — Heather

Matt Roush: Keep in mind that the midseason schedules being announced are mostly just the first wave for winter, and there will be more premieres and tryouts to come, some as late as April, and where and when Awake will air may depend on how things go for NBC in early 2012. Awake is still in NBC's pipeline, but the network is being very cautious about this one, and it's not hard to understand why. It's a very tricky premise, and we're hearing that the network is concerned about the darkness of the tone as well as the audience's willingness to go along with a scenario in which the hero's wife is dead in one reality and his son dead in the other. Neither being a particularly happy state of affairs, obviously, but Jason Isaacs is absolutely terrific and the pilot has haunted me since I saw it, so I hope NBC can find an agreeable time period and a proper time to launch it so it can get the attention it deserves.

Question: NBC continues to baffle me with their bad programming and even worse scheduling. Although frustrating, I can see the logic in temporarily pulling Community in order to allow 30 Rock to air. I'm happy about Up All Night moving to Thursday, which seems a much better fit, while Whitney can hopefully die on Wednesday. What I'm really confused about, though, is the complete absence of Awake, which I've heard good buzz about, as well as a couple of other comedies. So they're relying completely on The Voice to launch Smash, and the only other new show they're launching is that Chelsea Handler comedy that doesn't look very promising. Parenthood has its season finale in February, so what takes its place after that? Grimm has been performing decently for NBC, and well for Fridays, yet it stays there and is stuck in a sea of reality after Chuck's finale in January. NBC is always talking about how they want to "revamp" their schedule, yet they continue to make illogical scheduling moves, and decide to premiere considerably less mid-season shows than originally planned.

While we're on the subject of all things low-rated, I gave into the pressure of friends and watched all three seasons of Fringe over the summer, and found it one of the most enjoyable and engaging dramas I'd ever watched. I can't help but notice how low the ratings are, even for Friday, and especially for Fox. At this point, it would be a miracle if it made it to another season. What do you think its chances of getting picked up by a cable network are, and how invested is Fox in it? Should fans hope for a Chuck-like situation of it getting picked up for an abbreviated final season? It's a show so deeply rooted in mythology that seeing it end without a proper resolution would be tragic. — Alex

Matt Roush: A few points regarding the NBC rant: I'm not thrilled that NBC is replacing Parenthood after its season finale with a new reality competition, Fashion Star, which makes the network pretty much indistinguishable from its cable cousin Bravo. If Grimm must be paired with a reality show on Friday, at least Who Do You Think You Are? is a good one. And leaving Grimm on Fridays could be the best thing for it, keeping expectations low.

As for Fringe, do you really have to ask how invested Fox is in the show? The network has kept it alive for a fourth season, despite dismally low ratings, allowing the show the sort of creative freedom you usually find only on cable these days. Fox believes in Fringe from a creative standpoint, which is why I believe they will do the right thing and either give the producers enough notice this season to end the show on a proper note or extend its life long enough next season to give us a satisfying conclusion. In either regard, once its run is over on Fox, I wouldn't expect to see it turn up anyplace else. Although as we're learning with Arrested Development, never say never.

Question: Before I dive into my actual question, I wanted to hit upon a show of which I'm probably the last holdout fan: Better Off Ted. I've been pretty patient but it looks as though Season 2 isn't going to become available on DVD. I see from amazon.com that I can watch the final two unaired episodes online for free, but I want to own the entire series. Writing letters and e-mails seems to be in vain, and I'm not sure what else I can do. It doesn't help that DVDs are on the decline overall.

My usual m.o. is to watch at least two episodes of a new show that I think I'll be interested in. The thought being: A ho-hum pilot deserves a second chance to impress me. If I'm still on the fence, I'll give it a third or fourth chance. By then, I have to decide if I want to cram the series onto my DVR each week. This season two new shows debuted with a similar basis in fairy tales: Once Upon a Time and Grimm. Both were advertised as ambitious, so I was sure the first few episodes of each would be impressive. But afterwards, these big-concept shows tend to fall off both in visual impression and plot interest. So how surprised am I now that I find myself continuing to be anxious to see the next new episode ... of both shows! I like Once so far because of its high concept. It's based on children's stories, but it doesn't pander. It's not condescending, although I do have to accept the idea that storybook characters are living in 21st-century America. Coming from former Lost writers, I think they are slowly revealing the essence of the characters. Giving a third dimension to them has been fascinating to watch. (Snow White was a thief? Prince Charming has a real name?)

I also enjoy Grimm so far because it's dark and brooding. In fact, I find myself genuinely frightened when Detective Burkhardt is about to be attacked by who-knows-what. Yet it has a slight levity in some situations indicating that it doesn't take itself too seriously. It's almost like The X-Files and the first season of The 4400, where a new "case" is profiled each week. It's a strange and wonderful twist on a procedural crime drama. I also like the fact that it takes place in currently hip Portland, Oregon. What are your thoughts on these two shows? — Thomas

Matt Roush: On Better Off Ted, you're probably right that the digital option may have pre-empted a release of the second season on disc — indicating that the studio didn't see a profitable upside — but who knows that a complete set of both seasons won't someday be issued for cult collectors. Stranger things have happened. I know I'd want one.

To your more current question, I'm more impressed by Once Upon a Time than I am with Grimm, and I was initially a skeptic regarding both. The episode with Snow White's backstory, played off against the contemporary storyline of John Doe/Prince Charming's identity, was what won me over with Once. The revisionist backstories in the fairy-tale world are by far my favorite element of the show, and I am pleasantly surprised by how well it has caught on. Grimm I'm still on the fence about. I'm not invested yet in the elaborate mythology or, more crucially, the main characters, but I do think the various demons of legend have been cleverly portrayed, and I can't get enough of Silas Weir Mitchell as Monroe, the reformed creature dragged reluctantly into each case. The show's humor is its greatest strength, like when Monroe muttered to Nick in the middle of one perilous situation, "This is so the part of the horror movie where the sidekick gets it." But when you liken it to The X-Files, all I can think is: Why wouldn't you rather be watching Fringe?

Question: Last week there were some comments about The Big Bang Theory and the women having the spotlight now and again. I love it. Penny was terrific, but since the addition of Bernadette and Amy, it is three times better. The guys are funny by themselves and so are the women... maybe more so because they are all so different and yet they get along and are hysterical together. I think the show has only gotten better. A show I am disappointed in this season is Bones. I have been a fan since the beginning, but with Bones pregnant, the chemistry seems to be strained this year. If Bones and Booth were going to fall into a romantic relationship which has been building for years, we as fans wanted to see it happen. I think we got robbed of that because one minute they are flirting and the next she is pregnant. Not fair. Almost feels like they skipped a season. — Sharon

Matt Roush: More like she skipped a period. While I agree with you 100 percent about The Big Bang Theory, I do wish Bones fans would just let the story tell itself without dwelling so much on the "what if." This complaint has been feeding on itself since the reveal in last season's finale, and the way I see it, Bones and Booth were never going to have a conventional courtship — she's just too weird to navigate the course of true love like a regular person — and the surprise pregnancy has forced them into facing up to their feelings for each other and to the responsibility they must assume for the child on the way. Bones' learning curve is especially steep, having to factor in Booth's feelings about things like the announcement of the baby's gender as well as her own maternal instincts, and I'm kind of enjoying it. I get that fans feel cheated, but the messiness of their current situation feels more true to these particular characters.

Question: In the last month, I've noticed two incidents of bad luck/timing. The week after his death, Sanctuary had a line about having dinner with Steve Jobs last week, and on the most recent Covert Affairs, Joan appeared to be wearing a Penn State shirt in one scene. I realize that this was just bad luck, but do producers ever think about going in at the last minute and removing some of those things? In the case of Covert Affairs, they were probably stuck, as they would have had to dump the whole scene, but in Sanctuary's case it was just a single line they could have removed. I remember whole episodes being delayed/cancelled (the Buffy episode "Earshot," about a sniper at the school right after Columbine, for example) but I don't know if they tweak episodes. — Jason

Matt Roush: Episodes can be tweaked and dialogue relooped when deemed necessary, but actual post-production reshoots are more rare, because of the limited budget and time involved in cranking out a weekly series. Neither of the examples you cite sounds like they crossed the sort of taste threshold that would get programmers and advertisers nervous — now if Joan had actually been watching a Penn State game, that might have raised some eyebrows. When these accidental too-close-to-reality moments do occur, the best route tends to be postponement, as in the case of that remarkable Buffy episode, or more recently, when Fox last spring shelved a crossover stunt involving a hurricane blowing through all three of Fox's Seth MacFarlane animated comedies, because of the storms and tornadoes that ravaged the South. (Honestly, I'm not sure there's ever a good time to spoof natural catastrophes.)

Question: I'm confused, and wondering if I could have fallen asleep and missed something, or maybe they're just trying to keep us in the dark for something unsaid that's about to happen, but when NCIS: Los Angeles ended last week, I thought I was in another dimension somewhere. What's with Sam walking into a house, kissing a kid, telling a woman in bed that he loves her? Is he undercover? Bad enough it broke my heart when he had to leave another woman he'd claimed to love, though it looked like it broke his heart. This one had me saying w-h-a-t? Can you shed some light on this or should I just be patient and wait? — Dorothy

Matt Roush: You're not the only one who was caught off guard. According to the show, they have previously shown a quick glimpse of the wife and it has been noted that Sam has kids, but this was the first time we saw his daughter, and showing him in his house and in bed with his wife is so out of character for the show that it created a bit of a fan frenzy. Case in point: On the Twitter feed when LL Cool J was live-tweeting during last week's episode, many of the comments were of the "Sam's married?" variety. This show does tend to keep such matters fairly discreet, but we're told that in true NCIS: LA fashion, more details about Sam's home life will be revealed eventually, though certainly not immediately.

Question: In the Hawaii Five-0 episode titled "Lapa'au," the murder of an ICE agent introduced the character of another ICE Agent Jeff Morrison (Greg Grunberg) who supervised the dead agent. I get the distinct feeling he is a wolf in sheep's clothing, another Wo Fat accomplice. My reasons being: When we first meet him, he is having a very emotional response to the death of the ICE Agent. How many times did tips that he is in on lead to oh-just-missed-him moments? The interaction with Liam Miller (Jon Gries) gave me a they-know-each-other vibe, especially when Liam challenges him to shoot him. But the final straw is the ICE Agents' commendation that is mounted and framed and given to the Five-0 team. What a great place for a Wo Fat bug to know what Five-0 is up too. So what is your take on ICE Agent Jeff Morrison? — Mark

Matt Roush: I think you may have watched too many of these shows, but you're probably not the only one who sees a Wo Fat mole lurking at every plot development. (Which is even more understandable after this week's episode.) But really, Greg Grunberg a bad guy? Not in this island paradise. According to executive producer Peter M. Lenkov: "We'd love to have Greg back, but he [Morrison] is 100 percent good!"

Question: I thought I already knew what makes a TV guest star a "Special Guest Star:" fame, awards recognition, notoriety. However, I'm particularly confused when it comes to American Horror Story. Kate Mara and Zachary Quinto were both billed as "special" guest stars, but someone like Frances Conroy (who's amassed several Emmy nominations and who's been with the show since the pilot) is still only a normal guest star. What's the difference? Do Mara and Quinto just have better agents? Do they make more money per episode than Conroy? Help! - Marcus

Matt Roush: This is your problem with American Horror Story? The billing? Just looking at it logically — although what does logic have to do with this deranged show? — the Mara and Quinto characters come into the story as "special" guests while Conroy is playing more or less a regular supporting role; she and Alexandra Breckenridge are both billed as "guest stars" when they appear, although it would be more accurate if they were put into an "also starring" category. These credits are all contractual and seem to change in meaning from show to show, and I can never figure out exactly what it signifies, either. Honestly, I don't care what you call them; the dual maid gimmick is still one of my favorite parts of this zany show.

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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