Ask Matt: Homeland, Dick Clark, Larry Hagman, Glee, Dexter and More
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Question: I've been a fan of Homeland since before the pilot even came out. I don't live a day without at least thinking about Homeland once. Even last week's episode, which was heavily criticized, coerced me to suspend my disbelief on some dangling plot devices due primarily to the deliciously long-awaited meeting of Carrie and her mortal enemy Abu Nazir. And yet, while this season has largely been about Brody's allegiances and double missions, the series for me has always been about Carrie Mathison and Claire Danes. Her character was developed in Season 1 meticulously and effectively and yet I feel none of that in Season 2. The only real story that I feel coming from Carrie is her love for Brody, which I feel (even though the chemistry between Claire Danes and Damian Lewis is electrifying and amazing) has become rather stale. Carrie seems weak to me, and so I ask: Do you feel the same way? Is it because Carrie is no longer a part of the CIA anymore? Is it just because Claire Danes is pregnant? I just always felt as though Carrie's love for Brody shouldn't define her as a character, and yet I feel it's the only storyline she has.
My other question is completely random. At the start of Season 2, the characters of Vice President Walden, Abu Nazir and Virgil were all promoted to series regulars, and yet I'm confused as to why. Walden was in more episodes last season than this season, and now it appears he's no longer going to be on the show. (RIP, kinda.) And Abu Nazir has only made appearances on about three or four of the episodes, and even though my roommate keeps insisting Nazir was made a series regular because he's the central series antagonist and he's always mentioned, that doesn't mean he had to be promoted to series regular. It seems as though only Virgil's presence could be worthy of series regular status, and even his and Carrie's friendship dynamic seems to have diminished under the more obvious plotlines. Do you know why they were promoted to series regulars? Does winning the Emmy have to do anything with it? — Joey
Matt Roush: Let's start with Carrie. There's much more going on with her than just being a lovesick and unstable loose cannon. Her mad infatuation with Brody is inextricably woven with her reckless zeal to take down Abu Nazir and her preternatural gut instincts where he's involved — as we saw in this Sunday's penultimate episode. The twisted love story is what helps set Homeland apart from other TV thrillers, but I'd hardly say that's all that defines Carrie. As for the other actors who appear in the title credits, some of that is no doubt contractual, but it also reflects the fact that while they may not be central to every episode, these players were essential to the central narrative of the season (David Marciano's Virgil probably least of all in that regard). By now we know that Jamey Sheridan (Walden) and Navid Negahban (Abu Nazir) won't be featured in next season's credits — unless it's heavy on flashbacks or ghosts — but for this season, I saw no problem with that. It's actually preferable than having them appear in the credits only when they show up, as that could tip off spoilers in that week's plot.
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Question: I've been watching Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve since I was 10, and I'm 36. Every New Year's Eve I've always looked forward to seeing Dick Clark ring in the new year. Now that he has died, what will happen to Rockin' Eve? — Michael L.
Matt Roush: For the foreseeable future, as long as there's a New Year's Eve, there will be a Rockin' Eve to help us celebrate. That's just one of many TV legacies for which we can give thanks to Dick Clark. As you may have noticed, in the years since his stroke the show has been carrying on (with salutations from Dick) under the somewhat cumbersome title Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve With Ryan Seacrest, as Seacrest took up the mantle from his idol and mentor. There's no reason to think this won't continue for years to come, but whether or for how long Clark's name will remain part of the title remains to be seen. As far as I'm concerned, it will always be his show.
Question: I was sad to hear about the death of Larry Hagman. I always loved his work on Dallas and I Dream Of Jeannie. I've read that the producers of the new Dallas are going to continue with the show, despite Hagman's death. While some fans may not like this, I'm actually OK with this decision. I think if the producers were to have Patrick Duffy and Ken Kercheval's characters battle it out, I think the show could still work. In this scenario you would still have the Ewing vs. Barnes rivalry, and I think both Duffy and Kercheval are talented enough that they could make this work. What do you think? — Allan
Matt Roush: I couldn't help but notice that in your scenario, you make no mention of the cast's younger generation — a sign of just how much the old guard dominated this show's reboot. Losing Larry Hagman and J.R. will leave an enormous hole at the heart of Dallas, but they have no choice but to carry on, if for no other reason than as an homage to the iconic star and character. The challenge will be how to introduce this tragic event within the ongoing storyline, showing reverence toward Hagman while celebrating the outrageously irreverent cad that was J.R. without coming off as tacky or exploitive. (Not that Hagman would likely mind so long as they all remember how much fun it was to have him around as they go on with the show.)
Question: I'm watching Glee again this season as I have the entire series. Snarky and silly has made it very entertaining. However, as a fella who usually watches crime shows, when are they finally going to kill off Rachel and Kurt? Can we see NYADA go under with the economy or simply explode? Rachel just won a contest and Kurt finally got in to the school, so let that be the last of 'em. Glee is getting to be like watching two different shows that flip back and forth during the same time slot — one that I enjoy and one that I don't. Because of this, the one I enjoy at the high school is becoming choppy and slow. Is there an explosion coming or should I move on? — Perry
Matt Roush: Sorry, Perry, if the mail I've been getting most of this season is any indication, you're in the minority in preferring the high-school action (which can seem awfully derivative) over the New York subplots. If anything is in danger of imploding, it's McKinley High. But there's no question the experience of watching Glee is unusual this season, with so much cross-cutting between what might have been a spinoff and what's happening back in Ohio. Not to mention the repeated return appearances by characters who by all logic should have moved on for good by now. Read on for a more typical reaction (in my mailbag anyway) to Glee these days.
Question: I am very glad I record Glee, because I can then fast-forward through any part of the high-school storyline (except for the performances) and get to the New York stories. Rachel's and Kurt's performances last week took my breath away. If Lea Michele is not cast as the next Fanny Brice in the revival of Funny Girl, someone is not paying attention. There are spin-offs of many shows: NCIS, CSI, so why not Glee: NY? Do you think the New York story line is popular enough for Ryan Murphy to consider a spinoff? I can barely watch the high-school parts of Glee, but love the New York part of the show. Whoopi Goldberg, Kate Hudson and especially Sarah Jessica Parker are terrific and maybe a few seniors could eventually join them. I am pretty much over Glee but very much into what happens to Rachel and Kurt on their journey to stardom. — Sharon
Matt Roush: I had the same Funny Girl thought watching Rachel in her showcase performance. Not for the first time, of course, and to think anyone even tried to bring a revival of that show to Broadway without Lea Michele is just loony tunes. Back to Glee. Among the problems with giving this show an actual spinoff: Fox's real estate is awfully limited, and Glee isn't the powerhouse it used to be, so it's hard to imagine a lineup where there would be two hours devoted to Glee-related content during the week. (Although if it could have spared us The Mob Doctor...) Since the New York storylines seem to be so well received, maybe there will be a way to structure the series in the future with more entire episodes or arcs devoted to what's happening in New York (with "glee" as a metaphor for chasing one's musical dreams), with the high-school stories getting their own self-contained hours. Or maybe Glee will just evolve into something entirely different. This was always going to be a season of significant transition for Glee, and where it goes next is ripe for speculation.
Question: I am so much into this season of Dexter! Not since the season with John Lithgow have I appreciated every episode. With all of Dexter's past killings catching up to him with Maria's investigation, along with his relationship with Hannah and obviously Debra, all of these conflicts surrounding him makes me wonder what the final episodes will bring! I remember reading a while back before this season started that the producers mentioned that next season will be the last. With Breaking Bad coming to a close next year (my top three favorites including this show and Homeland), please tell me this is not true!! — Mike M
Matt Roush: In this case, I'd be happy to see good old/bad old Dex quit while he's ahead. This has been a wonderful season for Dexter, especially with all of the psychological drama between Dex and Deb, Dex and Hannah, Hannah and Deb, a strong enough comeback to merit inclusion in my year-end top-10 list, something I wouldn't have dreamed possible a year ago. It's going to be hard to top, and especially with LaGuerta's investigation adding to the sense that Dexter's time of operating in the shadows is nearing its end, I would be at peace if the show holds to its announced plan to construct an end game for next season, making the eighth year the last. That's the scenario for now as far as I know, but there's always a chance because of the warm reception it's been getting lately, they could change their mind and try to milk it a bit longer. But I hope not.
Question: With the excellent fourth season that The Good Wife is having, do you think it will get back into the Emmy drama series race (taking Boardwalk Empire's spot)? — Donald
Matt Roush: It certainly deserves to. The misbegotten Nick/Kalinda storyline aside — which thankfully appears to be history now — this has been another terrific run of episodes, a wonderful fusion of the political, procedural and personal, network TV drama at its best and starriest. For The Good Wife to have fallen off the list of top dramas even temporarily was a shameful lack of judgment on the part of the Emmy voters. There may be new dramas ahead in the midseason (on cable anyway) which could threaten Wife's standing in the nominations next summer, but I would certainly be unhappy if the uneven Boardwalk got a rote nomination in favor of this gem.
Question: Any Emmy buzz for Jack Huston as Richard Harrow on Boardwalk Empire? I know you weren't the biggest fan of the show this season, but I find Huston's performance stunning. Every time he takes the screen — whether it's romancing under the boardwalk or ruthlessly shooting up gangsters at Gillian's — I can't help but watch and cheer for him. He's come so far along from the guy ready to kill himself in the woods. If not an Emmy for him, would any of the other Boardwalk cast be contenders this year? — Danielle
Matt Roush: I'm sure there will be buzz, and deservedly so. He is one of the few engaging characters left on the series, and this season gave Huston a chance to shine in both of Richard's guises: as a tragic/romantic figure and as a stone-cold killer (the massacre at Gillian's was a remarkable set piece). But the competition in the ranks of supporting drama actors is always fierce, and his performance, while haunting, is also so quiet and contained (even when he's being a one-man army) that it may be overlooked. In terms of likely nominees, while I'm over Nucky and find him a less compelling figure by the season, Steve Buscemi being the high-profile star of an HBO series always makes him a contender. And while I mostly found this season's villain Gyp Rosetti to be laughably cartoonish, there's no doubt that Bobby Cannavale fully committed to playing this psycho fearlessly in a huge (possibly too huge) performance, so I wouldn't be surprised if he's singled out this year.
Question: Do you think NBC giving Law & Order: SVU two more episodes has anything to do with this season maybe being its last? Maybe NBC is giving it two more episodes to wrap things up? With Revolution doing well, Chicago Fire's ratings going up, plus two new dramas (Deception and Do No Harm) yet to premiere, NBC may have less holes to fill come next fall. — Sam
Matt Roush: Those are all some pretty big maybes, because most observers are expecting NBC to take quite a hit in the new year, with the NFL season ending and The Voice MIA until March. I wouldn't read much into this expanded episode order — which also spurred questions in my mailbag once again about a possible new Law & Order spinoff (which I still feel is unlikely, but who knows) — although the one thing that seems clear is that NBC is happy with more, and not less, of this series. It's not the power player it used to be, but there's still value in having something with a following airing on NBC's dead-zone Wednesday lineup. (I'm not convinced Chicago Fire is a long-term player. Again, the midseason will tell.) I'm not aware of any move toward shuttering SVU after this season, and would be surprised if it weren't back next year.
Question: What have you thought about the second season of American Horror Story? I remember you were not that fond of the first season. Although Jessica Lange continues to be fabulous, we've lost interest in the show this year. It went from "must see" to "no see" TV. Are you still following the show? — Rob
Matt Roush: I'm enjoying Lily Rabe as lasciviously possessed Sister Mary Eunice even more than Lange's tormented Sister Jude, but as a whole, I still find the show to be a hodgepodge of lurid nonsense, and I'm almost never scared or even surprised by what happens, because it's all so "anything goes." I certainly never feel the sense of impending dread and terror that comes from even the weakest episodes of The Walking Dead, which for me is TV's true American horror story. That said, I am more intrigued by this Asylum season, in part because it's set in the '60s, which gives it more texture, especially as it involves the mores and prejudices of the times (against interracial and same-sex relationships). I almost find myself caring what's going to happen next to the falsely imprisoned Lana and Kit as they seek escape from the various nut jobs and monsters on the loose in the madhouse — which itself is a more novel and unnerving setting than last year's ridiculously overpopulated haunted house.
Question: Thank you so much for all your columns over the years. I have enjoyed many series that I never would have tuned into if it weren't for your recommendations. Forgive me if I write only as another exasperated TV viewer who is sick of the networks and their short attention spans. I have just spent the last hour absolutely riveted to the "Cinderella Liberty" episode of Last Resort and can't believe this series has been cancelled. I'm pretty old and have watched a lot of TV in my time, and this series has some top-quality storytelling going on, not to mention a great cast. Can't believe more people haven't tuned in, but why can't they give it a little more time? I know the answer, pure economics, but it's frustrating all the same. Its replacement will probably be another Bachelorette (gag) series. Sorry to be so whiny, but thank you for the opportunity to vent! — Susan
Matt Roush: Thank you for those kind words. And while I don't want to beat this dead horse for too much longer, I couldn't agree more about Last Resort, especially after last week's episode. It's not perfect, but it's exciting and exotic and so different from anything else on TV that I can't help but think ABC is being particularly short-sighted with this cancellation. Especially in light of what's taking its place in February: a conspiracy thriller called Zero Hour, which when I screened it this summer felt like The DaVinci Code-for-dummies. If Last Resort couldn't attract a big enough audience in this tough time period, how will an even more convoluted and poorly executed show fare?
Question: I understand that TV viewership declines during the holidays, but is that because all the shows go on hiatus or are people that busy? It is still weeks until Christmas, but shows are already in reruns or replaced by some special and won't return until way into the new year. I celebrate Christmas like everyone else, but this is just a regular work week when I want to relax in front of my TV in the evenings. Is this dead period getting longer or am I just a scrooge? — DB
Matt Roush: I have noticed more shows making a bigger deal of their "fall finales" this year, and a handful of series did take an early exit, but maybe it's because I keep track of so many shows, including various reality competitions, that I'm actually a bit surprised by how many originals are still airing this close to Christmas. Last Thursday and this Thursday, for example, I don't think there's a single repeat among the glut of major network shows. Plenty of cable series are still going strong for the next few weeks, and I recently realized that Fox has scheduled a new Fringe for Dec. 21. I guess they figure they don't have anything to lose at this point. (And much as I love the show, I will have started my own hiatus by that time and will have to catch up later.) It is true that viewing levels tend to go down this time of year as people get busy preparing for and celebrating the holidays, and networks risk a lesser return by airing new episodes during this time, but the upside of any show going into hibernation early means that you'll get fewer repeats later in the season. So think of it as a time-delayed gift.
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