Ask Matt: Loving Glee to Death? And More!
Mark Salling, Dianna Agron and Idina Menzel
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Question: I didn't think it would happen this fast, but it did. Before Lost even went off the air, I found myself in another situation where I fell instantly in love with a show, and in instant hate with its fans for their obsessive nit-picking and apparent desire to tear down a show they profess to love. That show is Glee. Ever since it returned from its winter hiatus, despite its continued critical praise and blockbuster ratings, I've heard nothing but whining from so-called "fans" who aren't happy with how the show progressed. I know Glee is not a perfect show and is not above reproach, but the arguments being presented by these fans baffle me. For starters, they were upset at the amount of screen time given to special guest stars Idina Menzel and Jonathan Groff. I didn't mind this at all because one of my favorite things about Glee is how it's introducing the rest of the country to the tremendous talent of stars that usually only get to be seen by regular New York theatergoers. If Glee wants to give me a chance to hear stars of this caliber sing every week, I don't see how that's anything to complain about! (And don't even get me started about the people complaining about there being too many songs in each episode!)
And despite the presence of these guest stars, all of the main characters got chances to shine in the back half of the season. Kurt had that tremendous performance of "Rose's Turn," Mercedes brought down the house with "Beautiful" as well as with Puck in "The Lady is a Tramp," Artie had that wonderful "Safety Dance" sequence, and we even got to discover Naya Rivera's singing talent when Santana got solos in the Madonna and Lady Gaga episodes. True, there are those two background dancer guys who only seem to get a line once every few episodes, but it's common for musicals to have background dancers and chorus members, and that's the role I've always assumed these guys fulfill.
The backlash situation is reminding me of what happened to Lost in Season 2. Once Lost started to show its true colors as a sci-fi show, a lot of viewers left. And I'm beginning to fear that the same could happen to Glee as it begins to sink in on viewers that they are actually watching a musical. I want this show to remain the phenomenon it is. I want it to continue to make big stars out of musical theater performers and (though I admit this might be too big a wish) I want its popularity to give school boards pause when they think of cutting out their arts programs. But I fear that like Lost, it might already be on its way down from cultural phenomenon to cult hit. Do you see Glee continuing to soar next season? — Erin
Matt Roush: I don't think Glee is fooling anyone about its proud and loud musical-comedy identity, which either learn to accept or you don't. Glee is far from peaking, and while it's a hit and a true pop-culture phenom, its ratings aren't as enormous as Lost's during its breakthrough first season, so I'm thinking it can sustain its current level of popularity for quite some time. And maybe even grow, although by now I'd think most of those inclined to check it out will have done so, and have either embraced it like a "gleek" or have run screaming from its "eek" factor. Don't let the sniping fool you, either. Passions run high regarding this show, and that's not entirely a bad thing. Have you ever visited a theater chat room? Bitchiest place on earth, and those are people who LOVE theater in capital letters. The fabulousness of Glee extends to its guest casting, and I hope season 2 and beyond will expose the TV audience to even more stage divas, female and male variety. Glee is a wonderful, manipulative mess, and it's still finding its voice. I would hope the producers have learned volumes getting this show through its ridiculously ambitious first season. My main worry is that it, and its young cast, will be able to survive all the hype. But, since you brought up nit-picking ...
Question: I adore Glee. I love it so much, I didn't even criticize the fake pregnancy plot. But I have been a little disappointed with the show's treatment of Jonathan Groff's Jesse St. James. Finn made reference in the "Laryngitis" episode to Will giving all the male leads to Jesse, and yet I don't think we ever got to see him leading a number with New Directions. Even in "Run Joey Run" and "Total Eclipse of the Heart," he shared the male lead with Finn and Puck. Now he's back with Vocal Adrenaline, and while "Another One Bites the Dust" was an awesome number, Jesse's transition back to his old school seemed to happen in a sudden, disjointed way. I know his presence was a set-up by Rachel's mom, but how could he have become jerky enough to partake in that whole egg scene? And will Rachel ever find out that her mother set up the whole Jesse thing? I just feel like this storyline deserves some closure, at least in part because Jonathan Groff is such a talented performer who (in my opinion) was not used to his fullest on the show. I guess I'm hoping Jesse will somehow redeem himself so that Jonathan Groff can come back in the future. I know he said he was a senior, but who's to say next season can't pick up during the same school year? Rules of time don't have to apply in Glee land! — Amanda
Matt Roush: So true about Glee time, where Rachel's mother can adopt Quinn's baby in the time it usually takes to fill out an application. Yes, there's no question Jesse's character wasn't what you'd call "rounded," or grounded in anything but the requirements of a plot device. Jonathan Groff was so electrifying in his musical moments that it's clear he (not to mention Rachel) deserved better with the way his story played out. But given the impact he had as Jesse, I wouldn't be surprised if he popped up again at some point to either explain himself to Rachel or just to deliver another show-stopper. I'd be OK either way.
Question: I am in complete awe of Breaking Bad. From the beginning, the writing has been sharp and explosive, and the acting tremendous (especially Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul, although we are now getting to see how incredible Anna Gunn and Dean Norris are). I find that usually in TV, the best direction is direction that goes unnoticed (I tend to agree with the idea that it is more a writer's medium). But the camera work in Breaking Bad has caught my attention in the best possible way. Rarely is an episode so enhanced by direction the way "Fly" was ("The Body" from Buffy also comes to mind), but even in a more typical episode, the camera is used in interesting and engaging ways. The music is unique, varied and perfect at capturing the mood of a scene. I have downloaded many songs on the basis of the snippet I heard on Breaking Bad. This is a show that is firing on all cylinders. I cannot remember the last time I was as shocked, terrified and excited by a show the way I was in the final scene of last week's episode. What are your thoughts on the third (in my opinion, best) season? Do you know what the plans are for the future of the show? Not looking for spoilers in any way, I mean more in terms of agreements between AMC and Vince Gilligan, a planned end date, etc. Between Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Dexter, True Blood, Glee, Modern Family (and I'm sure many others I'm not watching), the next television year looks pretty bright to me! — Katelyn
Matt Roush: This season has been an absolute knockout, a creative triumph with so many excruciatingly suspenseful peaks: Hank cornering Jesse and Walt in the trailer, Hank's shootout with the Cousins in the parking lot, Jesse's quest for revenge taking such an abrupt turn in the penultimate episode, and then last night's remarkable finale, as Walt desperately tries to avoid becoming Gus's latest victim and forces Jesse to (in the immortal words of Jack Bauer) pull the trigger. Plus watching Skyler become Walt's partner in crime, tackling the intricacies of money laundering while Walt begs her to stay out of it. So much messy moral complication and ambiguity, and as you noted, Breaking Bad is one of those rare shows where the excellent writing and acting is matched by thrilling direction, cinematography, scoring, all the attributes of great cinema. The show has from the start been likened at times to the Coen Brothers' movies, but I think it exceeds that comparison, because Breaking Bad is never smug about its characters and grounds even its most fantastic plot twists in a believable universe of ordinary lives gone dangerously awry. I don't know how they're going to top it next season, and I'm not aware that an actual end date has been determined for the series. But like The Shield, the masterpiece it most closely resembles, I'm hopeful and confident that Vince Gilligan and crew will be able to finish the story on their own terms. It's been an amazing ride so far.
Question: I've got a question regarding how Glee will fit into award season. I know conventional thinking puts it into the comedy side of the column, and even if it didn't, musicals are generally lumped in with comedies by default (the Golden Globes actually subtitles that side of the awards "Comedy or Musical", although I don't know if the Emmys do the same). However, I realized while watching the Glee season finale that it was having a tremendous emotional effect on me (especially the concluding songs Schuester and his kids had for each other — maybe manipulative, but very effective regardless). Considering it further, I keep thinking that Sue Sylvester is the show's only consistently comedic element (not to imply that she seems tacked on, as she's still integral to what makes the show work, and anyway, at this point it just wouldn't be right to be deprived of a weekly dig at Schuester's hair). Boston Legal could get away with submitting itself as a drama, and Glee would seem to not be stretching the definition of "drama" nearly as much if it did the same.
Another question/comment. When it comes to making expansive snap judgments, I try not to be "that guy," but I don't remember any hour of TV in memory being any better than the penultimate episode of Breaking Bad (and this coming from someone who thought the show could never top Hank's showdown with the Cousins in the parking lot a few weeks ago). The opening sequence with no dialogue, a bouncy song from the '60s ("Windy," by The Association), and a shorthand depiction of a day in the life of a street hooker was mesmerizing even though her connection to the story at hand didn't reveal itself until the end (I'm basically film-illiterate, although I wanted to say it could be seen as an homage to either Tarantino or Scorsese). Marie's inspired method of getting Hank to finally check out of the hospital, especially with the priceless look on her face as Hank is wheeled toward the exit. Gus' fixer Mike telling Walt his cautionary tale about half-measures. Jesse's standoff with and refusal to back down from Gus, and Gus appearing to throw him a bone with the "No more children" command, and finally the revelation of what "No more children" really meant. And of course, the final couple of minutes, which I won't bother describing because I couldn't do it justice. In the few days since it first aired, I've watched it three more times so far (the whole episode, not just the end), and I'm still not tired of it, so I hope it really is that good (and not just an indication that I need to get out more). Do you think "Half Measures" is good enough to make it onto the list of greatest TV episodes? — Mike
Matt Roush: First, the Glee question. The best comedies (including Modern Family, for that matter) have emotional heft, so the fact there are many dramatic moments within the framework of Glee shouldn't and won't disqualify it from competing in the comedy categories. It would have a tougher time in all categories going up against the first-rate dramas of the moment, anyway. (As it stands, pitting Glee against Modern Family is an embarrassment of riches.)
And regarding Breaking Bad's "Half Measures" episode, there are a number of episodes this season that would quality for a "greatest" list, and this is one of them. As lists like this often tend to focus on set-piece episodes (like "Pine Barrens" from The Sopranos), I'm thinking "Fly" may take top honors this season. Its tight focus and what the action in the lab revealed about Walt's and Jesse's state of mind was just as breathtaking as the more plot-driven highlights of this truly exceptional season.
Question: Justified is taking away some of the pain from the demise of Deadwood. From the setting to the action to the actors to the dialogue, it puts me back in that happy Al-Swearengen-y place. And that finale...I was gripped from the start. How fun was that scene between Boyd and Ava? She was so confused and pissed off, and then how tragic that it was that encounter that made her drop her guard when Bo and Johnny came around. And the finish, with Boyd making Raylan tear up. Outstanding, thoroughly enjoyable, and can't wait for season 2! — Nika
Matt Roush: What a week we just went through (and it's June, for crying out loud!), with the finales of Breaking Bad, Glee and Justified — not to mention Showtime's brilliant Nurse Jackie. For me, Justified has been such a happy and refreshing surprise, a purely entertaining show that maintains its light and wry touch regardless of all of the violence and twisted family ties. Raylan Givens is a terrific TV hero, and much as I admire many of FX's darker melodramas, I'm glad the network has finally given us someone we can root for without wanting to take a shower after.
Question: What exactly is the problem that ABC after two years of trying to get The New Adventures of Old Christine that they can't work out the details? It honestly never concerned me if CBS cancelled it, because I knew ABC would pick up this great sitcom, but I'm now saddened at learning that it's gone. Is there anything we can do? — Matt
Matt Roush: Mourn? Beyond that, it appears to be a done deal. It is a disappointment to see a sitcom this enjoyable scuttled so abruptly. From what I can tell, it's mostly a case of bad timing combined with the damage CBS did to the show's overall value by scheduling it so poorly. (If it had been given the breaks enjoyed by a mediocre show like Rules of Engagement, which never had to fight for viewers off of Monday nights, maybe it would still be a player). In past seasons, ABC was in such a deep comedy hole that a show like Christine looked like a sure bet. Now flush with comedy success on Wednesday night, ABC isn't quite as desperate to take another network's cast-offs (and one that probably has a fairly hefty price tag attached). While Christine would have been a great fit with the other Wednesday comedies, ABC was just burned by the Scrubs experiment and may not have been quite as eager to put another somewhat long-in-the-tooth show on its lineup. I wish ABC had been able to make a deal for at least 13 episodes as a back-up, because from what I've seen of the network's new comedy development, it could use Christine as a utility player. But really, the fault in all of this lies less with ABC than with CBS for having so marginalized Christine these last few seasons that it came off looking like damaged goods.
Question: Has there been a decision about renewing Medium for another season? It made me really wonder as the final episode ended with the characters toasting, "To the future." That could mean they just heard they had been renewed, or they were wishing each other luck on their next jobs. Any news? — Pam
Matt Roush: Well, they're all employed for at least one more season. The show is back on Fridays in the fall, but airing at 8/7c, which is an awfully early time period for this show. So given the show's age and the network's ongoing need to refresh the schedule (which is one reason shows like Ghost Whisperer and Cold Case were let go this spring), my crystal ball is pretty cloudy when it comes to projecting beyond next year's seventh season.
Question: So glad that Ask Matt is back! I was excited to see all the Lost love. Thank you for that. I want to know where you rank the finale as far as best series finales go. As it is my very favorite show of all time, I naturally rank it very high. I loved pretty much everything about it, especially the last few scenes. But what I love most about the finale is how satisfying it was, when there are so many unsatisfying conclusions to great television shows out there (i.e. The X-Files, Gilmore Girls) — Amy
Matt Roush: Let's give it some time to resonate before thinking about all-time rankings, but I do think it will rank high, especially when it comes to most-discussed and best-remembered finales. The fact that the show's creators had so elaborately planned this end scenario, whether one ultimately approved of it or not (and the more I think about it, the more I appreciate it), makes me think it will rank as a classic. It helps that the show was still in its prime, not on the slow decline as The X-Files was in its final years. I agree that it was emotionally satisfying, and that's what we'll take away from it in the end.
Question: How can ABC cancel FlashForward and keep V? I am a fan of both, but FlashForward is such a better, more complex and interesting show. Is there any chance to save it? When I heard that both of them might not make the fall schedule, I thought for sure they would keep FF!!! And this from the network that gave us LOST??? — Don
Matt Roush: FlashForward was pretty much over from the time ABC put it on a long midseason hiatus, with that move acknowledging that the network that gave us Lost knew it didn't have another Lost on its hands. I know the show had its champions, but I wasn't among them, finding neither the characters nor the mystery worth the bother. I can see how by comparison V seems shallow and cartoonish, but it was kind of designed that way. That show needs to raise its game in the second season and kick into high gear quickly to prove that it's a keeper, but looking at it from a purely commercial perspective, V at least makes sense to still be on the air.
Question: I'm really loving the new doctor on Doctor Who, along with his cute little sidekick. I didn't think anyone could fill David Tennant's shoes, but Matt Smith seems to be pulling it off. I was wondering how the ratings were. I read where the premiere set a BBC America ratings record, but I haven't seen anything for the next few episodes. Although I'm guessing, considering the longevity of the series, we should expect it to stick around? P.S. Thanks for your recommendation of Justified. I'm really loving that show, too. Being a Texan myself, I usually cringe at the Southern drawls actors attempt, but with Timothy Olyphant, I've never heard it sound so sexy. — Camille
Matt Roush: Yes, no need to worry about Doctor Who's future. I haven't been keeping abreast of its ratings myself, but my understanding is that BBC America is happy with the Doctor's performance, and the critical and fan reception to the new Doctor and his companion appears to have been largely positive as well. And on the other subject: Three cheers for Timothy Olyphant's drawl!
Question: I know you have been an ardent supporter of Friday Night Lights throughout its entire run, and if there was any justice, everyone would be heralding it as one of the best shows to ever grace the small screen. Even though the strength of the show is its ensemble cast and understated approach to everyday problems, I think it possible that Zach Gilford's performance in "The Son" last week was the absolute pinnacle of the show for me. Do you have any hope that Emmy voters will finally see fit to honor this show, and this actor specifically? Considering they have also neglected Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton each year, is there any chance Zach can get their attention, or is FNL just too under the radar for the Academy? With just one more season to go, they are rapidly running out of time. — Galen
Matt Roush: If only more Emmy voters watched this show. It's an ongoing travesty for this show to be so shamefully neglected by the industry, but that has probably only intensified since its first-run status moved from network to satellite TV and NBC's out-of-season run of the show on Friday nights. You really can't get much more under the radar than that. A shame all around, because Kyle Chandler, Connie Britton and so many of their young co-stars have delivered some of the best (if often understated, as you note) dramatic work of the last few years. Zach Gilford's wrenching performance in "The Son" is a great case in point, and we've cheered and lauded it from as many angles as possible. But it would be nothing short of a miracle if Friday Night Lights and any of its principals were to get noticed this year. It somehow doesn't seem to register to anyone but its ardent fans.
Question: Please give Hot in Cleveland a chance for all of us senior people. There are so few things on the tube worth watching for us since everything is directed to the young. We need something new to watch. I bet you didn't think The Golden Girls would ever make it, either, and look how long it ran and still on reruns. If you start bad-mouthing this new one with Betty White, people will take your advice and never let it get off the ground. Thanks for listening. A great-grand-mother — Bebe
Matt Roush: I bet you are a great great-grand-mother. And I agree that there should be more TV reflecting the tastes and needs of the generations that helped establish this medium. But I would be dishonest in my role as critic if I didn't call out something as witless and negligible as Hot in Cleveland, regardless of my boundless affection for Betty White (and, for that matter, her co-stars on this show). For the record, I was a fan of The Golden Girls from the get-go. That was an instant, enduring and hilarious classic, and you would have had to be blind not to acknowledge that. This show pales by comparison. But I'm also fairly sure that Cleveland will be one of those shows that can be classified as "critic-proof." Betty White is on a roll, and TV Land is doing a masterful job of marketing this new sitcom (premiering Wednesday at the strangely late time of 10/9c), and I'm expecting that it will open with a very big number, and will probably sustain it for the summer, because the show is as easy to take as it is to forget. I'll be surprised, though, if most people who tune in won't wish all of these actresses, including the legendary great White, were being given better material.
That's all for now. Keep those questions coming to firstname.lastname@example.org and follow me on Twitter at twitter.com/RoushTVGuideMag
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