Chris Messina, Mindy Kaling

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Question: What do you think the chance is for The Mindy Project to be renewed for a third season? I have been watching it since the beginning and think that the end of "The Desert" episode gave the show some good material and direction for the rest of the season. It has become so funny, and the chemistry between Mindy Kaling and Chris Messina is great. I would hate for this show to not get a chance to show what it can do. I'm not sure how long a show has to be on the air to be syndicated, but I think that would help the ratings, too. — Meg

Matt Roush: If you're worried because Mindy has gone on a two-month hiatus (it will be back on April 1, no fooling), I wouldn't read too much into that — or into Fox's decision not to include the show in its post-Super Bowl plans. The Mindy Project is a cult sleeper for sure, not unlike NBC's buzzy but low-rated Thursday comedies, and Fox seems to like having it as a companion to New Girl. I'd be surprised if Fox cans it altogether, although if surprise Golden Globe winner Brooklyn Nine-Nine gets a significant bump when it moves behind New Girl starting this week — getting the Super Bowl boost probably won't hurt — then it might be in trouble. There's no doubt the exposure a show like this would get in syndication, on cable and local stations, would help its bottom line if it survives long enough. (Look how it boosted How I Met Your Mother.) But generally, a syndication sale wouldn't happen until it's in its fourth season, so Mindy probably has a while to go living on this precarious bubble.

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Question: I've read recently that an Agent Carter show will be coming on board soon, and it will be in the same universe (although not timeline) as Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. ABC tried to capitalize with a semi-spin-off of another big show Once Upon A Time, but by the time the companion show hit the air, Once's ratings and viewership were less than stellar and now they are stuck with an underperforming main show and a stinker of a spin-off. I understand anything Marvel is hot right now, but are they running the risk of damaging their future TV shows by trying to cram too many of this genre's shows down our throats while the public isn't exactly clamoring for the one we have right now? I am a fan of S.H.I.E.L.D., so I really hope they aren't. — Pat

Matt Roush: Let's not jump the gun. The Carter project is still very much in development at this point, not a done deal, and we should hope that if it does go forward, that it tries to look and feel as different from S.H.I.E.L.D. as possible. In hindsight, it's clear that ABC overreached with the Once Upon a Time spin-off, which probably should have been scheduled as originally intended as a place-filler during the mothership's midseason hiatus. Expanding Marvel's imprint on ABC's schedule is only a bad idea if the show itself is bad. From my mail, it seems the jury is still out on S.H.I.E.L.D., though it has its fans. The next one, though, needs to pop much stronger, or it will begin to feel like seriously diminishing returns.

Question: I am frustrated to see the continued over-criticism of Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. In my opinion, the show suffers mostly from extremely high expectations. People were expecting something on par with The Avengers, which is kind of unreasonable given the different mediums, and a premise that includes superheroes only peripherally. Failure to meet these expectations is as much ABC's fault as anyone creatively involved with the show. Their marketing of the show tried to piggyback the success of The Avengers as much as possible. On the one hand that is good marketing strategy, on the other it created expectations for the show outside of what it was set to deliver. I will agree that the early episodes tended to be formulaic, but that didn't make them unenjoyable. And now that the show has established itself, you can see a broader plan starting to take shape for it. Most shows tend to build to their "twist," don't they? You can't go off the deep end right away. That would be potentially alienating as well. Lure us in with the premise, and then hook us with the twist. I think the best is yet to come.

On the other side of the coin, I don't understand why I don't see more criticism for The Blacklist, which seems to get nothing but high praise. That show is as formulaic as almost any police procedural that has ever aired. It just happens to be able to boast a standout actor in its midst: James Spader. The show would be vanilla without him, and pretty much is in any scene he isn't part of. It's more or less why I stopped watching. Did I miss something? Maybe I bailed too early, but is there something besides Spader setting this show apart?

Which brings me to Intelligence. I am curious what you think the long-term viability of this show is. The premise is not particularly original, but so far I am enjoying it more than I thought I would. I think mostly due to Josh Holloway (a standout actor again), but where The Blacklist fails for me with its bland supporting cast, I think Holloway has a dynamic cast around him in Marg Helgenberger and John Billingsley. It adds another layer of likeability to the show, even if the rest of the action and mystery are following formula for now. Somewhere along the way it is going to have to find its "twist," too. — Jason

Matt Roush: And in all of this discussion of high-concept action heroics, no mention of my favorite, Person of Interest? That one's pretty well established by now, I guess, so let's deal with the newbies, which all fall under a "good, not great" heading in my ledger. S.H.I.E.L.D. obviously arrived with great expectations, not just because of the Marvel hype but because of Joss Whedon's TV track record, and while I agree the storytelling is finally gaining some steam — it often takes freshman series a while to get there — the cast chemistry is still sorely and surprisingly lacking, and maybe it's going to take some housecleaning by Nick Fury to get things into shape. I get what you're saying about The Blacklist, which also leaves much to be desired in its ensemble dynamics, but one of the ways the show transcends its formula roots is in how exotically creepy and nasty so many of the fiends on Red's list are. There's also enough mystery in Red's background and criminal milieu to keep it interesting, and it's the only one of these shows in this current discussion I'll probably make a point to keep watching most weeks. At least S.H.I.E.L.D. and Blacklist (already renewed) have time on their side. I'm not so sure about Intelligence, which withered the moment CBS moved it away from NCIS. I like Holloway and some of the cast, but it needs to lighten up its caper sensibility and add (as you mention) some surprise and fun to the exploits. Watching Gabriel brood over his lost love is not a great hook, and if things don't improve quickly for that one, I wouldn't expect CBS to show much patience on such a problematic night.

Question: Why are so many Super Bowl commercials being shown a week or two before the Super Bowl? And now actors are going around the talk show circuit to promote their commercials?! The Super Bowl is the one time of year when most people don't change the channel between the game and look forward to seeing the commercials. The past two weeks, I keep having to change the channel or switch to a different webpage because more and more Super Bowl commercials are being shown/talked about. I don't really remember this happening so much in the past. Where's all the excitement of first seeing the commercials during the actual Super Bowl if they have been talked about/shown so much before the Super Bowl? What has changed this year? — Mar

Matt Roush: This has been happening more and more in recent years, but it's only getting worse. I tend to agree with you that it takes a lot of fun out of the Big Night to have so many of these ads spoiled in advance — if you choose to seek them out (I don't) — but from the advertisers' point of view, the more hype the merrier to maximize the investment in these elaborate $4 million-a-pop pitches. As of Friday, Budweiser was already crowing about how its new dog-and-(Clydesdale)-pony show had already attracted some 25 million hits, so from their perspective, the Super Bowl spot was already a success, regardless that by the time it actually aired, it felt awfully anticlimactic, the opposite of super.

Question: Don't you think the writers of The Following have gone off on a weird track after the explosion and fire "killing" of Joe? I mean really, how was he supposed to survive that? And the twin murderers are stupid. Guess I'll have to find something else to watch during this time slot. — Sandy

Matt Roush: How was he not supposed to survive that? Unless The Following had been a one-season-and-out story — which, all things considered, might not have been a bad idea — you know the rule: If you don't see the body, the guy's not really dead. Does it make sense? No. But then, this is The Following we're talking about. And yet, for all of its flaws (i.e., anything Ryan Hardy gets up to in his lone-wolf tomfoolery), I find the Murder Twins exceedingly unnerving as they play house with their victims. That's the sort of sick twist that ultimately is what makes this show stand out, for better or worse.

Question: I just read your Q&A concerning the early starting time of The Following because of the early ending of the football game. We have long ago learned the hard way that any show that follows any kind of sportscast should have at least an hour or hour-and-a-half recorded after it. That being said, I cannot believe the networks cannot embed a "signal" that tells the DVR when to start recording a specific show. Seems like the sponsors would like such an event as well. That way, there's no worry about whether a football, basketball, golf or any other show goes over 30 minutes or so. One could rest in the knowledge that they would not miss their favorite program because it would start recording when the show actually started. And one wouldn't have to record all the unnecessary shows that follow. (I have subscribed to TV Guide Magazine for over a year now but just started keeping up with the online stuff. Keep up the good work.) — Alan

Matt Roush: Thank you — and I hope some tech wiz is busy working on what would be a DVR breakthrough to instantly adjust start times the minute a live event ends. (Instead, we currently have to rely on those crawls telling us when the next show is going to start, if you happen to be watching live — which defeats the whole DVR thing, I suppose.) The real issue with The Following snafu, as previously discussed, is that the game coverage actually ended early for once, and even seasoned DVR manipulators like you and me wouldn't have expected that. Live and learn.

Question: Despite earning a well-deserved Jeer in TV Guide Magazine for the second season of Girls, the third season seems to be much more promising and less depressing than last season. I have had a love/hate relationship with this show since I first watched it. The first two seasons I watched in batches when the cable company ran HBO Freeviews with "inside look" pieces attached where Lena Dunham explained what she was going for in each episode. I find it hard to dismiss such a thoughtful and intelligent hyphenate talent even if I don't like her characters very much a lot of the time. The first episode of the first season just horrified me, but I watched the next one anyway wondering where she could go with these young women. Also, I had heard that Andrew Rannells from The New Normal was in the show and wanted to see what Dunham had done with/to him. He was great, of course. So by then, I was hooked. I didn't much like Girls when Dunham veered into Woody Allen territory by casting great-looking actors like Patrick Wilson as Hannah's love interests. As a hyphenate extraordinaire, she is certainly entitled, but it doesn't add anything to my enjoyment of the show. What has been your experience watching this show? Am I off base to be loving/hating it but still watching? — Frank

Matt Roush: After Hannah's OCD tango with the Q-Tip last season, things really could only go up — and I was OK with the "opposites attract" Patrick Wilson stand-alone episode, because however you feel about Lena Dunham and Girls, it's not hard to imagine she would be fascinating company. For a while. (But if she's still telling this sort of story in her sixties and beyond, attracting hunky moths to her flame, that's another story.) I would imagine most of the Girls cult would admit having a love-hate relationship with the show — which is an entirely distinct vibe from the smug business of "hate-watching" — and this season is no different. While I enjoy the weird dynamic of Hannah-and-Adam (although enough with his demon sister) and am very intrigued where they're taking Marnie and Ray (by far my favorite character, because I actually believe he could exist), I wonder about my choices when I see Hannah act so ridiculously self-absorbed at her editor's funeral — although loved the bit with Jennifer Westfeldt as the widow, telling Hannah bluntly how nice it would be if she weren't there (in more profane language). These aren't nice or admirable people, but if they were, they'd be less interesting. I'm afraid I've reached my limit with blabbermouth Shoshanna and too-cool-for-school Jessa, though, neither of whom act remotely like human beings anymore. Is that enough to keep me from watching? Not likely.

Question: I love TV and I really like the USA Network shows. Particularly Burn Notice (when it was still airing) and Suits is my current favorite. I was wondering: Why do you think a show like Suits doesn't get the pop-culture attention that a show like Mad Men does? They both have great characters and devoted fan bases. Does Suits lack a special gimmick like Mad Men has, since it takes place in the 1960s? — Steve

Matt Roush: Mad Men gets so much attention not just because of its flashy period setting and how it allows us to look at its characters from the perspective of time — something it shares with Showtime's Masters of Sex, which I feel eclipsed Mad Men last year — but beyond the surface glamour, there's a seriousness of purpose, a novelistic depth that places it alongside other groundbreaking dramas like The Sopranos (where Matthew Weiner cut his teeth). It's way more than a gimmick. Mad Men is a modern classic, winning four consecutive Best Drama Emmys, and while some would argue there's a snob factor to its cultural cachet, the show has earned its place in the pop-culture firmament — although last season, the self-importance got a bit thick even for me. By USA Network's standards, Suits is doing quite well in the buzz marketplace and is nowadays appreciated for being more than a "fake lawyer" high-concept legal drama. There's no shame in being a high-gloss first-rate entertainment, but Suits doesn't seem to be aiming all that much higher — nor perhaps should it. Any show with a procedural element (legal, police, etc.) has an uphill climb being seen by the industry as other than formula, and even though Suits succeeds better than most and has become more gripping and enjoyable by the season, it's never going to be as distinctive and influential as a true original like Mad Men.

Question: I know you're a spoiler-free columnist, and I'm not looking for spoilers. But I wanted your opinion on the theory circulating that the mother on How I Met Your Mother is dead and that's why Ted is telling his children the story. I have caught myself having that thought a few times. The first time was in the "Time Travelers" episode where Ted is at her door in the future and telling her that he's going to meet her in 45 days and how he wished he'd had that extra time with her. Could it be that he wishes for those 45 extra days because she's gone, or is it simply because he's a romantic? But, in the most recent episode, "How Your Mother Met Me," future Ted talks about how he must have "heard" the mother sing so many times. The fact that he spoke in the past tense could not be missed. I really, really hope that they don't end after nine years on such a downer. I prefer to think this unlikely because whenever they show the kids, now known as Penny and Luke, they look, at the very least, exasperated with their father's long story. Certainly, if their mother had died, they would be reacting to the story differently. Plus, since the mother lost her boyfriend Max, it seems unlikely they would focus so much of the mother character around death. It is a comedy, after all! — Beth

Matt Roush: I seem to recall this issue coming up before, but now that we're closer (finally!) to the end, let me just reiterate that if the entire series amounts to one long eulogy, that's just unacceptable. Let's hope these reflective moments on Ted's part are a sign of his undying romanticism, not an expression of endless grieving.

Question: Regarding Laurel's character on Arrow, you noted recently that she "is very much on a downward spiral these days and not the best of company." I suggest the producers have her eat a sandwich! She's so thin, she is uncomfortable to watch. — Connie

Matt Roush: Laurel want a cracker? Believe me, you're not alone in this observation.

Question: My question is about something that consistently bothers me when watching TV. Why do networks insist on setting shows in New York and then make no effort whatsoever to make it remotely realistic, or don't even use the setting to serve the story? I'm thinking specifically of The Mindy Project and Super Fun Night, but there are many more culprits. These shows are meant to be set in NYC, but the locations and people couldn't feel any less New York-y if they tried. I live in Manhattan, and I honestly find it distracting and annoying at how badly they represent the city. Furthermore, I can't think of a single storyline in either show that had anything in particular to do with the location. It just makes me wonder: Why do they bother? I think the final straw came in last week's Super Fun Night when the cast was meant to be in a gallery in Manhattan, and the opening stock footage intro shot wasn't even of New York. It was of Royal Exchange Square in Glasgow, Scotland. I honestly nearly fell off my sofa. I know these are comedies and aren't to be taken too seriously, but come on! — Andrew

Matt Roush: This gripe takes me back to the days of Judith Krantz miniseries (remember those?), when the Valerie Bertinelli spectacular I'll Take Manhattan was dubbed by many of us "I'll Fake Manhattan" because it was shot in Canada. (Although both of the sitcoms under discussion are filmed in Los Angeles, some things never really change.) I get why the romantic misadventures of Mindy and Kimmie (Rebel Wilson's Super Fun Night character) are set against a big-city backdrop, and a degree of artificiality can sometimes even work in this kind of show's favor, but if they can't even get the exterior inserts right, why not just relocate to the coast where they're actually shooting?

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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