Andrew Rannells and Justin Bartha
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Question: With the introduction this year of new comedies like the promising The New Normal and the dreadful Partners featuring prominent characters who are gay, I was wondering what you think of the current state of gay characters represented on TV. In some ways while I am thrilled to see more representation of the gay community on television, I have to admit I was disheartened by the same stereotypical, flamboyant gay characters once again being represented. Haven't we moved past this? I do think we have some very positive portrayals today in shows like Glee and Grey's Anatomy, but this just seems like a step backwards. What are your thoughts? — Rob
Matt Roush: When it comes to broad portrayals of characters, whether gay or straight, I tend to give comedies a longer leash, because the intent to be funny often finds characters living in the extremes. Which includes having fun with stereotypes, although I take your point about the flamboyance of some of these characters, which can become grating and tiresome. Even so, when tweaking stereotypes is done for comic effect, as in the hilarious battle between the gay and lesbian parents on Modern Family last week, it's OK sometimes just to lighten up and laugh. In the bigger picture, I am encouraged by the volume and sometimes even the variety of gay characters represented on TV today, and while I wish Partners had more bite, I have been enjoying The New Normal more and more, even when it comes awfully close to "very special episode" status in the way it tackles some of its hot-button issues. I suppose Bryan's over-the-top qualities are a bit much, but there haven't been many gay TV characters as grounded and (at the risk of overdoing the show's title metaphor) appealingly "normal" as Dr. David. I don't see the way their relationship is playing out as being backward in any way, including last week's touching proposal as they confront the commitment that having a baby entails. The more characters there are like this on TV, the less "abnormal" it will eventually seem, even to the "Nanas" of the world.
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Question: I wanted to get your take on Last Resort versus Revolution with respect to character development. First, I am enjoying both of these new shows. Last Resort grabbed me faster than Revolution, though, and I think it's because I almost instantly felt connected to several of the main characters. After the Revolution pilot, on the other hand, I felt very little connection, but I continued to tune in because I wanted to see what happened (not so much why the lights went out, but what the heck happened after they went out). Several episodes in, and I'm still not really feeling the Revolution characters. (I started to feel a connection with Maggie right before they killed her off!) The one notable exception is the Elizabeth Mitchell character, who really seems at her absolute best in this kind of enigmatic role (similar to Juliet on Lost, dissimilar to the V character). I thought I'd get your take and see if you agree that Last Resort seems to be outperforming Revolution on the character development front (or at least the character likeability front). — Carrie
Matt Roush: Likeability isn't the real issue here, more like specificity. The conflicts among the crew of Last Resort's USS Colorado are much more freshly drawn through strongly conceived characters — well-cast and acted, which also helps a lot — than what's happening in the more comic book-style Young Adult approach of Revolution. As I noted in an earlier discussion, Revolution seems to be at its most interesting when revealing the back stories of what brought characters like Elizabeth Mitchell's Rachel to their current state of crisis. When it's more about Charlie saving the day (or being saved) while jabbering on as a shrill moral compass for Uncle Ninja Miles, I am much less engaged. And it was almost comical how the moment Maggie began to open up about her own past, it was if they put a bulls-eye on her. Beware when other marginal characters begin to get fleshed out on this skin-deep (though watchable) series. Could be a harbinger of doom.
Question: For years I've been a loyal subscriber to TV Guide Magazine. I couldn't "live" without it, and believe it or not, your reviews are the first page I want to read above everything else. I am also a huge fan of Last Resort, which is surprising because I'm not a fan of most military shows, but we (my family) live in the largest naval base in the world: Virginia Beach, Virginia. Can you contact someone of "persuasion" in the military community to round up viewers for Resort? I also love the fact that the name for me also describes what really could be the last place on earth (the island) for the world either to end, or continue. Thanks for all of your marvelous columns, and I'm keeping my fingers crossed about our "mutual admiration" show. — Lynne
Matt Roush: Thank YOU for that testimonial. I'm getting quite a bit of mail from those who are understandably fretful about Resort's prospects — given past experience with network handling of risky shows, especially in tough time periods like the one Last Resort is currently stuck in. But I'm betting ABC will give this one a fairly long leash, encouraged by DVR numbers and favorable demographics, so relax those crossed fingers for now. And while I don't have any information about this, I have to believe military types are already inclined to check this show out — maybe via DVR, because of current conflicts with Thursday night sports programming. Still, I'm not sure it's appropriate to ask those in charge to "round up" viewers even for shows I like. That sounds awfully like the kind of situation our heroes from the sub are fighting against. (Kidding. Kinda.) Finally, I agree about the genius of the title, which has multiple meanings: the "resort"-like paradise of the island, the "last" haven during a looming nuclear apocalypse, and also the extreme actions Chaplin finds himself forced to consider on behalf of his crew, his country and his patriotic duty to the rest of the world.
Question: First off, thank you for recommending Nashville, I would most likely have never given it a shot otherwise. My actual question is about Vegas, because while I'm enjoying the premise, I can't help but think it is a better fit for a cable network like Michael Chiklis's old FX home. Doesn't it seem like it's more vanilla than it should be? It's got a nice Longmire feel to it, but it's missing the gangster grittiness that should separate them. If the show doesn't start flirting with the edge a little more, I don't see it lasting long. — Dan
Matt Roush: I get your point, but CBS would very likely disagree with you. Make it too dark, give it too much "edge," it might alienate the big-tent audience this network regularly attracts — especially on a night dominated by NCIS-style heroics. In that regard, Dennis Quaid as Sheriff Lamb (with his family) is the most satisfying aspect of Vegas so far, creatively and otherwise, and the comparison to A&E's Longmire (which I grew to like quite a bit) is a good one. Like with many CBS shows, the freshness of the premise is at battle with the desire to provide the weekly payoff of a formula procedural, which saps much of the danger out of the experience. Would I be more interested in watching an FX version of Vegas? Sure. Would it be as successful? Almost certainly not.
Question: I know it is early to be talking Emmy nominations, but I have to give kudos to Peter Krause of Parenthood. The past few weeks, his performance as a husband dealing with his wife's illness has been spot-on perfect. I feel like I can speak to it, since I have had to deal with a serious chronic illness with my wife for many years. But whether it is chronic or cancer, Krause has it dead on. Especially in his conversation with his daughter Hattie last week, trying to be optimistic and strong, but also scared to death about the love of his life facing death. It has hit me as few performances do. Do you think he could be considered in best supporting actor, as it is an ensemble show? Thanks for the recommendations on the new season too: Arrow and Nashville are both great! — Andy C
Matt Roush: The scene on the phone between Adam (Krause) and Haddie (Sarah Ramos) was Parenthood at its best, moving and real without lapsing into heavy-handed melodrama. It really was some of his best work, but the fact that it didn't go over the top may be one of the main reasons this sort of performance doesn't get noticed. I'm not sure if Krause has been submitting his name in the lead or supporting categories — probably the former, though he'd have better luck breaking into the latter — but unfortunately, given the strength of so many drama ensembles, especially on cable where the material is edgier and way more high-concept, family dramas like Parenthood often get left out. It's not unheard of — Friday Night Lights started getting serious Emmy attention and love toward the end of its run — but this show, for all of its qualities (and I feel it generally gets better by the season), doesn't have that kind of buzz, although maybe this cancer storyline will help in that regard. It has brought out the best in Monica Potter as well.
Question: Is there any chance NBC will increase the episode order for Parenthood? I seem to remember that happening last year. It's a shame such a quality show is shortchanged in season length. — Jennifer
Matt Roush: Anything's possible, but much depends on how well NBC's lineup continues to perform and what the network's midseason needs will be. The problem with a show like Parenthood is that its ratings are modest to begin with, and crater when repeats are factored in. However many episodes NBC ends up ordering, the show is best served by being scheduled straight through with as few interruptions as possible, which means it's probably never going to be on the air all the way from September through May. In that regards, it's more like a cable than network series, which isn't such a bad thing.
Question: Thank you, thank you, thank you for your "excellent" assessment of The Good Wife (in the Oct. 8 TV Guide Magazine, a version of which was posted online). The Good Wife is one of my favorite regular TV dramas and, in my opinion, has continued to be overlooked by the Emmy committee for more honors than it has received in its somewhat short tenure. I could go on and on about the writing, acting, quality, etc., of the show but suffice it to say that maybe the Emmys should just add another category section, that of cable show nominees separate from regular TV show nominees and give out Emmys in both. Whatever, something needs to be done, as I feel we are truly returning to (regular) quality television and it is not fair for those shows to be overlooked because they are not (as you put it) "deemed good enough to stack up against darker, edgier cable fare". Keep up the good assessments, Matt, as I am a real fan of your reviews. — Toney
Matt Roush: Thanks again, but as much as I'd like to see The Good Wife get a better deal at the Emmys — being left off the best-drama list this year was an especially egregious omission — I'll repeat my long-held assertion that it would be folly for the Emmys to add even more categories to an overstuffed roster, and separating network from cable fare would risk rendering one a "lesser" player than if all were competing on the same playing field. The real problem is the snobbism of the industry against more populist forms of entertainment. True, The Good Wife isn't one of CBS' bigger hits, and there's a richness to its storytelling and ensemble acting that separates it from the ranks of the ordinary courtroom/legal/mystery procedural. But my advocacy of the show has also prompted a bit of a backlash, so read on for an opposing view.
Question: I know you love The Good Wife, but it's driving me crazy, and I think I've figured out why. Gardner & Company doesn't have formidable opponents. The best episodes from my perspective have been the ones with Michael J. Fox, because there is always some real sense that Lockhart/Gardner might actually lose when they oppose him. What fun is it when you're smarter than everyone else, the way the Gardner bunch is? The personal stories are not working for me, so I'm watching Revenge instead. I may check back in on an On Demand episode or two of The Good Wife later in the season. Last Resort, on the other hand, is working for me in a major way. All three leads are good. I just wonder how the writers are going to sustain the show over a full season. Do you think it will survive? — Angela
Matt Roush: This argument never really flies with me. Yes, I'm sure the Lockhart/Gardner lawyers win more than they lose — I don't keep count of such things — but The Good Wife is pretty good about dramatizing the moral and ethical cost of these wins, especially from Alicia's perspective. And the show is about so much more than the cases, which to me are usually very entertainingly written without becoming outrageous cartoon parodies (the David E. Kelley style). Besides, has there ever been a legal drama where a show's main characters lose more often than they win? I agree this doesn't have the gravitas of CBS' classic The Defenders from the '60s, but this isn't that kind of show. It's only partly a courtroom drama. But it's another matter entirely if the personal subplots don't resonate, from Alicia's public and private and family conflicts to the triangle with Will and Peter, plus the latest S&M antics of Kalinda. If you can't connect to these characters and these actors, then maybe the artificial wackiness of Revenge (which I enjoy as a guilty pleasure, though so far not as much as I did last season) is a better fit.
Question: My 8-year old daughter and I watch Project Runway together and I usually fast-forward through most of the workroom scenes because of the language. However, I did not fast-forward quickly enough and my daughter heard the B word. Why is it that they have to bleep out the F word but the B word gets a free pass? My daughter wants to be a fashion designer when she grows up, and Project Runway has a line of sketchbooks and design kits for kids 8 and up. So why then is the language allowed on the show? It does not seem appropriate for the audience that they are selling the toys for. Do you think it would do any good to write to the show about the language so that they can put a few more bleeps in? — Susan
Matt Roush: If there were any more bleeps in a typical episode of Project Runway, it would sound like Morse code. Sorry to be the messenger here, but TV crossed the "B-word" threshold quite a while ago, and on cable, the standards are even more relaxed. (Though on basic cable, not so relaxed as to allow the "F-word" to go unbleeped.) I have to say I was shocked to learn Project Runway was marketing merchandise aimed at such a young consumer, because my impression of shows of this ilk is that they are aimed at a considerably older viewer who accepts the fact that these high-strung contestants frequently swear under pressure — or from what I can tell just for the indulgent fun of it. Because in this genre, acting out is one way to ensure extra face time. If you must expose a young one to a show like this, maybe it's best to present Heidi's challenge and then cut straight to the runway presentation and judging, which tends to be barbed without being profane. Still seems like a risk to me.
Question: CSI really didn't deal with Nick quitting during the season premiere. By the end of the episode, he seemed like he was back at work and that was it. Do they plan on dealing with the fact that he quit, or is that storyline pretty much done? It seems like everything that deals with Nick is swept under the rug, which is a shame. — Connie
Matt Roush: I'm not sure what's in store and have only watched the first two episodes of the season, but it seems to me they resolved his dilemma by reinforcing how much he was needed during the cliffhanger crisis, and he put aside his angst to get the job done, after which he's back in business — as you pretty much knew he would be, right? These "I'm quitting" season-ending quandaries are so bogus, and beneath the status of one of the few remaining original players. He probably does deserve better storylines, but CSI has always been an ensemble show in name only, and while the supporting cast will get big moments on occasion, the current stars are unquestionably Ted Danson and Elisabeth Shue (both bringing quite a lot to the latest reinvention), and to expect otherwise is setting yourself up for disappointment.
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