John Noble, Anna Torv

Question: How? How? How is Nashville not the No. 1 rated new show? I only watched this because of your recommendation and now I am hooked. A show with multi-layered characters who have to make adult decisions that have consequences. The duet that Rayna and Deacon did at the Bluebird was sexy, sad and uncomfortable. Then the next scenes in the parking lot and when she gets home ... wow. — Gary

Matt Roush: Yes, I love the way both episodes ended that have aired so far — on lovely duets with powerfully dramatic and sexy subtext. I'm so jazzed (mixing my musical metaphors) about Nashville and many other critics are, too, though I hope our praise hasn't left some of the audience thinking the show is "too good" to be fun. Because it is a terrifically juicy story, seemingly perfect for ABC (the drab political subplot and the blah miscasting of Eric Close as the hubby at home notwithstanding). But you kind of answered your own question in describing Nashville, because outside of its setting and the country-music milieu (which should guarantee it a certain segment of the audience right there), it's a show about grown-ups — and in the case of Juliette, someone who wants to grow up — that lacks a high-concept hook or the sort of built-in franchise (cops, doctors, etc.) that fuels so many of today's more immediate hits. This feels more like a slow burn to me, and I hope ABC is patient with it. As I watched the second episode play out, I found myself reflecting on Friday Night Lights (and not only because Connie Britton starred in both), wondering if this will prove to be as hard a sell to the mass audience. This show isn't quite that special yet, but it's special enough. But also seemingly very accessible, though many shows struggle nowadays in the 10pm/ET hour (prime time for DVR playback). And I couldn't agree more about the Rayna/Deacon duet, which I'm disappointed hasn't shown up yet in the iTunes/ABC Music Lounge playlist for download. What's up with that?

Question: I'm a big fan of your column, but have never felt compelled to write you until now. I am a loyal viewer of Fringe, and was excited when it was given a fifth and final season. Unfortunately, this season has been really disappointing. I'm frankly shocked by just how different the show feels now. It's like watching a completely different story. All the themes and connective story threads are gone, and the Observers even seem different than they did the first few seasons of the show. And on top of that, it's kind of boring. I even fell asleep during the last episode. Maybe I'm being too harsh, but I'm curious if others are reacting the same way? Are there different people writing it now? I really want to like the show, and I'll probably keep watching in hopes of a payoff, but the whole thing strikes me as really strange. Would love to know your thoughts. — Nick

Matt Roush: I've seen some backlash this season (especially on Twitter, where haters flourish), and some of that is understandable, but it has dogged Fringe in previous seasons as well, in part because of the show's tendency to more or less reinvent itself every season. This is certainly the most radical shift yet, with the time jump and the evolution (devolution?) of the Observers to "Invaders," as they were called in the most recent episode. I enjoyed the season opener, but would agree the following two episodes felt awfully ponderous, even predictable: Ella and Olivia arguing over the treatment of the captured "loyalist," and then the parable of heroism involving the "recordist" who decided it was time to stop mapping history and start making it, even if it required sacrifice. But the buzz is strong about this Friday's episode (which features the return of Broyles), and after all we've gone through to get to this point, I'm not about to give up on Fringe now. There's still quite a bit of story to tell this season, and it's bound to get more dramatic soon. But in a shortened final season, every episode is supposed to count, so I understand the disappointment when one or more falls flat.

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Question:
I hate to be one of those people that compares Castle and Bones, because there are some pretty heated Internet debates on the topic, but I can't help but feel that Castle is doing everything right with finally getting Castle and Beckett together, where Bones did many things wrong. It's been excellent to watch the immediate aftermath of their first night together, Ryan (and eventually others, I'm sure) finding out about them as a couple, and passionate romantic moments between them, all of which are things that Bones fans were denied once Booth and Bones got together. Additionally, it was awesome to hear Castle refer to them as "Caskett", a nice nod to the fans. Are the Castle producers just that much more aware of what the fans want, and do you think that they learned a bit from what Bones did (or rather, didn't do)?

On a completely unrelated note, I'm curious as to what you think accounts for NBC's great success this season. NBC must be pretty happy to have both the top new drama, Revolution, and top new comedy, Go On, of the season. I really don't think any of the critics would have predicted these as the fall's biggest hits, nor were they really at the top of the lists of best new shows. At least some of the success of Revolution can evidently be attributed to its lead-in of The Voice, but as we learned from Smash last year, The Voice can only give so much of a boost, and the fact that Revolution is consistently in the 3.0 range in the 10pm hour is really impressive. I'm glad to see NBC not only crawling out of last place but surging to first place after so many years, but what do you think caused it? — Alex

Matt Roush: I doubt Castle's producers care as much as the fans seem to about what's going on over at Bones. My take, since you asked: While there is a comedic element to both of these character-driven procedurals, they're not that similar in tone, so I tend to ignore those who use one show to beat up on the other. The characters on Bones are much more extreme and eccentric — including the "squints," and while both of the shows invite comparisons by putting such emphasis on the romance between the two leads, I tend to regard Bones as more of a true ensemble (because of the well-developed "squints"), while Castle has from the get-go always played the traditional rom-com game more adeptly. This season, they're giving fans the very enjoyable payoff they've waited so long for, and it is great fun. Bones went about this quite differently, and "shipper" fans will clearly never get over being denied some of those same romantic beats, but to me, it always made sense, especially given the emotionally challenged nature of Bones herself. That said, for me, Castle is the current model for how to play this kind of story. And I agree with Camille, who wrote in to remark in praise of Castle: "Those two have such great chemistry, and with the smart and witty writing, I think they've proved that the 'Moonlighting Curse' is a bunch of malarkey." Always was, Camille.

Regarding NBC's early success this fall, especially in the younger demographics: The importance of football on Sundays and the success of returning The Voice this fall on Mondays and Tuesdays have been the key to NBC's turnaround, but it wouldn't matter as much if the network hadn't developed a few new shows that viewers actually find appealing, and Revolution clearly fits that bill so far, ditto Matthew Perry in Go On (and to a lesser extent, but still notable, the provocative The New Normal). After Tuesdays, the network is still struggling (to put it kindly), but doing this well on three nights of the week in the first month of the season is everything NBC could have hoped for, giving them some substantial building blocks to grow upon. Which is more than we've been able to say about the network for quite some time.

Question: Could you shed some light on ABC's ratings expectations for Suburgatory this year? I read that last week's numbers for the season opener came in lower than last year despite now having a Modern Family lead-in. Given their history of changing shows in the 9:30/8:30c slot, how stable is Suburgatory as part of the lineup? While it would be nice to see it grow after Modern Family, I would hate to see it penalized and/or pulled if it doesn't do that. I seem to remember ABC being quite pleased with Cougar Town in its early days too, and look what happened there (thanks, TBS.) But still, do you think this move will impact Suburgatory's long-term future on ABC? — Jake

Matt Roush: It's pretty clear by now that it's going to take something of a comedy miracle to find a perfectly compatible companion show that can hold on to Modern Family's giant audience. Suburgatory was much better suited as the bridge show connecting The Middle to Modern Family, and it's only airing in this later time period because the reaction to ABC's initial plan to put The Neighbors there was one of universal horror. A better plan would be to move Suburgatory back to 8:30/7:30c and ship The Neighbors to Fridays, where its broad silliness would be a decent fit with the mainstream appeal of Last Man Standing (I wish I had something good to say about Reba McEntire's upcoming Malibu Country, but it's just awful). I doubt Suburgatory's long-term fate will be decided by how it fares in its current time period. This is a case of the network fixing something that wasn't broken, thus breaking it. Suburgatory is too good a show to be damaged by lousy scheduling.

Question: I was a fan of Revolution before it started, even though I was fearful it would be a Hunger Games knockoff. (BTW, I'm a 58-year-old male that liked the HG movie, but devoured the books.) So you have Uncle Miles, who is a ready-to-kill radical, and he gets into a fight with Mr. Bad Boy himself, Capt. Neville, who he fights in an alley, has a chance to kill or maim him — and he runs away. Later Neville is attacked on the train by Charlie, who is one P.O.'ed sister, and she too has a chance to kill the guy that is holding her brother. And she skips out. So the challenge is, when a character does something uncharacteristic in the effort to keep someone in the cast, is that a good thing or bad? One thing I respect about TV is that up until 24 they rarely killed major characters, but now they are much more willing. Is Revolution on the train to mediocrity? As this past week's show concluded — and I saw the father/son reveal early on — I was not excited about the future of it. — Norm

Matt Roush: It's obviously not a good thing for a show to pull its punches this early in the run. But by post-apocalyptic standards, Revolution is an awfully sunny piece of escapist adventure — just try not to focus on how well groomed and dressed these people are 15 years after the blackout — so expecting the darkness of a 24 or the boldness of a Lost is setting yourself up for disappointment. If this is a mediocrity, it's a high-end one, and so far a quite successful one by today's standards, so while it doesn't excite me the way I am by some of ABC's new dramas (Nashville and Last Resort), it's a little early to jump off the train just yet. I'm waiting to see how the big showdown between Uncle Ninja Miles and General Monroe plays out before I make that sort of call, and duty will likely keep me watching at least to the end of the season. But for those not getting paid to do so, I understand the ambivalence.

Question: Where has Rondi Reed (Mike's mom) been at on Mike & Molly? She hasn't been on so far this season. Has she left the show? — Michelle

Matt Roush: Far from it. In the Oct. 29 episode, Peggy (Reed) will start dating Mike's boss, played by Gerald McRaney. Characters like Reed's are what's generally considered as a "recurring regular" — as opposed to someone like Swoosie Kurtz as Molly's mom, who's a full-time fixture — which means they're not seen in every episode, just when the story requires.

Question: Why won't the Dancing With the Stars producers split Len and Bruno apart? For me, Bruno Tonioli makes the show disgusting by his antics. Len Goodman is as cranky as anyone I have ever seen. Carrie Ann Inaba complains too much over a small lift. Come on, they are not pros, for Pete's sake. The scoring revamp was totally stupid. What I don't get is when they get high praise, they get a lousy score, and when not so good, they get great scores. Also, they need to make an announcement weekly to the viewers: Voting should be based on dance ability, not on popularity. Hate to say this, but in the double-elimination week, Bristol Palin and Kirstie Alley should have been gone. — Ron

Matt Roush: Fess up. You didn't hate saying that at all, did you? I'd guess this is a show you watch for the dancing, if everything else about it annoys you so greatly. I hope you enjoyed last week's installment, when guest judge Paula Abdul sat between Bruno and Len, but even then, Paula channeled Bruno at one point, so it's rather obvious the producers don't see a downside in milking the judges' shtick. Yes, it can be aggravating, just like Mary Murphy's screaming on So You Think You Can Dance can send fans rushing to mute the TV many weeks, but these personalities aren't likely to tone it down now they have become so established on their respective shows. To your other points: Gauging from last week, the judges have finally decided to be more generous across the board in their scoring — I never understood all those 7.5's — so that's one complaint addressed, and with Bristol Palin's elimination last week (yay!), maybe it will soon be Kirstie's turn. (Could she be taking all of this any less seriously?) Still, Dancing With the Stars has always been at least as much about the contestants' fan bases as it is the quality of the dancing, and that's definitely the case this season so far. Again, something I'm not sure they would change even if they could.

Question: How did MeTV get all those great old series? Including The Outer Limits, Ironside, Thriller, Sea Hunt, The Rockford Files, Perry Mason, The Dick Van Dyke Show, Star Trek, Combat, 12 O'Clock High, Daniel Boone and Mission: Impossible (with Greg Morris in the wall every other episode). How great it is to see these shows, some of which I believe haven't been on in reruns anywhere else. And to see a "who's who" of Hollywood parading through in front of my eyes like Robert Redford, Sharon Stone, Clint Eastwood, Lawrence Fishburne, William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy in a million different roles from Indian dissident to Basque sheepherder, is so much fun, I can't begin to tell you.

I know that some of the shows were/are schlocky, but others have scripts so well-written, professionally crafted, with such beautiful language, in black and white ... wait, I just answered my own question. That's why nobody of a certain age would watch. None of these series have 14-second "McScenes" that the viewer of the moment would/could sit through. Too bad. — Deana

Matt Roush: One of the few regrets I have regarding this great gig is how little time it allows me to indulge in channels like this (and Turner Classic Movies for vintage cinema), although a few weeks ago, when I should have been focusing on new programming, I did get sucked into an old episode of The Big Valley on MeTV — crack that whip, Barbara Stanwyck! All of these shows have had an illustrious afterlife in syndication, and some are still thriving, but for the most part, their heyday is past, and an operation like this can negotiate long-term licensing agreements that benefit them while still keeping these classic titles in circulation. A win-win for everybody.

Question: You mentioned the old CBS classic The Defenders in your column last week. This was one of my favorite shows when I was a mere child. Oh, how I loved Robert Reed!! Do you know of any channel carrying reruns of this show? — Marita

Matt Roush: A quick search through the tvguide.com listings database came up empty. Hey, MeTV, what are you waiting for?

Question: I am a TV Guide Magazine subscriber and love your column! My husband and I were very upset to hear that after only two showings of Made In Jersey, the series was cancelled! We felt that it was a "breath of spring!" We love drama's, i.e. L&O and CSI, but this was done with flair and comedy! Janet Montgomery was great! She brought pizzazz to the show, and her family showed what a "Jersey" family would be! We say shame on CBS! Hope there are others out there that feel the same! — Nana

Matt Roush: I'm sure you're not alone, but unfortunately, there weren't enough of you to convince CBS there was a future for the show, even on Fridays, where the bar is set fairly low. So Made in Jersey has the unhappy distinction of being the first (but already not the only) cancellation this season. I agree with you about Montgomery, who I'm sure we'll hear much more from — in fact, she'll next be seen in the BBC America drama The Spies of Warsaw, expected to air in early 2013. But her Jersey family was way too broad for my taste, and the legal setting too familiar, so I can't say the cancellation surprised me, although I wasn't expecting it to be the first to go. (My bet was on either Animal Practice, which was euthanized last week, or The Mob Doctor, which can't be much longer for this world once postseason baseball is over.)

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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