Ask Matt: Rescue Me, Doctor Who, Mad Men, LOLA and More!
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Question: I was wondering what you think about this season of Rescue Me so far. I thought last week's episode was one of the best they have done in a while. I like that the show refuses to compromise or tack on happy endings. Just when it looks like Tommy will finally make an effort to be a good father or husband, something happens and he quickly goes back to his old habits. Has there ever been a more miserable character on a show you've seen (maybe Al Bundy!)? — Tom
Matt Roush: I'm enjoying this season to a point, but I'm also rather relieved that Rescue Me is nearing its endgame a year from now (with the final season split over two years, wrapping to coincide with the 10th anniversary of 9/11). I've come this far with these characters, so I'll stay with it to the end, and I agree there has been some strong material this season, most notably in the unnerving "Blackout" episode where we once again see how much havoc the Gavin clan is capable of bringing upon itself from generation to generation. But I also sense some frustration among some long-time fans who get exasperated when Tommy and some of the rest of the crew just keep sliding back to the same bad behaviors. I respect the fact that Rescue Me offers no easy cures or pat redemptions, but it can also come off at times as lazy and indulgent. Though, more often than not, still entertaining.
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Question: With the ending of Rescue Me in sight, I need some help. I have not been able to find a show on TV that has the right amount of comedy and drama. I believe the episode hit it just right with the crew trying to break Lou out and then with Garrity seeing his colleague with cancer that he might find a way to do community service and Tommy now at rock bottom. So please recommend a show or shows. There are a bunch of great dramas out there but none that can combine the two. USA Network shows are good but the drama there is really too light. — Glenn
Matt Roush: Did you watch FX's Justified in its first season? If not, do what you can to catch up. It's not nearly as dark as Rescue Me, and its flawed hero (wonderfully played by Timothy Olyphant) is almost well-adjusted by Tommy Gavin standards, but the mix of comedy and drama is very strong. I also recommend Nurse Jackie if you're looking for an unsparingly unsentimental look at a self-destructive character who's as funny as she is horrifying. (Edie Falco is turning in a performance every bit as memorable as her Carmela Soprano, and I'm hoping the Emmys take notice.) I won't argue with you that the USA shows are so light they sometimes seem to evaporate even as you watch, but many viewers prefer their escapism that way, and it works for USA, so don't look for those shows to go too far to the dark side (although Mary of In Plain Sight can be awfully edgy).
Question: I loved the Doctor Who finale with all its twists and turns. But what I loved most was the ever- elusive River Song. Her character (and Alex Kingston) kicks major ass! She needs her own show pronto. It would be nice to have a sci-fi show with a strong female lead. What do you think are the chances? — Aaron
Matt Roush: Actually, wouldn't a female Doctor be a nice change one of these iterations? Sci-fi shows in recent years have been much more generous in creating strong female roles, from Farscape to Battlestar Galactica to you name it, but with River Song, I think her elusive nature is best played out in small and mysterious doses. More might actually be less where she's concerned, although every time she appeared on Doctor Who last season, I enjoyed it. It has been years since I've seen Alex Kingston enjoy herself with such wicked abandon. (The first time I remember seeing her on TV was as a very saucy Moll Flanders in a rollicking Masterpiece adaptation in the late '90s. Worth checking out.)
Question: My husband and I love Memphis Beat. Everyone in my office loves it. The show is so well done, the characters are new and different, the actors are great and we really love the singing at the start and end of the show. Has it gotten a season two pickup? — Carol
Matt Roush: Not yet, but I'd be surprised if it doesn't return. And I wouldn't be too concerned that TNT didn't include this show when it announced last week that freshman breakout Rizzoli & Isles was renewed alongside The Closer (no-brainer) and Leverage, which is doing surprisingly well on Sundays this summer. Cable networks like TNT rarely announce a renewal before the first season is over. Gives them time to mull their options. But Rizzoli is such a huge hit, retaining the Closer numbers in a way no companion show has done to date, that the early pick-up was almost guaranteed. TNT is juggling a pretty large inventory of shows right now, and a few might not stick around for the long haul. But Memphis does seem like a fairly good fit, even though I find it awfully slow going and not nearly as charming or authentic as you seem to.
Question: I absolutely loved Wil Wheaton on The Big Bang Theory. I even enjoyed watching him on Leverage. Is there any chance of seeing Wil on Big Bang or Leverage again or on any other shows for that matter? — Molly
Matt Roush: He was just in an episode of Eureka, so Wil is keeping busy. (You can probably catch that one, "All the Rage," online or in repeats.) Don't know if he could return to Leverage or Eureka—haven't watched the latter yet, being wrapped up in the TCA doings lately, and ironically having almost no free time available to watch current TV while out in Los Angeles—but with The Big Bang Theory, he is very much a part of that show's ongoing "mythology," so to speak, as Sheldon's nemesis. While I'm not aware of any specific plans to bring him back yet for next season, I would think the door is always open.
Question: What can you tell us about the program NBC has been promoting constantly, something about The Event? My husband says, as a Lost fan, I'm getting sucked in to this one. Actually just curious to know if this promises to be something worthwhile. — Diane
Matt Roush: NBC's greatest hope is that The Event will attract fans looking for "the next Lost"—although that's such a misnomer. There will never be "another Lost." But judging from the convoluted pilot, which jumps around in time a bit too much for my taste, this is a high-concept, high-action suspense thriller with a deep and mysterious mythology and a very appealing and sympathetic center in its everyman hero, Jason Ritter. I won't reveal too much at this point except to say that a lot of the action in the pilot takes place aboard an endangered plane (echoes of Lost), and what happens next has a "what the hell" aspect that made me curious to see episode two, albeit with a fair amount of skepticism. Signing on to a show like this does require a leap of faith, and hopefully we haven't been too burned by shows like FlashForward in particular to give the next ambitious project a chance. It's one of the very few fall series that has any watercooler potential, so I'm giving it the benefit of the doubt for now.
Question: I'm looking forward to the next installment of that series of movies where Tom Selleck plays Jesse Stone, a small-town cop. What can you tell us about it? — Mike
Matt Roush: The Jesse Stone movies are still being made, despite Selleck having landed the lead in a new CBS series, Blue Bloods. When he appeared at the TCA press tour last week to promote the new show, he made a point of saying that the seventh movie in the Jesse series, Innocents Lost, is "ready to go ... And I made it real clear that I wasn't going to give up Jesse, so we're writing No. 8." When these will see the light of day is another matter. Since CBS, like all the other broadcast networks, have largely abandoned the TV-movie format and there's no dedicated night for them, the Jesse movies will be scheduled whenever CBS has an opening, usually on a non-sweeps Sunday. But the good news is that, whatever happens to Blue Bloods, Selleck is committed to the franchise, and the movies have been generally engrossing. I wish there were more of these sorts of movie series to add some variety to the lineup.
Question: Pamela Dunlap only had a few scenes in the Mad Men season premiere, but she managed to steal every scene as Pauline Francis, the matriarch of the Francis family. Pauline summed up Betty perfectly as a mean mom who's kinda crazy as well. Very interesting to see that the other woman in Henry Francis' life is his mother. Much as I love to watch Betty's many meltdowns and emo fits, she is long overdue for a good talking-to, and since the men in Betty's life tend to be wrapped around her finger, it may be up to Pauline Francis to straighten Betty out. And maybe even back up Sally Draper, the other thorn in Betty's side. What is your take on Pauline Francis and the state of Betty's marriage to her father figure Henry? — Stephanie
Matt Roush: The moment when Mother Francis turned to Henry and said, "Honestly, I don't see how you stand living in that man's dirt" was an authentic jaw-dropper. I thought she was pretty ferocious. And, of course, fabulous. I also would think most of us probably side with Don, when he told Henry, "Believe me, everybody thinks this is temporary." (He was speaking specifically of Henry and Betty maintaining residence in the Draper home, but we know that he was really talking about the long-term prospects for their marriage.) Betty is a mess in so many ways, and you do fear for those children being raised by such a tightly wound basket case. I haven't seen any future episodes, but I do look forward to an eventual blow-up between Betty and the mother-in-law. I expect the fur to fly big time, and no one deserves it more.
Question: I'm curious how Law & Order: Los Angeles fits into Dick Wolf's idea of Law & Order as a "brand" and not a "franchise." He's been quoted multiple times as saying that "Law & Order is a brand, not a franchise. It's the Mercedes of television. The cars are very different, but if you buy a Mercedes, you're still getting a good car. CSI is a franchise, like the Palm restaurant. CSI is the same show set in different cities, while the Law & Order shows are all very different from each other." I'd love to know how he thinks LOLA is going to be any more different from the original L&O than CSI: Miami is from the original CSI. (You might also want to note that he's a producer on Law & Order: UK, which is nothing but scripts from the original L&O slightly tweaked for British television.) — Mike
Matt Roush: Dick Wolf is hardly the most self-effacing personality in Hollywood, especially when it comes to the Law & Order brand—he has used its success to criticize some wonderful TV shows over the years that took risks by being serialized and, obviously, to smack down other franchises that threatened (and in the case of CSI, actually surpassed) L&O's popularity. And while he's right that the initial Law & Order spin-offs found ways to tweak the formula, LOLA from all accounts will be much closer in bifurcated format to the now-defunct L&O mothership. The reasoning being that fans of the original series will still be able to get their weekly fix, just with a new cast and locale. In classic form, episodes will be split between the detectives cracking the case in the first half and the prosecutors trying to take it to court in the second half. The difference here will be that the lead prosecutors will hand off from episode to episode, with Alfred Molina appearing some weeks and Terrence Howard others. (Rather like how Criminal Intent evolved when Vincent D'Onofrio requested lessening his load.)
Question: With all of this talk about Steve Carell leaving The Office, I have been wondering about the contractual status of the rest of the cast. Surely Rainn Wilson, John Krasinski and Jenna Fischer all signed similar seven-year deals back in the day, correct? Did they renegotiate at some point? People, even Carell himself, have been suggesting that the ensemble will survive without Michael Scott, and while that may be true (emphasis on the may), I'd be extremely doubtful of the show's potential success without the other leads. Do you have any insider info (or just thoughts) on that front? — Allie
Matt Roush: If you don't hear about contract negotiations, you should probably assume they've been made quietly (which is usually the case) and that all are on board for the foreseeable future. In all the buzz over how they're going to prepare The Office for Michael's exit, a result of Steve Carell giving them such an early heads-up, there has been no speculation that I've heard of to suggest any of the rest of the cast is planning to walk. To the contrary, it would seem, because his departure is likely to make things more interesting for many of the characters. If anyone else starts to rock the boat, I guarantee it won't be a secret for long. While part of me thinks that Michael leaving Dunder Mifflin would be the perfect time to wrap the series (which is getting awfully long in the tooth and frequently tiresome), I can also see the logic that this change in personnel might be just the thing to jump-start the show and get the creative juices flowing again. There's little question that NBC needs The Office more than we do, which is why we're almost certain to get at least one post-Scott season.
Question: I think the Emmys made some great choices for nominees this year, such as the many nods for Modern Family, where I was happy to see Julie Bowen get a nod after loving her since Ed. Of course there's Mad Men and Breaking Bad, along with other nominations well deserved. My issue has to do with two major snubs, at least in my view. The first is Sandra Oh, who I felt had a solid year on a very uneven season of Grey's Anatomy, in spite of the love triangle from hell. I think she is consistently good, no matter what material is thrown her way. She had some Emmy-worthy moments. Kevin McKidd and Sandra Oh did have a few well-written scenes, but they did not get enough great scenes together for being one of the show's most popular couples. I truly hope Sandra Oh will consider putting her name in the Lead Actress category next year because I think that when she's in the same category as Chandra Wilson as Supporting Actress, the votes end up getting divided. Plus I think she is more of a lead actress at this point.
With regard to Ed O'Neill's snub at the Emmys, I felt bad for him, but Modern Family is such a great ensemble show that I think his time will come soon enough. It's just hard to see a TV veteran like him not get his due. Modern Family especially makes me wish the Emmys would consider a juvenile category like the daytime Emmys have. So many great child actors are on TV that don't get acknowledged until adulthood, if they still manage to have a career. It's kind of a pity. — Maya
Matt Roush: Regarding the Emmys, I think you pretty much have to accept that Grey's Anatomy's time has come and gone. There was some very good work this last season, especially by Sandra Oh and Chandra Wilson, but the show has been so damaged by its jump-the-shark season of Denny's Ghost and upstaged by all the turmoil of Katherine Heigl's departure, among other tabloid scandals, that the industry just doesn't seem to take it very seriously any more. It's hard to argue against most of the actresses in the supporting category from shows like The Good Wife, Mad Men and Damages, and even Sharon Gless is a nice surprise, although her Burn Notice role isn't nearly as meaty as what they give Cristina or Bailey in a normal season. It's an unfair snub, but I think Grey's just has too much baggage anymore. (It probably doesn't help that it's yoked to the dreadful Private Practice.) And I don't think it would help for Sandra Oh to put herself in the lead actress category. That would probably be seen as hubris. She's part of a large ensemble, and it would be a stretch to consider her the star over, say, Meredith.
As for Ed O'Neill, the outpouring of praise that came his way in the wake of the snub has to be some consolation for being overlooked. I get a sense he's grounded enough that he would be pleased that so much attention has been paid to career-breakthrough work by co-stars like Ty Burrell, Eric Stonestreet and Jesse Tyler Ferguson. And while I'm no advocate of adding even more categories to the overstuffed Emmy roster, I agree that the young stars of shows like Modern Family, The Middle and Friday Night Lights deserve at least as much recognition as their adult peers. Go, Manny!
That's all for now. Keep sending in those questions, add comments below if you wish, and in the meantime, follow me on Twitter!
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