Ask Matt: Rescue Me, Louie, Ted Danson on CSI, Community, and More!
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Question: I have a question about the new season, or rather last season, of Rescue Me. Do you think that the "comedy" writing that they incorporate into the show seems to take away from critical acclaim that shows like The Shield and Justified get? The dramatic parts this year have really felt like they weren't even acting, specifically when Sheila finds Tommy snooping for the letter, and the job Maura Tierney did was spectacular. Granted, it seems more like therapy then acting. What do you think the show's legacy will be? — Glenn
Matt Roush: Rescue Me really did step it up for the final season, with some uproariously funny material as well as some truly wrenching character drama, with much of the best work done by the ladies in this man's world (most notably Callie Thorne and Tierney). The final two episodes that will air this and next Wednesday are highly recommended. As the show achieves closure in time for the 10-year milestone anniversary of 9/11, there's big comedy at Colleen's wedding and one more big harrowing job that will shake any fan's composure. I hope that Rescue Me will be remembered as an impassioned, raw and reckless tribute to the wrecked psyches of the firefighters living and sometimes dying in the long shadow of 9/11. It wasn't perfect, and turned many off during the show's middle period when Tommy went on and off the wagon with wearying predictability while being portrayed as an irresistible chick magnet, even at his most repulsive. The show also had a tendency to lay on the melodrama a bit thick, and it's the show's messiness that probably works against it getting its due at the Emmys and in certain (but by no means all) critical circles. And yet the blend of gallows humor and searing drama is what distinguished Rescue Me from the start, so I wouldn't blame the "comedy" for any of the show's perceived flaws. I was a fan even during its rockier periods, and while I'll miss it, this seems a perfect time to end the story. Helps that the ending is terrific, with opportunities for getting choked up and choking on laughter. That's a pretty rare gift.
Question: After reading your summary of the TV summer in the Aug. 29 issue of TV Guide Magazine, I wondered what you thought of the second season of Louis C.K.'s show. His humor can be abrasive, and sometimes he makes me laugh in spite of myself, but I've really enjoyed Louie, especially this season. You never quite know where an episode is going to go, and so much of it is funny. I know he has a lot of creative control over the show, that it's really his vision, and maybe that's why it's so different and enjoyable. I think he'll have a shot at being back at the Emmys next year. — ML
Matt Roush: His Emmy nomination is one of the year's more pleasant surprises, and I agree this season has been even better. I meant to include Louie in that summer survey, but ran out of room. I surely would have tried harder to tout it if I'd seen last week's "Duckling" episode earlier (in which he went to Afghanistan to entertain the troops) — which I think is a high point for the series, the sort of personal triumph that could earn the show prizes of the Peabody and Humanitas variety. Louie is the rare "dark" comedy that is actually very funny, and the melding of his profane stand-up sensibilities with his melancholy sad-sack personal life is often brilliantly achieved. I tend to be immune to much of FX's brand of shock humor in its half-hour comedies, but there's a humanity to Louie that I respect and enjoy greatly, and am glad to see the industry taking notice.
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Question: I'm looking forward to Ted Danson possibly bringing new life to CSI in what I think may be their last-ditch effort, and I enjoyed the picture/comments of him with Marg Helgenberger in the August 15-28 issue of your magazine (he had to observe a "real-life autopsy"? And they're having him come in while Catherine's demoted — wow) and I'm wondering, do you think this could save the sinking ship? I'm wondering if you've seen a preview of CSI and whether you think it's the right medicine, or just a bandage on a deep wound. — Dorothy
Matt Roush: I've only seen one isolated scene of Ted Danson in character as D.B. Russell so far (he was fine), but my initial reaction to his casting was positive — he's got all kinds of range as an actor, and his sly humor should be a good fit and a necessary tonic for what is still the franchise's flagship show. Even though CBS booted CSI off of Thursday in favor of the intriguing new Person of Interest, that seems less a reflection on the show than another example of CBS aggressively shaking up its schedule before it becomes even more stagnant with long-in-the-tooth tentpoles. I won't be surprised if the mothership will eventually be the last CSI standing — the NY version barely made the cut this season, and I can't imagine anyone who still takes Miami seriously — and I'm hoping Danson will juice the chemistry enough so it won't be a painful ride to the end, whenever that may be. I really don't see CSI as a sinking ship just yet. Coasting, maybe, but not nearly as threadbare as its spin-offs.
Question: I was wondering why Fox, famous for canceling shows, is bringing back Breaking In? Why can't they bring back Chicago Code, Lie to Me and Human Target? Also, why are they renewing Fringe? That show was already dead as is. — Clinton
Matt Roush: Geez, do you know who you're writing to? That dismissive attitude toward the brilliant Fringe will not stand. It's still alive because Fox sees the value in a buzz-worthy cult series, fabulously executed, that doesn't need to attract huge numbers to prove its worth on a very problematic night. When it comes to more mainstream crime and action dramas like Chicago Code, Lie to Me and Human Target, the dilemma at Fox is there just aren't enough slots in the network's two-hours-a-weeknight schedule — and no, they're never going to expand to three — to sustain them all, especially when they don't break out the way House and 24 did back in the day. I was surprised when Fox canned all of these shows, thinking at least one could be useful as a backup in case Terra Nova and/or Alcatraz bombs or other holes pop up (doubtful) on their crowded schedule. But Breaking In is a half-hour comedy, not an hour drama, which is why comparing its resurrection to the demise of the dramas doesn't really make sense. Fox is investing a lot in comedy, including the live-action variety (New Girl is my favorite fall pilot, BTW), and giving the offbeat Breaking In a second chance to plug into the schedule at some point is part of that strategy.
Question: As promos for fall shows begin to abound, we keep hearing about the newbies who will come to Glee from The Glee Project, about Sue Sylvester running for office in an arc that is supposed to last most of the season, and about the various storylines for the returning/graduating glee club members, but I have yet to read one article or interview about the show that refers to Matthew Morrison's part in it for season 3. Not even a reference to fan-favorite Wemma. An interview with him, which was actually about his just-completed summer tour, quoted him as saying that Ryan Murphy frequently tells him that his role will get pumped up again and back to what it was first season, and that Morrison believes that it's time to for that to happen. If that's happening, it's not apparent in the promos. I find it strange that the actor who was hired to be the backbone of the show seems to have to settle for less and less screen time. In the whole of season 2, he sang only six songs and danced very little. Any idea why Matthew Morrison/Will Schuester appears to have been relegated to what amounts to a supporting character? I feel cheated, and he probably thinks he might as well be back on Broadway for real. Thoughts? — Karen
Matt Roush: Really? Wemma a fan favorite? Whatever. There's no question Matthew Morrison's role suffered along with many other aspects of the show during the uneven second season, but I would think if Glee lives up to its promise to return to basics in year three, there will be more organic opportunities for Mr. Shue to perform with the club in rehearsal and otherwise. A decent character arc allowing for an occasional musical soliloquy wouldn't hurt, either, although Glee is always going to be mostly about the kids, and inserting the teacher into their numbers can be awfully awkward. I also figure one of the reasons Morrison has been less involved in the Glee hype between seasons is that he has been busy promoting his own solo CD and tour, and in case you hadn't noticed, the Glee hype this summer has been beyond confusing and irritating and it's probably a good thing he stayed out of it. If Mr. Shue ends up being marginalized again, though, you're probably right that the actor would have every right to be frustrated. But even a Broadway fan like me (who enjoyed Morrison in Hairspray, Light in the Piazza and South Pacific before his Glee breakout) understands the value of TV exposure and a paycheck, so I'm betting he'll ride this Glee train a while longer before returning to the stage full-time. Even if he's not center stage, it's not a bad gig.
Question: In reference to your recent review of Cinemax's Strike Back: I saw the first season of this show and it was awesome. I began to watch the first episode of the second season, and I stopped watching it once the main character John Potter, played by Richard Armitage (formerly of BBC's Robin Hood and MI-5), was killed off. Something changed. It is not the same. They have changed the entire cast and quite boring they are. I tried watching, but no go. Let me know what you think. — Ivette
Matt Roush: I didn't see the first season (which aired on Britain's Sky1 and wasn't imported here), but it does seem that with the sudden and violent dispatching of Armitage's character in the second-season premiere, the tone purposefully shifted into what amounts to an over-the-top action cartoon. We're also talking a major cast downgrade, given that the original series co-starred Andrew Lincoln (now of The Walking Dead) and Orla Brady (Mistresses, Fringe), Shelley Conn (Mistresses, now of Terra Nova) and Colin Salmon (Prime Suspect 2). Without a point of reference — and while I'd like to see that first season, I doubt I'll have time for catch-up anytime soon — I'm kind of enjoying Strike Back as a noisy, gamy, ridiculous guilty pleasure. But I have no doubt that for those who enjoyed the original, this would be something of a comedown.
Question: Where are things standing with HBO and Entourage? Granted, this show has had its ups and downs much like any on-the-cusp actor, but this season has had the most layered, most depth-ridden set of episodes ever. Is it that they are pulling out all the stops for their last rodeo, or is it Rodeo? These characters have grown, and the mix of older and newer supporting cast members (speaking to you, Scott Caan) have added an almost Old Hollywood feel of chemistry to the mix. I can't think of a show that has so dramatically improved from a down year to greatness. So is there any chance the band stays together on the small screen, or is it the silver screen or bust a la Sex and the City (which not so coincidentally is the show Entourage was originally hailed as the male counterpart)? — Trenton
Matt Roush: Oh, please, no. Entourage is over, and where you see "layered" and "depth-ridden," I see "dreary" and "played out." Watching the zombie-fied Vince try to sweet-talk a vapid caricature of a Vanity Fair reporter is only microscopically more interesting than watching Half-Turtle blossom into a restaurant entrepreneur. As for Drama's drama with Dice? No dice. It's driving me Bananas. Only Eric's and Ari's relationship woes are keeping me going to the end, with Melinda Clarke and Bobby Flay having fun playing versions of themselves in those tangled subplots. (And did we hear Mrs. Ari's first name for the first time last night?) The HBO run will definitely be history in a few weeks, and as for those big-screen pipe dreams, I felt they were foreshadowing a bit in Sunday night's episode when Eric and Drama discussed original-flavor 90210. Drama: "Why didn't they make a movie?" Eric: "Probably because nobody would have gone to see it." My feelings exactly about an Entourage movie.
Question: I just finished watching every episode of In Plain Sight and decided it was my new favorite show. Imagine my despair when I learned last week that it will be canceled after 8 more episodes! My understanding is that it has done quite well ratings-wise, so why the cancellation? I am speculating that it's because Suits has done so well and the field has just become too crowded. Also, any chance that they might reconsider if the ratings get even better when it returns? — Liz
Matt Roush: Again, this seems like a done deal, so I'd be surprised if they change course, regardless of ratings. Because this isn't so much about that as it is about the economics of juggling and maintaining a full schedule on a cable budget. USA Network, not unlike CBS when it cancels a long-running show (even if it's still healthy) to make room for another, is a victim of its own success, and in managing its many assets, has to make some tough calls along the way about when to retire a show so the schedule opens up for the next wave of Suits or Covert Affairs or White Collar level hits. At least this approach gives the show's creative team a chance to plan out their exit instead of just lowering the boom at the 11th hour.
Question: While I share yours and others' disappointment in Torchwood: Miracle Day compared to Children of Earth, I'm still enjoying it, and the last episode ("Immortal Sins") was definitely an improvement. I'm hoping it signals a change of emphasis as we move to the final. I don't find that Russell T Davies so much "dumbed it down" for the American audience as it is that he ramped up the action unnecessarily and included American characters (most of which I could do without). Most of the "action" sequences simply slow down any momentum the plot has built up. The truly chilling part of Children of Earth was not the aliens or their plot, but the banality of evil in the cabinet reacting to the alien demands (brilliantly portrayed by Peter Capaldi and Nicholas Farrell, among others). Lose some of the action scenes, cut down Mekhi Phifer's screen time, and show us the decision-making that went into the categories/incineration decisions, and I think the show would be a lot tighter and more akin to Children of Earth. — Rick
Matt Roush: Good points. My main problem with Miracle Day has been that the more fascinating and troubling allegorical implications of the "miracle," in terms of the spiritual and ethical fallout including the big (though predictable) "final solution" reveal about the ovens, were never fully or well dramatized. We hear about what's going on, but with the exception of the doctor's death, we never really feel it, because we're too busy watching the characters embark on hokey and clumsy action heroics. Jack's flashback episode was a great change of pace, feeling like classic Torchwood, but last Friday's follow-up reverted back to cartoonish form. I hope there's another season left in this show, because I'd hate Miracle Day to be the final word on Torchwood.
Question: I am a big Community fan and I love the entire cast of the show. Although I like Britta's character, in my opinion she has no chemistry with Jeff. Their banter gets annoying after a few seconds. In comparison, Annie has much more chemistry with Jeff, but their age difference makes it a bit unlikely that they will date. What's your opinion? Whether it should be Jeff/Annie or Jeff/Britta or Jeff with someone else? — Amy
Matt Roush: I don't really view Community as a relationship comedy — it's way too far-out for such mundane who's-hooking-up-with-who concerns — so I guess my vote is "someone else," because tying Jeff down anytime soon with any one of the cast regulars feels too limiting. That said, I expect sparks between him, Annie and Britta to continue indefinitely, because that adds to the comic tension in the study room, and that's always a good thing. (But neither is a perfect fit: Britta's too pretentious and Annie's too guileless. These things will never end well.)
Question: Is there any word about the Merlin series returning in the coming season? — Bob & Donna
Matt Roush: Syfy has picked up the fourth season, which was hardly a surprise, and it will air sometime in 2012. Among the new faces will be Nathaniel Parker (The Inspector Lynley Mysteries) as Agravaine, who if the show holds to legend will be among the more treacherous of Arthur's knights.
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