Ask Matt: Revenge, Glee, Once Upon a Time, Alcatraz and More!
Emily Vancamp, Josh Bowman
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Question: This past week marked the 13th episode of the freshman series Revenge. I remember reading that the Labor Day engagement party previewed in the pilot was originally scheduled to be the 13th episode. Have the writers decided to take advantage of the series' popularity and draw out the story by delaying that episode? Will we see the events of the engagement party before the season finale? — Tommy
Matt Roush: Yes, we'll come full circle to the deadly events of the pilot episode very soon. Your suspicions are correct that when Revenge started strong out of the gate and got an early pickup, the producers decided to let things play out a little longer, and we're expected to find out just who got shot and who the shooter is over the course of the next two episodes, airing Feb. 8 and 15. In this case, more is more — as in fun.
Question: In the run-up to last week's episode of Glee, "Yes/No," I saw lots of hype from Lea Michele and Cory Monteith about what a big romantic episode it would be for Rachel and Finn. However, the episode itself left me feeling uncomfortable about their relationship and the proposal. It seemed foolish and desperate, not romantic. As #RachelSayNo was a Twitter trending topic, I don't think I'm alone in that reaction, but I don't get the impression that was the intended response either. Was this a swing and a miss of a story or did they really intend for us to be rooting against the lead couple? — Shan
Matt Roush: Maybe this will teach you not to believe in hype, and I'd also caution you into reading too much into the ephemera of trending topics on Twitter, which for all of its usefulness can all too easily become a tiresome echo chamber and Petri dish for knee-jerk haters. That said, it's quite possible that we're meant to feel uncomfortable about Rachel and Finn's situation at episode's end, and you're right that it played like a foolish and desperate gesture, fueled largely by Finn's anxiety over his post-graduation future (one of Glee's strongest ongoing storylines this season for his, Rachel's and Kurt's characters). Which doesn't mean that they don't see this moment as romantic in their own heads, even if we beg to differ. And pray that she refuses. The real problem with that storyline and proposal is that it felt so abruptly shoehorned into an episode that was already overstuffed (a frequent Glee gripe these days).
Question: Two questions for you regarding Once Upon A Time: Where did Henry get the fairy-tale book and the idea that everyone in Storybrooke is a fairy-tale character trapped there by his "mother," the evil queen? I don't remember this ever being addressed, yet Henry's knowledge of and belief in the curse, and the book that has become a sort of guide to the characters, was never explained ... was it? Also, if time stands still in this town, why hasn't anyone noticed? Clock hands don't move and nobody gets any older, but this too hasn't been properly explained. I know, I know ... nitpicking a show about suspending one's belief and fairytales. But these two things have just bugged me all season. — K
Matt Roush: I think the reason I didn't much enjoy Once Upon a Time until I got to the third episode (with the first major Snow White-Prince Charming back story) was that I couldn't stop nit-picking at some of these same things, feeling that the concept was swallowing the show. Since then, I've relaxed and learned to just roll with it, and it's become appointment Sunday viewing — although I much prefer the fairy-tale twists to the goings-on in Storybrooke. But to your specifics, didn't the clock start moving again once Emma came to town? That was little Henry's first win. And part of the overall premise is that the curse, which keeps them trapped in this town, also keeps them from noticing that they're not aging among other things. As for the book, if its origin has been fully explained, I missed it. But it's still early days, so I wouldn't be surprised if we get a Henry-centric episode laying some of that out.
Question: The premiere of Alcatraz really impressed me. It looks like the Lost alums sat down and said, "Whatever was wrong with Lost we'll avoid in Alcatraz." I'd be interested in your takes on its prospects. Once Upon A Time has been the most pleasant surprise of the season. Good characters and production values plus a great story line that's well executed make this one of TV's best hours at our house. Not as much fun, but interesting nonetheless, are the wind-downs of Chuck and Desperate Housewives. Watching the writers cross t's and dot i's holds my interest. — Jim
Matt Roush: Personally, I would prefer Alcatraz if it had taken a clue from one of the things that Lost did right — vivid characterization (especially where the lead female character is concerned) — but as I noted in my review last week, I am intrigued by the show, and hope that the manhunt-of-the-week stories can start living up to the tantalizing mythology (which owes more than a little debt to The 4400), although it's the procedural elements that could help make it more viable commercially. The show opened strongly, which is a good sign for its prospects, especially if the audience keeps coming back, which I hope they do. And while I'm not a fan of Chuck's or Desperate Housewives' final seasons, I do agree that there are few things more satisfying for a fan than to be able to watch a show end its long run on its own terms.
Question: I'm a first-time writer to you. I love Fringe. What do you think of the idea of Fox selling Fringe to Syfy? Cable doesn't need as many viewers as the networks do. — Mary
Question: Along the lines of other Fringe fans thinking about other avenues for continuing the ratings-challenged show, I can't help wondering why no one at Fox is not seriously floating the idea of moving it to FX for the final year if room cannot be made for it on the parent network. Fox has deals in place with J.J. Abrams and is pushing Alcatraz — surely if Alcatraz is a success, Fox could accommodate Abrams' other show for one more year at FX — and Bad Robot could cut its budget a little without a drop in production quality. And wouldn't the meager ratings at Fox translate into "decent" ratings at FX? — Branimir
Matt Roush: Neither of these scenarios is likely to happen (and welcome to the party, Mary). With Syfy, anytime this question has come up of acquiring a show the networks have dropped, the answer almost invariably is: Too expensive. And FX has a full development slate (currently including reworking the fantasy-action pilot Powers) that doesn't lend itself into picking up anyone's castoffs. It's much more likely that if Fringe has a future on TV, it will require Warner Bros./Bad Robot to work out a financial agreement to keep the show alive on Fox, either for a reduced license fee or maybe a reduced episode order. I wouldn't lose hope for a fifth season just yet, but I also wouldn't expect white knights to be lining up to come to the rescue.
Question: Live With Kelly's guest co-hosts do not seem able to commit to a permanent co-hosting job. Are they actually looking for a permanent co-host? — Laura
Matt Roush: At some point, they will name a permanent co-host. But for the moment, they're getting some good promotional juice with some of the celebrity pairings (often employing people who have other gigs and can't commit to this particular daily grind), so it doesn't look like they're in any rush.
Question: I read that you're pushing the show New Girl. Is this a joke? I had watched bits of the show a couple of times before (and it wasn't easy), but decided to watch the whole thing last week. That's a half hour of my life I'll never get back. The girl is annoying as hell and has no acting talent (not to mention she's a little chunky), but that's not the biggest problem, which is that the scripts are awful (which I had noticed on the previous times I watched). Worst sitcom I've seen in I can't remember when. — Fred
Matt Roush: If by "pushing" you mean enjoying and recommending in my role as a critic, I plead guilty. And I honestly don't feel I'm out on a particularly lonely limb on this one. As always where comedy is concerned, it's a matter of taste, and the aggressively quirky Zooey Deschanel is without question an acquired one, as I suppose is her show — though dwelling only on her doesn't given enough credit to her male co-stars, who I also get a kick out of, especially Schmidt (although they still haven't done much to define late cast addition Lamorne Morris' character). I'll concede that last week's episode built around Schmidt's birthday on a party bus wasn't the show's best, but the montage of his escalating douchery was a hoot. For me, anyway. But really, chunky? For the girl who single-handedly coined the phrase "adork-able?" Even if it were true, what's wrong with that?
Question: NBC's The Firm is marginal at best, but my question is about Juliette Lewis in particular. I find her character on this show to be totally out of place, distracting and borderline disgusting. OK, actually disgusting. Is she totally incapable of playing anything other than the proverbial trailer trash, kicked in the head character that I've seen her do almost verbatim for the past 20 years or so? Surely, there must be something other than this particular stereotype that she is able to perform. Why? Why? Why? — Steve
Matt Roush: Wow, people, who put the vinegar on your popcorn this week? In my limited exposure to The Firm — with these ratings, I'm not compelled to keep up with something that left such a dismal first impression — I actually preferred the scuzzy company of the characters played by Callum Keith Rennie and Lewis to the wooden Josh Lucas and his simpering family. But you have a point that her garish act is awfully familiar and not as amusing as it used to be. Still, disgusting seems a bit harsh.
Question: I just finished watching the latest episode of Hawaii Five-0 and was stunned to see such blatant product advertisement in the show. As viewers, we've gotten used to seeing flashes of logos here and there (as they do for Hawaiian Airlines or Hilton Hawaiian Village), but in this episode, they basically did a Subway sandwich endorsement including giving a rundown of menu items (all they left out was a Jared cameo)! Is this the future of network television? Yikes if it is! If the network execs need to find ways around people fast-forwarding through commercials, is there no alternative? It was an embarrassment and totally off-putting to viewers. — Rachel
Matt Roush: If you read my Week in Review column late last week, you'll know I agree with this wholeheartedly. This may well be the wave of the future, but there are ways to insert these plugs more adeptly. This was without question one of the worst I've ever seen, and that includes all the times the Buy More folks chomped down on Subways on Chuck — but in that case, the Subway sponsorship helped keep the lights on, whereas CBS and Hawaii you'd think don't really need to do something this blatant.
But to be fair, let me share an excerpt from one of the comments generated by my column, from someone going by "Pinkiepie230": "That Subway product placement has gotten more mileague than any other commercial on TV this week. Hate it or love it, it was very effective because everyone's been talking about it since it aired on Monday. Personally, I didn't think it was that awful. The more it's discussed, the more it appeals to networks to add more of these types of endorsements to their scripted shows. Be prepared. Don't like it? Shut up about it and pretend like you didn't notice it. Everyone I know who saw the Subway debacle all mentioned they got hungry and wished they had one too. You're looking at the future."
Question: My husband and I were finally convinced by the kids to watch The Big Bang Theory and we were instantly hooked. One thing that us oldies notice, however, is how much this show reminds us of the skits and antics of '60s comedian Ernie Kovaks. Do any of the writers admit, er ... acknowledge any influence by this old master of wildness? — Ivey
Matt Roush: I can't think of any accolade more flattering than being compared to this early genius of TV comedy. I've never heard the show's producers cite him as a special inspiration — though who doesn't admire him? — and Big Bang isn't nearly as anarchic by nature, with none of Kovacs' groundbreaking out-of-the-box visual insanity, but there is a spirit of fearlessness to the broad characterizations on the show that you have to think he'd appreciate.
Question: I'm always surprised to hear Steve Jones isn't loved on The X Factor. He seemed incredibly genial on a recent Ellen appearance. If they do give him the old Dunkleman, maybe she can give him a special correspondent role on her show? — Dennis [from Twitter]
Matt Roush: It might be a better fit. There's no question the guy's a charmer — met him last summer before The X Factor premiered, and was won over in person — but on that massive stage, he fell victim to the show's numbing overproduction and terrible direction and most weeks came off like a stiff, bellowing tool. It was painful.
That's all for now. Keep sending your comments and questions to email@example.com, and in the meantime, follow me on Twitter!
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