Scandal

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Question: Announcing a plan to take their top dramas off the air to avoid reruns is one thing, but how do you think ABC is actually going to fare for the next couple of months while Grey's Anatomy, Scandal, Once Upon a Time and Revenge take two-month breathers? I am a fan of the airing-consecutively strategy, but I'm afraid they won't stick to this model, because quite frankly, the new shows they are using as substitutes in these timeslots don't look very good. What happens if something bombs? Will they have no choice but to rush these signature shows back to the air sooner?

Also, since the episode order for Scandal has been trimmed, do you know how they will schedule it? The previously-announced Feb. 27 return date was when they were planning to have 12 episodes for the back half of the season, but now that they'll only have eight, they will either need to bring it back later or air its finale earlier than May, if they want to keep it running uninterrupted. Bravo to ABC for making the call to cut the order rather than force the production of some half-baked episodes while Kerry Washington is on maternity leave. Your thoughts? — Jake

Matt Roush: It's probably inevitable that ABC will see a decline in the first quarter of 2014 until after the Olympics when their tent-pole shows return — although Revenge is already being somewhat downgraded by moving an hour later to 10/9c, so we'll see how that turns out. I haven't had a chance to sample the first wave of ABC's midseason programming yet, but even if the shows are better than they look in the promos, there's such a glut of January programming (on cable as well as broadcast network) that I'm sure some will struggle. Still, I doubt ABC would rush one of their shows back on the air, just to yank it again in mid-February for several weeks because of the Olympics. So even if there's another insta-flop Lucky 7 in this batch, ABC is likely to ride it out for a bit. As for Scandal's shortened episode order: I haven't a clue yet (and maybe they don't either, they certainly haven't said) whether it will run straight through and wrap early or if they'll vamp in early spring with repeats and pre-emptions so there will be some episodes left in the can for May. All we know for now is that Scandal will be back Feb. 27, and if any show can bounce back from a long hiatus, it's this one. 

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Question: I'm surprised we don't see Carrie Preston (who I love) on The Good Wife more often since she won a guest-actor Emmy for her supporting role. Surely the producers recognize the gem she is. — Vyvyan

Matt Roush: They most certainly do value her. (So do the producers of Person of Interest, on which she also recurs in flashbacks involving Finch, who's played by her off-screen husband Michael Emerson.) What's up is that the very in-demand Preston is under contract to HBO's True Blood, which gets first dibs on her during the time that show is in production, which has limited her availability to The Good Wife and to POI, both of which film in the New York area. Happily (for a number of reasons), this upcoming season of True Blood will be the last, so she'll be free to move on relatively soon.

Question: It seems to me that in all the discussion about NBC's live broadcast of The Sound of Music, both good and bad, very little was said about Stephen Moyer's performance. I found that he had a surprisingly good voice and performed admirably. It was a little distracting hearing his English accent and whatever accent Carrie Underwood was using, but I think everyone involved should be applauded for the great effort that went into this production. — Janet

Matt Roush: In the big picture, I agree about accentuating the positive where this experiment with The Sound of Music is concerned. Whatever its flaws, the show was enjoyable to watch, the production and music values were high, and its success was gratifying on many levels. I'm glad there will be more like it. But I'm afraid I'm part of the nay-saying chorus that felt the casting for both Maria and the Captain left a lot to be desired in the dramatic department. I described their chemistry as "wilted edelweiss," and watching a bit of the replay over the weekend just confirmed that. The role of the Captain is probably one of the hardest to play convincingly — his transitions from cold fish to teddy bear are horribly written — but Moyer looked stricken half the time and looked much more at ease with theater pros like Laura Benanti and Christian Borle than the hapless, helpless Carrie Underwood, bless her heart.

Question: With the return of The Following, I have to ask: Is there any chance the police this season will be, what's the word, less incredibly stupid? The idiotic actions of law enforcement week after week stopped me from watching the show beyond week 4. It's not that Joe Carroll was such a genius that he was always one step ahead of the FBI, it's that Kevin Bacon & Co. were just all so dumb. So any possibility they'll have an IQ boost? - M.D.

Matt Roush: Let's hope. I haven't seen any of the new episodes yet, but if the producers listened even a little to the show's critics (and public, who were hardly silent on this issue as the show bumbled on), they'll make it a more even fight this season. Otherwise, I'd expect the sophomore curse to kick in and take this one down.

Question: I'm a little concerned about Mike & Molly. This "new" season has way too much slapstick in it from Melissa McCarthy and I don't find it very funny any more, which is a shame because it was a good show. Have they changed writers or something? The dialogue isn't really "there" any more. We also don't see enough of the other characters, especially Mrs. Biggs — and they need to bring back Gerald McRaney as her boyfriend. Any insight into what happened to the writing? — Linda

Matt Roush: It's not so much the writing — which was never, let's be honest, of Noel Coward quality — as it is a determined change of focus on the part of the producers to capitalize on Melissa McCarthy's increasingly high profile as a movie-star comedian. They're putting her in wackier situations and it is shifting the balance from the earlier domestic rom-com to something much broader. I'm not surprised that I'm hearing some backlash in my mailbag, but I'm even less surprised that CBS and the producers are trying to make the most of her breakout status before they lose her forever to the big screen.

Question: I may be in the minority here, but count me among those who are happy to hear that Friday Night Lights isn't going to be forced onto the big screen. For five brilliant seasons, the show gave us some of the most poignant and realistic writing and acting ever seen on TV, and it wrapped things up perfectly when the Taylors went to start a new life in Philadelphia. Enough said, and enough seen. No need to make a movie that may or may not live up to the series but would, in all likelihood, leave us wishing they'd left well enough alone and not spoiled our memories of what was a perfect ending to the series. With networks' penchants for giving shows much shorter shelf lives than they used to, I've grown accustomed to happily enjoying a show while it lasts and being grateful for what I get, even if I know that what I will get will only be a season or two of a show I enjoy. FNL definitely got far more seasons than any of us who loved it had a right to expect, and just because pushing a property onto the big screen is possible and might make some money, that doesn't mean it's a good idea. — Travis

Matt Roush: For those who missed it, this confirmation of the cinematic no-go recently came from executive producer Peter Berg (who also directed the movie on which the series was based), and I was rather relieved to hear it as well. If I had thought that Friday Night Lights was denied a proper ending, then I might have welcomed (albeit nervously) a big-screen finish to their story, or some sort of special reunion event. I tend to believe that TV shows work best as TV shows, which is why as happy as I am for the Veronica Mars fan base who helped the upcoming movie become a reality, I can't say I'm aching to see it. (Happy to be pleasantly surprised, of course.) But where Friday Night Lights is concerned, it achieved one of the most satisfying finales ever, and I'm at peace with leaving it as is. As they say, "Texas forever" (and it's worth noting this question came from a resident of Irving, Texas).

Question: So when 24 returns (supposedly next year), and only 12 episodes long from what I've read, does that mean it comes back next year for another 12 episodes (if ratings are good, which I am sure it will be) or only these 12 episodes, period? Long live Jack Bauer! - Mike

Matt Roush: Too early to tell, and much will depend on how the producers and Kiefer Sutherland feel once they're wrapped the 12 hours of 24: Live Another Day, which will be a self-contained story. I'm sure if the fans return for it — and why wouldn't they? — Fox would no doubt wish to keep this around as a recurring "event series" for as long as the participants are willing.

Question: I will admit, I have not watched Almost Human. Mainly because the number of promos I saw during the World Series so turned me off, I tuned out. I don't know how well this show is doing, but I am wondering: Do you think it's possible a network can over-promote a show, thus killing its promise? I ask because I have heard other people comment that they, too, aren't watching Almost Human because they got so sick of the promos. — Barb

Matt Roush: I imagine if the promos had truly caught your fancy, you might have given the show a try despite the deluge. While I get your point, and often feel the same way about new-show promos — and let's not forget how exhausted we get by relentless ad campaigns for new movies, even for ones we're eager to see — put yourself in the network's place. Live sports are among the few events on TV that tend to be watched as they happen — in other words, generally DVR-proof — and Almost Human was being launched by itself outside the regular window of new-season fall-preview promotion. It's Fox's job and priority as a network to get the word out about its new product, and if it was guilty of overkill in this instance, I can't really blame them for the effort. But yes, in this case it may have done more harm than good. If it had been Sleepy Hollow they'd been selling that hard, on the other hand ... an entirely different outcome, I'd bet.

Question: I would love your opinion of the show The Tomorrow People. To me it seems like a show that is going to be canceled soon. What are your thoughts? — Kris

Matt Roush: Two very different issues here, and I can't tell from this whether you're rooting for it or wishing it would go away. I'm more from the latter camp. As I noted in my review when the show premiered, I feel like The Tomorrow People is yesterday's news, a generic example of tired teen-superhero-angst genre programming. But critics' yays and nays have little to do with the long-term prospects of The CW's programming, and for now the show is guaranteed at least a full-season run — although in March, it's moving away from its cushy Wednesday slot following Arrow (currently my favorite show on that network) and will relocate on Mondays, while it will likely finish out the season paired with another CW clone, Star-Crossed (which is basically Roswell-light, although I'll give that one another look closer to premiere). Whether Tomorrow sees another day, or a second season, probably depends on how well it performs in the back half of the season.

Question: A few questions. First, whenever I read about sitcoms being developed, I sometimes read that it's a multi-camera or a single camera or something like that. What does that mean? And why does it matter to me, the viewer, which type it is? I watch The Big Bang Theory, New Girl, Sean Saves the World and The Crazy Ones — which are they? Speaking of Sean Saves the World and The Crazy Ones, am I the only one who likes them? It seems that way to me. But I will laugh out loud at least once per episode. I'm also enjoying Hostages, and again I'm apparently the only one. That said, part of what I enjoy is that it is limited to 15 episodes; I'm glad that there's (probably) not going to be a Season 2. Your thoughts? — Don

Matt Roush: Last things first: I'm also glad Hostages isn't going to get a second season, because the ludicrous first cycle was plenty for me. I fear, though, that its failure will scare CBS off of trying this kind of ambitious serialized-thriller or big-canvas programming. They just need to execute it better next time (though there almost certainly won't be one for quite a while).

Regarding multi-camera and single-camera comedies, the difference is that multi-camera shows are those traditionally filmed in front of a live audience and multiple cameras with audible laughter (often enhanced and sweetened, though they'll tell you otherwise), a format that has yielded many of TV's most popular comedies from I Love Lucy to The Mary Tyler Moore Show to Friends to Everybody Loves Raymond to The Big Bang Theory. Single-camera comedies are those filmed more like a movie, with no audience in attendance and usually with no laugh track, and which tend to have more of a snob appeal, seen as more hip and progressive in their approach to humor, more subtle in their rhythms and often more likely (whether deserved or not) to be critically acclaimed and deemed worthy of award nominations. Personally, I find good and bad work being done in both formats, and I certainly don't share the disdain in some corners for terrific belly-laugh comedies like The Big Bang Theory, which has been on fire these last few seasons. While I don't share your affection for Sean Saves the World — (The Crazy Ones is kind of growing on me) — it makes me happy to learn of comedy fans who don't care about or even make the distinction between the various types of TV comedy as long as they enjoy it.

On that happy note, I bid you adieu (a chorus of "So Long, Farewell," perhaps?) for the rest of the calendar year where this column is concerned. Thanks as always for the provocative questions and comments throughout the year that make compiling "Ask Matt" among the most pleasurable and challenging aspects of my gig any given week. Let's pick up the conversation again in January. There's going to be an awful lot to talk about right out of the gate, trust me. Happy holidays and a smashing 2014 to all.

Keep sending your comments and questions to askmatt@tvguidemagazine.com, and in the meantime, follow me on Twitter!

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