Ask Matt: Sheen, Kalinda, Danno, Mother, Castle, Glee and More!
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Question: I watch Two and a Half Men for some light, escapist entertainment. I enjoy the laughs and the double entendres. But really, that all stems from the writing. In fact, the Alan-centric episodes are some of the best ones. I wouldn't mind seeing more Berta, either. The Jake character is now of an age where he's picking up more of the storylines. If Charlie moved to London with Rose and his doppelganger cousin came to live in the house, they could keep a ladies man/lush character (if they feel that the show absolutely needs one). In a way, I'm disappointed that they've decided to end the season with no new episodes. Maybe they would have shown that the show could still be popular without the Sheen character. Nonetheless, I am glad that the powers that be saw how far off the reservation Sheen really is and said enough is enough. What's your take on the future of the show? Is it DOA without Charlie Sheen? — Karen
Matt Roush: First off, thanks for reminding us why this matters. In the wake of the latest meltdown and shutdown, there's a lot of "the show sucks anyway/who cares/who watches this crap" cynicism. Understandable enough. But in fact Two and a Half Men, for all of its many faults (and a sense of creative exhaustion that has little to do with Sheen's antics), is still enjoyed by many millions of viewers who look to this, and many other shows (on CBS in particular), to kick back with and relax. Which leaves the question: Will Two and a Half Men go the route of Three's Company post-Chrissy or, using another infamous example, Valerie-to Valerie's Family-to The Hogan Family to wipe away the memory of a problematic star? I'm not so sure. There's so much more relentless transparency in the media, I find it hard to imagine the show just carrying on with some wacky let's-start-over gimmick this late in the game. Anything could happen, obviously, and there's plenty of time between now and mid-summer (when production of a new season would typically begin) for the dust to settle and maybe even for some of these psychic wounds to heal. But Sheen's megalomania of the last few weeks is fairly unprecedented, even given the psycho parade of egos Chuck Lorre has encountered over the years (Roseanne, Brett Butler, Cybill Shepherd, etc.). I wouldn't be surprised if CBS just pulls up stakes and moves The Big Bang Theory into the Monday anchor position next season and never looks back. All in all, a sad (if morbidly fascinating) turn of affairs for a very popular show and a clearly unstable star.
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Question: I very much love The Good Wife. But I am wondering what are they are doing to Kalinda this season? The mystery they are trying to surround her with has done nothing except make her a big pain in the ass to watch. Just because she can swing a bat at cars and naked men does not make her interesting. At least last season she used to crack a smile every now and then. This year she is just a mean old bitch! — Teresa
Matt Roush: But how do you really feel about her? Them's fighting words! And we all know Kalinda doesn't back down from a fight. No, seriously, I get that her storyline has gone way over the top this season, especially in her violent confrontations with her rival Blake. But the aura of mystery that surrounds her past — she has a husband??? — gives us a sense that Kalinda is not entirely in control, and given that she initially seemed almost supernaturally self-possessed, I'm liking that they've rattled her foxy cage a bit. I wouldn't give up on her yet.
Question: With NBC's new entertainment chairman Robert Greenblatt coming in, I wanted to get your take on how you feel NBC's pilot season is going and if what they are looking at could help bring the network back and make it "more colorful." I think they have some great choices with shows like Smash and Are You There Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea. And even REM. But enough about what I think, I want to know what you think. — Sam
Matt Roush: Well, thank you, and I hope it isn't too disappointing to hear that I'm not quite sure yet what I think. Pilot season's a tricky time. I am intrigued about many of the concepts and castings that have been announced in the last few weeks, and it does look like NBC and a few others are taking big swings, unlike this season, which I think we can now acknowledge is pretty much a write-off where new shows are concerned. The ideas behind Smash (a musical series about the making of a musical) and REM (an Inception-like premise about a cop living parallel lives, from the writer of the short-lived Lone Star) make me very excited to see them, and I hope the execution lives up to those expectations. But I can't judge things from how they look on paper, which is why I also try to steer clear of looking at scripts at this stage of the process. They can be very misleading. I will say, though, that after this season, everyone could use a shot of adrenaline and imagination in the pilot process, so I'll admit I'm cautiously hopeful about these prospects. Things could hardly get worse, especially for NBC.
Question: On How I Met Your Mother, Ted has babbled on so long to his two future kids about how he met their mother that both actors who play his children have become series regulars on their own shows. But my question is: Do you know why the writers decided to reveal the ending of Ted and Zoey's relationship so soon after it started? I didn't expect Zoey to be the mother because the pieces didn't fit, but after spending so much time building up the relationship to the point where they started dating, the ending was quickly revealed. There doesn't seem to be much point to continuing the Ted and Zoey storyline unless Zoey somehow is involved in introducing Ted to his future wife. Was it done for creative or economic reasons? — Brian
Matt Roush: I'm pretty sure the writers would tell you this was a creative decision. (Not sure how economic factors would play into this.) To me, though, it's just another cop-out, a delaying tactic, and I'm getting pretty weary of it. Why put us through the wringer with the love-hate Zoey relationship, and the ridiculousness of The Captain (poor Kyle MacLachlan, from Desperate Housewives to this), only to abruptly announce out of the blue that her and Ted's courtship "did not end well." It's just so pointless. And on another matter, are we really to believe Barney is smitten with this new girl? I don't think the show has ever truly recovered from splitting him and Robin up so quickly.
Question: Is it likely Castle would ever do an episode inside the Nikki Heat universe? Say Castle is working on some aspect of a book and Beckett drops by to flip the roles so to speak. She pokes and prods to see how Castle creates his world, his story. And boom, the episode is set in the world of Nikki Heat. You would get to see all the characters of the show be portrayed differently: a more sultry Beckett, less goofy Castle. I know in TV everything is possible, up to a point at least, but is this something the producers have ever hinted at doing? — Trenton
Matt Roush: Sounds like a great idea, the kind of Moonlighting-style fantasy stunt that would suit this show very nicely. (Also sounds like something that's the stuff of fan fiction, but I'm not opening that door.) I haven't heard that the show is planning something like this; the closest they've come so far is bringing in Laura Prepon as the actress playing Nikki Heat in a movie adaptation of the books. Bones dipped from this fantasy role-playing well a while back, which may keep Castle from doing it anytime soon so it doesn't look like they're copying. But I always like it when Beckett's persona gets confused with Castle's Nikki creation, so why not?
Question: TV Guide Magazine's recent article about Castle posed a great question: Why aren't more people watching the show? I just can't understand why it's not a huge hit. Castle has all the standards of the day for a hit: very attractive people solving crimes. It is currently the show I look forward to watching most. The writing and acting are excellent and it is just so much fun. I love that it is character rather than case-driven and doesn't take itself too seriously, unlike other procedurals. Rick Castle is easily one of my favorite TV characters. The recent episode dealing with the murder of Beckett's mom highlights everything that is great about the show. So why does Castle seem like a largely ignored show? — Amy
Matt Roush: Maybe our current cover story can help turn that perception around. The fact is, as enjoyable as Castle is, it's one of many shows in an oversaturated genre that is dominated mostly by CBS blockbusters. Castle does just fine for ABC, and tends to flourish even more when Dancing With the Stars is in season, and if there are big storylines and stunts coming, I'm sure we'll give them proper coverage. But with episodic procedurals, it can be very easy to take them for granted week in and week out. Doesn't mean we don't enjoy them.
Question: For the most part, I'm really enjoying Hawaii Five-0, even though the writing seems uneven at times, but then so it is with most procedurals. I have to ask, though: Is it just me or is Scott Caan being given the meatiest material to work with? In nearly back-to-back episodes, his character had a "personal crisis" to deal with, which basically separated him from the regular procedural element of the script, thereby giving Scott a chance to develop his character and shine a bit. I don't see that happening with any other role, even the McGarrett character. Is this all happening because the network gave orders to give Scott more material so they could ride his Golden Globe nomination, or do you think the writers just haven't figured out how to write properly for the other three leads? And while we're talking about undeveloped characters, how awful is it that the wonderful Daniel Dae Kim is basically relegated to saying "copy that" every episode and fiddling with tech stuff? What a waste of talent! When does Chin get his turn to shine, or Kono? I know that the producers have promised more McGarrett-centric episodes, but does that mean more scenes of Steve jumping through windows or showing off his SEAL skills, or does it mean that Alex O'Loughlin actually gets some good material too? My one and only hope as far as the McGarrett character is concerned is that his uber-annoying, whiny sister stay on the mainland and away from Hawaii permanently. I know that's a long shot, but we can hope. — Rachel
Matt Roush: Seems to me that Scott Caan's "Danno" character broke out long before the Golden Globes nod, and I don't imagine that has much to do with the show's creative direction, or lack thereof. Is it really such a surprise that the comic fish-out-of-water sidekick to the brooding all-business/all-action leading man pops out from an ensemble like this? Points well taken that Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park have been woefully underused, and their characters seriously underdeveloped. But in the big picture of a franchise like this, it's still early days.
Question: I understand that networks select midseason replacements in case their new programs don't garner good ratings. However, in a case like CBS, where they give full-season pickups for all of their shows, wouldn't it be best to hold the midseason replacements until the following fall? It seems to be that all of the shuffling CBS had to do this winter (switching Blue Bloods to Wednesday and then back to Friday, a new timeslot for The Defenders and then ending the show in March) is detrimental. It only confuses the audience who has no idea when their show is on. It seems to me that CBS programming did a really bad job this year. They green-light shows and then they shuffle the schedule to make room for replacements that aren't needed. — Mary
Matt Roush: Some interesting observations here, and it points to the fact that CBS, unlike almost any other network, is a victim of its own success. I tend to give CBS programmers credit for not simply coasting season after season on a cushion of long-running hits. Consistency is important and valuable to the brand, but complacency has a down side of edging into cultural stagnation. CBS knows it has to keep pushing to develop the next generation of hits, which is why even during a season as successful as this one, CBS tests the waters with new shows and new time periods. Holding this year's midseason hopefuls until fall isn't a very viable strategy, considering that all of the networks are currently developing a new batch of shows for consideration for next season. Regarding the month-long move of Blue Bloods to Wednesdays: That was an experiment to see if it would break out on a weeknight, and you may be right that it may not have accomplished much beyond confusion. The Defenders, though, was probably always fated to move to Fridays to make room for the Criminal Minds spin-off.
Question: Last week, Glee hit a new low. To say it's been uneven since the original 13 episodes is an understatement, but as bad as some episodes have been, I was unprepared for just how awful "Blame It on the Alcohol" turned out. Glee's decline reminds me of Heroes. In both cases, the first seasons were extremely entertaining, even taking into account both shows had obvious problem areas. In the second seasons, the problem areas overtook and defined the shows with only occasional flickers of what was so entertaining just one year earlier. I can tell you why Glee is bad from a viewer's perspective, using this episode as an example: bad song choices (all of a sudden, the previous week's Justin Bieber songs seem fantastic!), confusing mixed messages, inconsistent and unlikable characterizations, and hideous 1970s bridesmaid dresses worn by an underage hostess. I could go on and on, but I'm sure you get the drift.
My question to you is this: Why is Glee so bad now from an insider's perspective? I don't understand the decision-making process that could lead to such a steep dip in quality so quickly. Does the show's popularity go to the creators' heads? Are they surrounded by "yes" men and lose the ability to collaborate? Or are these just shows with a limited shelf life and any continuation is bound to stink. One last observation. At least the viewing public had the good sense to stop watching Heroes after it got bad. With Glee pulling bigger numbers now than last year, viewers are rewarding the poor creative decisions, so I see little hope of it getting better. I suppose an obvious explanation is that (as the popularity of "reality" shows proves) what entertains me is very different than that of the general public. — Lou
Matt Roush: I think many people still like the idea of Glee and are glad there's a place on TV for such an original series, even when the weekly experience can be so maddening. They like the music more or less — although I agree with you that, besides the Rachel-Blaine duet, there was nothing from last week's episode I was tempted to download — and fans seem to be able to tolerate the chaotic excesses and ridiculous inconsistencies for the moments of magic that still occur now and again. It's a mess, but for me it's still a fascinating mess. (Even in the best episodes, there's usually something that irks me, and even in the most irksome episodes, I can usually find a moment or two of bliss.) But you're wondering how something can go so obviously off the rails, and I fall back on the argument that it's hard to imagine many shows that would be more difficult to produce than this weekly musical. Ryan Murphy for better or worse is an auteur pursuing his own peculiar vision, and there is a sense that Glee is operating in its own pop-culture bubble and will be given a long leash (possibly to hang itself?) as long as its popularity sustains.
Question: What's the future for Lights Out? It is such a well-produced show with Warren Leight at the helm. I'm afraid this is another one-year wonder with such low ratings. I hope they at least get him to the fight. — Douglas
Matt Roush: Too early to tell, but the good news about even the lowest-rated show on a network like FX is that you can guarantee you'll get to the end of that season's story. (As sad as it was for Terriers to only get one season, it was a very full season, and a satisfying experience for those who went on the ride.) Which means that all 13 episodes of Lights Out will air, and in the April 5 finale, you will get to see Lights and Reynolds face off for the heavyweight title.
Question: We know that The Cape is done, and that V, The Event and No Ordinary Family are on life support. What are the chances of a season-ending wrap-up on the programs? I really hate when they leave things up in the air. — Dennis
Matt Roush: In most of these cases, the best we can probably hope for is that the writers will wrap up some part of the story or arc so the fans can be satisfied with at least that much resolution. Given the precarious state of each of these series, it would be foolish for the producers to think that ending everything with a huge cliffhanger would somehow force the networks to bring them back for another season. That tends to result only in mass viewer frustration. At the same time, I doubt many shows in their first season would produce an actual "series" finale type of episode. The best approach would be to bring some part of the big-picture story to an end, while leaving the basic premise open-ended in case the miracle of renewal occurs. The times we've actually seen this happen, though, are far and few between.
That's all for now. And I'm away for the next week, so there won't be another Ask Matt column until later in March. But please keep those questions and comments coming in to firstname.lastname@example.org, and in the meantime, follow me on Twitter!
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