Ask Matt: Sitcom Scheduling, HIMYM, Leverage, Big Bang, Homeland, Parenthood and More
Dan Byrd and Courteney Cox
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Question: Now that Happy Endings and Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23 have been banished to Sundays nights to wither away, isn't this a lesson we all saw coming by piling on sitcoms against each other on Tuesdays? I can potentially see ABC saving Happy Endings to prolong its syndication opportunities, but both shows were buried without much support (premiering in late October) and ABC seems to have gone down the Cougar Town route again. Apart from protected golden child Modern Family and reliable The Middle, ABC has a poor record of keeping their sitcoms on the air over the last several years, and now we have two more to add to the long list here. It's only a matter of time before Suburgatory enjoys a similar fate. Throwing them opposite hot thing New Girl and a Matthew Perry vehicle Go On seemed foolish on ABC's part.
Speaking of Go On, (which has grown on me), considering it has done well and seems awfully similar to Community, why couldn't NBC have capitalized by pairing the two together? It could have given Community a fighting chance rather than again (theme alert here) be banished to NBC's low-rated Thursday nights where it's sure to not crack a 2.0 [rating in the 18-49] demographic. Some great sitcoms out there, but they all seem to have lost confidence from their networks. Isn't stability supposed to be the key for viewers? What's with these moronic moves? — Chris
Matt Roush: Before we start with ABC, let me use this as an opportunity to give a Happy New Year toast to Cougar Town, and plug its return this Tuesday (10/9c) on TBS, which rescued this deeply silly show from its former network's inexplicable neglect. As for those left behind, the double-running of ABC's sitcoms on Sundays and Tuesdays is only a temporary stopgap (at least for now), but there's no doubt the logjam of sitcoms on Tuesdays in the 9/8c hour wasn't beneficial to these Wednesday outcasts. The dominoes really began to fall when ABC pushed Cougar Town out of the Wednesday lineup, seeking (in vain) a show that would hold on to more of Modern Family's huge audience. The network is also looking to expand its comedy presence on other nights, which is understandable, and while ABC is having modest success on Fridays with its "TGIF"-flavored retro sitcoms, the edgier Tuesday shows didn't fare so well against so much competition, and getting a late start didn't help.
Regarding NBC: I'm just glad Community isn't airing on Fridays (the original plan), and given what a miracle this fourth season is, I'm not going to chide the network on how it's being programmed. Putting the show back on Thursdays won't grow its audience — which was never likely to happen anyway — but at least we're used to it being there. As far as stability, it makes more sense to me for NBC to keep supporting The New Normal (which has really grown on me) by letting it continue to air alongside a modest breakout like Go On. And while we're doing New Year's shout-outs: Belated congrats to Normal co-creator Ryan Murphy on becoming a father, life imitating art here.
Question: How I Met Your Mother is coming back for another season running on fumes, and Leverage is cancelled? Sometimes I hate television. — Rick
Matt Roush: On the contrary, sounds to me like you love television, despite how hard they sometimes make it for us. At least the Leverage producers were wise enough to see the writing on the wall and provided a more-or-less happy ending with a clever finale. And yes, few things are more depressing than watching a show like Mother refuse to acknowledge when it's past time to take a final bow. The very least we can now hope for is that they'll decide not to keep the tease going into a 10th season. Enough already.
Question: On The Big Bang Theory, everyone has a last name except Penny. Why is that? Even the episode of her father coming to visit and Penny asking Leonard to play that they were still together, the credits only listed the character of her father as "Wade," no last name. If she does have one, can you tell me what it is? — Tootie
Matt Roush: That's a trade secret for now, though the producers have said they will ultimately reveal Penny's last name. My theory is that, unlike the accomplished brainiacs she lives among, Penny hasn't yet truly made a name for herself — her only badge right now is the one she wears on her Cheesecake Factory uniform (first names only) — but once she does, that's when we're all likely to find out what it is.
Question: As The Mob Doctor spirals down the drain, I'm wondering if the wonderful Jordana Spiro will get another chance at a major network series. I watched that mediocre show solely because of her and think that in the right vehicle she could be really special. Thoughts? — Greg
Matt Roush: This falls under the heading, "That's still on?" (although after tonight, it won't be): I doubt anyone will hold the failure of The Mob Doctor against those unlucky enough to be enacting those scripts. Jordana Spiro has already proven she can carry a comedy (My Boys), and from what little I saw of this loser, she was one of the few good things about it. So yes, whether in comedy or drama, network or cable, I'm sure you haven't seen the last of her. Even the biggest stars have flops on their resume. Just ask George Clooney.
Question: While the naysayers may complain about the soapier elements of Homeland, I've been riveted from start to finish, and I think the redemption of Brody and set-up for Season 3 was genius. Every time I think I know where this show is going, it completely surprises me and changes the game again. I'm more than happy to hang on for the ride, especially in the hands of Damian Lewis, Claire Danes and this wonderful cast. Have to give a special mention to Rupert Friend, who was a terrific addition. Hoping Quinn will be back next season to help Carrie clear Brody's name — a Herculean task if ever there was one after that video went public! Sure, it's all far-fetched, but I can happily hand-wave any number of implausibilities when I'm invested in the characters. The emotions on Homeland ring true and I care deeply about these people. Can't wait to see where the show takes us next. — Keira
Matt Roush: Given that I put the show atop my Top 10 list for the second consecutive year, I obviously agree. The jam-packed first half of the season, building to the remarkable interrogation episode and breakdown of Brody into his new life as TV's most compromised double agent, was so astounding I was willing to ride along with some of the crazier twists toward the end — although I'm still puzzling over how Carrie and Brody made it out of the bomb site undetected. Some critics despaired when Homeland began to feel too much like 24, or when the improbable love story of Carrie and Brody took center stage, but I'm on board with these characters and these stars. And while I'll approach the third season with a bit more skepticism and trepidation, I'd be lying if I said it wasn't the show I'll most be looking forward to come next fall.
Question: Did the writers of Parenthood really expect us to believe in last week's episode that Monica Potter's character Kristina is only 34? At the hotel when the guy is hitting on her, she tells him she is really 34. She is the mother of three, Haddie the oldest is in college, do the math. While Monica is a capable actress, not even Meryl Streep could sell 34. — Fiona
Matt Roush: Let's cut the bald lady some slack, OK? I loved her impromptu getaway with Adam, cutting the tension of the cancer line with some welcome romantic comedy. Given that she first tried to pass herself off as 27, I chose to believe Kristina was still playing pretend when she let the smitten Ryan Hansen (who's keeping busy these days, here and on 2 Broke Girls, Wedding Band — always good to see him) believe she was 34. For me, it was all part of the fantasy, because I did the instant calculations as well, and while I'm not up on her and Adam's back story (I was a late convert to this show), I never got the vibe that they started their family while still in high school.
Question: This year on Glee, we have Rachel Berry and Kurt Hummel in New York City at a performing arts school, but most of the songs are being sung by the new kids in Lima. Now that Kurt is officially a NYADA student with Rachel, do you think that will change? I don't understand how Glee creates this big performing arts school, but Rachel and Kurt are singing less than ever. I'd love to see group performances that take advantage of all the talented NYADA students. We've seen hints of what they could be like with "All That Jazz." Since the new kids have had their turn in the spotlight, do you think we will see more development for Rachel and Kurt, and hear them sing more often? When you have a great vocalist like Lea Michele at a performing arts school, I expect the chance to hear her sing the most difficult and best songs. That's what made "Swan Song" one of the few episodes this year I've really loved. — Amy
Matt Roush: I would expect we'll see more, not fewer, musical moments for Rachel and even Kurt, now that they'll both enrolled. But given these outsiders' low rank on the academy's social and professional totem pole, it seems realistic (not a word one applies to Glee without risk) that they would have to fight for each solo or production number, which might explain why Rachel hasn't got quite as many close-ups this season. (Still more than most freshmen, I'd bet.) It doesn't surprise me that no one seems entirely satisfied by the balance on Glee this season. It's perpetually a work in progress, which even when it irritates me keeps me watching.
Question: For quite a few seasons, Survivor has been putting three contestants in the final tribal council. While it hasn't happened yet, it's possible there could be a tie. What would they do if there were a tie? Would there be two "sole survivors" for that season, or would the contestants have to do some sort of challenge to determine the winner? — Nate
Matt Roush: I consulted our in-house Survivor expert on this subject, and was told that Jeff Probst has teased in interviews that they do have a plan in place for just such an eventuality, but until it happens, they won't reveal what it is. I kind of miss the days when it came down to just two dominant players.
Question: Clearly the ratings this year for The Good Wife have been falling. And while many criticize the plots, I really think that it is that lousy time slot on Sunday evenings following football. Now that CBS actually lists the games as ending at 7:30/6:30c on double-header nights, the programs that follow are often delayed by an hour. I think that CBS can keep 60 Minutes and The Amazing Race, but the rest of the evening should have reruns of half-hour programs that can be canceled at the last minute. I am sure that the local affiliates would welcome this, too. The dramas, meanwhile, should have better time slots. Like Mondays? — Hanna
Matt Roush: It would be a plus for CBS to have more flexibility in its Sunday schedule, the way Fox does with its animation block, but I'm not sure how pleased the affiliates would be with a slate of reruns leading into the local news on such a competitive night, even if it meant airing on time. CBS has tried comedies on Sundays from time to time, rarely with any luck in recent years, although throwing in a Big Bang Theory repeat on nights when The Mentalist is in danger of not starting until almost 11/10c might not be the worst idea. But this issue has dogged CBS for as long as it has carried late-afternoon NFL games. It's nothing new, and the network understands the impact overruns have on their shows and how annoyed the audience is by them. It's part of doing business, and there's no business on TV bigger than football these days. To your final suggestion, it's unlikely CBS would do anything to disrupt its long-established comedy presence on Mondays. The network is lousy with dramas (which isn't to say they're all lousy), and a few inevitably end up on Sundays. But given that The Good Wife is a prestige item that isn't expected to draw an NCIS-size crowd, Sundays may be the best place to air it.
Question: I'm not sure who is still watching Grey's Anatomy, but I am glad to say I still am. Grey's Anatomy shows why it is still going strong with great acting, which blew me away recently in the form of Owen and Cristina. The miscommunication and her finally understanding the reason Owen decided to go through with the divorce was one of the most must-see TV moments for me in I don't even know how long. I can even say I am enjoying the new interns as they find their way through the pitfalls at Seattle Grace Mercy West. Guest star Neve Campbell (I've been a fan since her Party of Five days) was just the icing on the cake as Derek's pushy sister, reminding Meredith that she married into a family, not just the man. I'm happy to see the show still churning out these top moments after all these years. — Alice
Matt Roush: Actually, Grey's Anatomy is doing just fine, especially considering how long it's been on. And it's still often one of the high points of my Thursday night viewing after all these years — in fact, when I remember how disenchanted I had become with ER by its ninth season, I'm amazed how well this is holding up. Agreed about Sandra Oh and Kevin McKidd as Cristina and Owen; they sell every stage of their turbulent relationship with maximum emotional impact. I'm less sold so far on the new batch of interns, but maybe they'll grow on me. It's not like I won't give them time.
Question: Any plans to bring back William Devane to Revenge? I think that he should come back as a regular. And now that 666 Park Avenue has been canceled, I think the powers that be should add Vanessa Williams to the cast as Ashley Davenport's well-to-do mom, who sets her sights on William Devane's character. — Brian
Matt Roush: Have you considered writing for Revenge? These all sound like fine ideas, better than what I've seen so far this season. I don't deal in spoilers, but I haven't seen anything suggesting Devane will be back anytime soon, though he'd certainly be welcome.
Question: I was disappointed in the comment made of the canceled show Animal Practice. I am one of many who found the show refreshing and humorous. There were no guns, beatings, lawyers, sex, swearing, etc. Enough of those drama shows on other channels. It's nice to just sit back and be amused by comical actors and no violence. Dr. Rizzo deserves her/his own show. With all the horrible fatal news that we are subject to, I personally wish there were more shows like Animal Practice. — Cindy
Matt Roush: I take it you're referring to our "Jeer" in the year-end Cheers & Jeers package. But really, what did you expect? The show was one of the quickest flops and most widely panned of the fall. That's what we call easy pickins. Even so, I've done this long enough to know there's always some fan base for even the most abused show, but in this case, we were also dealing with the hubris of a network that went so far as to interrupt the Olympics Closing Ceremony for an unnecessary "sneak peek" at these monkeyshines. And while I understand why some could appreciate a show like Animal Practice as a safe haven, praising a show for what it isn't doesn't make up for the steaming mediocrity of what it was.
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