Ask Matt: Sunday Logjam (Revenge Vs. Good Wife), Mother, Vampire Diaries
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Question: I have a question regarding whose idea was it to make Sundays packed full with TV shows? Revenge is now on after Once Upon a Time and goes against The Good Wife and The Mentalist — oh and of course football! I only have so much DVR space and time to use up and there are days I want to watch football instead of the shows. I did see that CBS changed the start times due to football, but to put Revenge and Once on the same night? Come on, man, that is not cool! Your thoughts? — Amy
Matt Roush: Sunday is traditionally the most-watched TV night of the week, so everyone wants to get in on the act, which is why so much signature programming gets scheduled on the night. No one wants to roll over for the competition, which does make for some tough choices. (And bleary eyes come Monday morning.) Football clearly dominates, but there's plenty to choose from among ABC's high-concept hours (also including 666 Park Avenue starting this week), Fox's animated hits, some of CBS' most distinguished programming (also including The Amazing Race) — and that doesn't even include cable, which starting this weekend includes Showtime's marquee powerhouses Dexter (revitalized this year) and the riveting Homeland, and in a few weeks AMC's blockbuster The Walking Dead. If you have a DVR, I assume you also have access to On Demand programming, which for a night like Sunday can be essential to be able to keep up with everything. It does seem an embarrassment of riches, doesn't it?
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Question: Confession first: I actually haven't watched How I Met Your Mother regularly for several years. But I've generally followed along because I like the characters and think the show is well-written. I just don't like being yanked around and manipulated for years. My question actually relates to that, however: I've read that this might be the last year and yet they haven't even introduced the mother yet? So, the plan is to introduce the woman... what? ... in the finale? This person who's supposed to be the love of Ted's life? That cheats viewers and feels like a cop-out to me. I think viewers who have been going along on this journey want to see something of the relationship itself for which the show is named. Are the writers afraid viewers won't think the "mother" relationship is better than Ted's other relationships, so they're avoiding the issue? I guess I expect more from an otherwise well-written show. It also feels like part of a larger TV-writer issue that I think of as the Moonlighting curse, where writers are so afraid that they can't write a relationship that will interest viewers, they put off getting the couple together until the last episode (See: Friends). I, for one, find that annoying. If I put in the time to watch a relationship develop, I want to see the actual relationship. Do you agree that HIMYM is making a mistake here, and do you agree with my larger premise? — Kirsten
Matt Roush: I'm tired of the tease as well. All last season we were strung along, asking us to wonder (and perhaps care) about who Barney was marrying — as if it wasn't fairly obvious that Robin was his intended all along. As the new season begins, there are so many annoying red herrings to be disposed of (Barney's and Robin's current squeezes, as well as Ted's latest), and I've pretty much lost patience and interest. The writer/producers do seem to be operating under the assumption that this could be the last season (while negotiating for an ill-advised ninth year), but as usual they're being coy about when and how the "mother" will be revealed. By coincidence, on this very same night (Mondays), Castle and Bones are demonstrating the fallacy of the so-called Moonlighting "curse," which seems to haunt any show that plays out sexual tension between its leads for any period of time. (For me, this is as tiresome a theory as the whole "jump the shark" thing.) Both romantic crime dramas are getting on with the story by putting their lead characters together (though not without complications), and it's about time. With Mother, the tease is embedded in the premise that we've been asked to go along with the feckless Ted on his various ill-fated romantic misadventures for way too many years, usually knowing in advance (starting with Robin) that his next crush isn't going to be "the one." So, really, what's the point? I agree that waiting until the very end to introduce "the one" will feel like a cheat, and also risks seeming anti-climactic. When we do finally meet her, will anyone actually still care?
Question: This summer I "discovered" The Vampire Diaries (thank you, Netflix Marathon Weekends). A few weeks removed from catching up on the whole thing, I realize I really didn't like Season 3 (kind of sad you have to extract yourself from the haze of binge watching to even figure out if you liked something or not!). My favorite thing about the show is mixing the supernatural with normal high-school and town shenanigans ("Founder's Day" being an excellent example of that). Seasons 1 and 2 had mythology and bad guys, but it still kept its focus on characters and the stakes weren't that high. Season 3, however, seemed like a complete tonal shift in the show. Not only did Stefan do things I couldn't ever imagine forgiving, I absolutely hate Klaus. I know he's a fan favorite, but I just don't get it. Maybe I'm spoiled now with the recent trend of glorifying the anti-hero (Dexter, Breaking Bad, etc.), but I guess I need my bad guys to have something to root for. I just find Klaus beyond obnoxious. Elijah, on the other hand, has the perfect mix of good and bad that makes you want him to stick around. I read that this next season will be less mythology-driven and more character-driven, and I'm hoping we'll get back to basics and to what made this show fun to watch (I always really liked the flashback episodes, and anything with Katherine). Anyway, I suppose my question is, as someone who champions this genre and stays somewhat up-to-date with this show, what did you think of Season 3, and what expectations do you have for this upcoming season? Based on your mail, am I alone in disliking last season so much? — Ryn
Matt Roush: My memory of most of Season 3 is colored and perhaps clouded by the game-changing way it ended. I have no problem with raising the stakes (so to speak) on a show like this, and bringing in the Originals to stir up trouble and taking Stefan to the darkest of dark sides — giving Elena even more pause in her decision regarding the brothers Salvatore — felt appropriate to the genre, although maybe it was played out too long. It may not have been my favorite season, but what happened to Elena in the finale makes me think Season 4 just might be. Either way, this is a show I enjoy without taking terribly seriously, so unlike a true classic like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I'm not sure I'll be picking favorite seasons or episodes. This one's all kind of a messy blur to me.
Question: My husband and I have been watching Perception and we have both been very impressed by Eric McCormack. He is doing a great job on this show and proving that he is a very good actor. What do you think of his portrayal and do you think he could get a nod at one of the award shows this year? - Celine
Matt Roush: My take is that Eric McCormack is doing terrific work on a show that's way too gimmicky for my taste. I did tune in for the last few episodes and was gratified to see them taking the Kelly Rowan character in a new direction, because few things grate on me more than the overused omniscient-ghost trick (hello, Boss), and this alone gives me hope for Season 2. I can't fault the star performance, though. His depiction of a tormented, manic genius is entertaining and dramatic, and if the character gets on my nerves at times, I figure he's meant to. Regarding the actor's prospects in the awards arena: That's a seriously crowded field for lead actors in drama series, so I'd say it's a long shot. Unlike the much-honored Tony Shalhoub from Monk (a performance and show I'm often reminded of watching Perception), I can't imagine him being able to submit this as a comedy performance. But having won an Emmy previously for comedy, McCormack is at least on the Emmy radar, so stranger things have happened.
Question: Any scoop on the new season of Homeland? I cannot wait!! I miss this show! — Mike
Matt Roush: Good news. When it comes back Sunday for the second season, it hasn't lost any of its ability to keep you on the edge of your seat. From a critic's point of view, that's as far as I'm willing to go in delivering "scoop," so let's just say that I still highly recommend Homeland (which was No. 1 on my 2011 Top 10 list), and watching Claire Danes and Damian Lewis struggle with their respective inner demons is as gripping as ever. Having screened the first two episodes, I will tell you that I was left shell-shocked at the risky twists they're taking, leaving me hanging in such a way that I can't imagine what will happen next or how they can sustain it for a full second season. This is exactly what I was hoping for. (My review will appear in this week's issue of TV Guide Magazine and a version will be posted online closer to premiere.)
Question: Any news on NBC and Mockingbird Lane? I had heard NBC had ordered more scripts, but NBC has not picked it up to series. If it does get picked up, will we see it at mid-season or not till next fall? - Sam
Matt Roush: From what I can tell, this is still a work in progress that has yet to get the official series green light, and what happens next may hinge on how NBC's fall lineup performs. The show's creator, Bryan Fuller, is also attached to NBC's Hannibal series, which is definitely slated for a midseason run and appears to be more of a priority. This bizarre-sounding reinvention of The Munsters is something that shouldn't be rushed to air, and so far hasn't been. The earliest it could air is mid-season, but the buzz it has already generated makes me think we'll see it eventually.
Question: Do you have any idea why the fall shows are starting a week later than normal this year? Are there going to be fewer episodes this season? I noticed that The Mentalist is going to be on Sundays this year. I am not sure how I feel about that. What is your opinion on it? Is The Mentalist doing badly in ratings? Is that why it was moved? — Susan
Matt Roush: Can't really say why the calendar worked out this way, but it won't affect the number of episodes produced. In fact, by so many shows not premiering until late September or early October — several (like ABC's highly anticipated Nashville) are being delayed a bit because of interruptions by presidential debates — this means we may see at least one week fewer of repeats along the way (or at least not coming quite as early for some shows). Regarding The Mentalist: This is not a punishment for a show running out of gas. CBS is hoping it will bring new life to the Sunday lineup, even factoring in (for Eastern and Central time periods) the football overruns. This network is well known for managing its assets strategically. Going into its fifth year, The Mentalist is a mature and proven hit with a loyal fan base that will likely follow it to the new night and time (with some inevitable erosion that won't be held against it), and if CBS gets several more seasons out of it there, it will look like a win. The network is more concerned about developing new hits, which is why they're giving Mentalist's Thursday time period to the very promising Elementary. And if it's a hit as it deserves to be, in four or five years it may find itself moving to Sundays to make room for the next big thing. That's how it works.
Question: I thought Damages had a strong finale, but don't you think it would have been cool if Tom Shayes and/or Ray Fiske would have visited Patty just like David visited Ellen? It would have made a more complete finish. — Dan
Matt Roush: You may be right — I actually felt much of the finale was anti-climactic, though not for this reason — although my tolerance for the ghost gimmick (as previously noted in the Perception item) makes me wary of overdoing it. That final lingering close-up of Patty in the limo, with so much going through her head about what she's lost in her zeal to win, said volumes without having to bring back the dead to lecture her. I think this will stick with me more.
Question: I noticed that with the popularity of The Mentalist, TV Guide Network made an effort to show Simon Baker's previous series, The Guardian, and I have enjoyed that very much. My question is: Now that there is a new Beauty and the Beast series coming to TV, will TV Guide Network make any effort to show the previous Beauty and the Beast series staring Ron Perlman and Linda Hamilton? It was my all-time favorite TV series. — Diana
Matt Roush: Haven't heard anything to suggest this, but what a great idea, if only to get the memory of The CW's botched version out of my head. I can't imagine this miscast, under-inspired reboot — think Barbie and the Beefcake — will pop enough to create a big demand for the haunting CBS original from the '80s, which had atmosphere, romantic chemistry and soulful lead performances, all of which are lacking here. Thankfully, the first series has been released on DVD, so take comfort in that.
Question: Since you had expressed interest in watching Oxygen's All the Right Moves, I was surprised that I haven't seen you write much about it. Did you watch it? Did you like it, if you did? I have enjoyed the dance sequences the most, but the behind-the-scenes work of putting together the company and its shows has often been compelling as well. — Frank
Matt Roush: I kept up with the show for a few weeks (although when push came to shove time-wise, I was more inclined to watch the real deal with So You Think You Can Dance). This kind of reality show, where so much conflict seems generated for the camera, is far from my favorite thing, but it helps that I'm a fan of Travis Wall and the other dancers (including glimpses of many SYTYCD alums), and I was intrigued by getting a window into their world as they all try to make a name for themselves. For me, though, the last few weeks have been about preparing for the fall season, and now that it's underway, there really isn't time in my life for shows like this, which is why it's fallen off my radar. Nothing personal. By Oxygen standards, it's a keeper.
Question: I have a wonky sort of question. Lots of times TV shows have cliffhangers that naturally pick up right where they left off in the new season. My question is whether they actually film the next episode and hold it till the new season or if they wait until said show starts filming again? It would seem like it would be a hardship to have all the outside actors available who aren't regulars and under strict contractual obligation. I have wondered about this for a long time, so if you have any inside insight, it would be awesome. — Trenton
Matt Roush: When a show wraps for the season, even with a cliffhanger, that's usually all they wrote — and all they'll film until after hiatus. When it comes to these anecdotal questions, you never want to say never, because you'll always regret it, and I'm sure there may be some instances when an extra scene may be filmed to insert into the next season's opener to resolve some aspect of an action cliffhanger. But generally speaking, by the time everyone gets to the end of a grueling season, the last thing they're prepared or willing to do is to start immediately filming the next. As a for-instance, there's a fascinating detail in William Keck's recent interview with Ellen Pompeo that describes how Grey's Anatomy returns to the scene — but not really — of last season's wrenching plane-crash cliffhanger. I would think this is how it works in most cases.
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