Ask Matt: Thrones, Mad Men, NCIS, Rumpelstiltskin and More
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Question: With Game of Thrones wrapping up, and with last week's utterly spellbinding "Blackwater" episode, do you think the show has a better chance of being nominated for and winning an Emmy for best drama? I know the powers that be don't usually go for this genre, but I find it my most anticipated hour of the week. Additionally, besides an Emmy nod for Peter Dinklage (who I feel sure will get one), what do you think of Lena Headey's chances for best actress in a drama? She was absolutely outstanding this year, especially in the "Blackwater" episode. — Tracy
Matt Roush: The "Blackwater" episode was a high-water mark for the second season, no question, and is likely to clinch the series' shot for another Best Drama nomination — and it was Peter Dinklage/Tyrion's shining moment as well, so last year's winner is almost guaranteed another nod as well. Lena Headey/Cersei hit a personal best in the episode, but even though as the villainess of the story she gets some of the best female material this side of little Arya, that's a much longer shot. Even if the show is nominated, as it should be, the odds work against it winning, given the overall strength of the drama field — including at least one new breakthrough in Showtime's gripping Homeland — and the general industry bias against the fantasy genre (although TV has never seen one on this sort of epic scale). But for me, the greatest drawback of this season when it comes to awards recognition is the sprawling nature of the narrative — which is a function of the source material to which it's being mostly faithful. The "Blackwater" episode (written by George R.R. Martin, reinforcing its importance) was so effective because it had such a distinct focus on one story and locale, not cutting away from icy wastes to desert to outpost to city to outpost, a tendency that makes many episodes seem such a diffuse hodgepodge they don't always add up to the sum of their parts. (But what dazzling parts they can be.) Like I said, this comes with the territory, and the scope can be both a strength in its grandeur and a weakness in its lack of cohesion. But when it comes to the Emmys, this sort of thing is rarely a plus.
Question: I was wondering why we never see you list Game of Thrones on your short list of possible Best Drama contenders with Breaking Bad, Homeland and Mad Men. I found "Blackwater" to be the most intense and enjoyable hour of TV all year. Can an "Imp" get some love on here? — Shane
Matt Roush: Never is a pretty strong word. You're responding to a comment in last week's column in which I was discussing the current season of Mad Men (which has won four consecutive Best Drama Emmys and always has to be considered a front runner), in which I suggested that Homeland and Breaking Bad had an equally strong claim on the, um, throne. That doesn't rule out Thrones as a possible contender, and I expect it will be nominated again. I would certainly prefer to see it on the list rather than the ultimately underwhelming second season of Boardwalk Empire. Something's got to give, because the category has to make room for Homeland and PBS' Downton Abbey, and I hope it isn't Thrones.
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Question: After watching the past two episodes of Mad Men and finding myself shocked by them, I have to wonder what they can do in next Sunday's season finale that could top them. Season finales are often meant to keep us "hanging" till next season perhaps with something that shocks, but after this week it almost seems as if the final episode of the season might be anti-climactic. What do you think? — Dee
Matt Roush: There's really no way to know with Mad Men, is there? And that uncertainty and unpredictability is one of the greatest things about the show. [SPOILER ALERT follows for those who haven't caught Sunday's episode yet.] This isn't the sort of drama that tends to play by the normal linear TV rules — what other show would have Peggy walk out the door last week and not make a single reference to her an episode later? — but in past seasons, the finale has given us such game-changers as (in the most recent years) Don's proposal to Megan and the firm reinventing itself as SCDP, so the biggest surprise would be for there not to be a surprise in the final hour. That said, "topping" itself isn't really the point, any more than it is on many HBO series, which (like Game of Thrones' afore-mentioned "Blackwater" episode) often present their biggest twists right before the finale. We're still reeling from the controversial events of the Joan/Peggy episode, and while we knew Lane's story wouldn't end well, I'm not sure anyone predicted it would be this tragic. The scene in which he's terminated by Don couldn't have been more painful to watch, exceeded only by Lane's reaction to his wife buying a surprise Jaguar — how O. Henry was that twist? — his pathetically failed suicide attempt in the car and then the grisly denouement in the office. Still-creepy Glen may have hit it a bit on the nose when he griped to Don in the elevator, "Why does everything turn out so crappy?" But whatever Matthew Weiner (Glen's real-life dad) has in store for us in the finale that we don't see coming, I'm betting we won't be calling it crappy.
Question: Who's leaving NCIS? The finale had everyone down and out, especially the ME. — Connie
Matt Roush: Even if anyone is leaving, and even if I knew who, there's no way I'd tell you in this space. Once again, this is not a spoiler column. (On occasion, if a spoiler has hit critical mass and no longer qualifies as such, I will sometimes address it, but rarely.) In this case, I will quote from our "Burning Questions Answered" issue, currently on stands and a must-read for fans who want this spring's cliffhangers put in context. So consider this a SPOILER ALERT before I continue. In our NCIS item, executive producer Gary Glasberg is quoted as saying, regarding Duckie's situation: "I'm not gonna massage it. David [McCallum] signed a contract to come back. The goal is to give him an opportunity to play something different. We talked about Ducky's heart attack for a long time." And while some of the cast's contracts are still being negotiated, we report that you shouldn't expect any of the principal characters to have been mortally wounded in the HQ's explosion. "You'll see caution tape and repairs, but the building survived," says Glasberg.
Question: [from Twitter]: Why no Emmy prediction for Robert Carlyle? The man is acting his heart and soul out in Once Upon a Time. For me, he is pure "gold!" — Joanna
Matt Roush: This question is referring to my Emmy predictions as one of the "experts" (their word) on the GoldDerby awards website. An imperfect science, to be sure, and these are my predictions, not always my preferences. And I reserve the right to change my predictions and rankings should I see fit. The category of supporting actor in a drama was especially tricky, and I'm already considering flipping Breaking Bad's Giancarlo Esposito to the top of the list (although John Slattery has killed this season on Mad Men, and at some point the Emmy voters are going to have to start rewarding some of the actors on this show). Robert Carlyle is displaying wicked range as Rumpelstiltskin/Mr. Gold, and he's easily one of my favorite characters and performances on Once Upon a Time. Given the show's success, it may get more Emmy attention than a typical fantasy series tends to attract in its first year. But given how strong and deep so many drama ensembles are these days, it may be a while until any of the cast is singled out. Should he break through, it would be a pleasant surprise (depending on who gets cut to make room for him, that is).
Question: I just read the recent column where the questioner disagreed with your assessment of New Girl being the best new comedy of the season. I just have to say I couldn't disagree more. I was hardly the target demo of either show, but I watched both shows all season long and there's just no contest. New Girl is highly original and even subversive at times, which I never expected. Zooey Deschanel is more than just her cutesy persona, and she has surprising comedic chops, and I really find the entire cast entertaining. In fact, I find the show mistitled because I think her roommates are the real heart of the show, and there's plenty there for just about any viewer. However, when it comes to 2 Broke Girls, there's just not much there there. I'm always excited to see the criminally under-utilized Garrett Morris get pulled off the TV trash heap, but other than him the supporting cast is an atrocious mix of paper-thin stereotypes, and I don't care much for the Caroline character or the actress who plays her. The show's only saving grace, and the only reason I actually watch it, is the stunning Kat Dennings and her character's oh-so-filthy mouth. I think that the crass nature of the show definitely has a place. TV is way too full of female characters with a proverbial stick up you know where, so I hope they don't attempt to tone it down the way you and other critics have suggested. However, if they can't come up with some better storylines and bit players, Dennings' ample assets and potty mouth will only keep me entertained for so long. I'm curious though, if you put the show-runner hat on for either show, how would you alter their courses for future success? — Jason
Matt Roush: I definitely wouldn't have them tone down Max (Dennings), because there'd be no reason to watch. It's not really my job to play backseat showrunner, but with 2 Broke Girls, expanding the universe of the girls (and I think Beth Behrs is just fine as Caroline) beyond the diner to give them new and more appealing characters to play off would be a good start. Max needs to come up against someone of equal snark-itude who might actually leave her speechless. I wouldn't mind there being more opportunities for the cupcake duo to interact with Caroline's former high society world to both test and strengthen their friendship. With New Girl, I'd still like to see more comic definition to Winston's character, but otherwise, as long as they find new situations and new romantic interests that let the full ensemble play off each other, I'm likely to be happy.
Question: With the cancellation of CSI: Miami, CBS now has only two CSI shows left (the original and NY). A year from now, there's a good chance that one or both shows might be canceled. So my question: Do you think both shows should look at this season as possibly being their last? — Allan
Matt Roush: CSI: NY has been looking over its shoulder for at least the last two seasons and barely escaped the ax this year, so that's certainly the most vulnerable show. But the mothership seems to have earned a new lease on life with the successful recasting of its leads (Ted Danson and Elisabeth Shue), and while its day will come inevitably (as it did for original Law & Order), that isn't likely to happen next year or, I'd guess, for a while to come. Even NY could be spared again if it continues to hold its own on Fridays and CBS doesn't find a better replacement. These shows get more expensive by the year, but they also generate a lot of syndication money for the company. It's always hard to predict just when CBS will let one of its long-running hits go.
Question: I'm late to the discussion but I agree with you about Awake and its finale, as you tweeted: "I'm still not sure just what it is I saw, but I'm sure glad I saw it." Perplexed gratitude is about the sum of it. Where was it all going? I've no idea, but that was neat. My own assumption is that he was still in an alterna-world and that actual reality would take a different path than either of the green or orange iterations. (Also, kinda cool that I can use my experience of Lost and Fringe to help me talk about this show.) I've always loved shows that are a bit twisty and unpredictable (loved the original The Prisoner decades ago, for example), and I find it frustrating that people (network execs included, apparently) have so little patience with the storytelling process. I get it, most people aren't looking for a vicarious acid trip when they tune in, but I do think there should be more room for thought-provoking, long-arc storytelling amongst all the gimmicks and cop outs that populate the dial in an ordinary season.
As I've said before, Awake was the show that Touch would like to be, but I did manage to watch both shows to the end. Guess we'll figure out more about Touch next season, but I do hope Martin has more to do than run around after Jake all day. Sure, the show has an interesting idea behind it, but why put Kiefer Sutherland on the show (and in practically every scene) with so little to do? I get it, different show, different character, but I do think if Jack Bauer were Jake's dad, he'd find a better way, or at least give us something more interesting to watch. — Anna L
Matt Roush: I hope to catch up on the Touch finale soon — kinda busy screening fall pilots and new summer TV right now — but I'll cop to bailing on it several weeks after it began its regular run. I responded quite positively to the pilot, and was on board with even the most convenient global coincidences at least for a while, but like you, I grew awfully exasperated after one episode consisted of nothing but Martin running around after Jake and yelling, "Jake! Honey! Jake! Come here! Honey! Jake! Don't go there! Jake! What are you doing? Jake!" (If Keifer got paid by the "Jake" in that episode, he could have retired already.) I also agree that on its own terms, ratings aside, Awake was a more successful creative experiment than Touch, but we'll see if the move to Friday frees it up the way it did Fringe to do its own thing. I'll regard Awake fondly forever as a 13-episode mind trip. The comparison to The Prisoner is a good one. I rewatched the original when AMC attempted (unsuccessfully) to remake it, and had much the same reaction. Enjoyed it greatly, was mystified constantly. I'd say it was way ahead of its time (which it was), but here we are in 2012, and Awake still couldn't make it past 13.
Question: I'm very curious about the new USA Network show Graceland, starring one of my favorite Broadway performers, Aaron Tveit (Next to Normal, Catch Me If You Can). He's always been wasted in TV roles (Tripp on Gossip Girl, for example — although most roles on that show are a waste the past few seasons), and I'd love to see him in a quality program. (Can't wait to see his Enjolras in the big-screen Les Miserables this December!) Has USA picked up Graceland? Since they reportedly showed the trailer at the Upfronts, I assume it means they have, but there doesn't seem to be any official word. The premise — young, hot law enforcement officers from different agencies live together in a beach house and undoubtedly solve a new crime every week — could be interesting. Given Aaron's singing talent, it's a shame it's not a musical, but I suppose Cop Rock taught us all a valuable lesson about mixing those genres. Anyway, any info you have would be most appreciated. — Keira
Matt Roush: From what I can tell, although USA Network did show a clip from Graceland at their Upfront, it hasn't yet been ordered beyond pilot to series, which doesn't mean it won't happen. USA has a fairly full slate of summer programming to launch in June and July, so they're probably in no rush. I've seen many of Tveit's stage performances, too, and agree he's a TV star waiting to happen. Maybe this will be the one.
Question: I'm surprised at all of the belly-aching about two shows in the same time slot or what show is on Sunday or why the NFL doesn't start games earlier. On Sunday for example, I always set the DVR to record The Good Wife for two hours. If it starts on time, fine; if it starts 50 minutes late due to golf or football, fine. I often record two shows simultaneously and watch a previously recorded show while they're broadcasting. Unless I'm traveling, I couldn't care less when shows are actually on. Am I not in the majority on this? — Colette
Matt Roush: You're probably in the majority of DVR owners and users, but there's still a substantial part of the audience that hasn't made that investment, and in the big picture, scheduling decisions still matter and often have an impact on a show's fate. (Not that The Good Wife is in any real danger, as long as it keeps up the quality.) And even DVR users, depending on the intensity of their TV habit, have reason to gripe when they have to adjust and add yet another program to record to an already crowded Sunday slate.
Question: I realize this issue has been discussed to death, but I think I have a new wrinkle: On the eight Sunday nights of each NFL season that CBS has the double-header, could CBS give 60 Minutes the week off? That way, the later game won't bump into CBS' Sunday schedule, and also no shortening of 60 Minutes (proposed by some viewers). As I'm reading/typing this, I'm pretty sure this won't happen, since those eight Sundays are during the crucial ratings sweeps periods, but it's an idea. Has this idea been floated to anyone at CBS/CBS News? — Eric
Matt Roush: I wouldn't be surprised if it has come up, but this is one of TV's most powerful institutions, and not that easy to push around. CBS still makes a lot of money off of 60 Minutes — its success and durability is why the networks began to look at their news divisions as a profit center (for better and often for worse). On those weeks when the overrun is particularly long (by as much as a full hour) and CBS decides to dump an entire episode from the lineup, they've leaned toward scrapping one of the scripted dramas from later in the night (usually the one airing at 10/9c) and replacing it on the West Coast with a repeat. 60 Minutes tends to be the most timely and news-driven of the weekly newsmags, and many weeks putting a key segment or the entire episode on ice for a week wouldn't be feasible. Even if fans of whichever other show takes the hit that night might not agree.
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