Matthew McConaughey, Woody Harrelson
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Question: True Detective is by far my new favorite show! The acting, storyline, intensity (especially last week's episode on Feb. 9) is incredible!
I've heard that this is just a miniseries. However, with the good ratings and reviews as it is getting, any word on a possible renewal of a second season? - Mike
Matt Roush: Though it hasn't been officially renewed yet, that seems to be just a formality at this point, especially since HBO has signed the show's creator Nic Pizzolatto to a two-year deal. Which means more True Detective, although whatever happens, it will be a very different True Detective in seasons to come. Because this is one of those franchises that occupies the territory somewhere between miniseries and anthology, not unlike American Horror Story but potentially with less of a repertory ensemble feel. If/when True Detective returns, it will be with new stars, new characters, a new locale and new focus, so don't get too attached to Rust Cohle and Marty Hart, although I understand why you would be.
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Question: Everyone thought the Feb. 9 episode of True Detective had the coolest ending, that six minute one-take scene where they raided the house for ... wait, why were they there again? Everyone is so impressed with the cinematography and I do give props there, but the story itself is lacking for me. What did you think of that scene, that episode and the show so far as a whole? I'm a mystery fanatic and I love the acting on this show, so that's why I'm still watching, but I'm considering giving up. It's almost like they're trying too hard on this show. Sometimes the characters are talking and I have no idea what the h--- they're talking about. Five or 10 minutes will go by and I don't understand what's happening. I don't even remember the name of the woman whose murder they're trying to solve, that's how confused this show has got me. Is anyone else out there feeling like this? What are critics saying? And for the love of God, what is that woman's name?! Ahh! — Samantha
Matt Roush: I'm curious if your ambivalence is as deep after the most recent episode, in which it became even more evident just how fascinatingly unreliable this story's narrators are. (And for the record, the victim's name is Dora Lange, but if you think this story is about her, you're watching the wrong show.) True Detective is best regarded as an anti-procedural, more interested in the mysteries of its character studies (especially of Cohle) and tangents of existential angst than it is about the whodunit of it all. From what I've seen, critics are mostly championing this show for its ambition and artistry, while some have pointed out that narrative urgency (especially in the opening chapters) isn't its strong suit, and there are times when even as much as I'm admiring it, it feels self-consciously writerly. This is definitely one of those challenging HBO shows that may be better suited to watching several episodes at once — dare I say binge? — because its structure takes some getting used to and tends to obfuscate the storyline, especially if you're digesting it in hour morsels separated by a week or more in time. It's a show that, if I ever find the time, I'd like to watch again start to finish once it's over, more like a traditional miniseries (see above question). But yes, the tracking-shot climax to the Feb. 9 episode was director Cary Fukunaga's masterpiece to date. Even when I'm not sure what's going on (or in that case, always clear what I was seeing), it's hard not to be dazzled and mesmerized.
Question: I'm writing to you to vent on my disgust with NBC, and I'm not sure if it's just me or if others feel the same. Many years ago, I remember that whichever network had the Olympics, they only had the one channel to use. You could turn on the station about any given time and some kind of Olympic event would be on. I see that NBC is putting their Olympic coverage across three main channels: NBC, MSNBC and NBCSN. To keep costs down, our family only subscribes to the basic and expanded cable package, and therefore we do not get NBCSN. I understand and accept the fact that there are a lot of events going on for the Olympics and this is supposed to allow them to provide more coverage. So if that's the case, then why the heck when I turned on NBC's flagship station on Saturday mid-morning of the first day of the Olympics, they are televising the English Premier League soccer match. If that wasn't bad enough, the next morning, they're showing back to back episodes of Private Practice. PRIVATE PRACTICE?! That was an ABC show that ended a couple of years ago! Is their program director telling us what we already know? That NBC is so dismal that they have to use a rival networks canceled show because they don't have anything better? I hope somebody gets their head pulled out of whatever hole they have it in and do something to improve. At this point, they could put a circus monkey at the helm and it would be an improvement. I appreciate you allowing me to air my frustration. — T. Washburn
Matt Roush: The real issue here is one of migration of major live-event programming from network to cable (and let's not forget the Internet), and from NBC's point of view, it's good business to boost the value of its NBCSN (NBC Sports Network) by presenting live events like hockey and (as I write this) ice skating/dancing during the morning and daytime, when in a simpler time, the main network would likely have dedicated more of its daypart to this coverage. (The Private Practice issue is a local matter; NBC has no control over what syndicated programming the affiliates choose to fill those hours, but yikes, that really does add insult to injury.) I wasn't aware that NBCSN isn't considered more basic to some cable systems, and I'm sure it's aggravating to be blocked from this programming. But as long as NBC pays for the rights to these games, the company is going to spread the wealth to its wide network of cable outlets, and in this case, NBC's prime-time package is still doing well enough (even in an age of social-media spoilers and live streaming) that I don't see the method to this Olympics madness changing next time around.
Question: Every two years, one of the Olympics comes around and all other new programming disappears. I know I'm not the only one that doesn't care at all about any of the events. Why do the networks choose to get rid of all of their new programs? If it weren't for Netflix and cable networks, I would be losing my mind and I can't be the only one. This would be a great opportunity for Fox, ABC and CBS to draw in new viewers who just don't care about the Olympics. It certainly couldn't hurt in the day and age of DVRs and networks streaming the episodes on the websites. — MD
Matt Roush: To be fair, Fox has kept its lineup relatively intact through the Games (especially on Mondays and American Idol nights), and if you're diligent you might find some new episodes on other networks scattered around the schedule — CSI is new this week, for example — plus, ABC did attempt to schedule some original interim programming (Killer Women, The Taste) during this period so it wouldn't be all repeats. But just as almost no one schedules new episodes of anything opposite the Super Bowl or, in a few weeks, the Oscars, the Olympics is another of those zones where everyone tends to back off, knowing that because of its wide and mainstream (though apparently not universal) appeal that even popular series risk taking serious nose-dives in head-to-head competition.
This might be something of a self-fulfilling prophecy, because when you look at what happened on the first Sunday of the Games, when AMC's The Walking Dead premiere and CBS's Beatles special both drew big numbers (Dead even scoring a demographic win, while the Beatles special skewed older), it demonstrates that there's room for more than just the Olympics on TV. But few shows have the drawing power of The Walking Dead, and most networks likely have research advising them not to waste new inventory against this juggernaut. On the bright side: This means more new episodes and fewer repeats of your favorite shows later in the season. So tough it out. It's almost over.
Question: If CBS was going to skimp on new episodes this month, then why oh why did they squander two weeks of last month on reruns when everyone else was doing new episodes? It's a slap in the face to their loyal viewers! Why can't the other networks realize that not everybody likes the Olympics? — Shamus
Matt Roush: Although airing repeats in late January is standard operating procedure for most of the networks, it's a fair question given that these same networks knew they were going more or less dark for two weeks in February, a month when during non-Olympics seasons they never air repeats. It may be a production more than a scheduling issue, but again, the upside to your current misery is the promise of more new episodes later in the season, which may curb the usual round of spring griping about why there are so many repeats of everything through March and April.
Question: I thoroughly enjoyed watching the late Ralph Waite in his guest roles on both NCIS and Bones in the past and am hoping that there are still some episodes yet to be seen this season where his character shows up — it will be interesting to find out how/if either show writes around his passing, especially since his character was so instrumental in the back-story development of the respective male leads of each show. A generation of TV viewers has lost one of the best father/grandfather characters we've ever known (dating back to The Waltons), but more importantly we've all lost a good man. — BR
Matt Roush: And how gratifying that he was still in such demand in his later years, including on TV's top-rated drama (on the network that brought him fame all those years ago). Who wouldn't want Ralph Waite to be your TV father or grandfather, right? I'm sure both shows will find a way to pay homage to the characters he played, especially given the impact he had on Gibbs and Booth.
Question: I am an avid watcher of Teen Wolf and love many things about it. I was wondering if you have seen any of Dylan O'Brien's work these past couple of weeks? Do you think the TV Academy could actually nominate him for an Emmy? He is just outstanding and I wanted to get your opinion on maybe MTV getting an Emmy nod for him? I understand the actors submit their own work, if they decide to. — Nick
Matt Roush: Stiles! Love him, love the way Dylan O'Brien brings such humor and humanity to the character, but Emmy voters rarely notice anything in the teen-horror genre, even the better ones — and Teen Wolf is top of my current list in that world. So don't count on it, even should he or his representatives put his name in the hat. Not that he's not deserving, but if he ever joins the cast of an actual comedy and is as well served as he is by the character of Stiles, then we'd be talking. But even so, younger performers are often unfairly overlooked at the Emmys.
Question: Justified has always had great supporting actors, but this season they seem to have multiple guest-starring roles in every episode. Is there a reason that so many established actors are appearing on the show this season? — Mary
Matt Roush: Even before Margo Martindale won her well-deserved Best Supporting Actress Emmy as Mags Bennett for Season 2, and certainly after, Justified enjoys a reputation for giving great character actors meaty roles and juicy writing. The Elmore Leonard factor doesn't hurt, either. Why wouldn't want to be a part of it, especially as the clock is ticking on the next-to-last season?
Question: USA Network recently announced that this is the last season of Psych. Burn Notice recently finished its run. They have also canceled Necessary Roughness and other series. They launched some other series that didn't seem to get traction such as Common Law. For a few years not too long ago, it seemed like almost every series they launched was a success. Now they seem to be struggling. What happened? Is it the way other cable networks have stepped up their game or is their series development simply not what it used to be? The only series of theirs I currently watch are Covert Affairs and Suits. I gave up on Royal Pains and White Collar last year because of some story directions that felt very forced. I know they have added some swear words to their shows and seem like they are trying to put some dark clouds on their blue skies. What is going on with USA and where do you see them going from here? — Todd
Matt Roush: What you're witnessing is the maturing of a brand and the reality that even successful networks have misses among the hits. (Even critical darlings like FX, AMC and HBO strike out once in a while.) USA is also branching out into comedy and reality — and please don't ask me when the adaptation of The Choir will air, as it hasn't been rescheduled yet — as well as adding more edge to some of its dramas, most noticeably including the language on Suits and the subject matter of Graceland. There are bound to be growing pains and false starts along the way, and with some of the long-running franchises closing shop, the challenge is to establish a new generation of hits. So while it may be true that USA is faltering more noticeably and frequently than in the past, that comes with the expanding volume of production by everyone in the cable business and the inevitably high failure rate that almost everyone experiences. I'm not sure USA is struggling as much as it is coming down to earth in the realization that it couldn't keep producing the same sort of show over and over and still be able to make noise. TNT is going through much the same evolution, and I'll be curious how some of its more ambitious summer programs will fare this year.
Question: For those of us who remember the pre-Internet days of rotary telephones and rabbit ears, I was happy to hear that there are plans to release The Wonder Years on DVD. Reflecting on how much the TV industry has changed over the last quarter-century, do you think a show like The Wonder Years would make it on the air nowadays, and more importantly, if it did, would enough people actually watch it to survive a swift cancellation? — Brian
Matt Roush: Who can really say, but being an optimist at heart, I'd like to still believe that a show with this much quality, meaning and entertainment value would still be able to catch on amid the clutter. The success of terrific family comedies like Modern Family and The Middle and (to a lesser but potentially significant degree) The Goldbergs makes me think the '60s coming of age of Kevin Arnold will resonate with generations to come. This show's restoration and that of China Beach last year (both of which had significant music-clearance hurdles to overcome) are the happiest developments in the DVD marketplace in quite some time.
Question: With the recent announcement that Bones would be moving back to Mondays for Season 10, I was wondering what this means for the future of Almost Human? I know it's been a bit frustrating at times with Fox messing about with the episode order, but I believe that overall, its ratings have been decent (if not phenomenal). It's a show I've really come to love. I think that it has so much potential and the chemistry between Michael Ealy and Karl Urban is wonderful. I'd hate to see it canceled before it's even had a chance. Any thoughts? — Lauren
Matt Roush: When Almost Human signs off on March 3, it will have completed its initial 13-episode run, which is typical for a midseason tryout (and luckier than many), so don't read too much into Bones moving back to its natural Monday home for the remainder of the season. That said, Human never generated the buzz or critical attention that Sleepy Hollow did during the first half of the season, so it's probably fair to consider it "on the bubble," and we likely won't know if it gets a reprieve until next season's lineup is announced in May.
Question: I was looking forward to Us & Them starring Alexis Bledel and Jason Ritter, but Fox cut the episode order before it even aired. Do you know the reason behind that decision and if Fox will air the episodes filmed? — Sarah
Matt Roush: Sometimes a network loses faith in a show after green-lighting it, and that's what happened here — and having seen the pilot (a pale copy of the original Gavin & Stacey), despite the charms of its lead actors, I couldn't really argue with the decision. It's possible Fox will burn off the episodes this summer as it did last year with The Goodwin Games, but I wouldn't count on much more than that.
That's all for now. Keep sending your comments and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, and in the meantime, follow me on Twitter!
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