Ask Matt: Walking Dead, Homeland, Terra Nova, Dexter and More!
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Question: I'm new to The Walking Dead this season, but I did catch up on all of Season 1 with the marathon presentation before the Season 2 premiere. I mostly like it and I know we're supposed to suspend disbelief, especially when watching a show about zombies. However, I do think they try to make it seem "real" plot-wise, and I especially like the explanation provided during the Season 1 finale where only the brain stem comes back to life which would account for the mobility and other "mindless" behavior. However, it also occurs to me that these are supposed to be smart people caught up in this fantastic scenario from hell. So why don't they just make it to a marina and procure a nice big boat and hang out on a lake somewhere? The way these zombies move, it's clear they can't swim or otherwise follow, and they could just cruise around and make the occasional raid to get gas and hunt, not to mention just fish for sustenance. I know that wouldn't make for great drama, but one thing I always like about Breaking Bad for instance is that the characters behave intelligently and the plots are very realistic, even if you don't always see it right away. —Samuel
Matt Roush: As much as I love Breaking Bad, I'm not sure realism is its strong suit, though in the moment, the tension certainly always feels real. Same goes for the incredibly intense Walking Dead, which I see as a search for community as much as a quest for survival, so isolating this group in a boat wouldn't really float. The idea of these characters heading out to sea might work for an episode, but as we saw in this week's cliffhanger, a raid for supplies can be as treacherous as any other activity in this apocalyptic world. The premise of the show, at least at this point, is that there really is no safe harbor, and if there was, it probably wouldn't stay that way for long. Because as you noted, what fun would that be?
Question: I'm loving Homeland, and I wonder if part of the success is because many of us associate Damian Lewis with his role on Band of Brothers. When we see him, we subliminally see Dick Winters, who we already accept as a hero and can't imagine becoming a traitor. It's like a WWII movie where John Wayne is captured by the Germans and becomes a sleeper agent — you just can't accept that the Duke could betray his country. —Charliy
Matt Roush: An interesting point, although I'd hate to think an actor as gifted as Damian Lewis is being typecast. Still, any successful actor brings the baggage of their most successful roles, and Band of Brothers is iconic. So if it adds to the tension that we don't want to believe Lewis-as-Brody could be a sleeper terrorist in hero's clothing, so much the better. He's so wonderfully inscrutable and unpredictable in this role, I'm loving the not knowing for now.
Question: Terra Nova has all this great medical, weapons and transportation technology from 2149, and the producers have been very careful and thorough in creating the mythology and the science of the settlement. So why is there no air transportation? —Christina
Matt Roush: Here's an answer courtesy of executive producer Rene Echevarria: "Most of the technology in Terra Nova is sent back through the portal in pieces from 2149 and reassembled on our end. What to send back is a matter of priorities since the portal can only be kept open for a short time. Priority is given to mission-critical supplies such as medicines, weapons for self-defense and, of course, the pilgrims themselves. As for air power, every now and then you'll hear references to "RBs," short for research balloons. These are tethered to the ground at fixed locations outside the compound perimeter, and can provide live security/surveillance footage as well as atmospheric/scientific data."
And now, as sometimes happens, two contrasting views on a popular long-running show:
Question: I've been a big Dexter fan, but find myself not enjoying this season. Maybe it's because the time between last season ending and this season beginning was so long — I'm just not back into the groove. I am definitely not enjoying this "spiritual" journey Dex is taking, which is for Harrison for sure, but also for himself. Somehow the "code" has been superseded by a higher-power influence, and it's shifting the show's direction. I'm also finding it implausible that Dex locked in on the old guy without much information, and abandoned home and work in pursuit of payback. I don't know... the character seems to have shifted and the show is lacking something for me. I am, on the other hand, enjoying Deb's dilemma and the mess she finds herself in. More Deb would be a good thing; less murderous Dex also desired. Odd. Are you enjoying this season? —Ellen
Question: I think so far this year you have been off-base about Dexter. While religion is part of this season's theme, it is by no means being shoved down our throats (if you want that, watch Touched By An Angel reruns). I actually find the back and forth between the flawed but sincere believer (Brother Sam), religious extremists (Travis & Gellar), and atheist (Dexter) an interesting scenario. I find they are handling this very well and it's not insulting to the viewer's intelligence. And last week gave us a great surprise with a terrific turn by Ronny Cox as a killer Dexter used to idolize (somebody give Ronny a "Cheer!"). What I still have issue with is the subplots of almost everyone else. Dexter has never really been that good at handling its supporting players or giving them much good to do. I'm starting to wish [BOOK SPOILER ALERT] that LaGuerta would meet the fate she did in the first book. What is your opinion of the issues with the supporting players? And while I don't think you are ready to give up on Dexter just yet, do you think it would be wise to start thinking up some kind of end game for the series? Dexter can't get away with it forever, can he? —Brandon
Matt Roush: I have no real trouble with the season's Big Theme of faith, and have especially enjoyed the rapport of Dexter and Brother Sam (Mos), the ex-con preacher who's acting as Dexter's spiritual sounding board. But I do think the way it's being handled is awfully heavy-handed, not so much an insult to the intelligence as it is unnecessarily obvious, with Dexter's voice-overs underscoring and belaboring what is already so clear. It sometimes takes a while for a season of Dexter to get into full gear — having Gellar and Travis finally get on the cops' and Dexter's radar this week is, let's hope, a turning point — but while this is far from my favorite season, I've enjoyed some moments along the way. I can handle the improbabilities of Dexter's various missions; Ronny Cox was so outrageous as the grumpy old "Tooth Fairy" killer, I enjoyed that subplot a great deal. It's the stuff happening in the police station that tends to bore me to distraction, because the supporting cast is so erratic. That said, I enjoyed the moment when Debra's nervous profanity on live TV didn't result in a dressing-down, but an "attagirl." Hoping the season picks up steam, not that I'm in any danger of breaking up with Dexter yet. As for an endgame: It could be a financial as much as creative decision that determines how long Dexter keeps going — I'm still enjoying the book series, for what it's worth, but a TV show is by necessity a different animal, and this one peaked in the John Lithgow season, so I'd like to see it try to go out with a little juice left in the tank. But as long as Dexter remains this popular, it's hard to imagine Showtime not doing what it can to keep it on the air for the foreseeable future.
Question: I've always enjoyed the NCIS episodes that feature Special Agent Abigail Borin, the redheaded, CGIS Gibbs counterpart played by Diane Neal. Do you think that they'd ever create a Coast Guard-based TV show with her as the lead? —James
Matt Roush: Do I think they would? Maybe. CBS has already cloned NCIS once successfully (not to mention CSI and, with less positive results, Criminal Minds). Do I think they should? Not really. I'd rather see characters like Agent Borin stay within the NCIS universe to add some variety and spice to the show. While a Coast Guard spin-off might perform well for CBS, this kind of recycling isn't the best thing for network TV, which could use a few more fresh ideas.
Question: I know that all of this season on How I Met Your Mother is leading up to Barney's wedding, but I was wondering if it is all a big fake-out. We keep hearing about a wedding, but have we heard anything about an actual marriage? If next season involves a married Barney and Lily and Marshall's baby, the show takes on a whole new dynamic. If we assume that Barney might marry Robin, that leaves only Ted single on the show. So my question is, in all of the interviews with the producers, have they ever mentioned Barney actually being married on the show? I wonder if it all plays out that Barney chickens out because he is marrying Nora but loves Robin.
On an additional note, I love that Sue Heck finally stood up for herself on The Middle, great episode! Plus as a parent who had a son who took the PSAT's last Wednesday, I could relate to that storyline as well. I figured out what I like about The Middle and why it works. So many shows play the parents as clueless or foolish and the kids are smart alecks who are always playing them. The parents love the kids, but the kids are portrayed as smarter than them (i.e. every Disney Channel show). But on The Middle, the parents are just real people, overwhelmed at times, but never portrayed as dumb. They want the best for their kids but don't always know the best way to achieve that. Just like most of us parents. —Carol
Matt Roush: Regarding Mother: Nothing would surprise me on this show when it comes to an endless tease, and the expectation that having information withheld from us somehow constitutes entertainment. At the moment, we're to believe that Barney is heading toward the altar, but to whom and for how long are plot points that don't seem to have been specifically addressed or spoiled. (And if they had been, I wouldn't spoil them here.) To be honest, I've grown weary of the producers' "all in good time" approach to hyping their show, so if they've projected about Barney's future as an actual husband, I've missed it.
On to The Middle, a comedy I'm really enjoying and recommending as often as possible: I agree that one of its greatest strengths is how relatable it is to so many people, especially parents (but really, to anyone who's part of a family). The Hecks are strapped in every way possible: for money, for time, for the patience and energy to deal with their exasperating kids, who are each distinctively funny but not so precocious they get the last word. Because unlike on most sitcoms, no one really gets the last word here (not even Frankie the narrator), because they often realize the only way to keep going is to just give up and move on. Their lives are such a mess, it's usually not the sort of thing that can be fixed in a half-hour episode.
Question: My family and I would love to watch Grimm, but NBC put it on opposite Supernatural and Fringe, so our DVR is already taken. Given that those shows cater to the demographic they would like to reach, doesn't it make sense to put it on at a different time? —William
Matt Roush: The scheduling really is puzzling, and feels like further cannibalization of an already smallish pool of genre enthusiasts on what has become TV's cult night. I'm trying to keep an open mind until I see more episodes beyond the pilot, but Grimm seems the least interesting and promising of the three, so that helps take care of the problem at least from my perspective. But I'm expecting NBC will make the show readily available on other platforms (nbc.com, On Demand, etc.) so others in your boat have a chance to at least sample it. But programming it against such similar competition doesn't seem like much of a vote of confidence.
Question: I've been watching A Gifted Man. I like the premise of the story, but the casting is awful. I get that Patrick Wilson's character, Dr. Michael Holt, is a driven doc with little bedside manner. That understood, does he always have to be so wooden? I mean, there is seemingly no personality underneath the intelligence. Then again, I get that it's a typical doc, but it's not very entertaining. Just sayin'. I also don't think Jennifer Ehle, the dead ex-wife, brings any sort of chemistry to the show. She is a fine actress, but there is no way in real life those two would have ever been together. However, my biggest issue with this show is the sorely underused talent of Margo Martindale. She is a firecracker of an actress and to see her relegated to this non-essential character with no meaningful dialogue is just a waste. I want to see her in a vehicle that will showcase her acting chops. Those who don't know her as Mags Bennett have no idea what Martindale can do. She deserves better! Thanks for letting me vent. —Stacey
Matt Roush: Couldn't agree more about Margo Martindale, and I hope the show figures out a way to capitalize on her newfound Emmy-winning star status. I'm somewhat encouraged by the news that they've cast Tom Wopat to play her husband, which indicates they're planning to expand her role. But in general, I think it's the show that's letting down these terrific actors, not vice versa. They're playing what they've given, and when I checked back in last week (for the Eriq La Salle episode), I was discouraged to see Ehle's character still being such a cloying, coy nag. I'm seeing more charisma from Wilson than you do, but the role is so earnestly conceived at this point there's not much he can do with it.
Question: Why does the CW snub Supernatural? Despite seven years on the air, the network barely advertises Supernatural even after the way Supernatural has been received by fans. Over half a million voted for Supernatural's TV Guide Magazine cover and yet CW ignores the show. They depend on word of mouth by fans to get viewers for the show. Maybe they should pay the fans for doing their advertising for them? —Phoenix
Matt Roush: Snub? For a show to last seven seasons on any network should be a cause for fans to rejoice, not to complain. But the big-picture, common-sense answer to this gripe is that especially in the fall, any network's priority is to promote the new series in hopes of creating new hits, with far less attention given to the long-running shows with a loyal fan base that (much like its time-slot competition Fringe) isn't likely to grow substantially in its latter seasons. Supernatural does tend to have to sell itself these days, enhanced by appearances at fan-oriented events like Comic-Con. When I tune into the CW (usually later in the week), I see a fair amount of on-air promotion for the Friday series Nikita and Supernatural. I'm not sure what fans expect, but I am sure it would never be enough.
Question: I'm having a hard time caring about Project Runway any more. After the move to Lifetime and a different production company, I feel the show has shifted the focus to more drama and less design. Granted, drama has been there from the beginning (Hi, Wendy Pepper!), but there seemed to be an emphasis on designing clothes and a thoughtful critique of them. Now, we get a pretty poor pool of designers producing less than spectacular garments, bizarro challenges and all-over-the-place judging. It's so obvious the producers wanted to keep Anya (and Josh all season, for that matter), despite her presenting the worst designs last week. Yet they allowed her to show at Fashion Week anyway! Do you think Project Runway can return to its former glory, or has it settled into its current rut? Are we in for another Gretchen-sized upset? —Aaron
Matt Roush: There was a lot of chaff this season, it's true. And it did seem preordained almost from the start that the stunning Anya and the annoying Josh (who has often made this season more of a chore to sit through than usual) were going to make it to the end, even when they choked — Anya at the 11th hour — so what a relief for Viktor to quietly upstage the rest of the cast with actual talent and (usually) taste. If there's more drama than design these days, it may have something to do with the bloated 90-minute episodes, but heightened conflict has always been a big part of these shows, giving us "characters" to root for and against, so I'm not sure much has really changed in that aspect. Runway's reputation may not yet have recovered from the controversial Gretchen win, and cop-out episodes like last week's, when all four finalists were let through to Fashion Week despite some major faux pas, aren't likely to help. Maybe the All-Stars version (pushed back until 2012) will put some oomph back in the franchise. I know I'd be more eager to see that than Project Accessory, the desperate-sounding spin-off that premieres after this Thursday's finale — which we can only hope won't be as big a let-down as the Gretchen-beats-Mondo fiasco.
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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