Ask Matt: TV's Busiest Nights, Bones, Friday Night Lights, Daytime Soaps, and More!
Lone Star, The Event
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Question: I wanted to find out your thoughts on all the shows on Monday night. It seems like it has almost become the go-to night for TV viewing with the returning favorites and some of the more buzz-worthy new shows. My TiVos are going to get a workout that night. What do you think should be watched live, DVR'ed for viewing later and forgotten altogether? — Melissa
Matt Roush: No night this season is easy to navigate, but Mondays and Thursdays (see next question) are particularly packed. I'm getting a lot of questions concerning the face-off between Lone Star and The Event at 9/8c on Mondays, and that's probably the trickiest choice to have to make, as both are among the few distinctive pilots of the new season. (NBC is making it easier for at least the first week by repeating Event's pilot on multiple cable platforms, and Fox is repeating Lone Star late night Saturday. Don't know how long this will last, but if you can't record two things at once, that and going online are your best options.) I was very impressed with the Lone Star pilot, so that's my priority pick, but The Event is going to appeal (at least in theory) to many of those who visit this column, if past experience is any indication. I felt the Event pilot was terribly flawed by an overly convoluted time-jumping set-up, but some of the mysteries are intriguing and the final twist is such a WTF that I can't imagine not watching episode 2. I was not, however, nearly as emotionally connected to it as I was to Lone Star, which I truly can't wait to see a second episode of.
For the rest of Monday, the battles are much as they've always been. Many people (including me) will not be able to resist the train wreck of Dancing With the Stars, but will have to find room as well for How I Met Your Mother, Chuck and House (suddenly more interesting again now that they've committed fully to the "Huddy") in the first hour. And at 10/9c, Hawaii Five-0 will likely hold the former CSI: Miami crowd, while Castle loyalists will stay put. (You can forget NBC's Chase, easily the most forgettable show on any network this night. And I broke up with CW's Monday soaps a while back, so they're not an option for me, but they may be for you.) So with all that in mind, if I had to pick shows to watch live, I'd go Chuck or House, then Lone Star, then Castle, though I'll also be following Mother, The Event and even Hawaii as close to same night viewing as possible. And because of its watercooler potential, I'll also need to be watching Dancing on the night it airs as best I can. Good thing I've got recorders in multiple rooms. But if it holds up, Lone Star is going to be the Monday night show that I'll most eagerly await each week of all of them.
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Question: I can't believe how jam-packed with shows the new Thursday-night lineup is going to be! I will hardly know what to DVR vs. what to watch! Thank goodness they moved Supernatural to Fridays. What will your plan be for Thursdays this fall? — Debby
Matt Roush: Thursdays are tough, and the CW made it tougher by premiering The Vampire Diaries and Nikita early, and I'm now hooked on both, especially the new season of Vampire, which has gotten off to a fun start. The shows that I will feel the greatest need to watch night-of-air will be (at 8/7c) The Big Bang Theory (then probably switch to 30 Rock and catch up with Community as best I can, since $#*! My Dad Says is pretty lousy), but also keeping an eye on Vampire and Bones as best I can; then at 9/8c, watching Grey's Anatomy and recording Fringe (or vice versa, depending on the week; CSI and The Office, and probably Nikita will take a back seat); and at 10/9c, The Mentalist would be my first choice, but most weeks, I'll use that hour to play back stuff I was recording in the earlier hours. I'm exhausted just thinking about it. But in a good way. (The shows I will most likely not be bothering with include ABC's mawkish My Generation, CBS's Dad and NBC's Outsourced. Life's too short, and so's the week.)
Question: How do you think Bones is going to do against some tough new competition on Thursday nights this season? Bones has always had a loyal following, but I'm concerned that The Big Bang Theory will hurt it. Or is this going to be a case of two very different shows each getting their own solid audiences? Perhaps the competing comedies on NBC have more reason to be concerned? I'm not sure what's on ABC in that time slot. How do you think things will shake out at 8/7c for Thursday shows this season? — Doris
Matt Roush: Bones has established a nice little niche on Thursdays, plugging a hole that was very problematic for Fox for a long time, and while Big Bang is expected to do some major damage on the night, you're right that the impact will likely be greater on NBC's comedies. Not that Bones will have it easy. It's a light procedural with a definite geek factor, so there will be overlap with Big Bang's mass following, I'm sure. But even if bones does take a steeper drop than we'd like, I'm betting Fox knows there's very little else they could put in this ultra-competitive time period that would do any better. So I wouldn't worry about it too much. (Oh, and the ABC show in the time period? My Generation, which most observers are predicting will have quite the uphill climb. I doubt the critics will do much to help on that front.)
Question: I think it's time to stop talking about the "Moonlighting curse" as a show killer when the characters get together in a relationship. Many things killed Moonlighting: the stars' relationship, her pregnancy and his career, but mostly bad storytelling to keep Maddie and David apart as long as possible. Producers and writers are so afraid that if the couple gets together, the show will be gone. But if it's well written, be it an action show/drama like Chuck or Farscape or a comedy like Caroline in the City, when the writers finally stop creating ridiculous plotlines to keep the couple apart, the show gets even better.
Moreover, well-written adult relationships like Peter and Elizabeth on White Collar can anchor the wackiness of the rest of the show. What happens more often is that shows keep the couple apart so long that either the fun is gone or it no longer makes sense for them to get together. Let's call it the Bones curse. After six years of Brennan stalling and both dating other people, not to mention hallucinations, fantasies and contrivances, I'm rooting for Booth to move on and find someone who can give him the kind of relationship he wants before it's too late. Let the show drop the romantic angle altogether as long as they keep the work relationship. The banter between House and Cuddy was one of the highlights of the show's first seasons, but after four seasons of bad writing and unbelievable back story, I now fast-forward any scene in which those two are together. Owen/Cristina pulled me back into watching Grey's Anatomy and had they left it as Owen and Cristina dealing with his PTSD, it would have been a good story. But giving Owen feelings for Teddy not only ruined the PTSD story line, it went a long way to ruining the character of Owen himself and ended any wish I had for Owen and Cristina to get together. And what was the point of setting up Tony/Ziva sparks on NCIS season 6 only to extinguish it the next season by having Tony ignore Ziva to pursue a list of other women? I'm not enjoying any of these relationships because the writing is so ridiculous. Why can't a show just put two people together and show that rather than spoiling the relationship and the fun by trying to keep them apart until the end of the series?
I thought Castle was going to break the cycle, but in the last two minutes of the finale, Castle suddenly showed up with Gina, a character he's never had a good word to say about, and they went off with arms around each other to spend the summer together. Huh? It kept Beckett and Castle from getting together, but it also lowered my respect both for the Castle character and the show's writers and it spoiled the summer reruns for me. Of all the tired cliches, dating other people is the one I hate the most because it always makes both parties look so stupid that I stop wanting them to be together at all. This season, I'm going to go with shows that have the couple together at the start like Undercovers and No Ordinary Family. I've had it with being jerked around. — Marika
Matt Roush: Well, you seem to have covered all the bases, but now that House is embarking on a very explicit exploration of the House-Cuddy relationship and Grey's appears to have removed the obstacles from Cristina-Owen, you're really not going to watch? I find that hard to believe, especially if the romantic angle is of such importance to you with each show. (I admit; it isn't always to me.) Last season on Chuck, when Agent Shaw temporarily came between Chuck and Sarah, some fans were so put off they swore never to return. But now the show has brought them together, and from what I can tell — honestly, I'm rather scared to look — the fans' ire has cooled considerably. And Castle? From what I hear, both main characters will be in relationships this season as they realize they can't live without each other professionally. (Which is as it should be.) The point in all of this is that romantic chemistry and/or sexual tension is a very good problem for a show and a cast to have, but knowing when to act on it remains one of the most treacherous tightrope acts for any producer to walk. Fans get restless and increasingly vocal about their impatience. But the reason you don't get instant gratification all the time: Long-running shows tend to thrive on tension and conflict, and happy endings work against that. At the same time, putting contrived obstacles in characters' inevitable path to true love rarely satisfies anybody. (Classic case: Luke and Lorelai on Gilmore Girls.)
Question: Upon hearing that My Boys was officially cancelled by TBS, I'm wondering what the chances are of Jordana Spiro signing back on to Love Bites. Don't get me wrong, I loved My Boys and will be sad to see it go, but the prospects of Jordana and Becki Newton in the same sitcom makes me want to dance with joy. I love them both! The only reason I started watching and stuck it out through the end of Ugly Betty was because of Becki's character, Amanda. Since the new show has gotten pushed back to mid-season, I presume due to Becki Newton's pregnancy, I'm really hoping they'll grab Jordana fresh off her My Boys cancellation! — Megan
Matt Roush: Really can't say what the likelihood of this is, because Love Bites appears to still be a work in progress, one of the more creatively troubled projects of the season — its postponement also had something to do with behind-the-scenes turmoil. I'm not sure I'd wish this situation on anyone, but a job's a job. And there's no question TBS acted in bad faith, stringing the My Boys cast along so they couldn't accept jobs in new fall shows, then pretty much ensuring Boys' cancellation with its lack of promotion and support. Sometimes TV bites.
Question: I'm really enjoying the AMC show Rubicon, though I know there have been very mixed reviews. Before I'm left with a whole bunch of questions that will never be answered (had that with FlashForward and Mercy), can you tell me what the chances are for a renewal? — Elaine
Matt Roush: My crystal ball is about as murky on this subject as the storytelling is on Rubicon. At this point, it could go either way. Though you're right that many critics are split on this one — I'm still watching, but am ambivalent about it — the show does have its passionate advocates, and AMC has a reputation up till now of nurturing its shows, so it's not always about the numbers, though it is often about the buzz. And is there any for this show, really? I'm not so sure. Cable networks in general are less quick to pull the plug, for better or worse, and I imagine that will be the case here. It may be a while before AMC has to make the call on this one, and it could come down to what else AMC has in its pipeline and whether the programmers feel they need to keep it around. At the very least, I hope the producers wrap this season on a note of closure to the clover-leaf conspiracy, while keeping the door open for more stories at API should they be so lucky.
Question: The sixth season of The Closer, which ended last Monday, seems short with 10 episodes, and I believe there will be 5 more episodes in winter. Do you know when those will air? Do you know when the cast starts filming for those episodes?. — Dee
Matt Roush: The Closer will be back for several weeks starting Dec. 6, and the show stayed in production straight through (with many a break here and there, but they didn't shut down, from what I'm told).
Question: So the last episode of Leverage was great, and now, where is it? It wasn't on last Sunday, and I don't see it coming up in the schedule. How many episodes are left to finish up the Moreau storyline? When do we get the rest? — Elizabeth
Matt Roush: Also in December.
Question: I just started watching Friday Night Lights last month and have already seen the first three seasons (thank you, Netflix Instant Queue!). I'm taking a break before watching the fourth season, but I'm wondering about how DirecTV's 101 Network works. I know the episodes won't hit Hulu until they air on NBC, but what about iTunes? Will that be the same schedule as NBC or DirecTV? — Andrew
Matt Roush: Sorry to say, if you don't have DirecTV, you won't officially be able to download episodes during the duration of its first-run on the 101 Network. Exclusivity to the service is why DirecTV made the investment to keep the show alive these last few years. Once it's on NBC, though, it's pretty much open season with streaming and downloads. Between the time it first airs on DirecTV and shows up on NBC, I'm not so sure. (Those who monitor such things can feel free to discuss away in the comments area.)
Question: On Friday, we bade farewell to As the World Turns, ending its 54-year run. Last September, Guiding Light ended a record 72-year run. Many, including myself, are worried that the soap genre could be nearing extinction. Can our beloved daytime TV soaps be saved before it's too late? I believe ABC is pushing for a 1-day reduction in new episodes per week, in an effort to save money. I would have settled with Guiding Light and World Turns as half-hour soaps, as a money-saving solution. I feel as if canceling such iconic soaps has tarnished the legacy of legendary soap writer and creator Irna Phillips. I do believe the soaps have such potential at once again becoming great shows. — Eric
Matt Roush: I understand your sadness about seeing an entire genre of TV continue to be chipped away and diminished, with one institution after another vanishing before your eyes, victim of the changing tides and times of a medium in transition. (It's happening in the print world as well.) I'm not sure daytime soaps will disappear altogether, and I'd like to think each network could keep at least one or two signature shows alive. But that will only happen if it makes economic sense. Tastes and viewing habits change, and what happens next will depend, as always, on the bottom line. (ABC attempting to control costs by airing fewer episodes per season is just another chink in the soaps' armor.) As someone who still mourns the passing of the classic TV variety show — although we still see vestiges of it in reality-competition series, especially on results nights, it's not the same as personality-driven musical-comedy showcases — I sometimes have to bow to the cyclical nature of this business.
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