Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles
TV Guide's Senior Critic Matt Roush takes your TV questions. Have a rant, rave or burning question about your favorite show you'd like addressed? E-mail him here!
Question: Sometimes I ask God why it was decided that I should be a sci-fi geek. I don't know about anyone else, but I have been impressed with the character development on Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. It is clear that Fox asked the producers to cut back on special effects to save money, so the writers had to actually (gasp!) write. I think they've done a wonderful job. I am enjoying the development of John and Cameron the most, but also of Sarah, Derek and Ellison. And then Fox pulls a Firefly on me and moves it to Friday along with Dollhouse. I don't understand how Fox and other networks cannot get this. Shows like Dollhouse and Terminator need to either lead to a heavy hitter or have a heavy hitter for a lead-in. It may take a little more time, but that is the best way to build viewership and grab viewers who might otherwise not watch based on the title and subject of the show alone. If you throw two shows that appeal to the same audience on the same night, the ratings will pretty much flat-line wherever they start, as new viewers will probably just not tune in. Seems like a no-brainer to me. I've been reading "Ask Matt" for years now, and thanks for all the insight. — Brian O.
Matt Roush: It does seem at times like the fates are conspiring against fans of outside-the-mainstream TV, doesn't it? There's no question that a Terminator-Dollhouse Friday line-up is going to be ratings-challenged (unless the universe does a complete 360 soon), but as I noted in my Dispatch after Fox announced its midseason lineup, I can't really blame a network for playing to its strengths — in this case, moving House to Mondays in front on 24, instead of taking a leap of faith on Dollhouse, as originally announced. Putting Dollhouse or Terminator alongside hit shows would likely be a mixed blessing, anyway, since the disparity between the ratings for a 24/House-size hit and either of these genre cult items might actually hasten their demise, if it's seen that they're dragging down nights more critical to Fox's fortunes than Friday will ever be. The most we can hope for is a decent demographic tune-in for this fantasy block on Fridays, a night that has already been established as a destination for sci-fi fans (with Battlestar Galactica returning there in January). Still, won't be easy. And while Brian argues that lumping together like-minded shows is a recipe for disaster, our next questioner disagrees.
Question: After reading tons of "how will Pushing Daisies survive!" e-mails to your column, I've now started to be paranoid about the status of one of my favorite shows! I tend not to pay attention to ratings, so I'm often surprised when my favorite shows are taken off the air. With regard to Stephen's letter about scheduling, why doesn't ABC have a "quirk" night of Ugly Betty, Pushing Daisies and Eli Stone? It's clear that Daisies needs a lead-in (although it sort of is the perfect 8 pm/ET show) and I know I'd sit and watch that night from beginning to end. As a follow-up to that question, why don't networks do more "theme nights" like that? NBC has its action Mondays with Chuck, Heroes and My Own Worst Enemy, which I enjoy and watch from beginning to end, as well as procedural Wednesdays, during which I ignore the execrable Knight Rider (really, NBC?) and enjoy the Life/Law & Order combo. And I see Fox will be putting up a sci-fi Friday of Sarah Connor and Dollhouse, which I'm really looking forward to. All CW's programming blocks are in "theme nights." ABC's programming appears to be rather schizophrenic, with some quirk at 8, a medical drama at 9 and some kind of brain-twisting something at 10. There's no real cohesiveness throughout the night. Watching ABC through a night is a tiring experience, what with the shifting gears every hour. Doesn't it make sense to match up programming and brand it to market it to consumers of that type of show? — Nika
Matt Roush: Interesting points, although even bringing any of this up prompts comments that in a DVR age, it doesn't really matter which kinds of shows airs next to each other. In the bigger picture, though, it really kind of does. Audience flow and compatibility of schedule are still important components of the network scheduling business, which makes it especially tricky at ABC, which has so many offbeat hybrids on its schedule. I'm kind of dismayed, to be honest, at the thought of a Grey's Anatomy/Private Practice two-fer on Thursdays at midseason. Despite the fact it makes thematic sense, it strikes me as too much of an uneven thing, and the proximity of Practice to Grey's may just illuminate the parent show's flaws too openly. But as for a night built around the "quirk" factor? Good luck selling that one. The way I look at Pushing Daisies is that it's such an original it would need to live or die on its own steam. Pairing it with an equally colorful show like Ugly Betty works in theory, but even Betty has lost some of its luster lately, and no way does ABC rearrange its lineup so drastically in support of one underperforming show, no matter how precious it is to us fans.
Question: Thank you so much for your amazingly candid and commonsensical review of Grey's Anatomy's "The Ties That Bind." Everybody I know who watches the show is absolutely shell-shocked and dumbfounded at the moment. Bringing Izzie's dead love back from the grave to stalk her and have sex with her is so beyond "shark jumping" that it deserves to be the new bar by which all other outlandish plots on television are judged. And even if Denny is not actually a ghost and is just in Izzie's head, what matter? We are still having this weird sex scene forced on us, not to mention the fact that most of us stopped caring about this character years ago. He's dead, we're over it, but apparently Shonda Rhimes isn't. And if this is all in Izzie's head and she is, in fact, going crazy, it would have been much more understandable for her to lose it due to guilt over the stolen heart last week and the damage she caused than have her act out this awful fantasy romance. Also, if it's all in Izzie's head, and she's delusional, how can this be the great love story the writers are calling it (in TV Guide earlier this year and now in the writers' blog)? If that's not Denny and it's just a figment of her imagination, then she is essentially having a romance with herself, or her idea of the perfect man. Which reminds me: Why did they decide to bring Alex and Izzie together again if they were going down this route? Why involve Alex in this mess when he's already had one crazy girlfriend to deal with? Nothing about this storyline makes any sense no matter how you look at it, whether we are meant to believe that's a ghost getting his freak on with Izzie, or the effect of a tumor or insanity. It's turned a promising fifth season into a horrific mess, and the writers, shockingly, seem to be under the impression that this is one of the greatest love stories ever told. Luckily, nobody else seems to be agreeing with them, and every single blog, newspaper and fan site I have come across (not to mention the dozens of people I know who watch the show in real life) is unanimous in their complete hatred of this ridiculous story line. I hope you are able to find out more about how long Jeffrey Dean Morgan has signed on for and if Katherine Heigl is indeed leaving the show at the end of the season, because it's sure looking like the plan is for Izzie to lose her mind and kill herself so that she can walk off into the light with her true love. There is no way most of us could sit through a whole season of that. — Evie
Matt Roush: The deep end of Grey's Anatomy's crazy pool is not a pleasant place to be, is it? It would appear the Denny storyline is (sadly) not a one-week-and-out experiment, and while I'm sure many will bail or at least say they will, I guess we'll have to suffer through it to see exactly what does come to pass. I'll give the writers a long leash here, if only to hang themselves. Like I wrote the morning after, I almost admire a show for embracing its madness with so little apology, but my first reaction at Izzie reaching out and actually touching Denny was less "ooh ahh" swoon than "ick, ack" eye-rolling irritation. One of the sad aspects of all of this is that it may now sour me forever on the Denny character. Not what they were intending, I'm betting.
More Grey's fallout, this from Casey D: "Please tell me that the disaster that is this new Denny plotline on Grey's is not the end of Alex and Izzie? Shonda & Co. have been setting this pairing up for years, and now this?!?! Izzie already dumped him for Denny once!"
What I'm hoping for is that, despite the madness, Alex will stand by her, even as an unwilling observer, and there will be some romantic payoff between them as a result. Personally, I'd have Alex make a mad dash to the CW for a week and enlist the Winchester boys to come to Seattle for an authentic exorcism (not just burning a sweater). Die, Denny, die!
And finally, from Marie-Claude: "I am asking this on behalf of all the fans of the amazingly talented TR Knight: Where is our beloved George on Grey's? Please tell me
he is not leaving."
This would appear to be a reaction to George's absence in last week's episode that caused such a furor. (Maybe TR read the script and asked to be written out for a week.) In large ensemble shows, even regular characters go absent from time to time. As far as I know, George is going nowhere. Especially now that he's passed the exam.
Question: I absolutely hate, hate, hate the new direction of Ghost Whisperer! Why would they go to so much trouble to tear Melinda and Jim apart only to bring them back together, but have Jim in someone else's body? It's absolutely ridiculous! I don't want to see Melinda date someone new, even if he's Jim inside. The ratings have been solid this season, so why would they do something so desperate? I could barely get through last week's episode because I was so completely turned off that I'm not sure if I'll be able to stomach the rest of the season, no matter how much I love Melinda's character. Please tell me that there's hope and that the writers can realize their mistake and make this nightmare go away! — Sutherland
Matt Roush: Calling Sci-Fi's Ghost Hunters, pronto! The backlash against this month's spectral romances has been pretty intense in my mailbag, although I've received a few wait-and-see responses where Ghost Whisperer is concerned. But mostly, it's been negative like this (usually at much longer and tortured length). It sure seems to me, from screening the three-episode arc that concludes tonight, that this is where the producers are taking the show for now, and I can't see them reincarnating Jim somehow in his old body regardless of what happens next. Not having much of a bond with this show in the first place, I have no intrinsic objection to having Melinda confront tragedy in her own marriage, but this drastic change of affairs strikes me as very off-putting to anyone who has actually invested the last four seasons in these characters. As Matzika put it, excerpting from the most exhaustive diatribe on anything I've read in ages: "Why on earth would we think it's a romantic story, this 'second shot at her true love,' when all that pops into our mind will be: She's dating a corpse, she's kissing a corpse, she's having sex with a corpse, OMG!! Can she have babies with a corpse?" Again, I'm pretty sure this is not the reaction the producers intended.
Question: I have watched every episode of Sons of Anarchy and I cannot get enough of it. Yet I hear nothing about how it's doing, what FX plans to do with it, etc. With another FX all-time great in The Shield about to ride off into the sunset, this is a perfect choice to pick up the slack. FX has continued to develop the best shows on TV year after year: The Shield, Nip/Tuck, Rescue Me, Damages, etc. I will put Sons and SAMCRO right up at the top of that list. Please let me know what the deal is. — Peter B.
Matt Roush: Good news for you. FX has picked up the show for a second season. According to the trades, it's averaging 2 million viewers, making Sons of Anarchy FX's most successful launch in the 18-49 demographic since Rescue Me. In many ways, this show was developed to fill the void The Shield will leave behind, and it appears to have fulfilled that goal, at least for some. I don't find the characters or the world Sons creates nearly as compelling as in The Shield or FX's other signature shows, but happily for the fans and for the risk-takers at FX, others do.
Question: I know in some of your recent columns you've expressed your disappointment with this season of Brothers & Sisters. I was wondering if last Sunday's episode changed your mind at all. Is it too early to say the show may be back? I've been a long-time fan, but I, like you, was seriously considering giving up the show this season. Then I saw Sunday's episode, which, in my opinion, was above and beyond the previous ones. It finally felt like the Brothers & Sisters of old again. And I don't think it's a coincidence that the episode had very little of the insufferable Justin and Rebecca pairing. Maybe if the producers actually listened to a lot of their fans and put an end to their god-awful brother-sister-turned-lovers experiment, effectively eliminating the giant time-sucking black hole of boredom and nausea the couple creates in most episodes, they might just have a decent show again. — Will
Matt Roush: I agree it was a better-than-average episode, but just as I try to caution against turning against a show whenever it has an off week, I feel the same about overreacting when a show I'm having issues with delivers a really good episode. And while it was refreshing to be given a break from Rebecca and Justin, I do wish at least one Walker dinner party could take place without a childish tantrum — in this case, Nora lashing into Kevin in front of the entire family (as well as Dave Foley's complete, if annoying, stranger). That's getting tiresome. One thing that worked for me was the scene with the overlapping phone calls that Senator Husband got unwillingly roped into — the tone of that was classic Greg Berlanti. But what really set this episode apart was how it opened and closed with a focus on the Kevin-and-Scotty relationship, even giving them a happy ending. The intimacy and honesty of this matter-of-fact depiction of a gay couple transcends politics, not to mention the fact that they're allowed to be as entertaining, exasperating and, yes, loving as any of the other couples on the show. That's pretty historic, and for Brothers & Sisters not to make a bigger fuss over this issue is one of the reasons (besides the stellar cast) that keeps me watching, despite my objections on other fronts.
Question: I do not have cable, so before Law & Order returned to NBC's schedule, I would throw in whatever Netflix I had on Wednesadys after Bones ended. Well, I was flipping the five channels I have, and discovered Life. I think it's a nice fit with my Wednesday night TV viewing. In fact, I can't remember such a seamless (Wednesday) night since the days of Ed, The West Wing and Law & Order. While I do have to change the channel from Fox to NBC, it's a small price to pay to get three perfect hours of television. I never would have found Life had it not been relocated to Wednesday nights. Do you know if I'm one of many to discover it in its new time? Or is Life running out of life? — Veronica N.
Matt Roush: Bones, Life and Law & Order does sound like a good way to spend an evening. (But be prepared for some midseason disruption when Fox moves Bones to Thursdays to make room for American Idol.) I have really started to embrace Life (so to speak) this season, and while like nearly everything on NBC, it's struggling — going up against CBS's unspeakably popular Criminal Minds doesn't help — NBC has given the show a full-season order in hopes the audience will discover its many quirky virtues.
Question: My girlfriend asked me the other night what had happened with Colm Meaney being cast as Detective Gene Hunt on ABC's Americanized version of Life on Mars. I had nearly forgotten that early buzz last year was that the show would be produced by David E. Kelley, with the additional talents of The West Wing's Thomas Schlamme, starring Colm Meaney. I have to say, having seen two seasons of the British version of Life on Mars as well as the spin-off Ashes to Ashes via DVD, I'm really let down by yet another Americanization of what was a really well-done British program. I can't help thinking David E. Kelley could have delivered a better show. IMDB even has an entire entry for Life on Mars with the line-up that might have been, but I haven't really found any answers as to why the show changed so much before it actually aired. Can you fill me in? — Robynn
Matt Roush: Woulda coulda shoulda. Not much point in yearning for what might have been, from where I sit. The situation is rather complicated regarding David E. Kelley and ABC parting company over Life on Mars. (Around the same time it was decided to end Boston Legal this season while Kelley himself was moving on to a new production company.) All of these factors helped lead to the show being put in other producers' hands, and more critically, moving the show from Los Angeles to mid-'70s New York (a much better call in my opinion), necessitating an entire change of cast, with the exception of lead Jason O'Mara. I have nothing against Colm Meaney, but I see landing Harvey Keitel as Hunt as something of a coup. ABC's Mars is far from perfect, and I can probably count on one hand the times I've ever heard anyone compare a remake favorably to the original. I also like the British version better, but I've seen far worse translations of overseas shows to our marketplace. Case in point: next question.
Question: I just have a question about Kath & Kim. Why is it that no one seems to like that show? Personally, I love Molly Shannon and Selma Blair and think they are two very funny ladies! I know the storylines are a little less than stellar, but I think the show has great potential, given the cast. What are your thoughts? — P.J.
Matt Roush: Since you asked, I think the show's a disaster. While I admire Molly Shannon to no end, she's trying too hard, while Selma Blair is merely trying (as in annoying), or perhaps not trying hard enough. As always with comedy, it's a matter of taste, but this show doesn't have any, nor does it have a specific enough point of view to make these cartoonish characters anything more than unpleasantly bad company. The outrageousness of the Australian original (here we go again) has been supplanted by shtick. Good news for fans is that NBC has renewed it for a full season, but I see no real upside in either writing or cast. If NBC wasn't having such a dreadful fall, this show would almost certainly be toast by now.
Question: Some of your readers have been asking about the broadcast network sitcoms, but I'm just wondering if there is any possibility for cable sitcoms like Rita Rocks from Lifetime or My Boys from TBS to be considered for network slots. Both are sweet and funny. The only CBS show I watch is How I Met Your Mother. My Boys has a similar vibe. — Frank
Matt Roush: And My Boys' vibe is one that TBS likes, which is why it's staying put there. I've often thought, looking at the respective fortunes of (for example) NBC and its cable sibling USA Network, that the broadcast network would be lucky to land shows with as much appeal as USA's signature series like Monk, Psych and Burn Notice. This fall, NBC has fallen so short I almost expect them to start plucking the fruit from USA's tree. But taking your examples, these comedies are helping establish the brand of their respective cable networks, and this is very important to them. Besides, their modest success isn't likely to have the major networks rushing to steal them away, no matter how impoverished their own comedy lineups. And in the long run (literally), a show that's found its niche on cable rarely has to worry about cancellation as constantly as network shows do. Be happy these shows are where they are.