Christian Slater, My Own Worst Enemy
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: What were your thoughts on the second episode of My Own Worst Enemy? I basically agreed with your opinion on the pilot, but I thought they gave us more background, key information and layers in the second episode that made it watchable. Although they did sweep your question of "why would they keep the Henry facade intact" under the rug by simply saying they can't take out the chip, they did provide a little bit of motivation for these characters to maintain the illusion. But more importantly, I thought the issues brought up in this show were a great improvement over last week's basic straightforward "guy finds himself in strange situation in alternate-persona's life." Henry's discomfort during the torture scene was interesting to me, as was his desperation to find something that proves his existence isn't fabricated. And the murder of the doctor at the end of the episode was compelling as well, clearly showing Edward as a cold-blooded assassin who must "protect the mission." I thought your review of the pilot was fair, but was just curious if you saw improvement in the second episode. — Joe
Matt Roush: I can see where people desperate to find some merit in the show could have found a few hooks in the second week to support their belief that My Own Worst Enemy is worth their time, but not me. There are shows like Alias which reward the effort to suspend one's disbelief, in part because there's an emotional undercurrent (Syd's well-developed network of friends and her relationship with her father), and then there's something like Enemy, which punishes that same effort with a premise that's more ridiculous than ingenious. I still can't imagine why the Janus spooks would go to such elaborate efforts to create a false identity for Henry, who basically is just a cover for Edward. I can't fathom why Edward and his buddy Tom/Raymond are allowed to go off the grid for any period of time (mainly, when it suits the writers' needs). I like Madchen Amick a lot, but so far she and the Spivey kids are more devices than actual characters (and the sex jokes didn't wear well two weeks in a row), so I don't feel there's much at stake on the personal front, either. Enemy did get some positive reviews — and by default, it's unquestionably the most watchable of NBC's new shows — and it's the kind of show that will find its loyalists, but even more than with Journeyman a year ago, I doubt this will be worth the effort to try to make sense of it. I may give it a third look-see, depending on my time management skills, but Mondays and the week in general are too crowded to fit this one in.
Question: I absolutely love Chuck. The show is funny, and it has action and drama. Zachary Levi is a gem of an actor. I know the ratings are low, but doesn't that have something to do with Dancing with the Stars? I know you have suggested moving it, but maybe that is why NBC gave it a full season, knowing that ratings would go up after DWTS is done. What are your thoughts on the ratings? One more observation: I love the comedy, but I miss the Morgan and Chuck interaction. There used to be a ton and now it seems like there's less. Where do you think they should move it? — Nick
Matt Roush: Given that Dancing with the Stars will do a second cycle in the new year, it will continue to be a nuisance on Mondays for Chuck. But when ESPN's Monday Night Football season is over, that might help matters, because Chuck is a very guy-friendly show, with its action, comedy and (thanks, Sarah) eye candy. I'd like to see Chuck get a shot behind, as opposed to in front of, Heroes, though that's hardly as solid a lead-in as it used to be. Like with so many shows this season, whether new or returning from the long strike hiatus, I'm not sure if there's a magic programming solution to help grow an audience. Of all the shows that are struggling, Chuck seems to me the most mainstream and commercial. It just may be NBC itself that's dragging it down. Continuing on a theme, read on.
Question: I'd like your input on NBC's terrible fall schedule. Every network is suffering in the ratings, but NBC's status is just sad. I think they made a huge mistake by granting Lipstick Jungle a second season instead of renewing Las Vegas. I for one think the network is worse than ever. Chuck is not the hit it should be, Heroes is going down fast, Law & Order: SVU is getting boring, Crusoe is a disaster, Knight Rider is preposterous, Lipstick Jungle is collapsing, Life is on "life" support, I am done with My Name Is Earl, The Office, 30 Rock and ER is far from what it used to be. I think NBC needs new people in charge, since clearly something is wrong in the creative department. The thing is, I am not sad to see this happen. NBC gave Las Vegas the worst finale it could have. The show was a strong contender since day one, but NBC forgot about the show's loyal fan base by leaving the story up in the air. I am glad there is no hit for NBC and that shows like Lipstick Jungle are in the toilet, since they rewarded this mediocre class with a chance that should have gone to Las Vegas. Clearly I am not over Las Vegas' departure, given this need to rant, but with this fall's results, someone should be writing: "NBC, we told you so." — David
Matt Roush: While I hardly think that NBC leaving Las Vegas to be canceled is the primary catalyst for its current sorry state, there's no question the network could use a show with that kind of pop appeal right about now. There are some very fine shows — Chuck and Life, in particular — that are struggling as a result of NBC's overall decline, but the real story here is the creative and popular disaster of NBC's freshman slate. Maybe they'll rethink their strategy of foregoing the pilot route for next season, which now looks mainly foolhardy and arrogant.
Question: Wow. I was just telling a friend of mine how much I missed the old first-season episodes of Supernatural with the urban myth of the week. Then, wham — there's the awesome black-and-white episode last week! And the boys even mention how it was good that they back to hunting a normal monster on a normal day! I loved this episode, perfect for this time of year. I was wondering what you thought of the direction the show is going (still love the mythology, but man, I love it when they pull something awesome like this out) and if you liked this new Universal Monsters episode. — Jeff J.
Matt Roush: I love the stand-alone Supernatural episodes, this one in particular, because as a kid who grew up on the Universal monster movies — and who had a collection of "Famous Monsters of Filmland" magazines that I now can't believe I let get away — this one really spoke to me. I love it when the show winks at itself, as in the "Ghostfacers" episode of last season, or the "Hollywood Babylon" episode in Season 2. One reason I enjoy the stand-alone episodes so much is because (mea culpa for maybe the thousandth time) they're a safe haven for someone like me who hasn't had the time to invest in this show's mythology, much as I'd like to. And now to spread some more Supernatural love, here's a shout-out from Karen B. of L.A.:
"I remember those 'Best Show You're Not Watching' issues of TV Guide and miss them! The best show not being watched by nearly enough people? Supernatural, hands down. This show has been stellar right from the start, but this season, they've upped their game to epic status. Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki are two of the best young actors working together, delivering top-notch performances week after week. And they have the benefit of working with amazing writers like Sera Gamble, Jeremy Carter, Catherine Humphries and creator Erik Kripke. This show holds its own against powerhouse competition like Grey's Anatomy and CSI year after year, but attention needs to be given to it as truly one of the most outstanding shows on the air."
Question: I was wondering which shows' opening sequences you might count as personal favorites. I've noticed I watch the Dexter opening more often than not, and I like how Lost's seems to suit the show while being so simple. Anything that keeps you from fast forwarding on the DVR? — Bett
Matt Roush: Funny, I was just thinking about this the other night when playing back The Big Bang Theory and deciding to listen to the catchy theme rather than fast-forwarding. It makes me smile and puts me in the mood for the show, exactly what an opening sequence is meant to do. I'm also a huge fan of Chuck's animated opening credits. They're so classic. True Blood's opening credits and music are riveting (some of its harsher critics think it's the best thing about the show). And every week, I tune in to Desperate Housewives hoping they'll revive the pop-art credits, but to no avail. Those are the standouts.
Question: I'm a bit upset. You, who can have faith when it comes to fantasy and sci-fi and usually will stick up for these shows that take you where no one else will, seem to be bashing quite a bit of the genre. First, there's My Own Worst Enemy. Okay, I have only seen the pilot, and I usually like to watch a new show three times before lauding it, but it was excellent! You want to know one reason for the split personality? If Edward gets caught, they just switch him to Henry and they can torture him to death because he doesn't know anything. No truth serum will do. Anyway, my main rant is with you and these other people writing in that are just not getting Heroes. You put questions on your site from people who don't know what they are talking about, and you agree? I can forgive you — you have so many TV shows you watch. But, please be careful with shows like Heroes. I think some people would do good to watch Heroes with a pen and notebook. It's easy to forget things. First, there's no Nikki anymore. There is Tracy and she's good, not evil. This is the season of the villains. People are tired of it? They haven't done this yet. I hate Mohinder becoming evil, but I'm intrigued. Linderman is not appearing to Daphne or Nathan. It was revealed to us (in one hell of a twist) that Matt's father (who can cause dreams and make people see things/people) was causing them to see Linderman on Mr. Petrelli's orders (that's Nathan and Peter's father, for those of you who didn't catch that). We don't know why yet, but with patience and paying attention, the twists do make sense. No wonder most shows on the top-20 list are shows like CSI, House, Grey's Anatomy, etc. People refuse to use their brain! I'd be bored and lost, too, if I didn't try to remember details and pay close attention on shows like Heroes, Lost, Life On Mars, etc. Most peoples' main complaint is, "It's too confusing," and they give up and go to the procedural shows. Talk about boring. Heroes is not a mess. Pay attention! Use your brain (or a notebook) on this show or don't slam it, people! — Connie L.
Matt Roush: I appreciate the passion you bring to this genre defense — and thanks for reminding me that Matt's dad is one of Papa Petrelli's minions (I knew he looked familiar, but face it, there's only about 362 characters on Heroes to keep track of). The reality of the situation is that there aren't a lot of people, even critics, who want to work that hard at watching a show like this. I take notes as I watch many shows, but I don't expect anyone else to. Heroes has become needlessly overstuffed, which isn't the same as complex. I won't apologize for my opinions on either Heroes or especially Enemy, and I feel I'm generally pretty fair to Heroes for giving credit where it's due. I got a kick out of the season opener before things bogged down again, and even in last week's episode, I found the standoff with Claire, her two moms and the Puppet Man very scary and creepy. And while I'm weary of characters zipping back and forth to Africa, Hiro's misadventures with the "pre-cog" and his shovel were very amusing. But I would think many viewers are rightfully confused at this season's transformation of Sylar from villain to sorta-hero, and are finding keeping track of which Peter is Peter and what his mental state is at any given moment not worth it. But I gotta say, to lump shows like CSI and House and Grey's Anatomy together in some category of "mindless" entertainment does them a disservice and seriously undercuts the credibility of your own argument. No show is beyond criticism, but these are arguably the best of their kind and aren't in nearly as serious a free-fall as Heroes this season.
Question: Do you think Desperate Housewives has "jumped the shark" with its five-year fast-forward? I know I, for one, am not inclined to watch as religiously as I did in Seasons 1 and 2. — Barbara T.
Matt Roush: Anything but. (And really, once again, can we give the shark a rest?) As I note in my most recent magazine Review column, I feel the jump refreshed the show for the most part. It didn't reinvent the characters by any means (maybe Gaby), but moved them into new situations that have infused the storytelling with more energy than we've seen recently. Probably nothing can recapture the magic and novelty of that first season — and most would say the decline began pretty suddenly in Season 2 (the Applewhite debacle) — but for me, I'm enjoying the show and its new characters (especially Neal McDonaugh, though Gale Harold is surprisingly charming) more than I have in a long while.
Question: I found Don W.'s recent question interesting, in which he asked whether you thought acting in a sitcom or hour-long drama was harder. I know you don't do daytime television, but I would venture a guess that some of those actors work hardest of all. Several of those actors are on 5 days a week. They not only work hard, but I would say that it is darn hard work trying to make some of those stories believable on a daily basis. Let's give credit where credit is due! — Teresa
Matt Roush: There's no doubt that actors in daytime serials are among the hardest-working in the industry, and pulling off what they're asked to emote can't be easy. In fact, some weeks I'm betting they're not sure if they're playing comedy or drama, so maybe that is the toughest gig of all. Anyway, good point.
Question: Now that the CW Sunday night is failing, how likely is it that he network will go back to airing second helpings of the week's prior hits? With the overpopulated Monday nights, it was great to be able to watch Gossip Girl and One Tree Hill on Sunday. Though I haven't watched In Harm's Way (we see enough of those on the Discovery Channel) or Easy Money, Valentine wasn't half bad, I think they suffer from no-name actor-itis (except Autumn Reeser, who is awesome, just not so much in this show). I'm reading that ratings are dropping every week, but ratings for GG and OTH are going up. So how likely is the CW to air reruns of our favorites? — David
Matt Roush: I wouldn't get attached to any of these Sunday shows — I actually preferred Easy Money to Valentine, but calling this lineup a disastrous non-starter is almost kind. Both of the scripted shows are already on a production hiatus, although the company that leased Sundays from the CW in this bizarre experiment pledges to fulfill the initial 13-episode order. I honestly can't predict whether the CW will take the night back and program repeats again, because the very idea of a network renting out an entire night to an outside production entity is so unusual. This just seems to be a night when the CW is one network too many, no matter what it does. Repurposing shows from the previous week is probably the path of least risk (if not much reward), but it all hinges on the details of the contract the CW has with Media Rights General, which produces the current under-the-radar lineup.