Johnny Galecki and Jim Parsons, The Big Bang Theory
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: I can't tell you how delighted I was to see The Big Bang Theory hit a series-high 10 million viewers last Monday. It is so nice to see people are finally noticing and watching the funniest sitcom on TV. I just love this show. I know it is ridiculously early, but do you think Jim Parsons will get an Emmy nomination this year? Sheldon has become the funniest character on TV, and the creativity and difficulty of learning all the science really makes Parsons a standout. Like I said, I know it is early, but what do you think of his chances, and how about The Big Bang Theory getting a nomination for best comedy show? — Scott G.
Matt Roush: Isn't it fun when good things happen to great shows? The steady growth of Big Bang has been one of the few positive developments this fall, and since the Emmy system does seem to respond to success, I'm thinking it's very possible that the show's profile will grow enough in its sophomore season to make it likely that Jim Persons will break through with a deserved nomination this year. This week's episode, about his feud with Penny, was one of the funniest yet; the opening gag featuring Klingon Boggle was priceless, and watching the geek squad get hooked on America's Next Top Model (with cameos at the end by two of this season's finalists) was about as good as crossover plugs (CBS to CW) get. Much as I like the show, I think Parsons is probably the best shot for a nomination. I'd put this and The New Adventures of Old Christine in the mix for best comedy series any time, but the current Emmy trend is to slight traditional sitcoms in favor of the "hipper" variety of single-camera comedy on display on NBC on Thursday nights or on cable.
Quite a bit of Big Bang mail lately. Here's more. This one's from Cathy: "I've been a fan of The Big Bang Theory since the beginning. I love all the characters (even wormy Wolowitz) and think the actors have great chemistry (no pun intended). So I'm really disappointed that Sara Gilbert's horrible Leslie Winkle is now a regular. Her entire purpose seems to be to appear in the cafeteria and call Sheldon a "dumbass." Every. Single. Show. She's rude and insulting and — even worse now — boring. I literally cringe every time she appears on screen. Am I alone in feeling this way? Is this character even necessary? Since you've always been a Big Bang booster, I'd love to hear your opinion on this."
She doesn't bother me, but I think it's probably wise for the show to treat her as a recurring regular and use her in relatively small doses, which has been pretty much the case so far. Much as I love the episodes that focus on the core group — again, this week's episode was a classic in that regard — an abrasive character like Leslie is essential to give the characters more comic beats to play with: in this case, someone from the opposite sex who can bait Sheldon as an intellectual nemesis, even as she toys with Leonard sexually. It doesn't surprise me that some fans find her annoying, but then, she's meant to be.
Ann writes: "Loved the recent article on the success of The Big Bang Theory. I have loved that show since the first episode, but now have to work Monday nights. Can you tell us why they don't offer full episodes online? The little clips are just not enough!"
I'm not an expert on why some shows make deals for free online streaming and others don't, but it often has something to do with whether the show is an in-house production. And since Big Bang (like Two and a Half Men, which also only offers clips on CBS's website) is from Warner Bros., not CBS/Paramount, that's reason enough for me. I know the online option is convenient, especially for shows in such a crowded time period, but it makes sense to me that on occasion they'll try to force your hand to watch something (or at least record it) on TV, which is where it was meant to be seen in the first place.
Question: Based on some of the ratings this season, has the much-plagued sitcom genre seen a little momentum throughout the early weeks of the fall? Big Bang Theory, How I Met Your Mother, 30 Rock, The Office and The New Adventures of Old Christine have at times won their slots or at least shown significant strength. Two and a Half Men continues to impress, and even newcomers like Gary Unmarried and Kath and Kim have been durable in their early days. Add My Name is Earl, Rules of Engagement and Scrubs into the mix, and it seems the networks don't need to hang on to dreck like According to Jim, which benefited from the drought in sitcom hits. I know it's only early days and only Men is a top-20 staple, but I am finding this season to be a step in the right direction for the sitcom format from a ratings and creative direction. And kudos to CBS for opening a second night for their sitcoms, which hasn't been hugely successful but didn't fall down like everyone expected. Yes, we can do without a few of them (Kath and Kim is wretched), but some of the current sitcoms are some of TV's best. The sitcom is on its way back! — Chris C.
Matt Roush: I'm all for accentuating the positive, and you make some good points, but when one entire network (ABC) has only one comedy on the fall schedule — though more, including Scrubs, are in the wings for midseason — and when Fox can't sustain a single comedy that isn't a cartoon (again, there are some promising ones in the wings), then it's still a bit early to be celebrating a renaissance. NBC's comedies remain something of an acquired taste, though Office and 30 Rock are on solid footing, but CBS's Monday lineup is undeniably a hit, and most of the shows (especially Big Bang) deserve to be. CBS's Wednesday comedies are sleepers, not disasters, though Christine is perpetually the most underrated of its category. So bottom line: Yes, there is cause for hope, and as always room for improvement, but given the state of the economy, now is the time for the networks to step up and deliver some shows that have no greater ambition than making us laugh our tails off. Fingers crossed.
Question: I am absolutely fascinated with Owen Hunt (Kevin McKidd) on Grey's Anatomy. I love the dynamic between Hunt and Yang and also how we are able to see him at two different points in his life in reference to his posttraumatic stress disorder. He was literally the walking dead in last week's episode until Yang snapped him out of it with her own personal story involving her father's death. Hunt's PTSD will be an interesting thing for Yang and the rest of the hospital staff to deal with. Yang and Hunt also seem to jump past certain areas in terms of how they connect with each other, but I hope that it is not a slow-building relationship. When they first met, there was an instant attraction, they made out and they have already "fixed" each other at one point or another physically. Mentally, both are complete chaos. Derek's comparison of Yang to single malt scotch was a cool analogy, considering that single malt scotch is the snowflake of whisky, Did anyone notice in Hunt's "cameo" the week before, he orders whiskey at Joe's but changes his mind. Foreshadowing? There are some things about Yang that Meredith will never understand, and I think Yang is the only one who can help Hunt come to grips with his PTSD. I also think that Hunt will help Yang get over the debacle that was Burke, but he will force her to be more personal than she has been even with Meredith in order to get through to him. I have high hopes for this character, in spite of all the irregular writing that has plagued others like Izzie and Callie. It is also great to see Kevin McKidd back on television. I thought Journeyman was prematurely cancelled and loved him in Rome. At the same time, I hope the Grey's writers will explore Hunt's PTSD responsibly and not glamorize it for the sake of ratings. — Maya
Matt Roush: I agree that Hunt/McKidd is the most encouraging thing to happen to Grey's Anatomy in quite a while. I'm not sure I want the show to explore so fully the PTSD angle that it would be at the expense of the more combative and charismatic sides of his personality, but the instant sparks between him and Yang were electrifying — and I really enjoyed the scene where he humbled himself before Derek and Sloan to say he needed their guidance to operate on a different sort of battlefield. And who wouldn't love someone who has no use for all the hanky-panky going on in this oversexed hospital? Finally, a grown-up! More, more, more of this guy. And by the way, single malt scotch "the snowflake of whisky?" Niiiice.
Question: I was completely shocked about Brooke Smith being axed on Grey's Anatomy, especially because it happened so quickly. And even after reading Shonda Rhimes' official statement about why the Erica Hahn character was supposedly let go, I just couldn't find peace in that. In her statement, Rhimes only mentions that they decided to let Smith go because they didn't like where the Callie/Erica relationship was going. Fine, but why would that justify the fact that Smith was fired from the show altogether? This doesn't make sense. I mean if Grey's (or any given show, for that matter) was to write out every character that ends a relationship with another character, there wouldn't be anyone left on the show! If Rhimes is telling the truth, then she just could have ended the Callica relationship and keep Hahn around! The two characters could have dealt with their breakup on screen and move on like any other TV couple. Hahn didn't have to go anywhere. Is it just me or does Rhimes's official reason for axing Smith seems like she's only telling half the truth? — Jordan
Matt Roush: You have to read between the lines in situations like this. Shonda Rhimes is not likely to be able to come out and say bluntly that the network and/or studio made her fire Brooke Smith — the fault, of course, being more in the writing than in the performance — but early reports about the situation leave you with no other conclusion than her hand was forced in shedding the character and actress so quickly. It was awkward and unfortunate and reflects badly on everyone involved, but with Melissa George and Mary McDonnell coming aboard for a while, let's see if they can help fill the void.
Question: Please answer the following questions about Ghost Whisperer: Is the character Jim really leaving? Any spoilers for the next episode? Is Melinda pregnant? — Rachel M.
Matt Roush: You know I don't do spoilers, right? I've seen the next two episodes following Jim's death last week, and all I will tell you is that the show is asking you (and the actor David Conrad) to take a giant leap of faith at the end of tonight's episode as it figures out a most original way to keep the show's leading man by Melinda's side, while still hewing to the show's theme of tackling afterlife issues head-on. It's all pretty weird, and I'll be curious to see if the show's fan base (of which I'm not a regular member) will be satisfied by the solution.
Question: I have been a fan of Brothers & Sisters since its debut. Through the good (Kevin's wedding, Justin's military service) and the bad (the dull Tommy plotlines), I've always been one of its most ardent supporters. With all this in mind, I am dismayed at this season's pathetic plot. Note to the writers: We don't want the same storyline twice! Nobody cares! For one and a half seasons, the whole crux of the show was the Rebecca plot. I thoroughly enjoyed it, even when Rebecca was officially "de-Walkered" last season. But I absolutely have no interest in the Ryan storyline. None at all. We've been through this exact plot before. It's moot, done, finished! Even if this whole Ryan plot ends up different from the one involving Rebecca, at least 10 episodes will still be wasted in the process. I have no idea why these talented writers would give us the same story twice. It's lazy, sloppy, boring writing! What's next, another hatch on Lost? Or another plot on Desperate Housewives that involves someone being kept prisoner in the basement? I still love the characters on B&S, so I'll continue to watch every Sunday, but the flame that I felt for this show during the first two seasons is quickly flickering out. — Spencer
Matt Roush: Yes, I'm almost at the point of "breaking up" with this one myself. The Ryan story is ridiculous, and you make a good point about the redundancy, but I'm also disenchanted when the Walkers act so incredibly childish: Tommy and Kevin brawling at Justin's sobriety ceremony just the latest eye-rolling example. Like you, I'm sticking with it primarily for the cast, and because it's still a decent fit with the miraculously improved Desperate Housewives. But on a night that also gives us The Amazing Race, True Blood, Dexter and The Unit, it's almost becoming that dreaded one show too many to keep up with.
Question: I've read on TV Guide's Web site that there's a very real possibility that Mad Men will continue without creator/writer Matthew Weiner. Have you heard any updates about this? I can't imagine that AMC would even consider such a change. Matthew Weiner is Mad Men, and I think I would rather the show be canceled than watch a version that is not a product of Weiner's rich and detailed storytelling. Mad Men needs Matthew Weiner, and we need Mad Men. Any thoughts? — Jan
Matt Roush: I don't want to imagine Mad Men continuing without Matthew Weiner's nearly legendary obsession with these characters and the world they inhabit. I desperately hope and trust that he'll come to terms with Lionsgate, AMC and whoever else is involved in making the deal. But regardless of how the business side of things turns out, Mad Men will continue, and I'm glad for that. But I pity whoever may attempt to fill his shoes (if it gets to that point) when it comes to withstanding the scrutiny from those of us who pick the show apart, even at its best.
Another Mad Men question, from Bill: "Your belief that the women of Mad Men are unlikely to be ignored at the Emmys leads me to some questions about the stunning work of January Jones as Betty. Being that she is Don's wife, the likely spot Jones would submit herself in is as lead actress. But the biggest handicap for her in that slot is that she would be going up against Glenn Close. With that in mind, do you believe that Jones, if nominated, would be a viable contender against Close, or is Close too powerful for Jones to prevail? Secondly, assuming that an unknown like Jones couldn't hope to prevail against a star like Close, do you believe Jones would be justified in submitting herself for consideration not as lead actress but in the supporting actress slot, even though that would put her in direct competition with costar Elisabeth Moss if both women were nominated?"
An interesting question. An argument could be made for Betty in both lead and supporting categories. Betty, being part of the show's core couple, certainly qualifies January Jones for a lead-actress nomination, and AMC tells me that's how she'll be submitting herself. But given that she does play a supporting role in Don's life, and isn't featured prominently in a number of episodes, I wouldn't have been shocked to see her in the supporting category, and you're right that she might have had a better chance there, in part because her work is so subtle, she may have trouble measuring up against the showier, more bravura roles played by stars like Glenn Close, Kyra Sedgwick, etc. But does she deserve a best-actress nod? Absolutely. She was astonishing, especially in the depression/breakdown episodes following the fateful dinner party that triggered the Drapers' separation. But if the Emmy nominations reward Mad Men fully, the supporting category should already be plenty full, with Moss and Christina Hendricks at the very least. Let's hope they all get their due.
Question: I understand you are a huge fan of Dexter. I used to be a fan, but without Doakes, it's like Dexter has lost some of its spark. Dexter is able to fool everyone, but he wasn't able to fool Doakes. That made for a very entertaining show, especially last season when Doakes started "stalking" Dexter, and we watch knowing any day Doakes was going to discover who Dexter really was. The suspense is gone now. Watching Rita whine about the baby and Dexter is not entertaining. I think the worst thing about this season is how boring Jimmy Smits' character is. What do you think of this? And just a quick comment about the character of Annie on Life On Mars. On the original British version, Annie and Sam had instant chemistry. She had a purpose on the show. In this version, Annie is a throwaway character. If she went away by the next episode, I don't think I would even notice. She's bland and has no chemistry with Sam. I honestly don't believe she's needed on the show. What do you think? — Sina
Matt Roush: Regarding Dexter: I felt at the time that the show would have trouble living up to the brilliance of the nearly perfect second season, which peaked in the incredible suspense of the Doakes storyline (especially once he discovered the blood slides). And that has proven to be the case this season, which is a little bit of a letdown, especially when it comes to anything in the police precinct that doesn't involve Dexter. (Angel and the lady vice cop? Are we expected to actually care?) But I disagree with your take on the Jimmy Smits character, which is anything but boring to me. For Dexter to be confronted with the idea of an actual friend, a partner in vigilante crime (with the façade of a prosecutor, yet) who isn't even bound by Dexter's code and who actually alarms Dexter with his zeal to take down his adversaries, that's pretty potent stuff. And the fact that this character is being played by Smits, who up to now has been associated primarily with heroic roles, just adds to the thrill. I'm enjoying this season a great deal — it's still one of the most original and audacious things I've ever seen on TV — but it is noticeably uneven, and it's quite possible the Doakes story will never be equaled. As for Annie on Life on Mars: I guess Gretchen Mol is a bit bland and chirpy, and some of her Psych-101 insights are awfully obvious, but so far I don't find her a drag on what is still an intriguing and ambitious project. (Now Lisa Bonet as Sam's listless 2008 amour? The less of her the better.)
Question: Does negative reaction to Legend of the Seeker make a second season less likely? I know many fans of the book are harshly speaking out against the series, but I love the show. — Maria O.
Matt Roush: The worst thing that could happen to a show like this is for it to be ignored by its fan base. The show did not get very positive reviews (including from me), and I'm not keeping up with fan reaction, positive or negative. But what will determine Seeker's future has all to do with business: how well it performs in syndication for the local stations and how well it sells in the overseas markets. I haven't seen any early returns yet, but Disney has made quite an investment with launching this new fantasy series into syndication, so I'd expect them to stick with it unless it proves to be an utter dud. But while I'm on the subject of TV fantasy, I wanted to revisit the topic of HBO's adaptation of George R.R. Martin's A Game of Thrones (the Song of Ice and Fire series). HBO has officially green-lit a pilot, based on a truly terrific (though currently still unfinished) series of novels. This is no guarantee the show will go to series, but it's a good sign.
Question: I am really enjoying Ugly Betty this season. It is nice to see the cast outside on the New York City streets, and I think it adds a lot to the show. However, my question is, how do they film the interior shots like the Mode offices and Betty's house? Did they have to create all new sets like the ones in L.A.? I have been wondering about this for weeks. — Rose L.
Matt Roush: The way ABC explained it to me is that the Mode office interiors were rebuilt with some things reconfigured from the L.A. set, but the Suarez house was pretty much trucked in from L.A. as is. I agree it's a big plus for them not to have to fake Manhattan anymore. But I'm still waiting for the show to tickle my fancy this season. A little less Mode, a little more heart would be a good start.