Masi Oka, Heroes
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: Would you say Heroes decline in viewership is similar to the decline that Lost suffered after its first season? Lost originally had huge numbers when it debuted, but steadily declined because casual fans found the show "too mysterious" and that there were "too many questions and not enough answers." Would it be safe to say the mainstream, sci-fi shows that are aired on major networks may all suffer from this fate in some form or another? I know a lot of people blame Heroes' decline on poor writing (I don't watch the show so I can't say for myself) as opposed to the impatience some viewers experienced with Lost, but both shows seem to have a very solid fan base who will watch no matter what. Do you see NBC doing what it can to save Heroes the way ABC did with Lost? — Sarah S.
Matt Roush: I see quite a few similarities here, in part because I never expected either show to do as well as they did in their first seasons. Lost broke all the rules (and in the first season, initially aired at 8 pm/ET, another potential handicap), but was so exciting in that first phase that I was thrilled to be swept up in the phenomenon. But with Heroes, I always felt that, even at its best (the midsection of Season 1 up to the finale), the show was so scattered and overstuffed that I was shocked it ever earned the following it did. Still, always happy to see an out-of-the-box hit, even when I don't share the joy. But it's also true, as you note, that shows that ask this much of the viewer and take such risks (some good, some not so much) inevitably come down to earth, though Lost at least has regained its critical reputation. I'm sure, to address your last question, that fixing Heroes is a priority for NBC, and let's hope the back half of the season with a new arc puts the show back on more solid footing. I'm afraid it may be too late to woo back some of the earlier fans. Still, a cult hit is better than most of what NBC has going for it right now. More Heroes mail to come. Just warning you.
Question: With the cancellation of My Own Worst Enemy, it would appear that NBC is 0-for-3 in the post-Heroes time slot. I can think of another time slot plagued by that kind of record: the old post-Lost time slot, which was the death of shows like The Nine, The Evidence and Invasion before ABC got a clue and moved it to the end of the night. Do you think that moving Heroes to the end of Monday night could benefit both NBC and the show? I could envision a night starting with some piece of fluff reality — or perhaps Knight Rider (the better to have it sink and be cancelled next season) — that I wouldn't be sad to miss going up against all the other stuff in that killer Monday-at-8 pm/ET timeslot, followed by Chuck at 9 pm, thankfully moved to a less busy slot, and Heroes at 10 pm. — Nika
Matt Roush: All along, NBC has had a show that plays well after Heroes and works well in that challenging time period: Medium, a perennial (and inexplicable) midseason benchwarmer, which I'm betting will be back on Mondays in the new year. I don't see NBC moving Heroes to the last hour of prime time, in part because the show attracts such a young audience, and its comic-book vibe makes sense to be programmed in an earlier time period. I love your idea of throwing Knight Rider to the Monday wolves and rescuing Chuck, although there's probably no safe haven for that charming show, either. Bottom line: Heroes had early success in this Monday time period, and moving it would likely do more harm than good.
Question: I've put with up Heroes through the good (Season 1's "Company Man" episode), the bad (Season 2), and the ugly (Season 3), but last week's episode was completely ludicrous. As if this season wasn't bad enough, now they have Hiro believing he's a 10 year-old kid again. I must be missing something, because wasn't Hiro the breakout star of this show? I mean, the actor was even nominated for an Emmy! Now they've stuck him in yet another ridiculous story line. Seriously, what are the writers thinking? In all my years of watching TV, I have never seen a once lovable character plummet as far as Hiro has plummeted on this show. Lazy writing (can we please give Claire something to do besides sprouting lame lines and giving mean stares?), weak plot development, and little-to-no character development has made Heroes unbearable to watch at times. But what they've done to the once great character of Hiro is inexcusable, and if not rectified soon, it will cost the show yet another viewer. — Craig W.
Matt Roush: Well said. Of all characters to monkey around with, first sending him to feudal Japan last season and now this infantile subplot. (The cure: comic books, naturally.) While the show has myriad problems, I'd say the misuse of Hiro and the ever-changing nature of Sylar from good to bad to whatever are probably the most annoying to me right now.
But just to show all the mail I get about Heroes isn't bad, here's this from Allison: "With all the bad press and backlash against Heroes, I'm worried it will affect Cristine Rose's chance at getting an Emmy nomination. I know how you feel about the show, but she is really the high point of it for me, especially her acting in the recent flashback episode. In the reviews I read, she is usually not only singled out, but one reporter wanted to start the Emmy campaign for her in September. What do you think? And even if the negativity backs down and the show picks up, will her chances still be tainted? And anything we as fans can do about it? I suppose not."
Not really much we can do to influence how the awards circuit plays out, but Cristine Rose has the same problem as anyone from a show like this. The industry tends to look down on fantasy/sci-fi shows, especially ones with so much negative buzz around it. (Masi Oka, being such a breakout, was an exception during the first season.) She's acting rings around just about everyone, I agree, even when Angela's in a comatose state. But it's not the sort of work that tends to get noticed at awards time, as unfair as that may seem.
Question: Okay, I will admit I am in denial. Although everyone is saying that My Own Worst Enemy is canceled, I am hanging onto the fact that NBC hasn't officially confirmed it. Is there any hope to save this show? I cannot be the only one who loves it. It has only had a chance to show off four episodes. Will we even be given the opportunity to see the remaining five? Please give me some hope! — Anne
Matt Roush: Shutting down production is about as final as these things get. It's over. Finished. Terminated. But my understanding is that NBC will air the remainder of the episodes, with the show still scheduled through mid-December. (In part because NBC has nothing in the wings, and why would they throw something new away in December?) It appears that Enemy airing all of its finished episodes is part of a corporate arrangement NBC has with the automobile company whose product-placement on the show had NBC doing cartwheels last summer during TCA press tour, around the same time the show's producers were still scrambling to rework the show and to explain to the press how it all made sense. Which it didn't. Just another example that when a show is more about a deal (whether regarding talent or a product placement) than it is about the creative elements, it's almost sure to fail.
Question: What are your thoughts on Worst Week? In everything I read, people say it's a rip-off of Meet the Parents. Who cares? Almost every show gets its inspiration from something else. Isn't Wife Swap a rip off of Trading Spouses? Grey's Anatomy a rip-off of ER? Perfect Strangers a rip-off of Laverne & Shirley? America's Got Talent a rip-off of The Gong Show? Million Dollar Password a rip-off of Super Password which was a rip-off of Password Plus which was a rip-off of Password? I think Worst Week is a funny and clever show. And now that Fred Willard is part of the cast, it makes it even that much better. — Eric
Matt Roush: OK, I get your point. Almost no show is altogether original, but combining the fact that Worst Week is one of many remakes of shows from overseas this season, and the source material is so reminiscent of a major hit film franchise, you pretty much had to expect the show to take those knocks. What it boils down to, as always, is execution, and whether the show is actually funny. Some weeks I find Worst Week a scream, with its "Oh no he didn't!" set-ups, but some weeks I find them telegraphing the elaborate jokes and the slapstick so obviously — say, the episode at the country club that ended with the destruction of the gazebo, or the one where the baby swallowed the ring — that I get little kick out of the predictable mayhem. That said, last week's episode was one of the better ones, with Sam's parents believing all the lies concocted about Mel's parents (and Fred Willard was a hoot throughout), and Sam's haplessness from destroying the crystal glass flutes in the microwave to scattering the broken glass all over the newly polished floors had me groaning in a good way. And I suppose any time you have a giant wedding cake deposited in the front yard, you have to expect the boob hero's eventually going to land face first into it. One's tolerance for a show like Worst Week has a lot to do with how much farce and slapstick anyone can stand, and how long it takes before we tire of watching everything go wrong. Still, just because it supposedly "rips off" something else isn't reason enough to turn on it.
Question: I am an avid reader of your column and Ask Matt. You have probably seen the final episode of The Shield, but it is my opinion that the final scene should be Vic being taken away in handcuffs. I feel that this would be the ultimate torture for Vic, who always needs to be in control of the situations he finds himself in. I feel that death would be too easy for Vic. Let me know what you think. — Mike S.
Matt Roush: Naturally, I wouldn't dream of revealing anything that happens in Tuesday's finale, but I bet that most fans of The Shield feel the way you do. That whatever's in store for Vic in the very final chapter is commensurate with his misdeeds — and how about that confession scene last week, and Claudette's ferocious reaction to him getting full immunity for his crimes. I'll be surprised if most fans aren't very satisfied with how it all plays out. What a show.
Question: I was watching Numbers the other night, and I was reminded of how I felt when it first premiered. I loved it from the first episode, but figured it would never last. Glad I got that wrong. I'm wondering, are there any shows that you've loved from the first episode but spent the first season secretly bracing for the inevitable cancellation that just didn't come? — Amy R.
Matt Roush: Sometimes it doesn't stop with the first season. And while I'm glad Numbers is thriving, as one of the more eccentric of CBS's procedurals, given the sort of show it is I never really doubted it would last on that network. I usually duck these broader-than-broad questions because I'll inevitably leave something significant out, but the show that comes immediately to mind here is one of my all-time faves: ABC's Vietnam drama China Beach, which was so powerful and so adult and so groundbreaking for its time that I always feared ABC would cancel it by the next commercial break. The show made it through four seasons, which wasn't enough for me but which was more than I expected. I think I'd put NBC's beloved low-keyed charmer Ed in the same category. And in terms of shows that went on to great success but which I spent the first season arguing any way I could to keep it on the air, I'd have to say Everybody Loves Raymond and The X-Files (which both began on low-rated Fridays) are among my favorite success stories.
Question: Given the relatively high rate of failure for new TV shows, has there ever been any movement by networks to involve critics in the decision-making process for new shows? It seems like critics such as yourself would have a unique perspective on what makes a successful show, both critically and popularly. Obviously it's impossible to always predict how a show will or won't catch on, but considering the money involved, it seems like the networks would want to get some expert opinion before committing to a show's development. — Scott E.
Matt Roush: Thanks for the compliment, but have you noticed the kinds of shows critics typically go goofy for? If the networks took our lead, or let us inside the tent (which would be wildly inappropriate for any number of conflict-of-interest reasons), their lineups would risk looking like a killing field of noble failures.
Question: I was wondering if the coming winter batch of Monk episodes were indeed the last for the series. I realize the show is older than most, but I still enjoy the quirkiness of Tony Shalhoub. I will miss the show very much. With the cancellation of The Dead Zone and The 4400 last year, I am also wondering if USA has anything else that they are going to premiere next year. I adore Burn Notice and Psych, but aside from The Starter Wife they only seem to have crime shows airing. Do you know what the USA Network has up their sleeves? If the adorable Pushing Daisies does not make it on ABC, I think USA would be a great venue. Could there be a chance they pick it up? — Liz
Matt Roush: Monk has announced its finish date, but it won't be this winter's batch of episodes — which after a holiday special this Friday will return on January 9, finishing out the current seventh season. Monk will start its actual countdown to the end this summer, when a final eighth season begins. USA Network is preparing for this moment, when it finally lets go the show that turned around the network's fortunes and established the template for quirky character-based light drama. There are a number of new properties in various stages of pilot development and filming, and not all of them have a criminal angle (although some do, because it's USA's bread and butter). At the moment, USA hasn't said which ones are going forward to series, but their track record is pretty solid and I wouldn't bet against them.
Question: I really enjoy your columns each week. I wanted to get your opinion about Friday Night Lights. After watching the most recent episode, is there any doubt that this show is every bit as good as it ever was, if not better? We're back to believability in the storylines and the acting is the best by any ensemble on any show. I'm all for drilling up as much support for this show now so that those who have to wait until January when NBC airs these episodes will be anxiously waiting. As the show ended last night, I said out loud (even though I was alone), "Oh yeah! They're back!" What do you think? — Stefanie S.
Matt Roush: I think you're right, and one of the less heralded miracles of this TV season is the rescue of this wonderful show by DirecTV. I feel we've been given a rare opportunity to get closure for a handful of beloved characters, while being immersed one more (possibly last) time in the wonderfully observed life of Dillon and its flesh-and-blood residents. I have no idea if this deal sharing the show between DirecTV and NBC will continue beyond this season, but I look at these episodes as a true gift. The fact that they've been mostly terrific is just a bonus. Fans of the show eagerly awaiting its return on NBC this winter will not be disappointed.