Matt Roush


Critic's Notebook: The Network Upfronts

Robin Lord Taylor, Benjamin McKenzie

A curious rite of mid-May: Even as the broadcast networks are wrapping their regular seasons with a flurry of cliffhangers and finale events — farewell, Cristina Yang, and a toast to those soon-to-be-newlyweds Mitch and Cam — all eyes in the industry are already looking to the future, with a just-concluded Upfront Week of noisy presentations in New York in which new series and schedules are announced with a fanfare that probably beats the alternative: blowing taps for all the failed series announced last year at this time.

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Ask Matt: Cancellations, Mindy, Superheroes, Scandal, Person of Interest, CSI, More

Chris Messina, Mindy Kaling

Send questions and comments to askmatt@tvguidemagazine.com and follow me on Twitter!

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Question: I heard that Fox canceled its freshmen sitcoms Dads, Enlisted and Surviving Jack! While I never watched and didn't care for Dads, I did watch (and loved!) both Enlisted and Surviving Jack. What puzzles me about the cancellations of all of these shows were that their ratings performed with the same numbers that Fox's other sitcoms New Girl, The Mindy Project and Brooklyn Nine-Nine, yet those shows all got renewed for another season! Why is it that The Powers That Be at Fox would cancel three shows that had the same low (or modest) ratings as the other three shows that got picked up for another year? It doesn't really make sense with me! - Chris

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Monday Review: The Return of 24 and Louie

Keifer Sutherland

A day in the life of Jack Bauer would go so much easier if anyone would just listen to him when he barks commands like, "Stop that couple!" Fat chance when what seems like half the armed personnel of the CIA's London bureau have guns pointed at the good guy instead of the fleeing bad guys.

Will they never learn? Apparently not. Which is no doubt exactly the desire of the fans who've been waiting four long years — that's roughly 35,064 hours in real time — for 24, one of TV's most electrifying thrillers, and Kiefer Sutherland as its beleaguered yet seemingly indestructible hero to snap back into action. The novelty — and thus, a bit of the edge — is gone as Fox's 12-part 24: Live Another Day seeks to prove that less is more, slowly revving up the comfortably formulaic engine while visceral split-screen editing once again intensifies the literally explosive twists. And yet, because a sad, mad, badass Jack Bauer is the only Jack we've ever known, there's something grimly satisfying when he mutters bleakly to one of his few allies, "I don't have any friends."

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Ask Matt: Game of Thrones, Enlisted, Mindy, Salem, Good Wife

Iain Glen, Ian McElhinney, Emilia Clarke.

Send questions and comments to askmatt@tvguidemagazine.com and follow me on Twitter!

Question: I love Game of Thrones. I think it is so ambitious, unique, well-acted and produced. My one issue is the time allotted for the ever-engrossing and expanding cast. If they follow the books at all, the cast would grow even more. How successful does a show have to be for HBO to consider making either more episodes per season or having longer episodes per season? It's not network TV so they don't have commercial considerations to fight against. Every year and week anymore, it seems like GOT is breaking some record in viewers. Always the most pirated show. Don't have a clue about DVD sales. Just seems to me that we are starting to and will continue to lose something from this show by only getting five minutes with each character. It's like by the time I'm really enjoying it, the episode is ending. Is adding to episode orders or time something that is possible or discussed? Would be such a shame if they didn't continue on a brilliant adaptation. And I would think this show makes HBO money and a lot of it. If it didn't, I would understand how my idea would be the stuff of grumpkins. — Trenton

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Weekend TV: LEGO My Simpsons, Resurrection Finale

The Simpsons

Oh, snap! After 25 seasons, Fox's The Simpsons can still seem as fresh and inventive as when we first met this merrily mutant family — especially when the show raises its game as it does for this weekend's milestone 550th (!) episode (Sunday, 8/7c), a fantastical collaboration with LEGO in which all the elements of visuals, story and jokes click into place with spectacular results.

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Tuesday TV: Playing House, the Fabulous Fargo

Jessica St. Claire, Lennon Parham

If at first you don't succeed, try cable. Which helps explain the déjà vu feeling that accompanies USA Network's new-but-kinda-familiar Playing House (Tuesday, 10/9c), starring and executive produced by real-life BFFs and partners-in-comedy Lennon Parham and Jessica St. Clair, who performed similar duties for the blink-and-you-missed-it NBC sitcom dud Best Friends Forever, which aired for several weeks two midseasons ago.

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Ask Matt: Hannibal Revisionism, Race Redemption, Blacklist In-Joke, and More

Raul Esparza

Send questions and comments to askmatt@tvguidemagazine.com and follow me on Twitter!

Question: I've been enjoying the insights into the early Hannibal Lecter and Norman Bates on Hannibal and Bates Motel. I know that both shows are just based on the original works and can certainly invent stories for the characters. However, I expect the TV series to at least honor the future stories that we're so familiar with. What I mean: Bates Motel is terrific at bringing young Norman along where we can understand the Norman in Psycho and how he got that way. The taxidermy and now the blackouts are both critical, as is the relationship with Mother. However, I was very upset that they killed off Dr. Chilton in Hannibal since he is an important character in the novels. We can accept that what we see in Jack, Will, Bloom, Lounds, etc. are consistent (genders aside) with what we see later in Red Dragon and Silence of the Lambs. But now, there is no place for Chilton in the future stories. Am I out of line and the only one who has complained? — Jerome

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Ask Matt: Scandal, Person of Interest, Nashville, Revolution and More

Scandal

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Question: From the moment Cyrus elected (pun intended) not to let anyone else in on the bomb threat to the final silliness of Olivia and Jake wending skyward on daddy's jet, the Scandal finale was all the usual over-the-top perfection Gladiators have come to love and expect from Shonda Rhimes when she's operating at the top of her "a little too much is not enough" game. Nice homage to the Keyser Söze reveal from The Usual Suspects at the end. Sorry Columbus Short got offed; perhaps if his character had been given a real reel life I'd miss him more, but that was one of the flaws in the mostly great/outlandish storytelling that truly bugged this fangirl. I know it was a rush from plot point to plot point, but I'm willing to accept the pregnancy as a legitimate excuse for the end-of-season, roller rink stop-and-go, punch in the face/gut action. And what a nice sendoff for Joe Morton! Now let's see how Rhimes gets Olivia back in the game. Who's she gonna play with now? This could be a signal that there are new players, yet to be named. And how in the expletive deleted are they (Ms. Rhimes and Ms. Pope) gonna top that?! — McKenzie

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Weekend TV: Orphan Black, Salem, Lifetime Making Whoopi

Tatiana Maslany, Jordan Gavaris

"You are a bloody wrecking ball. You are an exploding cigar," laments a confidante of the clones under siege in BBC America's thrillingly entertaining Orphan Black. She's also a bloody marvel, as Tatiana Maslany plays these diverse doppelgangers with astonishing range and surprising nuance. Scrappy street waif? Check. High-strung soccer mom? Check. Lesbian scientist-in-training? Check. Deranged Russian assassin? Why not. Beyond a provocative premise and blistering pace, Orphan Black is a terrific showcase for one of TV's great performances. Even when it threatens to look like a stunt, with one clone at another's throat in a smackdown or layering the subterfuge when one clone pretends to be another, this bonded-by-genetics sister act never feels forced or phony.

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Tuesday TV: You Betcha, Fargo's Terrific

Allison Tolman, Bob Odenkirk

There's no place quite like the twisted heartland of FX's Fargo (Tuesday, 10/9c), a marvelous 10-episode variation on themes established in the quirky 1996 Oscar winning film. Once again, warm and neighborly small-town decency gives way to a bitter chill that has less to do with the snowy Minnesota plains than with the dark crevasses of human depravity.

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