Ask Matt: Broadchurch, The Killing, NCIS and Ziva, Reality Judges
Cote de Pablo
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Question: Just as I was thinking I should write and ask if you'd heard or seen anything about Broadchurch, I saw you mention it in a recent Ask Matt column about summer TV. I was lucky enough to see the entire series already, and it was simultaneously one of the most well-written and acted shows I've ever seen, and one of the most horrifying. Have you gotten a chance to view it yet, and if so, what did you think? Can't wait to read your review! — Gwen
Matt Roush: I'll be reviewing it in the magazine and posting online closer to the actual premiere date (Aug. 7 on BBC America, airing weekly through Oct. 2), but I did recently devour this remarkable drama, eight episodes in a little over a day, the most compulsive binge viewing since I discovered The Fall on Netflix (see my review of that here). It is a shattering piece of work, a sunnier The Killing with tighter writing and an even greater emotional wallop as it tracks the impact of a boy's murder on a small tightly knit seaside community. David Tennant and especially Olivia Colman are outstanding as the detectives uneasily yoked together to work the case, and it's one of those mysteries where you are almost afraid to learn whodunit — and the resolution bears out those trepidations. If you can fit one more show into your summer viewing schedule (which will also fill up in August with the final chapters of Breaking Bad), let it be Broadchurch.
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Question: Why does The Killing take place mostly in the dark? Even rooms where one would expect there to be lights (maximum security jails, police stations!) are dark! It's hard to see what is happening and is often frustrating to watch. — Christine
Matt Roush: Like the nearly incessant rain (which at least pertains to the Seattle setting), the darkness that envelops The Killing is meant to enhance mood and evoke unease. But as often happens when style overwhelms substance, it can be laughably overdone, and that's certainly the case here. Any time I've tried to watch episodes of the show in advance via an online link, I'm often seeing only shadows and have to rewatch on TV (sometimes in vain) to see what actually happened. My eyes feel your pain.
Question: I am completely shocked and saddened that Cote de Pablo is leaving NCIS. What is behind her departure? — Tina
Matt Roush: By all accounts, including her own statement, this was Cote de Pablo's choice to depart the show after eight seasons, although she will appear in at least a few episodes in the upcoming season to wrap up the character's story — and, one presumes, relationships with the core cast (let's hope without a fatality, since that's been done, literally to death). This is not uncommon for stars of long-running and successful shows — think ER, which lost just about every one of its original players over time — but it's definitely an unfortunate development for this series and for fans, especially of the Tiva "shipper" variety. Which leads to this next question, which arrives in the mailbag before the news of de Pablo's departure.
Question: About the Tiva issue [Tony and Ziva for the non-NCIS initiated]: A few seasons ago, Tony and Ziva were in Paris on agency business, where they had to share the last available hotel room. When Tiva returned stateside, Tony and Ziva casually tell different stories about who slept where. I believe Ziva says that she let Tony have the bed, or he would be complaining about his back for the next week. However, Tony says that he slept on the couch. I expected more to follow that season. But nada followed. I played back the episode several times after the season finale and failed to find total satisfactory closure on the issue. Rather than belabor the issue and diminish my viewing pleasures, I choose to believe that Tony and Ziva had a fantastically rewarding and very private romantic interlude in Paris, which they, thankfully, do not share with their fellow agents, colleagues or the viewing masses, unlike their mentors Jethro and Jenny. Would love to hear additional views or information on this particular episode/issue. — Claudette
Matt Roush: Ah yes, they'll always have Paris, whatever did or didn't transpire there, and the show's producers were very cagey, purposefully so, about keeping the details a mystery, so as to stimulate the imaginations of fans and shippers to this very day. I'm sure you're not alone in imagining what might have (and very possibly did) happen in the City of Light. One way for the producers to go as they bid Ziva farewell is to shed new light on this infamous incident, giving shippers the gift they've so long awaited. Even so, separating Ziva from Tony will not be a happy day for many of the fanbase.
Question: I'm a regular viewer of reality TV competition shows (The Voice, The X Factor, MasterChef, Hell's Kitchen, America's Got Talent and So You Think You Can Dance). My favorite, by far, is So You Think You Can Dance, followed by the cooking shows, and I'm wondering why other competition shows don't pick up on what I think makes Dance so strong: the judges. Each show has talented competitors. But while The Voice, The X Factor and American Idol keep competing to get the biggest celebrities to join their judges' tables, SYTYCD has stuck with its panel of well-established professionals who know dance inside and out and consistently provide accurate, fair and well-intentioned criticism that is actually helpful and aimed at making the dancers better. I find their level of insight completely lacking on any of the music-competition shows, although I no longer watch American Idol, so I can't speak for that one, personally. Do you agree with my assessment and, if yes, why do you think the other shows' producers don't try to focus in on finding judges who can and will offer fair criticism? The Voice panel seems to have the necessary knowledge, but for whatever reason, the panel seems unwilling to actually criticize the singers. The closest they come to criticism is muted praise. And those judges are far and away better than the this-close-to-useless panels The X Factor keeps putting together. I love reality competition shows, but I do wish the judges would step up and do their job. — Kirsten
Matt Roush: I agree with your positive critique on the Dance judges for the most part — although even that show succumbs to randomness in filling the "guest" chair some weeks. (I hope the recent Erin Andrews gig isn't a sign we'll see too many more former Dancing With the Stars contestants.) I also enjoyed the judges of CBS's recent The American Baking Competition, who were direct and detailed in their criticisms but always supportive and good-humored, more disappointed than nasty when presented with a failed bake. The mad dash among singing competitions to land expensive big names obviously backfired for X Factor and Idol over the last year. And while The Voice is the most enjoyable and entertaining of the singing shows, especially during the early blind audition and knockout rounds, that show's real problem isn't the fame the judges enjoy but (like X Factor) the fact that each judge is a coach/mentor of a team, which means they always pull their punches when reacting to their own singers, and they seem to be afraid to look vindictive when it comes to assessing the other coaches' singers honestly. I prefer the format of Idol where the judges have no real vested interest in any of the contestants. With that show, the challenge is to find more judges (in the Keith Urban mode) who are more interested in what's happening on stage than in their own fame bubble.
Question: Just wanted your thoughts on a question I had regarding one of my favorite shows: HBO's The Newsroom. I don't recall you being crazy about it last summer, but I love it! Last year's freshman season consisted of 10 episodes, but I recently read this season will consist of only nine. I realize, given the premise of the show (use of real-life news stories) that this could be dictated by the story. But I'm also aware that The Newsroom isn't the HBO ratings blockbuster they say True Blood is (apparently people still watch that?). As much as it seems a little ridiculous to worry about the fate of the show due to a loss of one episode, let alone worry before the new season even premieres: Should I be worried? — Ryan
Matt Roush: The reduced episode order has nothing to do with ratings and everything to do with Aaron Sorkin's work process, so I wouldn't worry on that front. According to interviews he has given, Sorkin asked HBO if he could go back and rework the first few episodes of this new season, knowing that the time and expense would impact the season as a whole, in this case resulting in one fewer episode than originally ordered. It's that simple and that complex. It will be more worrisome if The Newsroom doesn't conquer its own flaws of alternating self-important preachiness and flat-footed clumsiness in the romantic-comedy arena. I was traveling on business last week and unable to review/preview the first episodes of the new season, but I found the over-arcing storyline of the cable network and its news stars caught in a legal firestorm to be a strong starting point, and Sorkin's dialogue is as always often dazzling, and he's got an A-list cast to deliver it, but The Newsroom can still be maddeningly uneven even when it's undeniably watchable.
Question: Since Happy Endings is officially canceled, is there any chance that Damon Wayans Jr. could return to New Girl as the original fourth roommate? — S
Matt Roush: Bringing him back to unseat poor Winston (Lamorne Morris) is probably a stretch — and an unfair twist of fate for a character who can't be blamed for what happened when Wayans' much more promising Coach character had to be written out when Happy Endings was unexpectedly renewed after its first season. But there are as-yet-unconfirmed reports that New Girl is plotting how to bring the Coach character back for a story arc in the third season, and that would be a very happy side effect to Happy Endings' controversial cancellation.
Question: This is the first time I've responded to an article, but just had to comment on Diane Kruger, the lead female on the FX series The Bridge, and your comment that she is "convincing and intriguing." From the moment she appeared on the screen I was immediately turned off and it only got worse as the episode progressed. Who in the world selected her for the part, and did she even audition? She is hands down the worst actress I've been forced to watch. The series is great, as is the lead male, Demian Bichir, and of course so is Ted Levine. If the series continues to a second season, I can only hope they'll kill her off and hire someone that would do justice to the role. If it doesn't get good ratings, she'll be the reason, and this is not just my take on it, several people I've talked with agree. — Nancy
Matt Roush: There's little doubt that Diane Kruger's character of the socially challenged (with an Asperger's-like condition) and purposefully off-putting detective Sonya Cross will be The Bridge's most polarizing cross to bear, so to speak (read our feature for more background). But the casting of Kruger was actually seen as a "get" (a hot property ever since her breakout role in Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds), and while we can disagree on her abilities, I might suggest it's the character and the way she was introduced that have created such strong antipathy. In my review, I stated my own reservations about the character, including the likelihood that someone who has such trouble understanding human behavior would be in a position to interact with suspects. I absolutely agree that Demian Bichir as Marco Ruiz is the best thing about the show — and if FX has real guts, it will eventually make him and his life across the border in Juarez the real focus of the show, not her weirdly quirky mannerisms.
Question: I've been reading your items on tvguide.com for over a year (yeah, I caught on late, sorry) but I'm writing to you for the very first time. I have several comments/questions. I enjoy good sci-fi and just finished watching the first season of Defiance. I thoroughly enjoy that show but I am supremely dismayed with the announcement at the end of the season finale that we will have to wait until June 2014 — in other words, 11 months, for the start of their second season. Why the long wait? It's one thing to tease an audience but I find this just plain mean to all of us fans of the show!
Re the Once Upon a Time spin-off: Seems to me the folks in charge of the original Once Upon a Time, upon seeing how many folks like the original, have just gotten greedy with the spin-off. I'm no expert, but I believe that unless the new Once is simply awesome, it will not carry the same appeal of the original. Your thoughts? And I came upon TNT's Falling Skies very late in what I now see was its third season and I am hooked. I loved Noah Wyle back in the old days of ER and I think he and the rest of the show are superb! I see it has been picked up for a fourth season and I am on pins and needles waiting to see how this show moves forward. What is your opinion of Falling Skies? — Richard
Matt Roush: You're not the only one who wrote in annoyed that Defiance will be absent for so long, and others complained about the short duration of its 13-episode premiere season. But this isn't all that unusual in the world of cable, where relatively short orders are the norm (and it's a trend the networks are beginning to pick up on as well) — and this is an expensive show by Syfy's standards, so it doesn't appear that its order will be "super sized" in year two, and rushing it back on the air won't be an option. Like TNT's Falling Skies, a sci-fi show I tend to enjoy more than Defiance (better acting and more strongly defined characters for the most part, a more propulsive and dynamic story, less pretension), this series is apparently now being seen by Syfy as a future summer tentpole, which makes sense to me from a programming point of view. It will have a better chance of standing out when it has less network programming to compete against during the regular season. And regarding the Once Upon a Time in Wonderland spin-off, it definitely has its work cut out for it — a tough Thursday time period, for starters — but the Alice legend is pretty powerful in its own right, so maybe it will pop in its first year the way Once did. Although the real challenge here is that the mothership lost some of its mojo in its second year, which makes the timing of juggling a spin-off even more of a risk than usual.
Question: I loved the British series The Choir with Gareth Malone that was seen here on BBC America, so I was really excited to read that USA Network was having Gareth do an American version. I'm sure I read that it would premiere on the network in January 2013. And yet, nothing. Have you heard anything about this? I know that he recently did a Military Wives Choir show in the U.K., so is there any chance that we'd be able to see that sometime in the U.S.? — CJ
Matt Roush: Don't know anything about the Military Wives version of the show, but the USA Network adaptation of The Choir is, for the moment, scheduled to air sometime in the fall (no air date yet). I loved the original series as well, so am hoping this translates and proves once again that music truly is a universal language.
Question: I just saw a commercial for a new ABC fall show called Back in the Game and one of the leads is Maggie Lawson. If the show gets a full season pickup, what does this mean for the future of Psych? If Season 8 is indeed the final season of Psych, is there any specific reason why USA is not publicly saying so (at least so far), unlike for Monk and Burn Notice? I would hope that Psych would receive a proper series finale and would not just disappear off the air. Lastly, what is Back in the Game about and does the show look promising? — Brian
Matt Roush: All questions yet to be resolved. It has been reported that even with Maggie Lawson's new ABC series going into production, she will be able to appear in at least five episodes of Psych's eighth and possibly final season — which USA recently added two episodes to the order, making it 10 for now. USA won't start airing these episodes until sometime next year, so there's plenty of time to decide whether to declare it a "final" season — and if so, perhaps even to give the producers a chance to craft an actual finale (which seems only fitting, given Psych's sucess). I imagine a lot of what happens next hinges on whether Back in the Game is a hit, and that could go either way. It has a terrific time period — Wednesdays at 8:30/7:30c, sandwiched between The Middle and Modern Family — and while it's hardly a groundbreaking or memorable comedy, this is a genial enough twist on The Bad News Bears, with Lawson starring as a former athlete coaching a Little League team of misfits including her son, while her gruff dad James Caan (also a former player) looks on. Such a prominent time slot could work against it, of course, because if this whiffs in the ratings, ABC could bring back Suburgatory quickly to prop up such a crucial night. Which would free Lawson up to go back to Psych. But let's not tempt fate. If everyone's willing to play ball (so to speak) with her busy schedule, maybe it will all work out, regardless of how long both shows run.
That's all for now. Keep sending your comments and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, and in the meantime, follow me on Twitter!
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