Question: What's the deal with ABC's treatment of Cougar Town? I know the ratings have been anemic, but bumping it twice for Dancing With the Stars recaps is cruel to the fans of Cougar Town, fans who waited nine months for new episodes. I waited patiently, thinking ABC had a good plan for the show and that the wait would be worth it, but instead, I'm kept waiting. They paired it with a show it doesn't match at a time slot that's not appropriate, but still, I thought: at least my show is back on, I'm hanging with the Cul-de-Sac Crew again, it'll be OK. Instead, two weeks in a row, I get the shaft. Whatever happened to the plan to pair it with Don't Trust the B in Apartment 23 on Tuesdays? Appropriate pairing, appropriate time slot. It's too bad Happy Endings finished last week, because that would also be a better pairing for the zany antics of Jules & Co than Last Man Standing. I'm just getting super bummed at the treatment of this show and its fans (which evidently there are few of, but we're a fiercely loyal bunch!), especially since all signs seem to be pointing to cancellation rather than renewal. I mean, if ABC really wanted to give Cougar Town a better chance, they'd air DWTS at 8, and then Cougar Town/Don't Trust the B. Rant over, thanks for indulging me. — Mallory
Matt Roush: Feel better? It hasn't been easy being a Cougar Town fan this season, has it? While it's true the initial idea was to air Cougar Town and Don't Trust the B together on Tuesdays, plans have a way of changing in the world of network programming, and ABC decided (probably wisely) that Don't Trust the B would have a better chance of getting noticed by airing after Modern Family, which is finally returning with new episodes this week. But you're not the only one who wrote in wishing that ABC had experimented with a Cougar Town-Happy Endings block, which would certainly make sense thematically, since both are cut from the same absurdist pattern. Although neither have proven to be self-starters, which is why this pairing was never a likely scenario.
Erin wrote in to note: "[Given that] new episodes of Cougar Town haven't aired in the past couple of weeks, and on Wednesday the only ABC show that was airing new episodes was Happy Endings (buried at the bottom half of the hour), would it not have helped out both shows if ABC had broadcast Cougar Town followed by Happy Endings on Wednesday? I know the writing is on the wall for CT. Really enjoyed it while it lasted."
Matt again: While ABC did Happy Endings no favors by airing its final episodes of the season following Modern Family repeats, a Cougar Town lead-in would likely have sunk the ratings for the hour even deeper. (Even in repeats, Modern Family is a hit.) The new regime at ABC seems a lot more forgiving of Happy Endings' mediocre numbers than they are of Cougar Town, so my advice is to fill up your own Big Carl for the rest of the season (if ABC actually airs it), enjoy Cougar Town while you can and hope for a miracle.
Question: I guess this is kind of a "jeer." Don't we have enough "stars" in the U.S.? It just doesn't seem right that we're having to import "stars" from Latin America and Britain for Dancing With the Stars. I know the pros are from around the world, but I would think the stars should be U.S. citizens who have become stars here. Maybe none of the other thousands of U.S. stars wanted to be on the show or weren't talented enough?? I think not. — Susan
Matt Roush: Casting is clearly not getting any easier for this show as the seasons go on — it would take a lot of guts (or maybe desperation) for anyone to agree to participate on this show — but one of the better aspects of Dancing With the Stars isn't just its ability to revive careers of people we know or used to know, but its ability to create stars in America from other cultures and disciplines we may not be as familiar with. I didn't hear complaints when Brazilian Indy Car racer Helio Castroneves took the show by storm with his charm and won that season, raising his media profile considerably. Or when French actor Gilles Marini (whose previous credit was a nude scene in the first Sex and the City movie) came within a whisker of winning his season, going on to become a fairly familiar face (and body) on TV. Judging from the screams in the studio, William Levy had plenty of crossover appeal before Dancing (and Bruno) milked it, and Katherine Jenkins is such a knockout it feels almost like a public service for Dancing to serve her up to a national audience. I'd take either of them over a so-called "reality" "star" from our shores (let alone Jersey's) any day.
Question: I've found myself with a problem: too many Friday night programs to keep up with. I thought Fridays were a "bad" night for TV and only bad programs were sent there to fade away. Yet, there I am wanting to watch Nikita, Supernatural, Grimm, Fringe, Blue Bloods, Fairly Legal, In Plain Sight, Who Do You Think You Are? and now The Finder. And with the Sacramento CBS affiliate running with an earlier prime time, the 9 pm time slot is super full. It's the only night of the week that my DVR can't record all of the programs I want to watch, and using On-Demand and iTunes is the only way I can keep up — no other night of TV has this many programs I enjoy. So what's the deal: Are Fridays making a comeback? Is it only because there is no reality TV on Fridays? Or am I just an odd case with my program preferences — wait, don't answer that one. (Ha!) Would appreciate your insight and thoughts. — Joe H
Matt Roush: For a while now, I've been referring to Fridays as "cult night," where shows that attract a small but intensely passionate following have been scheduled so as to do the least damage to the rest of the week's lineup. That's the reasoning for shows like Fringe and Grimm airing in the same time period on this night (opposite Supernatural, which is a natural for Fridays as well). Airing on any other night, they would probably be long gone — except on The CW, where ratings are so low across the board it's often hard to know where they set the bar — but shows designated for Fridays tend to be given a fairly long leash to satisfy the niche viewer. Expectations aren't so high, which can turn out to be a blessing. CBS is an exception to this rule, because they have a core loyal audience that is as likely to watch TV on Fridays as on any other night, and Blue Bloods is a success by almost any measure (except maybe in demographics). It's gratifying to see so much interesting TV on Fridays, including on cable — and viewers who find themselves overbooked on Fridays can take some comfort in the fact that they're probably not settling for the same old same old you can find nearly every other night of the week.
Question: I started watching Up All Night because of its likable and funny talents, Maya Rudolph, Will Arnett and Christina Applegate, and I even enjoyed the addition of Jason Lee as Ava's new boyfriend. But then, suddenly, in a few weeks he totally disappears without any scenes and a new boss and co-workers are introduced to the show. I don't know why the show had to simply be based around the workplace, there are enough shows that do that. It's the dynamics of the cast together that makes it funny. Do you know why the show took a sudden turn and what are its chances of being renewed? P.S.: I know Nick Cannon also left the show, but I think that's due to his health issues. — Sonal
Matt Roush: What you're witnessing here is first-year growing pains, as a show tries to figure out its focus and voice. With Up All Night, I preferred the domestic/relationship material over the workplace comedy, but found the show to be so all over the place that when it moved to Thursdays, which is already plenty full, I pretty much lost track of what's going on. (Judging from the numbers, so did most of the rest of America.) Predicting renewal, I'd guess 50/50 odds. There's a lot of talent involved in this show in front of and behind the camera, but I can't see how NBC can stick with all of its droll single-camera sitcoms for next season, and of the current Thursday lineup, this would seem to be the most vulnerable.
Question: I love the new NBC show Bent. I think it is one of the funniest shows on network TV. I saw almost no advertising for it, and found it by accident. Has NBC canned this show before it really even came on? Please give me good news. — Pat
Matt Roush: Oh, where do we start? NBC basically threw away Bent, scheduling all six episodes of its tryout run over three weeks of back-to-back episodes on a little-watched night, a textbook case of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Bent attracted some positive critical notice, but it wasn't enough to bring almost anybody to this short-lived party. A shame, especially considering the much less appealing Best Friends Forever is now taking up space on Wednesdays, with a stronger (if incompatible) lead-in in Betty White's Off Their Rockers. BFF is probably doomed, too, but it's getting more of a fighting chance than Bent ever did, and that just makes NBC look even more clueless than usual.
Question: What do you think the chances are for Body of Proof to be renewed? I am a Dana Delany fan and really enjoy this show. With the ratings uptick the past couple of weeks with the outbreak two-parter, perhaps this will swing the scale in the show's favor. Also, I see where this week's episode (No. 20) is the season finale. Are there some finished episodes that aren't being aired? — Grant
Matt Roush: They call them "bubble" shows for a reason. This one could go either way. Body of Proof's future no doubt hinges on whether ABC develops something it thinks will do better or be more buzzworthy (a la Revenge) in this troublesome time period, and ABC hasn't been particularly forgiving of shows that air here. Proof's uptick did come at the right time, bolstered by a very promotable storyline up against lesser competition. (CBS aired repeats last week, and NBC's Fashion Star couldn't be more negligible.) But I'd be lying if I said the odds were great. Regarding unaired episodes: Body of Proof came into the season with a 13-episode order and several left over from last year's midseason run. A few more episodes were ordered along the way, which was reported as a total of 21, so there may be one left over, but in the scheme of things, that's not likely to affect what happens next.
Question: I am absolutely loving Awake and can't wait for each week's episode. The tone and the acting are both right on, and it looks like both of Britten's worlds will become completely realized. (I am waiting breathlessly for the scene when he goes to bed with Rex's tennis coach and wakes up next to his wife. Talk about rude awakenings.) That having been said, for the past year, before the premiere, the adjectives used to describe the show were words like "troubled" and "oft-delayed." Do you know what the problems were with the show initially? Whatever they may have been, they sure don't show on the screen. — Rick
Matt Roush: I agree. While Fox's Touch is starting to lose me — though I want to keep an open mind, the schmaltz quotient is wearing me down — Awake just gets more engaging and absorbing by the week. The only hiccup I'm aware of is that Awake shut down production after several weeks of filming. The explanation was to give the writers more time to figure this tricky series out, which only seems fair, considering. This is not unheard of, especially for shows that aren't trying to make a fall deadline. But there's no question that the network has always been worried about the commercial viability of the show because of its bizarre premise and its unique tone — and, to no one's surprise, the ratings are justifying that concern. (Maybe this one ought to air on Fridays; see the earlier question.) Still, for me this was a risk very much worth taking. I'm sticking with Awake for as long as I'm allowed.
Question: I have read that Grey's Anatomy will be renewed for a Season 9 even if it's not yet officially announced by ABC. I've also read that the contracts of a few of the original actors are still up in the air. My question is how often does this occur? Is it odd for a network to not have renewed the contracts of its actors prior to the season ending? Do you think the status really is unknown (as claimed) or is it that the show wants it to remain a secret for storyline purposes? I have no doubt any professional writer can write some explanation for a character should they suddenly depart, but it seems avoidable and unfair to fans who have watched these characters since the inception of the show. I do understand TV is a business and it likely all comes down to money, but is settling a contract to allow for a proper goodbye if necessary an unreasonable expectation? It's disappointing when any show loses characters, but it's even more so when a character doesn't get a proper exit. — Alyssa
Matt Roush: From all accounts, the deals are still being worked out, even as (according to her Twitter feed) Shonda Rhimes is busily writing the finale as we speak. For long-running shows, this sort of uncertainty comes with the territory, and there are often speed bumps. The most recent and visible being the sudden departure of Cuddy (the much-missed Lisa Edelstein) from House for its final year. I'm hoping the main principles of Grey's Anatomy will stay on board long enough for any and all of them to get proper exits, which would mean sticking it out at least another season (or partial season). But none of this is being done to tease or torment the viewer. It's just the way the business works, and it rarely gets easier for a show the longer it lasts.
Question: I am one of the millions who decided not to return to The Killing for the second season. I know many have been hurling fury at how the first season ended, with no answers. On the flip side, those who love the show are also hurling the insults towards the haters, claiming they just want a nice, clean whodunit wrapped up in a pretty, satisfying package. I know no promises were ever made to that end by the show's creators. However, can I just put in the two cents of someone from neither camp? I didn't like it because, well, I just didn't like it. It wasn't because the murderer wasn't revealed — it was because after a season of unlikable characters (except for Holder and Rosie's dad) and clues that produced nothing but a fruitless chase, bringing the mystery right back to where it started, the fact that nothing was revealed made the whole season feel like the waste of time. I understand this is not a procedural or a whodunit, but more of a gritty drama bringing out the pain of a family tragedy and its ripples. But there has to be some clue that leads somewhere, some sense of police work being skillfully done, and some characters the audience wants to root for. When none of these materialize, then yeah, a sentiment of "well, I'll just watch to at least see who the murderer was and how the police will solve it." So, when even that didn't come, it left me with no desire to return for the second season. If the characters were satisfying and the skills of the detective were exciting, then the fact the mystery wasn't solved wouldn't bother me so much — and I think anyone who was an avid fan of Lost would agree! The show left me wanting to strangle most of the characters myself! I guess the creators would see that as a good thing? — Jackie
Matt Roush: You have every right to dislike (or embrace, for that matter) a show like The Killing for whatever reason, without feeling you have to answer for it. (Ignoring the "haters" on either the pro or con side is a good start.) I've often said that The Killing is a hard show to warm up to, and you do a good job laying out many of the reasons a sizable portion of last season's audience may not have returned. And while I enjoyed this season's two-hour premiere, last night's episode seemed to move about as quickly as the now-paralyzed Richmond. Even the most loyal fan may find their patience sorely tested by the time we get to the denouement at the end of this season.
Question: NCIS is consistently ranked the No. 1 show, yet generates zero buzz. It's not a "watercooler talk" show. Point being: I can list two dozen shows that generate more buzz and viewer passion than NCIS. — CouchPotatoCop (from Twitter)
Matt Roush: Whoa. Depends on the watercooler, I suppose. And one's definition of buzz and passion, because from where I sit, while NCIS may not exactly be the trendiest show out there, and lacks the critical cachet of the best of cable, there's something to be said for a show that provides plenty of pleasure to a mass audience. And while that may not always register on platforms like Twitter, to convey from this that the affection, attention and obsessive scrutiny paid to a show like NCIS is somehow lesser is just plain wrong. Here's just a sampling of the NCIS-related mail I've received in the last week:
From Dina: "Knowing TV drama as we do, and knowing that NCIS is a spin-off of JAG which did the same stupid thing with Harm and Mac, making them look like dysfunctional emotional bozos, do you think Ziva and Tony will ever violate Gibbs' rule and get together? Also, what happened to McGee's voice? He lost weight (too much if you ask me) and now his voice sounds weak. Since when does weight-loss lead to problems with the vocal cords?"
From Jana: "Had to comment on the letter in this week's issue regarding Jamie Lee Curtis on NCIS. I have nothing against the actress — she is very talented and versatile. However, I have to disagree about her being on the show. The character that they have created for her is extremely annoying, interferes with Gibbs and disrupts the team chemistry. My vote? Keep her away at all costs."
Matt again: Does this sound like a show that generates zero buzz? And for the record: I do think it's still possible we'll see Tony and Ziva get together, but not anytime soon. Sean Murray's weight loss, and now his voice, appears to be a matter of concern on many fan sites, but the show continues to insist all is well with him. And bringing on Jamie Lee Curtis as a new foil for Gibbs was bound to be polarizing. If there hadn't been debate about her, then maybe I'd be giving a different answer here.
Question: I don't get why the major networks insist on premiering new shows so late in the TV season. The ratings seem to indicate that shows get more eyeballs viewing them in September/October and January. And this season it seemed that the majority of the critical darlings didn't even premiere until January or later. It's like they are still thinking of the days when everybody was glued to the TV to catch the newest shows. They have to see that if all the hype around a show is in August/September then it doesn't make sense to air its first episode four to six months later. Also using what used to be hit shows to help open the new ones don't work when the lead-in is on its last legs, i.e. Desperate Housewives and House. They seem to be very slow to making adjustments while more and more of us are looking to cable.
On another note, NBC is so far gone that I think only The Voice would be considered a hit by any other network's standards. Do you think it's too late for them to come back? — Joe W
Matt Roush: The answer to both questions: It's never too late — either to launch a show or to turn a network around (although NBC obviously has a long ways to go). But these days, neither is an easy proposition, and in each case, the bigger the swings the better. While spring, as you note, may well be a tough time to launch a new network series, everyone's trying to be in the year-round programming business, and there's hardly a week when someone isn't premiering something somewhere. There seems to be a double standard here in giving cable networks the benefit of the doubt, when they're also premiering shows throughout the calendar year (including right now), some of them breaking up seasons in ways that confuse the average viewer. Besides, there are examples of network shows that have successfully premiered this time of year (Grey's Anatomy one of the most famous, albeit quite a while ago). The strategy with many of these midseason premieres, whether in winter or spring, is to move some of the riskier, bolder projects away from the glut of fall premieres when they would more easily get lost and give them more promotion and attention than they could possibly get in the fall. There's no guarantee this will work, of course, and quite often it doesn't, but I'm not about to slam them for trying.