Question: I really enjoy your column and appreciate your insights. You've done well for me over the past few years, suggesting great shows that I really loved including Friday Night Lights, Lost, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, The Good Wife. I even watched the entire series of Fringe on Netflix based upon your recommendation. Now though, nothing looks that great for this coming fall. Can you tell me if there is something coming that is worth adding to my list? — Julie
Matt Roush: Good timing, as TV Guide Magazine's Fall Preview issue will be out this week, and you can see my and the editors' recommendations in print. I will say that very few of the new shows, even of the pilots I enjoyed, have me eagerly awaiting the next episode. Not a lot feels new and fresh, except maybe Showtime's The Affair (with its conflicting and overlapping points of view, very provocative), although Shonda Rhimes' How to Get Away With Murder looks to be a juicy nightcap to an all-Shonda Thursday lineup, the various superhero-inspired series are all well done (I'm especially taken by The Flash), and Madam Secretary could be a good fit with The Good Wife, though it's not initially as compelling. I'll be curious to see if viewers embrace Fox's Red Band Society, which tries to be a feel-good dramedy about kids feeling bad in a hospital setting. (I'd love it to be the next Party of Five, but that may be asking a lot.) Among the comedies, Black-ish shows promise, and at least has a point of view, unlike the too-many rom-coms, which blur together, except for horror shows like ABC's Manhattan Love Story (with the off-putting gimmick of broadcasting the character's thoughts in voice-over). The biggest and most pleasant surprise is The CW's Jane the Virgin, a wacky but sweet soap in the over-the-top style of Ugly Betty. As always, adjust these recommendations to your own viewing taste, and you'll likely find a couple of shows to add to your playlist this fall.
Question: Your reviews are why I have tried quite a few series that I very much enjoyed. I have selected some shows premiering this fall that I would like to try: How to Get Away with Murder for Viola Davis, Scorpion, NCIS: New Orleans for Scott Bakula. Are there other new shows that you would recommend?
Also, given the apparent failure of Satisfaction and Rush on USA Network, is there any chance that they will continue White Collar beyond the limited final season already ordered? Regarding Longmire, is there anyone that can be e-mailed about purchasing the series? I am thinking about the kind of fan response that extended Cagney & Lacey. While I don't expect A&E to change their minds, I would think that fan support can only help Longmire's chances of being picked up elsewhere. — Kristi
Matt Roush: See the previous response for a quick Fall Preview overview, although if you're a fan of CBS procedurals, the ones you single out will almost certainly satisfy (the less said about the repulsive Stalker the better). And no matter what else is happening on USA, when White Collar returns (still not scheduled), it will be for a short final season that is being likened to a miniseries, and that will be it. That's purely an economic issue — USA doesn't own the show, which being filmed in New York is fairly expensive as these things go — but at least it gets to go out on its own narrative steam, unlike the Longmire situation (which as you'd imagine is still generating angry comments in the email-bag). And I'd be surprised if there isn't some Longmire fan site organizing and rallying in hopes of a resurrection, but I haven't heard anything definitive yet on where it's most likely to land, if that actually happens, so stay tuned. (And I'll excerpt some of the latest Longmire correspondence later in the column.)
Question: I was wondering why they skipped over Princess Tiana and Princess Merida and went straight to Frozen in Once Upon a Time? I mean, they even threw in Rapunzel. Did The Princess and the Frog and Brave do so badly in theaters they aren't even thought about? They seem to have blocked out their two African- or Native-American princesses (no Tiana or Pocahontas) and then stayed away from the Scottish princess who took care of herself and knew how to fight. — Christina
Matt Roush: Political correctness has nothing to do with a decision like this. It's a no-brainer move that has everything to do with Disney's profit center, and while there's presumably still time to include some of these other heroines — and yes, the diversity would be nice (although there's plenty of that throughout much of ABC's schedule) — Disney hasn't had a hit as powerful and resonant as Frozen in quite some time, and this insta-crossover was only to be expected.
Question: Am I too harsh or overthinking things when it comes to Suits and Mike's "secret?" It's just inconceivable to me that he hasn't been found out sooner by other students at Harvard or faculty members. It defies logic to me that if someone found out he supposedly went to Harvard and graduated with honors, that no one would recognize him there. I mean, if someone like Louis were really out to get him, wouldn't they be able to find out he's a fraud a lot easier? Just find someone who attended at the same time he supposedly was there and ask. Or if he really graduated with honors, wouldn't that be in the commencement program? Unless I'm mistaken, he didn't "fix" those, did he? — Brad
Matt Roush: It's not so much that you're overthinking it as it is that this is a self-limiting premise that doesn't support close scrutiny. Ever. I've often wondered what happened the year after Mike's arrival, when the next batch of Harvard hopefuls showed up for interviews and got a look at last year's wonder boy and had to think, "Who dat?" Or, as they tend to do on this show, call bull----. I've made myself look past the illogic of this circumstance to enjoy the show for its greater pleasures: the workplace dynamic of some very enjoyable characters, and even the emotional fallout as various members of the firm deal with the knowledge that they've let a fraud (albeit a talented one) into their midst. Now it's Louis's turn, and from the cliffhanger, it looks like some delicious drama awaits. As long as you don't sweat the details, because you're right, they wouldn't have gotten away with it this long in a non-TV world. Still, it's one of USA's better current shows.
Question: I'm trying to still feel the love for Covert Affairs. Last year Annie chased one man all over the place. Then after all that convoluted mess of a plot, just shot him dead. It was as if they realized the plot had gone on too long and there was nothing left to write about, so bam! Then Annie drops out of sight for four months and all anyone can say upon her return is that she is their best spy right now? What exactly has she done to get such praise? Why does Annie suddenly get to make all the rules? I could not have been happier to see her benched, but then she defied them all yet again. Shocker! This show is becoming way too predictable. BTW, I like seeing Joan and Arthur's baby. It makes them more realistic. Annie giving up her sister and never seeing her again is out of character. I know she is supposed to be evolving as a spy, but she just isn't all that likeable anymore. — Teresa
Matt Roush: Likeability isn't really the issue anymore on a show that has taken great steps to develop a harder edge (writing out the sister was one of those first moves, to keep it from playing like a domestic comedy within a spy drama). I kind of feel the same way about Homeland and Carrie Mathison, how the agency would continue to support someone who has displayed such erratic behavior. But that's the drama and conflict that fuels the show. Annie is gifted in the field and craves the action, this season to her own detriment. I'm not sure she even likes herself, which is an interesting place for a USA character to be.
Question: I've always enjoyed Royal Pains; it's been a great little summer show. I recognize that some of Hank's inventive procedures and brilliant intuition are far from medical reality, but I accept that it's a TV show and this is just fictional drama. However, there is one tremendous blunder that occurs again and again on nearly every episode, and that is the fact that Hank almost never wears gloves! He doesn't wear them when examining a patient, setting an IV, stitching a cut, performing a field tracheotomy or just about any other procedure that exposes him to bodily fluids. On last week's episode, he cut into a patient's wrist with a scalpel and extracted a heartworm with his bare hands. No doctor would ever be so careless. Is it the writers or the director who are responsible for this? You would think there would be at least one person working on the show who would speak up about this huge faux pas! — Donna
Matt Roush: As you noted, realism isn't really the issue here, but maybe now that you've pointed this out so explicitly, they'll start paying more attention. It's not as if gloves in the Hamptons are entirely a social no-no.
Question: I have a question regarding the show Here Comes Honey Boo Boo. Is this all scripted or is this family for real? I find it hard to believe that any American family, especially one who is supposed to be doing the type of model shows she does, is as disgusting as they are. - Larry
Matt Roush: In this sub (and I do mean sub) genre of "reality" TV, the only thing I consider real, or real-"ish," are the personalities themselves that pop on camera in such a way that producers feel compelled to embed cameras in their lives and encourage them to act and express themselves in the most outrageous ways possible to keep onlookers amused. Shows like these aren't interesting enough to be scripted, but that doesn't mean what's taking place is actually spontaneous.
Question: As much as I enjoyed watching Breaking Bad, I can't believe the Emmys are still handing out hardware to the show and its players. Here at home, it's been off the air for over a year now. How do they still qualify? Let's give someone else a turn next year. — Terry
Matt Roush: The good news (although I do miss Breaking Bad) is that it's definitively over now and the final season can't possibly qualify a third time. But because AMC split the last season into two halves, and the second part ran from mid-August to late September of 2013, it was eligible for this year's Emmys. AMC is using the same strategy with Mad Men, with considerably less success.
Question: Love Sherlock the series, but I thought it was a British production and that Emmys were for American TV. No? — Deb
Matt Roush: Like many Masterpiece shows, this is a co-production with Boston's WGBH, and as such, it qualifies — unlike a strictly British import such as BBC America's Broadchurch, which sadly didn't.
Matt Roush: See above. It's a BBC import and doesn't appear to be eligible, although it often gets recognition at the equally (if not more) prestigious BAFTA Awards.
Question: How could a quality show like Hannibal be completely overlooked for an Emmy? The acting of Mads Mikkelsen, the lighting, the cinematography, the music, any of these were worthy of a nomination. Some expert insight would be most appreciated. — Walter
Matt Roush: The easiest explanation is that the drama field is simply overcrowded these days, although for its purely technical achievements — whatever anyone's objections to the show's extreme subject matter might be — a show this singular should be at least nominated in many of the above categories. It also reveals a clear bias regarding broadcast network TV, because I guarantee if a show like this were airing on HBO or Showtime or AMC, or even FX (look at how well the absurd American Horror Story does in the miniseries category), it would get more serious attention. Similarly, I'll be curious to see if Showtime's go-for-baroque Penny Dreadful gets some love next year (at the very least for Eva Green, Rory Kinnear, the title credit sequence and its gorgeous period design.)
And finally, as promised, a sampling of the latest mail regarding the cancellation of Longmire.
From Larry: "I hope the show does get picked up by another network, but I'm not so sure A&E has learned their lesson. Usually stupid things come in three."
From Gary: "The least that A&E could do is a two-hour finale show that ties everything together. I am sorry that their demographics are not as they desire, but they are losing audience, which will cause the same problem."
From Teri: "Please use your soapbox to remind the networks that their coveted age group is lacking a little income in this economy. Where do they think 18-to-34-year-olds get most of their money? From their parents in the age group they don't care about who are sitting at home watching the TV shows and commercials! I don't think I will ever watch another series on A&E."
From Katharine: "Not to be an old fogy, but do the networks really have to cancel great shows because they're not getting a twentysomething audience? I admit I can't stand all the reality show business, but can't I get just one quality series — like Longmire, like Jesse Stone, like Harry's Law? Maybe we need a Plus-40 Network. [From Matt: Attention, TV Land. Have you ever considered developing dramas?]
From Tatia: "Is there a way for AMC to pick up Longmire and run it with Hell on Wheels? I think those two shows would make a heck of a one-two punch." [From Matt: Not a bad idea, given how scarce Western-style dramas are on TV these days, but AMC seems a very long shot, especially since they keep renewing their own low-rated product like Turn and Halt and Catch Fire.]
And from Rebecca: "While I know moving networks is hard, I suspect that this might be a really great show for Netflix. I suspect that the costs can be kept down and that the show binge-watches well (that is how I first watched it). Do you know how it does on Netflix?" [Matt again: We don't know how well anything does on Netflix, which refuses to report on individual shows' viewership numbers. But just as Netflix stepped up to produce a final, and quite good, season of The Killing, this could be an appealing option — although I'm not sure how often Netflix wants to be seen as a home for castoffs. DirecTV got out of that business after Friday Night Lights and Damages, at least for now.]