Nicole Beharie, Tom Mison
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Question: Last Sunday's "Hitting the Fan" episode of The Good Wife lived up to the hype. It was a game changer, but I guess it left me feeling slimed. Alicia has always taken a righteous position and walked a fine ethical line. On Sunday, I feel like she fell off a cliff — not only was she a party to trying to download files which I'm not sure is illegal but certainly not ethical (notwithstanding the ends-justify-the-means argument), but she also seemed gleeful about Peter using his political position to her gain. As Will seemed so right to point out, she seems to have no idea how bad she has become. This is not the good wife that I have been watching. What were your thoughts? — Megan
Matt Roush: My thoughts, as I expressed in my review of this most excellent episode, are that few things are more exhilarating than watching a show boldly reinvent itself, even (or maybe especially) at the expense of making its lead character look considerably less than heroic. The idea that Alicia ever thought she could break from the firm painlessly was a pipe dream at best, but when it went down this badly, some of her choices were clearly made out of desperation, a survival mechanism, and if that meant crossing the line, so be it. There was no going back after that confrontation with Will. And given the legal tug-of-war over Chumhum, having Peter play a part in a win that Florrick/Agos needed for its very survival, well, how do they not gloat over that? This was one of the most dynamically entertaining hours of TV I've seen in quite a while, and having it unfold with all sorts of moral and ethical gray areas left unresolved makes it even more thrilling. The implications of what went down will carry The Good Wife for a long time to come. (Warning to non-Good Wife watchers: You might want to skip ahead, because the next few questions continue the obsession. But when a show's this good ...)
Question: The Good Wife's "Hitting the Fan" episode was incredible. Even though my sister-in-law came over and stood between me and the TV for the last 20 minutes, it was still one of the most amazing hours of TV I have seen in a long time. It dawned on me that several of the tentpole shows (Good Wife and the still-breathing Bones) script their major events for somewhere around episode 6, mid-October, and that probably coincides with sweeps. Do most of the established shows' producers and writers plan their season arcs around those points? Conversely, it also seems like other shows (my favorite new show by far is Sleepy Hollow) try to put on as much good stuff as possible at the beginning to build some ratings and stay on the air. Do most screenwriters and critics just accept this as part of the trade? — Matt
Matt Roush: First of all: Shame on your sister-in-law. How dare she? Secondly, there probably isn't an exact science to how and when pivotal episodes like these are scheduled, but producers are generally aware of when a specific episode will air, and networks like to time big moments to happen either during a sweeps month (November, February, May) or right on the cusp of sweeps to get the watercooler buzzing. That's certainly the case with The Good Wife, and also why The Mentalist has planned the too-long-awaited Red John reveal for mid-November. When it comes to new shows with serialized or mythology-driven hooks like Sleepy Hollow, it's imperative now more than ever to grab viewers right out of the gate, which is why they don't hesitate to deliver huge twists in early episodes, even at the risk of burning through story at an alarmingly fast rate. With only 13 episodes in Sleepy Hollow's first season, there's no time for coasting.
Question: As exciting as the story on The Good Wife is, I have a hard time with how unrealistic it is. For example, all of last week's action took place in about 48 hours. Amazing judges work that fast. But more importantly, in a real law firm wouldn't Alicia as a partner have a non-compete clause in her contract? How can she just steal clients? I have to admit I have a hard time when a show stretches reality this far. What is your take? — Adrienne
Matt Roush: Realism is hardly the point here. Telling a ripping good story is. That's my take. And since I've never been a lawyer, and can't speak to some of these credibility issues (lawyer and ex-lawyer friends of mine seem to have no trouble with this one), I would argue from a critical perspective that the dizzying speed of the twists within this episode all stems from the urgency of the situation, once Diane and Will lowered the boom on Alicia, Cary and their cronies before they were prepared to leave. From the moment the firings began, everything was in hyperdrive, and from that point on, you either willingly buckled up for the wild ride ahead or you didn't. I did.
Question: Right on with your "10" score (in TV Guide Magazine) for The Good Wife! Undoubtedly the smartest show on television. It does not talk down to the audience. It will be interesting to see where the story line goes from here. Every actor on that show is so good, from Peter's mom to Alicia's children to Alan Cumming as Eli, a first-rate cast. I especially look forward to see what character actor plays the resident judge on each episode with their unique quirks. — Donna
Matt Roush: No kidding. Being a judge on shows like these is such a plum gig, and has been at least since David E. Kelley revitalized the genre when he took over L.A. Law all those moons ago. (Pause here to pay respects to one of the all-time greats, the late Ray Walston as Picket Fences' curmudgeonly Judge Bone.) My favorite on The Good Wife is probably either Denis O'Hare as the outspoken Judge Abernathy or, "in my opinion," Ana Gasteyer as the persnickety Judge Lessner.
Question: Do you know what is going on with The Good Wife? Is there going to be a spin-off? Why is everybody betraying Will, and by everybody I really mean Diane and especially Alicia? — Arsolar
Matt Roush: I love this question, because in some ways it really does feel as if The Good Wife has spun itself off into an entirely new show. Same title, yes, but flipped on its head. And all of those betrayals? It's called conflict, the lifeblood for a series like this.
Question: I read, somewhat in disbelief, that the idea of a How I Met Your Mother spin-off called How I Met Your Father is being proposed (what's next: How I Met Your Mother: The Next Generation?). The nine-season Ted Mosby journey was long enough, and the final season of HIMYM has been tedious and uninspiring so far. (I've found myself enjoying Austin & Ally on the Disney Channel more than most of the adult network programming these days). How seriously is the idea being considered? In fall 2022, will Matt Roush be answering letters in the Ask Matt column from TV viewers asking when they will reveal who the father is and why in the world CBS is bringing David Caruso out of retirement (with his trademark Horatio Caine sunglasses, of course) and rebooting CSI: Miami? — Brian
Matt Roush: Well, thanks at the very least for the confidence that I might still be plugging away at this a decade from now. But yes, that collective sigh you hear in the land of TV is from those who wonder if this sort of thing can be stopped. Are there no new ideas out there? I'd be more enthused (though probably not) if they hadn't made this final season of HIMYM — an interesting idea conceptually — such an unbearable slog in execution so far. When you're out of gas, the answer isn't to go back to the same empty well.
Question: Wouldn't it make more sense for NCIS to go back to JAG as a spin-off instead of another NCIS? I thought NCIS L.A. could have done a lot better with a West Coast JAG over Red, and still think a JAG spin-off sounds better than NCIS N.O. - James
Matt Roush: An interesting notion, to return the franchise to its roots. I've heard worse. Would you settle for JAG: New Orleans?
Question: I've been a Whedonite since Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I love all of the TV that's followed and for the most part have enjoyed what Joss has brought to movies and even comic books as well. That said, I actually chose to watch an episode of Bones that's been sitting in my queue for weeks before watching an even older episode of Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Joss is so creative, and I usually love everything he touches. So is there any behind the scenes buzz on what is happening to make what should be an easy win such a dud? To me it just feels so broad and common denominator. It feels like execs wanted something to appeal to everyone, even non sci-fi, non comic-book fans. That's all well and good, but often that means dumbing down the nuances that typically make these genres so interesting. When I watch, I just wish I was watching something else: something smarter, more clever. It feels so watered down and, well, boring. It's nice to know I'm not alone in my thinking, but I want so badly to love it because I always want success for all things Whedon. Any clues on if the tinkering of the powers that be is at play? Or is something else going on? Or is this just a case of not everything can be great all of the time? Thanks in advance for your insight. I always appreciate it, and the thoughtful way it's presented. — Shawn
Matt Roush: As wonderful as the Joss Whedon canon is, and my adoration of Buffy and its offshoots is second to none, S.H.I.E.L.D. is a very different animal, less special and distinctively original to be sure but also determined not to be relegated to the cult/niche shelf, for better or (creatively) worse. The blandness that has resulted many weeks could be a factor of too many corporate chiefs — Marvel, Disney and ABC — all aiming for the broadest possible audience and satisfying no single fan base in the process. As you also suggest, it may be that the show just isn't up to snuff yet when it comes to casting this shiny ensemble of so-far-generic characters and taking them to unexpected places. I still see glimmers here of a smarter, funnier, more exciting romp waiting to break out, and even Whedon (who's not as involved in the day-to-day here as he has been in more personal pet projects) would admit that some of his shows have taken a while to come together. I wouldn't lose hope yet, but it's also possible that S.H.I.E.L.D. has no greater ambition than being a slicker, more expensive version of the cheesy-to-corny action shows I happily grew up on in a less all-or-nothing era, shows like The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (see: those periods), Batman, The Wild Wild West, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Lost in Space, all very fondly remembered but not as innocently enjoyed now.
Question: I have watched Chicago Fire from the beginning and loved it. This season, however, is a different story. For some reason, the writers have decided to have two or three hot and heavy bedroom scenes in every show. I have begun taping the show so I can fast-forward through these unnecessary scenes. What audience are they trying to capture? This should not be a soap opera. Why have they done this? Can they fire the person who thought it would be a good idea to "sex" up the show? The show is great when they stick to the fire and emergency response scenes. — Nancy
Matt Roush: "For some reason ..." Have you seen Taylor Kinney? To be honest, I considered Chicago Fire a soap from the start, and not a terribly inspired one, but when you've got a cast of hot hunks and sirens performing these heroic feats, you play to your strengths. I recommend you read Michael Schneider's excellent interview with producer-mogul Dick Wolf, who has changed his stripes considerably when it comes to amping up his procedurals with sudsier content. In a Scandal-driven age of social media and Twitter buzz, this sort of thing helps a show stand out. I suggest you settle for those well-produced rescue scenes and try to block out the rest, because it isn't going away.
Question: Just a quick comment on my current favorite comedy Modern Family. The Emmys and critics are always praising the adult cast members and rightly so. They are all great and work so well together. But I just wanted to bring attention to the children on the show. I don't know if I have ever watched a comedy for over four years where the kids were not smart alecks or precocious. They seem so natural and genuine. Which is a tribute to the writing and directing, but you still have to have the right performers. I particularly want to mention Rico Rodriguez as Manny. With his flair for dressing well (no jeans for him) and his heart of the romantic, he reminds me of myself at his age. Also Lily, Aubrey Anderson-Emmons, is coming into her own. They actually gave her the last scene in "The Help" episode and she carried it off like a pro.
By the way, my all-time favorite comedy is Barney Miller. How about a reunion with the remaining members of the cast? — Charles
Matt Roush: Always happy to give Barney Miller a shout-out. What I'd like to see is a "very special" episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine that crosses over to the Village's fabled 12th Precinct for an homage. But to your actual point: It's true that the Modern Family kids don't get their due — I'm especially fond of Luke (Nolan Gould), who's not as dumb as he seems, and his antipathy for little Lily always surprises, shocks and amuses me — and the same goes for the amazing young stars of The Middle, especially Eden Sher as Poor Sue. If the adult Modern Family actors would let themselves be nominated in the lead categories for a change, maybe there would be room for some of these young 'uns. Although given the traditional Emmy bias against younger actors, I wouldn't count on it.
Question: Why doesn't CBS run Big Brother twice a year like Survivor? — Tim
Matt Roush: Not being a fan, my initial response would be, "To do us a favor?" But the honest answer is that CBS doesn't need it during the regular season. Big Brother has always been intended as a summer series, and if it aired more frequently might burn out faster. And because the nature of the show requires it to air several times a week, CBS's prime-time lineup frankly is too strong to accommodate this kind of interruption, especially on weeknights.
Question: What are your thoughts on the news that a U.S. version of Broadchurch will be produced, also starring David Tennant in the same role he will simultaneously play in the brilliant U.K. version? I realize that the trend of the U.S. taking a successful international series and retelling it here is nothing new. We've seen both successful (The Office) and unsuccessful (Coupling) attempts at this for years. However, now that we have BBC America, which recently finished airing the U.K. version of Broadchurch, why is it necessary to simultaneously create a U.S. version, also starring the same actor in the same role? Seems ridiculous. I mean I get recreating a successful Danish TV series here (The Killing, The Bridge) for those not willing to read subtitles, but Broadchurch is already a hit in the U.S. after making the crossover. Much like Downtown Abbey did. And it's in English. Are we really getting that lazy, or is it just another sign that we've run out of ideas, or both? — Scott
Matt Roush: Maybe a bit of both. (For some people, the thick accents are as much a hindrance as subtitles on foreign fare.) But consider that millions more people tend to tune into Fox than check out BBC America as part of their viewing palette. (More's the pity.) So however this remake turns out, there will be an audience for whom this will be new material, perhaps enhanced by all the buzz over the original — which is likely to be on my and many others' top-10 list for 2013. That said, I can't say I reacted to news of the remake with anything resembling enthusiasm.
Question: I absolutely loved the British version of Broadchurch, recently shown here on BBC America. I have a few questions: What do you think are the chances that the American version can be anywhere near as terrific as the original? Since some of us already know the outcome, do you know if they are planning on changing the ending, or are they creating a whole new story? And lastly, any idea when the DVD formatted for the American market will be released? — Lisa
Matt Roush: Given that many of those involved in the original series will be hands-on with Fox's adaptation, I'm hopeful it will as gripping for newcomers as the British version was for those of us who were blown away this summer. But they set an awfully high bar, so it's only natural to be skeptical. My understanding is that the story will follow the broad outlines of the original, in that it will involve a small community rocked by a terrible murder. Beyond that, I don't want to know the particulars or if they're going to provide a different ending, and they'd be crazy to tip their hand in advance. (Which would be unlike them. We still don't know what Season 2 of the British series will look like.) And no word yet that I'm aware of for the timing of a U.S. DVD release.
Question: When is The Mentalist going to get over Red John and move on? I like the show, but come on, we have been on this Red John dude for too long now. — Judy
Matt Roush: The best way to enjoy this current season of The Mentalist is to look at it almost as a miniseries, a Mentalist novel if you will: "The Search for Red John." Each episode has been building toward the big reveal, which is planned for later this month, when Red John's actual identity will be exposed. Can't say if that will be the end of the Red John story — I'd doubt it — but it should at least lay to rest the current mystery of who (if anyone) on the list is the fiend who has dogged Patrick Jane since before the very beginning of the series. At some point we should expect the show to return to a more traditional case-of-the-week format, but a lot depends on how the current story plays out.
That's all for now — and for the next few weeks. I'll be away the first part of November, but will return to carry on the conversation later this month. So keep sending your comments and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, and in the meantime, follow me on Twitter!
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