Question: I know you like the BBC version of Being Human, as do I. So I am curious if you have seen any previews of Syfy's version of Being Human. Are we looking at an Office-like success or a Coupling-like failure? I will take a peek. However, I am so in love with the original version, I am not sure if I can accept this version. — Pam
Matt Roush: I'm with you, Pam. I've seen three episodes of the Syfy remake, and while I tried my best to approach it with an open mind, I'm not sure I entirely succeeded. (Same thing happened when I watched episodes of MTV's truly lamentable remake of Skins and, to a lesser degree because I wasn't as familiar with the source material, Showtime's Shameless redo. This is probably not my favorite TV trend of the moment.) Of all the British-to-U.S. shows premiering this winter, I'm the most fond of BBC America's Being Human, so the bar is higher in accepting what seems a pale and unnecessary imitation. That said, many Syfy viewers are not likely to have seen the original, and the premise is so terrific that I'm betting many will be instantly hooked. For those who already love Being Human, it's harder to recommend the remake. I guess there are just enough tweaks to make it interesting, and it's possible that, as happened with NBC's The Office, the show will eventually forge an identity of its own. I plan to keep watching this version at least through the first season, but I feel like what I'm really doing is marking time until BBCA airs the new season of the superior original later this year.
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Question: Recently I heard that The Closer will be ending later this year. Why is this happening? I love this show and it is one of the very best shows on TV. I thought Kyra Sedgwick loved doing the show. Please say it isn't so!!!! — Marylou
Matt Roush: Wish I could, but it's the truth. And it was Kyra's call, certainly not TNT's. In comments made during the cable portion of the current TCA press tour, the TNT chief said the network considers the upcoming seventh and final season of The Closer as a "gift," as Sedgwick's contract only called for six years. Given that she's been living bi-coastally for the run of the show, personal considerations probably played a large part in this decision. Plus, seven seasons and 100 episodes is a very healthy run for any series, let alone a cable show, and it's a good thing for a show to bow out while it's still going strong instead of overstaying its welcome, which is often the case. But I share your separation anxiety. This is a show that is still creatively robust, and I'll miss it. I'm also hoping, depending on how they choose to end the series story-wise, that they'll strike some deal to continue making stand-alone Closer TV-movies as special events. That would take some of the sting out of this.
Question: I'm not enjoying Bones right now, and even that Brennan episode wasn't worth the wait, either, and it's all because of Hannah, that stupid new girlfriend of Booth's. She is ruining everything, the storyline is stupid, we don't get to see our favorite squints (Angela, Hodgins, Cam and Sweets) that much anymore, and Booth has become a real a-hole lately, and it's all because of this stupid Hannah. My question is: When is that stupid Hannah going to be leaving the show? I don't think I can take her any much longer and the show if she stays. Please tell me if my favorite show will be going back the way it was before, and that stupid Hannah will be leaving soon. — Marie
Matt Roush: So how are you liking that Hannah? (Kidding.) While I'm ambivalent at best about the character, I have to say my heart goes out to any actor who's put in such a hopelessly no-win situation. Even if they had cast a cross between Meryl Streep, Audrey Hepburn and Mother Teresa — which, quite clearly, they didn't — the fans would have hated her. Since I don't do a spoiler column, can't tell you how much longer Hannah is for Booth's world. But for the show's sake, I hope they have an exit strategy in place soon. Because frankly, I'm weary of all the predictable belly-aching.
Question: First-time writer to you. I recently read your personal "take" on this upcoming new network show The Cape in which you absolutely "savaged" this new TV offering! Now maybe in your anticipated response back to me you could elaborate more on what is so damned bad about this new show? — Steve
Matt Roush: Savage? I kind of thought I was fair to this one. (There were far harsher reviews of the show than mine, but there were also a number of generous reviews as well. Let's just call its reception mixed, OK?) How much more do you need me to elaborate? I found the lead actor bland and colorless, and the premise thoroughly lacking in originality and surprise. Plus the cape-wielding? Hard not to mock that. On the plus side, the production values are strong, I enjoyed Keith David as the ringleader of the circus underground, along with some of the other circus characters, and in terms of the show's episodic structure, I like how each episode seems to build to a "Cape-vs-Villain" showdown. But overall, it just felt instantly forgettable to me. Not worth damning the way I did NBC's wretched reboots of Knight Rider and Bionic Woman, but it feels like yet another NBC misfire to me. I could be wrong, and for those inclined to enjoy a comic-book-styled show like this, I hope they do.
Question: With the new prequel of Spartacus starting soon on Starz, what is the status on Andy Whitfield and will he return, and if not, who will fill his shoes? Please tell me the show will go on! — Scott
Matt Roush: Last week, Starz confirmed the second season of Spartacus is a definite go later this year. But Andy Whitfield, unfortunately, is still fighting cancer (no updates on his condition, which is being kept a private matter for now) and he will not be a part of it. They appear to be close to recasting the title role, but until then, we'll have to settle for the Gods of the Arena prequel (which starts a week from Friday). I've seen two hours so far, and it's fun to see John Hannan and Lucy Lawless chewing the scenery (and each other) again, along with other characters from the first season at earlier stages in their gladiator history. The biggest problem is that the star gladiator Gannicus is, to put it mildly, no Spartacus. Which serves as a reminder to how difficult it will be to fill Whitfield's sandles.
Question: I just watched the fifth episode of season 2 of Men Of A Certain Age, and previews for the next episode said it was the season finale. That would only be six episodes for the entire season, which seems like a very short season even for a cable network. Did it really mean mid-season finale as opposed to season finale? I really hope so. It would be a shame to see the new season come and go so quickly and have to wait almost another year to see more episodes. — Eric
Matt Roush: A very frequently asked question in my e-mailbag this week. Happy to tell you there will be more episodes airing later this year (no air date yet), with the season split in two, as often happens in cable. In this case, I'm not sure they've done Men of a Certain Age any favors with the scheduling this year. Even paired with episodes of the smash hit The Closer, the show faced major hurdles in late 2010/early 2011 by airing against major Monday night football games — and this week's finale goes up against the BCS championship, for heaven's sake. You have to think a good chunk of Men's target audience is otherwise engaged. So whenever the show returns, it will be as if it's starting from scratch again. I have enjoyed this second season much more than I did the first, so I'm rooting it for it to regain its momentum. It's so unlike anything else on TNT that I hope they give it a fair chance.
Question: Thanks for all your up-to-the-minute reports! Hopefully you can help me. I am a DirecTV subscriber, and am very much looking forward to the new season of Damages. However, when I look on my guide, it looks like it's a repeat of the pilot that will be airing this Wednesday. And I can't find any news on the upcoming fourth season anywhere! Will we be getting season 4 on Wednesdays or just the past seasons? — Mike
Matt Roush: This was the other most frequently asked question in my mailbag this week (despite having explained the situation numerous times in the past, it is confusing to many). Here's the deal: DirecTV is currently airing the first three seasons of Damages as part of its deal, and later this year, probably summer, a fourth season of new episodes will begin. These episodes will be available only to DirecTV subscribers during the initial run. After that, it hasn't been announced when they'll be available online or on DVD for non-subscribers, but eventually everyone should get a chance to see these final seasons.
Question: As a long-time reader of your column, I was wondering about the impact of viewers of a U.S. show who reside outside the U.S. I live in Belgium, and there have been polls in Europe to see which U.S. show was the most popular; many times CSI has won the poll, but for me it's still NCIS. I know U.S. shows are mostly meant for U.S. audiences, but do you think in theory it would be possible for a show to survive because of its fan club abroad? As an example, I was a big fan of Life, a great show with an original story line, and I'm still sad it was canceled and they rushed everything to get the story told in the second season. Suppose if this show had more viewers outside the U.S. than in the states, would it still have been canceled? Or if CSI remains the No. 1 show in Europe but its popularity in the US hits an all-time low, would the show be given a chance to exist or would it be canceled anyway? We don't really know the impact we have on a show as Europeans or Australians or whatever, and we always hear about the advertisers who will pay the most for the most-viewed show, but with the shift changing to show popularity through DVR recordings, could it make a difference? — Evan
Matt Roush: It's an interesting question, especially in this age of vertical integration between networks and their parent studios (ABC/Disney, CBS/Paramount, Fox, NBC/Universal, etc.), and I suppose it's conceivable that a show's international success could mitigate its failure in the U.S. marketplace. I still think it's highly unlikely that a show that flops in the U.S. would stay alive because it's a hit in some other country. But taking your example of a CSI-style franchise, it's possible a long-running show with an international profile could remain in production longer than seems viable because it continues to sell well overseas. (An argument like that might help explain how Heroes kept going for four seasons, long after it had peaked. That and the fact that NBC had so little else going for it during those years.) Even with all of the other factors like DVR time-shifting, online consumption and the rest, a show's fate still hinges more often than not on its ability to attract an audience on the network on the night it's scheduled.
Question: Did we know that last week's episode of How I Met Your Mother would have a countdown numbers game? I did not notice at first, but then was kinda distracted by trying to find the next number/numbers in the countdown. I rewatched the episode to actually get the storyline. It was a cute idea if you have a DVR and can rewatch it with ease. Was there a point to it or were they just trying to see if anyone noticed? — Amy
Matt Roush: Oh, there was a point, all right. About as subtle as a sledgehammer. To my knowledge, the producers did not tip their hands in advance that this countdown gimmick was coming, nor of the climactic plot twist about the sudden death of Marshall's father. And that's why the countdown existed, for those who noticed. (I picked up on it rather quickly, by the second or third number, whenever it was that Marshall handled the condiment bottle with a large number plastered on it.) I found the numbers device awfully distracting, and then when I realized what it was all about — a cosmic tip-off to the fact that Marshall and Lily's world was about to change — I felt it cheapened the impact of that emotional moment.
Question: I've been trying to decide what I think of the changes to Human Target, to the point that I discussed it with my husband. You described it as "an OK thing," which I thought the show barely was last season; I kept watching mainly because I'm a sucker for Jackie Early Haley's work, and even last year I thought Guerrero was a great character. My impression is that the show must have improved this season because I find it more enjoyable than time filler-ish. Were the new characters needed? Yes and no. What was needed in my opinion was for us to have the sensation that the team was actually working together. To have Chance off risking his life with some random guest star every week with Winston and Guerrero stashed safely in some distant location just didn't work very well. And (forgive me, Valley fans) it's an awful lot to ask Mark Valley to carry that the show almost alone. They don't even ask Nathan Fillion to do that!
You like the boss; I'll tell you why they added Ames. They introduced Ames as someone who was aware, and in awe of, Guerrero's reputation. The twist is that she thinks ruthless little Guerrero is the cool one, not handsome, daring, caring Chance. Meanwhile, Guerrero is a bit annoyed by this intrusion into his ordered world. (Plus, her skills come in handy.) Personally, I think these particular characters provide some interesting relationship and interplay opportunities, so hopefully it will last long enough to explore some of these. Or at least until we find out who the plumber is. — Mary
Matt Roush: All excellent points, especially where the ensemble nature of the show is concerned. No slight to Mark Valley, but the show is better when the team is operating in tandem and everyone has something to do. Especially Guerrero, and I agree that he's this show's not-so-secret weapon. If Ames helps reinforce that notion, then all the better.
Question: I am so disappointed so far with the new TV season, so I hope midseason shows will be better. Please tell me that the ones I am interested in (adaptations of British shows Skins, Being Human and Shameless, and Body of Proof) are worth watching. Another question: Have you seen Tower Prep on Cartoon Network? I know this is a teen show, but I was intrigued by the premise (students with special abilities are trapped at a prep school in a mysterious location and try to escape and to figure out what's going on). I was completely hooked by the mysteries à la Lost (the creator of the show, Paul Dini, worked on Lost and you can feel it). Of course being a Canadian-based show, the production is low budget, but I found the story compelling and entertaining (even if the characters aren't very developed). Do you know if there will be a second season? Thank you for your answer! — Till
Matt Roush: I didn't watch Tower Prep, but you make me wish I had. For now, the show is in renewal limbo. No decision has been made, but I imagine its fate has been complicated by the fact that Cartoon Network's other live-action series, Unnatural History, was not renewed, and the intention as I understand it was for these shows to form an alternative live-action block. Regarding the midseason shows you mention, none of them blew me away, though Shameless is definitely intriguing, and as I noted earlier in the column, Being Human is most likely to appeal to those who had no exposure to the British original. The remake of MTV's Skins was for me the biggest turn-off. It's badly cast and feels much less authentic and daring than the British version. Keeping an open mind for now about Body of Proof. I love Dana Delany, but the pilot I watched many months ago felt awfully generic. When time comes to watch more episodes, I hope it starts living up to its star's potential.