Question: Thank you for your recommendation of The Killing, which I found both brutal and fantastic. I remember you saying in response to a previous question some time ago that when you screen a pilot, you wonder if you will see yourself invested in the show years from now. Along similar lines, have you been privy to any information about what The Killing would look like if renewed for a second season or beyond? I get the impression that we will learn the identity of Rosie's killer at the end of this season, which is a good thing, since I feel like trying to stretch out one murder investigation as the central focus over the course of several seasons would try my patience. (I really like slow-burn TV like Mad Men, but at some point, there needs to be a payoff.) So what happens in a hypothetical season two? Do the detectives just move on to another case regarding another murdered teen? If so, I feel like many of the beats would be similar even if the case were different. Plus, we'd lose the presence of the two phenomenal actors playing Rosie's parents. In terms of what the writers are thinking, is there any way for this show to end up as a long-running series, or is it best to look at it as a long-form miniseries? — Jake
Matt Roush: In the best-case scenario, The Killing should be able to work on both levels, as series and miniseries, and if it follows the model of the original Danish series (so I'm told), the mystery will be solved this season and the primary characters will move on to a new case in a second. But when executive producer Veena Sud was asked about this during the critics' press tour this winter, she remained purposefully ambiguous: "At this point, we're going to organically follow the story, and whether or not it gets solved at the end of the season is a mystery." Even so, I can't imagine this mystery to be eternally open-ended, and at some point we'd see Sarah and Holder (or whoever) tackle another killing, presumably as soul-chilling and disturbing and fascinating.
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Question: I was thrilled to see that you're enjoying The Killing as much as I am. It's dark and serious and understated, but utterly compelling. With the tone of the show in mind, I was wondering what you think of the interactive online fan-builder touted at the end of the show. Maybe I'm just taking the show too seriously, but I think it's completely misguided, and although I realize that this is fiction, it almost seemed insensitive to the Larsen family in a way. Maybe it was just that the voice pitching the online features was too enthusiastic or something, but after a truly haunting couple of episodes, it struck me as extremely odd. I think the producers are kidding themselves if they think viewers who just watched the devastation of these characters and who have embraced the macabre nature of the subject matter would want to excitedly hop online to trade theories with other fans, view suspect profiles, and worse of all, take a virtual tour of Rosie's bedroom. Seriously? How twisted is that? Take a tour of her room? You mean the room where her mother, near catatonic with grief, is huddled on her late daughter's bed, clutching Rosie's last earthly possessions because that's all she has left? That room? Um, no thanks.
I can understand where the producers (or the network or whoever is behind it) were hoping that The Killing might turn into watercooler gossip the following morning, with fans discussing "Who killed Rosie Larsen?" with as much fervor as the ad campaign clearly hopes, but I just don't see that happening. This isn't the bizarre fate of Laura Palmer, the soap opera pursuit of who shot JR, or even the quirky teen noir of Veronica Mars, and I really can't imagine gabbing with friends about the fate of Rosie Larsen. This production is a searing character piece with haunting undertones, looking at the ramifications of a young girl's agonizing death, not a sudsy whodunit. Rather than a "watercooler fodder" type of show, it seems more like a "stare blankly out a window and ponder the cruelty and brevity of life" kind of show. Am I just putting way too much gravity on this or do you think the advertising strategy is off the mark? — Lacy
Matt Roush: I admit, I wasn't even aware of this gimmick. Getting screeners in advance, I'm not always watching the on-air broadcast of a show like this, and I don't pay much attention to the marketing/hype that surrounds it. But this does sound tone deaf, to say the least. Might be suitable for something as goofily pervy as Pretty Little Liars, but The Killing is for adults. Still, it's the sort of thing that it seems to me can easily be tuned out — and maybe there is a dedicated mystery-fan following that will want to play along. I can't really blame AMC for trying to make some noise with this show and to milk their investment with ancillary online tie-ins, but I agree this creepy story is much grounded in realism than Twin Peaks with its wacky cast of characters, and this voyeuristic approach may smack many as being of bad taste. My advice: Put the TV on mute when it goes to these promos and wallow in the emotion, not the promotion.
Question: I've noticed a trend of late that puzzles me. How is it possible that actors on one network's show can guest on another? For example, Elizabeth Mitchell starred in V and guested on SVU; her costar Morena Baccarin was just on The Mentalist. Eddie McClintock of Warehouse 13 showed up on an episode of CSI last season, and one of my faves, Michael Trucco of the "Please-oh-please-oh-please- renew-it" Fairly Legal signed on for a possibly recurring role on How I Met Your Mother. My question in a nutshell is: How is this possible? Do the networks have any say in their stars co-starring on the competition, or is it more a case of the actors taking a role when their availability allows it? Thanks in advance, and also for your wonderful insight for so many years. — Elizabeth
Matt Roush: Well, you're welcome. And thank you right back. But you've pretty much answered your own question. As jarring as it might be to see actors who have major roles on one show appear on another in an entirely different context — admit it, you've never seen Elizabeth Mitchell play anyone as damaged as her SVU character — what we're talking about here are working actors who like and probably need to work. In many of your examples, the actors in question have either wrapped production on a show that may not return (V), or are between seasons on cable series with limited runs that leave them with lots of free time to pursue other work in TV or movies. Unless they're under some sort of exclusive contract that forbids them from taking work on another show or on another network or at another studio — and I don't see that happening for character actors such as these — they're happy to take work when they can get it. And in many cases, it gives them a chance to show some range, which is why I tend to enjoy seeing these people pop up in a variety of shows and roles.
Question: Are you (or is anyone else) getting as annoyed at — and tired of — House as I am? The show has been on for seven seasons, but it seems like watching the last two episodes (jumping off the hotel balcony, and then getting married) was like watching the first season. It's the same old thing. A mystery disease of the week which usually gets resolved so quickly I sometimes have to "rewind" to find out what it was and what the cure was (if any), and in the interim it's House's same old Vicodin-addicted, malicious abuse toward anyone and everyone. It was novel the first season, but I like to see characters evolve a little bit over time. I was encouraged at the beginning of season 6 when he was detoxing, and Andre Braugher was excellent as his shrink. I was really interested to see if they couldn't take the character in a different (better) direction. My husband even started watching again (he'd bailed after season 1) when House turned half human. But as soon as the nastiness and abuse started back, he bailed again.
It seems like the writers are one-trick ponies on this show. They can't seem to get past his being nasty, malicious and manipulative of everyone around him. And when he got married a week or so ago, I almost had a headache from all the eye-rolling at his antics. He really out-a-holed himself! As far as I'm concerned, this show has run its course. I don't really care if it gets renewed, as I don't think I'll watch anymore. But there are just too many other shows that seem interesting to waste any more time on the same old crap from House every week. The show is either long overdue for a serious character makeover, or it's run out of creative gas: maybe both! Hugh Laurie is a better actor than that, and Lisa Edelstein, Omar Epps, et al., deserve better. I can't be the only one who notices this, can I? — KC
Matt Roush: I'm sure you're not. The ratings for House are still solid enough, but not what they used to be. And what you're describing is the sort of fatigue that often sets in with any long-running series, especially one as formulaic as House (in the medical mysteries, at least). House gets knocked from all sides, though. When it changes things too drastically, like firing the original team and bringing on the new characters while sidelining a fan favorite like Cameron way too early in the show's run, we complain for good reason. The House-Cuddy relationship for a while seemed like a promising sea change this season, but it quickly became overdone and didn't seem to go over well for many viewers. And then there's House himself: reforming or pretending to and always backsliding. The producers are reluctant ever to change the basic nature of his character, but I agree it's frustrating to watch House and House seem to regress — and the green-card rebound marriage may be its most insultingly infantile storyline to date — much of this a function of a show refusing to age, or bow out, gracefully. (Many are saying much the same thing about The Office continuing without Steve Carell.) This cast can still rise to the occasion when given one — Hugh Laurie and Olivia Wilde are quite good in this week's episode — but it's no secret those moments are fewer and farther between.
Question: What is your take on the recent episodes of NCIS and this ongoing tension that the writers appear to be setting up between Gibbs and Vance? (Granted they had it in prior seasons, but I thought they had turned a corner.) It seems that since Vance has returned from his recovery after nearly getting killed in the 2-parter (Enemy Domestic, Enemy Foreign arc), he appears to be taking his angst out on Gibbs and his team. I feel like Gibbs helped him and saved his life by providing him with the knife that he eventually used to kill his enemy, yet Vance is going through something that no one can comprehend. This appears to be some sort of setup, and it's irritating because the viewers don't see where this is going.
Then the writers add in the new Agent Barrett (Sarah Jane Morris, not a fan) to complicate matters more. I also feel Tim (Sean Murray) appears to be in a funk of sorts, like he is discontent. The writers have crafted ways of sharing that: the upstairs neighbor's kid who steals his credit card to get his attention because he's focused so much on work, and there have been scenes where you see him just staring out at nothing in particular. I wonder if they'll intertwine both? I don't know. I don't know that I like what I'm seeing. And perhaps because it's been almost eight seasons and after a while, even a finely crafted show runs out of steam. Your thoughts? — Teresa
Matt Roush: I placed this question after the House rant because I find these shows a study in contrasts. The things that seem to annoy you about NCIS — not knowing where a conflict like the Vance-Gibbs chill is heading — aren't so much signs of a show running out of steam, but of producers trying to keep an audience engaged, risking fans being disgruntled in the process. I don't watch this show with the same level of detailed absorption as many fans, so I haven't really picked up on McGee's malaise (didn't he score a romantic conquest a little while ago?), but I like that they've hit a nerve by bringing in Barrett to further underscore Gibbs' problems with authority, this time complicated by her extracurricular fling with Tony. And bringing in Enrique Murciano as Ziva's CIA (or, CI-Ray) guy also looks like a plus. They seem to be heading toward some kind of showdown between Gibbs and Vance again — the scene when Vance visited the morgue was full of unspoken tension — and I'm assuming we'll learn what Vance's issues are in the wake of that last crisis. Nothing seems to diminish the popularity of NCIS, but what fun would it be if it didn't give you something to gnaw on and gripe about?
Question: I was shocked to see you decided on NCIS as one of your picks of the week since you are not a fan of the "procedural." I do like the addition of the new characters. How long do you think it will take them to kill Agent Barrett off? She might as well have a target painted on her. I love NCIS and am glad it is doing great this season. It deserves it. I agree with your comments on the American Idol judges this year. They always say the contestants do a good job even if the performance was mediocre. I miss Simon Cowell. At least he was honest with them and they respected him for it. It meant something when Simon said they did a good job. When are you going to tell us your opinion on Game of Thrones? It looks really interesting. I am looking forward to watching it. — Susan
Matt Roush: Lots to address here. First, it's not quite true that I'm not a fan of the "procedurals," but I do think there are too many of them, not all of them deserve to be spun off, and not all are created equal. When I put together those "picks" columns, it's often a reflection of what I think my readers and the general TV fan will be intrigued by, and I try (though I'm sure I don't always succeed) to change it up a bit, so it's not always the same shows in the mix. Regarding Idol: I'm not sure I actually miss Simon. If he didn't want to be there any longer, I certainly didn't want him to be there looking as bored and grumpy as in the last few seasons. But I do hope Pia's ouster is a wake-up call for the judges to put some constructive bite into their comments. And where Game of Thrones is concerned, my review appears in the issue of TV Guide Magazine hitting stands this week, and I'll post a version of that later this week. In summary: I loved the books and am happy to say the series so far is more than living up to my expectations.
Question: I'm a huge fan of the half-hour sitcom and think the last few TV seasons have brought some fabulous shows into my life (Community, Parks and Recreation, Raising Hope, Modern Family and The Middle come to mind), so I decided to give Fox's new Breaking In a chance. I like all the actors individually and have enjoyed their previous movie and TV outings, but I'm just not sure I like them all together. Granted, there's only been one episode, and it did get a few "LOL" moments from me, but I wanted to see what you thought about the cast and their chemistry together. Should I make it part of my weekly TV viewing or just DVR it for rainy days, then perhaps let it ultimately phase out? (Sort of like Running Wilde... I really wanted to like it!) — Megan
Matt Roush: It's still early days for this show, and while I was underwhelmed by the pilot, I did think this week's second episode shows improvement — in part because of a clever guest turn by Alyssa Milano. My problem with Breaking In, as it is for a lot of these single-camera comedies, is that it's clever without being actually very funny, and with the exception of Christian Slater's flamboyantly devilish boss, most of the characters are either derivative — Bret Harrison playing yet another variation of the same genial-slacker character — or annoyingly one-note, like the resentful co-worker who's apparently a master of disguise or the Star Trek geek playing pranks on the newbie. It's possible they'll gel if we and Fox give them a chance, and it's hardly the worst new comedy to come along this season. But it's no Raising Hope in terms of laughs per half-hour.
Question: On an emotional recent Sunday, I settled in to learn who was the subject of the notification officer's visit on Army Wives. I would have been upset by the death of any of the characters, but when I learned it was Jeremy Sherwood, I was in tears for the rest of the episode as they showed how it happened and the other characters' reactions. It was almost like I had lost one of my nephews. We have watched Jeremy grow from troubled teenager who physically abused his mother into a confident, caring young man on the brink of marriage. As in Army Wives' better moments, we were reminded of the devastating losses suffered by military families and their friends every day when a loved one is killed or seriously wounded in Afghanistan or Iraq. In the subsequent episode, among other ripples, we saw how Jeremy's death has even affected the way Roland handles his counseling cases. Exploring the ripples from Jeremy's death should give us some great stories this season. Terry Serpico and Catherine Bell as Jeremy's grieving parents have been wonderfully real. So far, the writers have handled the stories with some understatement. I hope they can resist their shameless manipulation impulses and let the stories unfold realistically. As for Richard Bryant, the local Charleston actor who played Jeremy, I wish him much success in his career. He did a great job. Have you watched any Army Wives this season? What is your take on these developments? — Frank
Matt Roush: I checked in with Army Wives when I heard there was going to be a significant death in the family, and I thought they handled the story with appropriate respect and solemnity. I hope as you do that the show doesn't lapse into melodrama as a result, but so far, I'd say you're right to be impressed.
Question: There's supposed to be a lesbian wedding on Grey's Anatomy, and according to Stacy McKee, one of the Grey's writers who used to be my favorite and who wrote this episode, she states that she researched "a formal Catholic wedding" and that is what's being depicted in the May 5th episode. A wedding between lesbians in a state, which has not legalized gay marriage, officiated by a female doctor in the woods, is certainly not in my opinion a formal Catholic wedding and stating so is a slap in the face of millions of Catholics. I wonder if her research included talking to a Catholic priest. Has Grey's gone too far? — Shirley
Matt Roush: I'm sure some will think so, but why would they be watching in the first place? "Going too far" is nothing new for Grey's Anatomy, and anyone who's watched for any period of time should be accustomed to unconventional love stories and weddings — including a union sealed on a post-it note. Those without tolerance need not attend. The idea here, from what I understand, is to honor the tradition and feel of a Catholic ceremony (Callie's upbringing) but in an all-inclusive Grey's style. Quoting Sara Ramirez in a set-visit interview on the AfterEllen website: "Callie starts to understand and embrace the notion that God is everywhere and that you don't have to be in a church to share God's presence of love and acceptance and to have a union with someone and a wedding and ceremony that means everything to you." Sounds to me more like a pat on the cheek than a slap in the face, but gay marriage is clearly a hot-button issue and I'd be more surprised if no one got agitated.
Question: Something that drives me and my wife crazy is when a show gets a dumb easy-to-check fact completely wrong. For example, we were watching CSI: NY the other night (which is another problem entirely) and felt our ears bleed when one of the characters said she was catching a train to Danbury, Connecticut at Penn Station. There are no trains to Danbury out of Penn Station — trains to Danbury run out of Grand Central Station. This is one example but it seems to happen with every show. A dumb detail like that is screwed up and I have to ask why? — Chip
Matt Roush: I know people who love catching these gaffes, because it makes them feel superior to the drones cranking out these shows. But it's also a reminder that a show like CSI: NY might get more of the "dumb details" right if it was more authentic — like, say, being filmed on location. Confession: Even though I live in New York, I've only taken the train to Connecticut a handful of times, so I have to admit I learned something new from your question.
Question: I haven't heard anything about the renewal of Fairly Legal, which I absolutely love!! I was hoping maybe you would have some insight into its status. And I'm sure Hawaii Five-0 will be renewed, but hadn't heard anything definite on that as well. Thanks for any info! — Sandy
Matt Roush: Last time I checked, USA Network hadn't made the call yet on Fairly Legal's future. The network has its upfront presentation in early May, so we may know more then if not sooner. Legal didn't generate as much buzz as most of USA's instant hits, but USA also doesn't tend to cancel its shows, so it's hard to gauge the threshold on this. Hawaii, though, is a no-brainer. It will be back next season.
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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