Question: I was wondering whether your affection for Last Resort had waned since the pilot. I've seen comments that the show has been uneven, but I've been absolutely hooked. I'm not trying to play the comparison game with some of Shawn Ryan's other excellent series (The Shield, Terriers) because maybe it isn't quite up to that incredible level, but I still think it's the best new show of the season (no offense to Nashville, which I'm also enjoying, even though the Connie Britton connection makes me keep hoping it'll transcend the soap a la Friday Night Lights, but it's just not there, even if it is still pretty good). But back to Last Resort. I don't really care if it's outrageous and unrealistic, but then I did watch eight seasons of 24. Almost every show requires some degree of suspending belief, and Last Resort is so compelling, exciting, entertaining, well-written and (for the most part) well-acted that I'm in for as long as it lasts.
I love television as an art form and have always hated how some view it as inherently inferior to film or theater. Last Resort, for me, offers an excellent look of what should always be found somewhere on TV: a high-quality game of what-if with compelling, complex characters where I honestly don't know what the next episode will bring. I don't care if the world Ryan and company have built is as fantastic and imaginary as those on Game of Thrones or Star Trek. It's a world I'm invested in and one I can't wait to return to each week. I don't believe you've really spotlighted the show in a column (aside from answering the occasional question) since it premiered, though, so I was curious if you weren't enjoying it as much as I am. And if not, why? Given a number of the shows you've championed over the years, I would think this would be very much up your alley. — Brad
Matt Roush: If you follow me in TV Guide Magazine (which I heartily recommend), you'd have seen that I devoted a very enthusiastic lead review several weeks ago to Last Resort, one of the very few freshman series I've revisited in the Roush Review space since Fall Preview. I'm championing it as best I can, and it's one of the shows I most look forward to every week, because it almost always surprises me. (Last week's chemical attack episode, with the hallucinations and time dislocations, a special case in point. If I'd seen that in advance, I might have tried to tout it online. Maybe next time.) Not everything is clicking with me — the storylines back in Washington, D.C., and the character of Kylie (Autumn Reeser) in particular — but when we're on the island or especially on the sub, I get caught up in the suspense and in the dynamic lead performances of Andre Braugher and Scott Speedman and in the anything-goes sensibility of the storytelling. So yes, I'm still very much on board and hope ABC sticks with something that's so different and exciting. Still hoping it gets an official back-nine order soon. Surely the network is going to rally behind something other than its cruddy new sitcoms.
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Question: I have two questions. The first concerns Revolution. Is NBC going to be funding any web series or anything of that caliber to keep us fans going forward in the story? That's what [ABC] did on Lost when it was on a hiatus similar to this one. The second question concerns my personal favorite new show this season: Elementary. My biggest problem with the show is that all stories so far seem to be episode-long [self-contained], and I was wondering if it could introduce ongoing struggles with particular criminals or groups, possibly spread out over several episodes. I guess the question is: Will they? I don't wish for Elementary to turn into a more intelligent version of CSI, as people almost never remember stories from that show, just characters and their occasional departures. — L.A.
Matt Roush: First, Revolution. NBC hasn't announced anything yet, but I'm led to believe they will be creating fresh content on other platforms to keep the show in the public eye while it's off the air for several months. It only makes sense. As for Elementary, the producers have talked of introducing a Moriarty-style nemesis for Holmes at some point — the post-Super Bowl episode would be an excellent opportunity to launch a big story like that, right? (Just speculating.) But for now, the show seems to be focusing more on Sherlock's back story: introducing the name of "Irene" last week (as in the fabled Irene Adler, and we can only hope she makes as big an impression as Lara Pulver's Emmy-nominated version on PBS' Sherlock last season), and continuing to tease us with the introduction of Sherlock's dad (the Roger Rees incident last week a nice fake-out). The iconic nature of Sherlock's character and the unusual way his relationship with the female Watson is developing are helping Elementary stand out from the run-of-the-mill procedural, but for the most part, the show still operates from the CBS playbook with self-contained mysteries. That's a formula that works for them, even if it makes the show seem less special than it could be.
Question: I've picked a few new shows this season (Arrow, Elementary, Revolution, Vegas, Last Resort). I tried Beauty and the Beast for one episode, but having watched the original with Ron Perlman and Linda Hamilton, I wasn't very enthused. I tried 666 Park Avenue for five episodes, but a promising start quickly got old. I'm a big Stephen King fan among other things, so the premise got old quick. Now that brings me to Nashville. I want to like it. The music is good and the actors are excellent. The problem is after what I consider to be a strong pilot and an episode or two, the whole thing feels like it's starting to implode a bit. The best comparison I can make is with Smash. Good premise, but they are spending too much time on characters and side stories I don't give a damn about and not enough time on the meat of the show. In Smash's case it was the musical, in Nashville's it's the rivalry between Juliette and Rayna and anything to do with the music biz. I've loved Eric Close since The Magnificent Seven, but I absolutely hate him on this show along with his character. That whole Teddy storyline is dragging down the entire show, along with anything to do with her father. I actually liked the chemistry between Charles Esten and Connie Britton better, but have hated the way the writers have handled that whole thing.
I'm trying to be patient, especially since I watched all of Smash's first season and am planning on trying out the second, but I also watch CSI and Top Chef, which also air Wednesdays at 10/9c. There are also a bunch of midseason shows coming that sound very interesting to me. Eventually something is going to have to give, and I'm afraid it will end up being Nashville. Do you think the show is still fixable or that it will even get the chance to fix itself? I remember someone suggesting in your column that they move the show to Tuesday. The only thing I watch on Tuesday is Vegas, so that wouldn't necessarily be a bad idea. The question is would ABC move it to salvage it if the ratings keep dropping. Also curious as to whether the back nine for the show has gotten picked up or not. I can't wait to hear your thoughts on the matter. — Maria
Matt Roush: The time period really isn't the issue here, is it? I'm still watching and for the most part enjoying Nashville, but it does need to goose up and refocus and re-energize the storytelling, and the best way to do that is to ditch the Teddy subplot (political campaign, financial and sexual scandal, etc.) as soon as possible, taking a cue from how quickly (though not quickly enough) they sent Juliette's awful mom into rehab. I'd be thrilled if this John Edwards clone went to prison or ran off with his vapid honey, anything to spare us those moments of dead air when he's plotting with Rayna's dad. Raise the stakes for Rayna as a single-mom fading superstar, pit her more directly against Juliette, all would sound good to me, especially as Maria noted if it keeps the music business front and center. The comparison to Smash is a good one, when you consider how frequently that show flatlined whenever it pulled focus from the backstage shenanigans. I'm very eager to see Smash's revamped second season, and likewise, I think Nashville is far from dead in the water creatively, and I'm hoping ABC will give it at least a full season to work out the kinks. Almost every new show, especially one that is creating its own formula, has growing pains, and I think this one is very fixable. But not if they think we will ever care about Teddy (like you, I've enjoyed Eric Close in other shows, but this role's going nowhere). I'd also like Nashville to reclaim a sense of fun and joy in the creative process. The scenes between Rayna and Deacon, between Scarlett and her almost-Teddy-level dour boyfriend, etc., were all awfully mopey last week, and that's going to be a real turn-off if it isn't already. Still, keeping the faith for now.
Question: I am loving Nashville and was wondering if there are any plans for country music stars to make guest appearances. For example, maybe Reba McEntire since her show is also on ABC. — Carly
Matt Roush: Not likely, or at least not yet. At present, Nashville seems content with sticking within its own reality of country-music royalty. Those who know the local scene will recognize actual Nashville musicians playing alongside the fictional stars — and Kimberly Williams-Paisley, who's playing Teddy's secret amour/financial conspirator, is married to one of the biggest names in the biz — but from what I understand (and this could change), we shouldn't be looking for household-name cameos anytime soon. Although if it helps boost the show's profile, and adds a new level of excitement to things, it might not be the worst thing that could happen to the show.
Question: I'm a faithful reader, I often agree with your opinions, and I try to watch the shows you recommend — except The Walking Dead: I'm allergic to zombie-lore. I don't remember reading anything in your column about CBS's Vegas. I started to watch it tentatively and found myself hooked. I find the '60s period setting well dealt with, in more modest, less showy and in a way more realistic fashion than Mad Men, and I really like Dennis Quaid as the unsmiling sheriff and Michael Chiklis as the not-totally-corrupt mobster. Jason O'Mara and Carrie-Anne Moss and the rest add up to a very strong cast. The stories play well (it's refreshing that in 1960 they didn't have all the forensic gadgets: they have to rely on more primitive methods, brains and muscle), and the depiction of how Las Vegas became Sin City make us hope for interesting storylines. It's remarkable how, with Justified and Longmire (that I both like very much as well — but then, I'm 57), modern-set Westerns seem to be making their way back into television. And thus, I keep asking myself: What does Matt think? Thank you for all the interesting comments and insights. — Marc
Matt Roush: I'm not yet as wild about Vegas as I am about Justified (a longtime favorite) or even Longmire (which grew on me through all of last summer), but I do think it's solid, if a bit predictable, and when I do catch up with it — Parenthood takes top priority for me on Tuesdays — I'm generally entertained, especially by Quaid and his family (O'Mara as his more charming brother and Taylor Handley as his rascally son) doing the cowboy law enforcer thing, clashing with the city-slicker mobsters who've never come up against a force of implacable nature quite like Ralph Lamb. You make some good points about how the '60s attitudes and mores help set the procedural aspect apart from the CBS norm — though I disagree about Vegas treating the period with more realistic nuance than on Mad Men — but this is a show that captures my attention more for its tone and its cast than its story so far.
Question: Just caught Mockingbird Lane on Hulu and I must know what is next for the series! How were the ratings for this "Halloween Special?" Did it inspire any other networks to pick the show up? Or for NBC to at least make a mini-series out of it? I need more Bryan Fuller in my life, and two seasons of Pushing Daisies on DVD is not enough. — Danielle
Matt Roush: No new news on this front that I'm aware of, which probably doesn't bode well for Mockingbird Lane's long-term future. The pre-Halloween showing of this "busted pilot" did OK by Friday standards and helped boost Grimm that night, but given the costs and risks involved in keeping the show going, I'd be surprised if NBC resurrects it at this point. (And forget anyone coming to the rescue; it's too pricey for Syfy, and one of the main reasons this revival happened in the first place is that The Munsters is an in-house Universal property.) But good news on the Bryan Fuller front: He's attached to Hannibal, which is still waiting for a midseason slot on NBC but is destined for better treatment than Mockingbird Lane ever got.
Question: Is there anyone besides William Daniels who could have pulled off the role of Dr. Thomas on Grey's Anatomy? Not only is he a wonderful actor, but he is still Mr. Feeny (from Boy Meets World) to many of us. There's so much good will attached to that character, it was easy to accept him as a teacher and mentor to Cristina. I loved that scene where Cristina is walking down the hall remembering Dr. Feeny's words of wisdom. It was a powerful "passing of the torch" moment. Looking back, you can see that Dr. Feeny was showing Christina who she could become. A great surgeon who dedicates herself to medicine. A great doctor fighting the good fight even when she's old and gray. However, I have to say Dr. Feeny's death did get me to thinking. Is too much character death becoming a problem in television?
In this instance, I think it was the right choice. It added an extra punch to his final words. But it used to be expected that TV shows wouldn't kill off main and/or beloved characters. That has definitely changed. Sometimes that's a good thing. Some shows have benefited from that sense of uncertainty and drama of who's in danger. Some shows have taken it too far. Grey's obviously has this problem. Everyone does die here. Sometimes the death makes sense to the story like Dr. Feeny's. Other times I feel like characters have died when the better choice would have been to let them leave in a different manner with the option of returning. I felt the same way about Graham's death in Once Upon a Time. His death seemed to be less about storytelling and more like the show was saying, "See! We can kill off people unexpectedly!" My problem with all this death is that it takes away some of the impact. Dr. Feeny's death was unexpected, but not really shocking. As it was happening, I thought, "Well, of course he's going to die. The show's done with him." Character death has become the "go to" when it's time to create interest or drama regardless of how it fits into the overall story. — Lindlee
Matt Roush: Here's TV's generation gap in action. To many, William Daniels will always be Mr. Feeny. But to those in my demographic (who weren't nearly as glued to Boy Meets World during a period dominated by NBC's "must-see" Thursday hits), Daniels will always be Dr. Mark Craig, the role that won him two Emmys on St. Elsewhere, the groundbreaking hospital drama from the '80s that laid the foundation for future hits like ER and Grey's Anatomy. If you were paying close attention, Daniels' character was named Dr. "Craig" Thomas — in fact, in his final episode, he confronts his boss, saying, "I'm not 'Craig,' I'm Dr. Thomas," which is about as meta as it gets. And that vibe made his character one of my favorite things about Grey's this season. I loved his rapport with Yang, and Sandra Oh seemed to take great pleasure sharing scenes with this great veteran actor.
As for his death: It had dramatic impact, on Cristina for sure but also for the viewer, and that's all that really matters for me. It's hardly new for heightened TV melodramas to use a character's sudden death for emotional shock value — it's at least as old as Rosalind Shays taking the elevator plunge on L.A. Law back in the day — and it's important for shows like Once Upon a Time to establish early on that, despite its "family" veneer as a revisionist twist on fairy tales, stakes are high and major characters can actually die, so I was OK with the way Regina dispatched her lover last season. Grey's has used this device more than most, and the plane crash in particular had a feel of point-of-no-return desperation, but it's hard to deny that the deaths of Lexie and Mark have left a mark on the characters to whom they mattered most. And maybe even on the fans.
Question: The Voice on NBC is very successful in the ratings for NBC, and is scoring higher ratings than The X Factor on Fox. I don't watch The Voice, but I watch The X Factor, and I share with you the disappointment that Khloe Kardashian was chosen as one of the show's co-hosts for the live shows. (Aren't we all sick and tired of those overexposed Kardashians that are everywhere on TV? I know I am!) and the over-the-top Vegas-style productions of the contestants' performances! I liked the earlier audition episodes, but quit watching before the live shows when I found out that Khloe Kardashian was named as one of the show's co-hosts! I only learned about what the live shows were like when I read the Q&A regarding The X Factor in last week's Ask Matt column. Like I mentioned before, I don't watch The Voice, and the two reasons why I don't is because, 1) The show focuses more on the celebrity judges' egos than the contestants on the show (and despite some of The X Factor's shortcomings, that show has equal focus on both the judges and the contestants); and 2) The first two winners (or any of the runner-ups or also-rans) of The Voice hasn't had any breakthrough hit singles and both of their debut albums were total flops on the music charts, whereas American Idol had past winners like Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood and even runner-ups and also-rans like Jennifer Hudson, Chris Daughtry and Katharine McPhee all had major success in either their music careers and/or acting careers. (The X Factor's Melanie Amaro's debut album has yet to be released.) Why is it that you and most other people watch and prefer The Voice more than The X Factor even when the former show hasn't had any successful singers that became famous and had hit music careers? — Chris
Matt Roush: What happens to these contestants, winners or otherwise, after the show is out of my control, and honestly, pretty much off my radar. I'm not a music critic. What matters to me is whether the show itself provides compelling entertainment, and by that standard, The Voice towers over The X Factor. The blind audition rounds on The Voice are riveting and great fun, and they managed to extend the gimmick further into this season with the opportunities to "steal" talent during the battle rounds. (In the case of Amanda Brown, a "steal" has given a real contender a much-deserved second chance.) And I respectfully disagree about the focus on the judge/coaches on these shows. The Voice certainly puts a bright spotlight on its superstars, but so does The X Factor, and besides Demi Lovato, no one is popping on The X Factor the way Adam Levine, Blake Shelton, Christina Aguilera and even the eccentric Cee Lo Green do on The Voice — which also does a much more thorough job of showing the celebrity coaches working with their talent, preparing them for the next round with specific pointers and encouragement. On The X Factor, these scenes are perfunctory at best and not terribly convincing. Both shows are flawed by the celebrities being coach/mentors of individual teams, inhibiting their ability to actually "judge" the performers — but again, it's worse on The X Factor, because the judges' comments seem more directed at tearing each other down (Simon vs. Demi, Simon vs. L.A.) than even engaging the actual singer. The tone of The Voice is generally much more positive, and it's just more of a pleasure to watch. Plus: No Kardashians. That's a win in my book.
Question: With filming beginning on the last, shortened, season of Treme (I'm still only at Season 2), do you think they'll be able to send the show off in style or do you think, like I do, that they should have been given a full season to wrap up all the character's storylines, even though, as Creighton said, "There is no closure"? - Ryan
Matt Roush: For a show that pulls the ratings of Treme, every season and every episode has to be looked at as a gift. I'm sure knowing this far in advance how much of a final season (more like a mini-series) they have to work with, the show's creative team will be able to craft a final chapter that will meet everyone's needs. Of course they and the show's fans would prefer more — who wouldn't? — but it's not as if story was ever actually Treme's selling point. This final season will allow a show with a great deal of integrity and authenticity to go out on its own terms, and that sits well with me.
Question: On Sunday, Oct. 28, The Amazing Race had contestants going to a Bangladesh garbage dump to collect dead rats. How disgusting can this show get? I feel the producers are losing touch with what The Amazing Race is all about, and turning the show into continued episodes of Survivor. I don't see any entertainment value arising out of collecting dead rats out of a Bangladesh garbage dump. This was the last straw for my wife and me, we stopped watching at that moment, deleted the recording and canceled the series from future episodes. This kind of gross programming is for the sick minded, not what I would call valued family prime-time entertainment. I just hope that a large portion of the watching public feels as I do, and CBS makes some changes. I know it's too late for this season, but maybe next season we can return to family entertainment and leave out the gross! — Frank
Matt Roush: Honestly, I was more turned off and appalled in the following episode when the contestants themselves began acting like rats — taking a team's money, which had inadvertently been left in the open, and keeping it for themselves without apology or (much) remorse. There has always been an "ick" factor involved in some of The Amazing Race's challenges, whether it involves eating some local exotic "delicacy" (often with barfing involved) or disposing of dead rats, which I imagine is a problem in this particular locale. We all have our limits, and this certainly seems to have crossed your personal line, but I find myself more irked when there's no "challenge" to a challenge, like getting the full Istanbul bathhouse treatment or eating ice cream from a playful vendor. (I've been to Istanbul and had both experiences, and enjoyed them at the time, but it hardly makes for great TV.