Question: After finishing Saturday's season finale of Orphan Black, many thoughts come to mind, but the most obvious is that if Tatiana Maslany doesn't walk away with the Emmy for best actress — or is it five nominations in the best supporting actress category? — then the people who vote just aren't watching TV. Every character she plays has such varied distinction from hair, voice, even walks, and other minor mannerisms and played them all with a determination like it was her only character. It might have been easy to phone one or two in and at times you could forget it all one person. Matt, I know you enjoy the show, but I was curious: Did you ever at any time find yourself picking a favorite? I think mine came to be Alison, because while they all have a dark side, the one who seemed to be the most sunshine and light was probably the darkest of all with a heavy dose of comedy thrown in. Can the show sustain excellence in Season 2? — Jeffrey
Matt Roush: It really was a tour de force performance(s) in service of a terrific and twisty story, and I see no reason to think the fun won't continue next spring in Season 2. As for a favorite among the clones: You make a good case for the ever-surprising Alison, and for me the most purely enjoyable episode was the one where she was center stage, torturing her husband who she believed to be her Monitor — turns out she was right! — while haplessly trying to host a party for her suburban neighborhood. But I'm most struck by Maslany's range when she's being Sarah pretending to be Beth, then shifting gears into tigress mom protector or action heroine or whatever else the script demands. Maslany is a true find, but will she make it onto the Emmy radar? Let's hope so. Maybe her nomination for the Critics Choice Television Awards — chosen by people who actually do watch a lot of TV, unlike (ironically) much of the TV Academy membership — will wake the voters up. I'm not counting on it, but wouldn't it be a lovely surprise? (Also hoping first-timers Vera Farmiga of Bates Motel and Keri Russell of The Americans can somehow make the cut. What a tremendous category that would be.)
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Question: Why in the world did Syfy cancel Merlin? It was a really great program. But the series finale sucked!!! King Arthur dead!!?? No way! Please bring it back. — Ethelyn
Matt Roush: For a change, the blame lies not with the network. This wasn't Syfy's decision, or even its show. (It was a British import.) It was the producers' call to end Merlin after five seasons, and to honor the legend by not giving it a happy ending. (Excalibur wasn't exactly a joy ride either, and perhaps the existence of a classic tome titled Le Morte d'Arthur might have given you a clue of what to expect.)
Question: I'm absolutely addicted to The Borgias, so please tell me that there is no truth to the rumor that series creator Neil Jordan is thinking of scrapping a "traditional" fourth season and opting for a movie format instead! It would be a major disservice to the actors — and the fans — if Jordan decides to go this route. — Jennifer
Matt Roush: Can't tell you one way or the other. Last word from Showtime is that no decision has yet been made regarding whether and how The Borgias will continue. But assuming Jordan gets to finish the story on his own terms in whatever format, how is that a disservice to anyone?
Question: I'm someone who has watched, and mostly enjoyed, both Nashville and Smash. I've downloaded music from both shows and followed them since they debuted. Thanks to the magic of the DVR, it just so happened that I watched the season and series finales, respectively, on back-to-back nights and, based on the quality of the last few episodes of each show, I'd be hard pressed to pick which one was the critical darling and which the already-canceled failure if I didn't already know.
In its final hours, I think Smash mostly got it right, pitting their shows-within-a-show against each other at the box office and the Tonys and focusing on the larger, more believable story arc of an artist who died before he could see the success he'd wrought and the inner workings of Broadway, instead of Julia's ho-hum affair and marriage, the tedious who-is-Jimmy plot and all their other less workable story lines. Sure, there are plenty of things that can be nitpicked — Hit List's hilariously unrealistic last-minute Tony takeover performance, to name one — but the overall feel of the finale was fun and entertaining, with good music to boot. The moment where Julia and Tom are talking amongst themselves and miss their Tony win was pitch-perfect poignant and funny. Everything Smash started out to be. The only thing missing was a Neil Patrick Harris as Tony host cameo. (I know, I know... Wrong network.)
Nashville, on the other hand, ended with a hot mess of a finale, chock full of clichés and calamities. So many, in fact, that it seemed the writers had some sort of side bet on who could include the most hackneyed cliffhanger, or simply how many they could stuff into a single season-ending montage: marriage, babies, a death, car accident, shocking secrets revealed. Check, check, check, check and check. Your average episode of Dynasty showed more restraint. Juliet receives a letter from her dead mother in front of the detective working her murder-suicide case and he isn't the least bit interested in what it says? Not to mention the silliness of handing over the "irredeemable" SD card "just in case Juliet wants to keep it." Saint Deacon turns into an angry drunk proving that Rayna was right to never trust him with this information. And, what, he can't do math? He never suspected? Or even asked? I could go on, but suffice to say that almost every major character on the show has had a personality transplant since the premiere. Rarely towards the better, or even more interesting.
I know that the ratings for Smash were downright dismal, especially after it was banished to Saturday nights, but after watching both cappers, I have to say I'd be much more invested in seeing what was next for the Smash performers than those featured on the increasingly tedious and un-relatable Nashville. What did you think of both finales? — Susan
Matt Roush: For me, they were both awfully hokey, not terribly surprising considering what usually happens when soapy melodramas gear up for a (cue an unexpectedly weak Smash song) "big finish." Smash had built toward the Tonys as a main event, and it was a natural end point for the season (and series) given all the rivalries, although nothing about the way it was staged rang quite true, from the theater it was set in to the presenters and so on. But there was a sense that this was as good as it was going to get. End scene. With Nashville, Juliette's CMA win took a back seat to her personal tragedy and meltdown and did feel more anticlimactic amid all of the other contrived hubbub. The one thing I'll say in Nashville's favor is that nothing in the Smash finale (or entire second season) had the power of Hayden Panettiere's and Charles Esten's respective performances. Mock "Saint Deacon's" backsliding and cluelessness if you will, but Esten really sold it, as he has all season. And as contrived as Juliette's mom's death (and aftermath) may have been, Panettiere rose to the occasion with some startlingly raw work. As a backstage drama, I find Nashville more credible than what Smash became. As a soap, Nashville is often too dour and mopey — and anything involving Rayna's family might as well be set to a dirge — but Smash's personal stories were just as painful (including anything involving Julia and Jimmy). I'm glad Nashville is getting a second chance to figure itself out — there was obviously a learning curve going on, as tends to happen with ambitious musical productions — but if the finale is a harbinger of the future as opposed to an over-the-top attempt to jumpstart things, we may be in for another letdown.
Question: Do you know if there will ever be a clean version of Game of Thrones available — on DVD or on a cable network, like they did with Sex in the City? I absolutely love the show, and my niece and nephew, who are 12 and 15, would love it, too, but my brother won't let them watch it because of the sex and nudity (which I understand). In my opinion, the inappropriate scenes are completely gratuitous and the plot would not be affected by deleting them. As much as I love the show, I do get tired of seeing so many naked women. This show is so brilliant and engaging (like watching a movie every week), that it should be enjoyed by all, even kids. What do you think?
On another subject, I also love Elementary. Sherlock is my new favorite TV character (besides Tyrion Lannister, of course). And I think Jonny Lee Miller is absolutely perfect in the role. The problem is that he is frequently hard to understand. Between his British accent and the fact that he mumbles a lot, I have to rewind my DVR way too many times during any given episode. And sometimes even rewinding and rewatching doesn't work. He has so many witty lines, and I hate to miss any of his great quips. Maybe you could get a message to his director to tell him to stop dropping his lines, or maybe slow down a bit? — Camille
Matt Roush: Game of Thrones, both in book and TV form, is a very adult property, as are most HBO original series, not intended for kids, even those with a taste for fantasy, and I haven't heard of any plans to make a censored version available for sale or otherwise. Which isn't to say that if the show eventually gets sold into commercial and/or basic-cable syndication, it won't be edited in the way R-rated movies are — but, really, ugh. I understand the frustration, and have to agree that the nudity is often ludicrously, laughably unnecessary (though not always, depending on the character, because after all, sex is power in Westeros as everywhere). The pay cable theory that nudity is one of the "benefits" of premium TV has always struck me as the flimsiest sort of "edginess," but that's hardly likely to change.
And consider your message passed on regarding Elementary. I can't say I've had this problem regarding his performance, but I do watch an inordinate amount of British TV. I'm just glad they let him keep the accent for this one.
Question: I just watched the May 19 "The Crash" episode of Mad Men, and all I can say is "What the...?" Are the writers taking some of the drugs they're writing into the episodes? This season has been a disappointment (at least to me and my husband), and we'll be hard pressed to sign on for another season, if there is one. We may not make it through this one! Am I alone in my thinking that the whole story line has taken a strange turn? I understand that this takes place during the late '60s. I lived that time period, but where is the plot? — Katie
Matt Roush: Yes, this has been a terribly disappointing and weirdly heavy-handed season of Mad Men — that episode in particular was so indulgent and off-putting (compare to Roger Sterling's acid trip last season, this one just felt sweaty and desperate) — but then, just when you want to give up, the show produces a wonderful episode like last Sunday's "The Better Half," with the Don-Betty reunion at Bobby's summer camp, where the former Mrs. Draper's thoughts on the current Mrs. Draper humanized Betty in a way we haven't seen for several seasons. I'm also enjoying Peggy's story a great deal, the professional parts especially, as she emerges from Don's shadow only to find herself caught between two alpha bosses (including Don again) at the merged agency. You never know what to expect with Mad Men, for better or worse. I just wish more of this season had been better so far.
Question: I read a while back that there were talks of a return of Monk, my favorite obsessive-compulsive detective, in the form of a TV movie. Any idea if or when that will be happening? I miss Tony Shalhoub on my TV every week! — Hilary
Matt Roush: Something like this is probably always a possibility, but to my knowledge, there's nothing on the immediate horizon. No such project was mentioned at USA Network's upfront presentation last month, and Tony Shalhoub (justifiably Tony-nominated for his work earlier this year in the Golden Boy revival) is signed for a new CBS sitcom, We Are Men, so returning to Monk doesn't appear to be in the cards anytime soon. (Although now that I've seen the pilot, I suspect he may be a free agent again by late fall, so never lose hope.)
Question: What do you think of the new ABC show Motive? We have mixed feelings about it. Maybe it will get better. — Elena
Matt Roush: My initial take on this Canadian import/summer filler can be found midway through this review roundup. Short version: Nothing about Motive, from its flimsy gimmick (and the ho-hum reveals in the two episodes I screened) to its stock characters, appeals to or interests me in the slightest. If you're desperate for a crime-drama fix during repeat season, it's harmless enough. But talk about empty-calorie TV.
Question: Is Glee really extending the school year this season into next? I was confused by what time of year it was in the finale with Brittany off to MIT, Regionals just happening, and the last several episodes seeming like random filler, but a friend told me it's still March in Glee land and they're extending the school year all next year. To quote Seth and Amy, "Really?" Without Heather Morris, all they have left there is Darren Criss, some reality-show kids, and the second-stringers who didn't graduate last year and never seemed to matter much anyway. What's the point? It would have made sense last year when most of the original cast barely got a line each in the finale about their graduation/future plans, but are they really doing this now with a bunch of nobodies that I mostly can't even name or keep track of in the ever-growing cast? What about the originals they seemingly left by the side of the road last season or dumped to NYC and barely showed all year? Are they all gone for good? I actually liked most of them, but they only seemed to come back to tell me how awesome the generic replacement cast was supposed to be (which they actually weren't). What happened to this show? It used to be fun, but now it seems like lots of random people, confusing timelines and endless stupid teenage marriage plots. — Jessi
Matt Roush: Yes, Glee is splitting the school year into two seasons, and if you didn't like its split personality last time around, chances are you won't like it again this year. Although who knows what it will look like in Season 5. For me, one of the biggest problems was that the show never fully committed to moving on past graduation, insisting on bringing too many characters back to Ohio repeatedly (and beyond improbably) and upstaging the new high-schoolers, who were always likely to come off badly in comparisons with the original breakthrough cast. Depending on where the New York part of the story goes with Rachel and her Funny Girl Broadway dreams, and who else ends up in Manhattan and the boroughs, that's the part of Glee that seems most fresh right now. But given that Fox's renewal was for two seasons, we'll have to put up with it for a while longer. Or not, if you're that fed up. Personally, I'm with it to the end, because there's still nothing else quite like it on TV.
Question: I was happy when the writers and executive producer/creators of How I Met Your Mother finally revealed the mother after eight long seasons. But then I sank into despair when I learned that the plan for Season 9 was to spend the entire 24-episode season on the weekend of Barney and Robin's wedding. I can see the point of spending part of the final season focused on the wedding where the various characters encounter the "mother," but devoting the whole season seems a bit excessive. Maybe it's just me, but after eight seasons of waiting, wouldn't it be more rewarding to spend at least some part of the last season focusing on how Ted's and the unnamed future mother's relationship develops after the wedding? What have you heard about the final season's storyline? Is there hope that the show will end on a creative high? Or is the best HIMYM viewers can hope for is that Ted's future daughter portrayed by Lyndsy Fonseca will call Nikita to rescue Ted's future son and daughter from Ted's interminable nine-season-long story? — Brian
Matt Roush: I'm not sure even Nikita could save the day — or long weekend — with this one. I'm willing to see how they play this final season out and if this gimmick works, but my patience with the show was exhausted a long time ago, and it all seems too little too late. But it's a different way to tell a long-awaited story, that's for sure, so maybe they'll surprise us.
Question: Why do you think CBS would hold back Mike & Molly, one of the best shows they have, to be a midseason replacement next fall? — Joetta
Matt Roush: The idea is to give some new shows a shot as CBS aggressively expands its comedy footprint to two hours on Thursdays as well as Mondays, with four new comedies premiering in the fall. It's inevitable that at least one of these won't take off (my bet is on the aforementioned We Are Men), in which case Mike & Molly will be called back into action. Being a utility player isn't the most glamorous fate for a show, but this is not a sign that CBS has given up on it. More the opposite. They know they'll need it, possibly sooner than later.