Question: I am loving Raising Hope, but I'm wondering if there will be any back story on Virginia's and Bert's families, other than Maw Maw, of course. Have you heard if they have parents and siblings? I think there has been mention of other relatives who want Maw Maw's house, but do you know if we will get to meet them? I think it would be a hoot to see the rest of the families on both sides! — Ginni
Matt Roush: Just last week they revealed the skeleton in the closet involving Virginia's mother, and I assume there will be many more to come. That's the great thing about family comedies that have the potential to run for a long time. The opportunities for more crazies to emerge are plentiful, and while I'm not aware of any more guest visits by far-flung relatives in the near future, here's a teaser for the Thanksgiving week (Nov. 23) episode, involving another set of grandparents. Greg Germann and Valerie Mahaffey will play baby Hope's other grandparents, Dale and Margine, who sired the serial killer baby mama. They're invited over for Thanksgiving dinner, and what happens next will likely ensure they're never invited back.
Question: Ever since I started watching the supremely amazing The Good Wife, I've been wondering how come Chris Noth — who plays a pivotal character, Peter Florrick — is only a guest star. Is it a budget issue? Was he not intended to hang around? — Ainav
Question: Any reason why Cloris Leachman is uncredited on Raising Hope? I don't know much about what goes on behind the scenes, but from my perspective, she's a main character. — Marcus
Matt Roush: In both cases, the peculiar billing has nothing to do with their actual status on their respective shows. Both are series regulars. (Cloris Leachman's credit appears at the end of the show, but Maw Maw is very much in evidence in the opening storybook credit sequence.) When these credit questions come up, I'm always reminded of Heather Locklear, who kick-started the original Melrose Place and for the rest of the run was always billed as "special guest star" when everyone knew she was the actual star. Kind of the same for these actors. I suppose these "special" credits make these supporting players stand out, which they kind of do already.
Question: Now that the fourth season of Mad Men is over, I've begun to wonder about the critical reception of the show. Yes, it's really good, but the continuing critical fawning over the show is becoming almost too much. How has the show managed to not receive a backlash yet? Every other show does. There were a number of things wrong with this season: Roger and Joan's soap opera, rushed storylines, the terrible way the writers treat Betty (why do people hate poor January Jones so much?) not to mention the contrived, clunky finale. Although for all that, we did get Mrs. Blankenship, who was great. But what will it take for critics to actually critique Mad Men's flaws, instead of just fawning over it? Even The Wire and The Sopranos received their fair share of criticism. — Rebecca
Matt Roush: You actually want a backlash? Why? Isn't it enough to be able to savor one of the greatest shows of our time without needing to put a negative spin on it? Mad Men deserves all the praise it gets, but it hasn't come without some necessary and substantive criticism. The Betty problem has come up several times in this column alone lately, along with other issues (most notably the lack of racial diversity), and there's no question the climactic twist involving Don's impulsive — a word I prefer to "contrived" — decision regarding Megan has been quite controversial among fans and critics. But even that is something that deserves to be discussed fully, in light of Don's psychological journey this season, not dismissively. Mad Men is a very rich, endlessly fascinating series that if it keeps up the quality, will rank high among the greatest series of all time. I take exception with describing the accolades it receives as "fawning," a word that seems very cynical to me. There's plenty else on TV to be cynical about, so I have no trouble keeping this on a pedestal for now. And while The Sopranos did get a lot of criticism along the way, in part that was because it didn't play by the usual TV rules and often confounded fans' and some critics' expectations of what they wanted that show to be. But The Wire? Really? Who had a bad word to say about that show?
Question: Two questions. First: With the news of Outsourced getting a full season (yikes), is there any conceivable way that Parks and Recreation would be able to air on Thursday when it comes back (which is when, exactly? I need me some Ron freaking Swanson!)? Or should I be preparing myself for this show to end (if NBC airs it in some nightmare time slot that the show can't survive in) after this season? Sigh. Second: I'm very excited for The Walking Dead, but I've read that the season will only be 6 episodes long! Is there a particular reason why this show is having a shorter run than other AMC dramas? — Belinda
Matt Roush: First: I do think and hope that when Parks and Recreation returns, it will be on Thursday. It certainly can't launch a comedy block on a new night all on its own. That would be Better Off Ted suicidal. Parks needs to be protected, the way Outsourced currently is. Although Outsourced has a full-season order, there will still be room at midseason for that show (or possibly some other) to be put on ice for a while to make room for Parks' return. At least that's how I imagine it will play out. Second: The Walking Dead's short order makes sense to me, because of the intensity of the subject matter and the timing of its scheduling; would we really want this running into the holiday season? I look at this almost like a miniseries, following something closer to the British limited-run model. In this case, less is definitely more. But if it's as successful as I imagine it will be (and as it deserves to be), I do wonder if AMC will increase the episode order for the second season.
Question: Am I alone in my disgust with Dancing With the Stars this year? I have been a loyal viewer of this show since it began, but I'm so tired of them stretching this show out with repeat after repeat of the performers' previous as well as present practice sessions with all the arguments over and over again. All right, we get it, they don't get along all the time while they're rehearsing, who does? Don't they realize that we're not idiots and we know what they're doing. They also know that we are recording the shows, so they try and mess up our other programming by taking it one minute over. So cheeky! And one more thing. DWTS used to be fun and fair, now you don't have to be a star anymore from any walk of life, only the daughter of a politician. I'm sorry, but this is so insulting, and how dare DWTS allow their show to become a political platform. They deserve for their ratings to go down this year and I think they have that's why they have been pulling out all the stops to get us to continue to watch it at all. I'm on my way out. — Joni
Matt Roush: Despite the aggravations, Dancing is still doing gangbusters this season, but I will say this is absolutely one show that I would never dream of watching in real time if I can help it. Like so many bloated reality shows, the repetition is galling and the padding is unbearable. I almost never start watching it until I've built up at least an hour of fast-forward time. (I understand those without DVRs don't have this option.) And it is dismaying to see how the show has devalued the word "star" in its attempt to broaden the casting to people from the world of "reality" and, in the case of Bristol the Pistol (who sadly fires only personality-free blanks), the more or less real world. Still, on its own merits, I find the competition to be great and harmless fun more often than not and am not at all surprised by its powerhouse ratings.
Question: I was hoping to get your take on the 2010-2011 network season. The new shows seem lackluster with no breakout hits critically or in the ratings. Yet it feels like there have been very few cancellations. CBS picked up all of their shows for a full season and there have only been four cancellations among the other shows, and Outlaw and The Whole Truth were still showing new episodes this week. I'm not sure what's happening over at the CW. [Note: Both of the CW's new series were picked up for the full season.] I don't recall the TV season ever being this non-dramatic. Why do all of the networks seem to be playing it safe? Is cable really that much more of a threat this year than last year? Also, in terms of low-rated shows, I think The Good Wife is CBS's lowest-rated show that isn't on Friday. Should I be worried about a cancellation, or does the critical acclaim at the Emmys and other award shows give this show a pass? CBS isn't known for having critically acclaimed shows when populist procedurals currently make it the number one network. Thanks for your always thoughtful answers. — Pallas
Matt Roush: And thanks for the thoughtful question. Don't worry about The Good Wife. It's doing just fine. And creatively, it's on fire. Maybe it's not an NCIS-level blockbuster, but it's winning its time period and is in no danger whatsoever. And as you noted, CBS is basking in the acclaim and awards attention, something fairly rare for this network. But it's also worth noting that CBS, for all of its fall success in giving all five of its freshman shows the full-season order, didn't even try to capitalize on The Good Wife's breakthrough by programming a show with similar ambitions this season. Everyone played it mostly safe in terms of genre and execution, and the networks are also being relatively cautious about knee-jerk cancellations. Even NBC, which is really struggling, but figures that keeping so many of its new shows around for a while at least gives the schedule some stability. And maybe a few of them will eventually catch on. How often do I get letters/questions griping about the networks' lack of patience? Seems to me the reluctance to pull the trigger on all of the underperformers is one of the few upsides to this fall. If only the shows were more interesting.
Question: I know you have been a champion of Glee. I personally have a hot/cold relationship with it. I appreciate what it tries to do and I admire how different it is from so much else, but this season it has seemed to miss the mark wildly. It's not that I'm a Glee hater. I found "Grilled Cheesus" to be both poignant and fun (except for the forced Streisand), and I watch every episode live. However, the Britney tribute and, especially, the Rocky Horror tribute were awful. I'm most disappointed with the Rocky Horror show. It's hard to take the important issues of Glee seriously (gay acceptance, bullying, teenage pregnancy) when it gives us unfocused fantasyland crud like that episode. When it goes so far into ridiculousness, it undermines its credibility and its heart. And I was seriously creeped out by Emma's "Touch-a Touch-a Touch Me." Will asked Emma to be a stand-in — for Rachel! The ick factor there is high: A teacher was supposed to dance half-naked while a student tells him to touch her and make her feel dirty? That was poorly thought out. What are you thinking about Glee these days? — Erin
Matt Roush: My opinion hasn't really changed on what I've always thought about the show: that it's a fabulous mess. Even in the Rocky Horror episode, I got a kick out of the group numbers with the kids and enjoyed the sense of masquerade and fantasy, but as I noted in my Week in Review column, if only they hadn't felt compelled to try to tell a story. Especially where the grown-ups were concerned. Can't argue with you about the ick factor in the Emma/shirtless Mr. Shue number, and the idea that they'd cast the local dentist in the show as well made no sense. I have found the regular non-stunt episodes much more satisfying this season — why can't they all be like "Duets" — but even in the hot-mess episodes like the Britney homage (and my biggest objection to that was, who really thinks Britney is all that anymore?), I find plenty to enjoy. For all of its flaws, I look forward to every Tuesday when there's a new episode, and even when I'm let down, I rarely let that get in the way of my enjoyment. The way I see it is that Glee probably couldn't achieve its exhilarating highs without risking these excruciating lows.
And a few thoughts that amused me from a regular correspondent, Jon: "My (adult) son asked last month: 'What's with all the talking between songs on Glee???' I watch TV a few more hours a night than my wife, and the DVR queue piles up. I watched the Rocky episode of Glee alone, in the perfect way: skipping all the dialogue, and just watching the musical numbers. When we both watched it a few nights later, it confirmed my impression: that all the dialogue added NOTHING to the show!" Which is why the Glee first-season Blu-Ray is so enjoyable. There's a device by which you can play the episodes watching only the musical numbers. Saves time, and it's fun!
Question: I've read that CSI: NY might be axed this season to make room for one of CBS's midseason replacements. How do you feel about that? CSI: NY was a valuable member of CBS's line-up for years, so I find it very disrespectful that they'd dismiss an aging show before the season was over in order to test out a new one. I think if they are going to dismiss CSI: NY, they should at least give it a proper send-off. After years of being a highly rated show, they deserve at least that much. — Mary
Matt Roush: As it turns out, Medium will be this season's sacrificial lamb on Friday nights. It just had its episode order cut to 13, and while it hasn't been confirmed yet that this signifies the end of its long run, I wouldn't be surprised. (Hope they don't end on a cliffhanger. That would be just too aggravating.) Regarding CSI: NY, the move to Fridays was a strategic one that has paid off with higher numbers for CBS on Friday, boosting the fortunes of Blue Bloods, which follows it. But because it airs on a night of overall lower viewership, CSI: NY can't be expected to pull the numbers it did on Wednesdays. (And the other part of the equation was to open up the Wednesday time slot to a new show, The Defenders, which looks like it will be around for a while as well.) If CSI: NY does go on hiatus in the winter or spring to make temporary room for a midseason tryout, don't read too much into that. Something's gotta give to make room for some of the midseason product. I would think NY has at least a few more seasons left in it. Otherwise, why bring Sela Ward into it? And if it does come to the end of its run sooner than later, I'm sure CBS will give the fans and the show time to prepare.
Question: I was wondering if you've been keeping up with No Ordinary Family, and if so, what you think of it. I think the show still has a lot of promise, but there are definitely a lot of kinks that need to be worked out. First, I realize that after The Shield, Michael Chiklis was obviously looking to play something different, but his portrayal of Jim is so corny and milquetoast that he seems like he's about one "aw shucks" away from Kenneth the Page half of the time. I'm sure the writers are planning to explore how Jim's powers help him to become more assertive, but right now I just can't help but feel that Chiklis is way overplaying things. I also think that the writers made a big mistake in having Jim be a police sketch artist. If he were an actual cop, it might have worked well as a cover story. But having him constantly interacting with law enforcement while trying to hide his involvement in things only serves to make everyone seem incredibly dumb. Really, how long can he continue to hand them sketches from "anonymous witnesses" without someone calling shenanigans? It's ridiculous and grinds the action to a halt. I also think they need to do more with the conspiracy/villain elements going on at Stephanie's job. It's certainly a lot more interesting than watching Daphne mistakenly think her teacher is sleeping with a student. (And if someone could please explain to me why the teacher's relationship with the girl's mother needed to be kept a secret, it would be much appreciated!) — Mike
Matt Roush: I've received a number of e-mails regarding No Ordinary Family blasting it at great length for all manner of plot inconsistencies and improbabilities. Given its fantastic premise, I'm willing to cut it some slack in that area, up to a point, because in this genre if you can't suspend disbelief a bit, why are you watching? But while most of the points are valid, what bothers me most about this show is the tonal inconsistency. The show is so uneven as it tries to blend action, comedy, family drama and high-school angst (easily the weakest element) that it never really comes together as an entertaining whole for me.
Question: Is there any hope of keeping my new favorite show (The Whole Truth) from being cancelled? The Whole Truth, Lone Star and Blue Bloods were the only new shows I liked. Not everyone wants to watch vampires, childish drivel like Mike & Molly or a Law & Order that is set in L.A. I want my NY Law & Order back and to keep The Whole Truth. The networks are so shortsighted that they would probably cancel In Treatment and Boardwalk Empire. — Nadine
Matt Roush: Well, I'll agree with you on one point. A niche show like In Treatment would never survive on a broadcast network. Boardwalk Empire, similarly, is a show that could only exist on a network like HBO, which invested a fortune in creating that very particular world. But to answer your direct question: The Whole Truth is beyond saving. It wasn't renewed past its initial 13-episode order, and from what I understand, it's being pre-empted by specials for the entire November sweeps period. The remaining episodes are expected to air through the end of the year or until ABC decides on a Wednesday replacement, but it's basically over. It was not helped by going up against two other courtroom dramas in the same time period. And while I empathize with (though I don't share) your disappointment regarding this specific show, I do believe in a TV world that also has room for vampires and childish drivel. The old "something for everyone" argument, and it's not as if TV is lacking for procedural crime dramas.
Question: Thank you for the glowing review of Friday Night Lights in the Nov. 1st issue of TV Guide. (You can find it online here.) My family and I have been fans of the show since the very first episode. We love everything about this show. We've used scenes and episodes to open dialogue with our kids. We've laughed and we've cried. We often "escape" to Dillon, Texas, watching favorite episodes or seasons over and over. We live in a small Oklahoma town and we know every character. We grew up with them and our kids are going to school with the next generation. Dillon is home. How bittersweet it was to watch the first episode of the last season. My heart is filled with joy to see my friends again, but I'm so very sad to say goodbye. I'll think of my friends often, wish Coach and Tami Taylor well, daydream of Tim Riggins finally finding peace with Lyla, Jason settling down with his young family, Matt and Julie will find each other again, Tyra will make a difference, overcoming all odds, Buddy will get married again, Mrs. Saracen and Mrs. Williams will stay strong, fighting for their families with grace and dignity.
Perhaps one of the saddest things about the exodus of Friday Night Lights is that it very well may be the harbinger of the demise of values of the viewing audience as a whole. I can't think of an exception to this statement. There have been shows that depicted what values would (eventually) become, or perhaps what values are. But not what the values were. I guess there aren't too many successful time-machine family-oriented series. Instead, we need laugh tracks when the children rail against parents or other role or authority figures. And I haven't even touched on immorality, infidelity, blood, gore, insanity, or so many other facets. I didn't have to be embarrassed to watch the show (or yearn to change the channel) with my 20- and 14-year-old children. Friday Night Lights bolstered family values like The Simpsons, Vampire Diaries, Cougar Town or Jersey Shore never could or will. It's sad that commercial sponsors and not the redeeming values are what pay the bills; sadder still, that no sponsor could or would step up and save this stellar series. I applaud DirecTV for rescuing the show for these final seasons. History will show that Friday Night Lights was a truly great family show. It may retire proudly with the likes of Leave It to Beaver, Father Knows Best and precious few others. This experience is a rarity indeed. The vast sea of current programming will be all the sadder for the loss of this series. — Rowena
Matt Roush: A stirring testimonial-cum-eulogy, to be sure. And unlike the family sitcoms of yore, Friday Night Lights grounded its family and community stories in a much more realistic framework, reflecting our economic and even political times, where not all conflicts could be resolved with a hug and where the tone was more bittersweet than cloying, though always heartfelt and inspiring. It will be missed for sure. But I can't blame the "commercial sponsors" or NBC for what eventually befell the show. This is a business, and for whatever reason, despite all the hand-wringing out there about how TV is corrupting values or vice versa, when push came to shove, America largely ignored this series. That to me is the real tragedy. But for now, and as long as we can continue enjoy these last episodes, let's rejoice in the miracle that thanks to DirecTV's intervention, we got three extra seasons to spend with these realer-than-life characters.