Question: There have been quite a few resurrections from the TV graveyard as of late and I must say I love it, way more than Hollywood's obsession of making a sequel out of everything as well as making too-soon remakes. Firefly and Veronica Mars both have movie continuations, Dallas and Boy Meets World have spawned new series chronicling the next generation (I know you're not too big a fan of the new Dallas, but I have to say I welcome the return of Judith Light to the series), Netflix brought back Arrested Development for a fourth season, and Heroes is coming out with Heroes: Reborn next year. So I'm wondering what are your thoughts on this phenomenon, and are there any shows that you feel should be next in this craze.
On another note, following the end of Nikita, I was inspired to make a list of my top TV series finales. Breaking Bad topped the list (no surprise there), but I also ranked the finales of Malcolm in the Middle and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air pretty high for their ability to have an emotional sendoff and at the same time being able to create pretty funny episodes as good as any other episode. What are some of your top finales from the past 20 years? — Justin
Matt Roush: I'm not sure this reboot trend is actually a phenom yet — let's see how the novelty of the Veronica Mars movie project does first (although in terms of fan involvement, it has definitely made noise) — and I'd be more delighted if more of the "resurrections" had been worth the effort. I agree with you about the fabulous Judith Light, but otherwise, Dallas is such a pale shadow of its earlier self, and with Netflix's version of Arrested Development, I still wish they'd waited until they could do it right before doing it at all. My favorite "re-imagining" of a series ever is what Syfy did with Battlestar Galactica (bringing depth and scope to what was once considered so cheesy), but that's the exception to the rule that remaking a beloved series is more often than not fraught with peril and risks doing damage to the reputation of the original. I'm probably most intrigued by projects like the Veronica Mars and Serenity (from Firefly) movies, given the original creators' involvement in telling a new chapter in a new medium of a story that ended too soon.
Regarding TV finales, TV Guide Magazine just spent much of its recent 60th anniversary compiling "greatest" lists, including my own salute to memorable series and season finales. We published that before the end of Breaking Bad, which almost surely would have cracked the Top 10. But I would rank that below the even more haunting and ironically satisfying finale of The Shield, and for emotional impact, nothing in recent years can touch the finale of the wonderful Friday Night Lights — which to return to the first subject had long been rumored to continue with a big-screen movie sequel, and I for one am relieved that it appears to have been tabled for now. When something ends on a nearly perfect note after five seasons (the final three of which were a true gift to fans), it's time to let it go.
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Question: Thanks for your recent weekend review column, which was a nice reminder that provocative, challenging dramas can still exist on broadcast network TV, and also highlighted many good reasons to pace yourself with a TV show, rather than binge-watch every episode merely because you can. I've had more than one conversation recently with some friends who feel that only the best dramas are on cable, complain about reruns (as if their existence is a TV burden — I often welcome the break) and see the cable model and episode binging as the future of TV. I still feel that there's a place for the broadcast networks, and think it's too early to tell if the Netflix system of releasing all episodes of a series at once is where the future of TV is (and should be) going. As great as it is how networks are trying to cater to viewers' schedules, I also get that it's still a business, so it's hard for me to imagine other networks ever adopting some version of the Netflix model. Do you foresee this as an inevitable TV future, or even sustainable in the long run? Always value your insight, and appreciate you keeping the world of TV in good perspective! — Brodie
Matt Roush: Thanks for the feedback, and despite what I wrote last week, I do understand the appeal of an indulgent TV binge — in fact, a show like HBO's True Detective would probably be even more effective if watched in an eight-hour gulp, because its storytelling is so diffuse and challenging that watching an hour a week doesn't always satisfy. (The point I was making about House of Cards is that its flaws seem to be magnified by the repetition of watching hour after hour without pause, but it's yummy enough that addicts don't seem to mind.) The Netflix distribution model works for them and is sustainable as long as it drives subscriptions, which is where the money's at, but we're a long way from a time where the allure of tuning in for a weekly dose of a favorite story or comedy loses its luster altogether. And even in a DVR and On Demand era, where many of us don't watch shows live, the business model for most broadcasters and cable programmers relies on bringing you back each week for the next episode. It's complicated terrain, but the good news is that there's no wrong way to consume your favorite shows. Binge if you must, but I still like stretching most of my meals out as long as possible.
Question: Have you caught Nashville lately, and if so, what are your thoughts? For me, it's a show that I look forward to every week and then watch it and sometimes wonder why. I have two main problems with it: One, characters' personalities change seemingly at a whim. (Avery is a jerk! Gunnar is sweet! No, wait, Avery is sweet! Gunnar is a jerk! Scarlett is a darling up-and-comer! No, wait, she has major stage fright and is taking drugs!) Secondly, Eric Close is a strong actor, but did he sign a multi-year contract with the show? That's the only reason I can think of for why they waste so much time on his character. No one cares. No one cares about Teddy. No one carried about Peggy. No one cares about what's-her-name Deacon's girlfriend who just cheated on him with Teddy. Why don't they just stick with Connie Britton, Hayden Panettiere and the struggles of the younger crowd to break into the big time? That's the juicy, soapy goodness that makes us love the show. The rest is just a waste of time and space. Do you think there will be a Season 3, and if so, do you think the Teddy storylines will disappear? Thanks for your insights. — Kirsten
Matt Roush: I'm a few episodes behind, but I do watch Nashville regularly and with a similar ambivalence. The parts I like I truly enjoy, but boy, is it uneven. Couldn't agree more that the music-industry stories and personalities are the best part of the show, and Hayden Panettiere has really brought it this season — but like you, when the show was teasing that someone wasn't going to survive, I was hoping they'd take Teddy down with the already (and thankfully) forgotten Peggy. He's not convincing as a mayor and not interesting as an ex. You're spot on about the other character inconsistencies, which is a frequent failing of soaps so desperate to burn through story that characters begin to lose all sense of identity and continuity. That said, there's the music to enjoy, plus Rayna's fire and Juliette's roller-coaster resilience and Deacon's slow-burn integrity to get us through the rough patches. Regarding renewal, ABC's had a pretty rough season where new shows are concerned and this fits the brand fairly well, so while it's definitely on the bubble, I'd like to see it come back — with some significant course corrections.
Question: In your review of the new ABC show Resurrection, you described Frances Fisher (61) and Kurtwood Smith (70) as "elderly." In the age of 60-is-the-new-40, when current and new retirees are more fun and more active than ever, I hope maybe terms like "elderly" will not ever be used to describe anyone under 100 again. — Phyllis
Matt Roush: A fair point, and it is the sort of adjective one tends to use more for convenience, not to be pejorative. You may have noticed that when I revised my magazine review for the online posting, I described Lucille and Henry as "in their twilight," which may not be much more flattering but does better describe the actual situation of a married couple way past their prime who have to readjust their outlooks on life after the return of the 8-year-old son they lost three decades ago. (I did use the same "elderly" term to describe Cicely Tyson's character in the Trip to Bountiful review, and gave careful consideration to doing so, but in the '50s, a woman in her 80s would probably have qualified for that term.)
Question: Now that Dean Winters has a new show on CBS that he will be filming, what will happen with Olivia and Brian on SVU? Surely the writers knew he was looking for other work? Also, no offense to Dean Winters or CBS, but how many cop shows do we need on TV? After watching Ironside bomb, I am a bit leery of this new show. The writers seem confident enough to give it 13 episodes before it has even aired. Which to me seems risky. Because if it bombs, you have spent millions of dollars on a show that didn't make it. Is it possible that Dean would still be able to do both shows since SVU is only a guest-star role? I will watch the new show because I like Dean Winters, but I just don't think it sounds that interesting to be honest. I mean you've seen one cop show, you've pretty much seen them all, right? — Nancy
Matt Roush: The further we get into pilot season, let me caution you that it's never wise to judge a show merely by its premise. With Vince Gilligan (Breaking Bad) and David Shore (House) the creative forces behind Battle Creek, the new CBS crime drama Dean Winters has signed up for, I can appreciate CBS's confidence in giving it a sight-unseen 13-episod green light — if they hadn't, someone else would have — and I'd be surprised if it plays like just any another crime drama. It will at least have a distinct sense of place. And stepping back, was Homicide: Life on the Street just another cop show? Hill Street Blues? The casting of a favored actor should actually get you more excited for the show's prospects, but the proof will be (as it always is) in the execution. As for Winters' future on SVU, I wouldn't presume to spoil, but he wouldn't be the hardest character to write out of the show, at least temporarily, should that be the decision (which I imagine it would be). It's hardly unusual for actors with recurring, but not series regular, roles to seek more steady and high-profile gigs. Can't imagine the SVU producers were surprised when he landed one.
Question: I'm a big fan of J.J. Abrams, but can you tell me what exactly he does for the shows that he produces? He's currently listed as an executive producer for Almost Human, Believe, Person of Interest and Revolution. He has also started work on the new Star Wars movie and will be producing some other movies in the near future, like Star Trek 3 and Mission Impossible 5. What can he contribute to a show when he has so much on his plate? It almost seems like he helps a show gets started and then moves on. Attaching his name to a show is a great way to earn attention based on past successes. However, it seems like advertising a show with his name soon won't mean as much as it did in the past. When I was looking up the shows he's worked on, I was surprised to see how many haven't been successful. The shows that haven't lasted more than two seasons include What About Brian, Six Degrees, Undercovers and Alcatraz. It looks like Revolution won't last past two seasons and Almost Human may not get to its second season. I have liked his movies, but I may stop automatically watching at least the first couple episodes of a show just because he produces it. — Ryan
Matt Roush: When a producer is as prolific and diverse as J.J. Abrams is through his Bad Robot production company, some failure is inevitable, especially when so many of the projects his team develops are offbeat, risky and genre-based. If his shows were uninteresting failures, that would be a different story. Of the current shows you list under his banner, only Person of Interest is an actual must-see for me, although there are aspects of others in which I can see the appeal. Because Abrams is so consumed with his cinematic career at present, it's fair to assume that his main role with his company's TV projects is as an ongoing adviser and most definitely as a collaborator in the development stage, if not so much on a day-to-day basis as he was on his earlier TV shows. It's a fact that having his name attached to a project (not unlike Steven Spielberg's these days) makes it an easier sell, but it's never a guarantee of success. Just as I wouldn't advise anyone to dismiss a show based merely on its premise, it's just as dangerous to embrace a show blindly because of who's behind it. Almost no one has a perfect batting record, but I'll admit that if Abrams' name (and Bad Robot) is attached to a high-concept project, it will get me at least initially excited at the thought of the next Lost, Alias, Fringe or even Felicity. He has brought me a lot of enjoyment over the years, and that counts for something.
Question: So on NCIS, Tony Jr.'s father is engaged to Junior's godmother. Stunt casting idea: Stefanie Powers (Robert Wagner's costar in the '80s Hart to Hart) as the fiancé. What do you think, Matt? — Sarah
Matt Roush: I think I've heard worse ideas. It would certainly be an easy one to promote. And NCIS fans are really into the stunt-casting mindset these days. Risë wrote in with this observation: "I heard recently that NCIS plans to introduce Gibbs' second ex-wife and some folks are hoping it will be Pam Dawber, his real-life wife. Fun casting, but what of his former co-star, Marlee Matlin? I don't believe the show ever discussed his fluency in sign language, so this would be a great way to answer that question. And the two of them were so good together in Reasonable Doubts." Again, not a bad notion. And if you're hankering to see Pam Dawber back on CBS, she's reuniting with her former Mork and Mindy co-star Robin Williams in an upcoming episode of The Crazy Ones.
Question: Can you locate information about the next season of Kenneth Branagh's series Wallander? It has been a while since the last season, and I am unable to find any news on the final episodes. — Cat
Matt Roush: Be patient. Branagh is a very busy Sir. Last we heard (and no further updates available from WGBH and Masterpiece Mystery!) was that a final season will be filmed later this year, but no actual timetable or airing schedule yet. Most likely to be seen here in 2015.
Question: I read your column every week and though we tend not to agree on many shows, I still enjoy reading what you have to say, particularly about shows I watch. One show I've watched, if only because I like Greg Kinnear, is Rake. This past week they skipped an episode (which I don't think they intend to ever air). Should this be taken as a bad sign that Rake's season was probably shortened? Just curious what you thought, as I'll continue to watch it regardless, being a creature of habit (a show has to really suck for me not to watch it after picking it) but wonder if there is any hope for it past this season. — Brandon
Matt Roush: Skipping episodes in a more-or-less serialized drama is never a good thing, but a much worse sign is that Fox has moved the show to Fridays starting this week. But kudos to your loyalty, even for lost causes.
Question: At the end of February we lost a legendary game show host, Jim Lange. While he will always be known for fronting The Dating Game, I wish to comment on another game he once hosted, which only lasted during the summer of 1975 and has been ripped by a few die-hard game show fans on a particular forum, but which I feel got the short end of the stick and deserves to be rerun on GSN due to the original tapes having been discovered at CBS 2 in New York. It was a Nicholson-Muir show called Spin-Off and was a draw poker-type game played with two married couples who, by the way, weren't humiliated on the air with embarrassing questions. The idea was to make a Yahtzee-type hand in three tries with the numbers 1 through 6. The winning couple got to move on to the Super Spin-Off where they to try and make a hand in three tries per number in order to win as much as $10,000 for a consecutive straight (6 5 4 3 2, 1 2 3 4 5, etc.). It may have had a flaw or two, but I only got to see it once during the CBS run (my local affiliate bumped it, as did far too many CBS stations), and judging from that one show I saw, I wanted to see the rest of the run — it was truly an exciting show. Isn't there some way these old tapes can be digitized and picked up by GSN for repeating? I never get a response from them. This show deserves a revival despite its failure in the ratings in '75 due to competition and low clearances. In the meantime, YouTube has a complete show posted (audio only) and some promotional clips of the rounds; please go see them. — David
Matt Roush: Thanks for the memory, tribute and recommendation. I'm a game-show fan, but can't say I remember this at all, probably because that summer I was deep into high school marching band geekdom and probably (rare for me) not watching a lot of TV. Seems unlikely that a show with such a short shelf life would get this sort of replay, but if it does, I'd try to check it out.
Question: My question is about the girl who plays Sara and Roy's friend on Arrow. Is she the same girl that played the homeless runaway on The Killing who kept bugging Holder, because I think they look alike. Either way, can you tell me the girl's name. — Kim
Matt Roush: Yes, it's the same young actress. Bex Taylor-Klaus, so memorable as the ill-fated Bullet on The Killing, is currently playing Sin on Arrow and can also be seen in the third season of Showtime's House of Lies. This is what you'd call a fast-rising career.