Question: The mid-season finale of Arrow certainly got the fans talking, but it was Stephen Amell's tweet of "It was a good run" that sent the fandom into a tizzy with speculation of his and the character of Oliver Queen/Arrow leaving the series. Amell further fanned the flames when he took to Facebook noting that Arrow was more then just about Oliver Queen. And the executive producer stated this episode would change the series. All of this feels like blatant fan manipulation beyond normal entertainment standards. I'm in serious doubt that we saw Oliver "die," and feel it is all part of the next evolution of his experiences as The Arrow, but it did get me to wonder, can a show like Arrow continue to be successful, even on a smaller network like The CW, should the decision be made to kill off the main character? You've already fielded questions about the "Laurel Lance/Black Canary problem," and there are many out there who feel she is the weakest link when it comes to the Arrow narrative, but there are some strong supporting characters in Arrow's cast. That being said, we've spent the last three years invested in the story of Oliver Queen as Arrow. What are your thoughts on a situation such as this? — Chris
Matt Roush: It looks to me like everyone involved in Arrow is having a great time toying with fan expectations and/or fears given what went down in last week's literal cliff hanger. Which was certainly startling, and from the theories I've heard (from those much more in the comics-mythology know than I'll ever be) may well herald a new phase in Arrow's heroic identity. For now, I'm happy not knowing what's coming next, but I wouldn't worry that the show is about to transform into a post-Arrow reality with someone new carrying the show. (Although it's likely they'll keep this mystery of what exactly happened to Oliver going for a while — which would interest me a lot more than the hijinks back in Hong Kong.) I'm always on board with a show shaking up its status quo, but not to the extent of replacing its central character, at least not this early in the run.
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Question: Back in October, when the new season of Homeland was just getting started, you said that the show was worth giving another shot after last season let a bunch of fans and critics down, but you did warn that you didn't know if it could "duplicate the thrill" of the first two seasons. I have to ask, now that the fourth season is wrapping up, what did you think? Have you been impressed? I personally think the last three episodes were some of the show's best, and I haven't felt that level of intensity on TV since Breaking Bad left the air. I'm also interested on your opinion on the show when it comes to awards. It went from being a critical and awards-show darling to almost nothing in the span of just one season. Now that this season has put the show back on track, at least in the minds of many viewers and critics alike, and Breaking Bad is off the air, leaving a spot open in multiple categories come Emmy season, do you think this season of the show has done enough to put it back in the spotlight? — Kevin
Matt Roush: Let's start with the show itself. Homeland earns this year's most-improved prize, and the recent harrowing twists have catapulted the show back into the must-see ranks. Carrie Mathison's bizarre psychology aside, Homeland is now playing more like 24: a smarter, more realistic and incredibly topical version, dramatizing the impossible situation the U.S. finds itself in the Middle East, learning to their dismay that they can't tame this volatile region with drone strikes alone without serious repercussion. It has been absolutely gut-wrenching, riveting entertainment of late. How this will translate to the various awards races is a little harder to predict. Claire Danes appears to still be a reliable shoo-in (she earned Golden Globes and SAG nominations last week), and while the Homeland ensemble got another SAG nod (a bit of a surprise when you consider how many great dramas there are these days), the show didn't make the Globes cut for best drama. (Which, if its absence helped make room for The Affair and The Good Wife this year, I'm OK with.) Because the novelty is no longer there, even an improved Homeland might now be considered a dark horse in contests like the Emmys, where it fell off the radar last year. But I wouldn't count it out altogether, especially if the finale this Sunday ends on as powerful a note as what has come before.
Question: I'm thrilled that Jane the Virgin received The CW's very first Golden Globe nominations! I marathoned all the episodes last week and I'm absolutely smitten with this charming show. It's sweet, funny and touching. A complete delight, and I hope more people will discover it now. The whole cast is terrific, and I have to give a special shout-out to Jaime Camil as Rogelio, who is my new favorite TV character. His earnest arrogance is brilliant. The narrator is also genius, and I'm not generally a huge fan of narration. Crossing my fingers and toes that the Golden Globe recognition bodes well for a Season 2 renewal. — Keira
Matt Roush: Couldn't agree more. (And while we're at it, I'm also beyond pleased that Jane was recognized as one of the year's 10 best shows in this year's AFI Awards, on which I was honored again to be on the jury.) Given this burst of industry attention, so well deserved for such a delightful series, The CW wouldn't cancel this show even if it wanted to — which it doesn't. Also seconding your love for Rogelio, who somehow is more endearing the more impossible he becomes.
Question: I wanted to register my impression that the Sons of Anarchy finale was a nearly perfect way to end this long saga. I feel that finally the Jax Teller of Season 1 and the Jax Teller of Season 7 have been reconciled. The climactic ending was, in effect, what Season 1 Jax would want to do to when he realized what Season 7 Jax had become. Through the most recent few seasons we've been wondering what happened to Season 1 Jax ... well, finally he returned to us and did what he could to repair what the intervening Jax had damaged. I had a very deep emotional response to this finale, and wanted to express it to someone. I've been known to have watery eyes at touching moments in shows and movies in the past, but the climax of this episode was so poignant that as soon as I realized what was going to happen when the police started chasing him, I had an uncontrollable fit of sobbing lasting through the closing credits. I guess that's a sign that, for my taste, they did this one right. — Paul
Matt Roush: The "finally" in the start of your commentary says a lot about what for me was a laborious ride to the end. I respect the genuine response you had to the finale, and on an analytical basis I would agree, but in execution, I found the ending to be so punishingly indulgent (and overlong) with all those self-congratulatory hugs and man tears among the Sons as they bid their fallen hero farewell, that it undercut the tragedy of the situation. For me, the only thing more tedious than watching the finale play itself out was listening (for as long as I could stand before shutting it off) to Kurt Sutter jaw about his genius to series star Charlie Hunnam in the after-show. Some series should just be allowed to speak for themselves, and preferably at shorter length.
Question: Have you noticed that the critiques by the coaches on The Voice are beginning to seem too nice and a bit dishonest? There is no longer any real constructive criticism after the first few rounds. One of the selling points of this show was the apparent genuineness (and niceness) of the coaches. But recently, Blake Shelton seems subdued and depressed, and Gwen Stefani and Pharrell Williams are just too Paula Abdul nice. I realize both Blake and Adam Levine are probably tired of doing the show, but it seems like the producers are creating a lot of unnecessary changes. I have been a big fan of the show but it is on TV year-round now. I think we may be seeing the beginning of the end of The Voice's popularity. — Laura, Team Adam Forever
Matt Roush: This is still a pretty potent franchise, but I agree that less would be more — diminishing returns are almost guaranteed, although you never know when — and while I've watched only a little of the current season, I've felt for a long while that a flaw in the Voice format was that once we get past those enjoyable selection rounds with the revolving chairs, the fact that the judges are actually coaches of teams limits the frankness of their critiques, and consequently, my interest in what they have to say.
Question: I really like Forever. Although it seemed like it was New Amsterdam repeated, it really isn't, and I do not miss an episode. But I had a real problem with last week's episode, featuring the reveal of Adam. Spoiler alert! Not with the actual reveal of who Adam is. I'd rather watch the cat and mouse game rather than wonder who Adam is. (I stopped watching The Mentalist when it never got anywhere with Red John.) My gripe is that as soon as I saw Burn Gorman listed in the credits, I knew he was Adam. Not just because he has played these type of parts before, but because he was the only recognizable name in the guest credits. I found myself impatient for the reveal and not enjoying the episode. It would have been more enjoyable had they not made the fake immortal someone whose name is recognizable and could be Adam. I would have really wondered the entire episode who it was. My question is why would the producers, knowing that TV audiences are savvy, ruin the reveal by not having a better guest cast? — Paige
Matt Roush: It is a common failing in procedurals (and no doubt a budget issue many times), that so many episodes telegraph their big reveals in the initial casting. Why is a fairly significant so-and-so cast if he or she isn't going to play a major part in the denouement? And thus it was with Forever, which I can't blame for promoting this long-awaited twist — but it would have enhanced the mystery immeasurably if they'd given us one or two other reasonably convincing candidates for such a pivotal role.
Question: Each year you obviously hear about all the new shows long before you see them, and it seems impossible not to form some sort of opinion based on the initial description. So this year what show has been the biggest pleasant surprise? The one you had little hope for that turned out to be great? And conversely, what show was the biggest disappointment? The one you had high hopes for that just didn't deliver. — Mike D
Matt Roush: I'll start with the biggest disappointment, because it's a somewhat controversial view. I was very excited for HBO's True Detective upon a first look at Matthew McConaughey's astonishing performance and the atmospheric direction, and because of the anthology format and the innovative way the story was being told. I still have high regard for many aspects of the series, but the overrated writing was so pretentious and, ultimately, muddled — and in the case of the domestic subplot for Woody Harrelson and Michelle Monaghan, mannered and trite — that my absorption in the show petered out well before the eight hours were over and I was at a loss to see what all the fuss was about. As for pleasant surprise, my top pick (and my No. 1 show of 2014, as the list in this week's issue of TV Guide Magazine will reveal) was FX's Fargo. I had no idea what to expect, and like many was skeptical it could live up to the memory of the Coen Brothers' modern classic movie. I had no expectations for Billy Bob Thornton's villainy, and had yet to make the charming acquaintance of Allison Tolman, so I was pretty much blown away by both the light and dark aspects of that wonderfully twisty fable. (Again, it being a self-contained story within an anthology appealed to me, but this time Noah Hawley's deservedly Emmy-winning writing won me over.)
Question: Ever since Daniel Grayson literally tried to murder Emily Thorne on Revenge, I have grown to hate him! But this season he finally woke up. Spoiler alert! So why do shows redeem characters, then kill them!? — Mrs. B
Matt Roush: It's called drama for a reason. And in this case, watercooler TV. While I bailed on Revenge a long while ago (though others in the office have become re-addicted), I applaud this lurid soap for its ability to turn heroes into villains and back again, and then subvert fans' affections by sending a redeemed character to the great beyond when everyone least expects it. If they'd killed off Daniel when everyone wanted him dead, where would the impact have been in that?
Question: Please tell me that the dreaded Crane family drama hour on Sleepy Hollow is over? I was very disappointed with the first half of this season and I am looking forward to the second half if only it gets back to the first season formula. Also, any news on a renewal, and if heads will roll for the decline in ratings and upset of fans this year? — Tina
Matt Roush: My, what a bloodthirsty reaction — although given this show's proclivity for beheadings, perhaps perfectly in keeping. What we're witnessing in Sleepy Hollow is a classic sophomore slump, more noticeable than some because the first season was such a breakout hoot, and much of the second such a drag (except I've lost none of my affection for Ichabod and his rants against 21st-century excesses). It's possible there could be a housecleaning to bring new writer-producers on board, though I've heard nothing to that effect, but even if the show can't entirely redeem itself by the season finale, I can't imagine Fox will bail on it just yet. Nor, for that matter, should we. Although I wouldn't blame you if you saw a plot description for another Katrina-centric hour.
Question: I had a question about both Hulu and Selfie. I'm still sad about Selfie being canceled just when it had hit its stride and became a very funny, endearing and well-acted show. When I heard that the remaining episodes would be on Hulu, I was thrilled. The move of some canceled shows to online is (in my opinion) great, but I'm wondering how it's determined? I hear people calling Hulu a "dumping ground" for failed shows, but I don't see it that way, mostly because as a fan I hate not getting to finish the story. Does Hulu taking on shows like Selfie indicate an interest on Hulu's part to "test the waters" on a show with little risk on their part, to see if they might want it for themselves? Or is it just, like I've heard others say, a dumping ground? — Meg
Matt Roush: I wouldn't delude yourself to read more interest on Hulu's part than as a distributor, not future producer, of failed network shows like Selfie (and the much more negligible Manhattan Love Story). I also wouldn't look at the whole "dumping ground" characterization as a negative. As you note, when a show you like gets a platform to air episodes you otherwise wouldn't have been able to see, it's an opportunity to keep the fun going at least a little while longer. I can't pretend to be an expert on how deals like these are made, but it seems to me that in this case because ABC was already in business with Hulu to air the first seasons of these new sitcoms, using Hulu to finish out the run only makes good business sense.
Question: The death of Ken Weatherwax (The Addams Family's Pugsley) and your recent debates about Broadchurch/Gracepoint made me think about changing casts or just changing actors. I find that I liked the casts of both the TV and movie versions of The Addams Family almost equally well and accepted them both with open arms, although I do believe the movie cast was just a little stronger. But you seem to feel that the Broadchurch cast was stronger than Gracepoint's. There are also actors as replacements, like Dick Sargent for Dick York in Bewitched. And multiple actors playing the same role, like Alec Baldwin, Ben Affleck, and Harrison Ford all playing Jack Ryan; Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, George Clooney, and Christian Bale as Batman, not to mention all the actresses who have played Queen Elizabeth I. What do you think a show's or movie's producer could do to make a smooth transition? Is it better to bring in a new actor as a different character, by having the old one die or move away? — Imzadi
Matt Roush: These are all such very different situations you're describing, it's impossible to make generalizations. The comparisons between Broadchurch and Gracepoint — and the "revised" ending of Gracepoint just confirmed what a botched job this was — were inevitable because this was such a point-for-point remake of a recently acclaimed series. The actors in the original were not only better, they were better directed, more subtle and moving, and it couldn't be denied. With The Addams Family, you had a well-remembered '60s cult comedy transformed decades later into a much higher-profile glossy movie franchise — and I liked both just fine, though having been a child when the series first aired, I have a special fondness for the original (and I'm still looking for my "Thing" coin bank). Ditto replacing Darrens midstream in Bewitched (which I never entirely got over), or Beckys in Roseanne — entirely different (and usually regrettable) situation than casting new actors in classic roles like Batman, Jack Ryan and Elizabeth R, or for that matter, James Bond. Every generation will bring new actors to put their stamp on roles like those (same goes with Shakespeare and other classic theater). Within the run of a TV series, replacing an actor in an ongoing role is usually a desperation move and, with some exceptions, is usually seen as a bad joke — remember Donna Reed's brief tenure as Dallas's Miss Ellie?