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Ask Matt: Cancellations (Last Resort, Ben and Kate), Smash, Switched at Birth

Send questions and comments to askmatt@tvguidemagazine.com and follow me on Twitter! Question: While I'm not happy Last Resort was canceled, I would like to thank ABC and the producers for allowing this show to have an actual ending, with [SPOILER ALERT] Marcus showing his love for his country and sub by dying to make sure the Chinese didn't get it. Like you said in one of your daily reviews, any ending is better than a cliffhanger. I was satisfied with the ending. — Foster

Matt Roush
Matt Roush

Send questions and comments to askmatt@tvguidemagazine.com and follow me on Twitter!

Question: While I'm not happy Last Resort was canceled, I would like to thank ABC and the producers for allowing this show to have an actual ending, with [SPOILER ALERT] Marcus showing his love for his country and sub by dying to make sure the Chinese didn't get it. Like you said in one of your daily reviews, any ending is better than a cliffhanger. I was satisfied with the ending. — Foster

Matt Roush: So was I, more or less, even if much of it felt awfully (though under the circumstances forgivably) rushed. It's probably too much to hope that the industry will remember Andre Braugher's tremendous performance with another Emmy nomination, but that was some heroic acting as the climactic mutiny took its various twists and turns on the way to Chaplin's ultimate sacrifice.

Question: If ever a show needed the time to develop an audience, it was Last Resort. The pilot was brilliant, the next four to five episodes lost their way while trying to introduce the sprawling cast, and the last half-dozen episodes (starting about the time ABC announced the cancellation) were very good and riveting. I would have been interested to see where a second season (or at least the back nine episodes) would have gone. As to ABC, they were complete weasels to run promos and announce the episode as the "season" finale. At least be upfront about what you've done. Don't act like you haven't already killed the show. Now, an actual question: I don't know how far in advance episodes are written and shot, so I'm curious, did the producers have time to shoot that final act after their cancellation was announced, or realizing their battle was always going to be uphill, did they shoot that final act in advance just in case 13 episodes were all they got? — Rick

Matt Roush: The final act was written and filmed in response to the cancellation. Everyone knew by then that it was already over. TV production schedules rarely have the luxury or budget to film scenes like these in advance just in case the show is canceled. This time, ABC made the decision early enough to allow them to figure out an ending, which when it was limited to the sub action (always the best part of the show) was still pretty thrilling. Some of the other subplots (Sam's wife's release, the intrigues on the island and back in D.C.) naturally suffered, but something had to give. And you're not the only one irked about ABC labeling the episode a "season" finale, which if my mailbag is any indication only served to confuse some people and give them false hope.

Question: I am disappointed to hear about Ben and Kate being pulled from Fox's schedule. Does this mean the show is canceled? Since the show's beginnings, it shared the same time slot as one of my all-time favorite shows, NCIS. Consequently, I was always watching NCIS and DVR-ing Ben and Kate. Would Ben and Kate have done better not up against NCIS? Speaking of NCIS, any word on when we can expect an introduction to the NCIS: LA spinoff's characters? — Hollis

Matt Roush: Although it's possible the remaining episodes of Ben and Kate will air (maybe this summer?), it is truly canceled, a fact made even more clear once Fox halted production before the show could finish its 18-episode order. In terms of its scheduling, Fox gave it the best shot it could, hammocked between the established Raising Hope and New Girl as the network tried to launch a two-hour comedy block. Every network wants to have its own night of comedy, and Fox's priority this season was to expand beyond Animation Domination Sundays to build a full live-action sitcom night on Tuesday, where Fox had already planted its comedy flag the year before. (However, Fox may not have expected ABC and NBC to crowd sitcoms onto the same night, effectively cannibalizing the audience.) Fox knows it's not going to win the night opposite a powerhouse like NCIS, but its lineup of quirky comedies is intended as counter-programming to draw a younger audience. Unfortunately, this show never broke out, even on DVR. But Fox isn't giving up on live-action comedy on Tuesday, so don't be surprised to see one or two new comedies next season (depending on how The Mindy Project fares the next few months) hoping for better luck.

Regarding the backdoor pilot planned for NCIS: LA later this season, it will air sometime this spring, most likely during the May sweeps, though I'm not sure if that's been determined yet.

Question: Like many people last season, I had high hopes for Smash and was left a little disappointed at the end, although I enjoyed the excellent finale. The show was let down by bad writing, poor plots that often went nowhere and some terrible characters (Dev, Ellis). Luckily, the new showrunner seems to have addressed these issues and I really enjoyed episode one of Season 2. The music was great, and I like that they're introducing a new musical. I'm also glad that they've made Karen more interesting and independent, because I've always liked Katharine McPhee and felt last season she got saddled with some of the worst subplots that went nowhere. My question is: Do you feel it's too late to turn around the opinion of critics, however good or not Season 2 turns out to be? I personally feel that all this hate-watching rubbish has turned Smash into more of a joke than deserved. Sure the show had issues, but I was never not entertained, and the musical numbers are always great. I feel the show deserves a second chance from critics but worry it won't get one. — JC

Matt Roush: I've seen three hours of Smash 2.0 so far, and was amused by how self-consciously the show goes about fixing many of its most blatant problems from last season. In its most meta moment, when the reviews come in from the Boston tryout of the show-within-a-show Bombshell, the most scathing notices single out the writing! Smash still has its cheesy and corny moments — it's a soap and a musical, and doesn't shy from the excesses of either genre — but I agree that Karen (McPhee) gets more interesting the less saintly she gets, including the fact that she doesn't magically become BFF's with her former rival Ivy (although I wish McPhee's acting coach was as effective as her vocal coach). They've also upped her game by pairing her more promisingly with new cast member Jeremy Jordan (a true Broadway musical up-and-comer, fresh from runs last season in Bonnie & Clyde and Newsies), who plays a cocky young songwriter. The smartest thing Smash can do is to keep its focus on what sets it apart from any other show: its milieu of Broadway musicals, with all the bitchery, back-stabbing and vicious gossip that comes with such an insular, heightened world. The haters will still find plenty to mock, I'm sure — Debra Messing's character is still a ridiculous mess, even with her awful son and boring husband and needy ex-lover out of the picture — but I'm still on board. And not with that overdeveloped sense of irony you may find in other critical circles.

Question: I read that Switched At Birth is going to do an all-American Sign Language episode sometime in March. I can't tell you how excited I am about this! And what's even better, this doesn't feel like some kind of gimmick episode. This completely fits into what they've already been doing and the storylines that have been set in place. I can't wait!!! — Lindlee

Matt Roush: It does sound special, doesn't it? Though not in the "very special episode" sense of so many other TV stunts. Switched at Birth exists in a world where being able to communicate with ASL connects so many of the characters (or not). This promises to be a peak moment for one of TV's very best family dramas. And in case you want to set your DVRs already, the airdate is March 4.

Question: I love Vegas, one of my favorite new shows this year. I am hoping it is not going to be replaced by Golden Boy. I just saw some information that it was going to be seen on Tuesday the same night Vegas is on. Please tell me they are moving Vegas and not canceling it. — Deborah

Matt Roush: Not to worry, just confusing midseason business as usual. CBS wants to give its new police drama Golden Boy the best launch by "previewing" it on two Tuesdays (Feb. 26 and March 5) in the Vegas time period, taking advantage of that mighty NCIS lead-in. But after that, Boy moves to its regular night of Friday (replacing CSI: NY, which ought to trigger a few hundred more angsty complaints) and Vegas will be back on Tuesdays as of March 12.

Question: Is it just me, or is Modern Family starting to feel a little less special lately? I'm still enjoying it, and it's not even close to being a bad show, but this season seems a little bit tired. For incidence, almost every episode seems to involve Cameron and Mitchell having some kind of argument, which results in Mitchell feeling bad and apologizing to Cameron and/or coming around to his point of view, when in fact there was nothing wrong about Mitchell's stance in the first place. The episode in which they and Claire and Phil ultimately decided to flip the house is a prime example of this, but they turned Mitchell's understandable reluctance about the prospect of house flipping into a story about how he doesn't support Cameron enough. The storylines in which Cameron wants to sell his old pants because he's lost weight; in which Cameron wants to save the tree from being demolished; and most recently Mitchell's assumption that Cameron is having trouble fitting in at work all fit into this mold. There is obviously a lot of love between them and we know they are always going to come back together, but I would like to see Cameron and Mitchell have a storyline for a change which does not involve them arguing with each other.

In no way do I want to pick on Cameron and Mitchell stories exclusively, because the whole show has similar issues these days. It's not enough to impede my enjoyment, but it does feel a bit less exciting than it once did, especially compared to The Middle and Suburgatory, which have both raised their game this year. What do you think? I do hope the arrival of the baby does something to spice up the show. — Jake

Matt Roush: I still enjoy Modern Family a lot, and Gloria's baby situation has added some zing to the formula — last week's episode with her visiting mother and mousy-then-resentful sister was mostly a hoot — but the show's formula aspects, while still satisfying to millions (and clearly to Emmy voters), have inevitably become less fresh by Season 4. You may recall I chose The Middle over Modern Family for my 2012 Top-10 list, in part because in this now-thriving subgenre of family sitcomedy, The Middle feels more relevant with Frankie's unemployment and Axl's pre-graduation injury and anxieties, and it's no less hilarious (and I would argue the Heck kids are often even funnier). The Mitchell-Cam snits are many weeks the most tiresome and predictable parts of Modern Family — though I did enjoy the New Year's Eve episode where they were working together to try to find a suitable place to gay-celebrate — and this has become even more noticeable this season, when the relationship on NBC's The New Normal between Bryan and David is portrayed with so much more warmth and affection (though not without its own heightened conflicts).

Question: Who does the voice of Howard Wolowitz' mother on The Big Bang Theory? Is it Melissa Rauch? — Joseph

Matt Roush: I love that you think it might be Melissa — because it's always funny when Bernadette (Rauch) gets so riled up at Howard she starts barking at him like his mother. But the actress who has been shouting those lines at Howard off-camera since the series began is Carol Ann Susi, a classic example of a character so much funnier being heard but not seen.

Question: When is Castle going to give more information on Castle's father? Seems like the subject has been dropped this season. My husband is a fan and wants to know. — Lainie

Matt Roush: Since you're asking on behalf of your husband, we'll give you a pass this time for not keeping up on the latest intel. It was reported last week that James Brolin has been cast as the elusive father figure, and he'll first appear in the Feb. 28 conclusion of a two-part episode.

Question: I just wanted to say thanks for your recommendation of Ripper Street. I really enjoyed the first episode. Oddly enough, at the same time I've started watching Whitechapel (two episodes in to the first season). The time shift of post-Ripper 1889 Whitechapel and modern-day Ripper copycat Whitechapel is fun to watch at the same time. As an MI-5 fan, I'm also getting a kick out of the coincidence that the lead investigator in 1889 is played by Matthew Macfadyen and in 2009 the lead investigator is played by Rupert Penry-Jones, since Penry-Jones replaced Macfadyen on MI-5. — Jason


Matt Roush: Good points all, and that would make for a fun viewing juxtaposition. Even better news: It looks like a fourth season of Whitechapel will be headed our way later this year.


Question: Now that Suits has returned to finish out its second season, I can't help thinking about the Pearson Hardman internal struggles that I found so annoying last summer. I know you loved that part of the show, but I didn't, and while watching then, I just kept thinking how much better The Good Wife handles that kind of thing. A lot of it was just ham-handed on Suits. The Good Wife seems to be able to keep more balls in the air, more successfully than any other show I watch. They rarely make missteps (Kalinda's husband being one of them). Suits, on the other hand, suffers by comparison. By not trying to keep as many stories and characters going, Suits makes it difficult for me to enjoy the show as a whole when large parts of it don't engage me. I love the characters of Mike, Harvey, Jessica, Rachel and Donna, but when they don't give them enough to do that's interesting, I just zone out. Am I being unfair in comparing two quite different shows? They're both lawyer shows, so I can't seem to help it. The first returning Suits episode showed some promise, particularly with another humiliation for Louis and more openings for Mike to be exposed through his erratic behavior. — Frank

Matt Roush: If you like the characters of Suits, then (if we're to believe USA Network's mission statement) that's at least half the battle. No one is pretending Suits aims as high on the quality scale as The Good Wife, and I don't believe I've ever suggested such a thing. The Good Wife is one of the best dramas, network or cable, of recent years. Certainly among the best cast and best written, often transcending the legal-drama procedural. Suits is a much more high-concept ensemble piece, and I enjoyed the battle for Pearson Hardman not because it achieved the heights of Good Wife's internal intrigues but because it jolted the show out of its typical procedural mode and heightened the stakes for all of the characters. Yes, it was much more broad and predictable, as you'd expect from this sort of legal melodrama, but it raised the game if not the bar for this show. And according to a recent teaser from USA for next month's storylines, Hardman will be back soon to stir up more trouble. And even if it isn't as memorable as The Good Wife, I'll probably enjoy it.

Question: I will forgive you for not giving a shout-out on last Tuesday's playlist to the thrilling two-part series finale for Flashpoint that Ion buried in an 11/10c timeslot with absolutely no advertising. Are there any other Canadian TV imports worth checking out? I caught the pilot for Continuum, which didn't blow me away but seemed promising. Secondly, I heard that Nikitadid horribly in the Friday-at-9/8c time slot ratings-wise (not sure if the show is doing better in the 8/7c slot). Do you know if this will be the last season of Nikita, or are expectations low enough for Fridays that it could be renewed for another season? — Brian

Matt Roush: My apologies on not calling attention to the end of Flashpoint (though it would have been helpful if the PTB at Ion or the production company had ever flagged it to our attention). That really was peculiar scheduling for an acquired first-run series that you'd think Ion might have used to bolster the brand. Regarding Canadian series: If you're a Syfy fan, you might check out the kinky Lost Girl on the same night as Continuum My own two all-time Canadian favorites, which coincidentally both star Paul Gross but otherwise couldn't be more different, are Due South (the crime dramedy about the transplanted Mountie) and the brilliant theatrical comedy Slings & Arrows (of which there are the most fragile of rumors that it could someday return for a fourth season). ABC's summer entry Rookie Blue is probably the most successful current import.

Regarding Nikita: It's always going to live on the bubble season to season. But this weekend's episode was its highest-rated in more than a year, so that's a good sign. And this is a case where ratings aren't as much of an issue — on The CW, are they ever? — as it is the studio building an inventory of episodes for syndication, where action series like this can do well here and abroad. So I'm cautiously (and hopefully) optimistic we'll see a fourth season, though I wouldn't be shocked either way.

That's all for now. Keep sending your comments and questions to askmatt@tvguidemagazine.com, and in the meantime, follow me on Twitter!

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