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Ask Matt: Fringe Finale, Nashville, the Downton Abbey Effect, and More

Question: What can I say except: "Awesome!" Fringe could not have ended any other way. I was fully prepared to be sad and upset, but the ending left me feeling fulfilled and satisfied. I applaud anyone who had anything to do with this amazing show. Walter, Olivia, Peter and the gang have become family to me and I am happy knowing that they have a future. So thank you universe, whichever one you choose, for this wonderful show. And thank you, Matt, for always championing Fringe and giving it space and time in your column. — Rachel

Matt Roush
Matt Roush

Question: What can I say except: "Awesome!" Fringe could not have ended any other way. I was fully prepared to be sad and upset, but the ending left me feeling fulfilled and satisfied. I applaud anyone who had anything to do with this amazing show. Walter, Olivia, Peter and the gang have become family to me and I am happy knowing that they have a future. So thank you universe, whichever one you choose, for this wonderful show. And thank you, Matt, for always championing Fringe and giving it space and time in your column. — Rachel

Matt Roush: Happy to report that the reaction (so far) to the Fringe finale, in my mailbag anyway, has been uniformly rapturous. Rachel's point about the characters feeling like family helps explain why Fringe, however challenged in the ratings and however convoluted its mythology could be, struck such a chord with its cult following. Here's another even more elaborate valentine.

Question: They said the finale of Fringe was being done as a "love letter to the fans" and I think it was, and now I'd love to send a love letter to Fringe and to Fox for taking us on this marvelous ride and for giving us wonderful closure! I loved the fact that we were treated to seeing the Observers and the "loyalists" taste some of the horrible endings others went through in the first four years. I loved that we got to go back to the "alternate universe" for a little while, and that Bolivia and Link had a family. I loved that September wanted to walk off into the future with Michael, to show him he loved him, was excited that Walter wasn't going, but then when September died it was fitting and beautiful and sad when Walter took Michael's hand and led him off, and when Peter said "I love you dad." I loved when they found Gene the cow in amber, when Walter told Astrid she had a lovely name, that they saved Broyles, that Olivia crushed Windmark, that they wound up back to the point where they were in the park in 2015 with Peter asking Etta to come to him, they were going home, only this time she did. I loved so many things, and it made saying goodbye to this marvelous show, that made it into the hearts of so many viewers but unfortunately not into the rating books, so much easier. And what I want to know, after this long dissertation, which I can't help but crow about, what did you think of the Fringe finale?

I know you've been a supporter of this great show, and now that it's gone into the abyss of TV shows that once were, do you think it had a fitting end? I think it will go down in TV history as one of the best finales ever, but what say you? I love to read your comments, marvel at your insight, your humor, your ability to be fair, kind and for me, always on the money, and I'm dying for some Fringe closure from you! — Dorothy

Matt Roush: Well, thanks for that mash note — to the show and to this fellow fan. My own review of the finale can be found here, and much of what Dorothy loved about the episode I did as well. I do think it was an appropriate finish, especially as it was grounded in the love these characters had for each other and the sacrifices they chose to make — including dangerously recharging Olivia's powers, even if only temporarily, to give us a last glimpse of the alt-world, where some of my favorite Fringe moments occurred. I imagine this episode will be well regarded as finales go, but if it falls short of legendary status, that may have something to do with how marginalized Fringe had become by the time it ended. I'll be curious to see if the show's reputation grows over time, as people discover and rediscover it on other platforms.

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Question: I love the fact that Nashville name-checks some of the biggest names in country music like Martina McBride and Lady Antebellum. It adds some validity to the premise, but it also can get a little too meta for some of us. In the most recent episode, Rayna's manager mentioned that the guitarist "comes highly recommended. He played with Brad and Keith." Now, it isn't specified, but one can easily assume that "Brad and Keith" are Brad Paisley and Keith Urban. The writers are obviously intending to imply that the guitarist has to be pretty good to play on a stage with those guys who are known for their guitar skills. But why on earth would they choose to name drop Brad Paisley when his real-life wife (Kimberly Williams-Paisley) plays Peggy on the show? Totally took me out of the show for a minute or two while I was figuring that out.

That's not the only example. They have said on the show that Rayna has won multiple CMA and Grammy awards, and again, though it hasn't been specified what years she was supposed to have won, it can be deduced that she is approximately the same age, with a similar career path as Martina McBride. So we could figure that in the show's world, Rayna may have won some of the years that Martina actually won. I realize that it is just a TV show, but for country fans like myself it can be difficult to separate. So my question is: What are your thoughts on the reality of the country music scene bleeding into the fictional universe of the show? — Catherine

Matt Roush:One of the best things Nashville has going for it is the authenticity of its depiction of the music business, from the concert arenas to the smaller local haunts where real magic is made. Anything that adds to that feeling is OK by me, but then I'm not nearly so immersed in the country-music scene, so it doesn't throw me. (My main exposure comes from my local country-western bar; if you're ever in the Hell's Kitchen area, Flaming Saddles is a must!) If you were telling me that these moments were ringing false, I'd be more alarmed. But it shouldn't be that difficult to separate reality from this show's fiction, which is at its best when it focuses on the music.

Question: My question is very simple. After watching that scene in last week's Justified with Boyd and Preacher Billy, then flashing back to Walton Goggins' guest spot on Sons of Anarchy as the transvestite, not to mention his time on The Shield, he is just electric. How is he not headlining his own show by now? — Geoffrey

Matt Roush: The fact that Walton Goggins has broken out so vividly in each of these series is a testament to his value as a top-tier character actor and scene-stealer. It's quite possible that a great leading role is waiting for him somewhere — if it ever happens, my money's on FX — but I wonder if he'd be as effective in carrying a show as he is in bringing to life these intensely enjoyable supporting characters, where we're always left wanting more. As long as he's working, I'm happy.

Question: We are big fans of Justified. However, my husband has a problem with staying awake during the program. That was fine the last couple of seasons because we'd catch up with it the next day with On Demand with our cable company. This year it's not on demand, and we don't have a DVR. The cable company gouges us enough. Any reason why we can't get Justified or is that something through our cable company? As long as I have you here, both CSI's are available On Demand but not Criminal Minds? — J

Matt Roush: Check again. On my own cable system, Justified's season opener is now available for viewing on demand (though not online except via iTunes), but I'm not sure how many days after broadcast it may be delayed; these things vary by the show and network. If it isn't available, it may be a function of your cable provider. Regarding network series like Criminal Minds (and, also via my mailbag, shows including Person of Interest and The Mentalist), those deals for online or On Demand availability are generally determined by the studio, not the network, again on a show-by-show basis, and there's still a theory in some circles that by not giving a show away for free, it may increase its value in syndication and the DVD marketplace.

Question: Do you think that the incredible popularity of Downton Abbey will bring more British-made shows to America? I was a big fan of BBC America at one time, but its programming lately is lackluster at best. It has nowhere near the amount of shows it once had, and seems to mainly air Top Gear, Kitchen Nightmares and, oddly, Star Trek: The Next Generation. I love Picard and company, but it is sad to see the channel that brought us great British television like Waking the Dead reduced to airing old American reruns. Do you think Downton Abbey's success could reinvigorate BBC America or maybe push PBS to bring us more British television? — Amanda

Matt Roush: Keep in mind that the Downton Abbeys of the world are few and far between, even in England. Its success already has inspired PBS to go outside the Masterpiece window to acquire another winner in Call the Midwife, which returns with new episodes in late March, and they just announced another multi-part drama, a mystery called The Bletchley Circle, to air in April. PBS is seeking other opportunities with international co-producers, but doesn't have the deepest pockets, so much of what you'll see there will likely still be contained within the Masterpiece franchise.

BBC America is a more commercial enterprise (no Trek pun intended), and when you see full nights devoted to unscripted shows in constant rotation, that's a clue about where the eyeballs and dollars are. Why the channel leans on U.S.-produced shows like TNG and Battlestar Galactica is more of a puzzle, I admit. The channel did successfully branch off this summer with a homegrown Sunday drama (Copper, which for me didn't live up to the standards of imports like the new Ripper Street), but for now it seems like the channel is content with packaging most of its dramas in pods like the Saturday lineup of fantasy/sci-fi/thrillers (including most famously Doctor Who) and the Wednesday Dramaville banner (home of great shows like Luther and The Hour). It's worth noting that outlets like Encore (The Crimson Petal and the White), Ovation (this Tuesday's The Scapegoat) and Sundance (Appropriate Adult) have acquired notable British dramas in recent years, and HBO has collaborated with the BBC on next month's Parade's End miniseries starring Benedict Cumberbatch. I would expect Downton to spur even more interest in partnering for long-form period dramas, but it may take a while to see the results.

Question: I love Elementary! I think the chemistry between Lucy Liu and Jonny Lee Miller is intriguing and well balanced. Very entertained by each episode, but the "M" episode is my favorite so far. My question: Is there a possibility that Sherlock is, in fact, behind the hiring of Watson as sober companion and not his father? It seems a very Sherlockian thing to do and would explain the absence of Holmes Sr. I'd like to believe Sherlock is capable, on some level, of foreseeing his own need of stable and constant supervision by someone like Watson. It's the only way he can get what he needs while satisfying the persona he's created. What do you think? — Kristine

Matt Roush: I wouldn't rule anything out where this clever show is concerned, but I like the idea of Holmes' family back in London having a vested interest in what he's up to in New York. I also hope we'll see Holmes père one of these days — the real deal, not another fake — and/or a Mycroft of some sort. While it seems clear that by now Sherlock knows he needs Watson to function at capacity, I'm not sure that was the case when we entered this story, and I'd like to think we've seen actual, not feigned, character growth within their partnership.

Question: I've never been more furious at a group of TV writers as I am at the Criminal Minds team right now. The "Zugzwang" episode was the worst wrap-up of a storyline that I have ever seen. The writers had us invested for months with the Reid/Maeve stalker storyline, finally giving us an emotional and real character focus, and they turn around and toss it away like that? I felt as though one group of writers spent the time crafting that story and then an entirely different group decided they were done with it and decided to wrap it up quickly. None of the story made any sense. He's friends with her for 10 months and never once did she ask her criminal profiler friend to investigate the stalker and when they finally do, it's solved in minutes? Really? What exactly was the point of destroying Dr. Reid like this and never giving the viewers a payoff? Worst episode ever. Why did they even bother? I have some serious doubts about the people responsible for making decisions on this show. — Shelly

Matt Roush: I had those doubts by the end of the very first episode of this exploitative series, my least favorite member of the CBS crime family. All I can say about this (because I'm too polite to tell fans "told you so" when we disagree) is: What did you expect?

Question: I really like The Jeff Probst Show. The format is so much better than the other talk shows. He spends almost the entire hour with his guest, not five minutes interrupted with a commercial. It's a very relaxed atmosphere and I love how he wears jeans and has his feet on the coffee table, just like home. I hope it gets renewed. — Patricia

Matt Roush: This show may be too laid back to survive in the competitive arena of daytime talk, which proved to be too much for even a seasoned talker like Anderson Cooper. But he does seem to be enjoying himself, doesn't he? If once the tribe has spoken he doesn't earn a second year, at least we know he has a great night job to fall back on.

Question: Please tell me what happened to 666 Park Avenue. Are the final episodes going to be aired? I've already heard it was canceled, but can't ABC at least finish what was started? I love this show and wish they'd changed their minds on this one. — Mary

Matt Roush: ABC filmed all 13 episodes of the original order, and by all accounts plans to air them, though now it seems unlikely we'll see them before summer — and should they never see the light of day, I wouldn't be terribly shocked, though fans would have every right to be annoyed if they don't.

Question: The Big Bang Theory was voted best comedy by the People's Choice Awards and has been in the top 10 if not the No. 1 spot in the most viewed shows of the week, so when do you think the Emmy voters will award it the best comedy statue? I like Modern Family, but I love TBBT. On another note, I didn't want to like The Carrie Diaries, but I do. And I know you gave it a good review, but I will not however be following The Following. There is enough murder in real life, real-life crazies out there, and I don't want to watch it on TV. I am just afraid the extreme violence on this show will give someone not in their right mind some very bad ideas. — Sharon

Matt Roush: Not since Everybody Loves Raymond's second Emmy in 2005 has a multi-camera comedy filmed in front of an audience won the big prize. No matter their popularity, this style just isn't in vogue these days with the majority of voters. Big Bang seems to just get hotter by the season — and building up the female characters has made the show even funnier — but I'm not sure it will ever be able to overcome the industry bias. I agree that The Carrie Diaries was a pleasant surprise and I'm looking forward to seeing how it develops. But when it comes to a show like The Following, to each his or her own. I'm a fan of well-crafted and well-executed horror and suspense, just as I welcome great comedies like The Big Bang Theory, but it's no surprise that The Following isn't for everyone — it isn't meant to be — and its timing in the wake of recent tragedies is unfortunate and unsettling. But for those with an appetite for a scary thriller, The Following doesn't pull its punches, which is why I can recommend it.

Question: Why in the world are they showing episodes of Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23completely out of order? Everyone I have spoken to about this show keeps asking the same thing. Any insight you could give me would help a ton! — Teri

Matt Roush: There's a one-word answer for this: Carelessness. If ABC wants us to believe they care about this offbeat show's iffy future, they have an odd way of showing it.

Another question on the same subject, from Erin, finishes by asking: "When they release Don't Trust the B--- on DVD, will the episodes be in the correct order?" My answer: I certainly hope so. The studio has no control over how the network programs its shows — but you can bet if it were doing as well as Modern Family, it wouldn't be jerked around like this — but the studio has total control over such things as DVDs, so that's probably your best option to see this show as it was intended to be seen. In order.

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