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Ask Matt: Gracepoint, Walking Dead, New Girl, Dallas RIP, Parenthood, Castle and More

Send questions and comments to askmatt@tvguidemagazine.com and follow me on Twitter! Question: With just one episode remaining for Gracepoint, our household finds itself perplexed. We never saw Broadchurch, so our opinion can't be influenced by that distinction, but we've completely enjoyed the "Americanized" version. The past couple of episodes in particular have been tightly written and filmed (the atmosphere of the town is palpable). Despite our enjoyment, however, it seems we can't see a review or story about Gracepoint without hearing how inferior a product it is, which is obviously counter to our appreciation of the series. So the question we have is this: If we were to watch Broadchurch AFTER Gracepoint finishes, are we likely to believe the original is "not as good" a series because we saw the adaptation first? — The Galvins

Matt Roush
Matt Roush

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

Question: With just one episode remaining for Gracepoint, our household finds itself perplexed. We never saw Broadchurch, so our opinion can't be influenced by that distinction, but we've completely enjoyed the "Americanized" version. The past couple of episodes in particular have been tightly written and filmed (the atmosphere of the town is palpable). Despite our enjoyment, however, it seems we can't see a review or story about Gracepoint without hearing how inferior a product it is, which is obviously counter to our appreciation of the series. So the question we have is this: If we were to watch Broadchurch AFTER Gracepoint finishes, are we likely to believe the original is "not as good" a series because we saw the adaptation first? — The Galvins

Matt Roush: Hard to say, but also hard to imagine anyone who liked Gracepoint not at least appreciating Broadchurch, not so much to watch the same story play out (sometimes seemingly beat for beat) but for the pleasures of hearing David Tennant speak in his natural voice and experiencing Olivia Colman's definitive performance as Ellie Miller, imbued with a natural warmth, humor and frazzled humanity that's only fitfully apparent in Anna Gunn's competent but comparatively colorless depiction. The strengths of Gracepoint are all magnified by Broadchurch's tighter, tauter, more restrained intensity. I've said from the start, though, that this was a tough one to critique, always conceding that those who never sought out the original (despite critics' raves and entreaties from a year ago) would likely find much to enjoy in the remake, because the story is that strong and powerful. And maybe it's the case that it's just impossible to feel the same level of affection toward another version of something you embraced on your first viewing, whichever came first. But honestly, with this story, the original simply is a better told, better acted drama. (I haven't seen the final episode of Gracepoint yet, so don't know how significantly altered the ending will be. But if a different killer is revealed, I still find it unimaginable that it could have as devastating an impact, but we'll see.)

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Question: I want to talk about The Walking Dead's recent mid-season finale and — spoiler alert — the killing of Beth. It got me wondering about shows like Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead, which have popularized the killing of main cast members, so fans now expect both shows to shock them with major deaths. These shows are adapted from books/comics as source material, though have strayed a little bit. Do you think it has become necessary for both shows to kill off characters to satisfy the viewers? — AS

Matt Roush: That's a rather bloodthirsty way of looking at it, to suggest we're watching these shows only to see who's going to bite it, or get bitten, next. (It's a similar mindset to the days when viewers would gripe that there wasn't enough whacking on The Sopranos.) The point is that there can be dramatic value in killing major characters: in the best case, without warning (at least for those who are coming to the material fresh), and not always during mega-hyped finales (which is why Will Gardner's midseason death on The Good Wife had such impact, ditto Detective Carter on Person of Interest). These incidents can remind us how high the stakes are for everyone, and from the very first season of Thrones and Dead in particular, we've been kept on edge and off balance by the notion that almost no one is safe. There's a danger, of course, that such big moments can become too predictable, and I might have been even more impressed with The Walking Dead finale if they hadn't killed off anyone this time. It can sometimes feel as if they're filling a quota.

Question: I love New Girl. Right now it's my favorite comedy, and that's saying a lot because I am also watching The Big Bang Theory. I love both shows and even think a crossover between the two would be pretty cool. Big Bang's episodes are more consistent in terms of humor, but part of the reason why New Girl is my favorite is that I respond to the cast's chemistry way more, and also to the show's diversity. So here's my question. Fox has a lot of faith in the show. It gave New Girl the post-Super Bowl slot last year and I heard the show is going into syndication next fall. If ratings don't improve, how long do you think it will take for Fox to just cut their losses? — Justin

Matt Roush: I'd guess Fox (which also owns the show, so stands to make money off this investment in the syndication market) will give it one more season to reach the magic 100-episode threshold, but the network is in the same boat as comedy-starved NBC when it comes to being overburdened with so many niche sitcoms, so it's hard to predict what the schedule will look like next fall and whether this little show that could will be on it. Odds would seem to favor a fifth and probably final season. (I assume you weren't serious about a Big Bang crossover. Completely different styles of comedy and filming, plus different studios and networks. Not even a genius could make that formula work.)

Question: Have read your columns since you were at USA Today. What went wrong in your opinion with the revival of Dallas? I can tell you that I looked forward to seeing the program every Monday and I am very disappointed with its cancellation. Was the death of Larry Hagman the culprit? I have to say that Judith Light was amazing and entertaining, but even I, as a Hispanic, got completely bored with the Mexican cartel storyline. Where did the producers go wrong? I am missing the show. Sniff! — Sal

Matt Roush: First, thanks for the loyalty. And I think you nailed it that the death of Larry Hagman probably sealed the eventual fate for the reboot, which never recovered from the loss of its most iconic character. For me, the new Dallas never truly caught fire, mostly because the next generation of Ewings (derivatively conceived and ineffectually played) couldn't live up to the legends whose boots they were being asked to step into. I agree about Judith Light, though. If everyone on the show had her spirit (and talent), the show might have been a great guilty pleasure instead of an exercise in forced nostalgia. If you want to appreciate Light's range, see her work in Amazon's Transparent as the kvetching mother of this unruly family. You might not believe it's the same person.

Question: What can we do as an audience to get NBC to reconsider ending Parenthood? Such good television. — Gloria

Matt Roush: I'll miss this very moving series as well (and the cast for sure), and I wish there were more shows like it, but at least Parenthood is ending with more dignity than most low-rated shows of this sort get to do. If NBC had yanked it off the air without warning or ceremony, then I'd say go for it with the fan campaigns or whatnot. But this timetable was agreed on by mutual consent, and six seasons (with 100 episodes) is a respectable run for any show, let alone one that has lived on the bubble for most of its existence. So while I understand and relate to the separation anxiety, I would think a "thank you" to NBC is more appropriate for letting the Bravermans go out on their own steam. Now excuse me while I go stock up on more Kleenex.

Question: A little disappointed by the Flash versus Arrow crossover, but I was still entertained for the most part. The crossover did get me thinking about the DC Universe and a potential TV Justice League. Obviously we already have Green Arrow, Suicide Squad, Flash and The Atom in the future. I know it's very unlikely, but how cool would a separate movie and TV Justice League universe be? Eventually WB could have some sort of Infinite Crisis storyline involving both universes. I know Warner Bros. would never put Batman and Superman on the small screen, but weekly shows of those two would be excellent in my opinion. Is this something that could ever happen or am I going to dreaming about the possibilities forever? — Adam

Matt Roush: I consulted my in-house comics-to-TV expert on this one, who reminded me that Smallvillehad its own version of a Justice League-style team (with pre-Superman Clark, Green Arrow, Aquaman, Impulse, Cyborg and Black Canary), so it's not out of the question that more of these characters from the DC archives will be mined on these shows, even if they don't get their own series. But go ahead and dream on. What could it hurt? Also, though: Disappointed in the cross-over, really? Even the Flash hour (which I thought was especially enjoyable)? Maybe it's just as well I'm not immersed in the comics so perhaps am not expecting too much. Because that seemed about as good as this kind of show gets.

Question: How many shows are you assigned to cover as part of your job compared to ones you watch just as personal entertainment? And out of those you are assigned, how are they chosen? — Charles

Matt Roush: There's no hard and fast rule, in part because the landscape of TV is so huge these days. Still, almost everything I watch I consider fodder for this job (even the shows I watch primarily for pleasure). Without getting too deep into the process, the best generalization would be to say that I sample almost every new series, network and cable — and, more recently, on streaming services (though not always reality shows, of which there are simply too many, unless they stand out or otherwise intrigue me), and will review for the magazine if there's room, and if not, will try to cover online. In deciding when or if a show or a special event requires special critical attention, that's usually my call. I'm rarely assigned any individual series, but I'm usually aware of what's being assigned for the magazine as features and covers and adjust my own output accordingly. And because TV shows (unlike a movie) are ever-evolving, I'm required to keep up with a fairly significant number of shows on an ongoing basis, although it's impossible for anyone to watch every episode of every series (especially these days), so that eventually becomes a matter of personal and professional preference. Still, I try to stay attuned to when big moments are happening on shows I only look at occasionally, because not even a professional TV critic can regularly force him-or-herself to keep tabs on shows they hate or which bore them silly.

Question: I had a lazy weekend recently and watched several of The Glee Project episodes still saved on my DVR. With so many Glee characters like Ryder (Blake Jenner), Rory (Damian McGinty), Unique (Alex Newell) and Joe Hart (Samuel Larsen) getting their start on this reality competition, plus a few other contenders guest starring on Glee, why hasn't it been released on DVD yet? I am still hopeful that The Glee Project will be included in some way on Glee future releases, say the final season DVD? I know you were a fan, so do you have any pull with Ryan Murphy? ;) — Amy

Matt Roush: I'm glad you realized that last part of your question was a joke. But it seems to me that the market for most reality-competition shows on DVD would be rather limited, which is why so few have been released. (Is there that much of an appetite to rewatch past seasons of shows like these?) And in this case, as often happens when music is an essential part of a show, it could be that the cost of music rights would make this one especially prohibitive. Makes sense, though, for future Glee boxed sets to consider being enhanced by at least some excerpts from The Glee Project (which I do miss), showing some of the moments that got those young stars onto Glee.

Question: There's already been a lot of talk online about whether or not Nathan Fillion and Stana Katic will renew their Castle contracts to pave the way for Season 8 and beyond. I don't really see the point in asking you if they're going to do that or not, because that is up to them and I doubt you have any more knowledge of their contract negotiations than I do. But I am wondering: Given the TV production schedule, when would this decision need to be reached? Let's assume that all involved parties want the show to be able to end on its own terms with a properly written sendoff, whenever that time may come. Because Castle is a crime show, of course they can just write a new case-of-the-week basically indefinitely, but the personal stories of Castle, Beckett and those around them do deserve closure and that means they will need some lead time to write an ending. I would imagine, too, that the mystery of Castle's disappearance may not be completely solved within one season (since it took several years to finish the Johanna Beckett murder), unless of course they get notice that this year is the end, in which case that would need complete resolution faster.

So: How long do you think they've got to make these deals in order to allow the writers time to finish? I know Shonda Rhimes didn't know right up until the last moment the first time the core Grey's Anatomy cast had to re-negotiate for Season 9, which probably influenced the plane crash storyline. And a while back now, poor Ugly Betty got its cancellation news in tandem with reducing its episode order, which only gave them I think three or four more episodes to tie up everything. Those writers rose to the occasion and ended the show in a lovely manner, but I imagine it was a bit stressful to cram everything in like that. So: What's the timetable, do you think? — Jake

Matt Roush: I'm hardly an expert on such matter, and given how well Castle is holding up this year, I'd be shocked if the show isn't able to work out deals for another season or two. But realistically, production on a show like this wouldn't go much beyond a few more months into early spring (late March-early April or thereabouts), so if this does turn out (which I doubt) to be the final season of Castle, that wouldn't give them a lot of time to plot a grand sendoff. Given that the wedding has already (finally) happened, and wrapping up the mystery behind last season's cliffhanger wouldn't necessarily take that much effort (the sooner the better, if you ask me), even if this does become a rush to the end, it might not be that great a cause for concern.

Question: I'm a big fan of your column, also of Get Smartstyle of humor as you can tell by my screen name (MaxwellOfControl). I saw a trailer for a show coming on TBS called Angie Tribeca that was a police spoof, and I recognized a couple of gags from the '80s series Sledge Hammer!, which was hilarious back in the day. I know it says the TBS show is from Steve Carell, but is anyone from Sledge Hammer! involved? — Matt M

Matt Roush: This appears to be a family affair, with Steve Carell and wife Nancy the co-creators (and former Office co-star Rashida Jones in the lead role), so any relation to Sledge Hammer! (and what a memory you have) would likely be only that of possible homage.

Question: This question has probably been asked and answered before, but I must have missed it. On Supernatural, where do the Winchesters get their money? They don't have jobs or any visible source of income, and I'm always wondering where they find the money to pay for everything from food, gas and motels to guns and ammunition, etc. If you can shed some light on this for me, it would be greatly appreciated. — Sandy

Matt Roush: If you look up Frequently Asked Questions in the Winchester-verse, this often comes up. The standard answer is that Dean is an old hand at running credit-card scams with fake identities, and also dabbles in hustling at the pool and poker tables, keeping the brothers in flannel and petrol. (It's not like they dress or eat fancy outside of their one faux-FBI suit.) But like much else about TV, this is the sort of detail that doesn't really bear or reward overthinking.

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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