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Ask Matt: Jane the Virgin, Parenthood, Laura, Cancellations (A to Z, Dallas) and More

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

Matt Roush
Matt Roush

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

Question: First of all, I'm absolutely loving Jane the Virgin, thanks in part to your review of it. I haven't loved a mother-daughter pair this much since Lorelai and Rory from Gilmore Girls. My question, however, revolves around the character Petra, and the blonde-female-villain trope that seems to be happening on TV. Red Band Society's mean-blonde-cheerleader Kara was introduced and I couldn't help but roll my eyes through most of her scenes (for the three episodes of this disappointing show that I actually watched). I think there could have been great stories to tell for her character (especially regarding her relationship with the other women on the show), but everything she did was so irritatingly mean-spirited and pointless it just drove me to change the channel. I have the same feelings toward Kitty on Glee. Her motivations for being so awful seemed thin and pointless. Conversely, I love watching Petra manipulate and scheme on Jane the Virgin. She's definitely the villain, and definitely not likable, but as a villain she's delightful to watch. Whether it's a testament to Yael Grobglas's acting or the strong writing, her actions come off as less contrived than Kara's and Kitty's. What are your thoughts on this? Also, if there's room in your column, I'd like to know what you think of the most recent episodes of The Kingdom. The pilot was terrific but the last few episodes have been rather dull. — Jeffrey

Matt Roush: I adore Jane so much — I spent a chunk of the weekend devouring several upcoming episodes — that I'd even consider raising her miracle baby. And I agree about Petra, both in the way the character has been written and how Yael Grobglas is playing it, tempering the villainy (as compared to a more stock character like Rogelio's bitchy ex-wife/manager) by revealing that for her it's not just about the money but about the regret that she can't win back Rafael's affections, which in flashbacks we've seen were genuine. Recent episodes have also revealed how Petra is being manipulated by her mother, a far less sympathetic character. Which plays into the show's bigger themes of mothers, daughters, families and, through the very principled Jane, the belief that trust once broken can be very hard to forgive or forget. (The triangle between Jane, Michael and Rafael is the most compelling I've seen in ages.) And while I did watch The Kingdom pilot, which I found mildly compelling, I don't have DirecTV (partly a function of my Manhattan address) and haven't been keeping up.

Question: Why am I the only one watching Jane the Virgin? I'm loving this show but I'm afraid they're going to break my heart and cancel it. I still haven't forgiven CBS for cancelling Joan of Arcadia, my other favorite quirky show. How is Jane doing? Think she'll survive the season and perhaps be renewed next year? Please give me some good news. — Marlene

Matt Roush: Obviously you're not the only one watching Jane, but being on The CW and on a very competitive night, it's doing about as well as anyone expected and possibly a smidge better. The network gave Jane an early full-season renewal, which is great news, and given The CW's history of sticking with way more marginal shows — many of them terrible — and the critical attention Jane is currently enjoying, I wouldn't sweat Jane not making it to a sophomore season. Unless the quality diminishes (hasn't happened yet) or the ratings completely bottom out. Even then, with The CW, it's hard to predict.

Question: I'm compelled to write about a series that I adore, Parenthood, which is in the home stretch of a great, though shortened, last-season run.I've always felt that the writing has been top-notch and would watch anything from the folks of Friday Night Lights (Texas Forever!), but the weak link in the Braverman crew for me has always been Julia. It's not necessarily a knock on Erika Christensen's acting, but of the siblings, I've always had a hard time connecting with Julia's type-A personality that seems to steamroll everyone around her with no consequences whatsoever.I'm writing you to help me understand why I'm supposed to feel that Julia was so wronged by Joel in their marriage to ultimately feel the redemption payoff when they end up back together. I don't think it's that all Bravermans are supposed to be without flaws, as both Crosby and Sarah have had their share of screw-ups (though Adam will always be the saint of the show), but I just don't understand why the audience is even supposed to pull for Julia at this point. Joel is the one who stalled his professional life to be a stay-at-home dad to raise his daughter so Julia could advance her career. Julia is the one who quit her job without consulting her husband, then had an emotional affair with a man when she couldn't handle being a stay-at-home mom and then lied about that relationship/kiss to Joel. They've had differences of opinion in terms of parenting but Julia is always the one to move ahead with decisions without consulting Joel.Basically, I feel like Joel is too good for Julia and want him to end up with someone else in the last few episodes. Since I know that's not happening, it would make me feel better if at some point Joel would just tell Zeek during one of their bro-fests that his daughter is a huge jerkwad. Please fill me in on what I'm missing here or thanks for allowing me to rant. — CK

Matt Roush: This is a fascinating subject. When Parenthood premiered, for the longest time Julia was absolutely my least favorite of the Bravermans, not because of the actress but because the character felt so contrived, and the writers' attempts to create conflict around her often felt like Julia was being punished for being ambitious, successful and driven. In other words, a rank cliché. The season where she and Joel nurtured the pregnant office barista, only to have her renege on the adoption, was the worst, because it was all so obvious. Joel has always been a more likable and sympathetic figure (testament as well to Sam Jaeger's warm performance), even when he uncharacteristically turned so unyieldingly against Julia, then once he got over it, for Julia to shut him out paints her again as the colder of the two. I'm OK with some of these character flaws, especially when it becomes a reflection of their parenting — and watching bratty little Syd struggle with their separation has been (typical for Parenthood) heartbreaking. Watching Joel attempt to sustain some connection with the family, despite the estrangement with Julia, was also touching — and it's that bigger picture that makes the prospect of their reconciliation easier to swallow. Joel may deserve better, but he also deserves the Bravermans. As they say, you can't always pick your family, and if Julia is indeed the bad seed of this large crop, they've at least tried to humanize her, and for the sake of this season's closure, I'll accept that. (Although I'd love to see that scene between Joel and Zeek you're dreaming of.)

Question: I totally agree with your feeling about the body count on Sons of Anarchy, but I still hate to see it end and hope to see these guys down the road, not forgotten. I'm wondering if Abel might be the one to spill the beans about Gemma to his daddy. After all the hype about How to Get Away With Murder, I expected more and couldn't be bothered to watch it after the third episode — what a snore! I'm totally enjoying Constantine, just the right mix of cast and story. And here's a good word for The Mysteries of Laura: Debra Messing just kills that role. Her face when she ate the fake cupcake was great, as are her other not-too-often comic touches. Another great cast. I hope Madam Secretary goes on like The Good Wife. Superb cast and writers. — Ann

Matt Roush: Quick thoughts. OMG, Abel! This child of the damned, a silent witness to so much horror, scarred for life. If he's the catalyst for Gemma's downfall, how delicious would that be. Murder: Have to disagree. It's preposterous, yes, but boring? Huh? Constantine: Jury still out. Love him, the show needs work. Laura: Debra Messing's star presence is the only conceivable reason I can imagine for watching that show. Madam Secretary: Not yet to the level of The Good Wife, but a very agreeable companion piece, and I'm very impressed with Téa Leoni. This one's a keeper (although I'd do some house cleaning with several of her stock-player staff).

Question: One mystery of The Mysteries of Laura: Have you noticed that eight out of eight episodes provide a reason for Laura to dress up and get glamorous? What dreck! — Larry

Matt Roush: Duly noted. But then, why are you still watching? I did not notice this particular aspect, because that would have required me watching all eight of the episodes to date. And given that my job doesn't require me to be a complete masochist, I can say I've sampled Laura enough to be at peace with its success among those who enjoy a silly (if overly broad) light mystery, and I bow to Debra Messing's ability to connect with the audience, but beyond that, I have to make priorities with my TV time, and Laura doesn't make the cut.

Question: I'm really sad to see that A to Z was canceled. I know it wasn't the best show, but I thought that with some room to grow it could be a sitcom that NBC could rely on (goodness knows they need it). Do you know if they have already filmed the 13-episode order, or is there a chance that they can make adjustments to give the viewers an idea of how the eight months, etc. was going to end? — Chelsi

Matt Roush: From what I can tell, A to Z is still in production on its initial 13-episode order, and since it has been determined that it will not extend beyond that, and with nothing on the immediate horizon to replace it, I imagine the show may still be able to satisfy your desire to learn how things ultimately turned out for Andrew and Zelda. (At the very least, Katey Sagal's voice-over — which set up that unnecessary eight-month-whatever timetable to begin with — could fill in the blanks.)

Question: Please check out our #savedallas Facebook page among other sites invested in getting Dallas back on the air. I believe we are over 740,000 tweets trying for 1 million. Patrick Duffy says this week is crucial to our campaign. Do you think we have a shot at getting it over to The CW? I mailed five bottles of barbeque sauce to the network today for the Ewing BBQ after they help us #savedallas. — Marla

Matt Roush: I tend not to comment on, or promote, fan campaigns to save series, even those I believe in (i.e., Longmire), maintaining what I like to think of as a safe critical distance from shows dead and/or alive. Of course I wish fans luck and would never discourage these efforts, as you never know what the result will be, but I'd be shocked if The CW picked up Dallas. It hardly seems the proper demographic, and while the network does have a history for soapy serials of various styles — some good (Jane), some dreadful (Hart of Dixie) — the recent successful surge of fantasy/sci-fi/superhero genre fare suggests it's not a top network priority these days.

Question: I am so tired of watching a good TV series only to find out again that it got cancelled after they get you hooked. Please tell me if they can save any of the following shows or if any other networks will pick them up: The Bridge, Reckless, Gang Related, Revolution and Longmire? There are so many boring TV shows and reality shows out there, the good ones just do not have a chance. Also, do you know when the True Detective series will be back and who will the new stars be? — Donna From BC

Matt Roush: Cancellations are a fact of life in TV, always have been, even before the reality onslaught. Of the shows you mention, while Revolution seems to have a very engaged fan base still leading a charge — though after this long off the air, the odds diminish greatly for a comeback — I would think only Longmire and less realistically The Bridge could find their way to new outlets, but only if their respective studios shop them aggressively and can convince anyone to salvage what appear to be damaged goods. Regarding True Detective: HBO hasn't set a return date yet — it doesn't appear that it will be in January like a year ago, as HBO just set that Sunday line-up — and the second season's cast will be led by Vince Vaughn, Colin Farrell and Taylor Kitsch, with more names (possibly Rachel McAdams as the female lead) yet to be officially confirmed.

Question: Like you, I was looking forward to Constantine coming to the small screen, and have been patiently hoping through the first few episodes that it would bring something new and compelling for the genre. Unfortunately, so far all we seem to have is Supernatural Light. I don't know how many more episodes I can keep watching and being disappointed at the blandness of the storylines. Or should I keep the faith and keep watching in hope the writers will provide a hook that will set this series apart and make me say that "we haven't seen something like that before"? — Dave

Matt Roush: I'm beginning to think producing something we haven't seen before isn't the purpose of Constantine. So many TV shows, especially on the network level, are content to play to formula, and my initial excitement over Constantine was a response to how engaging Matt Ryan was in the title role — and now I'm not sure that's enough, unless they raise the stakes pretty quickly. The flatness of the supporting cast (excepting the so far too-little-used Harold Perrineau) is also a grave cause for concern.

Question: Was my DVR messed up, or was CSI not on last week and a repeat of that same episode was on this past Sunday? If I am just talking crazy, then never mind, but I hope CSI sticks it out this year after hearing they are airing shorter episodes (Why??) and gets at least a couple more years (since it's the last one standing) because I love Ted Danson and crew! - Mike

Matt Roush: For two weeks in a row, the football overruns extended to the full hour in the East and Central time zones, causing CBS to pre-empt CSI entirely, replacing the scheduled episode with a repeat for the West Coast. These episodes will still air, but the reason CSI is getting a shorter season (not shorter episodes) is because it will be sharing the time period with the Cyber spinoff later in the season. It's unclear how much of a future the CSI mothership still has — the success of CBS's new dramas suggests it won't be moving back to fill a hole on a weeknight, as there aren't any — but I hope when that time comes, it gets a clear sendoff the way The Mentalistis doing when it returns for its final season at the end of the month.

Question: The cancellation of Longmire with admittedly good ratings, though not with 18-49 year olds, poses a question in my mind for not only the network executives who make these decisions but the advertisers that sponsor the shows. Put aside the fact that many adults work into their seventies now on a regular basis, have real lives, vote, travel, go out to dinner, to the movies, are well read and even enjoy an occasional video game. Very few are sitting in rocking chairs watching Matlock re-runs (not that there's anything wrong with that). And forget the fact that adults over 45 might be more likely to actually watch your show on the night it comes on and actually sit through the ads. But here's the kicker for me. Most of the TV ads I've seen (with the exception of the nauseating onslaught of mean-spirited political ads we've been dealing with) fall into pretty much the same categories: food (we all eat), cars (most of us still drive) and — wait for it — pharmaceuticals (both over-the-counter and prescription). And further breaking down the pharma goodies, there seems to be a serious majority of ads for ailments such as COPD, incontinence, erectile dysfunction, low testosterone, arthritis and depression. Is it just me, or does it seem like 18-year-olds might be slightly disinterested in these products? Obviously, I haven't been in anyone's prized demographic for a few years, so perhaps I'm just bitter — LOL! But if you can shed any light on why this continues to be such an important focus for the networks (to the point of actually ignoring the overall numbers of viewers a show attracts), I would be most grateful. — Nancy

Matt Roush: Far be it from me to justify the tyranny of demographics on the decisions of programmers, which so often seem short-sighted. And you're right to blame the ones buying the ad time, because the issue here isn't numbers of viewers driving ad rates, but it's the perception that an older audience is of less value — in part because it's more available — that keeps many of the ads you're describing being sold at a lesser premium, thus making the shows themselves less profitable. It can all start seeming like a catch-22, and I don't agree with the reasoning either, but unfortunately, we don't get to set those rules.

Question: Your answers are perceptive, smart and informative. I began thinking the person asking you about Thursday night TV recently was totally out of touch. Did s/he really say the Thursday night line-up is a disappointment? I'm glad you wrote, "It's always dangerous to assume that just because you don't like something no one else does either." From the articles I've been reading and just from chats with my friends and co-workers, it seems that Shonda Rhimes' shows are making quite a showing. (Though I gave up Grey's Anatomy about four or five seasons ago, I really have so much fun watching Scandal, then comparing reactions with friends the next day, and I am just now getting intrigued with How to Get Away With Murder.) Other shows I watch online later from Thursday include my guilty pleasure The Vampire Diaries. I've not yet watched Elementary but have heard good things about it. So I agree with you Thursday night is a potent one, definitely on ABC. It's my fave TV line-up of the week. Keep writing! — Cherelle

Matt Roush: OK, Cherelle, I will. I've puzzled over that exchange a bit myself, wondering how on a night with so many choices, anyone could see only a wasteland. (The real issue seemed to be that NBC had benched its cult comedies Parks and Recreation and Community, which if that's your taste, there really is nothing like those on the night right now.) The Thursday landscape should get a lot more interesting this winter when The Blacklist joins the Thursday battleground. (Sayonara to Red and Liz after this week, until Super Bowl Sunday.) So at least there's that to look forward to.

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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