Question: I thought Law & Order: Los Angeles was a fairly good replacement of the legacy L&O franchise. Recently, I read that it was changing gears and removing Skeet Ulrich's character and moving Alfred Molina's ADA back to being a cop and Terrence Howard's character as the full time ADA. What are your thoughts as to why this is? And isn't it a bit odd that a Senior ADA like Alfred Molina's character would be "demoted" back to being a cop? — Teresa
Matt Roush: Have you ever heard the phrase "rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic?" That's how these desperation moves look to me. Law & Order is well known for replacing cast members over time, but they've never performed this radical a surgery midway through a first season. It's a sign that a "fairly good replacement" isn't good enough, and that maybe NBC should have let the mothership continue a bit longer before rushing this half-baked sun-baked carbon copy on the air. And yes, it is odd for Molina's character, who was introduced as something of a showboating media-savvy prosecutor, to put the detective's badge back on. Curious how they'll explain that, or if they'll just start up as if the first half of the season never happened. (That would work for me.) On the upside, we should at least give Dick Wolf's team some credit for recognizing what wasn't working, most notably Skeet Ulrich's oddly mannered performance and the indistinguishable female ADAs. The best news about all of this is that Corey Stoll is staying put in the first half as Molina's partner, and Alana de la Garza is coming aboard from the final cast of the New York version as Connie Rubirosa, teamed with Terrence Howard. That's a pretty good ensemble, but I'm not sure it's enough to make the show a player. In the wake of the Comcast merger, we're looking at a new NBC that needs to look to its future, not its past. Which means LOLA may not get a great deal of time to prove its worth.
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Matt Roush: Something to keep in mind about Glee: It is intended to be an affirming feel-good show, as most musical comedies are, but it has always had a cruel streak (much like high school itself). Rachel brings a lot of grief upon herself with her self-centered actions and colossal ego, and I'm glad to hear someone's sympathetic toward her. (The abuse she and Lea Michele take on Twitter many weeks exhausts me.) Unlike the bullying that drove Kurt to the Dalton Warblers, Rachel is seen as more resilient, maybe even delusional, in her belief that she'll eventually win everyone over as fans by her sheer talent and moxie. And that is what I believe will ultimately happen in Rachel's story. But not before she takes a lot more knocks from the writers.
Question: Will Olivia Wilde ever return to House? Her name still appears as a regular, but the last several weeks Amber Tamblyn has been holding her own. — Hanna
Matt Roush: Yes, Thirteen will be back before the end of the season (date TBA). Olivia Wilde isn't a regular-in-name-only like Jennifer Morrison was for so long. She took a break to do movies, but it looks as if she will be returning around the same time Martha Masters throws in her lab coat. Which isn't any knock regarding Amber Tamblyn's compatibility with the ensemble. She was never intended to stay full time — although depending on how she leaves, I wouldn't be surprised to see her checking back in from time to time. She's been a fun counterbalance to House this season.
Question: Chuck is one of my favorite shows, but lately it seems to be heading towards an ultimate finale by wrapping up many story lines. Does this mean the producers think it is going to get cancelled? Has NBC indicated that it wasn't going to get picked up next season? — Stan
Matt Roush: When hasn't Chuck lived on the bubble? As usual, we're not likely to know whether Chuck gets a fifth season until the fall schedule is announced in May. Fans are used to that, and so are the producers. Your observations are on point, though, because the writers went into this season with a 13-episode order and constructed the arc involving Volkoff and Chuck's mom with that in mind. Last week's episode, the 13th, was designed to work as a season finale or maybe even a series finale, which is why it sometimes felt like they were rushing to wrap things up. Ellie giving birth, Chuck finally proposing to Sarah, lots of closure there. But NBC upped Chuck's order to a full season, so while there's now more story to tell, it means fans will once again be sweating out news of the show's future for the next few months. Complicating matters is the NBC-Comcast merger with new management overseeing the entertainment division. All bets are off right now in predicting what's staying and what's going and what NBC prime time will look like next season.
Question: Why did NBC switch Outsourced to this new time slot (10:30/9:30c)? I love this show and I think this time slot will kill the show. Too many prime one-hour shows are in the 10/9c hour, and they will overshadow Outsourced. — Julia
Matt Roush: When NBC decided to devote the entire Thursday night schedule to a three-hour comedy block, something had to draw the short straw and get the unenviable job of filling that sixth slot — the Calcutta of prime time, if you will. (Although when ABC adopts this strategy later this spring on Wednesdays, it's turning the 10:30/9:30c slot over to repeats of Modern Family, minimizing the damage.) I know it looks like Outsourced is behind hung out to fail, but at least it has the buzz-worthy 30 Rock as a lead-in. It could be worse and be yoked with the dreadful Perfect Couples, which I can't imagine is much longer for this world. If NBC yanks that show, maybe it will move Outsourced in between Community and The Office and protect it — unlikely, I know, because where would that leave 30 Rock at 10/9c? I know there is some affection out there for Outsourced, which I feel hasn't advanced much beyond its one-joke premise, but it is the weakest link (not counting Couples) on NBC's Thursday schedule, so is the most vulnerable to this kind of scheduling.
Question: Do you think there will ever be more than 12 episodes of True Blood a year? I am going through serious withdrawal and need a V fix. Why are they filming the show now if it is not coming back on until June? Have you got to see any of the new episodes? Do you think the next season will be a good one? Season two was half good and last year was much better. Of course the first season is still the best. I like Alan Ball's version better than the books, mainly because I am a Sookie/Bill fan not as much Sookie/Eric and not at all a Sookie/Sam fan. — Susan
Matt Roush: HBO seems happy with its strategy of shorter seasons (generally 12-13 for dramas, sometimes less) — leaves you wanting more, lets the network promote each season as an "event," and allows for more quality control per episode, which is also why the show is in production now, even though it doesn't air for months. (Lots of post-production/special effects work on shows like this as well.) So I don't think anything will change on the scheduling front. I doubt I'll see anything in advance from the next season until the month before the premiere, and a lot depends on HBO's willingness to share. (Last year, because of pirating issues after the premiere, screeners for the rest of the season weren't sent out until after the air date.) And of course I'm hopeful it will be a good season. I'll disagree with you that season 3 was an improvement on 2. I enjoyed much about it, especially Denis O'Hare as the deliriously wicked Russell Edgington, but felt the story was all over the place. Hoping for more focus next season. And I like both versions of the Sookie saga (book and TV) in part because they're so different from each other. I love how Sookie's relationship with Eric develops in the books, and am curious where it's going in the series.
Question: I'm in a quandary, because my two favorite shows, Bones and Grey's Anatomy, are on opposite each other on the same night! Is there any chance that either will move to another time slot?! I am getting dizzy from changing channels back and forth! — Debbie
Matt Roush: I'm assuming you have neither the ability nor the inclination to record one show while watching another, or to watch shows online. Questions like these help remind me (and this column's sometimes unforgiving readers) that there's a substantial portion of the viewing audience that still pays attention to scheduling decisions and presumably watches TV the old-fashioned way: in real time. With that in mind, the quick answer is that you're stuck for the time being. Grey's is never going to move from this Thursday time period, while Bones is going to enjoy the post-Idol slot (and the hefty lead-in) for as long as it can. Fox tends to move Bones around the schedule, and when Idol is no longer a factor, it may return to the 8/7c time period, where it was doing just fine. But given that both shows do air most of their episodes in repeats (especially a procedural like Bones), I'd recommend watching whichever is your real favorite and waiting to watch the other during repeat season. Flipping between shows gives me a migraine.
Question: Is there any way CBS will move CSI: Miami and CSI: NY back to a night that is better for them? Moving Miami to football night was a bad move, and CSI: NY on Friday? Give me a break. They moved Blue Bloods to Wednesday, and now they need to move Criminal Minds to Friday and NY back to Wednesday. The CSI shows are some of the best shows still on the air. Now with The Closer leaving, it's getting bad. Criminal Minds I feel is losing steam, so why not move it? — Sue
Matt Roush: Clearly CBS does not agree with your assessment of Criminal Minds, because a spin-off is on its way starting Feb. 16, forming a two-hour Minds block on Wednesdays that moves Blue Bloods back to Fridays. Regarding the transplanted CSI shows, I don't see the situation changing. CBS wanted to bring some new blood onto Mondays and Wednesdays (with mixed results) and felt it was time to use these aging spin-offs to bolster more problematic time periods on other nights, and that did seem to work. This obviously annoys the long-time fans, but CBS is taking the long view in its scheduling, and doesn't want to be seen as complacent and stagnant. CBS knows Miami will never be as hot on Sunday as it was on Monday, ditto for NY on Friday vs. Wednesday, but there's a method to this madness, even if you disagree in the results.
Question: Do you think we'll ever see Meredith/Derek have a baby on Grey's Anatomy? The moment Callie announced she was pregnant, I think the chances of us ever seeing a MerDer baby went down. I know two women can be pregnant at the same time, but a while ago Shonda Rhimes said there would be no babies, so having two babies around at the same time on a show like Grey's seems unlikely, which is disappointing because watching Meredith and Derek become parents would have been more interesting than this weird non-love triangle that is going on. I guess shocking the audience is more of a priority than telling a story. I just feel like the writers have no plans to give them a baby. I know they're trying to have a baby, but their storyline has been lacking, I don't know if it's because the writers are too focused on the Mark/Callie/Arizona baby storyline, but it seems like they aren't putting any energy into MerDer. Their storyline is all over the place. One episode the problem is Meredith's hostile uterus, the next it's conception. I really hope this MerDer baby storyline doesn't disappear or take years like their house. I'm actually surprised the writers haven't given their house to someone else. I hope I didn't jinx it. After all Mark/Callie/Arizona need a place to raise their child. — ZA
Matt Roush: I'd be much more shocked if Meredith got pregnant than I was ever shocked (or amused or entertained) by this Callie-Mark-Arizona situation. But I'm with you on the house front. What's taking so long? The trick with characters like Derek and Meredith is that they're now a happy couple, which is pleasing to fans who used to hate it every time they had a fight and looked like they would break up again. But dramatically, it makes it harder to build compelling stories around them, so lately most of the conflict in their relationship has been on the work front. The fact that they're even talking about procreating is a refreshingly grown-up development for this show and this couple, but Shonda Rhimes has often stated that Meredith is never going to be a conventional bride (ergo the post-it note), wife and/or mother, so I wouldn't hold your breath waiting for her to go into baby-shower mode. But given that they're trying, it's also possible it will happen when they (and, let's hope, we) least expect it.
Final note: Regarding the Callie/Arizona/Mark baby storyline, I received many thoughtful e-mails after last week's exchange, clarifying many objections to the way the story is playing out. I don't have room to run them all, but here's a representative response, from Dorcas:
"The plot is indeed trite and tired, but beyond that, the offense is not the feeling of anti-gay bias. IT'S THE GUY. They are giving the clear message that Callie and Arizona's lives are less in every way without him: their drama, their sex, their space, their home, their social life, their troubles, their vulnerabilities, their heartbreaks and now irrevocably their family. Why not let them stand strong and falter and recover on their own, as every other couple. Therein lies the frustration and unhappiness. Grey's is not out to smear anyone and they have done many positive things in promoting diversity and acceptance. This baby plot, however, is not only weak but reinforces harmful stereotypes and adds to perceptions of second-class standing for a same-sex couple."
Matt Roush: Points taken, but to me, this underscores the danger in expecting any show's characters, especially a show with such a penchant for twisted romantic melodrama, to represent and send a "message" of any sort to the culture at large. Here's how another reader, Jeanne, sees it:
"Although I haven't yet viewed the most recent episode to see Arizona and Mark's reactions, I can see where the three of the characters striving to raise the child together would work. Mark has wanted a child, and could very well have been chosen as a sperm donor had Callie/Arizona done a planned pregnancy. And as far as the criticism from lesbians, I agree with you that this particular storyline comes up over and over again in long-term dramas, and just because the committed couple in this case is lesbian, should not make a difference."
For many, though, it does. I'm sure this debate is far from over.
That's all for now. Keep sending your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, and in the meantime, follow me on Twitter!