Question: I thought this might be the year when The Walking Dead would finally be represented among the Emmy nominations, at the very least for Melissa McBride as supporting actress for last season's devastating "The Grove" episode. But the noms came and went with nary a Dead mention. I thought this show was among the most-watched basic cable shows, often posting numbers to rival some of the highest-rated broadcast programs every week. I know that its genre is already one strike against it, but is this show also a victim of its own success regarding recognition, where the more popular a show is, the more it provokes attitudes from voters that "normal" people might see as snobbish or anti-populist? While it's true that the dispersal of everybody into smaller groups during the second half of last season was seen as less than successful, and the quality this season appears to have roared back with a vengeance, I'm still thinking there will probably be no difference next year, recognition-wise.
On a side note, I can't remember ever seeing a character evolve like Carol has, from an easily dismissed doormat/wet blanket early in the run into the show's most interesting character. Maybe it's because hers was the most radical transformation: from timid housewife to a post-apocalyptic Rambette who is willing to teach kids the new facts of life, who can single-handedly bring down a railyard full of cannibals and who will do the things that nobody else will admit need to be done, particularly in removing threats from within. I remember that some critics jumped ship last year with either the character or with the entire series after her coldly pragmatic solution to the Lizzie problem. Are you still on board?
Also, I never bothered with reality competition shows, mainly because the few times I tried, the exaggerated theatrics among "competitors" and everybody's presence obviously allowing casting directors to check certain boxes on a form was far too distracting. This year, though, against my better judgment, I tried watching Face Off. Imagine my surprise to find competitors not backstabbing, fighting with or sabotaging each other, and in fact giving constructive advice, physical assistance and other support to their competition. Confessionals are all about the pride in or disappointment with their own creations — I don't remember hearing anything about the work of others, certainly not negatively. The judges evaluate the work by discussing the work, and somehow don't make it about themselves. Advice from an expert during challenges results in thoughtful re-evaluation rather than obstinate defensiveness. Finally, the creations are usually very good, sometimes incredible, and occasionally awe-inspiring, and you're likely happy for whoever made it because there are no designated bad guys. Apparently I'm behind the curve, having already missed six seasons, so do you have any feel as to where it stands with Syfy regarding its future? — Mike B
Matt Roush: That's a lot to digest, but you're touching on some of my favorite topics (kind of perfect for Halloween week), so here goes. First, don't hold your breath waiting for Emmy voters to embrace The Walking Dead — and let's look past last season, which with the exception of Melissa McBride's amazing work was rarely the show at its best. It is odd, though, to see how little recognition Dead gets, when FX's preposterously campy, shrill and more disgusting-than-scary American Horror Story franchise reaps tons of nominations, albeit in the less cluttered miniseries categories (way to game the system, guys). I'm not sure that it's a victim of its own success. More like the horror genre in general, and this show's graphic violence in particular, are working against its chances for Emmy love, and the relative strength of other candidates in the robust field of TV drama. But I agree with all you say about Carol and McBride, and the episode with her and the girls last season was Dead at its most bleak, unforgiving and memorable. Am I still on board? Am I ever. And I'm glad to have been on the Critics Choice TV Awards nominating committee last year that recognized McBride with a supporting actress nomination.
As for Face Off, I've been championing this terrific competition series from the beginning. The creativity is astounding, the camaraderie inspiring, the mentoring by Michael Westmore fascinating, the judging always to the point and rarely cruel. No reason to doubt Syfy's support. The show was just picked up for an eighth season, starting Jan. 13, which is great — although I am a bit concerned about its format, which brings back three past winners to select and coach teams of five throughout the season. The team aspect is a worry, because Face Off flourishes in the individual challenges, and if this means they often have to work in tandem, that's when attitude tends to kick in — who's in charge, whose vision is being realized — and it could threaten to look like the other lesser, louder, nastier shows in this field. I trust Face Off will rise above as it usually does, because this season (wrapping Tuesday) has been absolutely terrific.
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Question: I'm not sure if she has had an Emmy nod, but in my opinion Bellamy Young deserves at the least a nomination if not a win. Her portrayal of Mellie Grant on Scandal is amazing. I'd rather watch her than anyone else on the show. She plays the mentally anguished mother who has lost her son perfectly. She is also great at standing up to her cheating husband, even if he is the President of the United States. On another note, I also enjoy Joe Morton as Olivia's father. His character is so different from Henry on Eureka. - Foster
Matt Roush: And Joe won an Emmy last season (as guest actor for his recurring role), so that was a nice prize for what has been a varied career. Just as welcome a surprise was Bellamy Young's win for supporting actress at last year's aforementioned Critics Choice TV Awards. Such bravura work she's doing as the Madwoman of the White House, and last week, watching her rationalize the murder of her son as some sort of warrior's sacrifice to the First Family's ambitions was somehow both chilling and entertaining. She has certainly earned her place at the Emmy table, but that's a tough category to crack. Though if she were appearing in something called American Horror Story: Scandal, she'd probably be a shoo-in.
Question: I love your column, and I just wanted to applaud ABC for its Wednesday line-up. I am a huge fan of The Middle and Modern Family, and I love the fact that ABC moved The Goldbergs to the Wednesday schedule. I am also enjoying Black-ish. These shows all represent the good family shows of the past, when you wanted to either be home to watch them or at least record them for later viewing. Nashville is even quite good this season, especially with the addition of Derek Hough! For my family and me, ABC is scoring a home run on both Wednesday and Thursday nights as our "must-see TV." That has not happened in a while and I am glad that someone at ABC finally got it right. — Michelle
Matt Roush: It really has taken a while for ABC to assemble a winning Wednesday lineup of family comedies, each with a distinctive bite and a spin, and Black-ish is quickly developing into one of my favorites. The episode about spanking was pointed, funny, at once very specific — and how bizarre for this show and Starz's Survivor's Remorse to each use Hot Wheels tracks as a device — while having fun with a universal parenting dilemma. I'm also on board with ABC's all-Shonda Rhimes Thursday roller coaster (although now that CBS is back in the Thursday mix with its shows this week, the DVR is about to have another overtaxing night) — even if I find it hard to imagine a family watching those shows together. Even Nashville has re-entered my playlist as a guilty pleasure, and I'm glad Hough's character isn't being played as a jerk. The show is beginning to feel like a country version of Valley of the Dolls, and I haven't concluded yet if that's a good or bad thing.
Question: My fiancé and I are loving Gotham, but have been debating for about a week now about Bruce Wayne's character. My fiancé is far more interested in Bruce's story to become Batman, while I'm more into the villains, including Poison Ivy and Catwoman, who are about the same age as Bruce. So what we're looking to know is if you've heard anything about the show time-jumping in any way next season? It seems to us that unless the show is on for 10 or so more seasons, we'll never see the actual beginnings to those characters. — Jessica
Matt Roush: Haven't heard anything about a time jump, and I'd be surprised if there's a significant one anytime soon, if ever. In TV Guide Magazine's current cover story on Gotham, executive producer Bruno Heller is quoted as saying, "It's very much a show about the long story," and I doubt they'll be rushing anything. (Although it seems to me Selina Kyle's transition into a younger Catwoman could happen sooner than later, even as Bruce continues his training at the hands of Alfred.) This is never going to become a true Batman series, because DC has a vested interest in keeping the big-screen franchise separate, much as Smallville never let Clark truly don the cape. The focus is likely to stay on Detective Gordon's lopsided battle against corruption and the development of the arch-villains' backstories, with Bruce's moral (or otherwise) development a consistent reminder of what's to come. But when that comes, it won't be Gotham anymore.
Question: Back in September, you commented on how one of the only "new" and "fresh" shows this season was Showtime's The Affair. After watching the first two episodes, I agree 100 percent. Everything from the acting to the directing to the writing just seems to work so well together, and it is quickly becoming an obsession of mine. The thing I find most interesting about the show is the use of the duel points of view to tell, essentially, the same story. I know the tactic was used in the recent film The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby, but has this ever been done before on a long-term (every episode of the show) basis in the TV world? I personally think it's the most compelling part of the series, and I hope that Emmy voters are beginning to take note of what is shaping up to be the best show of the season. — Kevin
Matt Roush: This is one of those shows that, as you get caught up in it, is hard to stop thinking about. The little details that shift between Noah's (Dominic West) and Alison's (Ruth Wilson) points of view, and the disparity of the lives they lead separately, make The Affair a truly fascinating, one-of-a-kind drama. A slight spoiler alert that episode 4, airing this Sunday, will break the format, when Noah and Allison spend a fateful day together on Block Island. The episode is still split between his and her perspective, more or less, but the action is continuous instead of presenting the same event from two angles. Doesn't make what transpires any less riveting, and it's an hour I'm keen on re-watching for more behavioral clues.
Question: I love Homeland this year, a nice change of pace without Brody and how they are including way more of Quinn this year with his backstory! Please tell me this will not be the last year! - Mike
Matt Roush: Too early to call, but I'd be shocked if Showtime cuts bait quite yet. The network has a good track record in recent years of announcing a final season well in advance, so we can prepare for the end. (Latest example: Nurse Jackie.) Besides, the show has improved considerably this season, in topicality if not always credibility — watching Carrie cross the line emotionally and sexually with the vulnerable Aayan, I'm sure Quinn wasn't the only one squirming.
Question: I am really worried about the ratings decline for NCIS: LA on Monday night and it is disheartening to see. This is one of my favorite programs, so it would be disappointing to see it get the axe as it still is entertaining and compelling to watch. Any good news on whether CBS still supports this fine series? — Pamela
Matt Roush: I wouldn't lose sleep over this one just yet. It's got miles to go before CBS puts it to rest, and given the importance of the NCIS franchise to the corporate bottom line, keep in mind that its profitability extends way beyond the Monday night numbers. (Airing three crime-based dramas in the same time period, something had to give. And given that an NCIS drama has never occupied the 10/9c slot, I'm not surprised it's running behind the shows previously established on that night.) CBS has a tradition of shaking up and moving around many of its long-running hits — the NCIS mothership being an understandable exception — in an effort to replenish the schedule with new shows, a strategy that has largely paid off. When a show like NCIS: LA is unmoored from its compatible lead-in, it's fair to speculate that it could be the beginning of the end (as it was eventually for the various CSI spinoffs). But that end won't be an immediate one, and I wouldn't start counting the days until it gets shuffled off to Fridays or the late slot on Sundays.
Question: I am really liking the new show Forever on ABC. I know its late Tuesday-night spot puts it up against some tough competition with Person of Interest and Chicago PD. I know it is early yet, but does it have a chance of making it for a full season and being picked up for another year? — Taylor
Matt Roush: First things first. I do think ABC will give the likable Forever a full-season order to continue developing its characters and mythology. It's not doing wow numbers in a tough time period, but considering the trouble ABC has had there in recent seasons, I'd like to think they now realize the mistake they made in not being more patient with Body of Proof (as the sort of utility player most networks rely on) and will let this more fantastic procedural find its way. At this point, though, it's way too early to project about a second season. So many variables in play regarding the network's needs and how the rest of the schedule ebbs and flows, including at midseason.
Question: On last Tuesday's episode of NCIS, if the pirates were Brazilian, why were they talking Spanish instead of Portuguese? How ignorant do they think we viewers are? — Marie
Matt Roush: Probably just ignorant enough. Can't say anyone in my household picked up on that one. I guess I was too distracted picturing Gibbs as Captain Phillips.
Question: How did Thursday, which is supposed to the most competitive TV night of the week, become Saturday? Is this season's Thursday-night line-up the worst ever? There is absolutely nothing on Thursday right now that I like, and football is only partially to blame for it. Even when CBS finally starts its new lineup this week, there will only be two shows on that I like, with 90 minutes of crap in between! You only had to wait half-an-hour between Seinfeld and ER (switching The Millers and Mom is not an improvement). NBC might as well bring back Jay Leno. (The theme of The Biggest Loser is returning to your glory days? It's obvious network programming executives don't know about irony.) I gave up on Grey's Anatomy years ago, and The McCarthys does not sound interesting at all (and it replaced The Crazy Ones, a show that I liked). And worse, two shows that I actually like, Glee and Parks and Recreation, are being held back while the networks try our patience with crap like A to Z, Two and a Half Men and Gracepoint! Why? — Shamu
Matt Roush: It's always dangerous to assume that just because you don't like something, no one else does. (In producing a column like this most weeks, it helps to acknowledge that not everyone shares my tastes, and most definitely vice versa.) If you've been a fan of the NBC-brand niche comedies, I get that this fall would be a huge disappointment. Their new Thursday comedies are boring-to-awful, and The Biggest Loser occupying an hour of the night has much to do with CBS's football incursion, but I disagree that Mom isn't a step up from The Millers. Like Black-ish, although much broader, Mom is at least about something tangible in this hard-knocks society, and Allison Janney earned that Emmy last season. I also wish The Crazy Ones had been renewed (especially when you see the blarney that is The McCarthys), but to write off a night that has the Shonda Rhimes trilogy and Elementary and these last precious hours of Parenthood and even the durable Bones, I'm not buying it. Thursday is still a mighty potent night, and once NBC gets back in the game, with The Blacklist moving to the night in February and Parks and Recreation presumably returning at midseason for its final run, it will get even busier.
Question: I am loving the new show Madam Secretary. I do have one question, though: Why is it we never see the vice president in the show? They show the president, chief of staff, Madam Secretary and her department, but never the vice president. — Natalie
Matt Roush: Insert your favorite disparaging veep, or Veep, joke. Rodney Dangerfield might as well hold the office for all of the respect it gets in most TV shows. (Pop quiz: Do you remember who served under President Bartlet as V.P. on The West Wing? I had to look it up myself.) I guess we just have to assume that President Keith Carradine's No. 2 is more consumed with domestic than international affairs — and that, as in most political dramas, the chief of staff (here played by the ever-wily Zeljko Ivanek) has more actual power, especially when it comes to wrangling with other members of his boss's Cabinet. Here's a thought: Look closely and if you see any photos of Selina Meyer (aka Julia Louis-Dreyfus) in the background, that may answer your question.