Elisabeth Moss Elisabeth Moss

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Question: I'm starting to think Elisabeth Moss is going to have a major problem to deal with next summer: deciding which Mad Men episode to submit for Emmy consideration! Peggy has always been one of Mad Men's most complex and intriguing characters, but this season it just feels like Moss and the writers providing her material have been stepping it up more and more in each episode. I can't decide which Peggy moment has been my favorite so far this season: her dabblings in '60s counterculture, her moving reaction to the news of Trudy Campbell's pregnancy, her clever takedown of the horrid new art director, or any of her scenes with Don in the heartbreaking "The Suitcase" episode. What really is blowing my mind is that we're only about halfway through this season of Mad Men. If it's this good already, I can't even imagine how great the climactic episodes are going to be! I just wanted to check in and see if you have been enjoying Peggy lately as much as I have been. I know many fans have been missing Betty this season, but as much as I enjoyed January Jones' fine work in the Draper divorce storyline, I am thrilled to see my favorite former Sterling Cooper secretary taking the spotlight this year. Thanks again for helping turn me on to this great show four summers ago. — Erin

Matt Roush: This really has been the season of Peggy, and the "Suitcase" episode hit it out of the park — for Elisabeth Moss and for Jon Hamm, whose grieving drunken Don Draper hit what I have to hope will be the bottom. (For my thoughts on that extraordinary episode, check out my Week in Review column here.) Peggy truly is one of the most fascinating characters on TV. Sympathetic but never sentimentally portrayed, startlingly pragmatic in her ambition yet covetous of praise and recognition from the mid-'60s boys' club she's trying to break into, she has become in many ways Mad Men's heart and soul. I do wish the season had been just a bit more generous toward Betty, who since the divorce has only been shown as a bitter, emotionally stunted and damaged harpy. I know this is primarily Don's story, but yikes.

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How great were Jon Hamm and Elizabeth Moss on last week's episode of Mad Men? I know it's way early, but with Bryan Cranston ineligible for next year's Emmys, Hamm's unbelievable performance in "The Suitcase" will be tough to beat. Of course, we'll have to wait to see what Michael C. Hall has in store. — Rich

Matt Roush: Because the new season of Breaking Bad isn't scheduled to return until next summer, making it ineligible for next year's Emmys, that does present a wide-open field for the best drama actor category, sewn up the last three years by the terrific Mr. Cranston. (I'm thinking he'll be just as happy to let someone else take the podium next fall.) Putting Don Draper on such a downward spiral all season has given Jon Hamm plenty of dramatic red meat to chew on, and his mood swings in "The Suitcase" demonstrate such range. A wow for sure. I thought Michael C. Hall had a good shot at winning his Emmy for last season, because the John Lithgow "Trinity" arc really raised everyone's game, and he may be at a disadvantage this season by having a less epic adversary. (I've seen the first three episodes of the new Dexter season, and he's doing a great job at internalizing Dexter's grief while externalizing his rage.) It's anyone's game, because the early "Huddy" episodes of House are pretty terrific as well for Hugh Laurie, another slam-dunk nominee who's long overdue a win. Can't there be a two- or three-way tie one of these years?

Question: Just watched the season finale of White Collar, a family never-miss, but was very upset to see the character of Mozzie shot and left for dead. I hope "they" are not going to pull one of those ego-driven numbers (see House with multiple, who-cares-about-them cast members added after the first few seasons, and the buzz about getting rid of some of our favorites on Criminal Minds) that weaken a successful show for the sake of "the new." Mozzie is a major reason we watch White Collar, and replacing this idiosyncratic and fascinating character with a number of slim indistinguishable females is a no-go. He is irreplaceable and as far as we are concerned, losing him will make the show Jump the Shark. — L. Bennett

Matt Roush: I don't think you have to worry about this particular show fixing what isn't broken and doing something as drastic as actually killing off Mozzie. I don't know for a fact what to expect in the back half of the season this winter (because that would mean chasing down a spoiler, and this is a spoiler-free zone), but last we saw Mozzie, he was still breathing, so I have to think this cliffhanger is intended to 1) startle and worry you, and 2) to let you know how deadly the new Big Bad (Paul Blackthorne) is, if he'd go so far as to threaten our lovable little anarchist. But surely we've all watched enough TV by now to know that when a character is shot in a season finale, unless they actually zip up the body bag and unless it's likely they might return as a vampire, we can assume he's not quite dead yet. (For the record, I'm still hoping they don't magically resurrect the Kate character, since characters who blow up off-camera and whose bodies are never recovered are also often dead in name only. In this case, that would be a terrible cop-out.)

Question: I think this is a little ridiculous with The Big Bang Theory needing to prove itself every year like it is a new show. It has had four time slots in four years. The first year it was on Monday at 8:30/et and grew out of How I Met Your Mother every week. It then moved to 8/et and averaged 10 million viewers, and in the third year at 9:30/et it was the #1 scripted show on all of TV for the all important 18-49 year olds. Now they're saying it needs to prove itself again on Thursdays. CBS put it in a very tough situation in a low-rated 8/et time slot on a night CBS has not shown sitcoms since Gilligan's Island in 1965. I think The Big Bang Theory has proved itself as a major hit, no matter what it does in that impossible spot CBS put it in. Why do you think it needs to prove itself again, while other established hits simply stay in the same time slot every year, and do not need to prove their success? — Scott

Matt Roush: You're looking at this situation as if CBS somehow has a lack of confidence in the show, when the reality is the complete opposite. From the network's point of view, this isn't so much a test as it is an opportunity to establish a comedy beachhead on a new night and to shake up the schedule and rattle its rivals in an unexpectedly bold way. I agree that, on a very basic level, it is annoying to have a favorite show bounced around the schedule, and I'd be perfectly content for another year of Big Bang laughs on Monday night. But in this case, if the Thursday experiment should somehow fail, it will not endanger Big Bang's long-term prospects. It will be more a case of it being the wrong strategy on the wrong night — though few at this point think the move will be a disaster. Big Bang is still a relatively young show, and is coming off a major (and well-deserved) Emmy win for Jim Parsons, so there's momentum at play here. What's happening is not the network challenging Big Bang to prove itself. It has already proven itself. This is part of CBS' big-picture strategy this year not to play it safe or rest on its laurels, which is why two of the three CSI shows are moving to new nights to open the field to potential new hits. I'm rather impressed by the network's moxie.

Question: I was wondering if NCIS is changing the structure of the show. They seemed to focus on a Gibbs story from Mother-In-Law on to the end. After that followed about four Tony episodes. I love the old Three Musketeers (Tony, Ziva and McGee) episodes trying to impress their father figure. I was wondering if there were new writers and the focus is less team and more-older women fantasies (Gibbs and DiNozzo). While I love new writers and a new bolt of lightening occasionally, I also miss the old NCIS of 7 1/2 years. The old tough Ziva is gone, McGee isn't his geeky self and Tony is having very weird obsessions. DiNozzo is funny, but like my high-school class clown I can only take him in small doses. That's why the ensemble always worked. And Matt, where is the real Ziva hiding? Not only did they change a wonderful story of Ari being killed by Ziva to save Gibbs, but they never even addressed her trauma during four months of captivity. — Lindsay

Matt Roush: The majority of mail I get about NCIS continually emphasizes one thing: Fans want the old Ziva back. According to the editor here who keeps a close watch on the show, there is no plan (as some have apparently rumored) to ease her out or to necessarily soften her. Everyone's going to get their moment in the spotlight this season, even if the stories in the latter part of last season may have emphasized Gibbs over the team. The show chose to tell a certain kind of story to build to its cliffhanger, and not everyone appears to have liked it. Like in the next question.

Question: NCIS has been a must-watch the last couple of years for me. I found the last part of the last season flat. I found the Mexican storyline, the Rena Sofer part and the change (no more kick butt) in Ziva's character disappointing. While last year's cliffhanger was intense, I found this year's was forgettable. I'm hoping they repeat the finale because I've forgotten most of it. I did notice that the ratings dropped continuously over the last 8 shows of season 7. It appeared that the extra 4 1/2 million people that started watched at the beginning of the season dropped off and the normal numbers were back. Matt, do you think that NCIS has run its course and the No. 1 ranking is up for grabs next season? — Karen

Matt Roush: Keep in mind that in the back half of the season, NCIS is going up against the #1 phenom on TV, American Idol (even in an inferior cycle like last spring's). Its numbers are going to take a dip from that and also, historically, from early-evening viewing patterns after Daylight Savings Time kicks in. It's still a monster hit, though, and even with Glee as direct competition this fall, will likely maintain its supremacy in total viewers. (Forget the younger demographics, though, if Glee holds up in its second season.) From what I've seen of the new fall programming, I don't see the likelihood of any new breakthrough drama unseating NCIS from the #1 slot. But no show stays on top forever, and a little slippage is to be expected over time.

Question: Will DirecTV's 101 Network return with a new season of the brilliant Australian crime drama The Underbelly? If it was shown on a larger network, it could very likely be the "new Sopranos." — Jonas

Matt Roush: So I hear, and I hope to become more acquainted with this series at some point. The good news: A new season of Underbelly will start on Oct. 5 on the 101 Network. On a side note: For anyone with a taste for gripping Down Under crime drama, check your local art-house schedule and look for the acclaimed film Animal Behavior (a chilling saga of a low-rent crime family, with a murderous matriarch who makes Livia Soprano look like Ma Ingalls). Very dark but highly recommended.

Question: I understand that Criminal Minds will be on for another season, I am happy to hear this since I believe it is the best of its kind on TV, and even look forward to watching the re-runs. My question is: Will JJ (A.J. Cook) return? I have read that she will not be included as part of the team this coming season. I happened to stumble upon this show by accident and have been hooked ever since. — Ed

Matt Roush: You'll see her in the first two episodes of the new season, which will set up the character's departure. After that, she's not even listed in the cast credits on the network's episodic press releases, and the storyline for the Oct. 6 episode describes "Hotchner looks to one of the team to fill JJ's vacant role." So start preparing your farewells. From all accounts, it looks like once she's gone, she's not coming back.

Question: I absolutely love Drop Dead Diva. It is cute, funny and witty. Do you have any thoughts about it? Also, we haven't heard if it will be renewed for a third season yet. What's the hold up? And how is it doing, ratings-wise, on Lifetime? Do critics even like this show? — Christine

Matt Roush: I haven't a clue why Lifetime's series (including Army Wives, although its spin-off appears dead) are in pick-up limbo for the moment, but I'm not hearing anything to indicate that Lifetime won't eventually announce it's bringing this show back. I hope and believe it will get a third season. I find Diva a delightful diversion, a very sweet fantasy-comedy that seems a perfect fit for this channel, and perfect for summer. The critics who pay attention to the show seem for the most part charmed by it, and why wouldn't they be?

Question: I was trying to find out when Sanctuary will be starting again and I couldn't find anything about the show being on TV. However, I saw an ad that season 3 is going to be available on Netflix. If I'm reading things correctly, the Kali episode was the end of Season 2, so Season 3 must follow that. Are they going directly to DVD and not showing the program on TV? - Lee

Matt Roush: Nope, it's still set to return to Syfy, but a little later than first expected. It was originally announced that the second season of Stargate: Universe and year 3 of Sanctuary would be paired on Tuesdays starting Sept. 28. Last week, Syfy changed plans and has decided to return Sanctuary to its original Friday time period (10/9c) starting Oct. 15, following wrestling. SGU will now be paired on Tuesdays with the back half of Caprica's first season (beginning Oct. 5), so plan accordingly.

Question: I loved Scoundrels and could not believe how good it was for a summer replacement. Will the scoundrels at ABC be bringing the TV show Scoundrels back this fall? I will hate to boycott ABC and their ad products. I can't believe they would make us wait till next summer to find out what Wolf is going to do about Sgt. Mack. Does he go back to jail for assault? Hold it against his wife? — Betty

Matt Roush: I'm afraid you may not be getting an answer to any of these questions, although you'll probably have your opinion reconfirmed that the ABC programmers are scoundrels. The jury's still out on The Gates, which wraps its summer season with back-to-back episodes this Sunday, but the ship has almost certainly sailed for Scoundrels. Neither show exactly caught fire, but Gates enjoyed a bit more fan and critical buzz. It all really depends on what ABC's strategy is for next summer and whether it includes scripted product besides the Canadian import Rookie Blue, which has already been renewed. If I had to bet on either Sunday show coming back, I'd put my money on The Gates. Sorry.

Question: I have really loved following the show Who Do You Think You Are? and have found it to be so fascinating to hear about the histories of the various people it has followed: Sarah Jessica Parker, Emmitt Smith, Lisa Kudrow, to name a few. I am amazed with the stories the genealogists give and their insights to the pasts, and how wonderful they present this information to the person they are researching. Just to be able to touch some of those old, old books and papers would be unbelievable! Do you know if the network plans to renew this show this fall/winter with new searches for new celebrities? — Lisa

Matt Roush: Can't tell you when the show will return, and I haven't heard which new celebrities will be shaking their family trees, but Who Do You Think You Are? has been renewed for a second limited season. It's sharing the Friday 8/7c time period with the new school-makeover docu-reality show School Pride, and Pride will be first on the air starting Oct. 15. So I'd advise looking for Who Do You Think sometime this winter. I imagine a lot of viewers got curious about their own ancestral pasts watching this show.

That's all for now. Keep sending in those questions to askmatt@tvguidemagazine.com, and in the meantime, follow me on Twitter!

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