TV Q&AAsk Matt
(from the Ask Matt
column at TVGuide.com
)Brothers & Sisters, The Office, Crossing Jordan and More
By Matt Roush: TVGuide.com
TV Critic Monday, April 23, 2007Question:
I have to admit, I find no sibling more boring on Brothers & Sisters than Tommy Walker. And I'm beginning to think the writers think so, too. In the "Three Parties" episode (April 8), there was neither hide nor hair of Tommy, and (sadly) I didn't really care. Margot Kidder managed to get scenes in, so I find it hard to believe they couldn't find a way to wedge in Tommy. He and the wife never have good plots. Even ones with inherent drama the babies, the winery with Holly have no spark. Why do you think the show is having issues integrating Tommy in as well as they have the other siblings, and do you think it's a major concern? AnnaMatt Roush:
Ouch. But essentially, you're right. When Brothers & Sisters premiered, my initial reaction was that all the brothers were being upstaged by the sisters and the mother. But as the season progressed, Justin became much more interesting and sympathetic, and Kevin broke new dramatic ground as one of the most frankly portrayed gay characters on TV. By comparison with Justin's recovery and military-service story lines, and Kevin's sexual misadventures, Tommy's impotence and workplace intrigues pale.
And unfortunately, Balthazar Getty is no more able to bring interesting shadings to an underwritten role here than he was on Alias in its final season. This isn't an issue big enough to dampen my enjoyment of the show, which has grown steadily throughout the season, but I hope the writers see it as a challenge.Question:
Is it just me, or does it seem like the days are behind us when a show creator/writer with a pretty good quality track record like David E. Kelley or Aaron Sorkin could snap their fingers and get a network to commit to a new show?
Will the ratings troubles for The Wedding Bells and Studio 60 make it more difficult for talented people like Kelley and Sorkin to get show commitments in the future? And when new fall shows are announced next month, do you think the networks will focus more on the pedigree of the producers, the name recognition of the actors involved or the show concepts that can be described succinctly to the audience? Paul L.Matt Roush:
As I often say, if it's more about the deal than about the show, that's a recipe for disaster. Every successful TV producer is well acquainted with failure. (I'm surprised you didn't mention J.J. Abrams, whose name was associated with recent duds like Six Degrees and What About Brian.)
So I doubt it will be any more difficult for talents like Sorkin and Kelley to get their pitches heard just because of a few high-profile misfires. Who wouldn't want to be in business with the brains behind shows like The West Wing and The Practice? Who knows when the magic will happen again?
Looking ahead to the fall, I have to hope that the networks will focus less on who's behind the show or who's in the show, or even if the show can be sold in a punchy promo, than whether the show is any good. I know it's a pipe dream, but unless the business changes drastically, it's still going to be easier for established producers to get their shows on the air. And if there's a recognizable face in the cast to help launch the show, even better.Question:
I was wondering if there was any word yet on whether Jericho has been renewed. I think this show deserves a chance to flourish. I know you are not a huge fan of the show, but I value your opinion and would like to know what you think. BridgetMatt Roush:
The final word on Jericho probably won't be known until CBS holds its upfront presentation in mid-May. I will tell you that my opinion of the show improved after its return in February, when it became less about SuperJake saving the day and has evolved into a darker, potentially more disturbing post-apocalyptic series about an isolated town making tough choices to allocate limited resources (sort of a Lifeboat-style situation when refugees came to Jericho seeking shelter and supplies).
Typically, this creative surge coincided with the show's fall in ratings. Jericho never really recovered from its long hiatus, and coming back in a winter dominated by reality hits probably didn't help. I admit I was surprised that it didn't continue to grow. Jericho's biggest problem is that it airs on such a successful network, one not known for giving marginal performers a long rope, especially when the series is so "off-brand" (in other words, not a procedural crime drama). On the "plus" side, Jericho plays well into CBS' new online initiatives, and you'd think the network would like having at least one cult-type show on the schedule. I hated the show when it premiered, but now I find myself almost rooting for it.Question:
What is your opinion on the dramatic drop in ratings of NBC's Thursday-night comedies, more specifically of The Office? As a huge fan, I find its ratings decrease to be a bit mind-boggling. I understand a new Survivor has arrived, but I felt the show had picked up some serious steam and viewers in the wake of the Emmys last year and the SAG awards this year not to mention that the quality has yet to falter.
Do you believe the ratings decrease has to do with the audience's impatience with the tired Jim/Pam/Karen triangle and the more dramatic and angst-y approach taken this season to one of the most adorable and lovable non-relationship relationships in TV history? To be honest, even I, a fervent and loyal fan, feel the sadness deters my enjoyment of an otherwise brilliant episode and thus have to re-watch to truly laugh at its greatness. Does NBC expect the casual viewer to hang in there week after week watching Jim continue to date a girl he's not that into while Pam cries and looks on with sad puppy-dog eyes in the background? MoniqueMatt Roush:
There are many circumstances at play with NBC's downturn on Thursday: a confusing cycle of new and repeat episodes through the spring, the early onset of Daylight Savings, the increased competition on Fox (of all networks) with Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? and the exodus of viewers during spring-break weeks. I'm not the expert at ratings number-crunching, so I'll tackle the creative angle to argue that NBC's devotion to the single-camera comedy format may also be hurting it in the long run.
Individually, I enjoy each of NBC's Thursday comedies, but with the exception of the broadly played My Name Is Earl, they all have a cult feel about them. Which is OK by me, but I can't help thinking someone at NBC wishes there were a Friends-like mass-appeal breakout in the mix to make the lineup more competitive.Question:
I don't understand why everyone seems so certain that Crossing Jordan will be canceled. Granted the show does not draw the same numbers it once did, but of the 21 prime-time shows that aired the week before last on NBC, only three had higher overall viewership numbers (7.6 million viewers). The ratings have been much higher than some of NBC's already-renewed shows, including 30 Rock, and Jordan has performed solidly up against American Idol, which surely says something of its ability to draw an audience. Viewers have followed the show through short seasons, delayed starts and schedule changes, and there is a strong indication that many fans would tune in next season. Why would NBC cancel such a solid performer when much of the rest of their schedule has been so rocky? ClaireMatt Roush:
All valid points, I'm sure, but the bottom line here is probably the bottom line. A show ending its sixth season tends to get more expensive to produce, and the situation is likely the same as the one CBS faced when it cut loose Judging Amy after six seasons. I would think Jordan skews a bit younger than Amy did, but the way NBC has treated Jordan like a utility player (delaying its premiere until January, burying it on Wednesdays), I figure its utility to the network has worn out. If NBC still believed in the show, don't you think it would have found its way back into one of the 10 pm/ET time periods where it once flourished, on Sunday or Monday (now occupied by reality time-wasters like the fading Apprentice and, starting tonight, the execrable The Real Wedding Crashers)? NBC is in rebuilding mode, clearly, which is why it's continuing to take a gamble on newer shows like 30 Rock and, potentially, Friday Night Lights. It already has plenty of aging franchises (Law & Order, ER) on the schedule. Jordan may be one too many.Question:
After reading all the speculations regarding the current CBS Monday night sitcoms, I just had to write. First, why would a network pull the plug on a good show just to fill it in with a new sitcom in the fall? Ever heard of "If it ain't broke, don't fix it"? I was shocked to hear that How I Met Your Mother could even be remotely considered to be taken off the air. It's bad enough that The Class was sent packing too soon and will likely not return because Rules of Engagement had a following. How does eliminating a really great sitcom (Mother) for a more mediocre one (Rules) benefit the network? It surely would not benefit us viewers.
Second, since CBS seems to have more sitcoms than time slots, did the powers-that-be ever stop to consider rotating the shows? I would vote yes to more new episodes (not just during sweeps months) of any sitcom they have than to suffer the loss of any of them. Why not alternate The Class with Rules instead of bumping one for the other? I am quite sure it all boils down to money and not what the consumer really wants. I may not be the coveted 18-35 (or whatever the demographics are), but I am the one watching, waiting and contemplating whether to keep giving you my time, CBS! AmyMatt Roush:
It's all pretty much as you already surmised: "It all boils down to money and not what the consumer really wants." What I'd like to see is for Rules to be asked to pull its weight in the 8-9 pm hour, the way Mother in particular has had to do from the start. The fact is that Rules held on to the Two and a Half Men lead-in more consistently than The New Adventures of Old Christine (a show I love, tonight's episode is a gas), and that's what ultimately matters.
The idea of rotating shows in the same time period, thus avoiding repeats, is an interesting one. But again, financially speaking, it's doubtful. Among the sorts of shows that tend to repeat well (besides CBS-style procedurals) are sitcoms, especially the more traditional-looking ones like those CBS prefers to air. I'm afraid that unless CBS opens up a significant new comedy night (doubtful), we're going to have to say goodbye to at least one sitcom (possibly more) currently on the schedule to make room for the return of the regrettable Rules.Question:
On 24, we have Chloe, Karen, Jack's occasional romantic interests and CTU staffers who come and go, but I have not seen one female CTU field agent. Michelle doesn't really count because it was just one time. Nina was a traitor and actually only left to pretend to die in the first season. But how about a female Curtis or Tony who can back Jack up without it getting lovey-dovey? I would think that there are female agents who routinely do this sort of thing. I thought for a minute that the girlfriend earlier in the show this year might turn out to be an agent working undercover, until she went stupid and killed her boyfriend and turned in Morris. Carla Gugino would be a great agent for 24. I just realized that this show is a little sexist (stop laughing) and that most of us would not mind seeing the women kick a little butt, too! Besides, a female agent probably wouldn't get killed as quickly as all of the male CTU agents sitting in their Ford Expeditions. S. DixonMatt Roush:
Show of hands: Who would object to Carla Gugino becoming Jack's new partner in the field? Nobody I know, that's for sure. With Alias off the air, and Painkiller Jane such a painful dud, and given the history of Joel Surnow and Robert Cochran (among others) with La Femme Nikita, it is curious that, with the exception of Chloe's Rambo moment a while back, we haven't seen Jack's distaff action-figure equal. That would certainly be one way to shake the show out of its torpor.Question:
When I watched the first season of 24, I recall thinking, "This is fantastic, I hope they don't try to continue it as is." Halfway through the second season I saw it falling into the trap I knew it would by keeping the same cast and concept each season. What I wish they had done was come up with a clean cast and situation each season. They might have gotten 20 years out of the franchise that way. Season 2 could have been a massive viral outbreak. Season 3 could have been a hostage situation. The possibilities are endless, really. By Season 5 or 6 they could have gone back to stopping terrorists while still making it seem fresh. Don't you think A-list actors would be lining up for such a show, knowing they had to commit for only one season? Seems like an opportunity wasted. On a brighter note, wasn't the April 9 "Bachelor Party" episode of How I Met Your Mother amazing? I don't believe I have laughed harder at anything than the bridal shower scene. I hope they get a renewal soon. I would hate to see such a show fall through the cracks just as it's hitting its stride. Brian K.Matt Roush:
On 24: What you're describing is, more or less, an anthology miniseries, which would certainly be an interesting hybrid, and you make some intriguing suggestions. But for better or worse, what has helped keep 24 so popular for so long is the continuity of Jack Bauer, his loyalty to David Palmer (and lately to his legacy), certain CTU personalities, and so forth. This season does appear to be the tipping point where comfort level has atrophied into boredom (especially in the CTU and White House arenas), and much needs to change next season. But not Jack Bauer as the hero, at least not yet. Let's see how the show reinvents itself (one hopes) next season before throwing in the towel altogether. As for How I Met Your Mother: Yes, Robin's naughty gift at Lily's bridal shower (not so much the antics of the bachelor party) was one of the funniest bits I've seen in a long time. The gag built and built, and managed to be both raunchy and clever (reminding me a bit of Seinfeld's "Contest" that way) and made me laugh out loud every time I watched or showed it to others. Definitely a high point of the show's season to date, and a good argument for keeping Mother around.Question:
Why are TV shows compelled to preach (not so subtly) on certain topics that require public awareness? ER recently had not one, but two examples: First, the "9/11 cough" the paramedic had, and then how ovarian cancer research does not have same the funding as breast cancer. Don't get me wrong, these are legitimate issues. Unfortunately, they are inserted into the script in a very disjointed way. There was another ER episode several months ago that involved Hurricane Katrina victims, and it felt like a news report on the issue rather than a scripted TV show. In a stark contrast, Friday Night Lights incorporated the Katrina victim/football player from New Orleans earlier in the season, and that story fit seamlessly into the story line. I feel as if shows like ER are patronizing us in the way they broadcast these Public Service Announcements. Is it me, or have you noticed this as well? LoriMatt Roush:
I haven't yet seen the episode you're discussing, but I'm not exactly surprised. It's even worse when a sitcom does a "very special episode." At least in a hospital drama, topical issues of health care come with the territory. The problem with ER in its dotage is that so few of the characters have actual personality, the preachiness is more noticeable and the case of the week begins to look more like a soapbox. Grey's Anatomy is often knocked for its patient-as-metaphor approach, but we're often so caught up in the personalities, it rarely gets in the way of our fun.Question:
Please ask your readers to write to Gilmore Girls and tell the producers we don't care if the "girls" leave. Tell them we want the show continued under the hat of Luke's Diner. We want Sally Struthers, Curt, Richard, Emily and all the other characters to continue in America's favorite little town. Wouldn't it be cool to have Luke dating someone like Jennifer Aniston or Courteney Cox, or anyone who can be sweet but act nuts? AlliMatt Roush:
You lost me at the end. But why not just call it Stars Hollow and let us revel in the bliss that is Mrs. Kim, Miss Patty, Sookie and Jackson, et al? And much as I love the elder Gilmores, what would compel them to hang at Luke's without (I'm guessing) their daughter or granddaughter? And this, of course, presumes that Luke and Lorelai don't end up together. I'm not going to open that can of worms. My mail has been relatively (and blissfully) Gilmore-free lately. I'm just trying not to get upset by the thought of the show possibly returning for even a shortened season. I was so looking forward to the farewell.http://tvguide.com/News-Views/Column...efault.aspx#02