TV Q&A:Ask MattGrey's Anatomy, Brothers & Sisters, Heroes and More
By Matt Roush TV Guide.
Senior Critic Monday, June 4, 2007Question:
After watching the recent Grey's Anatomy finale, I was reminded of two of my other favorite shows: The West Wing and The O.C. These two shows started to become much darker and less comedic a few seasons in and never really recovered in the ratings. Grey's seems to be headed down the same road. Is there any hope for a turnaround, and do you think the more serious and irritating story lines could spell trouble for the show? JeffMatt Roush:
I've been fielding lots of questions like this. Thankfully, Lisa "a Grey's Anatomy fan since I watched reruns of the first season while studying for the bar" reminded me of the greyswriters.com blog, written by Grey's writers and producers, including Shonda Rhimes. As Lisa notes, "Shonda said that this whole season was designed to break everything down in order to build it back up, which I thought explained why this season was so much darker and not funny. (I've noticed that it is now referred to as a 'rom-dram' rather than a dramedy.) I think the introduction of the new interns and the 'rebuilding' next season may bring back the show we all know and love. Do you think this changes anything? How do you feel about the new crop of interns?"
To quote Shonda specifically from her blog: "Next season is all about the fun and the pain and the new beginnings." I'll keep an open mind as the show resets its characters, but personally, I'd rather see more fun than pain. And isn't her company already going to have enough "new beginnings" to keep themselves busy, as they launch the Private Practice spin-off, which looked none too promising during that "backdoor pilot" in early May? For now, I'm hopeful but skeptical that the Grey's writers can get things back on course next season and remind us why we loved this show in the first place.Question:
I was so happy to see that you addressed the Grey's Anatomy and Brothers & Sisters finales back-to-back, since I was going to write in and ask for your thoughts on both of them anyway. For me, Brothers & Sisters replaced Grey's Anatomy as the go-to soapy drama of the season this year, and their finales signify why. B&S has always bordered on somber, and the finale was no exception (Justin's departure, Julia's grief over her baby's death). Yet it still allowed its characters moments of hope (Holly and Sarah making inroads; Holly, Rebecca and Robert jumping into the family pool). Meanwhile, Grey's was a cliff-hangers-for-the-sake-of-cliff-hangers fest. Derek and McWhiney are breaking up again! George failed! Burke disappeared! The Chief actually wants to be chief! There's a long-lost second (or third if you count the mother) Grey doctor (does this mean they can kill off Meredith?)! Plus, I think the saddest part of all is the fact that Shonda Rhimes has rightfully been taken to task for failing to speak out about the homophobic controversy plaguing her cast, and then she proceeded to allow her writers to mine said controversy by leaving the fates of both Isaiah Washington and T.R. Knight in limbo. I think the actors and the fans deserve better. D.J.Matt Roush:
As I said, the Grey's finale left lots of fans in a pretty unforgiving mood. Hard for me to be compelled to shake them from this discontent right now. But I couldn't agree more that Brothers & Sisters more than filled the void. A year ago, Grey's was the show I spent all Sunday night looking forward to. This season, B&S became that show. Both were infinitely more entertaining than the slow road to nowhere that is Desperate Housewives.Question:
In a recent column, you said of Brothers & Sisters: "It may not be a great or particularly important show (except maybe in its matter-of-fact treatment of gay characters and issues), but it is often delightful and moving, and very well written and acted." I don't understand. It's delightful, moving, very well written and acted, but... it's not a "great" show? You've been praising this show quite frequently since at least February, but it's not great or important? What about Grey's Anatomy makes it an "important" show? I'm not seeing it. I've admired your taste and trusted your judgment for years now, so, if you would, please explain. ErinMatt Roush:
Would you accept human error as an explanation? End-of-May exhaustion as an excuse? When I screw up, there's not much else I can say except "sorry." I should never have included that qualifying and patronizing phrase in my discussion of Brothers. The more I think about it, I do think it's a "great" piece of entertainment, in part because I don't think it's self-important, despite the fact that it deals with issues of war, politics and sexuality with a frankness few other shows even attempt. What was I thinking?
I think the point I may have been getting at is that, because the show doesn't take itself particularly seriously (despite some of its truly wrenching drama), it may not be taken seriously at awards time. It doesn't have the weight of The Sopranos or The Wire, the fabulous novelty of Lost or Heroes, or the aching realism of Friday Night Lights. There may not have been room for it on our Dream Emmy Ballot, but that's no reason for me or anyone else to sell it short.Question:
One of the things I liked best about Grey's Anatomy last year were the friendships. I liked the George-Burke friendship as well as those between Meredith and Cristina and between Izzie and George. I loved the fact that Meredith, Cristina and Izzie treated George like "one of the girls." It made his crush on Meredith more poignant and was also just plain fun to watch. The Washington-Knight feud effectively ruined the George-Burke friendship, since the two characters didn't share many scenes following the ruckus. And now the Izzie-George friendship has been squashed in favor of an out-of-the-blue romance. George's marriage was clearly a knee-jerk reaction to his father's death, and there is drama in George's best friend not liking his wife and believing he made a huge mistake.
But Izzie and George's drunken one-night stand did not endear me to either character. Callie married George in good faith and doesn't deserve to be treated with such disrespect. Plus, the way it was structured, I don't believe Izzie loves George I just see her using sex as a manipulation because she doesn't want Callie to have her best friend. I think I could have liked a George-Izzie romance if it had happened naturally a few years down the road. But the timing and structure not only screws up the romance, it totally ruins the friendship. Do you hate it as much as I do? Karen L.Matt Roush:
I didn't mind the one-night stand. That's in keeping with this show's history of letting its characters make, and usually learn from, mortifying mistakes. But to have it blossom into this awkward, unplayable triangle has, I think, been a mistake in large part because it does damage the underlying friendship in a way that will be hard, maybe impossible, to repair. And as Karen says, friendship is one of the foundations of this series. So while I've mostly resisted bashing the show for the way this subplot has developed, I hope they resolve it sooner than later in the season ahead. I'm not a fan.Question:
I know it's been only a couple of weeks, but you never gave us your reaction to the season finale of The Office. I thought it was a great episode, and I was relieved that Jan wasn't pregnant. I also loved the understated way they dealt with Jim and Pam. Jenna Fischer's beautiful performance when Jim asked Pam to dinner said everything we needed. I also think that giving Ryan the job at corporate sets up some great stuff for next season. What did you think? SuzMatt Roush:
I agree. Lots of cool stuff going on, including Jan's meltdown (kudos to Melora Hardin), Ryan getting out of Scranton and from under Kelly's clutches, and especially where they left Jim and Pam. For those who wanted a little bit of uplift in their season cliff-hangers, this was a real treat.Question:
I was puzzled by your enthusiastic review of the Heroes season finale. You seemed to enjoy it. It did have its share of excellent moments and reveals, but the final showdown between Peter and Sylar, was... well, really lame. It was the least exciting fight in TV history. With all the powers each character had accumulated over the course of the season, that fight should have been absolutely thrilling, with both characters showing off different abilities left and right as they tried to kill each other. Instead we got a Darth Vader death choke and the two of them punching each other. Buffy, Angel and Alias each managed to have an epic, exciting finale pretty much every season, and none of those shows (though all superior in quality) had the ratings or the money that Heroes does. I still love the show, but I hope this isn't going to be a habit, where the creators drop the ball and get lazy come May. ChrisMatt Roush:
Would you accept end-of-May exhaustion as an excuse? (Oops, sorry. Already tried that one.) Honestly, while watching Heroes' finale the same night as the pathetic finish of 24 (which I watched first), I may have overpraised this one a bit out of delight that I was actually engaged in the show. And there's no question that the Lost finale blew it out of the water later in the week. I think I was more engaged in the characters than I was in the spectacle, and having Nathan fly in and sweep Peter away was so completely unexpected and, yes, heroic that I didn't mind the fact that this wasn't the biggest action sequence ever. You can get that crap at the movies. Besides, Heroes isn't about superheroes who know how to use their powers effectively. The fact that it came down to hand-to-hand combat with a bit of swordplay almost seemed fitting to me. But I know that for many it was a letdown, and I'll bet you that Heroes never makes that same mistake again. Before I drop this topic, I've got to say that I get a little depressed every time I go out on a limb and shower some love on a show, and then get hammered for it in the Dispatch comments or in this forum. Must everything be so negative?Question:
As always, you remain the most thoughtful and engaging critic out there, and I look forward to your columns, even when I don't wholly agree with you (which isn't very often). Anyway, I've become a huge fan of Heroes, and was jumping for joy as I observed your increasing enjoyment for the show as the season went on. I just read your answer to Santos' question about the show's Emmy chances, and I was quite surprised to see no mention of Hayden Panettiere. Masi Oka is a shoo-in, I'd imagine, and Jack Coleman certainly should be, but Panettiere's nuanced, sensitive, believable portrayal of Claire is an accomplishment that many adult actors should envy. I imagine that if she is overlooked, it will be because of her age, since Emmy tends to ignore younger actors (unlike Oscar). But shouldn't her name certainly be in the mix when the show's Emmy outlook is discussed? Claire was, after all, the show's major icon (even more so than Hiro, I would say), and she was the only actor who appeared in every episode this season. KellyMatt Roush:
A fair point, and she certainly did have her share of turmoil over the season. Maybe it's a matter of personal taste here, but I just didn't see enough range in her performance, despite all the curves she was thrown, to merit an Emmy bid. She was fine, but not Buffy fine. (And if Sarah Michelle Gellar could go all those years without Emmy notice, I can't help but think this cheerleader is destined for a similar fate.) Realistically, though, her age probably will work against her, as will the genre in which she works. Which is unquestionably unfair.Question:
By the end of this season, I found Jericho to be one of the best shows on television. I believe the reason it didn't gain a big enough audience throughout the season is the same reason Invasion failed as well: Both shows started out with a great and original premise, but they started out far too slowly. For the first half of the season, they failed to unfold the story line at a pace that kept viewers interested. This obviously resulted in a loss of viewers. I feel both shows picked up and really hit their stride during the second half of their opening season and both morphed into one of the best new shows for their respective seasons. All too late. It seems understandable that a new show needs time to find its way. You were fairly negative to Heroes at the start but have come around to see it for what it is: fantastic. The networks seem to have no patience to let a show grow. It's a shame because we miss out on some potentially fantastic second seasons. On a side note, a couple of weeks ago you said that Heroes doesn't compare to Lost in terms of character development. I agree, but I feel that's unfair because Lost has had three seasons to develop its characters. I consider it apples and oranges. For pure entertainment value, I pick Heroes, with Lost a close second. Martin E.Matt Roush:
We'll have to agree to disagree on that last point. By the end of Lost's first season, we were immersed in the characters already. From the get-go it reached deeper than the flashier comic-book theatrics of Heroes (although I am intrigued by where they'll take this "origins" concept next season). But you make an excellent point about how some of TV's more ambitious high-concept shows often need time to find their voice and rhythm. That was absolutely the case with Invasion, which started off too murky and slow for many people but ended on a run of riveting, thrilling episodes. It's a shame too few were around to witness it. Jericho likewise improved along the way, and I still find it puzzling that a network so desperate for buzz would nip this one in the bud just as it was starting to get interesting.Question:
I can understand your frustration with Buffy/Angel/Whedon fans who seem determined not to give CBS' Moonlight a chance. But on the surface of things, the show does sound derivative. (Remember Forever Knight as well!) In selling any new show, a network has to have a hook, something to set it off from other shows, and Moonlight at present has no hook. I have to confess that my own interest is minimal and will continue to be so until I hear something really good about it. Contrast this with NBC's Bionic Woman. The more I hear about this show the people David Eick has hired to run the show, the writers who are joining the staff, the casting of various roles the more excited I have become. You mentioned that some in the industry are calling for a recasting of Moonlight, and I couldn't agree more. I might check out a new vampire show with a male lead, but I would definitely check out a show about a vampire detective if the lead were female. Suddenly the show would acquire a hook that it currently lacks. One reason you shouldn't get down on Whedon fans who aren't excited about Moonlight is that a lot of us were never really interested in seeing a show about vampires. I became a huge fan of Buffy and Angel despite the fact they were about vampires, not because of it. We were drawn to the genius of Whedon's vision. Heck, I'd watch anything he did, regardless of subject matter. I'm loving his current work in comics, but I really wish he'd get back to what he does best. RobertMatt Roush:
All I'm saying (and can I just say how reluctantly I'm wading back into these waters?) is that people with a taste for out-of-the-ordinary TV should keep an open mind unless given a reason not to. And to be clear, Moonlight's recasting did not involve the male lead, who to my knowledge is still Alex O'Loughlin (currently on The Shield). Finally, it's specious to think Buffy and Angel acquired its following just because there were vampires and demons in the regular cast of characters, and that we should get excited (or not) any time a vampire shows up on TV. Supernatural or not, it's all about character and how a writer uses the conventions of any genre to illuminate themes about life, love, destiny, coming-of-age, redemption, you name it. What I saw was a knee-jerk reaction to the very thought of a show that ventured into this territory, and that's just wrong.Question:
With the sudden downturn in quality for 24, as well as the fair-weather audience erosion experienced by Lost despite its creative rebound and the wild-card status of Heroes and some high-profile nonstarters (such as The Nine and Studio 60), do you think this year offers a better-than-usual opportunity for giving Emmy recognition to other dramas whose quality is widely acknowledged but conventional wisdom says would never make the cut? I'd like to think that after Grey's Anatomy and The Sopranos get their presumptive (and mostly deserved) nominations, there will be enough sense among voters to throw a bone to The Wire, Friday Night Lights or The Shield, which any objective and reasonable person would count among TV's current best dramas. However, popularity seems to get more weight than objective quality when it comes to handing out nominations, and I'd hate to think that Criminal Minds stands a better chance of making the cut than any of the others I mentioned. (After all, it was given the post-Super Bowl slot, so it must be good... ahem.) Is there any chance of intelligence playing a role in the nominations process, particularly this year? Randy F.Matt Roush:
That's a question we won't know the answer to until July, isn't it? You don't have to worry about Criminal Minds, though. Not even the good procedurals tend to make the cut these days. It's like they're invisible, and are way too easy to take for granted. Personally, as long as 24 (last year's winner) isn't on the list and Friday Night Lights makes the cut, I'll be OK with the rest, although ignoring The Wire again would be a crying shame. I'd go for it even over The Sopranos, but that'll never happen. As you may be aware, TV Guide's recently published Dream Emmy Ballot includes Friday Night Lights, Heroes, Lost, The Shield and The Wire. My current prediction as to what the actual list will look like is closer to this: The Sopranos, Grey's Anatomy, Friday Night Lights, House, and either Lost or Heroes. This, of course, is subject to constant change and revision up to the announcement in July. Handicapping the Emmys is the biggest crapshoot (and I kind of mean that literally) of any given year.http://www.tvguide.com/News-Views/Co...t.aspx#01greys