Ask Matt: Entourage, Ringer, Closer, Torchwood and More!

Sarah Michelle Gellar | Photo Credits: Scott Alan Humbert/The CW
Sarah Michelle Gellar | Photo Credits: Scott Alan Humbert/The CW

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Question: I know you weren't too fond of the final season of Entourage (to put it nicely), but I was curious if you thought Jeremy Piven's work this year was worthy of an Emmy nomination? — Joe

Matt Roush: Sure. I wouldn't mind seeing him get one last nomination. He used to own that supporting comedy actor category, winning three in a row before he dropped off the radar (along with the show), part of the backlash after his controversially aborted Broadway gig in the Speed the Plow revival. Piven certainly got the best material and storyline in Entourage's final season, and he made the most of Ari's emotional and physical deterioration after the collapse of his marriage. Even if you didn't buy the grand gesture of him ditching the agency to win back Mrs. Ari — although it's pretty clear he'll take up the offer to "play God" as head of an entertainment conglomerate — Piven lit up the screen in a way Vince & Gang had long forgotten how to do. It may still be a long shot, though, for Piven to get back in the Emmy race, given that Entourage will have been off the air for so long before next year's nomination process gets underway, and his work (not to mention the show) may not be as vividly remembered.

Question: I was pleasantly surprised by the first episode of Ringer. I was a huge Buffy fan because of the writing of the Whedon crew, so I follow the writers and not the cast. But the show seems to be a good fit for Sarah Michelle Gellar, and it was soapy and suspenseful in a very mainstream way. While the "twist" at the end of the pilot was entirely predictable, there are enough questions to keep me coming back for more. What did you think? I am not one of those people who avoids watching a TV show I think will be canceled (thus encouraging networks to cancel it), but I do hope a show like this is produced in sensible 13-episode arcs. More shows seem to be trying to hedge their bets that way. While I'm not asking for spoilers, do you have any sense of whether or not the show has mini-endgames planned in case the show doesn't go the distance? (Whedon was great at that for most of Buffy's run). — Rebecca

Matt Roush: I was more fair to Ringer than many critics. I'm not entirely convinced there's enough material in this set-up to fill an hour every week over the long haul, but I have a soft spot for this kind of glossy mystery melodrama, and I liked her and the cast (especially the two men she's caught between, Ioan Gruffudd and Kristoffer Polaha). So for now, I'm on board. And while a story like this has to stay open-ended by its very nature of building suspense and twists along the way, I agree it would be wise for the writers to cushion the cliffhangers with some sense of resolution at the end of the first 13 — and the back nine, should Ringer be so lucky (which it probably will be) — so that fans won't be too perturbed if the show doesn't make it to a second year. It's awfully hard to predict the threshold of success and failure on a mini-net like the CW.

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Besides waiting for the premiere of Dexter, any feedback on Homeland, also premiering the same night on Showtime? - Mike

Matt Roush: I'm reviewing Homeland in the issue of TV Guide Magazine that will be out this week (also mentioning Dexter and the new season of Luther in a discussion of "TV's Tortured Heroes"), and I'll be posting a review online closer to the Oct. 2 premiere date. I've seen the first three episodes of Homeland and Dexter this season, and while I'm not sold yet on Dexter — it's beginning to feel awfully routine, and this season's theme of faith is very heavy-handed — I am very high on Homeland, which is hands-down the best new drama on TV this fall. Damian Lewis is electrifying as a Marine returning home from eight years in Al-Qaeda captivity, and Claire Danes is his match as an unstable CIA analyst who suspects he may be a sleeper-agent terrorist in war-hero disguise. He's a wreck, she's a mess, and Homeland is riveting. There's also some good work here from Morena Baccarin as Lewis's conflicted wife and Mandy Patinkin as Danes' understandably concerned mentor. Can't wait for people to see this one.

Question: Reading last week's Ask Matt column, I was shaking my head yes, it would be nice to see Brenda Leigh go out on top. Then I saw the summer finale. Whoa. I was not expecting that last scene. I certainly hadn't put Brenda in the "above the law, outlaw justice" category, but that was an impressive list and of course I can't remember the details of all of them. I am really looking forward to how this plays out. What did you think? Are you disappointed they didn't put this whole issue to bed? — Megan

Matt Roush: Not disappointed at all. It was a good twist, raising the stakes for Brenda while giving the show an opportunity to look back at her entire timeline with Major Crimes. This should keep everyone busy through the winter mini-season — the show returns November 28 with five new episodes — and then we'll see where it goes for the final batch next summer.

Question: Since last week was the final "summer" episode of The Closer, does this mean we will still have a winter series to come? I had believed that this was the end of a wonderful show, but I am not sure. I sincerely hope that I am wrong. I will definitely miss this show. Is there a specific reason that Kyra Sedgwick decided to leave after this year? There are still so many wonderful stories to be explored with her and her team. I have read that there is the possibility that the show may continue with all of the other characters remaining? Is this definite or only a possibility? If so, what will happen to Fritz, Brenda's husband? — Mary Ann

Matt Roush: There's still quite a bit of confusion among some fans regarding what's happening with this franchise. Here's the deal: After the five-episode run in November and December, The Closer will be back for a final run of episodes next summer, marking the end of Kyra Sedgwick's participation in the series. This transitions directly into a spin-off, Major Crimes, which will be built around Mary McDonnell's character of Sharon Raydor but includes many of the Closer ensemble. Can't really say what part Jon Tenney/Fritz will play in this, because that depends on how they write Brenda out of the show. And I prefer not to know that for now. The main reason Sedgwick has cited for leaving the show at this point is that she prefers to go out on top and not overstay her welcome, plus a desire to get back to her life on the East Coast with her family. Seven seasons is a pretty good run for any character. And who's to say she won't pop back into the world of Major Crimes from time to time?

Question: What I liked about the Torchwood: Miracle Day finale: There was more Gwen and Jack. Mekhi Phifer's character got shot. This season was put out of its misery. What I didn't like about the Torchwood finale: There needed to be more Gwen and Jack. Mekhi Phifer's character survived. It didn't make a whole hell of a lot of sense. What I HATED about the Torchwood finale: The whole cliffhanger ending with the Families. Russell Davies needs to put this whole plot and the American emphasis to bed. Get Gwen and Jack back to Cardiff. What I REALLY HATED about the Torchwood finale: Jack's immortality was due to the power of the TARDIS being channeled through someone who was never meant to have it and couldn't control it (Rose). Now it turns out Jack could have saved Ianto with a simple blood transfusion? Let's start next season with Mekhi Phifer's death and ret-conning everyone else.

On another note, I loved the finale of Rescue Me. It was true to the series (in both the good and the bad) and didn't over-sentimentalize. I will miss this show, particularly the writing — it was always the fastest hour of the week for me because the incredible dialogue made it so much fun to follow. — Rick

Matt Roush: Good point about Jack's blood. Given all the loss the Torchwood gang has endured over the seasons, to have the most annoying and poorly written character in the show's history be immortalized is a true jump-the-shark moment (and I'm on record for not liking to point such things out). Also agree with you on Rescue Me. Talk about a show that knows how to memorably kill off a character.

Question: I know you weren't the biggest fan of Torchwood this season and you can't really speak on behalf of network decision-makers, but can you give us your best guess on its chances for renewal on Starz? Did the audience grow from its former home on BBC America? I would like to hope so. The finale wasn't a 180 in terms of quality, but it had its moments. I would have preferred Esther and Rex to have switched places mortality-wise, but I liked the twist at the end. I want to think of this as an opportunity for Mekhi Phifer to grow as an actor and stop playing the same pompous, arrogant jerk capable of a selfless act once in a blue moon that he's been playing most of his career. More John Barrowman and Eve Myles in American TV and film is an exciting prospect. Despite what some people are saying across the Atlantic, it's not America's fault Miracle Day wasn't nearly as good as Children of Earth. I think they just bit off more than they could chew and didn't have the time to tighten the story and add more meat per episode. I have faith that Russell T Davies can pull it off next season if given the chance.

Miracle Day has to be at least a peg or two underneath guilty pleasure True Blood, with its often maddening policy of equal screen time for every single regular cast member. I like the show the best when they get most of the characters in the same place at the same time, but they're lucky if they have two out of five good stories going on simultaneously. Andy's V addiction was the most annoying subplot yet. At least the majority of the heavily proliferated cliffhangers made for a mostly satisfying finale. I'm just wondering how long they can continue to pull this show off in the long run. From what I've gleaned, the show is more or less going through one book per season and the 12th book is set to be released sometime next year. It appears as though HBO is interested in having this show on forever, but what of the actors, contract negotiations and budgetary concerns that tend to swell up over time? Looking at HBO's past, 5-6 seasons is generally the sweet spot for an HBO original scripted drama if it's lucky to get enough public and critical notice. I'm just trying to wrap my head around Stephen Moyer at age 49 in the 12th season of True Blood. My bet is that they're going to skip or amalgamate a few books, or go the Dexter route and splinter off into a drastically different canon (the most logical choice). It wouldn't hurt if they reduced the amount of filler subplots that tend to go on without leading anywhere. Any additional conjecture you'd like to add? — Gene

Matt Roush: The future of Torchwood, by all accounts, is in Russell T Davies' hands. (Sort of the way future seasons of HBO's Curb Your Enthusiasm always hinge on Larry David's own enthusiasm and drive.) If Davies comes up with another grand idea that catches Starz' fancy, there may well be more to the story, but it may not happen on a normal renewal timetable. Maybe a little time and distance would be the best thing for all involved, given how Miracle Day turned out. Regarding True Blood: For better or worse, this is a show about excess, and that includes an overabundance of characters to follow, not all of them earning the attention (Andy and Sam have been the two biggest offenders lately, at least for me). As long as True Blood sustains its popularity, I'm sure HBO will want to keep it around, but I don't see it lasting as long as the book series, in part because these actors and writers will all eventually want and need to move on. But now that they've told the story (from book 4) of Eric's amnesia and love tryst with Sookie — a high point for the book and TV franchise — I'm betting the series will begin veering even further away from the books than it has already. Given how forgettable some of the more recent novels have been, this can only be a good thing for the HBO cast and crew.

Question: Eureka was my favorite summer program because it was always fun and never taxing. I will miss all of those sweet characters, just as I will miss the creative Fringe series should it get the axe. Doctor Who will remain my quirky buddy. However, I am very disappointed to learn that certain cable channels which are my refuge from reality shows are leaping on board to soak us with more reality slop. What did we TV viewers do to deserve this reality waterboarding? (Maybe I don't want to hear the answer to that.) — Val

Matt Roush: I've also enjoyed what I've seen of Eureka over the summer, and am sorry there's only one more season to go. Very fun show, and Fringe and Doctor Who are among my faves as well. But to your point about cable networks like TNT, USA, FX and AMC getting into the reality biz — these shows being longtime staples of the Syfy and BBC America schedules, by the way — this is an inevitable progression, given the economics of the business and the popularity of unscripted TV across so many platforms. We just have to hope that some of these programmers will be as concerned about quality control when developing these shows as they have been toward their scripted product. Because not all "reality" TV is "slop" — I try not to be a snob about such things — and a creatively produced unscripted program that doesn't degrade its participants or its viewers is something I don't mind recommending or even watching.

Question: So I have to comment on how amazing this season of Breaking Bad has been. Just when I think the show can't go any farther, it continues to surprise me. I really loved the "Hermanos" episode giving us the insight on Gus's past before he became the Chicken Man. It was interesting to see the parallels between Gus and Max vs. Walt and Jesse, almost uncanny except for the fact that Walt and Jesse escaped their "meeting" with Emilio, et al. We get to see Gus as his former self, displaying actual emotions for what I think is the last time until we see him in the elevator. We are left wondering if the path for Walt and Jesse will be as grim as Max's outcome. Jesse's downward spiral is fascinating to watch. I am so captivated by the previous images of Jesse in front of his TV while the blood red from the video game encircles his emotionless face. For me it echoes a scene in Taxi Driver. Maybe I am reading too much into that scene, but I can't help but think he is attempting the same as Gus, to hide all evidence of emotion, when he is really an emotional wreck. I also like the so-called coupling of Mike and Jesse, for some reason I find them entertaining in that Hurley and Sawyer kind of way.

Meanwhile, Walt has some sort of normalcy as he and Skyler are working on keeping Walt's adventures under wraps by portraying a semi-normal life as far as Hank and Marie are concerned. I like how Skyler is willing to sacrifice her own relationship with her son by having Walt take back the new car he gave him, in order to protect the family image as middle class instead of incredibly rich thanks to meth. She's comfortable being the bitch in this situation because someone has to be. Hank's involvement and determination to uncover the real nature of Gus is perhaps the most nerve-wracking to watch as he is literally sitting on what is likely the biggest drug bust of all time right under his nose. I'd like to know your thoughts on the decision to only have the show go on for five seasons? I am torn by it as I think there is only so much you can tell with this kind of story without viewers getting frustrated. At the same time I am really enthralled by the characters and their actions. It is one of the best character studies I've seen since Lost and I for one will be sorry when it comes to a close. — Maya

Matt Roush: Another week, another Breaking Bad rave. Do you get the sense this show is having another outstanding season? I agree with almost all of these observations, and as usual, some of them get turned upside down from week to week — especially after a thrillingly pivotal episode like Sunday's "Salud," with Gus exacting grisly revenge on the cartel, forcing Jesse to shoot his way out of that carnage, while Walt and Walt Jr. have their wrenching face-to-face in the wake of Walt's beatdown from Jesse. This show's level of sustained tension, including of the emotional variety, is so compelling I've sometimes found it hard to focus on this year's Emmy field, because it feels so incomplete without this show and these players. I'm at peace, though, with Breaking Bad heading toward a definite endgame. Much like The Shield, this isn't a narrative that can continue indefinitely without overstraining our credulity. Vince Gilligan has taken Walt & Co. down roads I would never have foreseen, but at some point there will have to be a reckoning. And I can't wait to see what that will be. But yes, of course I'll miss it once it's over. Much as I do The Shield, even though it had one of the most satisfying conclusions I've ever seen.

Question: I was devastated to hear that HawthoRNe had not been renewed by TNT. Even though the storyline this season was very depressing, it still had fans hungering for better times and kept them tuning in to see what the writers had done next. Added to this is the fact that there was a great cliffhanger. Could this show be picked up by another network? It has a great fan base. — Denise

Matt Roush: Sorry, but no. It's even less likely for a failed cable series to be rescued than it is when a network series gets dumped and picked up somewhere else (and that's a fairly rare occurrence). To be honest, I was surprised this one made it to a third year, but it's a reminder that no matter the show, there are always going to be fans dismayed when something doesn't make it. (I'm just surprised I haven't heard from the Chloe King fans yet. Not that I'm eager to open that door.)

Question: I was just looking over the fall schedule in TV Guide Magazine and noticed that there are NO listings for Saturday. What happened to Saturday? I remember years ago when Saturday night produced some of the best and most successful shows on TV. In addition to the old Mary Tyler Moore Show, there was a whole group of shows that were very popular on that night. Why won't the networks risk putting new shows on Saturday nights? Why aren't the awards shows on a Saturday night? They run so long, you'd think that Saturday would be better than Sunday to show them since people don't have to get up early for work on Sunday. When did the networks decide that they would completely ignore Saturday? I'm sure there has got to be an audience that would stay home and watch TV on that night. What is their reason for making NO attempt at new shows on this weekend night? — Larry

Matt Roush: This question tends to come up at least once a season, usually at this time of year, when it's especially obvious that networks continue to sidestep the "Saturday problem." The problem being that long before the networks started ignoring Saturdays, the mass audience began ignoring Saturday TV to the point. I grew up during that classic CBS era of Mary Tyler Moore-Bob Newhart-Carol Burnett, and was covering TV during the Golden Girls era, so I remember when networks could be very profitable on Saturdays. But especially once VCRs began changing home viewing habits, it became harder for any network to launch a successful show on the night, and even CBS, the network with the most traditional viewer base, eventually gave up. This season, CBS is bucking the trend by airing new episodes of longtime utility player Rules of Engagement on Saturdays, but that's more of a burn-off to build up the show's inventory of episodes for syndication. (Although I wouldn't be surprised if it moves back to Thursday eventually, should the horrific How to Be a Gentleman collapses.) Airing major awards shows on Saturday doesn't make sense from a programming point of view because networks want to maximize profits by airing them on nights (like Sundays) with much higher viewing levels. It may be a self-fulfilling prophecy that no one watches network TV on Saturdays because the networks give them no reason to. But in this economic climate, that's hardly going to change.

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