Ask Matt: AMC, BBC America, Hetty on NCIS: LA, Switched at Birth, Warehouse 13
Linda Hunt | Photo Credits: Monty Brinton/CBS
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Question: AMC has some of the best scripted shows on television, from Breaking Bad to Mad Men to The Walking Dead to The Killing. So my question to you: What's next? Do they have another show or miniseries on the horizon? And can it possibly be as good as what's come before? — Marcus
Matt Roush: Time will tell when it comes to quality. AMC is unquestionably on a roll, with only a few stumbles (Rubicon, the Killing backlash) amid these groundbreaking shows, and even their failures tend to be interesting, so there's no reason not to be hopeful. Among the most recently announced pilots in development (from May) include a Crime and Punishment-style murder drama, Low Winter Sun, based on a British miniseries about a cop murdered by a fellow detective — this version will be set in Detroit — and an untitled legal thriller from Richard LaGravenese (The Fisher King) dealing with race and capital punishment. Doesn't sound to me like a network that's coasting.
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Question: I had a quick programming question regarding Switched at Birth. I fell in love with this show last summer and was eagerly anticipating its return. However, there's still no return date listed on the ABC Family website. I did find an unofficial return date of September elsewhere on the web. I'm not necessarily upset by the move (besides the fact I'm sad about waiting longer for its return), but I'm curious about the reasoning behind the decision. Do you have any light you can shed on the matter? — Lindlee
Matt Roush: Here's news that surprised even me. According to ABC Family, Season 1 of Switched at Birth isn't even finished yet. The show will return in early September with eight new episodes to round out a first season that will comprise a staggering 30 (!) episodes. A pickup for a second season hasn't been announced, but a renewal is a no-brainer. As to why Switched isn't airing this summer, I was asked a similar question recently about why Syfy was holding back on a new season of Haven (previously a summer show) until late September, and it more or less comes down to an embarrassment of riches. These channels are juggling a number of successful shows these days, and to manage these assets, they need to spread them out, not lump them all together in the summer, even if that's where many first found success. Besides, ABC Family is marshaling its resources this summer to launch the promising new series Bunheads (think Gilmore Girls with toe shoes), starring Broadway triple-threat Sutton Foster and created by Gilmore's Amy Sherman-Palladino, which premieres tonight (9/8c) alongside a new season of The Secret Life of the American Teenager. (Personally, I'd rather see Bunheads paired with the far superior Switched at Birth, but Teenager's popularity will likely help launch Bunheads to good numbers. With that peculiar title, it might need the boost.) Switched at Birth is a strong enough (and good enough) show to take on the networks in the fall. Given that ABC Family split the first season into thirds, I imagine you'll see them continue to try this one out at various times of the year, but it is peculiar not to see it as part of the summer lineup.
Question: Linda Hunt leaving NCIS: LA will destroy it. It was suffering from the Deeks character and the juvenile dialogue written for him. With the loss of Hetty, little will be left to attract an audience. Miguel Ferrer has destroyed every series he has been a part of. With a deadpan delivery and zombie-like acting, it makes for painful watching. So long Kensi, G and Sam. It was nice knowing you. — BK
Matt Roush: I'm not sure Miguel Ferrer deserves to be branded a show-killer, but I agree that losing Linda Hunt could be a deal-breaker for many fans. I assume this rant is in response to our reporting in our recent "Burning Questions Answered" issue. Here's how executive producer Shane Brennan addressed the situation: "Hetty's resigned. We'll see her in the opener, but she's no longer with NCIS. She's retired." And we also report that Assistant Director Granger (Ferrer) will take over in her absence. My reaction to this: We've seen Hetty quit before, and nothing in that item convinces me she's gone for good. This is the kind of game shows like this play between seasons to keep viewers interested, even at the risk of agitating them. So the best I can say for now (as is often the case) is: Stay tuned. (And if it does turn out Hunt is leaving: Bon voyage, Hetty. It's been grand.)
Question: One of the pleasant surprises of the recently completed TV season was BBC America joining the cable tier I have. After the switch to digital cable some time ago, I was able to see some BBCA programs like Being Human, The Hour, The Choir and The Inbetweeners On Demand. Since getting full access, I have enjoyed 6 Nations Rugby matches, the Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race and the Queen's Diamond Jubilee events coverage that are unavailable On Demand. Nobody covers royal events like the Beeb. It's too bad BBCA couldn't show the Jubilee concert as ABC cut out so much of it. With the upcoming BBCA original drama Copper, I'm a little concerned they may push aside the British dramas I love to be more "American." If this and future original dramas are as good quality as the British ones — as Copper promises to be — I shouldn't really worry. But "Dramaville" is only one precious hour a week in contrast to many hours of Top Gear. Is Copper a dilution of the BBCA brand, a needed injection of fresh programming, or something else? Maybe they could make room for (gasp) two hours of "Dramaville" from time to time. — Frank
Matt Roush: Wouldn't that be nice. But figure that the success of shows like Top Gear helps BBCA afford to import what little precious drama does make it onto the schedule. With talents like Tom Fontana and Barry Levinson behind Copper, which premieres in August, I can't imagine this series diluting the brand or even overly Americanizing it. Yes, the show is set in 1860s New York City, in the melting pot Five Corners neighborhood, but the central character is an Irish-American cop, so I'm sure we'll be treated to a mix of BBCA-friendly accents.
Question: I read the number of episodes for Warehouse 13 in this season was increased from 13 to 20. Does that mean it will be 10 this summer and then 10 next summer? It didn't work out with Eureka when Syfy aired season 4.0 one summer and then season 4.5 the next summer. If there is such a long break between each half of a season, it'd be better if they kept the season order to 13 episodes per summer. Announcing an increase in episodes sounds good, but it actually can be a lot worse. It'd be better if they went back to airing 10 episodes in the summer and then another 10 in the winter. It was great with the Stargate shows. — Ryan
Matt Roush: Syfy will split the new season of Warehouse into two batches of 10 — the first half will air from July 23 to Oct. 1 — and while it hasn't yet been decided when the back half will air, I'm betting it will be closer to the Stargate model (airing both halves within a year) than what happened to Eureka, which never should have been kept off the air so long between partial seasons. Warehouse 13 is doing very well for Syfy, which is why they expanded its episode order. I would be very surprised if they didn't try to maximize their investment by airing the back half during winter or early spring.
Question: Any chance Harry's Law will continue on a cable network?!? Even though the demographics were not up to snuff for NBC, the numbers are excellent and we grayheads do contribute to the economy with our purchases. We love Kathy Bates and Harry Korn!! — Sue
Matt Roush: Without question, Harry's Law has generated the most passionate response to any cancellation this season. But it seems unlikely for Harry to be resurrected, or we'd probably have heard something by now. (With Warner Bros. as the producing studio, TNT would be the most likely cable home, but they're rather full up on development already, and this show and cast would likely be out of their price range.)
Question: For the last couple of years, I have cursed Fox for how they handled certain shows, often canceling them without any warning or under-promoting them. In the past they have shown episodes out of order like Sliders and Firefly or have under-promoted others. Which brings me to Fringe. I believe they have done a pretty good job on handling this show. Other shows with such low ratings would have been canceled without fanfare. But Fox has held on to Fringe for dear life. Their only real misstep was moving it around from good time slots to the dead zone which is Friday. They did show one episode out of order, but nothing to mess up the flow of the series. If Fox didn't care, this show would have been gone a season ago. It is one of my favorite shows and to me is one of the best shows on Fox, but I have to ask why has Fox kept pushing for Fringe when it has given up on so many in the past? — Mike K
Matt Roush: It's a fair question, but I'd like to think some shows are just too good and too special to be thrown on the trash heap without a fight, and Fringe is one of those. (Community is another, but after three seasons of anarchic bliss, that may be a case where it might have been better for the network and studio to just let it go.) With Fringe, the network always stood behind it creatively, even when it became clear it was never going to play it safe in an attempt to gain a larger audience. In a smaller way, it was Fox's Lost, and letting Fringe continue to its natural end point in its fifth season is a rare achievement, made possible by what seems to be extraordinary cooperation between network, studio and production team. Sometimes it's best not to ask "why," and just enjoy the miracle while you can.
Question: You recently addressed a question about the possibility of John Noble receiving an Emmy nomination — something you said would be a long shot given how far under the typical Emmy voter's radar Fringe is. This got me thinking: Who is the typical Emmy voter? I like TV, and I feel like I'm pretty aware of what's new and interesting on TV. I understand why some "regular" people might not be aware of a show like Fringe, but presumably Emmy voters are not "regular" people — they're industry insiders. I remember reading that Academy Award voters are overwhelmingly white (more than 90 percent I think), overwhelmingly male (more than 70 percent) and average over 60 years of age. Do you know if the demographics are similar for Emmy voters? Do you think this is a factor? — Jessica
Matt Roush: From what I can tell, the TV academy doesn't release demographic information on its 15,000 members, but I'm not sure that age, race or gender are factors here. What I've noticed over time is that many in the TV business are too busy making TV to watch much TV — unless it's HBO (or, nowadays, the elite cream of the rest of cable), and it can take a while for certain types of shows to register, if they ever do. Fringe being such a, well, fringe show (in premise as well as ratings) tends to doom it when it comes to this sort of recognition.
Question: I watched the first five or six episodes of The Good Wife when they first aired, but it didn't grab me, mainly because it seemed to be primarily Yet Another Legal Procedural, which along with crime and medical procedurals I've sworn off of with the rarest of distinctive exceptions: House, Sherlock, Awake, Fringe, Life on Mars, etc. Yet, for what I thought was going to be a by-the-numbers CBS snoozefest for the highest end of the demographic scale, the show seems to be in the pop-culture Zeitgeist somehow. Now that there's not much on, I'm considering giving it another run. Does it get better, when, and in what ways? How much of it is still the case-of-the-week? I take it that the guest actors are one of its claims to fame, in addition to the regulars, but I hope there's more to recommend it than the acting. — Brian
Matt Roush: Looking at your short-list of preferred shows, I'm not sure The Good Wife will ever be out-of-the-box enough to suit you, but the box it's in is pretty deluxe as far as I'm concerned, raising the bar (as it were) for procedurals. I've never considered The Good Wife Just Another Procedural (but then, I try not to be a procedural snob, believing there's good, bad and mediocre in just about any genre), and while they do handle different cases every week, the stories tend to be smart and topical and witty and suspenseful — this is one of TV's best-written as well as best-acted series — and as the series has evolved, Alicia's sense of moral relativism has repeatedly been challenged, as she walks a treacherous ethical tightrope that tends to blow back on her precarious personal life, which gets messier by the year. If that sounds like a show you'd enjoy watching, fine. If not, also fine. But I'll add that The Good Wife has one of the richest ensembles on TV, and the characters have interesting lives that exist outside the office and courtroom, but even at work, the office politics are as explosive (and often very funny) as the ruthless Chicago politics that never stop intruding on Alicia's life and work. I'm not remembering an "a-ha" turning point for the show, because I was pretty much hooked from the start. But as often happens on shows of this caliber, the complications (legal, familial, sexual, you name it) get deeper and more provocative the longer you spend in its world. Snoozefest it's not. I'd put it at least on par with a show like House, and the bench strength on this show is much stronger.
Question: I watched the first couple of episodes of Touch and quickly lost interest. Then I caught the Touch finale and wondered how this might shake things up on the show. Now that Martin and his son are on the run from the authorities and some shadowy corporation, will the show be more interesting? Will Martin and Maria Bello's character team up for Season 2, or will she be gone as soon as they find her Amelia? — R Kyver
Matt Roush: Maria Bello is a confirmed cast regular for Season 2, so she's sticking around. For me, the smartest thing Touch could do is to expand its world with new characters and complications. So while I'm not sure these new elements will ultimately help Touch succeed — on Fridays, no less — it couldn't hurt.
Question: For a very long time, I've heard that Saturday nights were like purgatory. Was it always like this or was it different? — Michael
Matt Roush: If by "purgatory," you mean a dead zone for original network programming, that has been the sad fact since the late '90s, which is the last time all three networks programmed Saturday night aggressively. (NBC's last stab at a Saturday lineup included the one and only season of the gone-too-soon Freaks and Geeks in 1999.) CBS held on the longest, with mainstream and older-skewing shows like Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, Walker, Texas Ranger and The District, but even the most traditional of the networks had to eventually concede to the reality that we have become our own programmers, and if we were even at home on Saturdays, we were most likely watching movies on cable or on our VCR/DVD players or otherwise amusing ourselves with something other than network TV. But since you asked, it definitely was not always this way, not back when there were only three major networks and options were so much more limited. Hit shows prevailed on Saturday nights, and some of my fondest TV memories are of Saturday night TV, especially during the '70s, with CBS' comedy lineup featuring Mary Tyler Moore, Bob Newhart and Carol Burnett. Following that, Love Boat and Fantasy Island did well for ABC, and through the late '80s, The Golden Girls was one of the most popular comedies on TV, despite airing on Saturdays. Whenever you want to contemplate how much TV has changed, looking at today's bleak Saturday landscape is always a good place to start.
That's all for now. And for the next few weeks. I'll be taking a little time off, but will resume the Ask Matt column later this month. So please keep sending your comments and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, and in the meantime, follow me on Twitter!
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