Ask Matt: The Closer, Damages, New Girl, Pan Am and More!
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Question: I was wondering what you thought of the civil suit arc on The Closer this season. It's an interesting juxtaposition of morality on the one hand, and rooting for the characters on the other. It also shows all the different shades of grey in the law. If I heard about an incident in real life where police just dropped off someone in a neighborhood when they thought s/he would be killed, I'd be appalled. Yet I understand these characters' motives in this case, like all of them, and want to be on their side. The part of this arc I do love is Mark Pellegrino as Brenda's lawyer Gavin. I love the character and the nuances Pellegrino brings to playing him. Having only seen Pellegrino previously on Lost, and noting how different Gavin is from Jacob, I really appreciate what a fine actor he is. He deserves his own show. Unlike most of the other lawyer shows in recent years on TNT or USA, which I've skipped, I'd definitely watch a show centered around this character with this actor. — Myra
Matt Roush: I'm not sure I'd want to see an entire series built around Pellegrino's flamboyant lawyer — some things are better in small doses — but he is undeniably a hoot, giving a most unexpected performance given his past work (although there was plenty of sly humor in his portrayal of Lucifer on Supernatural). I've enjoyed this summer's season of The Closer, and the lawsuit arc is a big part of the reason. It was such an outrageous thing for Brenda to do, even to a cold killer who deserved it, and few things are more compelling on a long-running show than to see a sympathetic hero deal with consequences for a bad act. She has tortured herself over this long enough that we can't help but root for her, and the conflict has tested many of her relationships within the unit, which is all to the dramatic good. I would like to see it resolved, so the final batch of episodes next year can concentrate on sending this terrific character out on a high.
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Question: As Damages winds down its terrific fourth season for DirecTV, I have to wonder what the bar is for their measuring its success, given that ratings are obviously going to be rather limited on a subscriber-exclusive network. I know it was renewed for Seasons 4 and 5 at the same time, so we'll be getting another round no matter what, but what happens to the show then? How exactly does DirecTV quantify its success in order to determine if Season 6 is worth pursuing? If they decide to wrap it after Season 5, I hope the producers will at least be told this in advance so that they can plan out a great final arc for it. Also: iTunes has posted the full New Girl pilot for free, which I watched based on your enthusiasm for it and love. It's the first new fall show I'll be adding to my lineup this year, so thanks for that. I was a little surprised to see it go online so early, though, since it hasn't even aired yet. What is the business thinking behind that decision? It seems like this might have an averse effect on the numbers. — Jake
Matt Roush: With Damages, I'm not sure how it's doing ratings-wise in DirecTV's universe. It has been a strong season creatively, and this week's finale is very satisfying. (Can't wait for non-subscribers to get a chance to see it.) For DirecTV, the Damages buy was a calculated step in its brand enhancement, putting another acclaimed but perennially low-rated show on their lineup to get the industry and a part of the TV audience talking. I'm assuming the next season will be the last, as DirecTV is now aiming to develop more original shows of its own, and I'd expect the producers to tie things up (unlike the tease of future conflicts this season ends on) even if they ultimately leave it open-ended just in case — because there's no reason to box these characters in. I was surprised (and grateful) when Damages got this two-season extension, but I'd be even more surprised if it went beyond that. A five-season run is pretty good, all things considered. Regarding the New Girl strategy, what you have to understand is the main challenge this time of year for network programming is for shows to get sampled. Opening night numbers aren't as critical for every TV show, if you can get word-of-mouth going as soon as possible and get early adapters — the type of people willing to go online to watch a show — on board. If this iTunes strategy gets more people talking about a show that already has a fairly high awareness and want-to-see factor, or so I've been told, then this will be seen as a win-win. And it's not like they're putting the entire season online before it airs.
Question: I have been teetering back and forth as to whether Pan Am deserves space on my DVR. Matt, I know you are the guru of TV, but I'm not sure if you are familiar with a show called Mile High, which I believe ran for two seasons on the BBC. I found this show quite funny and entertaining minus a couple hard-to-understand accents. It seems that Pan Am is very similar to Mile High, but will never get away with some of the things that Mile High did. Your thoughts are greatly appreciated. — Jeffrey
Matt Roush: I'm not acquainted with Mile High — if the shows don't actually get imported to the U.S., I really don't have time to sample others' wares, much as I'd like — but from the way you describe it, it sounds a lot more outrageous than is Pan Am's intent. Pan Am is a nostalgic '60s period piece with a rather earnest approach to its soapy storytelling. I like it well enough to be recommending it in our Fall Preview issue — on stands now — and I love the way it looks, but it's purely escapist programming, not trying to push the envelope (at least not yet), so gauge your expectations accordingly.
Question: Just wondering what is happening with Combat Hospital as the first season is ending. I didn't really think I would like it, and it started out a bit unevenly, but once they started focusing more on all the characters (rather than so heavily on Rebecca), it got better. I especially liked the episode when Colonel Marks and his friend were injured by an IED and they had to make a decision about who to save (his friend or a family brought into the hospital at the same time). Do you know if it has been renewed or is likely to be? I must say that I have really enjoyed TV this summer, with Curb Your Enthusiasm, Louie, Breaking Bad, True Blood, etc; I wish the fall looked as promising. — Dawn
Matt Roush: I wish I could give you a promising answer. Combat Hospital hasn't been renewed yet, and given that its summer run was cut an episode short, it isn't likely to be. The ratings were weak and it didn't have much critical or media buzz, so that's a pretty fatal combination. You're right, though, that much of this summer of TV has been a rush.
Question: I have several questions about the future of some of the summer series, mostly on the major networks. They tend to be more fickle, and spend the summer just "burning off" shows, so it's hard to tell their future. I've really enjoyed Flashpoint, and I know you wrote earlier that there was some confusion about its future on CBS. Will it be back, and if so, has anything cleared up about on what network? Next: Friday Night Lights. THAT is how to do a series finale. Excellent show! I had one question, though, and none of my friends seems to know either: Who's the new head coach of the Dillon Panthers? They showed Billy Riggins on the field, but he's too "green," I'd think, to take the top spot. And that damn-fool Buddy Garrity driving around in a golf cart. No way he's a coach. Good as a booster and fundraiser, but certainly not a coach. So was this a kind of "teaser" for the rumored movie/sequel? It certainly wasn't at all clear. Finally, The Glades' season finale was great (love the show!), but I was worried that it all seemed too happy, no cliff-hanger. A&E is one of those networks I find hard to read on what's been renewed. What are you hearing about it? — Kathy
Matt Roush: Flashpoint has finished its run on CBS for now, but will be airing this fall on affiliates of the ION network. Not sure what the mix will be between new and old episodes, and can't say if CBS will pick it up again. For the time being, figure you'll be watching it on ION. And with Friday Night Lights, I haven't a clue who's now coaching at Dillon. I was so caught up in the Taylors' story, and so gratified at their safe landing elsewhere, that it didn't really occur to me to ask. (Thoughts? Go to comments.) As much as I loved the show to the end, I honestly hope they scratch the idea of a movie sequel. It ended perfectly, beautifully. Let it be. And while A&E hasn't officially renewed The Glades for a third season as far as I know, I'll be surprised if it's dropped. A&E is still building its inventory of scripted dramas, and this enjoyable show provides a solid foundation.
Question: The Rescue Me finale was fantastic! I liked how Lou's letter was explaining how the whole "group" needs to stay together, and at the end you see that while Tommy was talking to the probies. Another great series gone with a great finale, and that does not come together often! (For Example, Heroes or The X-Files.) Any word on Denis Leary's next TV series he will either work or produce on? — Mike
Matt Roush: The last I heard, Denis Leary was working on adapting the British series Sirens, about irreverent paramedics (sounds perfect), as a half-hour project for USA Network, which is looking to vary its programming a bit. Couldn't agree more about the Rescue Me finale, which I found very satisfying — and even more so when I went to FX's screening last week in the company of some of FDNY's finest, who loved it.
Question: I'm beginning to feel like every TV show is becoming an infomercial with their blatant product placement. I'm a huge fan of the TNT and USA summer shows, but find it a little distracting when a cast member is sharing the benefits of a product smack dab in the middle of an episode. Case in point, Jill (Royal Pains) having her Prius self-park on the streets of Manhattan. Another example is lab assistant Daniel (The Glades) walking around munching on a bag of Reese's Pieces. I've even noticed that House Hunters has jumped on this annoying bandwagon with frequent close-ups of a Chevy Traverse driven by the realtor, including zooming in on the Chevrolet logo, as well as the many bells and whistles it offers. I'm pretty sure that not every realtor across the U.S. is driving a Traverse. I hope that with the large dollars my favorite shows are receiving for this annoying new trend, it will help to save costs and keep them on the air. What do you think of this new advertising ploy? — Tracie
Matt Roush: Some do it better than others. Even a show like The Closer can get clumsy about it, as in a recent episode where they were all passing Twizzlers around the office as they observed an interrogation. (Now if it had been limited to Brenda, given her candy fixation, it might have felt more organic.) Following that scene with an ad for the same project felt like overkill, and I'm not sure that's a good thing for a sponsor. But you seem to acknowledge the reality that these kinds of deals are helping cover the high production costs for many series — and this is really nothing new in reality-type shows — so I have come to accept it as a necessary evil and the price of doing business, especially at a time when technology conspires to allow many of us to avoid watching the actual ads themselves. They've got to pay for this stuff somehow.
Question: Lifetime announced that Army Wives would be returning for a sixth season in the "winter of 2012" — but, though fans continue to ask, Lifetime has not clarified (on the Army Wives homepage or Facebook page) whether winter 2012 refers to this coming January/February, or November/December 2012. I feel like it makes a huge difference if they are referring to the latter (as that's a really big gap in between seasons), so I can't understand why they aren't specifying. Moreover, it seems strange that they would announce that a season would return during the winter. Isn't it more common for networks to classify a series' return as having a projected spring, summer or fall return? Did Lifetime choose to announce a "winter" return because they haven't decided when they are going to air the sixth season? Do you have any information regarding any of this? — Carey
Matt Roush: I'm confused by your confusion, although I will concede that cable scheduling can be very confusing, especially for shows like this where the network has shifted its start date from summer to spring from season to season with little consistency. But the truth is that Lifetime hasn't yet set a premiere date — there are any number of strategic factors involved in scheduling at various times of the year — so they have nothing yet to tell fans or even the occasional inquiring journalist. Also, it's hardly unusual for shows to launch during the winter, though it's less likely for a show to air its regular season during the holiday weeks of November and December, so if the show does return in the winter, I'd put odds on it being in the first quarter of 2012.
Question: What a wonderful job you do. I so look forward to reading your column every Monday. I have several questions, hope you can answer all of them. This past weekend I did a marathon watch of Alphas and Against the Wall. Really liked both shows and I was not expecting too much for either one. Alphas' pilot episode was not that great and I almost did not watch any more of them, then gave it a chance and it kept improving each week. What is the status on this show? Now, Against the Wall was really good, I like it much better than Alphas. Have you heard anything on this show? Oh, and one last show that I have been watching is The Protector with Ally Walker. Love this show, so nice to see her back on TV. I have always thought that she is such a natural actress. Thank goodness for these networks that give us something to watch during the summer instead of reality shows. — Bobbie
Matt Roush: Well, thank you. Here's the good and bad news. Alphas has been renewed for a second season, which was not a surprise. It's too early to tell for Against the Wall. But it's curtains for The Protector, which has been canceled and won't return once it finishes its current first-season run. I'm a fan of Ally Walker, but felt that show never lived up to her abilities and was just too ordinary to ever break out.
Question: Is it possible that those who found the season finale of Bones a sham is because one episode has Bones on the bed being comforted by Booth and the next Bones tells Booth she is pregnant and he is the father? It seems to me that people fail to remember that episodes are not day-to-day events but have time frames that could span a week or months. If one kept close watch, the clues were there. So please, Matt, tell Hart Hanson that even though most fans wanted an obvious romance with some bed time, it was done well and we are looking forward to a great new season. My question is this: How much attention do producers give to the expectations of loyal fans such as myself and thousands of others who wanted Bones and Booth together? Also: I have always wondered what does the term spoilers really mean. And I saw a picture of Bones and Booth with them holding a baby and it said it's a girl! Is that true! — Anne
Matt Roush: Consider Hart Hanson told. It's not like he hasn't heard it all. I'm not particularly keen on stoking this controversy again — they've established the relationship, do we really need to see the deed? — but I will say that producers of shows like Bones tend to always be aware of fan reaction. Hanson is a very active, and reactive, tweeter, for what that's worth. But it's their show to develop as they please, and to tell their stories on their own timetable with their own priorities, and that's the way it should be. I'd be as upset thinking fans were calling the creative shots as if network and studio executives were meddling more than they should.