Ask Matt: Nashville and More Cancellation Anxiety, Downton, Justified, Big Bang
Connie Britton | Photo Credits: Katherine Bomboy-Thornton
Question: I've never written to you before, but I'm hoping you can look into a crystal ball for me and reassure me about the fate of Nashville. I'm totally hooked by this show, which is saying a lot since I haven't watched anything regularly on the big three networks for about 10 years or so. I'm extremely worried that Nashville is doomed for cancellation, since it appears that the ratings are pretty lackluster. Any gossip or buzz that you can pass on to reassure me? As an aside, this is probably why I've generally watched more series on cable networks and entire series on DVD's rather than prime time — I hate nervously awaiting the verdicts of the networks if they will continue good shows like Nashville and Friday Night Lights. Cable networks are so much more patient. — Natasha
Matt Roush: These days, the networks would almost kill for "lackluster," so while Nashville isn't what you'd call a runaway hit, it's doing OK, and because it's going the right way creatively (pulling out of its first-half slump), and like Glee and Smash it has a separate revenue stream with its music downloads and CD releases (which seem to get good reviews, though I'm not a music critic), I'm cautiously optimistic that ABC will renew it. As our in-house ratings guru puts it when we gather to discuss such things, they can't cancel everything. And to be fair, where your cable-vs.-network argument is concerned, even cable networks cancel shows from time to time. If they mass-produced shows in the volume that the broadcasters do, their failure rate would likely be much higher.
Want more TV news and reviews? Subscribe to TV Guide Magazine now!
Question: I think the recent fuss on Downton Abbey about Thomas totally ignored a huge problem. Thomas kissed Jimmy while he was asleep and had every expectation of safety and privacy. That's deeply creepy. Consent can be complicated to interpret, but I think it's a bit of a stretch to think that it's ever appropriate to caress a co-worker while they're asleep. Employees (male or female) have the right to be protected from that kind of thing, and I really don't think there's much gray area there, no matter what era is being portrayed. Another issue entirely is that Thomas has always been entertainingly monstrous and creepy in all sorts of ways, for all sorts of reasons, but he's never been portrayed as any kind of sexual predator. It does strike me as odd that he'd make that kind of move. It seems out of character, even for Thomas. I've always thought Thomas had questionable taste in men, but it honestly never occurred to me that his choices might have been limited enough that he was truly desperate. Even in that era? That gorgeous man? Not likely. — Anna
Matt Roush: Reality check: At that point in history, homosexual conduct was illegal in the UK. Of course a gay servant's options would be limited, especially in that class system, and a person like Thomas would have no option but to be desperate. He's a right bastard of a character to be sure, which is why he's also entertaining, but as Downton has deepened our understanding of his need for affection and connection, especially as he became a victim of O'Brien's wicked manipulations this season, it's ungenerous not to see him as a tragic figure as well. Yes, it was creepy for him to sneak into Jimmy's room that way, but I saw it (as I imagine most did) as a sad expression of unrequited affection, not a predatory act of molestation. Although Jimmy, also an unknowing victim here, was right to be shocked and, given the times, perhaps even horrified. But the real point of this storyline was drummed home by watching so many of the other characters react to the situation in different ways, from Carson's disgust to Mrs. Hughes' compassion and even Robert's mildly amused nonchalance, given his exposure to such behaviors (much more easily dismissed) at Eton.