Ask Matt: CSI: Cyber or Broadchurch? Plus: Downton, Grey's, Grantchester, Castle, and More
Welcome to this weekly Q&A with TV critic (also known to some TV fans as their "TV therapist") Matt Roush, who'll address whatever you love, loathe, are confused or frustrated or thrilled by in today's vast TV landscape. One caution: This is a spoiler-free zone. Don't ask me what's going to happen on a show. I prefer to find out along with everyone else. Please send your questions and comments to [email protected] and follow me on Twitter.
Question: I've got to say I was disappointed in the first episode of CSI: Cyber. The visual effects were cool, but the cast lacks chemistry and the plot, while interesting, seemed to be thrown together. James Van Der Beek's character was especially laughable and seemed more fitting of an SNL parody. Watching Patricia Arquette and Peter MacNicol, it made me miss Medium and Numb3rs even more. Does the show get better, or should I watch Broadchurch Season 2 on BBC America instead? —Brian
Matt Roush: Is this even a serious choice? If you must decide, by all means go with Broadchurch, an excellent continuation of a masterful mystery drama that's anything but formulaic. Whereas with CSI: Cyber, what you see is what you get. For me, the most distinctive aspect of this latest spinoff is in the nature of the cases, which as they explore the dark side of technology and the Internet tend to be a shade more interesting than the typical procedural corpse-of-the-week. Agreed that the chemistry is lacking among the largely generic character types, and the action hero that James Van Der Beek is attempting to bring to life is just silly. And should you need more urging to get immersed in Broadchurch, our next question is another testimonial.
Question: Not a question, but I just wanted to say that I am so glad Broadchurch is back. It's nice to watch a show that proves there are still great actors out there. I especially want to give kudos to the amazing Olivia Colman. She had me bawling from beginning to end. I felt every emotion her character was feeling. I wanted to be the one offering her a hug. She made me forget I was only watching a TV show. If this is any indication as to how the second season is going to be, I'd better have my box of tissues ready. —Rachel
Matt Roush: Wait till you see Ellie Miller (Colman, above) take the witness stand in next week's (March 18) episode. She's brilliant as this emotionally broken detective. I was skeptical going in to the second season, because the first was so devastating and satisfying, but so far I'm mostly impressed, not just with Colman but with the addition of Charlotte Rampling and Marianne Jean-Baptiste as warring attorneys, each with their own blind spots (one literal).
Question: I know you weren't a big fan of Allegiance, and I agree it didn't measure up to The Americans, but I was a little surprised and disappointed to read that it was canceled after five episodes. My husband and I haven't seen the most recent and final episode and I am not sure whether it is worth keeping on the DVR, but we were viewers of the prior episodes and are disappointed that another drama series has been canceled without any type of payoff to those who spent the time watching it. Why can't the network just let these types of series play out and come to some type of conclusion rather than punishing those viewers who have invested time? Maybe the networks need to adopt the cable model, which might include an eight-episode first season? I know some people who are fans of these type of series have decided to wait out watching to see if the first season is completed before wasting their time. Maybe this will be the model I adopt. Now I am concerned that the same network will cancel The Slap before its run is completed. Your thoughts on this? —Faye
Matt Roush: The networks are investing more in the "limited series" model with shorter seasons—The Slap was conceived as an eight-episode miniseries, and NBC seems determined to play that one out to the end—but sometimes a flop is damaging enough to a schedule, especially on a competitive night like Thursday, with so little critical or commercial upside that the network is forced to make the tough call. And yet I wouldn't be surprised should NBC, which has a production stake in the show, decide to make the remaining episodes of Allegiance available online on one of its platforms, On Demand or otherwise. That option has been used before in quick fades of serialized shows, and that only seems fair to the hardy few who might want to see where the story is going, although since there's no hope for renewal on this one, you might still have to prepare yourself for the possibility of an unresolved cliffhanger.
Question: Just wondering about the sudden illness for the family dog on Downton Abbey. I have a theory about it, and wondered if I am right or altogether way off. I believe they wrote the dog out of the series because of her name. They are being politically correct. I thought about Tom calling to her, "Here, Isis," and it dawned on me: "ISIS." Even if it's not the reason, it would be a proper one. —Hilda
Matt Roush: That's certainly why FX's animated Archer did away with the name of its unfortunately named fictional spy agency. But with Downton Abbey, let's just ascribe this sad passing to natural causes, another dramatization of the march of time affecting all the residents of the Abbey. By all accounts, the dog's demise was plotted well before this became an issue, and her name is a function of the family's interest in Egyptology. (The Labrador that preceded her was named Pharoah.) Hugh Bonneville, who plays Isis's master, even blogged that "anyone who genuinely believes the Series 5 storyline (1924) involving the animal was a reaction to recent world events is a complete berk" (which is slang for "idiot," roughly).
Question: Do you know if there's any word on whether or not Grantchester will be back for a second season? What were your thoughts on its first? I loved it. In fact, I think I liked it more than Downton Abbey this year. It's such a well done, well acted, enjoyable show. —Christine
Matt Roush: Happily, this most satisfying mystery series (starring the appealing James Norton as the crime-solving vicar) has been renewed for a second season. When Masterpiece Mystery! will present it, and whether it will again be paired with Downton next winter, remains to be seen. While I thought this season of Downton Abbey was a marked improvement on the one before, Grantchester was a fresh take on the pastoral (in several senses) mystery, and as with many British series, I wish there had been more of it. So good news indeed.
Question: To say that Grey's Anatomy is "more interesting" without Derek is clearly a matter of opinion. I think Grey's sucks and has been terribly McBoring without him! I haven't watched in an entire month and I won't be watching the next two episodes either. I watch Grey's solely for MerDer, and without both of them on screen together, I have no desire to watch. The rest is just junk to me! The writers have committed character assassination with Meredith! They have ruined her character by making her selfish and a career shark. She only cares about what is good for her and has turned into Ellis 2.0, and I hate it! Now it sounds like she is going to come to the conclusion that she can live without Derek and does not need him in her life. I will resume watching for episode 16 (when Patrick Dempsey is said to be returning) but I sincerely hope Shonda Rhimes and the writers do not get any ideas about breaking MerDer up or separating them in any way! By the time he returns, I will have gone without watching Grey's for six weeks! If they split up the only reason I watch Grey's at all, I can, and will, continue to find better things to do with my time on Thursday nights at 8 pm! —Jennifer
Matt Roush: To be fair, I didn't say the couple's geographic (and to a large degree emotional) estrangement had made the show itself more interesting, but it did put Meredith in an intriguing situation without a "person" to fall back on during this crisis. The reaction to this subject was fairly intense, including on Twitter, where a super-fan echoed the sentiment that "MerDer fans miss Derek tremendously. The show isn't the same without him." And while I understand the hardcore "shippers" can be unforgiving when situations like this occur, and I would concede they've dragged it out too long—and why not on occasion show his side of things?—the series hasn't been a complete loss without Derek around. The Dr. Herman storyline was very compelling, with a moving resolution last week. But it is time to move on and for him to return, I think everyone would agree.
Question: I understand when Stephen Colbert takes over for David Letterman, he will drop his persona from The Colbert Report. Does this mean he becomes Stephen Cole-Bert or remain Stephen Cole-Bear when he takes over The Late Show? — Dewey
Matt Roush: The "French pronunciation" of his name will remain, as it has throughout his entire showbiz career, even before adopting the Colbert Report character. Can you really imagine hearing it any other way?
Question: I'm so highly disappointed with Person of Interest's Season 4. If you feel the need to change the direction of the show, then stick with it, instead of going back and forth like they are doing right now. To me, they completely ruined the whole "Shaw is dead plot" with finding out — SPOILER ALERT — that she is actually alive. Something I wished they would have done with Carter and not with Shaw. So this was a huge letdown for me—yes, I don't like the character of Shaw and I'm glad she is gone for the moment, because I thought her "death" was the highlight of Season 4 so far. But that momentum has been taken away from me. I also want the "Man in the Suit" back. I have had enough of "Detective Riley." It still amazes me that up to now nobody even got suspicious about his connection to HR/Man in the Suit. His photos were everywhere and nobody seems to remember that fact! So can you give me something that makes me look forward to the remaining episodes, like, is the rumor true that Taraji P. Henson is returning? — Kyra
Matt Roush: Fair point on Reese's charade as the faux detective being a bit much to swallow, but with all due respect, any rumor of Taraji P. Henson returning to this show is fan fiction of the most ludicrous variety. I've learned never to say never, and maybe there's a remote possibility she might someday appear in a flashback, given the way the series plays with time, but the character is most sincerely dead and the actor has most happily moved on. Maybe you've heard of a little show called Empire and the breakout performance of the year by Henson as the fabulous Cookie Lyon? Much as I enjoy Person of Interest, and more often than not still do, I understand why she wanted out of the show, and the Machine-vs.-Samaritan storyline has more than compensated for the loss, though die-hard Carter fans obviously disagree. I'm also a huge fan of Sarah Shahi's work as Shaw, a wholly original character I'm going to miss a lot while the actress tends to her pregnancy, so you're really preaching to the wrong choir here on that issue. I hope we'll see her back someday, and meanwhile, it looks like we may have to suffer through an uneven period as the show toggles between episodic cases-of-the-week and the Samaritan arc, which I imagine will rev back up as we near season's end.
Question: I love your insights about TV. Here's something I'd like to hear your opinion on. My husband and I have enjoyed Castle since its first season, and we still love it. We started talking about how the show has survived, and even thrived, since Castle and Beckett became a couple and married, even though the end of the "Will they or won't they?" romantic tension between lead characters brought about the demise of other shows such as Moonlighting and Cheers. What is it about Castle that allowed it to make this transition so well? One theory I have is that on Moonlighting and Cheers, the romantic resolution card was played as a Hail Mary on declining shows, while on Castle the marriage felt organic and not like a stunt. It also helped that Castle never did the "I hate you, I hate you, now suddenly I love you" thing, either; their romance bloomed slowly over time. I am sure that strong writing and a more sophisticated TV audience now than in Moonlighting's day come into play as well. What do you think? — Julie
Matt Roush: The so-called Moonlighting curse has taken on perhaps a too-big life of its own, given the myriad other issues that bedeviled that show during its colorful run. As series like Castle and Bones have established most recently, it's possible to achieve romantic completion between two lead characters after years of toying with sexual tension without ruining the fun or even a show's momentum. The producers didn't rush it, didn't often force it, and when they put one too many hurdles in their way—Castle's cliffhanger vanishing act on their wedding day—the outcry was ferocious. Your point is a good one that the writers also respected the characters enough to make their eventual coming together credible and, for most fans it would seem, satisfying. Which for a long-running series is about as much as you could hope for.
That's all for now. Please send your questions and comments to [email protected].AlertMe