Ask Matt: 'Hannibal' in Limbo, 'SYTYCD' Changes, 'Grey's' and More
Good news, Ask Matt fans! TV Insider is now presenting the popular Q&A with TV critic (and sometime "TV therapist") Matt Roush twice a week—on most Tuesdays and Thursdays—giving you twice as much opportunity to share your concerns and join in the love for all things TV in today's vast landscape. One caution: This is a spoiler-free zone. Please send your questions and comments to [email protected] and follow me on Twitter. [Editor's Note: Because of the approaching July 4 holiday, there will not be a Thursday column this week. But keep the questions coming and we'll pick up the conversation after the holiday.]
Question: I was sorry to see that NBC has canceled Hannibal, although I suppose it was inevitable. I have enjoyed what we’ve seen of the third season so far, and I’ll miss Bryan Fuller and his ongoing experiment to see if plot is really necessary for narrative television. — Rick
Matt Roush: It's not so much that Hannibal lacks a plot, more like it follows so few conventions of normal network-TV storytelling that it feels more like you've stepped into a ghoulish dream (or nightmare) each week. And what a macabre treat that has been. Most of the mail I've seen on this subject, thankfully, is appreciative of NBC somehow having managed to keep the show going for three seasons, and Michael Schneider's interview with Bryan Fuller illuminates what an internal struggle that was. As usual when any show is canceled these days, especially of this cult nature, there's a rallying cry to keep it alive.
As Selma wrote to wonder, "I've read several of Bryan Fuller's gracious post-cancellation interviews suggesting they'll try to get Amazon or some actual network to further the story of this extraordinary series. What do you think are the odds?" I don't always encourage fans to have too much false hope in matters like this, but I'm thinking given the cult buzz that has surrounded this series and the Hannibal brand in general, the media interest, the international reach of Gaumont (the studio) and the show's overall quality, there's at least a fighting chance for it to continue. I know I would follow Hannibal anywhere.
Question: So far, I'm enjoying this season's audition episodes of So You Think You Can Dance, as I always have. They celebrate talent and don't dwell on humiliating those who don't measure up. Paula Abdul and especially Jason Derulo are pleasant additions to the judging panel, although I miss some of the passion that Mary Murphy and guest judges like Adam Shankman brought to the process. But I'm worried about what's to come, when the "street" vs. "stage" teams square off, and the dancers will no longer be required to test themselves in completely foreign disciplines. That was always part of the allure of the show to me. Please tell me it will be OK. — Cassie
Matt Roush: If you've come this far, why bail now? I do share your concern that the show will be diminished by not stretching the contestants further outside their comfort zones, thus providing an opportunity for breakthrough discoveries that in the past have been quite breathtaking (although depending on the dancer, sometimes disastrous). I'll wait and see how the first few performance weeks go before making a final judgment call, but I always figure Nigel Lythgoe is making these tweaks in order to keep the franchise alive on the network. For now, I'm still happy to have it on the air, so will indulge it a bit longer. I figure most weeks will still feature enough strong and inventive dancing that it will ultimately still be "OK."
Question: Does anyone know why there's not an Emmy category to recognize the performance of late-night hosts? They have a category for best reality host. Why not variety host? Those guys perform every night! — John L (from Twitter)
Matt Roush: Beyond the fact that the last thing the Emmy Awards needs is even more categories, the reasoning here seems to be that a win for the show is also seen as a win for the performer/host, whose name more often than not is embedded in the title and thus identifies the performer directly with the show. This year, the TV Academy has split apart the "Variety Talk Show" and "Variety Sketch Show," allowing performers in the latter category to compete alongside actors in comedy series. So basically, it's all just very confusing. And it does seem unfair to someone like Jimmy Fallon, whose show may never be able to beat the Comedy Central brain trust—although with the Jon Stewart Daily Show and The Colbert Report no longer an issue after this year, who can say what next year will hold?—but whose versatility and energy deserve to be recognized with a nomination, so it's a fair point.
Question: I saw that Jessica Capshaw has signed a deal keeping her on Grey's Anatomy for another three years, the length of which certainly suggests that ABC has not given any thought to a final-season exit strategy/sendoff for Grey's, and this even keeps her around after the contracts of the original players expire again at the end of the coming season. I just don't know what to make of this anymore. — Jake
Matt Roush: Just because I've voiced an opinion that it's time for Grey's Anatomy to turn in its scrubs after the events of last season doesn't mean the network agrees. And clearly it doesn't. Entertainment head Paul Lee said during the Upfronts he hopes Grey's can continue for years, and locking down key players is a sign that ABC is serious about this. The only thing that might doom Grey's sooner than he'd like is if the negotiations with more of the core cast bog down. There's a point at which even a reliable old show becomes too costly to justify, or when it's seen as creatively depleted when the characters we actually care about continue to bail. For me, we've already reached that tipping point, though I imagine I'll keep watching next season just to be sure.
Question: Why do we have to wait so terribly long for new seasons of our favorite cable shows, and then to top it off, most really good shows only give us eight to 10 episodes which are over in two to two and a half months, at which time we have to wait about a year before we get both answers to cliffhangers and new material? I do not know about anyone else, but I have a hard time recalling how the previous season did end after this long a time. I would much rather more episodes with shorter breaks, like the major networks, which at least give us 20 to 24 episodes of popular programs. I also hate it when they shorten seasons of existing good shows, of which currently my favorite is Cinemax's Banshee, which now will only have eight episodes next season—a lousy two months—this is horrible!! Do they need that much time to think of new material or is it simply cost cutting by the networks? - James
Matt Roush: Shorter episode orders and "limited-run" series are becoming the new normal, partly for budgetary reasons as production costs escalate and certain channels (especially on cable) don't have unlimited funds. Sometimes, though, these decisions are creative ones, when producers feel that a tighter, shorter season services its needs better, and I'm OK with that. If the next season of Banshee plays like a two-month miniseries, that might actually be fun. What I find more bothersome is the practice of splitting seasons on cable, which in the case of a show like USA Network's Covert Affairs was done a special disservice in its final year by disrupting its momentum and dropping the last episodes of this summer favorite into the winter holiday weeks. And I get what you're saying about the memory issue. I had to do a refresher course on Suits when it returned last week. I'm loyal to the show in the summer, but when it finished last season in the very busy February-March corridor against a lot of competition, it somehow fell off my radar. But at least this show seems to be maintaining a 16-episode season order.
Question: Might there be hope that another channel picks up Red Band Society? Also, who is in charge of the Fox network? — Jeremy
Matt Roush: Unlike those valiant youths of Red Band Society, hope dies hard. I'm afraid if there were a chance of resurrection, it would have happened by now. The series was always going to be a risk, given its subject matter (kids in a hospital ward), and it didn't survive beyond the initial 13-episode order, which ran out last winter. It didn't help that it was produced for Fox by Disney's ABC Studios—if it had been an in-house Fox production, it might have had a better chance. Which is a roundabout way of saying that the people currently in charge of the network, Dana Walden and Gary Newman, are also the heads of the Fox TV studio, which is why most of the new product on the network next season will be generated from within. More and more, that's how the business works.
That's all for now, and because of the holiday weekend, there won't be another Ask Matt column until July 7. As always, I can't do it without you, so please keep sending questions and comments to [email protected] or shoot me a line on Twitter.