Ask Matt: The Future of Person of Interest and The Good Wife, Big Bang’s Finale, Grey’s Newbies, 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 Tuesdays and Thursdays—giving you twice as much opportunity to share your concerns and passion 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.
Question: I’m wondering if you think there’s any value in the speculation that a 13-week limited renewal for Person of Interest makes it sound like this will be the show’s final season? I saw a comparison of this to CBS’s 13-week run for The Mentalist‘s final season.
I also have a question about the spectacular The Good Wife: Now they’re toying with Peter running for president so he can become vice president? Isn’t that a little much? What do you think? Will they go through with this? I’m sorry Finn decided not to work with her; I understand, wow that sexual tension (going to miss it), but Canning? I can see interesting things happening-and love that he was at the door “looking for a partner?” just as Cary Agos did once before. I say long live The Good Wife! — Dorothy
Matt Roush: When CBS’s Powers That Be addressed the Person of Interest question at Wednesday’s upfront press briefing, they indicated everything’s still under discussion: number of episodes for the fifth season—although with the show being held back until midseason, it’s almost certainly going to be a reduced order (most likely 13)—and also whether this is in fact the beginning of the end. Which, realistically, we have to expect it to be. (If they don’t come right out and say they want to keep the show going indefinitely, the way they rallied behind The Good Wife during the same session, you know the writing’s on the wall.) The real issue involving Person of Interest‘s possible shortened final season is addressed in a question from Gwen, who wonders, “Is 13 enough to tell the rest of the story?” A subject that prompted Caro to write in to insist, “How can they give us only 13 episodes of POI for Season 5? The POI story/universe is too big to wrap up in 13 episodes! Any hope at all that we the fans can sway their decision and give us a full season to at least finish the Good Fight by Team Machine?”
My basic answer is yes, a 13-episode order is absolutely enough for a final season of any show—as long as it’s determined beforehand that this is the final act and the creators have the opportunity to plan accordingly. (I’m even excited about CSI wrapping things up with a two-hour movie, welcoming back the original stars.) The worst case would have been for CBS to cancel Person of Interest without giving it a chance to end the story properly. And not to diminish the importance of fan support, whatever decision is ultimately made is all about business. (Like The Mentalist before it, this show is from Warner Bros., not owned by CBS, so it’s lucky to get this much.) Pragmatically speaking, you can tell a lot of story in 13 hours, and to honest, this most recent season of Person of Interest might have benefited by having a tighter focus, with less padding to stretch the story out to 22 episodes. Giving a show this innovative and unconventional a timetable for an endgame could be a real boon, even for those who might wish it could go on indefinitely. My greatest hope is that Person of Interest will go out with dignity. (See my column on shows’ exit strategies for an argument why going out while you’re ahead isn’t always a bad thing.)
Now on to another of my favorites (and recurring favorite topics in this mailbag), The Good Wife. I was also thrown by the notion that a politician with as much personal baggage as Peter Florrick would be groomed for national office, but I’m willing to see where and how it will go. Not smoothly, I’d bet. And I really enjoyed how things played out with Alicia and Finn (still friends, and probably not wise to test their crazy chemistry within a workplace environment), and the final twist with Canning was set up brilliantly. Very excited for a seventh season, and much like the CBS bosses said, this is a show I’d be happy to see continue for as long as they can keep things humming.
Question: What is your take on American Odyssey? I can’t decide if I should stick with it or let it go. Also, there have been so many cancellations recently. Some were surprising, some were not. What shows were you surprised to see canceled? And what shows were you surprised that were renewed? — Dawn
Matt Roush: I had very mixed feelings about American Odyssey—Odelle’s (Anna Friel) journey was mostly compelling, if overwrought, while the rest of the show is negligible—but if you’re still watching with any degree of engagement, my advice always is to ride it out to the end if you so choose and maybe you’ll be satisfied. (I can’t say if there’s some resolution by the finale, but I’d hope so.) The likelihood of a second season is beyond remote, so if that’s an issue, I’d think you’re safe in bailing. Regarding this year’s cancellations, I wouldn’t say there I was actually surprised by anything—the only one that truly disappointed me was ABC’s rejection of Forever, which could have been nurtured into a keeper. (We analyzed that situation in Tuesday’s Ask Matt column.) As for surprise renewals, given that I once predicted the cloying Mysteries of Laura would be among the season’s first and most deserved casualties, that would have to rank top of the list. Along with CBS continuing to keep 2 Broke Girls going (though this year pushed back to midseason). But given that NBC’s freshman crop otherwise all failed, I’ll quote a former colleague, who was known for saying, “They can’t cancel everything.”
Question: As a fan of The Big Bang Theory from the very first episode, I could never imagine myself ever thinking about not watching it. But I do not think it is too much to say that the season finale was the worst episode of the series. Disappointing in almost every respect. The Sheldon that we see in the beginning of the episode (as a man who cannot understand the significance of an anniversary) is left in shock, holding a ring to boot, when Amy finally decides she needs a break from his madness. Are we really left to assume that the man who is unable to understand the purpose of an anniversary dinner was ever close to even contemplating marriage? The whole storyline made no sense to me, was not funny, and grew tiresome.
Speaking of tiresome: While I actually liked the discussion between Sheldon, Penny, and Leonard, after a while it just seemed long-winded and pointless. We finally get to the point where they decide to elope (not surprising given all the gossip about the episode the last several weeks), but than they ruin it by having them partake in a stupid, silly fight that lacked humor and sense. A kiss from years ago (that he did not enjoy) is the basis for now wondering if they are going get married? Over to Raj. I have found no joy in following his storyline with his new girl, and perhaps it is just me, but eating food and having sex in a graveyard is just not funny. I am not sure where the storyline is going (I suspect nowhere), and this episode made me enjoy it even less. Finally: Howard. Although I understand and really didn’t have a problem with his week-after-week griping about Stuart, I am glad there isn’t another week’s episode to watch next week because I have taken all that I can stand. What I think I disliked most about the finale’s arc is, once again, it seemed to lack the humor and laughs we often associate with Big Bang. Let me boil this rant down to two questions: In your mind, was this the worst episode thus far? And am I reading the Shamy plot line correctly? A friend told me she didn’t thing he would propose, he just wanted to let everyone know he had a ring? I do not know. The hype about this episode was that more than one couple’s fate would be questioned, but could they have done it all in a worse way? — Sean
Matt Roush: My feeling in reading this rant (which I had to judiciously trim) is that I’m glad you got this off your chest, but surely even this sort of disappointment isn’t so extreme as to force an Amy-level break-up with a show that typically brings you so much pleasure. Every show is entitled to an off episode, although heavily hyped season finales and premieres do carry a special burden. I wasn’t nearly as put off, though it did give me pause. The jokes in the first part, with Sheldon wondering whether to commit to The Flash (as opposed to Amy), were quite funny, and the subplot with Howard and Bernadette trying to evict Stuart clicked as well. Fair points on the strained Leonard-Penny argument, and the Raj subplot was so inconsequential I can’t see getting too bent out of shape over that. But Sheldon and the ring: a legitimate subject for debate. Amy’s break-up (over Skype) was well-handled, well-played (by the amazing Mayim Bialik) and touching, and I might have preferred Sheldon responding by going to the TV, cuing up The Flash and realizing something was missing: Amy. The ring needs to be explained. Is he merely copying Leonard’s behavior, or has he had an actual epiphany we’re not privy to? The producers were obviously aiming for a big emotional moment here, and maybe succeeded too well. But there’s no way I won’t be tuning in Mondays in the fall (when Big Bang is temporarily displaced by Thursday Night Football) to see where things go from here.
Question: I’m writing about Mad Men‘s penultimate episode, “The Milk and Honey Route,” in regards to Betty’s storyline. I thought the directing of the scene in the doctor’s office was heartbreaking, as well as the acting in the moments with Sally were truly moving (in part because Kiernan Shipka is a revelation in every scene). However, my beef is with the rapid evolution of Betty’s character, which at the last breath of the series feels like a leap (and I guess it’s making me crazy that fans now seem to have a huge soft spot for this complete narcissist.) Betty’s interest in going back to school to study psychology seems sudden, since she has never had the self-awareness or ability to connect with her family or seemingly have any friends (she has asked Henry why her kids don’t love her, completely blind to her own faults as a terrible, cruel mother). This along with how decisive Betty is with not getting treatment and not pitying herself at all feels like a different person than we’ve known for seven seasons. In her letter, she does stay true to her vanity in caring so much about how she’ll look in her casket, but her “epiphany” to Sally about embracing her adventurous spirit and realizing how awesome she is, also didn’t ring true coming from the same woman who has never supported her daughter. Feels like emotional manipulation (on Mother’s Day, no less) from a show that has never really been a tear-jerker for all the folks in the world who ever wished that their mom had been able to write them a letter before passing away. Thoughts? — CK
Matt Roush: Again, maybe a bit harsh here, but Betty has always been a polarizing character, rarely presented in a sympathetic light until now. (No blame on January Jones, because as she’s showing in The Last Man on Earth, she has more range than Betty has often allowed.) I didn’t buy her sudden interest in higher education at all—Freud, really?—and the savage health crisis felt not only emotionally manipulative, though effective in the fine scenes you described, but needlessly cruel to a character who has always come up short in the warmth department. We’ve long been expecting someone to succumb to the ill effects of all that smoking, but choosing Betty seemed especially callous and random on the part of the writers. I also flinched at the symbolism of her going on about the end of things and tying things up, when we’re already so aware Mad is in its final act. My biggest problem with the episode, though, was its focus away from the agency and characters we care more about: like, say, Peggy. (When, by the way, did Pete become a romantic hero?) If the finale, as usual shrouded in secrecy, doesn’t devote at least a chunk of its time to Peggy Olson’s fate and future, I’ll be truly annoyed.
Question: On Grey’s Anatomy, why does the show care so much about new interns—again? Time and time again, they bring on new intern classes and then the characters fail to make any lasting impression. If this is their idea of filling the void by Patrick Dempsey’s departure, it sure didn’t work last week. I feel like this show has enough characters on it already without needing to bring in more who aren’t organically connected to the ones we already care about. Amelia and Maggie worked this year, because they are strongly connected to Meredith and the other doctors we already like. New interns, not so much. The show seems to be ending its season with a whimper, and I can’t say I’ll miss it much over the summer, which is not usually the case. — JL
Matt Roush: I’ll once again reference my column suggesting it may be time for Grey’s to throw in the scrubs, a feeling reinforced by the new class of interns popping up. (ABC is taking the opposite approach, of course, saying they’d like the show to go on for many more years, milking it way past its natural expiration date.) The “why” is easy enough to answer, because in a hospital like this, there will always be a new group of interns. Life goes on—but as I note in my column, does the show have to? The last batch of newbies was particularly weak, although Jo did eventually grow on me (and Alex), and even if there are a few potential breakouts in the latest gaggle, they can’t help but stoke nostalgia for the characters we grew attached to more than a decade ago.
Question: My question deals with NBC’s planned Friday night primetime line-up this fall. I would like to know why they chose not to have four sitcoms from 8-10 p.m./ET, move Grimm to 10/9c, and place Dateline on Saturday night? — Alex
Matt Roush: The most logical answer is to point out Friday’s reputation—not entirely earned—as a show graveyard, and that we’re lucky the networks continue to program it at all. (Look at Saturdays.) CBS does fairly well with older-skewing mainstream dramas, and Shark Tank is a bona fide reality hit for ABC. But for NBC to load up the night with a two-hour comedy block on a night better suited for TGIF-style sitcoms, and moving Grimm into a later time period that has proved inhospitable for almost anything besides lower-cost newsmags, would be an awfully big financial risk for a network that’s still in a major rebuilding mode (with Fridays hardly a top priority). I was actually surprised that Undateable would be marginalized to Fridays with its new all-live concept, given that live viewing on Fridays is almost surely less than on most weeknights. If that experiment pays off, then maybe we’ll see NBC get more aggressive on the night.
That’s all for now, but remember that there are now Ask Matt columns appearing on Tuesdays and Thursdays! Can’t do it without you, so please keep sending questions and comments to [email protected] or shoot me a line on Twitter.