Ask Matt: Idol Thoughts, Orphan Black, Grey’s Fatigue (or Not), Supergirl, iZombie’s Look

Ask Matt

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 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.

Question: As a longtime fan of American Idol, I’m sad that it will end after next season, but happy it will get a chance to plan its farewell. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think this will be a first for the competitive reality show genre. Reality shows seem to either chug along until they no longer have any relevance (did you know America’s Next Top Model is still on?!) or they get abruptly cancelled (I still miss The Glee Project and Beauty and the Geek). Since there’s no real precedent for how a reality show like this should end, I’m curious what Idol will do, or maybe should do, to commemorate the series beyond what everyone expects. Regardless of any surprises they may have planned, I hope the show stays true to its roots. I’m sure planning an ending for a reality show is probably much different than it is for a scripted show, but I think that similar rules can apply. The best series finales tend not to stray from the show’s usual rhythm or structure, twists feel organic and earned, and it gives a nod to its past and closure for viewers. So I guess my question to you is: Is there anything you feel the show should or shouldn’t do to finish its final year, and do you think Idol setting an end date will influence the endgame for other long-running shows? — Brodie

Matt Roush: I think you’re right that this situation is quite distinct, for a show of this sort that was once such a juggernaut to be plotting its farewell season this far in advance. (This year’s was the first season I didn’t watch the show during its performance/competition phase at all, less a comment on Idol than a function of just how much more TV there is to watch these days, plus a feeling of franchise burnout on my part, I’m sure. Just didn’t feel the need to go through it all again.) So this does seem a real opportunity in many ways, for Idol to try to recapture a bit of its buzz by celebrating the show’s history and legacy—not unlike how the final days of David Letterman’s Late Show have brought many lapsed followers back to the fold. Shows like these are essentially a new form of variety, so why not thread throughout the competition a “greatest hits” element with returning contestants, both famous and those worthy of a “where are they now” recap, and if they can’t somehow lure Simon Cowell back to acknowledge all he did for the show and the network (before the X Factor debacle), that would be a real shame.

To your question about whether Idol‘s endgame will influence others to try to bow out more or less gracefully, a lot will depend on how well Idol executes this final lap.

Question: You think Fox brings this show back in five or 10 years? Build the hype and bring it back. Seems to me this show has been too successful to be completely done, and they do bring shows back at Fox. Going to be odd after 15 years not having an Idol fix. Other than college football, it’s really the only TV I watch. Thoughts? — Rob [via Facebook]

Matt Roush: It’s entirely possible, because who can predict what network TV will even look like by the end of the 2010s or into the ’20s? Even in its diminished state, American Idol has an instantly recognizable name and a compelling live-TV aspect that may make it even more desirable in a future of unlimited choices and platforms.

Orphan Black Helena
Steve Wilkie /BBC AMERICA

Question: I was watching Orphan Black and worrying over Helena’s possible fate, when I realized that each of the female characters played by Tatiana Maslany feels like a separate and distinct person. It made me marvel at the level of acting that could make that connection possible when one actress is playing so many different parts, and wonder seriously why this woman hasn’t been regularly winning Emmys since the show’s premiere. I assume it is because Orphan Black is science fiction, and reminds me of my disappointment at the lack of nominations received by such shows as Buffy the Vampire Slayer. (“Hush” and “The Body” were particularly good episodes.) Lately, it seems like every other show on TV is science fiction/fantasy. Do you think that as the genre becomes more popular that the willingness to reward actors/writers/directors in this genre will change? — Kristi

Matt Roush: And how about those moments when Maslany is playing one clone pretending to be another, and you can see both personalities within the subterfuge. Truly stunning work, but the cult nature of this show in particular (and the genre in general) is the best explanation of why she keeps falling off the Emmy voters’ radar. Would love to see that change—she did, after all, finally get recognition from the Golden Globes and SAG Awards, as well as winning various critics’ awards—so maybe there’s hope for her at the Emmys yet.

Question: Ever since the years of Everwood and American Dreams, I have followed your columns and was overjoyed to find you on TV Insider a few days after Justified‘s awesome finale. I do not have a question; I just want to thank you for your excellent critic skills and your superb to-the-point writing. As a retired English teacher, I always find sincerity, good taste, and insightful recommendations such a joy to read. Thank you for echoing my thoughts and feelings about Mad Men‘s farewell episode as well as Justified‘s poetic ending. Next year will not be the same without them; however, it is a relief to know you are available to steer your readers toward new programming experiences. — Madelyn

Matt Roush: First, thanks for the Everwood/Dreams memories. Also, how honored am I to be given such an accolade from an English teacher (no surprise, they were always my favorites). I pass this on not so much as a selfie back-pat as to recommend a look at my Mad Men finale review in hopes of stimulating debate from those who felt strongly one way or the other by how Matthew Weiner ended Don & Co.’s story. Fire away to [email protected], and we’ll pick up the conversation in the Thursday column.

Grey's Anatomy
Kelsey McNeal/ABC

Question: I just read your column suggesting it’s time for Grey’s Anatomy to call it a day. I finally found something I disagree with you on. For me, I still enjoy the show. It was never really about Meredith and Derek for me. I found myself not missing Cristina even. Characters have come and gone, and even without Derek, there are still four original cast members. Are you saying if Derek was not killed, then the show still would have life? — Rob

Matt Roush: I probably wouldn’t have written that particular column had Derek not met such an untimely end, but I felt much the same way when Sandra Oh departed the show, that when this many key assets of an ensemble have departed for fresher pastures that it’s time to begin thinking of an exit strategy—not that ABC, as I noted, is in any rush to close shop on such a still-popular property, so you have nothing to worry about in the near future. And I don’t entirely disagree with you. Grey’s is still often very watchable—much more than ER was at this stage of its run—although last week’s attempt to force a happy ending on this season in the finale just seemed ridiculous. At the Upfronts last week, when it seemed almost everyone was pitching a new medical procedural, I found myself thinking none of them looked as good as Grey’s, even now. But still, I’m an advocate of shows going out on a high, and I’m not sure Grey’s has that ability now that it has taken everyone important away from Meredith. (And I will part company on you in my assertion that the character from whose point of view the majority of episodes is told is, in fact, the core of the show. And not missing Cristina? Seriously?) Read on for another point of view.

Question: Thank you for your “Should Grey’s Anatomy end this season?” column. You touched on a lot of things that I have been struggling with for the last two or three years. When the show began, it was a my-generation connection for me. I related to the characters because I was around the same age and experienced similar relationship issues. Even though I don’t always love the relationship between Meredith and Cristina, I was still fascinated by them and how “dark and twisty” they are. Meredith will always be one of the most conflicting characters on TV, but Derek’s death fell short and was just there for shock value, so it didn’t have as much impact for me as I thought it would. I have stopped watching the show live since the season premiere and have only viewed it in clips since, with the exception of the two episodes dealing with Derek’s death. Now I don’t recognize what I saw in it in the first place. There are too many characters I don’t care about, and the writing is the level of a daytime soap. The writers seem to give up on characters when they no longer have ideas, or just recycle things they have done before with other couples. After Sandra Oh left, I tried to keep watching out of loyalty for Kevin McKidd, but the lazy pairing of Owen and the self-important Amelia (my least favorite Shondaland character from Private Practice days) was the nail in the coffin for me, especially with all the screaming and over-the-top acting.

Now with another Shondaland show beginning on ABC (The Catch at midseason), I am guessing Grey’s Anatomy will be even less of a priority for Shonda Rhimes. It’s sad to see a once favorite show of mine lose its voice and become a mere shadow of what it used to be. A few weeks ago, someone asked a question about the “owing” of writers to the fans of their shows they watch. This reminded me of an interview with Oprah where Shonda stated she is taking the show back from the fans. It makes me wonder how much we are truly appreciated by her, or if Grey’s Anatomy fans have been written off just like her characters? I am guessing the latter. — M.S.

Matt Roush: Much as I agree with many of your points regarding the current content of the show and how few truly engaging characters are left, I feel it’s overstating the case that Shonda Rhimes has written off the show’s fan base or otherwise doesn’t care. A show’s creator has every right to produce the show as she or he sees fit, regardless of fans’ expectations, and that’s the point she was probably trying to make with Oprah. It’s her show, not ours, and as I’ve stated before, nothing would interest me less than watching a show where pandering to the fan base was the key goal. I’m also not worried about her ability to juggle all the shows in her production stable, but I do wish someone would step back regarding the show that started it all and decide that going out with some dignity might be the best thing for everyone.

Question: What did you think of the Supergirl extended trailer? I certainly wasn’t expecting a Devil Wears Prada knock-off or the rom-com vibe. A lighter tone isn’t necessarily bad, but the tropes seem rather tired. Kara’s a clumsy girl trying to make it in the big city! She has a ridiculously huge apartment and a bad love life! And she wears glasses and a ponytail, so we know she needs to come out of her geeky shell and embrace her inner beauty—and in this case, her inner superhero. Melissa Benoist was the best thing about the new class of Glee a couple seasons ago, and I’m a fan of Broadway actor Jeremy Jordan (not to mention Laura Benanti), so I’ll likely give the show a chance. But at first glance it reminds me a little too much of the recent Saturday Night Live parody trailer for Black Widow’s standalone movie. — Keira

Matt Roush: This was one of my favorite presentations during the Upfront week, and if its biggest crime is being broadly entertaining (if not especially original), I can live with that. The casting looks spot-on, ditto the production values, and if it comes off as a bit corny and retro, also not such a terrible sin. I still got a kick out of every time she made reference to her “cousin” (also known as Superman). Looking forward to seeing the entire pilot.

Katie Yu/The CW

Question: I really like The CW’s horror/crime dramedy series iZombie, and I’m really glad that the show got renewed for a second season! The only two minor problems I have with the show is Liv’s undead zombie look and her family and friends’ cluelessness about her being a zombie. Why hasn’t she had a makeover yet to look more humanly alive (with her hair dyed back to her original color and getting a tan from a tanning salon) like her fellow zombies on the show Blaine and her boyfriend Bradley? Does Rob Thomas want her to always stay looking like a zombie? Am I asking too much by wanting Liv to have a makeover? And why doesn’t her family, her ex-fiancé Major, and Det. Clive Babinaux have a clue she’s a zombie by the pale skin and the white hair she has after she was attacked and infected by Blaine at the boat party? – Chris

Matt Roush: Sometimes with a series this high in concept, you just have to accept some aspects of the outlandish premise—including Liv’s weird look—and move on, not letting the improbabilities distract you from enjoying the rest of the show. I haven’t read the comics on which iZombie is based, but I would figure this is how she’s portrayed in the comics, and changing her appearance was never an option. Why doesn’t anyone notice? Seems to me that once they accepted the changes to her personality and appearance after the events of the pilot episode, they’re not dwelling on it, until or unless the story forces them to. Credible? Maybe not, but you’ve decided to watch something called iZombie, so all of a sudden you’re demanding realism?

That’s all for now, but remember that there will be another Ask Matt column on Thursday! Can’t do it without you, so please keep sending questions and comments to [email protected] or shoot me a line on Twitter.