Ask Matt: New Faces on Returning Favorites, Plus 'Person of Interest', 'Scandal', 'Mr. Robot' and More
Welcome to the 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. Please send your questions and comments to [email protected] (or use the new form added to the end of the column) and follow me on Twitter.
Question: Although there are a few new shows that I'm interested in for the upcoming fall season, I am way more excited for new additions to existing favorites. Specifically John Noble on Elementary as Papa Holmes, Jeffrey Dean Morgan joining The Good Wife and Neal McDonough on Arrow. Are there any upcoming guest stars or arcs that you are looking forward to on returning shows this fall? – Tracy
Matt Roush: These are excellent choices and also very high on my list of must-sees for the shows we've been waiting all summer to return. Noble was so wasted on Sleepy Hollow last season, I'm especially intrigued to see him play off Jonny Lee Miller's troubled Sherlock. But how fortuitous of you to bring up this subject as TV Guide Magazine publishes its Returning Favorites issue this week, with buzz about veteran network and cable series. After paging through the jam-packed issue, here are some of the new castings and storylines that most caught my attention: Starting with a new season of the brilliant Fargo on FX (Oct. 12), starring Patrick Wilson as the younger version of the character played by Keith Carradine last season, with Ted Danson, Kirsten Dunst, Jesse Plemons, Jean Smart, Jeffrey Donovan, Brad Garrett and so many more in the mix. I cannot wait to see more of this. (I've seen the first hour, and it's amazing.)
Also: William Petersen joining the cast of WGN America's fascinating Manhattan, Meritt Wever (so fabulous on Nurse Jackie) taking on zombies as part of next season's ensemble of The Walking Dead, Andrew Rannells (The Book of Mormon, Girls) appearing on Cinemax's The Knick of all places, and the great stage star Christine Ebersole guesting on Madam Secretary as the First Lady. Beyond the names, I'm also looking forward to Sue Heck's first year of college on the perennially underrated The Middle, and I've seen the first hour of Homeland's fifth season, which is almost uncannily topical with references to ISIS, Syrian refugees and Intelligence data breaches that create political and diplomatic crises abroad. Looks like that show is continuing its creative rebound with renewed relevance. And that's just a sampling.
Is This Person of Interest's Last Hurrah?
Question: (Regarding last week's discussion of returning shows that could be "on the bubble"), I feel like Person of Interest could also be a goner, given its short season order and that it's produced out of house. — Dennis
Matt Roush: Good point and I should have mentioned that. (I was working off a fall calendar, from which Person of Interest was conspicuously missing, when I was writing that response. Out of sight, out of mind…) While CBS has yet to commit officially one way or the other about whether this shortened fifth season, coming on sometime in the midseason, comprises the final chapters of Finch, Reese and the Machine (and the rest of the team), it sure feels that way. And should it be so, I hope the producers have enough advance warning to give the show some sort of satisfying finish. Leaving these characters with their fates unresolved would be unacceptable.
Not Summer Lovin' These Ongoing Series
Question: If these summer shows are from books, why do they keep them going summer after summer? Under the Dome was OK the first season, but it was dragged on until everyone stopped watching. Extant, same. Why can't these shows go for one summer with a beginning and an end? Bring a new one on each summer. None of these shows have a long-term story. — Anonymous
Matt Roush: I'm not sure it's true that no one's watching these shows—I don't pay a great deal of attention to summer ratings, but some have held on better than I'd expected, and CBS's decision to wrap up Dome appears to have been something of a creative consensus (albeit way overdue). The real issue here is the network mindset that more is always more, even when it doesn't make sense. Dome in particular would have made for a terrific one-time "limited series" (the new format of self-contained series that air like a weekly miniseries), but its success led CBS to keep it going, past the point of preposterousness. I wouldn't be surprised if the same happens to Zoo. (For the record, Extant was not based on a book, unlike Dome and Zoo, so might be more justified in spinning out a second season with new stories and characters.) I hope more shows adopt the "limited series" model that has given us shows like Fargo, American Crime, True Detective (Season 1 anyway) and the sillier-by-the-year American Horror Story. But any time something pops the way Dome initially did, I've come to expect the reaction to be: "More! More!"
Should Olivia Dump Fitz?
Question: I have a question regarding Scandal: What are your thoughts about Olivia's blind love towards Fitz? I mean for such an accomplished, intelligent and savvy female lead, it is really unforgivable that she continues loving this guy. He is not only a bad president (going to war with a foreign nation just because his mistress was kidnapped), but also a terrible husband (being angry at Mellie for leaking the witnesses list when she had no idea what it was for) and a terrible father (so he couldn't forgive Olivia for being the daughter of the woman that killed his son, but if the killer is Olivia's dad then there is no issue?!). I was hoping that since Shonda Rhimes took the liberty of killing one of her most compelling leading male characters (McDreamy) she could see that Olivia being so blindly in love with this President just undermines how strong of a character she is. Furthermore, the option of Jake Ballard (Scott Foley) provides Olivia a chance at love with a guy that could let her be as incredible as she should be.
Also would like your opinion re Once Upon a Time. I have been a faithful viewer since Season 1. However the show has gotten too preachy for my taste. I know these are fairy-tale characters, but their appeal is how they manage to balance the real world against their Disney characterization of being either hero or villain. The only characters that remain true to the essence are Regina, Hook and in a lesser degree Emma. The rest are just bland copies of what we find in the Disney stories. My suggestion would be for Once to take an approach more in line with Grimm's tone where every character seems to be a more realistic version of itself. Do you think Once is worthy of anyone's time going forward or should I just abandon ship? — David
Matt Roush: Where do you start when considering the wackadoo world of Scandal? You make some logical points, but when has logic ever had a place in the enjoyment of this show? Look, this is about a woman who has been carrying on with the married president for ages, and now they're going to be living out their romantic fantasy for a while. I can live with that, even if I may also find Fitz a tool and Olivia a fool for love. Because, yes, Jake. But look too close at Jake's history and you'd go running the opposite direction as well. That's why they call it Scandal, I guess.
As for Once Upon a Time (I liked the Grimm comparison, that was intriguing), sounds like you're nearing the break-up point with that one. It happens. It's a show I've always liked more for its premise than its execution, and I'm afraid I didn't make it much past the second season. (So many other options on Sundays, and there's no time anymore to catch up, even if I were so inclined.) But you do sound conflicted, so I'd advise giving the season opener a look, and if you like what you see, stay on the ride. If not, look around. Sunday is not exactly lacking in choices. But go back to ABC later in the evening for Quantico. That's one of the fall's more promising newcomers.
Mr. Robot's Origins
Question: [Adapted from Twitter] So what network was Mr. Robot really intended for? The language and subject matter were way too intense for ol' USA Network. What a great show! — George
Matt Roush: Wasn't it, though! One of the most fascinating aspects of the TV summer was watching networks like USA (and Lifetime with UnReal) expand the reach and even tone of their brands with these noise-making shows. Mr. Robot doesn't just look and sound different from anything on USA, it's a complete and audacious original that would have been a sensation on FX, AMC or other networks better known for pushing content envelopes. Believe it or not, it was always intended for USA. Read Michael Schneider's story to see how Robot is part of an evolution—though this particular show felt revolutionary—that began with edgier series like Suits and Graceland. I've seen the pilot of USA's alien-occupation drama Colony, which premieres in January, and it's pretty strong and unusual in its approach as well.
Have Show Intros Seen Better Days?
Question: You're traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of space, the final frontier. These are the voyages of Herman's intellect, without me, he couldn't toil at many jobs, freed to search for a one-armed man he saw at the scene of the criminal justice system, the people are represented by two separate, yet equally important groups: the police who are being watched, the government has a secret system. I'm just trying to be a better person. My name is Earl. My name is Barry Allen. My name is Oliver Queen. I'm federal agent Jack Bauer. And today is the longest day of my life.
Matt, lately I've been obsessed with these narrated intros across TV history and persisting into the modern era. Some are iconic and set the perfect mood (Star Trek), some are better than its classic theme song (The Twilight Zone), but some are pointlessly superfluous, especially with a lot of shows today. It's pretty bad on The CW, where they actually think they need to explain to the audience what The Flash is about. I Dream of Jeannie and 24 eventually got rid of their explanations and put the extra time towards the-now legendary theme song and more precious time for Jack Bauer respectively. And while Rob Thomas never responded when I tweeted to him to get his 23 seconds back, I was overjoyed when iZombie dumped that silly, overly precious declaration of "I'm a crime fighting zombie!" I don't care, I'm taking credit for that. I get that these were invented to keep butts in seats and away from the channel knob in a time before the Internet and the info button, but do you actually think they were at all effective? How do you feel about these past and present? — Gene
Matt Roush: I enjoyed your mash-up of intros (even though I cut it down a bit), and get where you're coming from. I certainly agree about missing all those great old theme songs. (You'd think when a big hit like The Big Bang Theory uses one, more would follow suit.) But most of these intros don't bother me. With the comic-book-based CW shows, I find it almost comforting for the hero to welcome me back to their world each week. (As a child watching Superman reruns of the George Reeves era, I never complained about the speeding-bullet montage.) And if the device is a bit corny and obvious, isn't that part of TV's appeal in the bigger picture? That said, when it's attached to something as lame as latter-day Dome, these intros can feel more like warnings.
That's all for now, but remember that I can't do this without your participation, so please keep sending questions and comments about TV to [email protected] or shoot me a line on Twitter (@TVGMMattRoush). Or submit your question via the form below: