Ask Matt: ‘Scandal’s Mellie for Prez? ‘Fargo’ for Newbies, Plus The CW’s Midseason Plans, ‘The X-Files’ 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, so we won’t be addressing upcoming storylines unless it’s common knowledge. Please send your questions and comments to [email protected] (or use the new form at the end of the column) and follow me on Twitter.
Question: [Last week’s] Scandal was great, but I will never get why anyone would want Mellie for President. Susan Ross would be a better choice. Mellie picked Susan as VP because she thought she would be unelectable. But Susan actually cares, whereas Mellie just wants the power. Also, Mellie is making a huge mistake trusting Cyrus. The moment Fitz asks him back, he’s going to stab her in the back. — Renee [from Twitter]
Matt Roush: Well, yes on most of these issues, although I’d be worried if anyone’s taking anything that happens on Scandal even remotely seriously. As I recently noted on Twitter, last week’s Scandal was a welcome return to form, Scandal at its best because it was Scandal at its most—outrageous. I’m sure we’re meant to admire Susan Ross for her principals, if not for her judgment in joining this administration-from-hell, but never in a show like this would she be considered front-runner material. The idea of Mellie as the second President Fitz is just as ludicrous, but it gives Bellamy Young such delicious material to play, let’s just roll with it until it goes completely off the rails. And trust Cyrus? This is more about picking the evil that suits one’s needs the best at the moment. They’d all throw each other under a speeding train if that’s what it took to gain the upper hand in this crazy scenario. I just hope the show doesn’t get bogged down in whatever “Lazarus” is and why the Louvre might be burning. The White House mess is plenty juicy enough for now.
Is FargoSafe for Newbies?
Question: Do you have to have seen the first season of Fargo in order to understand the second? I know it’s an anthology with a different cast. I didn’t watch last year, but I know you recommend it, and I’m in the market for something to replace Castle in the 10/9c hour anyway on Mondays, so… thoughts? — JL
Matt Roush: Thankfully, it’s no more necessary to see Season 1 to enjoy Season 2 of FX’s Fargo than it was to have seen the Oscar-winning movie to appreciate the series version, which tells its own story with all-new characters and actors. That said, knowing the source material probably enhances one’s enjoyment, because there are subtle (and some not-so-subtle) callbacks, and beyond the plot there’s a continuity of quirky tone that makes the entire experience more satisfying if you’ve seen it all. All of which is meant to recommend without qualification the terrific new season with its splendid cast and fantastically entertaining, surprising storytelling. Dig in now, and catch up with the earlier versions later.
How Long Will The 100Stay in Limbo?
Question: I’ve read that The CW has ordered new scripts for iZombie and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. What does this mean for their midseason shows that are pending an airdate, such as The 100 and DC’s Legends of Tomorrow? Will they be pushed around and air sometime in the summer? Because I don’t think it’s physically possible to wait any longer for The 100 to start its new season! And I’d like to know your opinion on how this will affect its ratings as well. I know it has a strong fan base and critics love it as well, but are the show’s renewal chances jeopardized by this move? — Martina
Matt Roush: To be honest, I’m not sure how big a factor traditional ratings are for a network like The CW, so I wouldn’t be overly concerned, regardless of how long it takes for their midseason to kick in. I would expect Legends to get a more conventional midseason pop so it could be launched alongside one of the more established DC shows, but The 100 should be fine even if part of its season bleeds into the summer. Which wouldn’t be such a shock given the more elastic nature of what used to be a traditional September-to-May TV season. But really, I haven’t a clue what this network’s midseason timetable will look like. I am, however, more than a little intrigued about the shows themselves (100, Legends, even Containment). On a related CW note …
Beauty and the Beast‘s Future?
Question: Any possible news for Beauty and the Beast? They already wrapped the fourth season but it will be shown in 2016. Sounds like closure to me! — Fran
Matt Roush: As we reported earlier this week, the upcoming fourth season (possibly to be burned off next summer) will indeed be the last. If this causes you much grief, may I suggest looking up the original (and much superior) CBS series of the same title from the late 1980s. You won’t be disappointed.
Would More X-FilesBe Too Much?
Question: Apparently Fox is hinting that they’ll do 10-13 episodes of The X-Files for 2017 if ratings are strong for the six-episode revival in January. Given the history and its positive reception at Cannes, do you think solid viewership for this iconic show is a sure thing, or is bringing back a 25-year-old show always a risk? — Devon
Matt Roush: This is news to me, although I’m too busy watching actual TV these days to keep up with the rumor mill. And all very speculative obviously, as we won’t know until January how robust the viewership will be for The X-Files‘ comeback, let alone its quality. One of the aspects of the reboot that I’ve been championing is its limited number of episodes, which I hope does leave us wanting more. It’s obviously a risk to try to recapture this sort of magic—the disappointment of the last X-Files movie a case study in that—but if this leads to us revisiting the franchise from time to time on TV (where it belongs), I could be on board with that. Roughly doubling the number of episodes in the future, however, sounds an awful lot like hubris.
Could Gilmore GirlsEven Happen Today?
Question: This has been the first TV season in years in which I’m not very interested in any of the broadcast networks’ new TV offerings. In fact, rather than trying out new shows, I decided to take a trip down memory lane and rewatched episodes of Gilmore Girls, Buffy and Angel. My question concerns the type of shows that the broadcast networks develop these days. Since this is the age of peak TV, it’s difficult for them to find a breakout hit or to get attention for any kind of new show, thus they only develop these noisy high-concept shows that can barely make their premise work past the pilot. It appears as if a more traditional low-key show like Gilmore Girls would have no chance of being developed these days. Do you feel like this is something that might change again in a few years, or do you think networks will keep going for big splashy high-concept shows that fall apart after a few episodes? For me it’s very disappointing, because in my opinion, the narrative voices of a show are more important than high concepts and I’m seeing fewer and fewer shows with distinctive narrative voices on the broadcast networks. – Eric
Matt Roush: You could argue that shows like Buffy and Angel were fairly high-concept themselves, and it’s worth remembering that the wondrous Gilmore Girls flourished on the smaller WB network—ah, those were the days—and might have struggled on one of the Big Four even a decade or more ago. (Can you believe it was 15 years ago this month that Gilmore premiered?) Yours is an interesting and provocative question, because while it’s already well established that this fall was pretty much a bummer when it comes to originality (with the rare exception of The CW’s Crazy Ex-Girlfriend), it’s also a fact that we now come to expect shows with a more distinctive and personal vision and voice to emerge on cable or, lately, streaming services (such as Amazon’s Transparent). The entire industry is in a state of transition and flux, so I’m hoping that we might see a major broadcast network eventually take a risk with something that stands out by not aping a high-concept formula, favoring character over situation (think Parenthood as a recent example). As it becomes harder for a show to qualify as a hit—and they can’t all be lunatic guilty pleasures like Empire and Scandal, as enjoyable as they may be—I’d love to see the networks try to get back in the quality game. (Last season’s American Crime was a promising experiment, so it’s not entirely a lost cause.)
Does the Bones/Sleepy HollowCrossover Make Sense?
Question: I tend to enjoy crossovers, but the Bones/Sleepy Hollow merger has me scratching my head. On the one hand, we have Bones with the ultra-logical, anti-spiritualism in any way/shape/form Temperance Brennan, vs. Sleepy Hollow with its plethora of witches, demons and all else occult. Have you ever seen a crossover with two shows that are not only so different, but diametrically opposed in their worldview? I just don’t see how it can work. And on a completely different note, I just finished catching up on Once Upon a Time and I have just one thing to say: Why oh why haven’t they found a better wig for Fairy Tale Land Snow White yet? She looks like she’s wearing a wolverine pelt on her head. — Pat
Matt Roush: There once was talk of The X-Files and Picket Fences doing a crossover, but that never transpired (although two episodes apparently echoed each other way back in December 1994). It is peculiar for a show grounded in forensics to hook up with a show that dwells so heavily in the supernatural, but as an upcoming story on the stunt in TV Guide Magazine will detail, one aspect that links the two series is how each is built around an unusual partnership of opposites. So as Abbie bonds with fellow law enforcer Booth and Brennan finds a kindred spirit in Ichabod, the prospect of their disparate worlds colliding might not be all that jarring. I’m just hoping it’s a fun experiment, and not all that concerned about believing the “reality” of it all. Regarding Snow’s wig: Our in-house Once expert Gregory E. Miller agrees with you that the wig is and always has been horrible. Guess it’s too late to change it now.
Will the Midseason Improve on a Blah Fall?
Question: Kudos to The CW for re-airing The Flash in sequence over the summer, which allowed me to discover a worthy show that I would otherwise be unable to view. Curious as to your take on the current fall line-up that is unraveling, compared to potential hits in the mid-season expected to premiere? Perhaps I am alone, but I feel this season is a bit dull and bland both for new and returning shows. I find myself unusually more eager for mid-season. Premieres of certain reliable comforts i.e. NCIS, Hawaii Five-0 and even Homeland fell short in my opinion. I’m loving Sunday nights with Quantico, Madam Secretary and The Good Wife. Although I must add, on The Good Wife I hope Peter doesn’t get the VP ticket. His political success can’t go much further and remain realistic.
I’m enjoying The Grinder, probably because of Rob Lowe and my childhood nostalgia for Fred Savage. And Blue Bloods is a Friday night staple. While it has its flaws, and the pilot was bad, Life in Pieces is growing on me. I was rather amused by episode 3 with the late-night diaper run drunk test and the tree-cutting segment. Considering I have a 14-month-old, that may be why I find some of the show humorously relatable. — Abby
Matt Roush: A lot of observations here, and I’m with you that I’m hoping the midseason brings some brighter prospects than most of this year’s fall batch. However, Quantico and especially The Grinder were two of my fall favorites, and I’m hoping more discover The Grinder before it’s too late. (I know the network and studio believe in it.) Urging you to give Homeland more of a chance, because this season feels revitalized to me. As for Life in Pieces, the late-night diaper run was maybe the only sequence, besides the pilot’s fake funeral birthday party, I’ve found really funny in a show that I feel epitomizes the nature of so much of this fall season: too derivative, lacking in execution, and pretty much the opposite of appointment viewing. Just what TV doesn’t need.
That’s all for now, but we’ll pick up the conversation again next week, so keep sharing your thoughts on new and returning series and other TV matters. I can’t do this without your participation, so please send questions and comments about TV to [email protected] or shoot me a line on Twitter (@TVGMMattRoush). Or submit your question via the handy form below: