Ask Matt: ‘Walking Dead’s Fake-Out Fallout, CBS’s Thanksgiving Treat, The CW’s Vampires on the Move 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: [Spoiler art for those out of the Walking Dead loop] I have to talk about The Walking Dead‘s Glenn surviving a death fake-out. I can see two sides to this issue. On one hand, most people are happy that the character is alive, and I can understand showrunner Scott Gimple’s comments about putting the audience in the same mindset as Maggie and the others at Alexandria. On the other hand, it feels extremely cheap and manipulative to make the audience mourn and dissect a single scene for four weeks only to say, “Just kidding!” I feel merit to both sides of the argument, but I’m firmly on the latter side. I’ve seen people refer to it as a shark-jumping moment, and while I don’t subscribe to lightly using that term, I can’t really disagree. I have to condemn the writers and producers for structuring and staging how it all went down. Instead of a weird camera angle that looks like we might be seeing Glenn’s guts, how about they just end the scene with them trapped on the dumpster? It would have the same effect of mystery that Gimple claimed they were going for, without the harsh manipulation straight out of the soap opera playbook, right next to evil twins and faking one’s own death. It also happens to be a giant retread of the same story where Glenn was searching for Maggie a couple seasons ago. That was executed much more satisfyingly.
And how is Nicholas’s arc ending this way supposed to be satisfying on any level? A habitual screw-up gets earns the trust of a person better than him, he becomes a better person but dies screwing up royally one last time? I get the harsh world/harsh consequences thing, but this just feels like pointless piling on. I sense that the writers recognized that their Eugene arc was too similar to the Nicholas arc, so they decided to have a field day killing off the character people like less. It happens, and I get that writing episodic TV is a strange and complicated animal, but I wish they found a way to surprise me instead of going down the easy, disappointing road. Would you agree? What are your thoughts? — Gene
Matt Roush: As I wrote recently in anticipation of The Walking Dead‘s midseason finale, the greatest casualty in Glenn’s not-so-surprise resurrection may have been our trust in the storytellers not to play such cheap tricks on us in the future. Even with this week’s big death moment involving Deanna, played by the great Tovah Feldshuh (who also appears this week in The CW’s Crazy Ex-Girlfriend as Rebecca’s mom), because we didn’t see her dead body, there may be some viewers who think she might have survived her fearless charge on the home-invading Walkers. (She didn’t, and she was bitten toast anyway.) I have less trouble with Nicholas not rising to the heroic occasion when trapped on the dumpster with Glenn. The human failings of these characters add credence and necessary suspense to this survival epic—although isn’t it about time for Morgan to wake up that some villains (especially if they have a “W” branded on their forehead) can’t be redeemed? So while I agree with you about the specific Glenn issue, and hope they never pull that kind of stunt again, The Walking Dead isn’t anywhere near the point of jumping into the shark tank. The fact that we still care enough to have this debate speaks volumes. (You don’t see anyone having discussions like this about anyone on the ludicrous American Horror Story, do you?)
Why Did CBS Go With Thanksgiving Originals?
Question: What was CBS thinking, airing new episodes of Mom, Life In Pieces, 2 Broke Girls and Elementary on Thanksgiving night? While I understand that all of those shows started late because of the network’s contract with the NFL, couldn’t they have just aired repeats instead of new episodes, since no one watches regular TV on that night? — Chris
Matt Roush: Rare to hear anyone gripe about a network airing original episodes instead of repeats, but I’ll admit I was pretty bummed when I got back from my holiday getaway to realize that football once again went long—just enough to cut off the last minutes of any given episode—screwing up my own recording of Mom and Elementary. Otherwise, I was OK with the idea of CBS bucking the trend of repeats and specials and offering new episodes to anyone who might have needed a respite. Especially considering how late in the season Elementary returned, a repeat might have felt premature, but honestly, I was surprised to see anyone treating Thanksgiving night as business as usual. (This will not be case come Christmas week.)
The Uncertain Future of Scream Queens
Question: Has Scream Queens been renewed? — Linda
Matt Roush: As I write this, with the two-hour finale a week away, Fox hasn’t yet picked up the show, which as you’re probably aware would be an entirely different story and mystery in a second season. (Making it interesting, entertaining and less cartoonish would be a nice change of pace, though let’s not expect miracles here.) I’m curious if Fox will give it another go. The network’s relationship with Ryan Murphy is an important one, and while Scream Queens was an instant disappointment in the ratings, especially considering the hype, Fox has trumpeted its following on other viewing platforms and its social media buzz. So I wouldn’t be surprised either way.
Are The CW’s Vampires Being Put Out to Pasture?
Question: Should we be worried about The Vampire Diaries and The Originals now that they will be moved to the TV graveyard of Friday night? I know that the shows have had better creative days, but is this a case of setting up for the actual end of Mystic Falls. I haven’t caught up on Season 3 of The Originals, but I thought it was doing better in the new time slot. Or does the network just want to give the new DC’s Legends of Tomorrow superhero show a better chance with their known best day of viewership. Small follow-up question: With all of the superhero shows, has the era of supernatural TV run its course (vampires, werewolves and zombies)? — Henry
Matt Roush: I wouldn’t read too much into this move. In announcing the January changes, in which DC’s Legends of Tomorrow and the third season of The 100 (yay!) will take over the Thursday lineup on January 21, pushing the vampire shows to Friday, The CW noted that Diaries and Originals were “among the most heavily time-shifted series on television, more than (tripling) their audiences when viewing beyond the night of air is tallied.” Of all the broadcast networks, the CW appears the least focused (for good reason) with live on-air viewing, and given the competition on Thursdays, Legends and The 100 will have their work cut out for them on that night as well. The network figures all of these shows will have enough of a cult following to keep them viable via DVR or other online and On Demand platforms. Regarding your big-picture question: The superhero and supernatural genres aren’t all that different, and there should always be room for both. Just look at the Walking Dead ratings. These creatures aren’t going anywhere, and the CW seems committed to the romantic vamps, at least for now.
Pining for Doc Martin and Fortitude
Question: Do you know when the new season of Doc Martin will be on PBS? By chance, I came across the first episode of Season 7 last night on my local Rhode Island PBS station and thought I was getting an early Christmas present. But when I went to look for future episodes on the station to set up the DVR, I could not find anything on their schedule or the Boston PBS schedule. Was this just a teaser, and now I will have to wait until sometime in 2016 for the rest? Judging by the first episode, it looks like it will be a good season, and I miss my Port Wenn family. I hope I do not have to wait too long. Also, will there be a second season of another “quirky” town, Fortitude? — Katy
Matt Roush: According to the show’s syndicator, American Public Television, episodes of Doc Martin‘s new season will be available to public TV stations starting January 1. (The season is currently available on the Acorn TV streaming service, if you’d prefer.) The timing will depend on the local station, so you’ll have to keep looking there to find out when it’s starting, as it isn’t part of PBS’s national schedule. As for Fortitude: the UK’s Sky Atlantic channel commissioned a second season, and Pivot will once again air it. No timetable announced that I’m aware of.
Clearing Up The Middle‘s College Commute
And finally, as a public service, some follow-up to last week’s question about The Middle and how undergrads Axl and Sue are able to get back and forth from campus to home so frequently:
Lynne helpfully points out: “It was mentioned when Axl first goes to East Indiana that it’s 42 miles from home. Not the most convenient, but not that implausible.” And Teresa further clarifies more recent details: “Axl moved home temporarily because he and his roommate were kicked out of their apartment. The family decided not to have the traditional dinner, because Frankie found out she had to work on the holiday, so Sue also went back to work in order to pick up some extra money. Pretty sure that the college was only a 90-minute drive or so away. I know it’s feasible to still drive this distance for classes daily, since my own daughter did it her last semester of college. If we’re going to question the show, it should be why Sue is still dressing as if she were in grade school. She can surely move on with some of her choices in clothing now that she is in college. Guess the haircut is a start.”
Final note from Matt: That all makes sense to me, and as everyone back home in Indiana keeps telling me, gas is cheaper right now, so that helps, too. But regarding Sue’s fashion sense: I kind of like that she’s still stuck in an awkward adolescent limbo. She’s the last person I want to see grow up too soon.
That’s all for now, but we’ll pick up the conversation again soon, 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.