Ask Matt: Cast Departures on 'Grey's,' 'Homeland,' an Abbreviated 'Dancing,' the New 'Idol,' 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 here unless it's already common knowledge. Please send your questions and comments to [email protected] (or use the form at the end of the column) and follow me on Twitter. Look for Ask Matt columns on most Tuesdays and Fridays.
Can Grey’s Survive the Next Wave of Departures?
Question: What are your thoughts on the announcement that Grey's Anatomy is letting Jessica Capshaw and Sarah Drew go at the end of the season? It feels to me like we are not being told the full story here, since Krista Vernoff's statement about this being a creative decision is really vaguely worded. From the actors' statements on Twitter, it seems like this news caught them off guard as well, and they definitely did not deserve that after so many years of loyalty to the show. If this was indeed a creative choice, why make it so late in the season? They're probably shooting the finale by now, or close to it, and pilot season is wrapping up, which means that not only will Capshaw and Drew not be paid for a 15th season of Grey's, but they also don't have time to go book another pilot to replace that lost income. Comparatively, Scott Foley, Joe Morton, Bellamy Young, and Jeff Perry have all booked new pilots for next year because they knew they would be available with Scandal ending. It just seems like an extremely disrespectful way to treat actors who have been key parts of the Grey's cast for a long time.
Creatively, it makes even less sense, because the characters are so linked to others who will be staying put. Some people seem to think that this is a cost-cutting measure to make room in the budget for Ellen Pompeo's recent raise. If so, it was poorly handled by ABC. The show has reinvented itself a number of times and I'm sure it will do so again, but they keep introducing new (cheaper?) interns and assuming we will invest in them despite underdeveloped writing. I'd rather cut all the interns and keep the long-running stars who have no desire to leave. Also, if you include Martin Henderson who already left, and Jason George who is moving to the Station 19 spinoff, that means Grey's will be entering Season 15 minus four series regulars from the previous season. That seems like an awful lot of turnover at once; ever since Sandra Oh left, they've managed to have only one major departure per season (Christina, Derek, Callie, and Stephanie.) Four at once seems like it could be more challenging for them to handle. — JL
Matt Roush: These kinds of decisions are not unusual for a very long-running show that once again is in the process of reinventing itself, and while the producers are adamant that this is a creative and not financial decision, the optics are awkward, to put it mildly. Especially in light of star/producer Ellen Pompeo going public with her $20 million-per-season salary bump. The part of me that prefers to judge a show on its performance, not its headlines, wishes that we were not so obsessed with this kind of news so we could wait and see how Grey’s plots the exits of Arizona and April. If they’re given decent and dramatically satisfying farewells, that would help.
April, though, to me is one of the more irritating characters on the show, because of the inconsistencies in the way she is often written: tough but emotionally insipid, making her current crisis of faith (including acting up on game night most recently) seem sillier than it should. Arizona’s departure will be a huge loss in almost every way: what she stands for, what Capshaw brings to the ensemble, Arizona’s all-around authority as a doctor—but Grey’s has weathered bigger. I doubt this will be as devastating as some believe—this is when it’s OK to remind me that I didn’t think Grey’s would survive the departure of Patrick Dempsey as Derek. My feeling is that Pompeo’s two-season contract renewal suggests the next two seasons will be the last (unless the show is aiming for Law & Order-style longevity instead of just outlasting ER). If that’s the case, then refocusing the show on what’s left of the core makes more sense than, as some argue, replacing those who’ve left with yet another underperforming class of interns. (Who come and go like they do in any hospital.) In the short term, though, this will be yet another test for the loyal Grey’s Anatomy fans, who have weathered many.
A final note: An unsigned question, also expressing disappointment in these impending departures, wonders, “Is there anything fans can do to try to have this reversed?”
Social media has already lit up in the wake of the news, so the backlash of fans’ voices is already being heard, and to some degree contested by the producers and even Ellen Pompeo. But basically, the answer is no. The show will do what the show wants to do. We don’t really have a say in the matter, except when it comes to staying tuned or not.
Homeland Is Relevant Again
Question: I would like to shout out big kudos to the current season of Homeland—to me right now it should be the front runner for best drama of the current Emmy season. The tragic incident at the David Koresh-like compound was very explosive, suspenseful and compelling, as well as an inadvertent comment on current events in our daily news. I also thoroughly enjoyed Carrie's beatdown of her cyber-stalker, even though you could see it coming a mile away but was great when it happened. — JV
Matt Roush: I agree that Homeland is off to a strong start, and the siege episode was especially riveting. I’m most impressed by how the season has reflected the current real-life predicament of fake-news “information warfare,” including manipulation of the hostage crisis by an as-yet-unexplained Russian presence (did you recognize Costa Ronin from The Americans?). The show has even found a way to make Carrie’s instability interesting again, as she tries to recalibrate her meds while pursuing her latest crusade instead of pretending nothing’s really wrong. As the new embattled and paranoid president, Elizabeth Marvel is developing into a terrific and unpredictable adversary. So yes, I’m very much on board again.
Question: American Idol should have bowed out quietly when it had the chance. When the show premiered, it was primarily a "one off" for that period of time on TV. The show now has way more competition than previous years. The Voice, X Factor, The Four, all competitive singing shows that were not around when Idol had a tight grip on network ratings. TV Guide’s last cover asks, "Can the star making-machine do it again?” My vote is highly doubtful. What are your thoughts on this revamped show? — Jim, Oshkosh, Wis.
Matt Roush: Unfortunately, we can’t go back in time to when American Idol was still a truly special pop phenomenon. The show never recovered from losing Simon Cowell and Fox foolishly scheduling The X Factor during Idol’s off season, then The Voice upstaged it in its final years. Those are givens. I tend to think Idol needed to be rested a bit longer before resurrecting it, but Sunday’s opening night ratings were solid enough to suggest there’s still an appetite for it. But way down from its prime—though that’s the case for just about everything in the diminished state of broadcast TV. It appears that Idol will have a strong but not spectacular showing in its return season, and while for the most part I enjoyed the first night of auditions (all that ABC provided in advance for review), it lacked the bite and energy that once made Idol must-see viewing.
Question: Mario Batali. Kevin Spacey. Bill O'Reilly. Jeffrey Tambor. Matt Lauer. Just to name a few. But not Ryan Seacrest. Why not Ryan Seacrest? Or is it all a publicity stunt to get people to watch American Idol? I was going to watch, but not now. What's going on? — Elyse
Matt Roush: That would be the most bizarre publicity stunt in show-biz history. It has been said that no publicity is bad publicity, but being accused of any sort of sexual misconduct or harassment is no joke these days. I imagine the allegations against Ryan Seacrest would make some American Idol fans as hesitant to watch as some celebrities were to engage him on the Oscar red carpet. To your bigger point, it’s true a number of careers went into immediate free fall after such allegations were made. In Seacrest’s case, he has fought back and denied these charges, and after an investigation, both E! and ABC (regarding his participation on Live With Kelly and Ryan for Buena Vista syndication as well as Idol) are standing by him for now. Whether that satisfies anyone or is the end of the story remains to be seen. But that’s why he’s still on camera currently and going forward with Idol.
Short Shrift to a Spring Dancing?
Question: Is ABC really delaying the start of the announced all-athletes spring version of Dancing with the Stars until late April, and then only having it stick around for four weeks? Seriously, what's the point of that? Bringing together a group of athletes for what might be an especially competitive edition, and even having the usual spring outing at all, would seem to be a waste of time in such a truncated format, since watching "celebrities" improve over the course of the series and develop fan bases is pretty much the storyline of every version of the show. I suspect part of this is because of the addition of American Idol to ABC's Monday lineup, but wouldn't it have been better to just follow the path of CBS regarding The Amazing Race and simply schedule one edition a season if the network wasn't willing to air full seasons of both Idol and DWTS simultaneously, or extend Dancing's run a month beyond the usual "end" of the TV season? — Todd
Matt Roush: It is very peculiar to shoehorn a shortened stunt season of Dancing into the last weeks of the traditional season, but that’s the current plan. (There are other shows, like Elementary and Quantico, also bowing in late April, but their runs will likely air well into the summer.) I’m not privy to ABC’s reasoning for this scheduling, but presume with only athletes in the cast, their conditioning won’t be as dramatic, but it seems unlikely a season this short will have any real momentum or impact. I wasn’t crazy about CBS throwing The Amazing Race against the Olympics with back-to-back episodes many nights, which felt like a burn-off. But this is even more puzzling.
How Bad Will the Good Girls Break?
Question: In the vein of Breaking Bad’s Walter White (Bryan Cranston), is the long-term plan for a single and/or all three female leads of NBC’s Good Girls to go through a “reluctant criminal” to “ruthless and feared head of a criminal empire”-type multi-season character arc?
And since there hasn’t been a press release since the one officially announcing the potential project, I would also like to know the latest with the possible Vin Diesel-produced NBC Miami Vice reboot, especially seeing how “seemingly further” along in the TV pilot process another potential show he’s producing is (ABC’s Get Christle Love remake). — Alex
Matt Roush: I’ve only seen Good Girls through this week’s episode, where it indicates that Beth (Christina Hendricks) will be the ringleader keeping them in business with the criminal element, but how dark it will eventually go and how successful they’ll be are twists yet to be revealed. I’m not yet sold on the tone of the show, but I like these women and am curious to see where they’re heading.
Regarding the Miami Vice reboot: It doesn’t currently appear in the NBC pilot listings for next season that I’ve seen, which doesn’t mean it’s dead, unless I missed something. It could be stuck in so-called development hell, on more of a back burner, since this isn’t something you’d want to rush on air. It can sometimes take years to bring some projects to life.
That’s all for now. We’ll pick up the conversation again soon. Thanks as always for reading, and 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), and you can also submit questions via the handy form below.