Ask Matt: Will ABC Say Goodbye to ‘Nashville’, ‘Castle’ or ‘Once Upon a Time’? Plus: ‘American Crime’, ‘Suits’ and More

Connie Britton, Nathan Fillion, Lana Parrilla
Andrew Eccles/ABC; Bob D'Amico/ABC(2)
Connie Britton, Nathan Fillion, Lana Parrilla

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 form at the end of the column) and follow me on Twitter.

Question: Will the ABC executive transition lead to the network cleaning house with limping dramas such as Castle, Nashville and maybe even Once Upon a Time? – Emily

Matt Roush: It’s inevitable that there will be significant changes in ABC’s lineup come fall, but the crystal ball is a bit cloudy because the new head of entertainment, Channing Dungey, was already in charge of the network’s drama development side, so she’ll likely have to sacrifice shows she was intimately involved in. Hard to imagine a perpetual bubble show like Nashville making the cut again, and Castle appears to be at or near the end of its rope, though ABC needs more mainstream procedural tentpoles like this on the schedule, so it could get one more reprieve (though whether it deserves it in another matter), depending on the talent. Once Upon a Time is probably safe for now, in part because of its tie-in with popular Disney fantasy brands and the stability it brings to a transitioning Sunday lineup. Hard to say how this shake-up may affect ABC’s successful family-comedy brand. You might see it go broader, and we obviously will have seen the last of The Muppets after next week’s finale.

American Crime, Lili Taylor, Connor Jessup

American Crime‘s Lili Taylor and Connor Jessup

American Crime‘s Finest Hour

Question: Have you ever made a list of what you think are the best single TV episodes of all time? I ask because I think that last week I may have watched what I consider the best-ever single TV episode: Season 2, episode 7 of American Crime. What an amazing acting performance by Connor Jessup, not to mention Lili Taylor, and the directing, editing and photography were outstanding! I was so moved by this episode that I just turned off the TV and couldn’t leave my chair for a while afterwards, just thinking about it all. I always liked Connor Jessup in Falling Skies, but there wasn’t a lot of acting skill called for in that show. It has been interesting to watch his performance all season long in this show. I know that you have been a huge cheerleader for this show all season, but I wondered whether you had any specific thoughts about Jessup? In the past you have said a few brief words about him but haven’t really discussed in any depth his performance.

On a totally unrelated note: What is wrong with people? There are some extremely good shows on the major networks which no one is watching! I am so sad that the ratings for these shows, such as The Grinder, Telenovela, and Me, You and the Apocalypse, are so low that it’s unlikely they will survive. These shows are downright hilarious, well written and expertly performed. I will blame the viewing public at large if these shows are lost to me. — Paul

Matt Roush: We’ve made so many “best” lists at TV Guide Magazine over the years (including of best episodes) I can’t begin to list them, but I agree that last week’s gut-wrenching hour of American Crime was among the finest we’ve seen in a long while. I was actually in pain watching the broken Taylor (Connor Jessup) head toward either his or someone else’s doom, the emotional suspense was so devastating. This week’s episode (Wednesday, 10/9c) is also tremendous, weaving testimony from real-life victims of gay bullying and school shootings with the dramatic aftermath of Taylor’s actions, in which everyone seems to be throwing everyone else under the bus (especially at the Leyland school). The performances are all incredibly raw, but as you note, Jessup is the real revelation here, channeling this lost adolescent’s anguish, fear and rage with a subtlety and poignant urgency that is always moving. I hope he’s remembered at awards time. (And harking back to the previous question, I worry that another season of a bleak but relevant anthology like American Crime may not have a place on a retooled ABC.)

To your other question: It’s not so much a problem with people and their individual taste (or lack of) as the issue of there being so much TV and so many options and ways of watching shows nowadays that some of the quirkier shows have more trouble than ever breaking through. (And you have to admit a show like Apocalypse, though well executed, was always going to be an acquired taste, not built for mass appeal.) The networks are trying, for the moment, to compete with cable with some of these offbeat and off-brand shows. I can’t imagine they’re surprised with the modest ratings returns. The good news is that just about everyone’s suffering these days, so some of the outliers may get a second chance if (in the case of The Grinder in particular) they think media buzz and awards potential are enough to merit a renewal.

Suits, Patrick J. Adams, Gabriel Macht

Suits stars Patrick J. Adams and Gabriel Macht

Finding it Hard to Root for Suits

Question: What are your thoughts on Suits right now? I’ve always found Mike to be a bit condescending to others, and this is making it even harder for me to like him in any way. Why are all these mega lawyers so willing to let a kid ruin their reputations and law firm? Why are the prosecutor and other outside lawyers always on a mission to take Harvey down? How do they plan on getting out of this mess? Even if Mike beats the charges, he will always be a fraud with a fake degree. The show was so enjoyable when they were doing actual cases with different stories. It has always been my husband’s favorite, but even he is getting tired of all of Mike and Harvey’s self-righteousness over their own lies and cover-up. — Teresa

Matt Roush: What’s happening now on Suits had to happen, unless we were really going to buy into this being a legal drama about a fake lawyer who was never going to have to face up to the lie on which the entire series is based. I find this conflict mighty juicy (even if Leslie Hope is playing the opposing prosecutor with such smirky malice she might as well be wearing horns), and your very question “How do they plan on getting out of this?” has been hovering over Suits since the moment Harvey hired Mike. It’s true this transforms the show from another escapist USA case-of-the-week procedural into darker territory, but that’s where this network is heading (see Mr. Robot). The fact that Suits is asking us to confront how we’ve basically been championing a fraud all along makes it more interesting than watching just another courtroom show. Even if they win, they’re all going to be changed, probably damaged, and I’m curious what Suits will look like on the other end of this pivotal season. I do get what you’re saying about Mike, though, but this is also the age of the TV antihero, and as charming as he seems on the surface, he’s showing his true colors now that he’s fighting for his life, and it isn’t pretty.

Will Stephen King Bring People to Hulu?

Question: We don’t have Hulu, though we do have Netflix. I read the book 11.22.63 and enjoyed it a lot. I am wondering whether the show is worth getting Hulu for? — Faye

Matt Roush: That’s the million dollar question—or in this case, $7.99 a month ($12 for commercial-free option)—isn’t it? As more platforms aggressively pursue original programming, the consumer has to decide which are worth subscribing to. Here’s my review of 11.22.63 if that helps make up your mind. (Short version: It starts and ends strong, in part because of the strength of Stephen King’s time-tripping premise, but it condenses so much of the sprawling book that it loses some of the emotional power of the source material.) I tend to recommend Hulu more for its original comedies like Difficult People and the transplanted The Mindy Project, as well as imports including Moone Boy and The Wrong Mans (starring James Corden), and I like it as a resource for replaying certain network and cable shows, giving my DVR a respite. I’m not sure one title is enough to hinge a subscription on, but one of the reasons Hulu produced such a high-profile title is to get viewers like you in the door to see if you like the service enough to stick around.

When Will We See Mulder and Scully Again?

Question: Any chance The X-Files will be back next season? Or another movie? — FanOfRedWings

Matt Roush: A recurring question, but with the cliffhanger finale having just aired, it’s timely enough to address again. At the moment, there are no immediate (as in, announced) plans to bring The X-Files back again on TV or at the movies, but the door obviously remains open, especially considering the enthusiastic reception for Fox’s welcome if uneven reboot and the open-ended finale. Depending on the stars’ and producers’ schedules, it’s conceivable we could see another limited-run series as early as next year/season, but that’s all speculation right now. Regardless of timetable, that final shot can’t be the last we’ll see of this franchise and these characters.

Wishing For More Reboots

Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Sarah Michelle Gellar

Buffy The Vampire Slayer

Question: I see a lot of people criticizing the fact that there are so many reboots coming out right now or in the near future. But I happen to really like it. I like seeing all my old favorites return from the black hole that is cancellation. Sure, Heroes for example didn’t meet a lot of expectations, but still I loved seeing where the old characters were at. So I was wondering if you think if two of my other favorite shows, Fringe and Lost, have a shot at getting a reboot. — Anne

Matt Roush: I’ve learned never to say never, but both of these seem unlikely. Whatever you may have felt about the respective endings of these cult shows, they were endings. And Fringe was for so much of its time a fringe dweller I’d be surprised if there was a groundswell (outside of the usual fandom) from any corporate powers that be to revive this—although J.J. Abrams has so much industry clout these days, anything is possible. I’m not sure where you go with Lost, either. A new cast of castaways on their own metaphysical journey? Or new adventures of the old characters on some new plane of existence? The possibility of recapturing Lost‘s magic seems so remote that I’m not sure I’d like to see them even try.

Question: With the recent trend of revivals, do you think it is time for The Slayer and the Scooby Gang to rise again? Or is it still too soon? There is still a Hellmouth in Cleveland, after all. – Chris

Matt Roush: The only way I’d embrace a Buffy the Vampire Slayer revival is if Joss Whedon (a very busy man these days) was back in the driver’s seat. If he so chooses, I will gladly be there, whether it’s a reinvention of the show with a new cast or an update with all of our surviving favorites. It’s not too soon for me, but there would have to be a purpose for it.

More Mock Docs on the Way

Question: Is the Fred Armisen/Bill Hader series Documentary Now! coming back for a second season? – Vee

Matt Roush: Yes! (I add the exclamation point for mock emphasis the way the show does.) And let’s not forget Seth Meyers as a behind-the-scenes co-creator with his Saturday Night Live buddies. IFC renewed this inspired series of mock documentary parodies for a second and third season even before the first began to air. I look forward to seeing what genres they go after next.

That’s all for now. We’ll pick up the conversation again soon, but Matt can’t do this without your participation, so 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.