Ask Matt: How Original Is 'God Friended Me?' Plus: Amy's 'Big Bang' Dilemma, 'Dirty John,' 'The Conners'
Welcome back to the Q&A with TV critic (also known to some TV fans as their "TV therapist") Matt Roush, who'll try to 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.
God’s Deja View Problem
Question: I had to laugh when one of TV Guide Magazine’s readers (in the “Feedback” column in the Jan. 21 issue) called God Friended Me a "new concept." All CBS did was recycle Touched By An Angel. They even put it in the same time period. CBS wouldn't know a new concept if it slapped them in the face. — Tom, Portland, Oregon
Matt Roush: Some have pointed out similarities to other former CBS shows, including Early Edition and Joan of Arcadia (with its religious premise). Of course there are new elements and twists to the way God Friended Me deals with these themes, most notably how Miles’ atheism affects his approach to the missions the “God” account sends him on. But part of the show’s success is no doubt due to the echoes from the past, rendering it TV comfort food.
Question: Is God Friended Me over for the season? I don't recall seeing Episode 13 billed as the season finale. Bu, I admit I also don't watch much live TV these days. Did it only have a 13-episode order? If so, what do you think the chances are that it will be renewed? Episode 13 didn't really feel like a season finale. But it doesn't appear to have any upcoming episodes and soon Big Brother will be taking its time slot. — Beth
Matt Roush: Not to worry, there’s still more to come. God was picked up for a full season, but it’s taking a break right now, in part because February is always full of Sunday preemptions: the Super Bowl, the Grammys and Oscars on three of the four weekends. (In fact, there will be a new episode on Feb. 17, the one open weekend.) Come March, it should be back for most of the rest of the regular season.
Is Big Bang’s Amy a Wimp?
Question: What's happened to Amy Farrah Fowler (played by Mayim Bialik) on The Big Bang Theory? A few episodes ago, she was removed from a scientific project she's worked on for years because Sheldon told the university president that Amy would prefer to work on a project with her husband. The university president didn't ask Amy, but took her off the project because he assumed that Sheldon spoke for his wife. In the most recent episode, Amy told Sheldon it was OK to take her name off their joint project, a possible Nobel Prize nominee, because it would make him happy to win the prize. Amy is a wimp? Was there a change in writers? The TV show has had very intelligent and what seemed strong women. Is the series going to end with Amy pregnant and happy to leave her scientific career to care for Sheldon and children?! – Leticia
Matt Roush: You make some good points, and I do hope that Amy gets a big win by the end of this final season. She’s overdue. I’m not sure you’re being entirely fair to Amy—it takes quite a bit of strength of character to take one for the team, but if you keep taking those hits, eventually it just might add up to your sort of negative perception.
The way I look at Big Bang is that the entire series is built around the story of Sheldon Cooper’s evolution into a human being, and that includes falling for and marrying Amy, and eventually seeing her as an equal. When Sheldon overstepped by putting her on his project without asking, he soon saw the error of his ways (though it was too late to fix)—and while he went about it wrong, their collaboration on super asymmetry probably strengthened their emotional bond. When she offered to step aside so he could get the credit to achieve his Nobel goal, Sheldon decided to fight back, and we still don’t know how that’s going to end. His ethical growth is very much due to Amy’s influence, and there’s nothing wimpy about that. But yes, there should be a limit to how much she’s willing to give up for her insufferable soulmate.
In Praise of Dirty John
Question: I too was caught up in Bravo’s recently concluded Dirty John—knowing nothing about the story going in or how it would end. The cast was wonderful. It did seem a bit long and a bit repetitive, but I guess that was because Debra Newell, as played by Connie Britton, really was as foolish and slow-witted as she came off in the series. I also watched the two-hour follow up with the real people and it was nearly as fascinating, if not more so. As smart as Newell seemed to be as a businesswoman, she shouldn't be allowed to date for the rest of her life. She seems to have a terminal blind spot when it comes to judging men, and even when everyone around her (including both daughters) could see this maniac for what he was from day one, she never seemed to grasp just how lethally dangerous he was. Her behavior, performed spot-on by Britton, was tough to watch, especially given the fact that it almost got her daughter Terra (beautifully played in the last episode by Julia Garner) killed. And a big shout-out to Eric Bana (scary good as John) and Juno Temple as daughter Veronica, who gets better every time I see her. — Michael
Matt Roush: Yes, as I said many times during the run of Dirty John, the show was so much better than it had any right to be, and good luck to the producers to find a true-life story to top this one. And the cast! Britton made Debra sympathetic even at her most exasperating, and Bana’s ability to flip from charmer to monster in an instant was truly terrifying. Juno Temple as the spoiled yet loyal Veronica was the real discovery for me. At times she seemed just as awful as John, but also hilarious with her snotty attitude. As guilty pleasures go, this was a doozy.
TV Ensembles Should Get Their Due
Question: They give great honors and recognition for individual actors, but I wish there was more recognition for ensemble casts. I know the SAG Awards do it, but I think the Emmys and Golden Globes should recognize the importance of the ensemble, especially in a comedy, and wonder why there isn't any attention paid to that specific TV staple. I would certainly include the likes of the casts of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Barney Miller, The Office, The Cosby Show, 3rd Rock From The Sun, NYPD Blue, House of Lies, Just Shoot Me, Frasier, Cheers, Sanford and Son, Seinfeld, The Golden Girls, 30 Rock, The Middle, The Sopranos, Modern Family and Grey's Anatomy. All wonderfully strong and chemically perfect ensembles. — Leon
Matt Roush: This is always one of my favorite aspects of the SAG Awards—the 25th anniversary show airs Sunday on TNT and TBS—and I agree in principle that ensembles deserve this sort of attention. To some degree, though, when a comedy or drama wins best series at the Emmys (or even the Globes), I take that as a symbolic win for the ensemble—and so does the show, which is why entire casts and writing teams tend to take the stage to be part of the celebration at those moments, to bask in the glory. Awards shows are long enough without adding more categories, which is why I doubt we’ll see the Emmys or Oscars or Globes add an “ensemble” category anytime soon. (And at the SAG Awards, whatever shows win the “ensemble” award, I see that as a “best show” win.)
Question: Did I miss something? Is The Conners being canceled? Is that why American Housewife is moving into its Tuesday night slot? — Betty, Virginia Beach, VA
Matt Roush: No, this is a case where the show had a short episode order and finished its season with only a minor extension (11 from the original 10-episode order). That was planned going in, and while ABC has yet to renew The Conners, I’ll be very surprised if that doesn’t happen.
Question: The last episode of Ray Donovan with the family cutting up bodies was a little over the top. Spoiled the whole series. — Carol
Matt Roush: A little over the top? Sandy’s house looked like something out of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre by the time that madness was over! I’m always curious where people draw the line on violent shows like these. (At least we had Smitty’s perspective to remind us that this was not normal behavior.)
Question: Will Vikings have a planned ending? — Maria
Matt Roush: I assume so. When it’s announced as far in advance as History did, that next year’s sixth season will be the last, this gives the show’s producers and writers plenty of time to plot a proper finale. It may not be entirely close-ended, but the idea would be to satisfy the fans as much as possible without leaving them hanging. (The fifth-season finale airs Jan. 30.)
That’s all for now. 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. Please include a first name with your question.