Ask Matt: Why Has CBS Lost Interest in ‘Person of Interest’? Plus: ‘The Walking Dead’, ‘Bates Motel’ 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 form at the end of the column) and follow me on Twitter.
Question: I suppose the writing was on the wall, but I was still bummed to hear that Person of Interest was canceled. At least we will get a shortened Season 5, though I wish CBS would air it now instead of the hideous looking Rush Hour retread. Four-plus seasons is a pretty good run nowadays, but do you think it could have lasted longer on cable or streaming services where much of the more “original content” seems to reside nowadays (Mr. Robot comes to mind)? Or would the show have been too expensive to produce? — Brian
Matt Roush: That’s a fair question and an interesting reflection on the state of TV these days. There is still great value in the exposure a show can get on traditional broadcast TV, and on those ever-more-rare occasions when they dare to do something different like this, it can be exhilarating, even when the ratings and demographic pressures have us continually sweating their future from season to season. Person of Interest may have been a little ahead of its time, as it might have been perfect as part of the current rebranding evolution of networks like USA and TNT, and if Netflix and Amazon (and now even Hulu) had been players during its development, maybe Jonathan Nolan and J.J. Abrams might have shopped it there first, knowing what an odd fit this smart, futuristic and prescient series would be on such a mainstream network. It’s all a trade-off, because on other outlets, POI wouldn’t have produced 22 episodes a year (until this last one), and it’s possible that a cable network might have tightened its budget. (Filming in New York City is not cheap.) It’s all speculation at this point, because who’s to say they wouldn’t have wrapped it up in five seasons somewhere else? But Brian isn’t alone in wondering if the show would have been better off airing somewhere besides CBS.
Question: First of all, I’m glad that Person of Interest is being given a chance to end their story (although probably not the way they envisioned it). But I have to ask, what is behind CBS’s horrible treatment of this show? The network has barely promoted POI since it came on the air, waits almost a year to announce not only that it’s canceled but when the final season will be. And to top it off, gives it one of the weirdest schedules I’ve heard of in recent memory. This show has pulled in great ratings for them over the years. Yes, the demos are lower than they once were, but they have pulled in viewership in the 9-12 million range since it began. Not to mention being one of their most critically acclaimed shows. They’re treating one of the most intelligent, relevant, well-done shows like trash. It can’t be just because it’s owned by Warner Bros., can it? I can’t help but think that this great show would have been better off with a home like Netflix since the beginning. – Leah
Matt Roush: If CBS really hated the show (which it doesn’t), there wouldn’t be even this fifth season to anticipate, though I do agree that the twice-a-week scheduling through May into June gives the impression of burning it off as quickly as possible. The way I see it is that Person of Interest is the latest victim of CBS’s overall success. If Limitless had flopped, which it didn’t, CBS might have brought POI back on the schedule sooner. But there weren’t many holes on CBS’s schedule this year, and as noted above, this was always a bit of an odd fit, and once it fell off the fall schedule (and months dragged on with no word of its fate), its future was pretty much sealed. Would CBS treat one of its own productions this shabbily? Probably not. So fans have a right to be annoyed, though conditionally, because we still have 13 episodes to look forward to.
Losing Love for Walking Dead‘s Heroes?
Question: Are any fans of The Walking Dead having the same problems as I am about the group’s new offensive attitude, of attacking because they have to trade with the Hilltoppers for supplies, and besides, Negan’s group tried to kill some of ours first anyway? I realize we aren’t dealing with normal civilization here—but this seems wrong to me in order to continue to have empathy for our heroes.
Also, I see Person of Interest has finally been given its walking papers by CBS, and I as well as many other fans I am sure are heartbroken. How can such a proven performer and top-20 show be treated this way solely because CBS does not own its rights—are all shows now going to be treated this way? On a similar note, I noticed that Blue Bloods is considered a bubble show? I subscribe to TV Guide Magazine and always notice it is consistently in the top 10 and sometimes top 5—is the same thing going on here again? As shows age, they cost more due to actors’ contracts, production costs, etc. Is that why? Finally, I am very pleased with the new season of Bates Motel as Norman sinks further into his psychosis, except for the fact that this was announced as its penultimate season, meaning there will only be one more—again, more production costs? It seems like ever since my favorite show of all time (Breaking Bad), networks seem to be putting on a certain number of episodes for all shows. Does this sound accurate? – Jim
Matt Roush: I’m a little confused about your syntax in the Walking Dead question, but it sounds like you’re put off because Rick and the gang are going on the offensive instead of the defense this time around—but not without turmoil about the moral consequences (see Carol-of-the-rosary’s recent decision). If they didn’t struggle and argue about the “kill or be killed” philosophy they’re employing to protect their new home, then it wouldn’t be The Walking Dead. We’re meant to be as ambivalent and troubled as they are, and that’s OK with me.
Moving from Person of Interest to Blue Bloods, that can only be considered a “bubble show” because CBS hasn’t officially renewed it for a seventh season yet—but that seems inevitable. At some point the network and studio (both CBS) will decide it doesn’t make economic sense to continue, and CBS in particular has a history of retiring its procedurals (with the exception of the CSI and NCIS franchises) before they get too long in the tooth. But Blue Bloods seems safe for now. And I’m with you on Bates Motel as a current must-see (more on that in the next question), although the decision to only produce five seasons of that series appears to be at least in part a creative decision, one with which I concur. This show is seriously riding the crazy train right now, and plotting an end strategy only makes sense, all Psycho things considered.
Crazy About Bates Motel
Question: It seems like Bates Motel has fallen off everyone’s radar since Season 1, and I’m wondering why people aren’t jumping up and down over the brilliant performance of Freddie Highmore, this season in particular. Only two episodes in, and I’m already screaming Emmy at my TV! I thought it should go to Connor Jessup after his fantastic work on American Crime, but Freddie is just blowing my mind, especially whenever he channels his beloved mom Norma. I know A&E is a network that doesn’t get much attention because it airs mostly junk. Have people forgotten about Bates? If so, they need a reminder from someone like you that it’s time to check it out again. And please also bang the Emmy drum when the time comes for both Freddie and Vera Farmiga! They at least deserve nominations! – Beverly
Matt Roush: Maybe you haven’t noticed, but I’ve been plugging Bates Motel every week in my What’s Worth Watching roundups since the show’s return—including this week, when we also posted a feature about Norma and Romero’s unorthodox wedding. So it’s not like we’re ignoring the show, but it’s hard in an age of unending glut for almost anything to break through the clutter. Freddie Highmore certainly deserves to. He’s more chilling and entertaining than ever, although I will also be beating the drum this year for American Crime‘s Connor Jessup to be recognized for any and every award. (Crime will likely be competing in the Limited Series categories, and Jessup is probably supporting, anyway, while Freddie’s is a lead performance—though one the Emmys in particular will most likely find a way to ignore.)
No Honeymoon Period for Deacon and Rayna?
Question: I just saw the previews for the upcoming episodes of Nashville at the end of the midseason premiere episode, and it looks like Deacon and Rayna will have problems right after they get married. Why can’t they just them be the only stable couple on the show, and let the rest of the characters have the problems instead, like the writers on Knots Landing did with Mack and Karen? And have you heard if the cast has been made aware of the regime change at ABC, and if they met with the new ABC president Channing Dungey on the fate of their show yet, and if they’re getting canceled so the writers can pen a decent wrap-up series finale episode to give the show proper closure? — Chris
Matt Roush: What would you expect from Nashville? The show lives to put its characters in torment—material for their music, I suppose—and Deacon and Rayna couldn’t even tie the knot without her insufferable daughters going through their usual angst upheavals. You know you’re speaking my language when you invoke Knots Landing, and in a happier world, this couple would be the equivalent of Knots‘s MacKenzies. But even they had their soap-opera complications, and I expect our favorite Nashville couple will, too, all the way to the end. And of course the cast and producers are aware of the regime change at ABC, and its implications (dire) for shows like Nashville. I’m sure there have been discussions on how the season will end, given the uncertainty and unlikelihood of renewal, but I’m not privy to any of that. I just hope they don’t go with some over-the-top cliffhanger that most likely would never get resolved.
Standing Up for the Outsiders
Question: I looked back at your review of Outsiders. You did not seem too impressed. I personally love this show! I’m wondering if you have watched the rest of the season, and if so, has your opinion changed? – Dawn
Matt Roush: I screened five episodes in advance of writing that review, and while I appear to have fallen behind on the most recent episodes, I’ll stick with what I felt was a very fair if mixed opinion. The exotic, isolated world that Outsiders presents is very evocative and intriguing, which would be reason enough for people to tune in, though I took issue with some of the more contrived or derivative storylines that made me feel I was watching a backwoods version of Sons of Anarchy (which I imagine is what many people would like about the show). So while it’s not likely to end up on my best-of-year list, I’m glad it’s doing well enough for WGN America to renew it. But I’m more interested in driving traffic toward a more original and apparently even more successful WGN freshman show, the slavery drama Underground.
Sherlock Spices Up CBS’s Sunday Lineup
Question: Just watched Elementary in the new Sunday time slot, and enjoyed it very much despite the slight time shift. This season has been a good one. I’d kind of wandered away from watching the rest of the CBS Sunday lineup, but looked in on a few things again this week. Mostly confirmed my fading interest in The Good Wife, since the latest twist on “let’s create a new firm, again” seems a bit tired. Musical chairs, anyone? I’ll admit I’m curious to see where they decide to let things wind up at series’ end. I’m hoping there will be a better story for Alicia than the silent wife stuff that still lingers. Just hoping they have a better end than the tabloid sex scandal that seems to be looming. Yes, these characters are well crafted, but they’ve all been kinda spinning in place for a while. Part of me is yawning, which seems a shame. — Anna
Matt Roush: If all shows spun in place as enjoyably as The Good Wife, network TV would be a much healthier place. I’ll give you that the law-firm machinations feel overdone by now—how many times can they change the letterhead at that firm?—and I wasn’t a fan of Peter’s campaign storyline, but as the next question asserts, and I agree, Alicia’s own circumstances are more fascinating than ever to behold.
Good Wife in a Good (and Sexy) Place
Question: Like you, I’ve been in The Good Wife’s corner since its very beginning—through the good times and the bad (and in the latter, I still thought it was better than most shows)—and now I’m happily seeing it head toward its last hurrah in a wonderful, exciting, fun blaze of glory, and it brings me to a few thoughts and questions. I think Alicia (and Julianna Margulies) seems to have a new lightness about her. I love how she looks. Her hair, makeup, clothes, manner, expression, all seem to me to be softer and lighter, and I’m sure we can chalk some of this up to her new man-crush—my man crush, everyone’s man crush—Jason Crouse, played masterfully by Jeffrey Dean Morgan, but it makes me wonder. Is that the intent of the Kings and Julianna? To have her finally “living,” because they have nothing left to lose and she can happily go out into the sunset, or wherever, with a smile on her face? And is Julianna, and the other wonderful characters, feeling a sense of sadness that it’s coming to an end? Or relief that it’s being allowed to do so with such a bang?
I’m also wondering whether you, in your job as a critic, and a good one, know what the “finale” date is for The Good Wife. I know there are four more episodes to go, and that there are sure to be one or two pre-emptions, and you had mentioned it being in May, but I wonder if you have a more definite date, and whether I should tie a black bow, or a red one around my TV set. Thanks for always being there for this show. I’m sorry to see it go, but I’m happy it’s getting the chance to do so in such an enjoyable way! — DorJean
Matt Roush: I’m sure there are mixed feelings on the set as The Good Wife nears its end: pride that it has maintained (mostly) its quality throughout and that it’s going out on a sexy high with the Alicia-Jason storyline, overlaid with the inevitable sadness of closing shop on such a wonderful experience that has brought such a top-notch cast together. I appreciate your take on Alicia’s recent glow, which I’ve also noticed (and approve), and I’d like to think that indicates the show will leave her—and us—in a positive state of mind when it’s all over. And the final date has been confirmed, so set your DVR. The finale airs Sunday, May 8.
A Major Change of Pace
Question: I know you don’t follow Major Crimes regularly, but did you look in on their recent five-parter at all? I thought it was really interesting to see the show do a big case with serialized storytelling, which was a definite change of pace for them but worked really well. Since TNT is rebranding itself, do you think we should read anything into this change in format? I also noticed that the show’s next renewal is only for 10 episodes, and that is the shortest season order it has had since its debut season, when it premiered on the end of The Closer’s final run. Anyway, I have watched faithfully since the early years of The Closer, and I still love these characters and hope it continues for as long as the creators and cast wish to do it. — Jake
Matt Roush: The multi-episode mystery arc sounded like a great idea to me, and the fans I know, including one I live with, seemed to enjoy it. (I didn’t watch. Just couldn’t add it to my plate.) Whether that will be the approach going forward I couldn’t tell you, but it seems as if Major Crimes would be more reflective of the “new” TNT if it opened up beyond case-of-the-week storytelling. And apparently TNT has picked the show up for 13, not 10, episodes, so no immediate cause for concern yet. Depending on how TNT’s next slate of shows performs, they may be glad they’ve still got something this reliable to fall back on.
That’s all for now. We’ll pick up the conversation again next week, but 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). Or submit your question via the handy form below: