Question: I noticed that there are back-to-back new episodes of Modern Family this Wednesday night leading up to the premiere of the new musical drama series Nashville, while Suburgatory won't have its season premiere episode until the following week! Why did the TPTB at ABC felt the need to air two new episodes of Modern Family instead of premiering the second season of Suburgatory after MF and before Nashville? Was it because the network believes that two new episodes of MF running back-to-back together can make a more powerful lead-in to the series premiere of Nashville ratings-wise than Suburgatory, or is the network just that plain lazy with their programming schedule? — Chris B
Matt Roush: Odds are you already know the answer to this question, but it gives me an extra chance to plug the most promising new pilot of the fall season. Which would be Nashville, starring the great Connie Britton, an hour of TV so enjoyable I'm happy to see it get any advantage, which includes ABC deciding to double-down on Modern Family this Wednesday to provide Nashville the strongest lead-in possible. Lazy is the last word I'd use to describe this strategy (and I'm sure the last word the Modern Family producers would use as well, having to crank out yet another episode this early in the season to meet this need). Modern Family is the closest thing ABC has to a ratings powerhouse, and if this helps boost the sampling on Nashville, I'm all for it. The difficulty of ABC finding a suitable comedy to hold on to Modern Family's large and broad audience has been well documented, and for all of its virtues, Suburgatory is much more niche in its appeal. So for me, this is a potential win-win. And for Suburgatory fans, the good news is that while you might have to wait an extra week for the sophomore season to begin, that might mean one less week of repeats later in the run.
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Question: I am curious about why NBC is trying to distance itself from its sophisticated comedies and replace them with what is essentially the same thing (although mostly unwatchable). I have seen every episode of Community, Parks and Recreation and 30 Rock, and like most fans am baffled by the meager ratings, but I also get it's a business and they simply do not rate. NBC has made it very clear over the last few months they want to detach from these shows and go broader, but really, these so-called replacements are just awful. Go On and The New Normal are overly familiar copies of better shows, Guys With Kids seems like it was a dusted-off 1997 NBC sitcom and Animal Practice is just painful, very painful. The problem here, though, is other than the should-be-on-TV Land GWK, they are the same style and tone as the shows NBC is desperate to get away from. What's the point? They are the same sophisticated style that NBC apparently wants to get away from but executed far, far worse. What do we need to do to save Community and inject it back on Thursdays to replace the "retooled" but getting worse Up All Night (sorry Christina Applegate, failure No. 3). And can NBC retract the pink slips for The Office and 30 Rock pink slips? They are past their prime, but I'll take those in a heartbeat over this dreck they are servicing now.
And while I applaud the networks' investment in comedies this season, I haven't found one yet that qualifies as watchable. Partners and The Neighbors should join GWK on the 1997 schedule, and Ben and Kate and The Mindy Project can't use comedy in their description since they are not funny. It took forever for the comedy genre to come back in force, and over the last few years we have got sparklers like Modern Family, The Middle, Happy Endings, Raising Hope and New Girl, but these poor, very dated shows are sending it back into oblivion. — Chris C
Matt Roush: As I've often said, nothing in TV is more subjective than what's funny in comedy, and while I take your point that NBC hasn't moved far enough from the sameness that dug such a deep pit for its Thursday night once-upon-a-time must-see lineup, not every single-camera comedy falls under that category. It's pretty clear that Animal Practice and Guys With Kids are instant duds, attempts to swing the pendulum too far in the opposite direction — dumbing down, if you will — but it's probably smart for NBC to give Go On and particularly (for me) The New Normal time to grow and gain traction. It's true that Go On often seems an uneasy blend of Community and Dear John, but I'm not sure how The New Normal classifies as a "familiar copy of a better show" (that would be Partners). Normal has improved greatly from the overdone pilot, and while its not perfect in its mix of sentimentality and barbed outrageousness, at least the show acts like it's living in today's world and isn't afraid to tackle the big issues. I would also take issue with such an easy dismissal of the new Fox comedies, and am pleased they've picked up more episodes of both. It's true nothing busted out of the gate this fall the way New Girl or Modern Family did in their respective seasons, and comedy development was the biggest disappointment for me overall in this fall lineup, but some of these comedies give me some hope that they could become keepers.
Question: I always enjoy reading the insights you offer on all things TV! I wanted to ask your opinion on Gyp Rosetti, Boardwalk Empire's new nemesis for Nucky. To point, I think the folks behind the show have done an excellent job of making the viewer feel like they are actually in the early 1920s, sitting amongst a variety of interesting characters that one might expect to encounter in that time and place working under those circumstances. I have enjoyed Bobby Cannavale's work over the years, but the Rosetti character seems way over the top. I understand the show wants the character to seem dangerous and imposing, but this particular character has such an inferiority complex and inability to contain his emotions that it seems hard to believe that he could be (or become) a crime boss that could rival or pose a threat to Nucky, Rothstein and the rest of the characters on the show. We have witnessed him brutally kill two men who simply made innocuous comments. He seems more cartoonish than anything else and not the type of smart and calculating sort that could match wits with Nucky, the authorities and other baddies on the show. What are your thoughts? — Kevin
Matt Roush: Couldn't agree more. This season in particular, I'm finding Boardwalk more a show to admire for its look than to embrace for its content, ending up much less than the sum of its disparate parts so far. The character of Gyp Rosetti is especially disappointing in this regard, apparently having been invented so as to make the hollow-souled Nucky seem less despicable. (Meanwhile, Margaret's crusade for women's causes feels like a politically correct and rather desperate attempt to keep her relevant to the main story.) In the magazine a few weeks ago, I compared Gyp's torching of the Tabor Heights sheriff to a similarly fiery death on Sons of Anarchy, when Tig's daughter was set aflame as payback for Pope's daughter's death. In Sons, this horrific act of retribution felt earned by what had come before, with even more tragic consequences to follow. In Boardwark, Gyp's act felt more predictable, a throwaway moment of casual brutality from an antagonist I also described as cartoonish, "packing heat that's only skin deep." This is no reflection on Bobby Cannavale, who's a terrific and versatile actor (witness his fine work last season on Nurse Jackie). Here, he's just coming off as another goon.
Question: You are undoubtedly being deluged by Glee mail after "The Break Up" episode, and while my question is about Glee, it more an observation about the character of Blaine. His cheating on Kurt would seem so uncharacteristic, but when I think back to this character's introduction, I am struck by how much the writers have changed him up. In Season 2, we meet Blaine as a junior in high school (so a year older then Kurt), very sure of who he is and his sexuality and as a mentor to Kurt. And that characterization stays through Season 2. And then in Season 3, he is now a year younger then Kurt and no longer the sure, solid young man seen in Season 2. And now his actions in "The Break Up" seem to continue what some have said is a character assassination. I think that may be going too far, but do you think that the writers have deliberately changed the character of Blaine or is this just a sign of the often unevenness of Glee's writing and development of secondary characters? Or are Blaine's actions just supposed to represent the stupid things teenagers do? — Chris
Matt Roush: I admit I was thrown for a loop when Glee decided that Kurt would graduate ahead of Blaine, who always felt — and looked and acted — older, more mature and worldly to me. (If they ever declared he was a junior, then changed their minds, I guess I missed that memo.) That aside, I was not at all taken aback by what happened in the "Break Up" storyline, although I'm curious who the guy was who texted Blaine, luring him into his indiscretion. They had already made it very clear that Blaine felt shut out, ignored and hurt by Kurt having moved on to a fabulous new cosmopolitan life at Vogue.com (the fantasy element of Glee being alive and well), but I guess I would have bought the story even more if it had been Saint Kurt who strayed, given his circumstances. For Blaine to fall from grace is not character "assassination," it's character development. Long-distance relationships, especially among the very young, rarely turn out well in shows like this (and often in life), and Glee dramatized that about as well as I've seen anyone do it lately, including in song. I thought the episode was pretty much a home run.
Question: I actually dig ABC's Last Resort a lot, and I hope it stays on throughout the whole year. What do you think? I know it is far-fetched, but it is never dull and keeps my attention! — Mike
Matt Roush: I have yet to write a discouraging word about Last Resort (which gets a full review in this week's magazine, so check that out), including last week's second episode, which went further over the top and gave many critics understandable pause. Even then, I enjoyed its energy and action, and appreciate how different it is from normal network fare. Like you, I hope ABC sticks with something this exotic and adventurous for the full season, and at least one of the arguments in its favor is that in the first week, it had a noticeable spike when DVR ratings were factored in, and the concentration of male viewers (not exactly an ABC staple most nights) is also above-par, which could make it more attractive from a sales point of view. But from a purely creative perspective, I'm as gung-ho as when I first saw the trailer at upfronts last May and then the pilot shortly thereafter.
Question: I was wondering if you had heard anything about dates for the next season of Top Shot. Everything I've found was very vague. And on a completely different train of thought, to what do you account for this season of Covert Affairs being amazing versus last season's lackluster run? Did they hire new writers? Or just re-focus the show? I was just wondering what your thoughts were. — Catherine
Matt Roush: When it comes to cable scheduling, you often just have to be patient. There will be a new season of Top Shot, sometime in 2013 (probably early in the year), but History hasn't announced the dates yet. With Covert Affairs, which I'm happy to remind everyone will return with new episodes next Tuesday to finish out the season, it's not new writers or producers but a re-energized focus on a more sustained storyline and less episodic case-of-the-week structure that made it so much more gripping. Several of the USA Network shows benefited from this approach this summer, including the second season of Suits.
Question: While watching Ben and Kate, I thought I was in The Twilight Zone, because I thought I saw a younger blonder version of Catherine Tate, and a guy doing an Ed Helms impersonation. Is that just me? I really like the show, but the comparisons have thrown me off a bit. — Dan
Matt Roush: OK, I get the Catherine Tate analogy with Lucy Punch's bawdy character (though I find her performance quite original), and I suppose you're seeing traces of Ed Helms in Nat Faxon's boy-child Ben? That never occurred to me, and I'm pretty sure neither of these actors are aiming for a vibe that would have you dwelling on anyone else's work. Maybe you're just a little oversaturated with comedy — and I'm not sure referencing the current cast of The Office is doing anyone any favors.
Question: Please give Dancing With the Stars a jeer for having Bristol Palin on the show again. With all the divisive Red State/Blue State political anger in our country, the polarizing Palins are unwelcome, especially with a national election a month away. I'm sure you know that Bristol cheated her way to third place in Season 10, thanks to Sarah Palin and the Tea Party. Every week the ballot box was stuffed and much better dancers were eliminated. Sarah promised girls that if they went to her web site they would find Justin Bieber's phone number. When the girls called the number, they didn't know they were voting for Bristol. Can nothing be fair and fun anymore? The ratings for DWTS are dropping because the public is fed up with ratings tricks. It will serve ABC right if Bristol wins the big prize dancing to "Jump the Shark." — Mary Ann
Matt Roush: I'm sure I don't know about the conspiracy theories regarding the voting on this show, then or now, and I don't particularly want to get in the middle of this sort of mudslinging in this forum. But I will tell you why I also deplore Bristol Palin's inclusion in the show this season. She is not and likely never will be a star, and barely qualifies as a reality star (witness the quick fade of her Lifetime series), and while she might be thought of as a "fan favorite" given how far she went (if not developed as a dancer) during her season, this seems to me particularly cynical casting, to which this show doesn't need to stoop. And after her whiny-pouty attitude on display in this week's episode, I'm sure we're hardly alone in wishing they'd taken a pass on her this season. Still, I wouldn't attribute the ratings drop this season to her alone. An "all-star" season sounded pretty good on paper, but what I've seen so far has been lacking in the drama of past years because so many of the celebrities are already dancing near or at the top of their game. There's no arc, no real suspense or (until some of the elaborate routines this week) surprise, so it's mostly just falling flat. Maybe the eliminations will get more interesting as past champs face each other in the bottom three, but getting there has been a letdown. Airing against the irresistible blind auditions of The Voice didn't help, either, but those are over, so let's see what happens next.
Question: With only three episodes in, I am surprised by how quickly my opinion of Revolution has changed. After the premiere, I was excited and looking forward to whatever happened next, but two episodes later I find that my interest has decreased drastically. It's as if the show has moved too fast and is focusing too much on storyline twists but has forgotten to let us get to know the characters first. As a fan of both Lost and Fringe, I love a good twist, but I feel like we need to think we know the characters involved for those twists to matter. If in the second episode of Fringe we had learned Peter wasn't Walter's son, that revelation would not have had much power because we the viewers hadn't come to care for the characters. Revolution has not given us a chance to know or care for these characters, and because of this I find myself disinterested in their struggles. So what is your opinion of Revolution three episodes in? — Amanda
Matt Roush: Even in the pilot episode, which set up the premise fairly well, there was a noticeable lack of compellingly drawn and fleshed-out characters (and among the younger cast, actors), and you make a good point that driving the plot along won't matter if we essentially don't care about who these things are happening to. The real problem here may be that what happened in the 15 years between the opening blackout and the current narrative is a more interesting story, and maybe the time jump was too extreme. The good news is that Revolution will get at least a full season to figure this out, and the building blocks are here for a fairly entertaining escapist adventure, even if it may never hit the fantastic heights of Lost and Fringe.
Question: I'm really enjoying Revolution but keep seeing references to characters from Stephen King's The Stand. Grace says "Randall" is here. Total bad guy from The Stand. Miles uses the aliases Stu Redman and Frannie for him and Charlie. Our heroes from The Stand. Aaron mentions a kid named Underwood that bullied him. All right, different first name (Billy vs. Larry), but last name the same. Why all the references? Are there others, will there be more? Are the writers just fans or is there a connection? — Terri
Matt Roush: The Stu Redman/Frannie aliases were the most obvious giveaway yet that the producers are obviously huge fans of The Stand, one of King's most influential works, which in many ways set the bar for this kind of post-apocalyptic/adventure quest type of story. From the start, I've been likening this show to King in its tone and in some of its particulars, including how specific the characters are in their longing for things we hold near and dear, like iPhones and iPods. I don't know what's ahead (and if I did, I wouldn't share here), but I'd be surprised if this is the last we've heard of this sort of thing. Now if the show somehow starts moving its compass west to Las Vegas, that might be taking the homage a bit far.
Question: Mondays for CBS has been tanking, and I'm really bummed that Hawaii Five-0 is getting affected. It's a great action-packed character-driven show. Based on the numbers so far, it's not up to par with CBS procedurals' standards, so I'm kind of worried. But then people have been saying that it's not in danger (at least for this season) because of its syndication deal with TNT. All I know is that it paid a lot to have the rights to air H50 episodes. How does that whole thing work out, really? And how is it a "safe" sign for the show? — Clarisse
Matt Roush: Just as critical a key to the show's potential longevity is the fact that it's an in-house CBS production, which means the company profits directly from this sort of cable syndication sale. If the numbers continue to go south for Hawaii Five-0 on Mondays, the next logical step — and the programmers at this network are nothing if not logical — is to move it to a less key and competitive night and time period, say Fridays (which could be among the factors that could hasten the demise of long-on-the-bubble CSI: NY or the DOA Made in Jersey). If CBS finds a way to keep the show profitable without causing too much damage to its lineup, then I wouldn't worry.
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