Ask Matt: Scandal, Walking Dead, NCIS, Elementary, Brooklyn Nine-Nine
Question: I started watching Scandal from the start, when it was simply a problem-of-the-week plot mixed in with a little soap opera with Olivia and the President. They lost me a little bit last year when they temporarily dropped that element to completely focus on the soap opera element when the president was shot. With the addition of the B613 storyline (and possible new Harrison storyline), I feel the show has lost its focus. I was highly enjoying Lisa Kudrow's story and performance only to have the show dragged down by B613's machinations and apparent manipulation of Quinn. I get the fear the show could be the political Love Boat where the guest stars get all the meaty storylines, but I watch shows like Strike Back for my spy action and adventure. Have these writers learned nothing from the mistakes countless shows including Alias and recently Revenge have made with these over-the-top secret maniacal agencies? - Brian
Matt Roush: Normally, I would tend to agree, given that the whole badly plotted Initiative nonsense forced my break-up with Revenge - I stuck with Alias through thick and thicker, but that was a spy caper at heart, so confusion came with the territory - but I'm not ready to write off Scandal just because of B613 (or as I like to refer to this particular MacGuffin, WD-40, which has just about as much resonance). The difference being that unlike how the Initiative pulled focus from Revenge's primary narrative hook - Emily vs. the Graysons - B613 exerts a powerfully emotional hold over so many key characters (Huck, Jake, Olivia via her dad, now Quinn) and is actually germane to their relationships to each other within the show's wildly twisted plotting. I agree there's the potential for this to become a treacherous rabbit hole if the writers allow the B613 menace to take over the show - I don't care about its machinations, and a little exposition goes a long way - but Scandal still seems to know why we're watching: for Olivia and Fitz, for Olivia vs. Mellie vs. Cyrus vs. Fitz, and so on. Scandal long ago put the case-of-the-week format behind it, which is a very good thing. Even if we're rolling our eyes whenever they start talking about B613, the very outrageousness of what they're all involved in is one of the marvels of this over-the-top soap.
Want more TV news and reviews? Subscribe to TV Guide Magazine now!
Question: My Scandal addiction is similar to my Nutella addition. I know it is probably not good for me, yet is it soooo good, you know what I mean? The latest episode, and teasers to upcoming episodes make me wonder if I will have to go cold turkey (for Scandal, not Nutella). The "Remington" plot teases that the President (and as we know, Olivia Pope's lover), years earlier, engaged in a clandestine mission, at the behest of "the Commander," Olivia's father, killing Olivia's mother. Part of Scandal's success was and continues to be its plot twists, but has this "jumped the shark?" I mean, really? I know we have very jaundiced opinions of our country's leaders, but isn't this conspiracy theory way, way out there? What do you think? - Nicole
Matt Roush: So you were OK with the conspiracy behind the president's rigged election and then President Fitz killing a Supreme Court justice (albeit a dying one), and now you're drawing a line? Also: Demerits if you actually believed, once we knew Khandi Alexander was playing Olivia's mom, that she was really dead. Yes, it's all way out there, but if it weren't, would we even care? Scandal is making an art out of garish improbability, and I suggest you just settle in with your culinary guilty pleasure of Nutella (which I only discovered a few years ago at a Parisian creperie, and... yum) and go along for the deliciously delirious ride. Besides, Scandal doesn't jump sharks, it shoots them in a barrel and nails their fins to the Oval Office door. I approve of this show's fearlessly wacky recklessness.
Question: A while back, you explained how American Horror Story was able to qualify for Emmy nods as a miniseries due to the limited number of episodes it has. With the writing and acting being so spectacular on The Walking Dead, couldn't that show enter consideration for Emmys under the same rules as AHS? For instance, with the current eight episodes this fall, couldn't they enter under the heading of Walking Dead: A New Enemy? Or, with the spring cycle of episodes: The Walking Dead: Head For the Hills? - Dan
Matt Roush: To clarify, American Horror Story gets to bill itself as a "miniseries" not because of its limited duration, but because it's essentially an anthology with an entirely new story, setting and cast of characters each season (although the cast is something of a repertory company). I'd like for The Walking Dead to find a way to steal some of the overrated AHS's Emmy thunder, but your (presumably satirical) suggestion of pretending it's a different show every season won't cut it, although I appreciate the idea.
Question: I just wanted to say how amazing I thought Scott Wilson was in last week's The Walking Dead. I have come to see Hershel as calming, wise and always knowing the right thing to do. Where Rick is obviously the leader of the group, Hershel is the soul of the group. Scott's performance of Hershel was finally a chance to see how truly accomplished an actor he is. Hershel taking care of everyone while having to face up to his revulsion at having to kill a fellow group member who turned walker was compelling, but the scene where Hershel was trying to read his Bible and just breaking down from the sheer exhaustion of the situation was heartbreaking. I know this show doesn't get the recognition it should have as far as Emmy voters go (maybe it should call itself a miniseries like American Horror Story to get noticed), but I would hope that this year someone gives Scott Wilson at least a nod for this performance. Of course everyone on the show does an amazing job, but I realized that although no one is safe on the show from being taken from us, I would miss Hershel tremendously if he should ever go. - JG
Matt Roush: Although I do sometimes cringe when I sense a folksy aphorism about to erupt from the sage Hershel, there is such genuine sorrow and suffering in Scott Wilson's portrayal of this humane healer that I wholeheartedly agree. Losing any more of the core cast is a real blow at this point. I still haven't gotten over Rick's harsh banishment of Carol (Melissa McBride), and hope there will be more to that story.
Question: I am surprised that NCIS made the jump to promote Emily Wickersham to series regular before CBS had a chance to gauge fan feedback from her guest-star arc. I have appreciated how there have been subtle references to Ziva in these last episodes with Tony holding on to her necklace at his desk and admitting he was having difficulty sleeping since returning from Israel solo. I also liked how in the recent episode they left the door open for fan favorite Diane Neal (Agent Borin) to consider joining the NCIS family in the future. While we all knew eventually they would fill Ziva/Cote de Pablo's spot on the team/cast, it seems very rushed while characters and fans are still grieving the loss of their beloved Ninja. What are your thoughts? - Cheryl
Matt Roush: I'll reserve my thoughts until I see her - Ellie Bishop (Wickersham) doesn't even make her first appearance until Tuesday's episode - but I would hope that the show's fans will root for her to fit in, although it's only natural for there to be skepticism and resistance when it comes to filling the void left by such a popular and pivotal character. I'm encouraged that Ellie is so different from Ziva, thus perhaps mitigating the direct comparisons, and to the bigger point, CBS and the show-runners have every right to embrace and endorse this new character without waiting to see how the fans (many of whom aren't yet over Ziva's departure) will welcome her. NCIS has so far done a good job, especially where Tony is concerned, in respecting Ziva by acknowledging the impact of her departure. But at some point they need to move on, and I would have been more surprised if they'd let the entire November sweeps period go by without introducing a new and presumably permanent member of the team. If she ultimately doesn't measure up, fans and other critics are bound to let everyone know, I'm sure. But I'd give her a full season - as a regular - to prove herself.
Question: Will Hostages wrap up this year, or does the network plan to renew it by having a cliffhanger on the last episode? Or, worse yet, cancel or not renew it without any resolution. Thanks for this and all of the other good information we get from you. - Richard
Matt Roush: You're welcome. The current game plan is for Hostages to wrap with a two-hour finale on Jan. 6, and I certainly hope it is a finale, not a cliffhanger. My understanding is that the season is self-contained, which suggests closure where the hostage situation and assassination conspiracy are concerned, and nothing about the show's ratings or its current critical standing (i.e. laughable) should be urging the producer/writers to leave anything hanging.
Question: Let's talk Elementary for a moment. Am I the only one who feels like Joan Watson is being put aside this season? I'm a bit unsatisfied with the way they've been handling her story. Okay, we had a brilliant episode in which we learned about what happened in the OR, but ever since then, and before even, we sometimes learn more about the characters from the case of the week than we learn about her. She gets a friend for like two seconds as some plot device that's not completely related to her in an episode and that's it. Lucy Liu keeps saying she accepted the part because her character would be Sherlock's equal and not his sidekick, so I'd like to know about her at least as much as I know about Sherlock and also not to have almost every single thing to be about him for a change. - Amanda
Matt Roush: I don't entirely disagree, but this season it does seem like they are hinting at more avenues for Joan Watson to try to have a real life - like her attempt at online dating (though naturally derided by Sherlock) - and I imagine there will be more Watson-centric episodes like the one that introduced the son of the patient whose death drove her away from medicine. I also like the fact that she developed an instant bond with Mycroft, which only stokes Sherlock's neuroses. But there are worse things than leaving you wanting more this early in a show's run, and ultimately, Elementary is a Sherlock Holmes (not Dr. Watson) series, so like with most procedurals that only sparingly peel back layers of its characters' lives, you're probably going to have to be patient. But from what I've seen (including a recent Paley Center panel discussion), the producers know what an asset they have in Lucy Liu, and their intent is not to waste her.
Question: After reading your comments regarding the "New" Mike & Molly, I was hopeful that the promos were misleading and the show would be as good as it was last year. After watching the first two episodes, I see that my hopes have been dashed. Why would the writers take a good show and turn its lead character into a bumbling idiot? The idea of Molly quitting teaching to become a writer was a good one, but she doesn't have to be so stupid. Last week's episode was almost unwatchable with her acting like she was drunk while going on a ride-along with Mike. Is this the way the whole season is going? If so, I'll stop watching right now. - Elizabeth K
Matt Roush: The ride-along episode was awfully broad and ridiculous, even by this kind of show's standards, but I found this week's episode (Nov. 18) much more amusing, with Molly following her sister to her macabre funeral-home workplace and freaking out, while Mike (in a classic sitcom set-up) snoops into Molly's laptop to see what she's writing and comes away with 50 shades of abashed surprise. I've never held this series to a particularly high standard, although anything that gives the hilarious Melissa McCarthy a chance to let it rip is OK by me. And while I do think this new story arc is a good one for the character, it's only natural for some of the detours to be funnier (or less so) than others.
Question: The hubs and I are catching up on Orphan Black and loving it, particularly Tatiana Maslany's skillful portrayal of several different characters at one time. We're curious about how such actors are paid. If an actor is playing several roles at once and is presumably doing many more hours of work than an actor playing one role, does her pay reflect that? - Tori
Matt Roush: According to our August cover story in TV Guide Magazine titled "What They Earn," Tatiany Maslany's salary was listed at $50,000 per episode - not bad for a virtual unknown, and perhaps commensurate for a lead role in a Canadian-produced cult series. But she's clearly deserving of a raise, considering the effort that goes into this astonishing display of range and effort. And no, hers is a base salary, not per role - although maybe she could consider that argument in future negotiations.
Question: Have you gone back and looked at Brooklyn Nine-Nine since your initial review? I watched the first few weeks with some hope, but it seems to me to have gotten into a rut way too quickly. Andy Samberg's shtick has gotten old real fast, and what seemed like interesting characters at first view have all been exposed as one-trick ponies. And for goodness sake, what is the great Andre Braugher doing here? Lord knows, I would love to see him have another successful series/ (I watched and enjoyed Thief, Last Resort and even Hack.) And the first episode gave him an intriguing backstory, which should have started developing by now and could add to the development of other characters in the squad room. But after the pilot, they dropped all that entirely, and his role seems to be reduced to playing the stern parent to Samberg's child. What I thought might be another Barney Miller has become, way too fast, Leave It to Beaver with cops. Am I overreacting here, or has the show failed to capitalize on its initial promise? I'm willing to give it time, but I don't see any growth here at all. - Rick
Matt Roush: Watch Tuesday's mostly delightful Thanksgiving episode, and see if you feel more generously toward it. I've watched most episodes this season and still like the show - more than any other fall network sitcom (which isn't saying much) - and while it has been uneven and I take your point that Samberg's show-off character is often more annoying than funny, there's strong ensemble work and great diversity on display here, including Braugher's masterful deadpan as the sly, un-stereotypically gay boss. He's absolutely worth exploring further, but there's time. And while it's true many of the characters are types and can come off shallow (most notably Melissa Fumero as the earnest office suck-up), I look forward every week to see what spin Stephanie Beatriz will put on the ferocious Diaz, and Joe Lo Truglio makes me laugh as the buffoonish Boyle. (This week, the precinct mocks his predictability in a holiday game of "Boyle Bingo," and it plays as well as anything in the Parks and Recreation workplace.) So basically, while I do think you may be overreacting - or possibly set the bar too high for a show that like most first-season comedies is figuring out its tone and rhythms - you're entitled to your opinion, and it's possible that given the sorry state of so many freshman comedies this year, Brooklyn was over-hyped. But not by much, I think.
Question: In the most recent Ask Matt column, you suggest seeing a Barney Miller "very special" episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine with a crossover of the 12th Precinct from Barney Miller. However, wouldn't it make more sense for Castle to do a Barney Miller crossover episode? Just think about it. Detective Beckett already works at the 12th Precinct, both are ABC shows, and you could easily see the great wit between Nathan Fillion and Hal Linden. Just imagine Beckett and Castle have to contact some old members of the 12th for help in the newest murder, that way you could include Ron Glass and get a twofer: Barney Miller and Firefly references! - Andy
Matt Roush: Fair enough. I'd forgot that Castle's setting is an homage to Barney Miller, and the comic sensibility is nearly as strong on that show as it is on Brooklyn. I'd be OK either way, and I hope it happens soon, while we still have the possibility of a Fish (Abe Vigoda) sighting. How cool would that be?