Ask Matt: The Walking Dead, Idol, Glee, True Detective, Breaking Bad Spinoff
Question: I am so disappointed in The Walking Dead. I cannot believe that they have indicated that there is an interest on the part of Daryl towards Beth. That is just ick. She is 17 and while I don't know what his age is supposed to be, I've always assumed his character is at least mid 30s. Let me repeat, ick! And it's not as if she is a mature 17-year-old, her character comes across as a complete child to me with just as much growing needed as Carl. In fact, Carl seems more mature to me at times. Why would the writers go there? All I can think is how perverted it is for Daryl to express an interest in a 17-year-old girl, and a character that I once loved is now bordering along the lines of a pedophile. My sister is so upset she thinks she might fast-forward over any story lines that involve Daryl. I know this is a TV show, but all I could think of was people's horrified reaction when Miley Cyrus twerked on Robin Thicke. Where is that horror now? On the upside, I've been reading your column for years and have always greatly enjoyed your thoughts and opinions even when they have differed from my own. Thanks for allowing me to vent. - KC
Matt Roush: First off, I love that of all shows, we're discussing an "ick" factor on The Walking Dead, although of a different sort than usual. And while I understand, though rarely indulge in, the "shipper" mentality that consumes so many fans of shows like this, I beg to differ where Daryl and Beth - Baryl? (or maybe, more to the point, "Deth," as in "Death?") - are concerned. If they'd started going at it like oversexed bunnies, I might see where this would be an issue. But in this extended, and decidedly uneven, stretch of the series during which so many of the core characters are scattered to the winds, each of these mini-groupings might as well be the last survivors of their "family" as far as they know. And in a survival epic, that situation tends to alter relationships, although I still look at the Daryl-Beth dynamic as that of an older brother/guardian to an annoying (and vapid) little sister. Maybe I'm missing something, and I haven't been keeping up with fan chatter or the post-show Talking Dead analyses. But the way I interpret their long nights of the soul together - not the show's best moments -is that an awkward intimacy has by necessity developed between them, and while her hero worship and his opaque sense of duty toward her might be construed as a slow blossoming of a love-the-one-you're-with mindset, I wouldn't get bent out of shape by it. Daryl is still one of Dead's most compelling and intriguing heroes, and I think he and we can survive this latest chapter without making the sort of moral judgments that the zombie apocalypse has mostly rendered moot anyway.
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Question: Some questions about Fox shows. Now that we're several weeks into the live American Idol shows (so creative editing can't alter the judges' performances as easily), what do you think of the current judging panel? I'm really enjoying them. Despite the tag "Harsh Harry," I don't think any of the judges are playing "characters" like we seemed to see with the original panel of judges, but bring a sense of honesty and chemistry to the panel. (And I love Harry Connick Jr. on the show, both for his honesty and his humor.) Second, I'm really happy to see Fox airing a show like Cosmos. It's something you don't see the major networks do very often (and the fact that it's in prime time on Fox and is produced by Seth MacFarlane makes it even more surprising). What do you think of the show so far?
Third, Glee has had its ups and downs over the year (more downs this year than ups, unfortunately). While I know the Cory Monteith tribute show was overwrought and manipulative, I did enjoy it - I don't know of any show that does "overwrought and manipulative" better than Glee. :) But last week's Nationals episode turned out to be arguably a much better Finn tribute. It was more understated and felt a lot more natural. And the ending obviously leads into the transition away from McKinley High School (for better or worse) in a fairly realistic (if melancholy) way. Do you think that maybe, instead of going for another season-plus just in New York, the show would have been better served having this week's 100th episode be the series finale? - Scott
Matt Roush: In order: Idol. Love the judges, especially Harry and his honest but never cruel judgments, and terrific sense of humor (most recently needling the "in it to win it" catchphrase). It appears nothing can be done to reverse the show's ratings decline, but at least Idol isn't painful to behold - although I do disagree with Harry's take on the quality of the caliber of contestants this season. They're not a very memorable or collectively appealing group, and that may also account for the lack of ratings fire.
Regarding Cosmos: I reviewed the premiere in that weekend's roundup, but I agree that it's fascinating to see something like this on a broadcast network, and kudos to Seth MacFarlane for using his industry clout to help make science cool again.
Finally, Glee: Oh how I wish they were wrapping the story with even a whisper of grace and dignity. I had drifted away this season (for the first time ever) after the "Quarterback" tribute episode, unwilling to endure more high-school melodrama or even the fantasy travails of the grads in NYC. I tuned back in for the Nationals episode, and while I agree it was a more organic tribute to Finn's memory, I was underwhelmed with most other aspects of the story, including the music. (And while I have no beef with Skyler Astin, from the opposing glee club, as a performer, Glee isn't even pretending anymore to cast age-appropriate actors, I guess.) The 100th episode "remix" episode, with returning guest stars and new versions of past musical favorites, would have been a fitting way to go out. But all Glee can hear is "Encore!" when no one's asking for one.
Question: Thanks for always taking time to answer everyone's questions, and hoping to get some insight on Glee. With the season almost over and next season being their last, what are the chances they will continue doing theme-based episodes as they've done in the past with Madonna, Britney Spears and Billy Joel? I'm really hoping they will do a Disney movie playlist. I would love to see Lea Michele sing Frozen's "Let It Go," especially since it was sung in real life by her TV mom Idina Menzel. - Jess
Matt Roush: And maybe they could get John Travolta to introduce her! That's an excellent idea, and if Glee were airing on ABC (owned by Disney), I assure you a Disney mash-up would have already been done. Probably more than once. And maybe it will be. Even without weekly "assignments" as a hook, I'd be surprised if Glee abandons its performer/composer "tribute" mentality altogether. If not Disney, then maybe a Stephen Schwartz salute for Broadway's sake (with Wicked, Godspell, Pippin and various Disney animated anthems on the playlist).
Question: You recently wrote how "a show like HBO's True Detective would probably be even more effective if watched in an eight-hour gulp, because its storytelling is so diffuse and challenging that watching an hour a week doesn't always satisfy." I agree completely. I don't binge-watch as a matter of strategy, usually. I watch currently running shows episode by episode as they come out. I do binge-watch older shows which I had not had time to see when they first appeared, such as Lost, The West Wing, True Blood, etc., as well as foreign shows which I have found online or on Netflix or Hulu.
At any rate, about True Detective: How could a show with those stars fail? Yet I got lost in the first few episodes with their extremely slow pacing, and I gave up watching the weekly episodes partway through episode three. Yesterday, though, I watched all eight episodes on HBO Go, and found it a lot easier to follow. I wonder whether I will have the same experience if I ever get the chance to watch The Bridge. That is a show I thought I should have liked, but in watching the weekly episodes I got lost in the extremely slow and confusing story, though I found some of the characters very intriguing. After three or four episodes, I found that the action was so slow that I couldn't even remember whose death they were supposed to be investigating, so I gave up. I am hoping that that is another show which will be much better if I watch all the episodes at one time. Thanks for your column! - Paul
Matt Roush: The Bridge might benefit from a binge view - like True Detective, it's more successful with its atmosphere and character development (Demian Bichir's, anyway) than with its mystery narrative - but I'm afraid that one ultimately left me cold, despite the setting.
Question: After putting it off for a long time, I recently binge-watched Breaking Bad and found it to be amazing, one of the best shows ever. At first I wasn't sure what to think of the idea of Bob Odenkirk heading up a series around his character, Saul, in the upcoming Better Call Saul, but I trust Vince Gilligan and company to do it right. My concern is about it being a prequel. While I'm sure that it will be compelling enough, and I understand that the tone of the show is to be lighter than its parent, I'm wondering what your thoughts are. Do you think that knowing Saul's (and Mike's, as he is to be a player as well) fate will detract from any drama to be had? Also, there is a lot of talk about Aaron Paul among others popping up on occasion. Being a prequel, Jesse will have to be as he was in the beginning of Breaking Bad, without the growth that the character had. I'm not sure that I really want to see that Jesse again. Even though it's to be taking place before all of the events that change his life, it seems somewhat like a step back. And if Bryan Cranston appears, he would not even be able to interact with Saul, as he had never met him before Breaking Bad. What's your take? - Reggie
Matt Roush: I was so satisfied with the entire Breaking Bad experience that the idea of returning to that world, even in a sideways seriocomic prequel, doesn't excite me much, and I always felt the Saul character was best in small doses. (Every time I think about Saul, the show that keeps coming to mind is The Lone Gunmen spinning off of The X-Files.) Plus, watching AMC milk this and other franchises, including stretching the final season of Mad Men over two years and developing a Walking Dead companion piece, doesn't exactly fill me with joy. And yet all of these reservations, including your own thoughtful observations about character, may not really matter once we see the show, and it's not my place or inclination to prejudge. If it's even a fraction as enjoyable as Breaking Bad, that would still make it superior to most anything else.
Question: I am a longtime fan and really enjoy your reviews, comments, etc. I wanted to get your opinion on The Following with Kevin Bacon and James Purefoy. The show doesn't seem to be on anyone's radar and you rarely mention it in your Monday playlist roundup. Maybe I'm the only one still watching it! I love the Bacon and Purefoy characters, such great actors, and the ensemble cast is very good. The show is still over the top but this second season is entertaining (in its own bizarre way) and gripping - you never know what's going to happen! - Anne
Matt Roush: You're hardly alone. It's doing well enough that Fox gave The Following an early renewal for next season. I'm not sure how much longer this manhunt story can play out, but at least the seasons are shorter than the network norm, which in this case is a plus. Watching Purefoy as Joe Carroll exercising his malevolent will over this new cult is the main reason I'm still watching. And while they've made the FBI a bit less idiotic this season, I'm not sure Ryan Hardy is redeemable at this point. Has there ever been a more hapless lone wolf?
Question: I noticed that you recently mentioned Banshee. I wasn't sure anyone else was watching this fun show! Glad you like it. I generally agree on most of the shows that you like as well. When I read your note about the show, I realized that we really don't know the main character's name, never thought about it that way before. Anyway, a question: Does it seem that they are trying to make "the sheriff" go straight? Or at least somewhat. He seems to be getting attached to the town, his job and the people, including the female deputy, and possibly recognizing that his romance with Carrie is over. Thoughts? - Dawn
Matt Roush: I'm a few episodes behind on Banshee and haven't yet watched Friday's season finale, but my take on Lucas Hood/The Man With No Name has always been as a more twisted version of the bad guy/good guy lawman that Michael Chiklis played on The Shield. The longer Lucas settles into this false identity, he finds himself torn between duty - where he's often effective in his job - and self-preservation, which sends him down some intriguing and always violent rabbit holes (so to speak). I don't think Lucas can over "go straight" entirely, but that possibility makes everything he does more interesting.
Question: Why are the decision makers at NBC so dumb? Why skip an episode of one of the only quality shows they've managed to develop in years, nay decades (The Blacklist) to launch the pilot of a hot mess like Believe? Do they really believe that viewers are so silly as to believe (puns intended) that if a show airs in the same time slot as a good show, it is good by extension? I saw what was on and immediately went to watching something else, know why? Because I turned on NBC to watch The Blacklist, not to watch NBC. Or is it that they're hoping we're actually too lazy to change the channel and sit through the show and then look for it when NBC moves it to another time slot? The more likely scenario is that fans get fed up with NBC for screwing around with the show, find something else to watch and NBC winds up canceling the best thing they've done since The West Wing. - Chip
Matt Roush: I hope you've calmed down since last Monday, because The Blacklist is back in its rightful Monday place this week with another episode that looks like a doozy (especially after the latest reveal about Liz's sketchy husband, Tom). A mini-tutorial from TV 101: The reason Believe got that one-time Monday airing had nothing to do with The Blacklist and everything to do with taking advantage of airing after The Voice (with, I'm sure, plentiful promos on that powerful platform). The strategy paid off with a very decent sampling, which was NBC's only goal: to get this show (which I agree is a mess) on viewers' radar. How it will fare on Sundays is another story.
Question: I have just re-watched the entire Magnum, P.I. series on Netflix. It was great in the '80s and just as enjoyable for us now. I think they missed the boat not doing films or TV movies throughout the '90s. I had heard there was chatter about a reboot? Or possibly a full-length movie? Any credence to this? Boy, no one can replace Tom Selleck, and that cast was perfectly complementary to each other. What are your thoughts on a remake? - Mary
Matt Roush: Rumors about a Magnum remake surface every so often (Matthew McConaughey reportedly was once offered the role, but turned it down), and I hope wiser minds continue to prevail. I think you answered your own question when you suggested no one could replace Selleck, and I'd no sooner want to see them try than I would yearn to see a new version of The Rockford Files (which was attempted and thankfully rejected a few seasons ago), because there's no replacing James Garner, either. But then, I'm still in denial that someone is out there calling himself Steve McGarrett. The very idea!
Question: Your recent viewpoint about resurrecting programs of the past was largely spot on, but I'm somewhat hopeful of one possibility that may result. In the U.K., popular programs run in series but are not required to run in consecutive years. There are many programs that run for a few seasons only to go quiet for years then return when the cast or creators are ready. Here in the U.S., networks tend to favor consecutive seasons for every program, even if the creative juices aren't there for the quality to be consistent. Along with a trend toward cable-sized pods of 13 episodes, I'd love to see networks and creators open up to the idea of waiting on new content until it can be great. Heroes may well have been a better series overall if they had waited several years after season 1. Prison Break might have been better had they never expanded on Season 1. 24 is certainly tailor-made for creating a Jack Bauer adventure when a story has been properly developed. I just want enough of these to be successful that someday I might see another 6-10 episodes of Pushing Daisies. - R. John
Matt Roush: I'm with you on that last bit of wishful thinking. How I long to return to the techni-colorful world of Ned the pie maker and his wacky entourage. And while your point is intriguing from a creative perspective, and underscores the difficulty of maintaining a show's quality given the grind of weekly series production over multiple and consecutive seasons, it isn't likely that the U.S. TV industry (especially at the broadcast networks) will adopt this formula with any regularity anytime soon. The few times anyone has given a show this much breathing room - most infamously, The Sopranos, which could go more than a year between seasons (and to bolster your argument, look at the riches that timetable afforded) - the outcry among impatient fans was deafening. There's also the complication of keeping writing teams and acting ensembles intact if a show goes out of production for a considerable length of time. But there's no question things are changing in this TV world, with the return of the "event" miniseries and season-long anthologies like True Detective and the upcoming (and terrific) Fargo, so maybe there will be a place for recurring series to come and go at the producers' and programmers' whim. I've heard worse ideas.
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