Ask Matt: Fargo, Veronica Mars, Scandal, Person of Interest and More
Question: Just wondering if you’ve heard anything about or seen the pilot of FX’s adaptation of Fargo yet? Obviously it’s too early to tell, but just from the previews and the looks of the cast, it seems to me like it could be in contention for a few Emmys later this year? — Kevin
Matt Roush: I’d bet on it. I’ve only seen the pilot episode so far — more are on their way, and I can’t wait — but it was easily one of the most enjoyable and promising hours of anything I’ve seen so far this year. This version of Fargo is not an adaptation of the feature film, but evokes a similar tone with elements of quirky whimsy laced with grisly incident, which in this case often reminded me of an especially macabre and pungent episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Like True Detective and American Horror Story, this will be an anthology series telling a complete story over a single season, and any future seasons will be built around new stars and new characters. Billy Bob Thornton and Martin Freeman are excellent here, and one of the highest compliments I can pay FX’s Fargo is that after watching the first episode, I can’t imagine where the second will take me.
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Question: Has your busy schedule allowed you time to catch the Veronica Mars film, either old school (at a movie theater) or through digital download? I found it immensely satisfying on every level. While it had enough inside jokes, cameos and sharply humorous dialogue to please the fanboy in me, it also had a nice take on Veronica’s psychology and a suspenseful mystery with a fine twist. What are your thoughts on our favorite blond detective? Are there any other dearly departed shows you’d personally like to see revived in a film? — Steven
Matt Roush: I did finally watch it this weekend, and I hope it doesn’t disappoint you to learn that I chose to view it on the show’s natural medium, TV, via pay-per-view. (Note: When I go to the movies, which is rare enough these days, I want to see a movie movie, not a TV-movie, which let’s face it is what this is, not that there’s anything wrong with that.) I enjoyed reconnecting with the characters, especially Veronica and her dad, and had fun imagining Veronica-Logan shippers going into full swoon, so while I was pleased by that aspect of the experience and am glad for the show’s die-hard fans that they got this much closure, I have to admit the story left me rather cold. Unlike Veronica‘s best (early) seasons, I didn’t feel any real connection between the characters and the victim, and the contrivances of the back story felt a bit forced, though there were some effective shocks and twists by the end. As reboots go, I’d rank it above Netflix’s disappointing return to Arrested Development (being shorter helped), and the Kickstarter aspect is at least as interesting as what ended up on screen. So I guess I’d give it a qualified, muted Yay?
As for other TV shows I’d like to see get this treatment: I liked the recent pipe dream in this column when someone suggested Pushing Daisies, in part because of its visual appeal — and that one really did get cut short. And watching the DVDs of China Beach (finally released last year) over the holidays, I found myself thinking what a good movie that setting would make. But why spoil my memories of the original? A Deadwood movie (long talked about, never realized) would also be choice. But for the most part, I’m content with my TV shows staying TV shows.
Question: I have to write to air my opinion on what is happening to Scandal. I enjoyed last year when they actually had stories that people can enjoy watching. This season has been so horrible I can’t even understand what Shonda Rhimes was thinking. It is such a mess that at this time I am through with this show. It isn’t even enjoyable to watch the constant ridiculousness of the show. It seems every week it gets more outrageous. How many people need to be killed? You have the President, Vice President, First Lady, and the list goes on, either conspiring to kill or covering up a murder. Then Jake just comes up and murders young innocent people and the chief of staff wants to put a hit on the VP? When does this nonsense stop? There is no storyline anymore, it just seems that everyone has to save their behinds and cover up whatever mess they are in so the public doesn’t find out. The storyline where Quinn’s teeth were pulled out and then she turns into a murderer is so over the top. I know the show has been renewed and I am seeing complaints about this show, but somebody should fire Shonda Rhimes for this horrible year on Scandal. Actually it is painful to watch anymore.
I also just want to say that this should be the last year of Glee. It is boring to see Sue Sylvester have the same tired shtick every week. How long are we to endure her constant gibberish? These kids are not kids anymore and they don’t act it or look it. — Susan
Matt Roush: Over the top barely begins to describe Scandal anymore, it’s true, but there are no tangible signs that the insanity on screen is driving people away. (With the exception of the mega-hit The Big Bang Theory, it’s often the night’s highest rated show.) From the start, I’ve described Scandal as popcorn TV with crazy sauce poured all over it, and it has only become more so over time. Between the gonzo plotting and the hyper-speed dialogue, it’s all so overheated you wonder how long it can go before it implodes. (I would agree that the Quinn-Huck storyline, with the Marathon Man-level gruesomeness of the teeth pulling, and the face licking, went too far.) But outrageousness is the show’s selling point, and in last week’s brutal killing of James, there was even an emotional payoff to the mayhem. I’m still fascinated, although I can understand why others are repelled. But at least no one can accuse the show of being boring.
As opposed to Glee, which as previously discussed in this space truly does feel played out. You may be intrigued to note that after this week’s episode, when the show jumps ahead several months in time to focus entirely on the New York storyline, Jane Lynch‘s name drops out of the regular cast credits (according to a Fox release), along with the entire Second Generation of New Directions and anyone else still stuck in Lima. So there’s that.
Question: Why did they really kill off the lady cop on Person of Interest? She was the heart of the show, a significant non-white female character, a darn good actress and an attractive person! Since her departure, it seems more like “crazy ladies with guns on Tuesday nights.” My beloved “man in the dark suit” seems to be more than a bit joyless without their humanizing banter! I’m okay with the alternative machine plot, but I don’t think it’s the same without Carter.
Also, about Scandal: We all love Shonda Rhimes’ ability to tell a wonderfully outrageous story, but I will be very disappointed if Jake turns into just another killer like Daddy Dearest. Somebody has got to be the hero left standing after the whole bloody mess finally ends. I know I’m one of the few who thinks the Prez just isn’t good enough for Olivia. P.S. Mrs. Prez’s backstory gets more and more interesting. I’m actually starting to root for her, too. — McKenzie
Matt Roush: The murder of Detective Carter has been discussed at length by the show’s producers and even by Taraji P. Henson, who played the role, as a twist long in the making, a shocking twist that was intended to shock, the repercussions of which are still being felt by the characters (most especially Reese). It wasn’t a wasted death, but clearly still a controversial one. Person of Interest is undoubtedly CBS’s most twisted, unpredictable crime drama, and in its dynamic portrayal of damaged female warriors like Shaw and even the berserk Root, I give the show points for audacity (not unlike Scandal — and I can only imagine what the reaction is to the most recent, tragic twist on The Good Wife).
As for Scandal, it was interesting to me that as I was digesting the latest wave of comments, especially this one about there being no heroes, last week’s episode contained this impassioned speech by Olivia: “If there are no white hats, if everyone is evil, if the deck is always stacked, if everyone I love is a monster, if no one is worth saving, what’s the point?” (Turns out, according to her dad, Olivia herself is the point.) The fact that the show can pause to ask these questions suggests they know what they’re doing, even when it appears otherwise. The cold-blooded execution of James Novak (Dan Bucatinsky), one of TV’s most intriguing and heroic gay characters, is also worthy of debate. I can’t say I applaud it, but it absolutely had impact.
Question: I am becoming a believer of Comedy Central once again after years of disappointment. Broad City is the best new comedy of the year. It started strong and has limitless potential. The writing is more than just “fresh.” It delivers huge laughs and complements the offbeat nature of the show. It shatters female stereotypes and smacks Girls in the face with its lack of pretension. CC also is killing it on the sketch comedy front. Kroll Show is better in its second season. Key & Peele produces quality laughs every episode. Drunk History surpassed my expectations. Inside Amy Schumer proves to be outrageously funny in her show. Lastly, Nathan for You seems to be part prank show, part reality TV. But it’s hilarious and addicting. What do you think of Broad City? Where in the TV universe do you tune in for laughs? — Anthony
Matt Roush: Comedy Central is on a roll for sure, especially with Amy Schumer, Key & Peele and Broad City, which I regret not making a bigger deal of in its first season for the reasons you describe. (I’m afraid Drunk History comes off to me like a one-joke premise that left me feeling like the only sober person at a sophomoric party, and Nathan never made it onto my own cluttered radar, but there’s still time.) To your broader question, there are a number of terrific comedy series I enjoy on a regular basis, from mainstream hits like Big Bang and Modern Family to more underrated gems including The Middle and Mom to such acclaimed cult faves as Parks and Recreation, Community and Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Late night has something for just about everyone, and I try to check in as often as I can on Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert (to keep fanning the Comedy Central torch), the new NBC tag team of Jimmy Fallon and Seth Meyers, plus Jimmy Kimmel and even good old Dave, and Conan if I ever remember. At the risk of leaving anything out (which is why I try to avoid such broad questions), I’m also very pleased to see HBO bringing back Veep next month and pairing it with a very strong new comedy in Mike Judge’s hilarious Silicon Valley — though also eager to see a new season of Nurse Jackie on Showtime airing on the same night. These sorts of TV logjams aren’t funny, even when the shows are.
Question: I’ve noticed an interesting (and in my opinion irritating) trend in TV right now. It seems that child actors have been taking center stage lately, and mostly to mixed results. New shows such as Believe, Crisis and About a Boy are all centered around children. I’ve only watched Believe and Crisis, but I’m not sold on the trend after watching them (especially Believe). It isn’t unique to brand-new network shows, either. The Walking Dead recently had an episode that focused on two little girls dealing with the apocalypse. While Crisis was merely inoffensive with its younger actors, Believe and The Walking Dead were quite unbearable. Some might cry bad performances, while others may cry bad writing. I think both series suffered from both issues. My point is this: Child actors can be used quite effectively (most notably coming to mind is Game of Thrones‘ Arya and Trophy Wife‘s Burt), but I think the concept of throwing adult problems at child characters just doesn’t turn out to be a success. What are you thoughts/opinions on the matter? — Jeffrey
Matt Roush: Depends on the kid and the show. I’m no fan of overly precocious or precious kids who get the last word in comedies or dramas, but I think you may be overstating the problem based on a few bad experiences. I’m with you on Believe — though the real problem isn’t the little girl, it’s the corny premise — and it’s the adults, not the kids, driving the action in Crisis, so am not sure the argument really applies. With About a Boy, it’s not hiding the fact that the sitcom is about a boy — but even more about the man-child next door who bonds with the kid, and both are actually kind of endearing. (Besides, there are quite a few amazing young characters in a number of family comedies, absolutely including Burt on Trophy Wife but also Sue, Brick and Axl Heck on The Middle, to name a few.) And I beg to differ about the recent episode of The Walking Dead involving the tragic situation with the young sisters, which I found devastating. Innocence lost is a powerful theme on that show, and that episode had the power of an especially resonant dark fable. Arya will always be one of my favorite Thrones characters, but I don’t see her as an exception to the rule.
Question: Your recent Q&A perpetuated a fallacy. On The Walking Dead, Beth is an 18-year-old adult, confirmed by actress Emily Kinney. The character is not 17. This is important when the questioner threw around a word like “pedophile.” It’s also important to note that Bethyl (Beth and Daryl) has the potential to be the most positive romantic relationship ever seen on TWD despite the age gap. This isn’t a Jersey Shore hookup. If it happens, it will be a sweet, respectful match of equals (much as we love Daryl, the emotional damage is there, making him quite young in a way), not a relationship surrounded by lies (Rick/Lori), a hookup turned into love (Glenn/Maggie), or a woman who can’t see psychotic tendencies in any of her lovers (Andrea). — Caralyn
Matt Roush: Point taken, but I’m still holding out for a Daryl-Carol reunion. The main reason I published that letter last week was to tackle the issue that normal rules of propriety, morality and even romance don’t really apply to a wrecked world like the one portrayed in The Walking Dead.
I’m more in line on this particular subject with Paul, who wrote in to wonder if the letter writer hadn’t gone “way over the top about Daryl being a pervert. First, have they ever established what [Beth’s] age was? [Note from Matt: I’ll take Caralyn’s word that she’s 18, not that it makes that much difference in this context.] Moreover, their relationship is clearly platonic at this point and the character hasn’t shown an urge to take advantage of the young girl. She may be looking at him with adoration but I’ve seen no indications he’s reciprocating those feelings.” I tend to agree, but am hoping the issue will be moot once we see how the current season ends.
Question: Is it my imagination or are shows like NCIS, CSI, Bones and Criminal Minds getting stale? Not that the acting is bad, just that the story lines are starting to feel repetitive? I am sure I am going to anger some fans, but I just find myself getting bored when I watch them. Unlike Sleepy Hollow, The Following and even The Walking Dead, which keep my attention each week. What are your thoughts? — Theresa
Matt Roush: Sounds to me like you’ve hit the proverbial procedural wall, which is understandable given the glut. All of these shows have been around for a long time and will never seem as fresh as they used to be, especially when compared to the heavily serialized and/or fantasy-based thrillers you now seem to prefer.
Question: Do you know if there is a possible chance that Natalie Zea will ever come back to do Justified to reprise her role of Winona Hawkins, who is the mother of Raylan Givens’ baby, either later this season or in its final season next year? You called it in a previous “Ask Matt” column when you suggested that her character Claire Matthews on The Following was probably still alive, but I just miss Winona on Justified and I want Raylan to spend more time with his child and have a chance at fatherhood despite his career as a U.S. Marshal! — Chris
Matt Roush: That’s an absolutely justified point of view. Who doesn’t miss Winona? My in-house Justified expert had no news on the Winona front when I last checked — which is about as close to a spoiler as I’d care to come — but the way I see it is that this character is still an important part of the Raylan Givens mythology, and unless we hear otherwise, there’s always a possibility, especially as the show approaches its endgame, that she could re-enter the picture for some closure (happy or sad, that’s up to the writers). It would make a lot more sense than Claire’s “surprise” comeback on The Following, which is exactly the sort of dishonest twist that show has become infamous for. (I’m tempted to add a “told ya so,” but that might make it sound like I’m amused.)
Question: Since they do not appear to be debuting in the next two months, do you think NBC plans on airing one or more of the following three leftover scripted series from their 2013-14 slate: Crossbones, The Night Shift and Undateable? If so, are their episodes destined to be simply burned off, or will NBC make a legitimate effort to promote and present the shows with the sincere hope that their weekly ratings will be constantly large enough to warrant both full and second-season pick-ups?
Also, considering both the multiple way viewers can now catch missed episodes and the upcoming stiff competition the network faces with CBS’s Thursday Night Football, has NBC thought about bringing an end to simply using the Saturday night prime-time block as a place to re-air episodes of three of their hour-long shows, and instead utilize it to broadcast original episodes of two to four sitcoms and one hour-long drama? If they want to keep their “must see” comedy line-up on Thursday, NBC could schedule the sitcoms with more broad appeal on that night and air the ones with niche followings on Saturday. — Alex
Matt Roush: Yes. And no. To elaborate: I imagine NBC will ultimately air the shows that haven’t been scheduled yet sometime during the summer. While the perception will be unavoidable that they are being burned off, it’s NBC’s job to convince viewers otherwise with promotion and smart scheduling — which means using their one summer hit, America’s Got Talent, strategically. But it will be an uphill climb for sure. It’s even a longer shot that NBC or its rivals will start programming scripted originals of any sort on Saturday. Even given the realities of time-shifted viewing, those days appear to be long gone.