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Middletown Transcript
  • Ask Matt: Emmys, Longmire, Summer TV (Leftovers, Outlander, Strain),Doctor Who

  • Send questions and comments to askmatt@tvguidemagazine.com and follow me on Twitter!Question: You are probably going to get a lot of angry email about how ...
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  • Send questions and comments to askmatt@tvguidemagazine.com and follow me on Twitter!
    Question: You are probably going to get a lot of angry email about how Orange Is the New Black and True Detective didn't win any of the major Emmys. But I think they may have suffered from submitting in the wrong category, and some of the voters probably didn't want to get more viewers angry after letting both OITNB and True Detective submit in the wrong categories. So glad for Julianna Margulies' win for The Good Wife and Jim Parsons' win for The Big Bang Theory. But the biggest shock for me is Sherlock's three wins, couldn't be any happier. Which win/snub shocked you, and do you think OITNB and True Detective could have won more awards if they had submitted in the proper categories? — Aadil
    Matt Roush: Hard to say, although I seriously doubt Emmy voters were worrying about upsetting viewers in their determinations. There was plenty of speculation in the aftermath that the Emmy results suggested a backlash of sorts against those who tried to game the system, but in the drama category, it was clearly heading toward a Breaking Bad sweep, so True Detective and/or HBO may be kicking themselves for not targeting the arguably less competitive miniseries category (although my vote would have gone to Fargo over Detective, so I'm happy how that turned out). With Orange and the comedy category, that was a bit of a shock for those of us who bought the Netflix hype, but the Emmy voters (an unusually consistent lot lately) played it safe and honored an actual comedy series, one they still obviously revere after five season — though if they were going traditional, I wish they'd rewarded The Big Bang Theory, which has actually improved with age. I'm now wondering if Orange will be fated to fall between the Emmy cracks and whether, with Breaking Bad out of the picture, it will try its hand at drama recognition next year. Anyway, I was also thrilled with Margulies' win to vindicate the Good Wife best-drama snub, and I predicted Parsons as well (among the few I got right this year).
    Page 2 of 9 - For me, the biggest surprise (besides Matthew McConaughey not winning) was the Academy favoring Sherlock over The Normal Heart in so many categories, especially in writing and supporting actor, although I suppose the fact that so many Normal actors were nominated may have canceled each other out — but really, Matt Bomer gave the sort of performance that fairly screams Award Bait. (No slight on Martin Freeman and Sherlock writer Steven Moffat, both great, and I loved the movie they won for. Just saying I'm surprised, and I still would have given Normal's Larry Kramer a writing Emmy if only for historic purposes.)
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    Question: I am writing to ask about the recent Emmy Awards. I know that performers submit their work. But why do we have to watch year after year the same people win? I mean, Allison Janney wins two Emmys, and once again Jon Hamm goes home empty-handed. I know that these people that win are very talented and good at their craft. But why not share the wealth once in a while? Julia Louis-Dreyfus wins her fifth, Jim Parsons wins his fourth. The Amazing Race wins its 10th Emmy. The only thing missing was Jon Stewart not winning for the umpteenth year in a row. It is getting to the stage where there is not much sense tuning in to the Emmys because you know it will be the same people winning again. At least with the Academy Awards, the same people do not win year after year. There are many actors and actresses working in TV and on the web that are not rewarded or even recognized for stellar work. I just wondered what your thoughts are on this? — Patty
    Page 3 of 9 - Matt Roush: It's a frequent complaint, but not entirely a logical one, though understandable, and one I sometimes share. The Oscars don't have the option to nominate the same movies and performances again and again (although actors often repeat, depending on their body of work, and sometimes sequels rise to the top: i.e., The Godfather series), whereas the Emmys and other TV awards are continually dealing with a landscape of comedies, dramas and performers that don't go away after winning or being nominated. Once they make the cut, they tend to stay on Emmy voters' radar (sometimes but not always deservedly), and it's up to the actor or the show to decide when enough's enough (as Candice Bergen did after winning five Emmys for Murphy Brown).
    I agree this year's Emmys was especially enervating because of the tonnage of repeat wins, but with many of them, it was hard to argue. And with someone like Allison Janney, who created two very different and memorable roles this year in comedy and drama, I was thrilled with her double win for (and this is significant) new work. Which obviously has no bearing on Jon Hamm's also-ran situation, and he should have won long ago for creating such an indelible character as Don Draper. (Weirdly, for all of Mad Men's success at the Emmys, it has yet to win an acting award for that amazing ensemble.) Hamm's Draper had the bad luck to emerge at the same time as Bryan Cranston's Walter White, and he lost four times to that role (plus once each to Friday Night Lights' Kyle Chandler, Homeland's Damian Lewis and The Newsroom's Jeff Daniels). Would it be preferable for Emmy voters to mix things up a bit? Of course, but as Parsons joked during his acceptance this year, "there's no accounting for taste." Which is really what it all boils down to.
    Question: I was very surprised that Bates Motel did not get one nomination for an Emmy. The show is great, creepy and full of suspense. Is there a reason that it was passed over? — Julie
    Matt Roush: The same reason almost anything is snubbed these days: too much competition (but also, to some extent, the lurid horror/suspense genre which it represents, which doesn't always mesh with voters' tastes.). We're not just in a golden age of TV drama, on network and especially cable, we're in a glut of it. I was surprised Vera Farmiga didn't repeat her nomination from a year earlier for lead drama actress, but that was an especially tough category this time.
    Page 4 of 9 - Question: Here we are, not even a week removed from your last column, where you indicated your belief that A&E would not be stupid enough to cancel another series on a cliffhanger after the fiasco that was The Glades, only to find out that have canceled Longmire. Are they stupid? Why would anyone want to watch a show on that network now, knowing that they obviously care so little about the audience? I'm a big TV junkie and have watched many shows over the years and I have never seen anything like this. I mean there hasn't been closure on every show I've watched and not every last episode of a show has been great even when they know it's the end, but this is just unacceptable and ridiculous. The Glades was kind of up and down in quality, though I was still enjoying it in the end. Longmire's quality was always great. Both the shows and the fans deserved better. A&E really needs to get their act together so this constant inconsideration doesn't end up trickling to the ratings for their other shows. Because quite honestly, I was going to binge the first season of Bates Motel on Netflix and now I have absolutely no inclination. Is this fair of me? No, not really, but then again was it fair of A&E to cancel another show with a cliffhanger? I think we all know the answer to that. — Maria
    Matt Roush: Congratulations on being the first — of many — outraged fans to vent to me over what should have been a happier Labor Day weekend. Many of the rants made most of these same points, and whether A&E cut Longmire because of its older-skewing demographics (doesn't sell as well to advertisers), or because of contract negotiations (it doesn't own the show and that becomes more of an economic factor these days) or whatever bottom-line excuse they have so far failed to provide, there's little doubt this cancellation — which surprised not just this critic, but even some of the industry trade reporters in their coverage — is a PR disaster. And you'd think another warning shot to anyone who'd possibly want to shop a scripted show to this network without making some sort of production/distribution deal in advance to better their odds.
    Among some other reactions: From Trav: "A show like Longmire shouldn't be required to pull in the 'coveted' Vampire Diaries demographic, right? ... I haven't been this annoyed at a short-sighted network since [then] Sci-Fi pulled the plug on Farscape too soon." ... From Jen: "Is there, hope against hope, a chance someone else will pick it up? Gotta know what happened to Branch!" [From Matt: Much of the initial reporting on the cancellation included word that the studio was going to shop it around in hopes of continuing. Let's hope that pays off.]
    Page 5 of 9 - Question: I'm curious. It seems your thoughts on HBO'S The Leftovers have been mixed so far, but I haven't read anything from you on the subject lately. Has your opinion of The Leftovers changed at all, now that we are knocking on the door of the season finale? (And congratulations on predicting it would be picked up for a second season; I thought it might not be renewed, given its bleak tone and relatively low ratings). Also, I just wanted you to know that I really enjoy your reviews. Thanks for the great recommendations and related thoughts to chew on. — Brent
    Matt Roush: Thanks. My feelings about The Leftovers are still mostly mixed — it's very well done, but such a relentless and at times pretentious and uneven downer that I can't say I look forward to it most weeks. And I tend to change my tune by the week, depending on the episode, some of which have been excellent in an almost Twilight Zone fashion — especially the stand-alones involving Christopher Eccleston (Pastor Matt) and the marvelous Carrie Coon (as Nora, the mom who lost her entire family to the "Sudden Departure"). The most recent "prequel" episode was also compelling in its (sometimes obvious) foreshadowing about how much these people had lost — and it helped explain, up to a point, why Amy Brenneman's Laurie took the path she did, though the "Guilty Remnant" cult remains the show's most problematic aspect — Brenneman and especially Ann Dowd's remarkable work notwithstanding. I guess I admire the show's ambition, which isn't the same as "liking" it or being terribly curious about where the narrative is heading, if indeed it's heading anywhere. And it really wasn't such a stretch to predict HBO picking this one up for a second season. They've renewed far worse shows that have performed much less prominently with zero buzz. It's just their way.
    Question: I remember that you wrote a good review of the WGN America series Manhattan just before it debuted, but haven't noticed anyone commenting on it since then. I just wanted to say that I have been really impressed with this show, which tells an interesting, multi-layered story, with a good script. Though the producers seem to have kept this show on a tight budget (i.e., no really big-name actors, and sets which are mostly deserts and bare-bones one-story buildings), the writing, directing and acting all seem excellent. Among the cast, I really admire the work of John Benjamin Hickey, Olivia Williams and Ashley Zukerman. I was wondering whether you're still enjoying the show, or had any thoughts on how it's developing. — Paul
    Page 6 of 9 - Matt Roush: Also still very impressed, for my initial reasons and yours. This is a solid period drama with dark overtones, very suitable for the literally explosive subject matter. The season to date is available on Hulu for those who haven't discovered this gem, which I highly recommend.
    Question: Wondering what you think of Starz' Outlander? I'm a huge fan of the books and am loving the series, especially with Ron Moore's added bits and pieces surprising me all the time! In contrast, while I love the Game of Thrones books, I couldn't get past the series' first episode. Yes, I know it's brilliant, everyone tells me, and I'm definitely not a book-to-TV snob. But I've tried to watch the GOT pilot three times, and the moment Sean Bean comes on the screen, I get very depressed ... spoiler ahead ... and can't stop thinking "Oh, dear, he's going to lose his head." Same with Robb, etc. But with Outlander, I am anticipating with glee what is to come, as much as for certain sure-to-be-riveting scenes and developments, as for what Ron will continue to bring to it. Oh, and there's also the music (shout out to Bear McCreary), the scenery (shout out to Scotland), and of course, Sam Heughan (shout out to men in kilts). — Laurie
    Matt Roush: As with Manhattan, I was an instant fan and still am. (What a TV summer this has been!) Outlander is gorgeous to behold and just keeps getting better, as the world into which Claire (the exquisite Caitrionia Balfe) has been transported continues to develop. Your point contrasting Outlander to Game of Thrones is intriguing, because as popular as the HBO epic is, I'm aware that for some, its worldview is too oppressively dark and overwhelmingly violent. Having read the first (and most of the second by now) of the Outlander novels, I know there are grim events ahead in this series as well, but its overall view of heroism is much more romantic (and not just because Sam-as-Jamie is such a stud), which makes it an awfully pleasurable escape.
    Page 7 of 9 - Question: Have you been keeping up with The Strain? While I'm always up for an apocalyptic thriller, I was starting to feel a vague sense of frustration forming, having reached the halfway point of the season and at least two obvious members of the Scooby team not yet even crossing paths with the others (not counting the CDC guy on the take waving the van out of the airport). Then, out of nowhere, an unusually specialized SWAT team shows up and convinces me that, yeah, I'm not going anywhere (as long as they're not from the Deus ex Machina precinct). Now, what I was afraid would devolve into little more than the same proboscis-lunging scenes over and over ("what's wrong with him"/ZAP/*legs twitching* in an endless wash/rinse/repeat cycle) instead shows promise of going to other unexpected places. The concentration camp scenes could have been exploitative and in bad taste (if you incorporate the Holocaust as an element in a TV show about vampires — or whatever they are — then you're just asking for trouble), but instead find an odd balance between horrific and thoughtful, although they're also supported by gravitas provided by David Bradley. I know he should appear at least 20 years older for the timing to be consistent, but he's good enough in the role that the age inconsistency is easy to disregard. He made Walder Frey every bit as detestable as he was meant to be in Game of Thrones, and now he gets my vote as the MVP of this cast. I had high hopes for Extant, The Last Ship, The Lottery and The Leftovers (although on this one I'm still barely hanging on... barely), but it looks like The Strain is the new genre show I'll be sticking with.
    Also, what hope does Welcome to Sweden have for a future? I still have happy memories of a fish-out-of-water movie from the early 1980s called Local Hero, and although Welcome to Sweden occasionally bites when a nudge would probably do, I've found myself feeling that same kind of affection for it. Are the production costs shared between NBC and a European broadcaster, and if so, could that bode well for us seeing more of it? — Mike
    Matt Roush: Ah, The Strain. My kind of guilt-free guilty pleasure. As I noted in my original review, what I love most about this summer thrill ride is its complete lack of pretention, as "a midsummer popcorn feast of classic monster-movie horror, served without apology and blessedly free of irony." I'm a bit surprised it hasn't achieved a Walking Dead level of fan fervor, but it's doing well enough. And I love any time David Bradley's Abe Setrakian growls at the other members of his slayer squad — and I don't mind that it's taking a while for all of the various heroes to find each other. Feels more novelistic that way.
    Page 8 of 9 - As for Sweden: That's an acquisition for NBC which, like most summer network imports, can't be costing them all that much. Which is why it's no surprise, given that it was already renewed in Sweden (and the Amy Poehler connection doesn''t hurt), that NBC will bring it back next year.
    Question: I was very excited to watch the Doctor Who season premiere, even more so than usual because it received such great reviews from the critics. But I came away a bit disappointed. Not in Peter Capaldi; I thought he was great and enjoyed every scene he was in. But all scenes without him (too many!) dragged for me and I found myself checking the time. Ah well, we can't all agree. But I've noticed an odd thing. Some reviewers described an opening scene with Strax recapping the Doctor's history from an exploding spaceship. Sounds great! But it wasn't included on the Doctor Who I saw (purchased online).
    Did you see that scene? If so, do you know if there were other differences? How often does the reviewer's copy differ from the version that the audience sees? Do they give you any warning? And do you worry about whether the TV shows you review will end up not being what the audiences eventually see, making the reviewing process a little bit shaky. Thanks for your work, by the way. It's pretty rare that I don't agree with your reviews, even if this time was an exception. — Pat
    Matt Roush: Thanks, though sorry you weren't as amused as I was by the opener. From what I gather, the Strax scene was an introduction to the "Deep Breath" episode when it was screened in movie theaters as part of the Doctor Who world tour. It was not shown at the media screening I attended in New York, and from what I gather, it wasn't part of the BBC America broadcast either (although it might have aired in the pre- or post-show; I tend to avoid such things). To your bigger question: There are times, especially regarding shows that come from England (or Europe in general), when the advance screeners provided to critics are labeled as "unedited for U.S. broadcast" or some such thing. The cuts rarely prove to be so significant as to affect my opinion of the overall product, although I will say that watching unedited (as in, unbleeped) episodes of the hilariously profane The Inbetweeners (not the abhorrent MTV remake) a few years ago was a very different experience than watching what BBC America aired.

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