Ask Matt: Men Getting Married, 24, Blacklist, TNT Shows and the Emmys

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Jon Cryer, Ashton Kutcher | Photo Credits: CBS

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Question: I have never been a fan of Two and a Half Men (tried to watch it years ago, but the only thing I found funny was Conchata Ferrell) and never understood how it has stayed on the air for so long. I saw that creator Chuck Lorre is planning on the main storyline next season to be about the two main characters (Walden and Alan, both heterosexual) "marrying" each other in order for Walden to achieve his goal of adopting a child. To me, I find this appalling on so many levels. Gay men and women (and their straight allies) have fought for so long for equal marriage rights, so having two straight men "marry" just seems like a mockery for those fighting for marriage equality. I am a little ashamed of Lorre even coming up with this idea (particularly as his biggest star, Jim Parsons, on his biggest show, The Big Bang Theory, is gay). Your thoughts? — Tim in Atlanta

Matt Roush: Surely you don't expect a show like Two and a Half Men to honor the rules of political correctness. While this does on the most obvious level look like the show is screaming for attention in its (at last) final season, I'll reserve judgment until I see how it plays out. (The first time the "men" act all squirmy about the notion of actually being mistaken as gay, which probably won't take long, I'm out.) On the other hand, for a show this mainstream — and despite its outrageous raunch factor, that's where this falls — to embrace a hot-button issue like this in such a matter-of-fact manner may say more than you think about how far we've come on the subject. Does this trivialize the struggle and the ongoing campaign for acceptance? Probably. But hard to imagine any real harm being done, given what a toothless show this has become. Even GLAAD is taking a wait-and-see approach to this, and I tend to agree.

Question: What are your thoughts on the 24: Live Another Day finale, and the season as a whole? For me, the finale did not disappoint. I was particularly impressed with William Devane's performance as President Heller. Do you think there's a chance of him getting an Emmy nomination next year? — Eric

Matt Roush: I enjoyed most of the season — I currently amuse myself imagining Jack Bauer throwing anyone who annoys me out the window — and was especially pleased with the finale, which seemed like classic 24 in its mix of tragedy and triumph. And yes, William Devane was quite poignant as he came to grips with losing his daughter, and his mind. An Emmy nod is probably a long shot for the usual reasons (timing for one, and this being a long-in-the-tooth network franchise), but Live Another Day certainly made a case for Jack Bauer's continuing existence as a TV icon.

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Question: I am currently trying to DVR 10 shows on Sunday night. Why are they doing this to me? — Marlene

Matt Roush: I know, and it's only summer! (Although with cable replays and various On Demand and streaming options, at least you don't have to make all that many tough choices about what to skip.) But 10? Really? I'm impressed.

Question: Leave it to NBC to take the best thing they've created in nearly 15 years and screw it up. I just read about the Peacock's plan to bring The Blacklist back in September, have it take 10 weeks (?!) off and then re-launch in February on Thursdays at 9/8c. Clearly the folks at NBC have never heard the axiom "if it ain't broke don't fix it." There must be something wrong with the building, because no matter who they hire, they make one bad decision after another. Speaking of NBC: I get that everyone's dream is to make a lot of money by hanging out on the beach all day, but seriously, John Malkovich, there are better ways than by tying yourself to an utter shipwreck of a show like Crossbones. I've watched two episodes and it's like watching paint dry sans the whimsy. Wondering your thoughts on the two shows? — Chip

Matt Roush: I'm not that upset over how NBC is treating The Blacklist, which the network clearly sees as its greatest asset (next to Sunday Night Football and The Voice) heading into the new season. NBC's entertainment chief Bob Greenblatt made a pretty convincing case in his TCA press conference last week about how difficult it is for a show this ambitious in scope and production design to air episodes straight through without a break. And cable has conditioned us to roll with split seasons, so this scheduling ought not be all that jolting. Besides, NBC was always going to try to use a breakout show like this strategically to bolster another night (in this case, Thursday), and to give a new show a chance to capitalize on the Voice lead-in (come November, State of Affairs). The way the second season of The Blacklist is being laid out has the feel of event programming: an initial Monday arc leading to a late-fall cliffhanger, returning with huge promotion on Super Bowl night — the best platform anywhere on TV — with a two-parter concluding four nights later in the new Thursday time period. This is the opposite of how NBC treated Revolution, which admittedly did fail when subjected to a long hiatus and a barely promoted move to a less hospitable night. If any of NBC's plans for Blacklist backfire, I'd expect the show to go back to Mondays before too much damage is done.

And honestly, why dwell on Crossbones? It's an embarrassment for everyone involved, and we should all hope for better diversions next summer.

Question: Do you have any idea how long Murder in the First is going to go on about just Erich Blunt and the one murder case? I like the show, but I've started to wonder if the only case they are ever going to work on is this one. Stretching the investigation out over several episodes is fine, makes it interesting and different from most shows which only use two or maybe three episodes to work on a particular story, but this just seems to keep going on and on. — Jana Kay

Matt Roush: The entire premise of Murder in the First was to follow a single case over an entire 10-episode season — not unlike Murder One of years ago, though in this case much less effectively executed, as attested to by your impatience. There are only four episodes to go, if I'm doing my math right, so if you've stuck with it for this long, you need to decide if it's worth it to get to the end. TNT did not include this show in its release last week of early summer renewals, so whether there will be a second round of First remains to be seen.

Question: What are your thoughts on the direction Falling Skies has taken? The writing of the show this season has been so far-fetched it is bordering on ridiculous. What made my husband and I fans of the show in the beginning was the fact that it seemed as though what was happening would really happen if aliens took over the planet. They told the story from the human perspective. Now we have alien/human hybrids and aliens that squeeze dirt and speak to each other in English on their own planet. I read somewhere that Steven Spielberg stepped back and let someone else take over. Do you think there is any hope that he will come back and save the show? The last season of True Blood is a testament to the fact you cannot separate most of the core cast members and expect the show to last. The show keeps telling us that they are all going to be together soon, but that cannot happen quickly enough. Am I missing something here? Are you enjoying the show this season? I try to suspend my disbelief as much as possible when watching this type of show, but it has gone from plausibly realistic to campy in one season and I miss having the cast together. — Susan

Matt Roush: I've received several comments like this about the current season, which I'll admit I haven't been following. (Too much new summer TV, and something's gotta give.) From what I remember from where I left off with this show, it did seem like something was lost when the characters began to scatter, and maybe it's the best thing for everyone that next season will be the last. [Note: I'm told next Sunday's episode does a great deal to bring many of the characters together, so stay tuned.] Stories like this aren't meant to go on indefinitely, and perhaps by working toward a definite end point, the producers will find a way to give loyal and even lapsed fans a satisfying finish.

Question: I know everyone's been moaning and groaning about Emmy snubs, but I just have to add to the drama! And by drama I refer to the best drama on television, Justified. And Timothy Olyphant? Please, he's fantastic in the role of Raylan — he definitely got robbed. And Walton Goggins? Jeez! Joelle Carter? Get a clue, people! Nick Searcy? Good lord. I weep for the future. — Shelley

Matt Roush: Kudos for the week's most operatic Emmy rant. I wish I could join in this particular chorus, but despite my great fondness for this show and its deep bench of marvelous actors and characters, this most recent season with its dubious feast of Crowes was not Justified at its finest, and fell rather far down on my own list of deserving contenders. I'm hoping the show will rally for its sixth and final season, and when it's over, I'm pretty sure I'll weep along with you.

Question: You mentioned the fact that The Middle receives no Emmy love, and I totally agree that this show is a gem. Not only is it sweet, but it is well written, acted and just plain funny. I also wish Parks and Recreation would get some accolades — to me, it is much better than Brooklyn Nine-Nine (which I still enjoy for its Barney Miller vibe). But what I will never get is how the Academy awards The Big Bang Theory and Jim Parsons year after year. The writing is so bad and you can see the punch lines coming from a mile away! Come on! — Sue

Matt Roush: Again, I'm in a position of playing devil's advocate. I'd love to see The Middle crack into the top category, not that I'm expecting it to ever happen, but not at the expense of Big Bang. It may not be to your taste in the way it delivers its hard jokes through vividly defined and now almost iconic characters, but for me (and for millions of others, not that popularity necessarily reflects quality — though its mass appeal shouldn't be held against it, either), this is one of the rare comedies that has improved through the seasons as it expanded its world of characters (Amy, Bernadette, Stuart the comic-book guy, etc), and while the rhythms are such that you can often sense a joke coming, they almost always score. Given this year's candidates (including Orange Is the New Black, which isn't a comedy), I'd probably vote for Big Bang for best comedy if I could, though I doubt it will ever take home the top prize.

Question: Curious about your response to an earlier question regarding Tatiana Maslany being overlooked (again) at the Emmys. You explained that it was a niche show on a smaller cable network (BBC America) and suggested that perhaps "...the membership hasn't had the pleasure of discovering her astonishing work yet." Isn't that their job? She won or was nominated for other awards for the same show: Golden Globe, Critics Choice, TCA. She got a ton of buzz last year when the show premiered and when she was overlooked at last year's Emmys. The show and its amazing star (eight roles, one of them male) has had articles written about her in magazines and daily newspapers, trumpeting her work and the egregious oversight in not acknowledging it. And I assume that BBC America sends out screeners to the Emmy voters along with all the other cable and regular networks. They may not have the budget of an HBO, but they certainly know a winner when they have one and get behind it. How then is it possible that enough Emmy voters haven't "discovered" Tatiana yet? It seems ridiculous to me that they could nominate a drab and lifeless actress from Downton Abbey, and continue to nominate (and give the award) to Jim Parsons for essentially playing himself on Big Bang Theory, and continue to overlook/ignore Maslany who not only does not play herself, but plays eight other selves, some out of her gender, some with accents, all astonishing. — Michael

Matt Roush: Again, I'll push back against the Big Bang backlash. (And what does this have to do with a best drama actress snub anyway?) I assure you Jim Parsons is not playing himself, and that is a bona fide comic performance he is giving, one for the ages. (If only for the Valentine's kiss with Amy, he should be a lock this year.) But back to the real issue, and one that gets to the heart of the primary flaw in the Emmys nominating system. It would be nice to think that the Academy membership sees it as their "job" to stay up on all of the significant shows and performances they're being asked to consider for nominations, but the truth is that the working members are often too busy making TV to watch it in any great volume, and the volume of TV only gets greater, and thus we tend to see voters falling back on names and shows they're already familiar with. I do agree that favoring Downton's Lady Mary in a so-so season is just lazy when a virtuoso performance like Maslany's is just waiting to be recognized, but it's hardly a surprise.

And now, a series of like-minded Emmy questions that I will address jointly:

Question: After reading about The Good Wife Emmy snub, I'm wondering if there should be separate drama and comedy categories between network broadcast shows which are under more restricted FCC rules and cable shows which are not as restricted. — Marsha

Question: The shows on network prime time are at a distinct disadvantage. You cannot put Masters of Sex on ABC and make it work. The shows on the premium networks, cable and those produced for the Internet and Netflix can do so much more and aren't typically hindered by censors. Is there a way to fix the system, or are the prime-time network shows destined to never be recognized for the greatness they can hold? — Diana

Question: Now that the Emmy nominations have been announced, why do the majority of drama nominations go to shows on cable networks? Are those shows and actors really that much better than network shows and actors? What do the broadcast networks need to do to get competitive in Emmy nominations? This has been bugging me for the last couple of years. — Cathy

Matt Roush: This has been an issue for quite some time, and one network executive during this summer's TCA press tour even brought up the era of the ACE Awards, when cable shows were ghettoized and not eligible to compete at the Emmys. I wouldn't seek a return to those days, and genuinely believe that separating cable/Internet shows from broadcast would diminish the importance and relevance of a win in either arena. Plus, there's already a surplus of categories, and adding more to the Emmy plate wouldn't be feasible. It's true that the playing field isn't particularly even: not just in content restrictions, but in the number of episodes a show produces. I'm particularly annoyed that a partial (and lackluster) seven-episode season of Mad Men would be nominated over the riveting 22-episode spectacle of The Good Wife's fifth season — which I'm proud to say just received the TCA Award for drama series. Whether cable shows are on balance "better" than broadcast series is a matter of perspective, but there's no question that the higher-aiming cable series are able to take more risks and thrive with a lower ratings threshold and are perceived more as TV "literature" as opposed to broadcast's mass-market sensibility. (Networks tend to do better in comedy than drama, but even there, the blurring lines between what's a comedy and what's a drama leave many of us unsatisfied.)

Bottom line as we put the subject to rest for another week: I'm not sure there's a way to fix the system without making the Emmys even more cumbersome, and even if the networks tried to raise the bar with a better caliber of programming — something not in evidence with this fall's mostly mediocre crop of formula shows — I'm not sure it would matter to an Academy in thrall to the newer kids on the block.

Question: The Night Shift season finale was really good. I noticed that T.C. was about to tell Topher something, then his wife came in. I'm assuming he was going to tell him what he told Jordan. But will he ever tell Topher what he told Jordan? Will he tell him that he hesitated to shoot? I kind of want him to. — Tara

Matt Roush: I guess you'll have to wait until next summer (or whenever NBC decides to air the second season) to find out. That's why they call them cliffhangers. Speaking of which ...

Question: Is it too soon to know if Continuum will get a fourth season? It's a great show with a terrific cast that really holds your attention. They recently ended their third season with a big cliffhanger, so I was wondering about their renewal chances. Your thoughts? — Tony

Matt Roush: That decision will be made not by Syfy but by the Canadian broadcaster from which Syfy acquires the show. As far as I can tell, a decision is imminent later this summer, and I'd be surprised if a fourth season isn't produced. And if it is, I imagine Syfy will carry it.

That's all for now. Keep sending your comments and questions to askmatt@tvguidemagazine.com, and in the meantime, follow me on Twitter!

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