But one note before I get to them: We may take on a pair I didn’t get to in this week’s Talking TV with Ryan and Ryan podcast, during which my co-host Ryan McGee will even discuss “Awake,” premiering Thursday. Look for that review Wednesday and the podcast late this week.
Now, on to your questions!
Dale Kunz: Do you think “Mad Men’s” long hiatus has cost it the cultural initiative? I needs to be bugnuts for it coming back, but I’m not. Think that first new hour will snap us all back into place as fans or will they should work at it to draw back their audience?
Mo says: I will have an interest to see what the ratings are for “Mad Men’s” two-hour season premiere on March 25. Will they be higher than average because people missed Don Draper and company? Or will they be lower than past “Mad Men” season premieres because the show has been gone for 387 years? (OK, that time frame is just not entirely accurate — 525 days will have passed between seasons — nevertheless it certainly feels like “Mad Men” has been gone for decades.)
It occurs to me that “Breaking Bad’s” ratings grew in that show’s fourth season, partially, on account of what might be called the Netflix Effect. The fact that people could watch previous season of that AMC show on Netflix — in addition to DVD, iTunes and the remainder — meant that lots of people finally got around to watching the drama. Similarly, for “Mad Men,” the long wait between seasons may have helped in that regard. I’ve heard anecdotally about a lot of people catching up with “Mad Men” via Netflix, and look at how well “Downton Abbey” did in its second season — I feel a good amount of “Downton’s” Season 2 dominance derived from the truth that its first season was available via Netflix. My guess is that “Mad Men’s” ratings won’t be significantly down when Season 5 rolls around, and the show’s long hiatus may even drive a ton of coverage of the show within the weeks leading as much as its return (and yes, we might be bringing you a number of that here on HuffPostTV). So I feel it’s going to dominate parts of the pop-culture sphere, at the least for some time.
In fact, the show should work to attract us back in, and that is one reason I feel a two-hour premiere is a good idea — to reward us for our patience, fans will essentially get a “Mad Men” movie, one which I very much hope will re-establish my allegiance to Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. Given how much I loved Season 4, my hopes are high.
Caprica Times: Do you see Netflix as a medium that may draw large audiences to original programming?
Mo says: It depends upon what you mean by “large,” but sure, I do not see why not. I feel Netflix can be happy if its original programming causes a good chunk of subscribers to continue to subscribe. It isn’t dissimilar from the HBO model, which boils down to having an array of various things that cause an array of various kinds of people to need to subscribe, ideally for the long run.
I don’t know if “Lilyhammer,” a new Netflix show starring Steven Van Zandt, may have that effect (I haven’t seen it). But there’s every chance that the corporate’s upcoming David Fincher show and the new episodes of “Arrested Development” that Netflix has commissioned can be a draw for brand new and existing subscribers. Assuming it could make the numbers work (and the Fincher show just isn’t cheap), I hope Netflix continues to commission original programming.
But I personally won’t consider its programming initiatives successful until it comes up with what I’d consider a truly home-grown hit. Here is what I mean: Fincher is remaking a British series, “House of Cards,” and “Arrested Development” is obviously a continuation of a previously existing cult hit. There are a ton of great writers out there looking for their big break; some are already working within the industry, some are doing excellent things with online shows and some have yet to be discovered. When Netflix commissions an original idea from a brand new or new-ish talent, and turns that project right into a buzzy, pop-culture success story, then I think I will take it a bit more seriously as a “network,” or whatever we’ll call it when it’s more fully participating in the original-content business.
Of course, it isn’t a bad technique to have a bold-faced name remake a previously successful project, and it is a smart idea to realize the affection of TV fans who love cult comedies. But when Netflix begins to nurture deserving talents with distinctive and original visions, and when it begins to take advantage of the fact that it will possibly commission the kind of out-there or unusual programming that even the bolder cable networks cannot or won’t touch, then I will really begin to take it seriously. On condition that Netflix does not need to answer to advertisers, it is in the unique position of with the ability to commission whatever the hell it wants, and if it (and other online distributors of content) embrace that “anything goes” mentality and begin to break free of the restrictions most television labors under regarding length of episodes, length of seasons and content, that would be a terrific development.
Bozy: Why [is it taking] so long for “Sherlock” Season 2 to be released within the US? I know it came out within the UK already, but is not scheduled to be released here until May. Why is that?
Mo says: Yep, “Sherlock” Season 2 arrives on these shores May 6. I’m not a fan of the massive delay between the US and UK seasons, which just encourages piracy, but PBS and “Sherlock’s” UK network simply have different priorities and different scheduling needs. PBS’ Masterpiece brain trust had a slot open in May, hence the debut of “Sherlock’s” second season then. I know, it does not make much sense, but what are you going to do … except grind your teeth until Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman return as Sherlock Holmes and John Watson?
Briahoe: Ever because you moved to HuffPost TV, you no longer do your recap articles of shows like “Justified” etc. I actually miss them. Bring them back!
Rmoats8621: Do you think that you will ever go back to reviewing “Supernatural”? I do know you said you’d keep watching as a fan, but I miss seeing reading your professional thoughts in regards to the series.
David Aaron Reeves: Is not it better to review shows that do longform storytelling arcs at the top of the season instead of [reviewing] individual episodes?
Mo says: I believed I’d answer these questions in a gaggle, rather than one after the other, given that they are kind of about the identical topic. First things first: I haven’t given up on weekly recaps — I will be doing them for “Mad Men” and “Game of Thrones.” But the reality is, it’s really hard to find shows that I truly enjoy recapping on a weekly basis. What I’ve present in the previous few years is that, in lots of cases, I find myself saying the same things time and again, and that is not fun for either readers or me. And there are times that I think about the point David Reeves made — sometimes it makes probably the most sense to review a season when it’s complete.
The fact that I may not wish to do weekly reviews rarely has to do with the quality of the show in question. For example, I absolutely adore “Archer,” a show that is very funny and adds new flavors and wrinkles each week. But when I used to be writing about it regularly, some weeks my recaps weren’t much more than a compilation of my favorite lines and that sort of thing may be fun to generate, but there are just other kinds of stories I enjoy doing a bit more. Generally, I’ve found that when I am doing more than one or two recaps at a time, they tend to begin feeling like chores, and that i don’t need writing about shows I’m involved in to be a chore. Also, I knew I might be writing about two shows this spring, and that was part of the motivation to quit writing about “Supernatural.” (The opposite reason: I began to repeat the same complaints/observations rather a lot, and that i got as bored with that, as did some readers.) I wanted to free up time to do “Mad Men” and “GoT” recaps, which are very labor-intensive. Also, I enjoy having the pliability to weigh in on a show — any show — when I have something to say about it, not because I am scheduled to do so.
For me, what it comes all the way down to is that this: I need to spend an honest amount of my writing time on ideas that occur to me spontaneously; on reviews; and on observations and on news or trends that crop up through the week. I am not someone who writes weekly recaps quickly, so having loads of them on my plate tends to eat up a ton of my time, and if I am being honest, I begin to resent how much space they occupy in my work week. I’m very happy to do them for certain shows with a variety of depth and complex themes — i.e., “Mad Men” and “GoT” — but I have to love the show lots, and find so much to dig into, if I’m going to write weekly reviews of it.
Last Week On: I listen to NPR’s weekly Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast they usually sometimes do a segment on “pop culture comfort food” — that is, some form of pop culture that feels nostalgic or sentimental. In case you had a TV comfort food, what would it be and why?
Mo says: I’ve loved lots of various kinds of TV comfort food through the years, but there’s been one constant in the case of the small screen: Space shows. From “Lost in Space” to all of the “Star Treks” to the original “Stargate,” I feel as if I’ve been watching sci-fi or space shows all my life, and lots of them occupied that reliable-escapism niche for me. Shows like “Battlestar Galactica,” “Firefly” and “Farscape” — and even the later seasons of “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” — were more ambitious than the standard sci-fi comfort-food fare. But for decades there were a spread of shows that sated my need for outer space adventures, courageous camaraderie and menacing (or poignant) alien monsters.
So where have those sorts of shows gone? Not to sound all whiny, because there’s so much of excellent TV to observe nowadays, but I’m a little sad that the networks — not even the niche networks — don’t wish to touch spaceship (or wormhole) shows with a 10-foot alien probe. Sure, we get Earth-set shows like “Falling Skies” and “V,” but most of those don’t have the optimism or the excitement of shows in which humanity travels far and wide and comes across new species and new worlds. That is one of the styles of comfort food I’ve loved essentially the most over the years, and it’s a drag that TV seems to have abandoned this particular strand of sci-fi programming.
Ted Fried: Is “Terra Nova” coming back?
Mo says: Nobody knows yet. Fox will not decide on its fall schedule until May, and “Terra Nova” is an expensive show that did not perform amazingly within the ratings. If it does, I hope makes a ton of changes, because, as I wrote here, its first season was incredibly problematic.
Lynnybb: You haven’t had much to say about “Justified” this season — how about Limehouse and Quarles? Do you think Raylan’s preoccupation with Winona is distracting him from keeping a watch on Boyd, or will that distraction become a key later on within the season (with Quarles in search of “somewhere to apply pressure” and Winona being pregnant)? Will Loretta be back? Of all the interesting interactions Raylan has, those with this young girl with the old soul are a few of the most interesting.
Mo says: Here is what I believe: I love “Justified.” Every week, it takes twists and turns that surprise and intrigue me, and it’s got a few of one of the best storytelling, characters, dialogue and acting on TV (that’s kind of what I said in my Season 3 review). Quarles (Neal McDonough) and Limehouse (Mykelti Williamson) have been sterling additions to its already fine roster of supporting characters, and that i like the best way that the show is weaving in several bad-guy plots into a tapestry of down-home wiliness. It stands to reason that one (or more) of the men who want to apply pressure on Raylan might use Winona in some nefarious way, but I do not know if that will happen, nor do I do know if Kaitlyn Dever shall be back as Loretta. I agree that Raylan’s relationship together with her is some of the intriguing things in regards to the show, but the actress is a series regular on the ABC sitcom “Last Man Standing.” My guess can be that, as was the case together with her appearance early in Season 3, any additional guest spots from her can be short and sweet.
Tausif: What do you think of “Parenthood” and what are its probabilities of renewal?
Mo says: I believe I feel incredibly guilty whenever I take a look at my DVR and see a minimum of 10 “Parenthood” episodes stacked up there. I like this NBC show quite a bit, and that i watched the first third or so of the season, but I fell behind last fall and that i never quite found the time to catch up (episodes of the show are just like the Bravermans — there are quite a lot of them, and each time I turn around, there appear to be more). In any event, I like the show a lot, even if it does not always come up with solid story lines for all of the characters. That’s not really a deal-breaker, on condition that he story lines that do pay off make up for the wobblier moments. I are inclined to think that it will be back next year; NBC would not have a variety of reliable performers, even when its ratings aren’t all that great, it does OK by NBC standards. I might like to think there’s greater than a 50 percent chance the show will be back next year, but we’ll probably have to wait until May to find out.
Aunt Beckles: Why do not more critics cover “Raising Hope”? I like this quirky little comedy. And while I do not think a weekly review is important (I also don’t think a weekly review is necessary “New Girl” or “Modern Family”), it would be nice for the show to get more coverage. The cast is wonderful, it has lots of heart and it is ballsy. Do you think “Raising Hope,” like “Cougar Town,” suffers from a poor title choice? The show really isn’t about baby Hope as much as it’s concerning the dad and grandparents’ growth.
Mo says: I actually don’t think that “Raising Hope’s” name has ever been a hindrance for it; the name could also be a bit of vague, but it’s not as problematic as “Cougar Town’s” name has been. (I still come across people who laugh out loud — not for good reasons — after i name it as one in every of my favorite comedies. Oh well. It really is terrific.)
In any event, I believe “Raising Hope” gets the form of coverage most shows get in their second season and beyond: There are stories about it here and there and the occasional bigger buzz factor if a prominent guest star stops by. That is how it is for most shows once they’re past their debut seasons, unless they happen to take an awesome leap forward in quality or boldness as they age.
Varangian: With “Sons of Anarchy’s” last season, you criticized it for being afraid to make real changes and for just pressing the reset button to maintain Clay alive and everyone else in much the same position as before. I agreed with you there — it was implausible and showed a scarcity of courage on the writer’s part. So I was surprised that when “Fringe” mixed things up by having Peter disappear for a number of episodes and then, find himself in an alternate timeline to the one he remembered, and also you were all, “This is terrible, why are the characters different from the ones I liked last season?” Personally, I believed this worked well, the actors got to stretch themselves and do something different (Astrid got to exit in the sector!) and a few old characters could plausibly re-appear. Are you perhaps eager to have your cake and eat it here?
Just to qualify my criticism of your criticism, you made similar comments regarding “Supernatural” and there I just about agree with you. It seems to have done a slash-and-burn with lots of the things that made it fun and it has not replaced them with [elements which are] nearly as good. So I suppose my more general question is: What’s the correct quantity of change in serialized dramas, and which of them would you say have got it good?
Mo says: Great question. I don’t think there needs to be any set rule by way of how much and what kind of change is sweet for a show — shows are just too varied and it’s just not possible to apply one set of principles when it comes to those matters. But this is my general response to your question: Change is sweet when it deepens the viewers’ investment in the characters, their dilemmas and their world. Change is just not good when it seem arbitrary, unearned or when it lessens how much we care in regards to the people on the screen.
Just to specifically address your comments about “Fringe,” I know some viewers have relished the fact that the actors have gotten to play yet more versions of their characters, but for me, the current season greatly lessened my interest in the show, I’m sad to say. The disappearance of Peter and the arrival of latest versions of the characters might have been an interesting exercise for a few episodes, but it surely has gone way too far with that idea … far past what I find emotionally or intellectually compelling. What “Fringe” has done is take characters I was very invested in and introduce pale facsimiles of those people. The Season 3 arc wherein time was split between our world and Over There was great, because we got to spend time with “our” characters, but we also got to see the contrasting versions of them. We got to double our pleasure, because it were.
This season, it’s not that I think “Fringe” is terrible — it’s still usually competently made — but I am far, far less invested within the versions of Astrid, Walter and Olivia we have seen for most of this season. In my view, a change can’t be successful if I sit there on my couch fascinated about what an ill-conceived idea it was, week after week. It is not a change I can applaud, because “Fringe” previously did a terrific job of getting me to emotionally invest within the characters’ situations, and that investment has mostly evaporated this season. I got a question or two about whether I believe “Fringe” will get a fifth season, and I don’t think it’s going to. And, I am sad to say, I will not campaign for one more season of it, given how ineffective this one has been (and to be clear, part of the rationale I will not agitate for more “Fringe” is that I do not think that agitation will affect the choice-making at Fox, which has been very patient with “Fringe,” but is not in the business of supporting low-rated shows for five seasons).
Here is just one example of a fairly significant change that was good for a show: In “Friday Night Lights,” Coach Taylor changed jobs initially of Season 4. If the show hadn’t done that, it probably would have stagnated and started to tell too many similar stories about the Dillon Panthers. But with that change, which felt earned and appropriate, “FNL” had a brand new sandbox to play in. Even if it took a short while for that new work environment to become as interesting because the old one, it was an example of change that invigorated a show, instead of change for its own sake or “change” that is not really change at all (and as I’ve written recently, of their current states, “Sons of Anarchy” and “Supernatural” are examples of that form of waffly, arbitary non-evolution).
Pamela Hunt: Will someone explain to me why the Nielsen rating system has anything to do with the death or survival of a show? With TiVo, online viewing, DVRs and the like, how can that possibly be relevant in 2012? Ratings systems are a joke and should not be the yardstick by which TV success is measured.
Mo says: I can’t add much to that! I agree. I feel the current ratings system is seriously broken, and for evidence, I point to the steep declines that several shows have experienced this season. There are just so some ways for people to look at television today, and the “appointment viewing” model of people watching TV at a selected time and on a selected day is losing ground to all those other venues … at least, that’s the way it appears to me. Yet our ratings system is woefully behind in counting those sorts of viewers, and I can not for the life of me understand why the networks pay good money for ratings that certainly seem out of whack and not closely tied to how many people actually watch various shows. I just don’t get it, frankly.
Phil Ogden: Why have not the big networks embraced the ten-13 episode order per season of scripted dramas? Is it too unrealistic?
Mo says: I believe they’re trying to. Up to now, cable TV has shown much more flexibility in this regard (as I wrote on this piece, the new normal in cable TV seasons is usually 10 or 12 episodes, or so it would appear). And ABC commissioned the eight-episode series “The River,” and comedies like “The Office” and “Parks and Recreation” got six-episode tryout seasons of their first years. So it is not as if the networks haven’t tried to embrace shorter runs, but it is certainly still not the norm on the broadcast networks. I believe that may continue to evolve, ever so slowly.
DAR: When do you get “Game of Thrones” screeners? Is the hair any better?
Mo says: Ha! I have never gotten the screeners yet — I hope to get them in a week or two. Before I receive those advance DVDs from HBO, I’ll spend a little bit time praying that Cersei’s hair doesn’t seem like something I could have picked up at a Halloween party store. (Now, “GoT” fans, don’t get all bent out of form — I generally think the HBO show has exemplary production values, but a few of the wigs in Season 1 were just awful, and i complained about that in several of my weekly reviews.)
Alan Hinton: Was “In Plain Sight” on USA cancelled? I personally thought this was USA’s best original show. The reason I ask is because I assumed I saw an item saying that Mary McCormack had signed to do a pilot.
Mo says: “In Plain Sight” returns March 16 on USA with its final set of episodes (it ends for good in May). Mary McCormack has indeed taken a role in an ABC pilot, but it’s not known yet whether that pilot shall be picked as much as series.
Adam Baker: How optimistic are you for “Community” to come back back for a fourth season?
Mo says: I am weirdly optimistic. As Josef Adalian wrote in this piece, the show (which finally returns March 15) is made by a studio that may be very motivated to keep it on the air so that it may be sold into syndication. That makes me think NBC may be offered a deal it cannot refuse in terms of negotiations over the show’s fourth season. In fact, too much could go wrong between now and should, when NBC will announce what it can air next season, but I have to think that NBC might wish to persist with a show with a loyal (if smallish) audience. Maybe.
Tom Sadowski: Do I persist with ABC’s “The River” or is it in danger of being canceled?
Mo says: Go ahead and keep it up; its ratings should not great, but I don’t think ABC will yank it before its eight-episode season finishes up. But I wouldn’t go as far as to hope for a second season.
This last note isn’t really a question, but a note from another “Lost Girl” convert:
Christy Woodcock shared her breakdown of what makes the show such an enjoyable diversion (as I’ve been saying of late): “‘Lost Girl’ = (“Buffy” – the angst and obvious metaphor) + (“Veronica Mars” – the social commentary) x “True Blood” (in all its campy goodness, but without the new mess and confusion). [Bo is] a brilliant Important Girl who can also be a spunky P.I. with a heart of gold, but who has a full-on backstory of interest. Turns out this is a superb genre show, thanks for turning me on to this.