Q: What has happened to “Sullivan & Son,” set in Pittsburgh? It was supposed to return for a second season.
- David, 84, Sharpsburg
Rob: And it will this summer. Nine months between seasons is not unusual on a cable schedule.
Q: When will "Will & Grace" be shown on commercial (reception) TV again? They were the funniest comedies ever, so well done.
- Joe, 70, South St. Paul, Minn.
Rob: Typically shows air in reruns on broadcast, then move on to cable and now they move on again to nostalgia channels like ME-TV before disappearing altogether. “Will & Grace” is on Lifetime but will likely move on to a channel like ME-TV at some point but I don’t know when that will be.
Q: I've noticed that NBC's comedies often have the actors say what appears to be a curse word, with a bleeping of the dialogue and pixels over their face. I've seen it on "Harry's Law," "Go On" and "1600 Penn." Have you noticed it? Is it done to make the shows edgier? What's your opinion?
- James, 40, Delaware
Rob: I have noticed it some but haven’t really given it much thought. It probably is a way to try to compete with the more permissive atmosphere of cable but I think it can also be a comedic device: Sometimes not knowing exactly what curse words are being said – allowing your brain to fill in the blank, perhaps more outrageously -- is funnier than actually hearing the word.
Q: Could you find out what’s happened to Ducky’s assistant, Mr. Palmer, who has not been in “NCIS” the past four times?
- Russell, Scottdale
Rob: This question arrived last month and Jimmy Palmer was in the episode that aired on Feb. 26.
Q: What’s up with the History Channel? I once checked out its many offerings on historical moments and enjoyed most of them. Recently it has been feeding us little more than a series of “Pawn Stars” stuff. It has become unwatchable.
- Lloyd, 80, Savage, Minn.
Rob: First the network changed its name – now it’s just History (no Channel) – and they have begun to branch out into non-history programming like “Pawn Stars” and scripted shows such as “The Bible” and “Vikings.” This tends to happen to all cable networks as they mature, they move away from their original, more narrow, niche programming in favor of broader offerings.
Q: Several years ago there also was a weekly series “Las Vegas” on NBC starring James Caan and then Tom Selleck and the show was canceled with no explanation. It was highly watched and many viewers boycotted NBC for this cancellation. Do you know why NBC canceled the show after five or six good seasons?
- Rob, Eagan, Minn.
Rob: Because at the end it was no longer highly watched.
TV shows are canceled when they are no longer financially successful due to a combination of declining ratings and increasing production costs.
Q: I was under the impression that the networks were supposed to begin controlling the audio volume of commercials this year. It doesn’t seem that anything has changed as the commercials are as loud or louder than in the past. Is there legislation or FCC rules which are in effect to combat the commercial noise?
- Ron, 60, Minneapolis
Rob: The CALM Act went into effect in December but I still hear many complaints from viewers about sound volume on TV ads. But here’s the problem: Unless viewers at home have equipment to measure sound level, then it’s just in the ear of the individual listener and not a complaint that can be quantified.
Q: Is it just me or has “The Mentalist” been holding onto the Red John storyline for too long? Solve the mystery already so we can move on to regular cases that make the show great. I don't know how much more I can watch if they keep baiting us with these Red John episodes. Does anyone else feel this way or am I the only one who feels the show is jumping the shark by not resolving this storyline?
- Linda, 48, Cecil
Rob: Linda is not alone. I have heard this complaint from many “Mentalist” viewers. And it’s one of the reasons I am not a “Mentalist” viewer.
Q: Have you heard whether “The Mentalist” has been picked up for a new season? It seems with recent storylines they are trying to get to a resolution between Patrick Jane and Red John but are not trying to rush it if the show is picked up.
- Mike, 34, Pittsburgh
Rob: CBS has not yet renewed “The Mentalist” so it is possible producers are hedging their bets.
Q: What's up with the revolving door for showrunners on "True Blood"? I understand Mark Hudis replaced series creator Alan Ball, then subsequently decided to quit himself.
How has "True Blood" been doing in the ratings for the past few seasons? The show has run so far afield from the original book series about the only thing they share are character names and very rarely the hint of a plot point.
As a fan of the book series before the TV adaptation came along, I find myself watching the show thinking "that's wrong," "that never happened,” "he died way back in book three," etc. It makes it hard to stay involved in the TV series.
While I would hope a new showrunner would bring the two closer together, it would be a daunting task due to Alan Ball's handling (or mishandling) of the series.
- John, 54, Green Tree
Rob: Current showrunner Brian Buckner is unlikely to follow the books any more than his predecessors since producers said from the beginning that they would deviate from the books that inspired the TV show.
Books and filmed entertainment are two different animals; some producers approach the text as sacred (see: the “Harry Potter” films) but many do not (see: “Dexter”).
Q: Is there a new "Jesse Stone" with Tom Selleck movie in any stage of planning at this time? They are a great series!
- Maurice, 77, Grovetown, Ga.
Rob: At this time CBS has no plans to make another “Jesse Stone” movie.
Q: Can we expect to see either “Covert Affairs” or “Rizzoli & Isles” back this spring or summer?
- Mary, 73, Minneapolis
Rob: Both shows will be back with new episodes this summer but premiere dates have not been announced.
Q: What happened to “NBR” (“Nightly Business Report”) on PBS. There's now a CNBC logo and most of the reporters that used to be on the show seem to have disappeared, e.g. Tom Hudson, Darren Gersh, among others. I also see that Susie Gharib is also gone.
- Tony, 72, Minneapolis, Minn.
Rob: CNBC bought “NBR” and is now staffing the show with many of its own correspondents. Gharib is still the show’s co-anchor but Hudson and Gersh were laid off when CNBC took over.
Q: Where can I find “Downton Abbey”? I watched seasons one and two on demand. Now, I cannot find season three. Thanks!
- June, 45, Plum
Rob: Although shows do not live on the on demand platform forever – rights issues are usually for a set amount of time. So don’t dally in watching big events like “Downton” – Comcast spokesman Bob Grove found “Downton” on Comcast on demand earlier this week and the show will definitely be available later this month during Comcast’s on demand extravaganza.
Q: Why do some of the newscasters stand and hold an iPad when they are telling the story (specifically, Wendy Bell on Channel 4’s 6 p.m. news)? They just seem to hold it, but never look down to it or refer to it. Are they just trying to look cool?
- Ray, 46, Robinson Township
Rob: No posing here, just saving paper.
“Last fall we switched to using iPads in the studio for our anchors,” explained WTAE news director Justin Antoniotti. “The anchors can read scripts from their iPads as needed and we no longer waste paper having to print scripts.”
Anatomy of a “Bunheads” non-renewal
So here’s how bad information can spread: Earlier this week I saw several tweets, including one from another TV critic, heralding the renewal of ABC Family’s “Bunheads.”
One such tweet linked to an article at Broadway.com, since deleted, which got its information from sloppy writing at Deadline.com.
Here’s the paragraph from Deadline that caused the confusion:
is launching four new series this summer — family drama , mystery drama reality competition series and docu-soap That is up from three last summer, when the network introduced drama and comedy , both renewed for second season, and docuseries which was not.
The problem? ABC Family did not renew “Bunheads” for a second season. After a first batch of episodes aired last summer, the network ordered eight additional episodes that debuted in January but those were considered part of the show’s first season.
Granted, the vagaries of ABC Family orders are a bit to blame for the confusion but those who cover the industry should be able to understand the distinction and make it clear to readers.
At this point “Bunheads” has not been renewed for a second season, much as I would like it to be, and given its low ratings, odds of that happening remain a long shot.