TV Q&A: 'Gang Related, 'Graceland,' 'Fargo' and more

Friday, 13 June 2014 07:38 PM Written by 

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TV Q&A with Rob Owen

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This week's TV Q&A (after the "Read more" jump below) responds to questions about “Gang Related,” “Graceland” and “Fargo.” As always, thanks for reading and keep the questions coming.

- Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV writer

Q: Maybe you have already talked about this new series but what is you opinion of "Gang Related?" I have watched the first three episodes and, in my humble opinion, it is dumb. With good series like "Longmire," “Major Crimes,” "Rizzoli & Isles," to name only a few, I won't be watching that series.
And, your thoughts on "Crossbones."  Maybe it is too early to decide but I think the producers are relying on the big name recognition of John Malkovich to hype what is only a fair series.

- Paul, 69, West Mifflin

Rob: I reviewed “Gang Related” last month and thought it was fine for a mindless show but certainly not something I would waste time watching.

And “Crossbones” struck me as pretty dull in my review of it.

 

Q: Random questions: First, do you not like “Graceland” on USA? You did not give it a "shout out" in the television section in Sunday's Post-Gazette. It is an awesome show. Second, on Hallmark Channel, “Signed, Sealed, Delivered,” which is a terrific show, airs its season finale on Sunday, June 20. Why do shows do that? They only have eight episodes and then they have a season finale. Will it be returning and if the answer is yes, do you know when?
-
Marilyn, 52, Cecil

Rob: We included “Graceland” in our summer preview. I thought it was fine but not exceptional when I reviewed it last year. It’s probably better than a lot of USA shows but not good enough to warrant me sticking with it. With so many new series debuting this summer, there’s just not time to revisit most of the mediocre returning stuff, particularly shows lacking in buzz.

Cable networks operate on a different business model than broadcast networks that allow for fewer original episodes of shows. We’ve written about the cable approach and how it differs from broadcast channels and how more and more broadcast networks are now adopting the cable approach

Hallmark’s “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” has not yet been renewed for a second season.

 

Q: Did Thandie Newton ever play Lexie Carver on “Days of Our Lives”?
-
John, 39, Pittsburgh
Rob:
It does not show up in Newton’s credits but others have commented on a similarity in appearance between Newton and actress Renee Jones, who played the role on “Days.” 

Q: You'd think NBC would be building the buzz for its live Dec 4. "Peter Pan" broadcast -- but there hasn't been a peep since the production first was announced early this year. Anyone in particular you'd like to see cast? Or not cast? Do you think NBC learned its lesson and will cast tested live actors?

- Lisa, 55, O'Hara

Rob: Actually, I wouldn’t expect NBC to start building buzz now. It’s a little early. But soon enough casting will be announced, possibly at next month’s TV critics summer press tour.

I have no opinion who NBC should cast, although a reader suggested in a recent TV Q&A that Chris Colfer of “Glee” should play the title role and that seemed like a decent suggestion to me.

 

Q: I have tried to ask the people at Family Communications about this, with little or no response. Do you know why all those wonderful years of episodes of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” are not on TV as reruns?

An entire generation of children is missing out on some of the best children’s programming ever done.

- Robert, Grand Rapids, Mich.

Rob: We covered this in 2008 when PBS opted to take the show off weekdays and ultimately gave stations access to one episode per week to air on the weekends if they chose as well as (failed) fan efforts to preserve the status quo. Some stations pick up that one episode, some do not.

Presumably the show was taken off to make room for more modern programs, including spinoff “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood,” and for other financial considerations.

Many episodes of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” are available for purchase at Amazon.com or free to Amazon Prime members. And while it’s true that in some ways Mister Rogers is fading from public view, as long as there is a desire for nostalgia and opportunities to share that on social media, Mister Rogers will not be forgotten.

 

Q: After reading your column on “Fargo,” I'm going to solicit your thoughts on a trend I see developing on TV shows that I ordinarily would like very much (“The Bridge,” “House of Cards,” “Fargo” and others).

I wonder who the creators picture as viewers when they are deciding what to include in the content. I realize that all the shows are on cable and that they are on sort of late, but they also run on Infinity on demand which runs during the day time as well.

I have college-age grandchildren and, if a show is clever, with good dialogue, a different plot, good acting, I like to recommend it as well as sometimes to watch it with them (or others). What ruins it for me is the graphic portrayal of sex acts that one would expect to see at one of those road side Adult Entertainment places (I'm guessing on that illustration since I've never been to one!).

The first time it happened I was visiting my sister and her husband at the shore. I was telling them about “The Bridge,” which I thought was extremely well done. As luck would have it, for some reason, they included a scene with some old woman in the back seat of a car demanding… (words are failing me here).  I was so embarrassed I wanted to melt into the furniture.

Same thing last week with “Fargo.” Up until Martin Freeman pays the visit to the widow, I was recommending it as a show to watch.

I thought my relatives would be interested in the new “Halt and Catch Fire” but the first scenes include ... well, you get the picture.

The point I'm asking about is: Whom do the writers have in mind as viewers?  Do they ever wonder why shows like “Downton Abbey” have such good numbers? It's not because they're so good; it's because they're relatively safe to watch.  When you go to conventions, do they ever discuss this?

I don't think I'm alone in this concern.

- Doris, 79, Beaver

Rob: So here’s the thing: The people who write TV shows see themselves as artists. They go where the story takes them and they write a description for a scene, even if it’s a sex scene, for what they envision as reality-based.

My guess is the question wouldn’t be asked about racy scenes in a book because reading is a solitary endeavor. And while viewers receive TV shows differently and sometimes in groups, I’m not sure writers approach writing any differently regardless of the audience or medium.

I did make contact with Elwood Reid, the writer on “The Bridge” responsible for the scene Doris described, but after some back-and-forth, including providing him with her questions – “Not sure what you are looking for can you illuminate me?” – he went radio silent.

I guess my advice would be, if you’re a fan of complex, adult-oriented dramas, maybe just keep your favorites to yourself if you are concerned about how others might react to racy scenes.

 

Q: I guess it's acceptable now for reporters to tell us "what went down." Today a CNN person referring to the Las Vegas shooting gave us "they walked into a pizza JOINT." I assume these people are college graduates with a journalism degree. Do I give them too much credit or am I wrong to ask for professionalism?
- Don, 78, Morningside

Rob: Reactions to this sort of colloquial speech vary depending on who hears it and the specific speech in question.

Poor grammar bothers me more than “pizza joint.” “Pizza parlor” sounds like something from the ‘70s. “Pizza restaurant” would be more neutral and less slangy and probably sound more professional, but if the goal is to appeal to younger viewers – and don’t forget, that is ALWAYS the goal – then a slang-filled turn of phrase might well be intentional.

 

Q: I have been a captive customer of Adelphia-Comcast for more years than I can stand. The main reason I let myself be ripped off for so long is that where I live I want NBC to be on Johnstown and CBS to be Altoona. I am even willing to pay for this. With the satellite services it can only be Pittsburgh affiliates. Why is this?  

Also 3 miles away people have The Big Ten Channel and other sports networks.  I am told we are operating on old technology in my area. But I am paying new-technology prices. Other than switching is there anything else I can do?

- Faith, 64, Penn Run, Pa

Rob: Cable companies are only obliged to carry local stations from the market a viewer is geographically located in. If you are in Pittsburgh, you will get Pittsburgh stations. If you are in the Altoona market, you will get Altoona stations. In the early days of cable, cable systems sometimes carried nearby, out-of-market stations, but with networks now demanding retransmission consent payments, those days are pretty much over. Cable systems don’t want to pay for an NBC channel twice.

As for Big Ten Network in Penn Run, looks like that’s still on hold.

“The vast majority of our customers have access to the Big Ten Network, and in recent years our technology upgrades in Penn Run have resulted in the addition of almost 80 HD channels and more than 20 standard-definition channels,” wrote Comcast spokesman Bob Grove in an email. “Unfortunately, at this time there is no timetable for the addition of Big Ten Network to that lineup.”

FEEDBACK

In response to last week’s question about an “American Playhouse” set on a radio morning show, friend and fellow TV scribe John Crook posted on my Facebook account  that the viewer was likely referring to “Breakfast with Les and Bess.”

 

TV WEATHER DISPLAY IDEA

I would like to make a suggestion pertaining to the 5-day (or 8-day, etc.) weather forecast display. The boxes are fine but a slight addition would help many associate the date with the weather on that day. We often know the date of an event but not the exact day (Tue, Wed, etc.)  When first viewing the weather forecast in the morning (or whenever) it would be nice to see the date beside the day in the weather box for that day's forecast.  Such as:

SAT  29      SUN  30     MON  31     TUE  1     WED  2

I'm sure the graphics display people can figure out a nice presentation for this basic added feature. The date should be beside or below the day for that weather box.

The first channel to implement this enhancement will attract more viewers to the weather segment. Associating the numeric date with the day (such as MON 31) would be most useful.

- Gary, 60, Pittsburgh

 

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