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Ask Matt Roush

Question: Recently there's been some talk about what Glee should do once its high-school characters graduate. As far as I know, Rachel is the only member of the cast whose academic status has been identfied (having said "I know I'm just a sophomore" to Will in the pilot). Still, I think there is another option besides extending their high school years ridiculously long or graduating them. There is nothing saying each season must span an entire school year, so if it is made clear that each season spans part of a school year, they can keep the cast for a long time while still making their academic status actually work. In fact, the season finale seems to be heading towards a showdown at regionals with Vocal Adrenaline; if that is the case, then surely there are further levels to go (state? nationals?) before the club actually wins the ultimate prize. And yet all of this would probably take place over a single academic year and the competition would restart from the ground up.

So, having each TV season represent not a full year (as Grey's Anatomy has done to wonderful effect, in keeping the characters as interns for three seasons and residents for at least that many) seems to be a logical conclusion. I would be more worried about how the show is going to evolve itself after the club does win the Big Championship, because every year their goal is the same. But because of Glee's extreme, not-serious nature to begin with, I would be less upset by students sticking around for a long time on this show than I would on something like Friday Night Lights where the writers are striving for serious realism. Your thoughts?—Jake

Matt Roush: A number of concerned viewers wrote in on this topic, but Glee operates on such a high (and heightened) level of fantasy that I imagine it can fudge the “what grade are they in again?” problem for a while. Each season is likely going to build toward goals like sectionals and regionals and beyond, but you’re right that every TV season doesn’t necessarily need to correspond to an actual school year. Ryan Murphy has already announced they’re going to be auditioning for new singers and glee-club members for next season, so they may already be laying the groundwork for some turnover down the road. Though not too soon, please. And I like how optimistic you are that New Directions is going to win the big prize at the next round. I’m rooting for them, too, but I’m thinking it’s just as likely that they’ll be smoked or somehow cheated, so the next season could be “revenge of the Glee.”

Question: How does ABC get away with running commercials stating that Lost is television’s biggest phenomenon? Isn’t this a blatant lie, as it isn’t even the biggest cult hit in TV history, judging by The X-Files’ larger number of viewers and the "real, current phenomenon" of American Idol or past phenoms like The Cosby Show, Cheers, ER, Dallas, Bonanza, etc.? I love Lost, but even I know that more people tune in to the likes of NCIS or CSI (another recent, and still larger, phenomenon) every week. Do they have a standards and practices department anymore or is television now on the same playing field as the tabloids that make up anything to sell their wares?—JAW

Matt Roush: One of TV’s cardinal rules: Don’t judge a show by its promos, especially something like Lost. In the world of Lost viewers, the show truly is TV’s biggest, or greatest, or wildest, phenom. Many shows are more popular, but few are this memorably stimulating or command as much obsessive attention in blogs and fansites and so on. There are more ways to gauge a show’s cultural impact than the Nielsen ratings, thank goodness. Plus, what you’re overreacting to is network hyperbole. Show me a network that isn’t guilty of that.

Question: I'm amazed I haven't read this anywhere yet, but I can't help but notice the similarities between the latest Star Trek movie and the sixth season of Lost. In the latest Star Trek movie, the writers use a character going back in time and changing the timeline as a plot device to take familiar characters and explore new stories based on their changed circumstances. Sound familiar? With the amount of crossover in the creative teams behind the two, do you think it's likely that the new Star Trek movie HEAVILY influenced this last season of Lost? If so, this is where things might get interesting, because I believe the Star Trek movie can possibly provide a little insight into where this season of Lost might be going. One theme from the movie was that despite all the changes in the timeline, all the central characters still ended up together on the Enterprise. Even in cases in which it required massive coincidences (Scotty), it was as if there were still some destinies that cannot be avoided and despite everything, the timeline finds a way to correct itself. Might Lost be heading in this direction as well? I am sure there is more to it, but I would be curious to find out from Team Darlton what impact Star Trek had on the sixth season's storytelling device.—Dan

Matt Roush: Interesting twist on an ongoing discussion, because few things about Lost this season are as mystifying as trying to figure out just what the flash-sideways timeline is all about. I’m not sure how much or if one project influenced the other—seems to me that Damon and Carlton had the current scenario mapped out a while ago—and maybe I’d just like to believe these are inherently very separate and disparate entertainments. But there are bound to be similarities and connections whenever a franchise goes this deep into time travel and manipulation of timelines. You’ve given me some food for thought, though, and impetus to watch J.J.’s Star Trek again (which should have been among the top-10 best-picture Oscar candidates) before reaching the end of Lost this spring.

Question: As much as I love 24 and the character of Jack Bauer and even enjoy Annie Wersching's Renee Walker, I'm calling foul on the Renee Walker breakdown/Jack saves her storyline as being all that great. For one thing you have the character retcon of Renee where we're supposed to believe that the FBI agent we saw in Day 7 infiltrated the Russian mob several years prior. If that were true, none of Jack's torture tactics would've shocked her as she would've seen some hardcore stuff from the Russian goons during her undercover stint. As entertaining as Annie Wersching is in the role, the drastic changes in character feel forced and unearned, and consequently her part in the narrative, as an emotional anchor and pull for Jack, seems flimsy.

I get that they bonded from Day 7, but I find it hard to believe that now that Jack has got his health back and has Kim and baby Teri waiting for him in LA, that Jack would stay in NY for Renee. Do the actors have chemistry? Yes, but I feel that the writers are relying on that too much to fill in the needed gaps for me to believe that there is an actual Jack and Renee relationship/romance that Jack would be willing to risk his life and his future with Kim and Teri over.

Additionally, with the writers focusing so much on Renee in four of the first eight episodes, with her story playing almost 60% of the screen time, it's no wonder that her storyline is seen as the most consistent. The remaining 40% was split between President Taylor and Hassan, CTU, the dud Dana Walsh plot, and the Russian Crime family with some stories barely getting two scenes in the episode. Cherry Jones and Mary Lynn Rajskub are veterans, pushed to being background players when they each should be driving their own B-plots. Katee Sackhoff, an audience draw, is saddled with a glacially paced plotline that so far hasn't given a whiff of how it can dovetail into the main terror plot. Chloe had a great set-up storyline with her battling Hastings and it being a story of the old dinosaur CTU vs the sleek new political CTU. Instead it was dropped. If the writers actually gave story to the other characters, I'm sure those actors would've been more than up to the task of giving their own stellar performances. I'm not saying that the writers are intentionally tanking other storylines in order to showcase and push the Jack/Renee romance/plot, but there does seem to be an imbalanced focus on Jack and Renee to the detriment of interesting story development for the other characters of the show.

To finally get to the point: Do you think the focus on Renee is with the hope that she can headline a continuation of 24 sans Kiefer Sutherland as Jack Bauer? If so, why bother even putting her and Jack together if they're going to be apart in future seasons? And wasn't Freddie Prinze, Jr.'s character supposed to be the next “Jack Bauer?” If so, why haven't TPTB focused on developing his character as well?—Nicole

Matt Roush: You make some good points about continuity and character consistency regarding Renee, but honestly, she’s been the only thing keeping me engaged in 24 so far this season. I’ve been pretty brutal with my critiques of the season to date, but I’ve also been told that it’s going to improve soon (with more Chloe, so that may address one of your issues), and I have to think as the day and story evolve, there will be more balance between some of the other players—especially now that the Dana Walsh/criminal past subplot appears to be over. 24 tends to tell its story in concentrated arcs, and the Jack-Renee mission occupied several hours that now, if past history is any guide, will be supplanted by new crises involving a new set of characters, but with Jack always at the center (and maybe Renee, if we’re lucky). I buy Jack’s concern and affection for Renee because it’s grounded in his guilt over past actions, and because so little else right now is working. Hoping the show picks up soon. But as to your other question: All the speculation about who’s going to be the next Jack Bauer never resonates with me. There’s no 24 without Jack. Certainly not Renee, and from what I’ve seen so far, not Cole Ortiz, either.

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