What to Watch: TV chat with Hank Stuever

Mar 27, 2014

Post TV critic Hank Stuever talked about what's bad, good and so bad it's good on TV.

Here's what Hank would watch if he wasn't paid to watch TV: "Game of Thrones," "House Hunters," "The Amazing Race," "The Suze Orman Show." And he recently gave "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" a good review. Lately he's been digging "Masters of Sex," "Boardwalk Empire" and "Time of Death."

Welcome back to the Thursday chat.

Okay, so it's SUDDEN DEATH. I think this week we'll just have to hang a giant SPOILER ALERT banner for those (very few) people who don't know what happened on "The Good Wife" Sunday, which was a very well-kept surprise, even for TV critics. Talk about it all you like here -- for those of you trying to avoid it, I can't imagine how you've lasted this long without knowing.

I'm curious how you all feel when a major character in your favorite show is suddenly offed. In addition to "Game of Thrones's" "Red Wedding" last year, "The Good Wife" episode made me think immediately of two long-ago instances where I remember being shocked, disturbed or otherwise affected by a TV death:

1. Gary Shepherd. That goes wayyy back to a 1991 episode of "thirtysomething." Just as Nancy found out she wasn't going to die of cancer, Gary (Peter Horton) was killed while riding his bicycle. As I seem to recall, the show had us all braced for a big death and we thought it would be Nancy. It was Gary instead. So sad.

2. For some reason, the hospital sheet pull-back on "Good Wife" made me think of that night in 2000 on "ER" when Lucy Knight (Kellie Martin) and John Carter (Noah Wyle) were attacked by a knife wielding patient and were laying there bleeding to death while the staff had a noisy party down the hall. He lived; she died.

Tell me yours.

I've always laughed at the silly people who react to TV shows as if they were real life. When "The Good Wife" killed off Will Gardner on Sunday, I felt like someone had punched me in the gut. That's all I want to say. I guess I'm silly.

No, you're not silly. It was shocking.

Do you know why NBC placed or scheduled Hannibal in its new time slot of Friday Nights? I hope NBC will not pull Hannibal off their schedule completely.

You see Friday as sign of terminal illness, but NBC probably sees it as a hopeful match with "Grimm," which found its audience there. The fate of the show is not yet determined, as far as I've heard -- and might not be for some time, since it's in a midseason cycle.

Followup: I was the one last week who was excited to find out about Doll & Em. I powered through all the available episodes last weekend and can wholeheartedly recommend. Really good - cute, funny, relatable. I went looking for more of the same and tried Lisa Kudrow's The Comeback, which I missed when it came out, but the first episode didn't click for me (and made me seasick). Can anyone sell me on sticking with that?

I would put on floaties or a seat belt or sip Pepto Bismol through a straw or WHATEVER IT TAKES to keep going with "The Comeback," which, for many of us, is one of the funniest shows ever made. (Are you one of those people who gets nauseous with single-camera motion? I went to a movie once shot in that style and the person I was with had to leave. I was incredibly unsympathetic about it, which I shouldn't be, because you should see what happens to me while taking even the shortest trip in the backseat of a D.C. cab, especially when the driver is in a crazy hurry.)

 

Just discovered the show Justified, and I'm hooked. I think I read this is the last season. Tell me that's not true!

NEXT season (beginning in January 2015) will be the last, FX announced. So continue with your bliss.

Anyone who has watched Dance Academy on Netflix will know the one that had me sobbing uncontrollably in disbelief. RIP Sammy.

Hi Hank, I watched the Good Wife for most of the first season before getting distracted and wandering away. I've been meaning to get back in, but haven't done so and the big twist is just the prod I needed. I know all about it and it's made me want to watch the show more. I see the first 4 seasons are on Hulu Plus so that's where I'll be spending my free time when I can wrest the remote away from the 13-year old. (Please save me from tween programming. Sigh,) No question, I guess, just wanted to let you know. PS I read "Tinsel" every fall. :-)

I wonder if other "Good Wife" watchers might recommend whether or not you should stick to your completionist tendency with all four seasons, or skim ahead and dip in to the pivotal points. I will say that I've always liked "Good Wife" but it got a little dull there circa 2012 ... This season, however, with the Florrick Agos defection and now the SUDDEN DEATH, it's really been outdoing itself.

And thanks, re: Tinsel. When you wear that copy out, do purchase another. They can be had for mere pennies.

Mine was when they killed off Laura Spencer on General Hospital back in the 80's. I was too young then to realize that death is rarely final on soaps, so I grieved along with the show's characters and my friends. Laura popped up again a year or to later, but boy, was it sad at the time.

Oh, yes, that's terrible -- a soap opera putting a young child through grief and then practicing its willy-nilly resurrections. Comic books used to put us through needless grief too -- killing of superheroes, who always come back.

 

The Dance Academy reference got me thinking that Degrassi has been pretty ruthless in killing characters off. TJ York stabbed to death by kids from a rival school several seasons ago. The FTM trans character Adam killed off in a car accident (while texting) this season. I am sure there have been others along the way.

Degrassi is a place of death???

And now I can't resist posting a link to "Wheels Ontario," the only brilliant sketch from "Kroll Show."

I remember being really pissed when Nina Myers killed Jack Bauer's wife Teri at the end of the first season of 24. Shocked, yes, but more angry than anything else. I was not, however, the least bit angry when Jack offed Nina two seasons later - I may have cackled with glee. That doesn't make me a bad person, right?

Oooh, yes, good one.

 

Had a ride the other day where I literally had to sit with my head in my hands for 15 minutes to recover. Memo to cab drivers: Yes, you get a bigger tip when you get me places on time. You also get a bigger tip when I get there without vomiting. (Yes, I'm aware this is unrelated to TV)

I also tip well when I arrive at my destination unnauseated. I even tell the driver "That was a very smooth and pleasant ride, sir, thank you." And then I toddle up to my door, put on some tea, and resume my needlepoint.

I had to look a couple of things up for that, and God bless the person who put together a wiki showing how many characters have died on a show per season. The running count is at nearly 15,000. Fifteen thousand!

Including the dirty bombs and airliners and what not, I imagine? Quite a death toll. Fox should hold a candlelight vigil before the May 5 return of "24."

I think the best deaths were those done as the lead in on every episode of the fabulous "Six Feet Under"...every week you held your breath to see what the death would be. I particularly remember the overweight golfer, huffing and puffing, you just knew he was going to keel over any minute...instead he hits his golf ball and it flies over the green and hits a female golfer in the head...and she dies, totally not expected. One of the greatest series EVER on TV (HBO) in my opinion. Of course, I also loved ER and St. Elsewhere because I am a medical person and it always speaks to my line of work...oncology.

Yes, in great TV deaths, I would also include "Six Feet Under's" final minutes, where EVERYONE eventually died, because everyone eventually dies. So perfect.

The way I react to a character's death depends heavily on (a) the affection I feel for the character, (b) the story in which the character dies, and (c) the surprise. For instance, when Leo McGarry died on "The West Wing," I felt little because I knew it was coming after John Spencer died. On the other hand, I was devastated by the death at the end of "Dr. Horrible": I was already so fond of the character (after 37 minutes!), I didn't see it coming, and it gave the story a resonance it didn't have otherwise. If I ever watch "The Good Wife" I will know that the death is coming and it will probably make it less affecting (although I love the actor and I expect I'll love the character). I guess that's why spoilers are still so important: you can't be shocked by a shock you know is coming.

MASH- when the commander( I am embarrassed I have forgotten his name) that was going home died in a wreck on the way home

Law & Order has killed off a couple of ADAs, but the one who was kidnapped and murdered was both unexpected and pretty gruesome.

I think the wonderful thing about The Gary Dying Thing was that all of us were shocked TOGETHER. Well, I'm sure a few of us had it taped to a VHS--but still. Next-day-spoiler alerts just takes the fun out of everything. My roommate and I bawled like it was our dear old Grammy dying.

Any traction to the story that HBO may be interested in bringing it back, or was that just the usual internet flotsam and jetsam on a slow entertainment news day?

Yeah, I think that was just hopes soaring after Lisa Kudrow told someone she'd be totally down for doing a sequel. But fervor and demand can sometimes work as well as official channels, when it comes to doing to a deal.

My first question about this is whether or not Kudrow is free to do it for HBO -- is "Web Therapy" still alive on Showtime?

I admit, I haven't read anything more than that initial item that ran on Gawker the other day. Keep hope alive.

That Kroll Show sketch is great! I take it by the way you presented it that the rest of the show isn't equally worth watching? I like him in bit parts of other things, and The League cracks me up (inexplicably).

Yes, I'm underwhelmed by "Kroll Show."

It happened off-screen, but I still remember as a child being completely upset and shocked when I learned that Edith Bunker had died of a stroke on the follow-up show, "Archie Bunker's Place." I recall crying.

Rosalyn Shays down the elevator shaft on L.A. Law. a) am I really that old, and b) that set-up sounds like a solution to the board game Clue, doesn't it?

A great moment of TV. It was shocking when Rosalind stepping into that elevator shaft (Diana Muldaur! What a great performance!), however, it was also kind of campy, to a degree that it didn't affect me the way, say, Gary's death on "thirtysomething" a couple of years later did. (Also, we were so glad to have her gone. She was a villain, remember, with soft spots.)

For us sci-fi geeks: Tasha Yar on Star Trek The Next Generation, and Buffy's Mom on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Oh, that last one... many tears. Buffy also gave us Buffy killing Angel and Tara's accidental death, which set a whole chain of events into motion!

Just typing that line made me tear up. It was such a shock because the rest of the episode had been so funny. I also remember when they killed off Edith Bunker. At least we had warning that Jean Stapleton wasn't coming back to the series, but it was still a gut punch.

I know it was silly but it was fun. I'll miss Psych which aired its last episode last night. RIP to another USA show.

For the record, I still can't watch anything with David Krumholtz in it - because I have yet to forgive him for killing Lucy on ER. Even worse was how they filmed the reveal, where Dr. Carter falls and sees her body. "Lucy?" UGH. So stupid that it's stuck with me but it has.

It was terrifying! Here it is, in a very dotty YouTube clip. (What's that song? So late '90s/early '00s.)

That's when Walking Dead is on, and it is always killing off established characters (Shaun, Dale, Hershel, Lori) and just last week two little girls

The reason "Walking Dead" works so well is that no actor on it has job security.

OMG the Dr. Horrible death. Thanks for reminding me. That one knocked me for a loop. Anyone who hasn't watched it, do so immediately (and sorry we ruined it for you)

George R. R. Martin, Joss Whedon, and Steven Moffat walk into a bar and everyone you've ever loved dies. Oh, man, Buffy's mom dying. The way SMG said: "Mommy?" Devastating.

Haha!

I can still remember Susan trying to explain to Big Bird that his friend Mr. Hooper had died.

Awww. Yes.

@Midnight on Comedy Central. Not sure how long they can keep up the pace, but consistently good for at least 3-4 LLOLs (literal laugh out louds) and at least 2-3 bring tears to my eyes per week. That's a high batting average, if you ask me, which I realize you technically aren't, but I'm still volunteering the info...

I've only watched it a couple of times. I've got Chris Hardwick issues, re: his ubiquity.

When James died on Good Times was pretty sad. I remember watching the reruns of that show as a child thinking that was pretty depressing.

I have to applaud The Good Wife. It's so rare for a TV show to actually pull off a surprise character exit because actors, agents, or producers play out their contract negotiations in the press. Everyone knew that Matthew was leaving Downton at the end of the season; everyone knows that Cristina is leaving Grey's. The only surprise is HOW, which isn't much of a surprise at all since the plot progression is the same. The Good Wife kept Josh Charles's departure so under wraps that they were actually able to achieve an OMG moment. Kudos to them for that.

Indeed.

I was sorry Jessica Brown Findlay left Downton Abbey and had to die in childbirth. I think her character, Sybil, along with husband Tom, would have been great dragging Earl Robert into modern times.

Any word on whether ABC will pick up The Neighbors for a third season? It's my Friday night guilty pleasure (and less fattening than ice cream).

Not looking too good, but no formal announcement yet.

...For a while there a couple months ago, Hallmark Channel was rerunning the early episodes in 2-3 hour blocks on weekday nights. I loved it because it was great to see the character development on a show I've come to love. But they only got through about a season and a half before they stopped and it hasn't been on since. Do you know why that is? And if there are plans to start showing them again?

This LA Times article from January asked the same question of Hallmark -- why did they yank reruns -- and the answer from the network was they would find a space for GW reruns "soon." From you post, I'm guessing they haven't.

Killing off Kate and Jenny were a surprise, but for some reason, it wasn't affecting for me as when they killed off Mike Franks.

I'm just nodding along like I know precisely what you're talking about.

What about Bill Paxton/Pullman at the end of Big Love? Pretty shocking, even if not all that emotional...

And really not so memorable. (At least, I'd forgotten.)

Please tell me Fox isn't going to end this show! I am upset it's now on Friday--it just doesn't "fit" there!!!! If there's one show where the character's life makes me feel better about mine, it's his--and Greg Kinnear is just so good in it!

I agree Kinnear was good in it. And you said not to tell that Fox is going to end it, so I'm not going to tell you.

People here are having difficulty distinguishing between a character being killed off for dramatic reasons (Henry Blake), and a character killed off because the actor that played him/her has died (The original Mr Wilson on Dennis the Menace).

Yes, very true. It's also a different writing job -- figuring out a way for a character to no longer be around because the actor has unexpectedly died.

 

Adriana on The Sopranos. Nothing more to add.

I'll admit, I was surprised how choked up I got (get) when David Tennant said "I don't wanna go" and then transforms into Matt Smith on Doctor Who.

E.R. has to be the champ of the long goodbye: Greene, his mother, his father; Carter's baby, his grandmother, cousin; all that on top of the weekly departures.

Mr. Hooper on "Sesame Street" in late 1983/early 1984, because the actor playing him had died. I remember because a dear friend had just died around the same time, and the week's episodes devoted to Mr. Hooper's memory helped me with my grief.

Me too. Thank you. He seems like a good guy and is funny enough. I was all over the Nerdist podcast when it was in its younger days. But how did he become the only acceptable face of nerd culture?

Exactly! Or, how, in this era where Geek Culture rules Supreme (and Comic-Con sells out completely in 90 minutes and Hollywood can't stop making superhero blockbusters, etc. etc.) can cable TV only come up with ONE guy to be the conduit into fanboy/fangirl world?

Resurrection? It has strangely drawn me in. Clearly something else is going on here and what will happen at the end? Will those resurrected people just all turn to dust? Why did only the little boy wake up in China? Why did the man wake up closer to home? I don't like scary stuff, I cannot watch enough TV to watch dramas and I am watching this one!!

See the link to my review of "Resurrection" above.

Am I the only one who enjoyed this show the first time it aired, when it was called Third Rock from the Sun?

Oh, clever you.

"The Neighbors" is quite different, and I remember giving it a solid review when it started, contrary to a lot of other critics. It was (ahem, is) good at being what it set out to be.

Poor Andy Sipowicz: his first partner left him, and his next two partners and his wife all died.

I need to decide which show to watch first, West Wing, Friday Night Lights, or Arrested Development. Which is the best in your view?

"Friday Night Lights" by at least 50 yards.

(If you never, ever watched "The West Wing," I suppose at this point it might be an interesting nostalgia trip, that may or may not hold up. If you want to be part of a present-day conversation, you might as well skip ahead and watch "House of Cards." And, sure, try "Arrested Development" from the beginning and see if you dig it. Not everyone does.)

I remember when Mr. Wilson "moved away" -- Joseph Kearns had died and was replaced by Gale Gordon. And it bothered me that the actress who played the original Mrs. Wilson was out of a job for reasons beyond her control.

When Tony killed Christopher

None of your shows even come close to touching the quality and viewership of The Good Wife. If it's *that* hard to find a spot for it, please reconsider your business plan. It's broken. Respectfully, People Who Watch TV

I am amused (and slightly horrified) by all the comments by fans vowing to Never Watch the Show Again, ever, never. and How Dare the Writers!! as if Josh Charles (who made a personal decision regarding his future) was supposed to WANT to stay as Will as dictated by their desires. Kind of creepy, if you think about it

I agree.

For some reason, the "funeral" for Rudy's goldfish doesn't make me sad. In fact, it makes me smile.

I was shocked in the finale when they were all gunned down in the diner. Oh wait, that was just my wishful thinking, wasn't it...?

Detective Crosetti on Homicide: Life on the Streets. And then later, Omar on the Wire. Gut punches in such different ways.

I just saw the news that NBC is shutting down Television Without Pity. To be fair, it hasn't been the same since the original creators left, but it was my go-to way of keeping up with shows I don't watch regularly. I'll be interested to see what they'll give as an explanation

TWoP had a lasting impact on the way people write about and talk about TV. We've all leaned on it to keep up with shows we didn't actually have time to watch.

Where am I supposed to find my snark now?

How come all these TV deaths aren't preceded by a "Spoiler" alert? I kid. But seriously, do people really expect me to tip-toe around talking about a show just because they didn't watch it when it was actually on?

They not only expect it, they are sometimes violently angry about it.

I volunteer! Call my agent.

I was peeved when Dr. Romano was squished by the helicopter on ER. He was the only fun character on the show at that point. Personally, I'm glad to see Will go. That storyline wasn't going anywhere and his character wasn't going anywhere good, either. Better to see him go than to see hem devolve into a horrid, bitter, vindictive man.

You should go to weekley chats!

I have! I was here last Thursday, and I am here today and ...

Uh-oh.

I am NOT going to be here next Thursday, April 3. I have a long-standing engagement out of the office, but in any case, this chat is officially weekly now. I'll be back April 10.

Also a plug: I have a long feature running this Sunday (in print; online sometime tomorrow) about "Turn," the new AMC drama about Revolutionary War spies. I went down to the set in Richmond. The show premieres April 6 -- I'll have a review of it sometime next week. I like it.

Thanks today for all the questions and memories of characters who suddenly died.

 

In This Chat
Hank Stuever
Hank Stuever, The Washington Post's TV critic since 2009, joined the paper in 1999 as a writer for the Style section, where he has covered an array of popular (and unpopular) culture across the nation. Stuever was born and raised in Oklahoma and previously worked at newspapers in Albuquerque and Austin. He lives in Washington, D.C.
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