Question: What is your take on the recent episodes of NCIS and this ongoing tension that the writers appear to be setting up between Gibbs and Vance? (Granted they had it in prior seasons, but I thought they had turned a corner.) It seems that since Vance has returned from his recovery after nearly getting killed in the 2-parter (Enemy Domestic, Enemy Foreign arc), he appears to be taking his angst out on Gibbs and his team. I feel like Gibbs helped him and saved his life by providing him with the knife that he eventually used to kill his enemy, yet Vance is going through something that no one can comprehend. This appears to be some sort of setup, and it’s irritating because the viewers don’t see where this is going.

Then the writers add in the new Agent Barrett (Sarah Jane Morris, not a fan) to complicate matters more. I also feel Tim (Sean Murray) appears to be in a funk of sorts, like he is discontent. The writers have crafted ways of sharing that: the upstairs neighbor’s kid who steals his credit card to get his attention because he’s focused so much on work, and there have been scenes where you see him just staring out at nothing in particular. I wonder if they’ll intertwine both? I don’t know. I don’t know that I like what I’m seeing. And perhaps because it’s been almost eight seasons and after a while, even a finely crafted show runs out of steam. Your thoughts? — Teresa

Matt Roush: I placed this question after the House rant because I find these shows a study in contrasts. The things that seem to annoy you about NCIS — not knowing where a conflict like the Vance-Gibbs chill is heading — aren’t so much signs of a show running out of steam, but of producers trying to keep an audience engaged, risking fans being disgruntled in the process. I don’t watch this show with the same level of detailed absorption as many fans, so I haven’t really picked up on McGee’s malaise (didn’t he score a romantic conquest a little while ago?), but I like that they’ve hit a nerve by bringing in Barrett to further underscore Gibbs’ problems with authority, this time complicated by her extracurricular fling with Tony. And bringing in Enrique Murciano as Ziva’s CIA (or, CI-Ray) guy also looks like a plus. They seem to be heading toward some kind of showdown between Gibbs and Vance again — the scene when Vance visited the morgue was full of unspoken tension — and I’m assuming we’ll learn what Vance’s issues are in the wake of that last crisis. Nothing seems to diminish the popularity of NCIS, but what fun would it be if it didn’t give you something to gnaw on and gripe about?

Question: I was shocked to see you decided on NCIS as one of your picks of the week since you are not a fan of the “procedural.” I do like the addition of the new characters. How long do you think it will take them to kill Agent Barrett off? She might as well have a target painted on her. I love NCIS and am glad it is doing great this season. It deserves it. I agree with your comments on the American Idol judges this year. They always say the contestants do a good job even if the performance was mediocre. I miss Simon Cowell. At least he was honest with them and they respected him for it. It meant something when Simon said they did a good job. When are you going to tell us your opinion on Game of Thrones? It looks really interesting. I am looking forward to watching it. — Susan

Matt Roush: Lots to address here. First, it’s not quite true that I’m not a fan of the “procedurals,” but I do think there are too many of them, not all of them deserve to be spun off, and not all are created equal. When I put together those “picks” columns, it’s often a reflection of what I think my readers and the general TV fan will be intrigued by, and I try (though I’m sure I don’t always succeed) to change it up a bit, so it’s not always the same shows in the mix. Regarding Idol: I’m not sure I actually miss Simon. If he didn’t want to be there any longer, I certainly didn’t want him to be there looking as bored and grumpy as in the last few seasons. But I do hope Pia’s ouster is a wake-up call for the judges to put some constructive bite into their comments. And where Game of Thrones is concerned, my review appears in the issue of TV Guide Magazine hitting stands this week, and I’ll post a version of that later this week. In summary: I loved the books and am happy to say the series so far is more than living up to my expectations.

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