Welcome to the Q&A with TV critic — also known to some TV fans as their “TV therapist” — Matt Roush, who’ll try to address whatever you love, loathe, are confused or frustrated or thrilled by in today’s vast TV landscape. (We know background music is too loud, but there’s always closed-captioning.)
One caution: This is a spoiler-free zone, so we won’t be addressing upcoming storylines here unless it’s already common knowledge. Please send your questions and comments to [email protected]. Look for Ask Matt columns on most Tuesdays.
The Day The (Broadway) Music (Parody) Died
Comment: I gave up long ago getting upset over cancellations of shows I liked. To quote The Godfather Part II: “This is the business we’ve chosen.” Nevertheless, I was sadly disappointed to read that Apple TV+ canceled Schmigadoon!. This was a unique show, produced by people who obviously loved the genre they were parodying. There was an anticipation of “what will they do next” that was almost as much fun as the numbers themselves. I will miss it. — Rick
Matt Roush: You’re far from alone. Like you, I have mostly hardened my heart against melting every time a show ends its run prematurely — and given the state of the industry that’s so in flux right now, it’s going to be happening more frequently, at least in the short run. But losing the brilliant Schmigadoon! really hurts, especially once the show’s gifted creator/composer Cinco Paul posted on X, “The season is written (including 25 new songs), but we unfortunately won’t be making it. Such is life.”
Really, 25 new songs?!?! Apple, what are you thinking? Sometimes life really sucks, and these streamers can be so aggravating — also not thrilled that Apple TV+ let Central Park (an animated musical) die. This is where I pose the question I see in my mailbag so often and tend to answer with a firm “probably not”: Can’t someone else step in and rescue a series that is this far along in being written? Or maybe there’s a way to stage Paul’s vision in another medium so we at least get to sample these songs, whatever they may be spoofing. Having experienced the Rodgers & Hammerstein, then the Kander & Ebb/Sondheim eras through his eyes, I don’t want to stop now. I feel a power ballad coming on.
Final thought: I had a similar reaction when Paramount+ decided not to go beyond two seasons of Joe Pickett, an excellent series based on C.J. Box’s terrific contemporary Western thrillers. There’s so much material to be explored here, and while Pickett was a pickup from the now-defunct Spectrum Originals, I keep wondering why Prime Video didn’t step up to this franchise in the first place. Look at the success they’re having with book-to-series versions of Reacher, Bosch, and Jack Ryan.
Will New Jeopardy! Contestants Ever Get to Play?
Question: We love Jeopardy! and are delighted that Ken Jennings is now the sole host. But we’re wondering when there will be new contestants as opposed to the current format of Second Chance and Champions Wildcard tournaments for past contestants? — Eileen D.
Matt Roush: We’ve been covering this topic for a while — most recently in November — and you won’t be surprised to learn that many Jeopardy! fans are itching to get back to regular play. But it’s still going to take a while. Part of the reason we’ve been seeing so many past contestants, either in Second Chance or Champions Wildcard formats, is because of the continuing fallout from the writers’ strike, during which time the show was using recycled clues (delaying the Tournament of Champions until the writers’ returned in late 2023). The show is now airing Champions Wildcard episodes with contestants from Season 39, scheduled to run through Feb. 22. After that, we’ll finally get a Tournament of Champions, but that will then be followed by a Jeopardy! Invitational Tournament for super-players to compete for a spot in the next Jeopardy! Masters tournament. Only then, most likely in April, will we see “regular” episodes featuring new contestants. Executive producer Michael Davies figures we’ll get at least 16 weeks of regular play before the season ends in late summer.
It’s all a bit much, and I hope Jeopardy! gets back to normal next season. As another correspondent, Jake, writes: “Michael Davies keeps talking about how Jeopardy! is a sport and that’s why he wants to keep having contestants back. But what he seems not to understand is that tournament play is no longer special if it happens all the time.” True, and with such a truncated season for new contestants, it’s hard to fathom how they’ll get a deep enough pool of champions for next year’s Tournament of Champions without even more mini-tournaments.
The Emmy Host with the Most (Exposure)
Question: I was wondering if you think that Anthony Anderson is overexposed. I mean, between hosting To Tell the Truth and then he was on Law & Order for a while and had his own reality show with his mother and now he’s hosting a Fox music show (We Are Family) and we’ve seen him on commercials, plus hosting the Emmy awards, and I for one say enough is enough. — Greg W.
Matt Roush: If Anthony Anderson had tanked his Emmy assignment, which he didn’t — in part because the producers were wise to make the 75th annual ceremony a celebration of TV, and he was a willing and game participant in that — I might share this sentiment more forcefully. There’s no question Anthony Anderson is a busy guy, but is he any busier or more ubiquitous than, say, Ryan Seacrest? I don’t check “Q” ratings — if they even still exist in this digital age — but I’d assume his likability score is quite high if he’s this much in demand. I wasn’t a fan of his To Tell the Truth reboot, and We Are Family is dreadful, which isn’t entirely his fault. And while I admire anyone who loves his mother this much (as do I), having Doris shout down Jennifer Coolidge at the Emmys was an indulgence too far. Otherwise, I’m happy to let Anthony be Anthony. Maybe in more measured doses.
And the Award Goes to …
Comment: ‘Tis the season for many to whine about awards shows. I’ll just say what I always say: They’re fine. Like most TV shows, I watch on a delay, about an hour delay to begin with, so I can skip through anything which doesn’t look interesting. I suggest that more people should do that. That said, a couple of comments:
1. A disappointing trend in the past few years during the In Memoriam sections in which the live musicians get as much attention as the departed stars we’re supposed to be remembering. I wish they would keep the cameras on the names and photos of the late stars and ignore what should be background music.
2. I know that this is a broken record, but The Bear is not really a comedy. Of course there are funny things in it, but it’s more of a dramedy. Sitcoms take a different sort of writing, and a different sort of acting, than these dramedies, and it is not fair to put sitcoms up against what should be thought of as humorous dramas.
Matt Roush: All fair points. I wish I had the luxury to watch major awards shows on a time delay, or with a fast-forward button, but because I’m reporting and/or commenting on them, I can’t really afford falling behind. As for the In Memoriam tributes, there should never be a moment when the performer upstages the people behind honored. (Even close-ups during a pause in the roster usually feels wrong.)
The blurry line anymore between drama and comedy remains an ongoing issue, especially when a show is as dominant in the Emmy win column as The Bear was — and will likely be even more so for Season 2. (Kudos for Quinta Brunson to win for Abbott Elementary when she could, because when she’s up against Ayo Edebiri next year in the lead category, as I expect she will be, that’ll be a long shot). Regarding the next Emmys for the 2023-24 season, The Bear felt to me a bit more like an actual comedy in Season 2 because of its more upbeat themes of renewal and reinvention, but the harrowing, raw Season 1? Harder to argue. And while more traditional comedies or sitcoms often have their poignant moments, it is undeniably hard to compete against a world as realistically and at times traumatically textured as that depicted in The Bear. That said, it’s hard to imagine FX throwing this show into the drama pool where it would have been swamped by Succession for many of the same reasons. Awards shows are imperfect, to put it mildly.
And while I don’t see The Holdovers’ wonderful Paul Giamatti as an underdog in the Oscars race, I absolutely agree that Jonathan Bailey should be a front-runner in his category at the Emmys later this year, and because his Fellow Travelers co-star Matt Bomer won’t be going up against the star of Beef, maybe he’ll have a shot at winning for his best TV work to date.
Is ”Peak TV” Over?
Question: In reading articles about the Emmys and the return to work after the strikes, I keep seeing some critics describe our current situation as the “end of peak TV”, where peak TV means the sheer volume of scripted series not necessarily the quality of said TV. Is it really that bad for this period to end? Honestly, there was just too much TV for me to even try to watch everything. And I’m a person who could probably tell you what I watched every night from 1999-2006 if I tried hard enough. The past few years I’ve been spectacular at starting to watch shows, but horrible at finishing them. Turns out TV always being available is really bad for my compliance in watching TV — “Oh, I’ll just watch this some other time” — yeah, that other time never happens. I for one look forward to slightly less TV if it means I have a chance to actually watch some of it. — Veronica
Matt Roush: To address your basic question: No, it is absolutely not a bad thing for the industry to cool its jets a bit in terms of overproduction. With most of the studios, networks, and streamers analyzing their balance sheets more carefully going forward, there will be casualties and green lights turning red. But I’ve felt some of these reports are rather overstated. We’re still in a boom time for TV, even with several hundred fewer shows on the horizon. In a week that includes the premieres of Feud: Capote vs. the Swans (FX), Genius: MLK/X (National Geographic), Mr. and Mrs. Smith (Prime Video), and the final season of Curb Your Enthusiasm (HBO/Max), TV still feels in awfully “peak” condition to me.
And Finally …
Question: This is a shout-out to CBS. I received my 29 Jan-18 Feb issue of TV Guide Magazine. It lists the 25 Top Primetime Telecasts of 2023, and by my count, CBS had 20 of the 25 shows. Fox had two, ABC, NBC, and Paramount Network each had one. Any opinion as to why CBS dominates this so thoroughly? — Andy W., Melbourne, FL
Matt Roush: Look at the list a little more closely and you’ll see that while CBS had the majority of the entries, that comprised only five shows (nearly half, nine, for NCIS, four for FBI, three for Blue Bloods, two for Young Sheldon, one for Fire Country, plus the Grammys). What this tells me is that for those hardy millions still watching prime-time network or cable TV in real-time (which is all that the list covers), the most popular shows on TV are the procedurals, in most cases the original series, and it’s been that way for years. Fox’s top-ranked shows (Next Level Chef and Accused) each had a prominent sports lead-in — and if live sports had been factored onto this particular list, which appears to have been limited to scripted series and entertainment specials, CBS would have had to give up a few of those spots. The point being that CBS remains the most successful legacy network in terms of audience in real-time, which is a great measurement to be sure, though maybe not reflective of how many of us are watching TV and what we are choosing to watch on other platforms. (For the curious, ABC’s entry was for the Oscars, NBC for an episode of Chicago Fire, and Paramount Network for, what else, Yellowstone.)
That’s all for now. We can’t do this without your participation, so please keep sending questions and comments about TV to [email protected] or shoot me a line on X (formerly) Twitter @TVGMMattRoush. (Please include a first name with your question.)