Ask Matt: Weighing in on Gilmore Girls (Especially Rory), Plus: Which Fall Shows Are Getting Cancelled?
Welcome back to the weekly Q&A with TV critic (also known to some TV fans as their "TV therapist") Matt Roush, who'll address whatever you love, loathe, are confused or frustrated or thrilled by in today's vast TV landscape. 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@example.com (or use the form at the end of the column) and follow me on Twitter. Note: Ask Matt will now be posting on Fridays most weeks.
Question: What's your reaction to the Gilmore Girls revival? Mine is mixed. On the one hand, it was pure Gilmore Girls, one of my all-time favorite shows, and I'll take new episodes in whatever form they come. And there were moments, such as the Life and Death Brigade sequence, that I wholeheartedly loved. But something's been bothering me, and after much thought, I think this is it: Rory. It felt like to me that the Palladinos wrote Rory as they would have if they had written Season 7 or Season 8, as an early 20s, just-out-of-college young woman. They didn't adapt the character to adjust for the passage of time. I kept forgetting that her revival character is actually early 30s, and as such, should have been in a different place, no longer hopping from job to job, or still involved with Logan Huntsberger. I also found her to be whiny and self-involved: for example, not giving two thoughts to the feelings of her boyfriend, and not preparing for a job interview because she thought it was beneath her and that they'd be begging her to work there. I wanted so much to love the show, and I did. Except for Rory. And that's a big exception. (That said, any chance for more new episodes? I'm still all in.) - Kirsten
Matt Roush: My review of the miniseries reunion was unabashedly positive—I was thrilled especially with the first and final hours—and overall, I was just so glad to be back in these characters’ company that I felt it was appropriate, especially given the season during which it was presented, to express thanks and accentuate the positive. There were times when the whimsy began to overwhelm me—I paced myself and watched over several days—and I understand the frustration over the cliffhanger presented by those fabled “final four words” (which I always thought Amy Sherman-Palladino made a mistake by letting fans dwell on that for so long).
As for Rory, I heard there was a backlash even before it began to infiltrate my mailbag, but she didn’t bother me that much. I cringed a bit at the unreality of her adventures in journalism—who was paying for those trips to London, and would a New Yorker blurb really make that big an impact?—and was stymied by the nature of her illicit carrying-on with Logan. (Though I thought the running gag of her and Lorelai both forgetting that boyfriend Paul even existed was pretty funny.) I felt they both came off unsympathetic and selfish in that regard. But Gilmore Girls works for me best as a romantic comedy fantasy, and watching Rory stumble and flail to find a purpose seems in character even for someone in her 30s. (And the purpose she ultimately discovered was very satisfying to me.) Showing her fail helps humanize her, and if there’s anything I appreciate in Gilmore Girls, it’s the humanity. And can we just sing the praises now and forever for Kelly Bishop as Emily? There I go again, accentuating the positive.
A more pointed attack came from Elizabeth, who writes: “Has there ever been a show more self-indulgent than Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life? I could handle the long music(al) interludes, dated references, and rehashed story lines were it not for the utter character assassination of Rory Gilmore. The Palladinos went out of their way to walk back any character development and originality to make her story a carbon copy of Lorelai's, right down to whittling Logan into Christopher and Jess into Luke. It seems the only reason for doing so was to make the famous last-four-words work. So stubborn, self-indulgent, and ridiculous.”
And Mimi wrote in simply to wail: “Why, why, why? The ending? So unsatisfied, mystified, shocked, and disappointed.”
Matt again: It saddens me that anyone would let those “final four words” somehow overshadow the joy conveyed by so much of the rest of the series. I’ve heard arguments about the final twist bringing the show full circle, and I can accept that as well as the other side protesting the development (or lack of) regarding Rory’s character. I still look at this Gilmore revival as a win. And honestly, I’d put up with any of its flaws for scenes like Emily turning on those DAR snobs. What a performance!
The Good, and Bad, of Good Behavior
Question: I wanted to like TNT's Good Behavior but found that it doesn't have any characters anyone could like. I assume they want us to rally behind Letty, but I have no sympathy for her whatsoever. I've watched two episodes and bailed. Am I the only one who needs at least one character in a show to like? — Spirit-Chaser
Matt Roush: I’m not sure likeability is as big an issue as the dark and dour turn so much of TV has taken in recent times. Watching advance episodes of Hulu’s Shut Eye, which begins streaming next week, I realized I’ve just about had it with underbellies. (Do we really need, or care, to explore the dark side of the fake-psychic industry?) That said, Good Behavior’s puny ratings indicate you’re not along in not wanting to join Letty (Michelle Dockery) on her twisted, mopey and unpleasant journey.
Question: I'm really enjoying the new TNT show Good Behavior. This week and last week were both double episodes. Historically, it seems like when a network airs double episodes that they are trying to burn them off quickly. Does this mean that the fate of Good Behavior is in jeopardy? - Jamie
Matt Roush: The first week was a double-feature, probably because the first hour had been made available online before premiere, but after that, my math isn’t adding up with yours. According to my records, Good Behavior has been rolling one just one episode a week ever since. The time to worry is if the show vanishes from its current time period and starts getting burned off with multiple episodes on Fridays or Saturdays. That isn’t likely to happen here, but I can’t imagine TNT is encouraged by the tepid response so far. Maybe this wasn’t the best show to introduce during the holiday months.
Not a Fan of NCIS’s Quinn
Question: I wonder if I am the only one finding it hard to watch NCIS since Agent Quinn has arrived. We've had strong women in Kate, Ziva and Eleanor, and here is someone acting like a 16-year-old girl trying to get the attention of the captain of the football team. Certainly not someone you see as a NCIS agent. It is inane! I hope this does not continue because it will definitely have me tuning out. What do you think? — Marie
Matt Roush: Finally, someone standing up for Bishop—even if it’s at the expense of the new woman on the team. I get it that new faces in long-established ensembles like these often meet resistance, but in this case, I just don’t agree. Jennifer Esposito has terrific rapport and chemistry with Mark Harmon’s Gibbs, and from what I’ve seen (admittedly not every episode; that’s just not possible in my world anymore), her tone as an actor and a character fits much more easily into the NCIS world than Eleanor Bishop did after Ziva left. Change is especially disruptive to comfort-food procedurals like NCIS, but this is one I feel they got right.
Time to Start Worrying About Renewals?
Question: Should we be worried about the renewal of Fox's Pitch? I haven't heard much buzz following the premiere and I don't think it was picked up for back episodes. I'm really loving this show and would hate to see it disappear. - Amy
Matt Roush: I’m pretty sure Pitch was never intended to run through the full season, unless it turned out to be a ratings home run—which it certainly wasn’t. And you’re probably going to see more and more short orders for network series, and even pick-ups aren’t always going the full back-nine for a 22-episode order anymore. Which in some instances equals cancellation, but not always. (Some of this has to do with too much inventory, and in some cases a desire to do fewer episodes for the sake of quality control.) I wouldn’t read too much into next week (Dec. 8) being the season finale of Pitch. Right now, I’d say its chances for returning during next year’s Fall Classic are about 50/50, being optimistic.
Question: I reluctantly watched the series premiere of No Tomorrow only to fall head over heels in love. I see the poor ratings, and know The CW isn't picking up the back nine episodes. Is there any chance they could pick it up as a show for the summer like Beauty and the Beast? Or could the oft savior of underappreciated shows, Netflix, step up to save the day? Or, rather, save the Tomorrow? - Amber
Matt Roush: It’s almost impossible to gauge the metric for success with CW shows. The network exists as a pipeline for shows produced by CBS and Warner Bros., and if the studios see an upside to keep this going, it could eke out a renewal the way Beauty and the Beast inexplicably did for four seasons. But this is pretty wishful thinking, and it seems really unlikely that Netflix would step up for something this young and under the radar. Although Netflix’s new deal to carry CW shows shortly after their seasons are over could give the streaming service some incentive. Still feels like a long shot.
Question: I love NBC’s new show Timeless! Is there any word on if it will get renewed? - Abraham
Matt Roush: Here’s an example of what I just mentioned: a pickup that falls short of a full-season order. Timeless was picked up for only three episodes beyond the initial 13, but that’s because NBC already has a show to replace it on Mondays in late February (a series version of Taken) and reportedly because Timeless is such a complicated—and presumably costly—production as each episode has to reset into a new time period. My guess is that it will return next fall with new adventures.
Is The CW’s Superhero Crossover Unprecedented?
Question: I'm racking what's left of my brain cells to think of another four-show crossover. I can think of a couple of four-parters spread over two or three shows but nothing like what The CW has unleashed this week. Can you think of anything this ambitious? Also, I am ridiculously excited about this. - Woody
Matt Roush: And it’s certainly paying off for The CW in terms of buzz and ratings. The only other franchise I can think of with this capacity is Dick Wolf’s Chicago three-pack of Fire, PD and Med (soon to be joined by Chicago Justice at midseason), which also has been known to overlap with the New York cops of Law & Order: SVU. CBS also has three editions of NCIS to cross-pollinate, and if the network could get them to pay visits to all of their other procedurals, the sky’s the limit. I wish I could share your enthusiasm, but these stunts usually tell me that TV has fallen too love with its endlessly cloned franchises, and I find myself thirsting for something new and original.
Taking Stock of the Fall Season
Question: Now that fall TV is ramping up for holiday breaks, which of fall 2016's premiere shows have held up or exceeded their initial promise, and which ones have you had to let fall by the wayside? — Ryan
Matt Roush: My favorite network pilots at the time of Fall Preview were NBC’s This Is Us and ABC’s Designated Survivor. I’m still loving This Is Us, and I’m thrilled it’s a success, while I’m thisclose to bailing on Designated Survivor, which is falling victim to the sort of ludicrous plotting that doomed Quantico before its first season had even concluded, ditto How to Get Away With Murder and other ABC melodramas. The inconsistency of tone on DS is so jarring week to week. The thriller aspects are more exasperating than thrilling, recently culminating in the FBI boss confessing to the terrorist’s murder to save his kidnapped son—and the administration buying it! And the less said the better about the paternity subplot involving the president’s unbearable son.
Other new shows I’m still liking include ABC’s Speechless, NBC’s Timeless (hokey but fun) and the quirky (currently on hiatus) The Good Place, Fox’s aforementioned Pitch (though I haven’t stayed current) and as a guilty pleasure, Lethal Weapon. The biggest surprise: Fox’s The Exorcist, which kept getting scarier and better, with some truly jaw-dropping twists. If I had infinite time, I would have made more of an effort to keep up with The CW’s No Tomorrow and Frequency, but neither became priorities. Beyond network TV, favorite freshmen include FX’s Atlanta and Better Things, HBO’s Westworld and Insecure, and Netflix’s majestic The Crown. All in all, a much better fall than a year ago.
Question: Have any of the new fall line-up been canceled yet? - Unsigned
Matt Roush: This is such an interesting question, because the answer is partly no, partly yes. Not that long ago, a dud network series would be yanked after just an episode or two. But because the networks are taking more time to see if new shows have a more robust life in time-shifting/DVR/On Demand platforms, they’re exercising more patience. And in many cases, like with ABC’s Notorious and Conviction, and CBS’s Pure Genius, which are all toast, the network just lets them play out their initial (and sometimes shortened) episode orders rather than trying to find a temporary replacement. Not getting picked up is the new canceled, but even then, it’s all a bit fuzzy because the fate of these shows won’t really be sealed for good until new lineups are announced in May. Just don’t hold your breath waiting for them to come back.
Question: I am a huge fan of The Amazing Race. Have you heard anything about when CBS is going to put it on the schedule? — Unsigned
Matt Roush: Once fans realized the Emmy-winning Race was missing from the fall lineup, this has been one of the most frequently asked questions in the mailbag for months. Now that CBS has announced its midseason schedule, there’s an answer, though it may only serve to unsettle longtime Race followers. Race won’t return until April 28, taking over the MacGyver time period (Fridays at 8/7c) the week after that series wraps its freshman season. Which means it will air well into the summer, and with only one cycle this season. I refuse to believe CBS will give up entirely on this prestige franchise, which has brought the network such acclaim and Emmy gold. But while CBS would likely argue this is part of a year-round programming strategy, there’s no doubt Race has been marginalized this year.
That's all for now. Thanks as always for reading. I can't do this without your participation, so please keep sending questions and comments about TV to firstname.lastname@example.org or shoot me a line on Twitter (@TVGMMattRoush). Or submit your question via the handy form below: