Ask Matt: Time for a ‘Blacklist’ Endgame?
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] (or use the form at the end of the column) and follow me on Twitter (@TVGMMattRoush). Look for Ask Matt columns on many Tuesdays and Fridays.
Why Do Stars Want to Leave Their Hit Shows?
Question: So now Megan Boone wants to leave The Blacklist after Season 8 or at least not be a regular — so my question is shouldn’t this be the end of the series? She is the main reason for James Spader‘s Red character creating the Blacklist in order to watch over her and more secrets are being revealed which should wrap the series up. But furthermore, what is up with actors leaving series in search of other opportunities, when she and others such as the recently departed Antonia Thomas of The Good Doctor leave and I previously did not know of these actors and may not ever hear from them again? It seems to me that some people seem to shy away from success in search of greener pastures which may never happen again. So sad!! — JV
Matt Roush: I hear you on The Blacklist, which if it got much more convoluted may need a Rosetta Stone to interpret. When one of your two lead characters departs, it’s either time to plan a final-season endgame (which would be my bet) or use this event as an opportunity to reinvent the show, moving on from the Red-Liz narrative to tell an entirely new story built around Red and the Blacklist. I wouldn’t put the latter past NBC, since networks are reluctant to let anything go that still draws a loyal audience after this many seasons. Still, logic would suggest that this is the right time to announce a final season and map it out. We’ll see.
And I can’t speak for actors like Megan Boone and Antonia Thomas — who only spent four years on her show before deciding to pack it in — but fame and fortune and visibility aside, it’s not all that rare for performers to seek if not greener pastures, then different and new opportunities after playing the same role year after year, in some cases no longer feeling challenged by the material or the character’s potential for growth. Seems like Megan Boone was already one foot out the door, given her extended absence during this last season. It’s more common for a supporting player in a large ensemble like The Good Doctor to leave than it is for a lead actor in a heavily mythologized show to depart — remember the impact it had on The X-Files when David Duchovny left for a time. It’s hard to imagine The Blacklist without Megan Boone or Liz in the picture (or even the background), but stranger things have happened.
Is The Chase Cheapening Out?
Question: I was wondering how you and other viewers feel about ABC’s second season of The Chase. All the Chasers and Sara Haines are great, but the network lowering the amount by 60% from Season 1 to Season 2 for each correct answer the contestants give in the initial Cash Builder round seems like a very cheap move. And if the contestant(s) lose in the final round against the chaser, why can’t they be given some small monetary consolation prize, maybe $1,000 each. To leave with absolutely nothing also seems incredibly cheap. The TV ratings the contestants are helping provide for ABC should be worth something. Also, do you think the network is positioning themselves with a fourth “Chaser” in case Ken Jennings is selected as the permanent host for Jeopardy? — Eileen
Matt Roush: Until you (and a few bloggers) pointed it out, I hadn’t really noticed that The Chase dropped the Cash Builder money from $25,000 for a correct answer to $10,000 between seasons. A good contestant can still build up a sizable bank, but I’m wondering if the producers are subtly trying to encourage the players to consider more strongly the Chaser’s higher cash offer, which they almost never accept. (Even a puny bank can go up to $200,000 if they eliminate one of the steps between them and The Chaser.) As for the team losing everything if the Chaser catches them in the final round, that’s part of the show’s DNA. It’s all or nothing, and they know that going in. Adds to the suspense, even if a loss leaves them (and the viewer) somewhat deflated at the end. The whole point of the show is that these amateurs are going up against the very best in the trivia/quiz world, and it shouldn’t be easy. (But you’re not wrong that it looks cheap for them to have cut the Cash Builder prize money so steeply.)
Finally, adding Mark “The Beast” Labbett to the Chasers pool is probably less about the Jeopardy! situation than it is about honoring the show’s past, which Labbett has been so associated with for years. He adds a different vibe with his look, tone, and experience, and The Chase is better for it.
Not Swiping Right for Celebrity Dating Game
Question: Who in their right mind put Celebrity Dating Game on TV? They must be on something! Michael Bolton sits there comatose until he sings a song, the horrible white makeup looks like he could be on The Walking Dead as an extra. Miss Zooey (Deschanel) adds nothing to the show, and her snide comments half the time had nothing to do what they were talking about. She leans on the piano like she is waiting for a drink or belt out a song. On the first show, Hannah Brown was trying to be so coy and cute, like this was her first rodeo. NOT. She didn’t say two words to the fella she picked! These network people must not know that we also watch TV in the summer. Thanks for letting me get that off my chest. — Linda C
Matt Roush: That’s what we’re here for. In my own short preview for the show’s premiere, the only good thing I could say about Celebrity Dating Game was that it didn’t take itself as seriously as the odious Bachelor–Bachelorette franchise. Fact is, we have now entered the silly summer season, with crud like Big Brother and Love Island yet to arrive. They’re not going to throw money at putting scripted shows on during the summer, so unless you’re willing to dive into the streaming world (with some cable, mostly premium) for a comedy or drama fix, this is going to be the norm for the next few months.
Be a Sport and Move NCIS: LA
Question: Is there any hope that CBS might move NCIS: Los Angeles to another night so it does not compete with sports running over time? — Charlotte I, Georgia
Matt Roush: Afraid not, at least for this fall — and probably for as long as it lasts. CBS appears to be pleased with its performance on Sundays since it moved there in 2016 to shore up the night, and putting it behind The Equalizer has only solidified the strategy. The network is well aware of the challenges facing the Sunday shows that are subject to delays in the Eastern and Central time zones when sports run way over into prime time. (This is why many weeks CBS pushes back the lineup to start at 7:30/6:30 instead of on the hour, and even that often isn’t enough.) As I’m sure I’ll advise readers again when this question arises in the fall, as it does most every year, the best bet is to record the show following whatever it is you want to watch if you don’t want it cut off.
Should We Finish a Show That We Know Isn’t Coming Back?
Question: I got really behind this year before the seasons ended. Now I find some of my faves got canceled with episodes still waiting to be watched. Is there any good reason to watch the last three or four episodes of Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist, Manifest, and Clarice that I have on my DVR? – Tom F
Matt Roush: With Zoey, an absolute yes. It hurts to know there won’t be more, but those episodes are so enjoyable that you shouldn’t deprive yourself. It ends on a real high. With Clarice, a conditional yes. I intend to watch the entire first season, even knowing there may not be a second. I haven’t seen the finale yet, which I hope finishes more like The Silence of the Lambs, with an open ending and not a cliffhanger. But if you’re enjoying the show, I’d say keep watching. With Manifest, that’s up to you. I bailed on that show a while ago, and from what I gather it leaves so much unanswered (which is why I tired of it sometime during the second season) that it may not be as satisfying to keep watching as it would be for the other two.
But in each of these cases, it has been reported the studios and producers are trying to find new homes, so while the odds are against them, there may be an incentive to watch to the end in case there’s more story to be told. Again, up to the viewer.
Question: In a recent “Ask Matt” column, you mentioned how canceling Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist felt “like another nail in network TV’s coffin” and I had a similar pessimistic reaction — in addition to Zoey and the other canceled shows you listed (Prodigal Son, The Unicorn), I would also add the loss of Mixed-ish, Stumptown and Evil, which all failed to survive (or even begin) their sophomore seasons on the broadcast networks. And this has been even more crushing knowing these shows all contributed to the 2019-20 network season, which felt like the strongest one in years.
Are you feeling optimistic about any of next season’s network pilots, or is there any sense of the networks turning things around? I do feel there’s still a place for network TV in today’s fragmented market, but all these cancellations after such a promising season two years ago is making it difficult to have much faith that the traditional networks are willing to support original creative voices or really strive for ambitious, inspired programming. ‑ Brodie L
Matt Roush: A fair question, especially when you see that the development for next season was so heavily weighted toward spinoffs, reboots, and other exploitation of IP (“intellectual” property) that is pretty much the opposite of inspiration. But like you, I haven’t lost hope altogether. As I’ve noted before, I’m intrigued by NBC’s Ordinary Joe (with the always-welcome James Wolk), CBS’s Ghosts comedy, Fox’s reality-show-within-a-show The Big Leap, and Black family soap Our Kind of People from Lee Daniels, and even ABC’s reimagined The Wonder Years. I expect (or maybe just hope) that something else not yet on my radar will surprise and/or delight me. But it’s true that this latest wave of cancellations has been especially discouraging.
And Finally …
Question: Is there any news at all on American Gods being picked up elsewhere? To have such an iconic book adapted for TV then canceled so close to the end, I’d be gutted not to see the conclusion. I think the show wasted some time with the Season 2 sidestep but I’m hoping a network or streamer will let us have a final season to close the book, so to speak. — Gavin
Matt Roush: Nothing new since the cancellation, and given how troubled this production was behind the scenes, it might have been wise for the creatives to have wrapped up the show when they still could. (It’s not like there wasn’t a blueprint.) As often happens, the production company insists they’re committed to finishing this project somehow and somewhere, but until some sort of deal is announced, consider it over.
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 Twitter (@TVGMMattRoush), and you can also submit questions via the handy form below. (Please include a first name with your question.)