Ask Matt: Why Would CBS Move ‘NCIS’ to a New Night?

NCIS Wilmer Mark Harmon
Bill Inoshita/CBS

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.

How Risky is NCIS’s Move Off of Tuesdays?

Question: I saw from an article in TV Guide Magazine’s “First Look at The Best New Fall Shows” that the new FBI: International is going to be sandwiched between the other 2 FBI series on Tuesday nights. What the hell is CBS thinking moving the NCIS mothership from its longtime time slot? Are they trying to kill it? I hope they’re not putting it on Sunday night. I have not seen NCIS: NOLA or NCIS: LA since they were moved away from Tuesdays. I have had to see their episodes for the first time once I buy the DVD season sets. When are they gonna run NCIS? — William K

Matt Roush: First off, CBS is not “trying to kill” NCIS. I don’t even believe the network was trying to kill The Unicorn or Clarice, which both suffered from unfortunate scheduling choices this season and are not going to return. This is a case of CBS taking a calculated risk that NCIS’s enormous fan base will follow it to a new night — Mondays, thankfully not Sundays — where it will serve as a lead-in to the latest in the franchise, NCIS: Hawaii. I’m expecting both will do fine, and if the opposite happens, CBS won’t hesitate to reverse course and relocate the mothership to the time slot it has enjoyed for almost two decades.

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The bigger risk in my mind is to think that FBI fans are so devoted and frantic for more that they will sit for three hours in a row for various offshoots of the procedural. This was inspired by the success of Dick Wolf’s three NBC Chicago shows stacked on Wednesdays, a strategy NBC will next exploit in the fall by stacking three Dick Wolf Law & Order shows, including the new For the Defense, on Thursdays. If you’re counting, that’s nine Dick Wolf-produced series airing over three nights.

And while I get that network TV is all about giving audiences what they want, isn’t this all verging on overkill?

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Why Preview a Premium Cable Show Early?

Question: The second episode of the new Starz series Blindspotting popped up on the app Saturday night, and while again shortly after 9pm here I know that streaming is the future of everything, what surprises me is that the show actually airs on Starz on Sunday night. So for 2 weeks in a row, it has been available on the app prior to the linear airing. Do they not care about the linear numbers? In my case, I don’t get linear Starz and just added the app for this show. But in theory, there are still people who have Starz on their cable subscription, right? (By the way, I liked the second episode more than the pilot, probably because it seemed less concerned with the mechanics of setting up the show and more on watching Ashley go through her day.) — JL

Matt Roush: This is happening a lot, especially on premium cable channels, which figure as long as you’re paying the subscription fee why not give you early access to episodes, or in some cases (Showtime is big on this) the entire season at once on the app or On Demand, so you can choose to either binge or watch weekly on the linear channel, whichever you prefer. They’re not selling advertising, so as long as they can get the show watched on any platform, making it available earlier and making it easier to watch is in their (and the consumers’) best interest.

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Be Nicer to Ms. Fisher!

Comment: I regret your TV Guide Magazine review on Ms. Fisher’s Modern Murder Mysteries. I am a huge fan of the original Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, and rewatched all three seasons many times over. I appreciated the movie of Miss Fisher’s Crypt of Tears and would hope for more but that seems unlikely. I was very skeptical that I could enjoy any new versions that did not star Essie Davis & the superb ensemble from those MFMM shows. However, Ms. Fisher’s Modern Murder Mysteries exceeds my expectations and provides much enjoyment. I think the format and ensemble are terrific as a 4-decade advance on the original stories. The clothing, architecture, vehicles, and music are as entertaining from the 1960s setting as they were in the 1920s settings. What you consider “flimsy retro capers” are pleasant entertainment for me, providing joy and light intrigue rather than bloody crime scenes, overdone shooting, and sex. I hope you can share this with Fiona Egger and Deb Cox so they know there are fans out here! — Meg, Palm Harbor, Florida

Matt Roush: I’m glad you’re enjoying the show and I figured it might be an unpopular opinion not to swoon over Ms. Fisher after having been such a fan of the original series — and I made a special point to rave about the Crypt of Tears movie a year or so ago. So you can imagine my disappointment when I tuned into the 1960s spinoff and far from being charmed, I was put off by the smug flouncing and flirting of the new Ms. Fisher (Geraldine Hakewill), even at crime scenes, plus the lack of chemistry with her detective beau. Even with breezy escapist TV, I have certain standards, and while Ms. Fisher is indeed fun to look at, I found it all very tiresome and felt it was my job to be honest. I agree, though, that it’s pleasant and certainly harmless, but just because something is wholesome and avoids graphic content doesn’t automatically make it worthy of praise.

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Awaiting Streaming Renewals

Question: How confident do you feel that Love, Victor will be renewed? — Rebecca

Matt Roush: Hard to say, but I’d be reasonably confident. Hulu didn’t announce the second season as final, and there were obviously many questions remaining to be answered. I wouldn’t be surprised if they announce an endgame with a third-season renewal, or maybe they’ll want to follow Victor’s coming-of-age story even longer. Too early to know. But after investing this much time with the characters, I hope they’d give the show at least one more season rather than stopping the story abruptly without warning.

Question: Can you please find some info on Cursed (Netflix)? I really enjoyed the first season and hope it comes back for a second. — Jess

Matt Roush: There is no info, and because there has been such a long silence since the first season dropped (July 2020) without word of a pickup, most seem to think the likelihood of this fantasy twist on the Arthurian legend getting a second season is slim at best. But until it’s confirmed one way or the other, there’s still hope. (Even so, I wouldn’t count on it.)

A Show In Between Genres

Question: I enjoy watching the FX show Mr. Inbetween. However, there are a couple of things about it that have me wondering. Do Australians actually say “mate” every time they talk to someone? If mate is the same as friend, in the U.S., we certainly don’t say it that often. Also, the show’s genre is listed as comedy. If I laugh every time someone gets killed or maimed, then I guess it is. Would a different genre be more appropriate? — Gerald G

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Matt Roush: I’ve been to Australia (it’s been a while) and I don’t remember “mate” being used to exhaustion. But then I found much about this show heavy-handed, so I’m not surprised. As for genre, Mr. Inbetween is classified as a “dark comedy,” which has more to do with it being a half-hour show and asking us to sympathize to some degree toward its thuggish main character (which I couldn’t). Given how formulaic so much of TV is, I usually champion shows that dare to blur the line between genres, but I never warmed up to this one — and don’t get me started on AMC’s Kevin Can F*** Himself.

How to End a Fantasy Series Properly

Comment: So after a third season finale that piled on still more myth-teries, but didn’t answer any significant questions, NBC unceremoniously axed Manifest, leaving much Debris in the wake (pun intended). Let the Weeping and Wailing and Gnashing of Teeth (and unlikely hopes for a relocation elsewhere) begin. Whenever a TV series is canceled, leaving unanswered questions or unresolved cliffhangers, I’m reminded of two series that did it right.

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Babylon 5 was created by J. Michael Straczynski, who envisioned an intricate star-spanning space opera playing out over five seasons. But though critically acclaimed and with a rabid fan base, the syndicated series only achieved middling ratings and was always under the shadow of cancellation. That shadow loomed especially large during the fourth season, so Straczynski compressed storylines and wrote and filmed a final episode early on. Thankfully the show was rescued at the last moment, and that finale was shelved until the end of the fifth and satisfying final season, which resolved the major storylines and tied up loose ends (though still springing some last-minute surprises).

The X-Files was another series that effectively handled a threat of cancellation. The show raised the bar for myth-tery series, and I believe gestated the term “mythology” episodes, which achieved the delicate balance of both answering questions and introducing new mysteries. But early in the sixth season, creator Chris Carter sensed that the show might get canceled, and co-wrote “Two Fathers” and “One Son”, a two-part story that brought one of its overarching storylines to an unexpected, abrupt and conclusive end while allowing for a new direction.

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The creators of Debris and Manifest could have done something similar. Both shows have been under the gun all season with the threat of cancellation. Both shows could have created “just in case” final episodes that may have looked hastily put together, but answered the central questions of “What is the Debris?” and “What is its purpose?” and “What are the callings?” and especially, “Just where the heck did Flight 828 disappear to, and why didn’t the passengers age?” Instead, they crossed their writing fingers and pinned their hopes on a renewal. But all they got were outraged viewers left with a bad taste in their mouth, and in my case, someone with a mounting dislike for NBC. — Maurice H

Matt Roush: Thanks for the history lesson (even edited, this is longer than the Ask Matt norm, which is why I saved it for last, and sometimes you just need a soapbox). I always appreciate it when creators are allowed the chance to truly finish their shows, especially when they’re built around complex mythologies — even though the result rarely satisfies everyone, as in the cases of Lost and Game of Thrones. With Debris, the show was so new and came on so late in the season that they didn’t really have time to develop an endgame, and in retrospect, they probably should have prepared a finale that was less a cliffhanger than a resolution of some smaller story, even if it left the bigger cosmic questions unaddressed. With Manifest, I always felt the show was its own worst enemy, expanding the mystery (to my mind, making it up as they went along) while risking the worst-case scenario of leaving everyone hanging, and in this instance, ending on a tragic note as well.

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The quandary in all of this is that while we wish there were more network shows that pushed the boundaries, these are precisely the shows that tend to struggle to attract a big enough audience to guarantee survival or the networks’ long-term support. It’s a vicious cycle that is pushing most of the truly compelling storytelling to the new frontier of streaming, and even that’s not a guarantee. But the odds are obviously better there.

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.)