Ask Matt: Where’s the Love for ‘Lovecraft Country’?

Jurnee Smolett Lovecraft Country Season 1 HBO
Eli Joshua Ade/HBO
Lovecraft Country

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.

A Monstrous Decision About Lovecraft Country

Question: I am in shock that HBO has decided not to go forward with a second season of Lovecraft Country. It didn’t just get a ton of acclaim and buzz during its first season, it was also so relevant in its use of horror as a metaphor for the nation’s race problems of the past and present. What could they possibly be thinking? — Gray

Matt Roush: Got me. That announcement took me completely by surprise, and I’ll be curious to see what the response is when Lovecraft Country tallies up who knows how many Emmy nominations next week. (Looking at the Emmy ballot, the show and its stars are all designated under “drama series,” not “limited series” categories.) There were reports that Lovecraft was originally designed as a limited series, but clearly there was potential to keep playing with genre and allegory. At times I found the show to be a mess, but it was an inspired mess with some incredible moments and a great cast, and I’d certainly have followed it into a second season. HBO also surprised me earlier by not going forward with another chapter of Stephen King’s The Outsider, which again was initially billed as a limited series, though for a while there was talk of continuing the franchise with Cynthia Erivo’s take on Holly Gibney.

Some might speculate this has something to do with HBO’s decision to do a second Big Little Lies season—which, Meryl Streep aside, seemed to blunt the impact of the original limited series. But in the case of Lovecraft Country, I can’t see how this isn’t a missed opportunity to try to produce an even stronger series the second time around.

A Letdown from Page to Screen

Question: I loved the book The Flight Attendant. I cannot imagine how the author allowed the book to be made into such a travesty. What’s this with the ghost? And why did Cassie’s sister become her brother? And why did she become so frantic and high-strung? I could go on and on, but all I can say is that I waited for over a year only to feel very let down. — Adrienne L

Matt Roush: I never read the book, but your problems with the adaptation—especially the overused ghost gimmick (although I’m a fan of Michiel Huisman)—scan with my own reservations toward what I consider one of the more overrated shows of last year. (Loved Kaley Cuoco’s fearless performance, but I grew less enchanted with her reckless antics by the episode.) To address your bigger question, when authors sell rights to their books, unless they become a producer or creator of the series or movie, they generally give up most rights to how the story and the characters will be adapted for screen or stage. Given the success the series version of The Flight Attendant has enjoyed, including a second-season renewal, I imagine original author Chris Bohjalian isn’t too bummed about how it all turned out.

The Games People Play (on TV)

Comment: When the first two contestants were eliminated in the first round on the June 27 episode of The Chase, it was obvious to the audience at home that the third contestant would win her first round of questions. If the third contestant had also been eliminated in the first round of questions, the show could not be broadcast as there would be no one left to compete in the final round of questions. I guess the creators of The Chase did not take this situation into consideration when the show was created. — Taylor F

Matt Roush: I had similar thoughts watching that episode, wondering if the third player hadn’t made it through the “cash builder” round, what would they do for the rest of the hour—just keep firing questions at the Chaser for fun? I did a little digging and found an article regarding the original British series, suggesting that if all the players are knocked out, one of the eliminated contestants would be nominated by the team to face the Chaser alone, and should that player stay standing after the final round, a base level of prize money would be split among the team. Sounds fair.

Question: What is going on with Jeopardy? The guest host has ruled correct on several responses that Alex Trebek would have ruled incorrect—such as not giving the exact title of a song, or another time not giving enough information. All guest hosts say they wish to honor Alex. The best way to do that is to maintain the integrity of the show. — Cathy

Matt Roush: What this really drives home to me is the degree of difficulty in hosting Jeopardy! and in making split-second decisions much like the contestants while juggling all of the other demands of this fast-moving role. I have made a point not to be overly critical of the guest hosts (except perhaps the controversial choice of Dr. Oz) during this year of transition since Alex Trebek’s untimely death in November. Like other devoted fans, I’ve enjoyed some more than others, sometimes pleasantly surprised and other times a bit disappointed they didn’t bring more to the stage. But I’ve never underestimated how tricky it is on both sides of the podium, and I generally applaud all of the guest hosts for stepping up and, yes, honoring the game and Alex during these last months.

Question: Do you think Jeopardy! should do a “Tournament of Guest Hosts” to see who becomes the new host? — Shamus

Matt Roush: Ha! I’d definitely watch that. But no, I’m hoping the process is a bit more dignified than that. And because with just a few exceptions I don’t view these guest hosts’ gigs as an actual audition, I’ll be content to let the process play out and hope whoever they choose has what it takes to assume this critical position. Whoever it is, he or she had better have a tough skin, because my mail on this subject tends to be unsparing.

Antiques Back on the Road

Question: It has been years since there has been a completely new episode of Antiques Roadshow on PBS. Does Antiques Roadshow have plans to produce any new episodes, and if so, when will we see them? — Ellen L

Matt Roush: Like most things on TV, the pandemic sidelined the regular production process of PBS’s most popular series more even than usual, because it would have been impossible for in-person appraisals to be conducted in the same fashion. There’s good news, though, because Antiques Roadshow is hitting the road again—but with invitation-only appraisals conducted on closed sets, many outdoors. So while it won’t look exactly the same, the show will go on. This year’s current filming schedule stays on the East Coast and is expected to go from August to October, suggesting a premiere date of new episodes early in 2022.

Good Grief

Question: I know that you normally do not talk about shows’ season-ending or series-ending episodes if they have not aired yet, but are you at all privy to how Good Girls will end??? From rumors that are abounding, it does not appear that anything will be finalized, and after enduring what happened with Manifest and Prodigal Son, I do not wish to endure more heartbreak. — JV

Matt Roush: All I can advise is proceed with caution. I don’t know much about how this suddenly-final season will end—this isn’t a show I follow closely anymore—but no one involved was expecting this to be the endgame, so I would expect the opposite of closure. This really has been a rough year for shows being shuttered with little warning.

And Finally …

Question: When is Yellowstone‘s fourth season starting in 2021? Will it continue on the Paramount Network? Can we see it on regular TV as in previous seasons? — Ty

Matt Roush: The most recent reports, as yet unconfirmed, are that the fourth season will likely start airing in November, definitely not a summer run as in past years. (Many returning series have been delayed this year.) What we do know for sure is that Yellowstone will continue airing in first-run on Paramount Network, not streaming. Its spinoffs, though, will be headed to Paramount+ like so much else these days.

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.)