Ask Matt: ‘Jeopardy!’s Latest Champ

Jeopardy Matthew Amodio
Jeopardy!, Inc.

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.

Is Jeopardy! Champ Matt Amodio Too Successful?

Question: Why doesn’t Jeopardy! set more rules regarding the selection of “answers?” Skipping around and starting with the $1,000/$2,000 options may be a strategy, but it throws other contestants and you end up with a boring route by one contestant. Quite honestly, I end up cheering for the other players and am disappointed when they lose. — Laurie S

Matt Roush: One fan’s “boring” is another fan’s “fascinating,” and where Jeopardy! is concerned, there’s always an interesting dynamic when someone comes along who plays as aggressively and dominates as many games as Matt Amodio has done recently. I’m sure people felt much the same way at times during James Holzhauer’s long run, and Ken Jennings’ before that, but this is how Jeopardy! legends are born. They play by their own rules, and for the show to set some sort of guidelines about which answers they can play and when would violate the spirit of the game. Still, it’s only human nature if you find yourself torn between admiration of a player like Matt while he’s crushing it and feeling bad for those who are being crushed. (I also root for his opponents, especially those unfortunates who find themselves in the negative and don’t get a chance to climb out because Matt is so fast and usually correct in his responses.)

“What’s” Up with Matt A, Anyway?

Question: Does Matt from Jeopardy! know the word “Who?” It seems to me that when they are asking for a person’s name, the correct response should be “Who is…?” but he just keeps using “What’s” for everything, even when that’s not grammatically correct. — Jake

Matt Roush: I noticed that too and was amused when Matt himself was put on the spot about this tendency during an Entertainment Weekly interview. He declined to explain why he does this and said he hopes it doesn’t offend anyone or disrespect the game in anyone’s eyes. I figure that “what” is his default, and as opposed to worrying about how he’s phrasing his reponse, with a “who” or a “where” or whatever, he treats the response itself as a subject, so even a proper name is a “what” instead of a “who.”

How Will Fox Kick Off Thursdays Once They Lose Football?

Question: I recently read that Fox is losing NFL Thursday Night Football to Amazon in 2022. That’s sooner than what was first reported. Now that the Fox network will have another night freed up for programming, do you feel they will just air more WWE or another sport or cheap unscripted shows? I personally would prefer more scripted programming (high-quality fare like the canceled Prodigal Son, The Exorcist, The Passage, etc.). But that’s highly unlikely. My guess is more cheap reality shows. — Fred

Matt Roush: That would be my guess as well, but a lot can happen in a year. Since being surgically removed from the Fox studio by the Disney merger, the independent Fox network has been leaning more toward reality competitions, sports or sports-adjacent programming, and stunts to fill much of the week’s schedule. But that’s not entirely the case, and Fox has had limited success with sitcoms on Thursdays — though losing an anchor like Last Man Standing will make that more challenging going forward. So next fall, when football is no longer on the Thursday agenda for Fox, I’d expect we might see a mix of comedy and reality, or maybe even a high-concept drama. Though not a high-priced genre show like Exorcist or Passage, which didn’t work for Fox then and surely wouldn’t now. (I still think they gave up too soon on Prodigal Son.)

Is Suspending Disbelief Always a Bad Thing?

Question: I’ve been watching AMC’s The Beast Must Die, thanks in no small part to your review of it, and even the most casual viewer can see that there are any number of ways to pick it apart. Scarcely anything about the central gambit is believable on a rational level (Frances would have been booted out of the house by day 2), yet it contains great emotional truth, from its explorations of Frances’s vengeful grief and Nigel’s PTSD to its depictions of the uniquely dysfunctional Rattery family. In an era where standards for TV drama have become so high, is it necessary for a show to be plausible in order to be great? — Ryan

Matt Roush: Thanks for this thoughtful and interesting question. When I reviewed Beast in TV Guide Magazine, I specifically pointed out the improbability of how grieving mother Frances (the terrific Cush Jumbo) insinuates herself into the Rattery household, whose patriarch (Jared Harris) she suspects killed her son in a hit-and-run. Once I got past that — and you have to get past it to enjoy the series (which concludes Aug. 16, or Aug. 9 streaming on AMC+) — there is plenty of worthwhile dramatic meat to chew on, from the performances to the slow build of suspense as Frances stalks her prey, who may be even more dangerous then she is, while the troubled detective lurks in the margins, trying to avert further tragedy. What we have here essentially is an arguably flawed premise elevated by otherwise solid execution in storytelling. I’m not sure Beast ever achieves greatness, but I’d highly recommend it to fans of British and Ruth Rendell-style psychological mysteries.

Doing One’s Duty by Sampling Streamers

Question: While all of network TV was shut down by COVID. I discovered some wonderful British shows, most especially Line of Duty. I saw that the newest season is streaming on BritBox which I am considering subscribing to, but I don’t know what other shows are on it and if it would be worth it. Have you had a chance to check out this streaming platform, and if so do you think there are enough shows as good as Line of Duty to make it worth subscribing to? — Neva

Matt Roush: There aren’t a lot of shows, even in the UK, on par with Line of Duty (see my review), but I bet if you sample what’s on BritBox, you’ll find mysteries, dramas and some classics well worth discovering. Because the pipeline of new product limits my time searching through any streamer’s back catalog too extensively anymore, I haven’t scrolled through BritBox lately, but if you’re an Anglophile, this and its rival Acorn TV are highly recommended. My suggestion is to sign up for the free trial, start watching Line of Duty immediately (you probably won’t be able to stop), and then scroll through the various menus to see if there’s enough to make it worth your while. As with any subscription service, whether a streaming app or a premium cable network, you can come and go at will. For an outlet like BritBox, the main goal is to get you inside the door, which means Line of Duty will have served its purpose.

Two-Timing a Comedy Favorite?

Question: I enjoyed the first season of Comedy Central’s The Other Two and am disappointed to learn that the second season will air on a pay channel streaming service, HBO Max. Any chance episodes will eventually make their way back to Comedy Central at a later date, so that viewers can see them without having to pay extra to do so? — Scott

Matt Roush: This option doesn’t appear to have been announced when HBO Max acquired rights to the show. But that doesn’t mean it won’t happen. HBO Max is allowing some of its originals to appear on the Turner channels (also part of the WarnerMedia empire, unlike ViacomCBS’ Comedy Central), and once the exclusive window for The Other Two expires, it’s possible this sharing strategy might happen here as well. But the caustic show-biz satire of The Other Two wasn’t exactly a big hit for Comedy Central (though what is?) in its original run, despite great critical buzz, so streaming may be seen as a better long-term strategy for a cult-ish show like this. The trend, as I’m sure you’ve noticed, is for many out-of-the-norm series (see Evil) to move to streaming for a brighter future, as streamers continue to disrupt the industry as we knew it.

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.)