Ask Matt: When the Emmys Become the Streamys

Jason Sudeikis the Emmys 2021
Cliff Lipson/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.

Emmys Operate on an Uneven Playing Field

Comment: [Responding to the Emmys review about streaming scoring a hat track in drama, comedy and limited series] We need two awards shows. It seems that we have too many shows across two relatively distinct formats for one awards show to handle fairly. I’m a tail-end Boomer, so I can still recall the days when we had just the three major networks. Used an antenna on the roof. Then came cable. And premium channels. You had to pay extra for those, so if a show like The Sopranos won an award, you may not have seen it if you just had a basic cable package. And now we have streaming services. They cost extra, too. The networks have limitations on skin and language that the premium cable and streaming services do not. I recall watching Designated Survivor, newly picked up by Netflix, and hearing Kal Penn drop an F-bomb within the first 2 minutes. We’re not on a network anymore, Toto. Not saying it was gratuitous. Just an example of how the story can be told differently when barriers are removed. And who is going to watch an awards show if they haven’t seen more than half the shows? So let the networks have their Emmys. Let there be Streaming Emmys. Let there be Streamys! — Steve G

Matt Roush: This is a popular sentiment, one I tend to discuss every year around nominations time. But with the Emmys having finally reached the point where streamers took all three top prizes (The Crown for drama, Ted Lasso for comedy, The Queen’s Gambit for limited series), it seems inevitable that we’d be addressing it again. Instead of segregating the streamers, the more likely route would be to find a way to be more inclusive of the broadcasters, and the TV Academy would need to create new categories for that purpose. I seriously doubt we’ll see this anytime soon, but when even the very best of broadcast TV (a small but worthy subset) doesn’t have a chance of being recognized at the Emmys, that day may eventually come.

The Emmys are already bloated enough, so the logistics of giving everyone their due would be a nightmare. But for streamers only to compete with streamers, ditto for premium cable and what’s now seen as the neglected kids’ table of network TV would ultimately diminish the worth of the Emmy Award. This year, I was most excited when HBO’s Mare of Easttown made a surprisingly good showing against The Queen’s Gambit, and Hacks’ writing and directing wins kept Ted Lasso from the comedy sweep most had expected. These are not obscure series, and while the streaming universe can be overwhelming (and to some, prohibitively costly), it’s where the industry is heading. The Emmys are already there.

No Aloha for NCIS Hawai’i

Comment: Call me an old curmudgeon, but I don’t plan to watch NCIS: Hawai’i. While I appreciate it having the first female lead in the franchise, that’s just not enough to counteract my resentment that NCIS: New Orleans was dumped in favor of what you yourself call “this routine spinoff.” Everybody and their brother’s dog is pitching stuff shot in Hawaii: sometimes actually on Hawai’i, sometimes on other islands. (In fact, one huge reason I like Fantasy Island is that its tropical paradise is entirely filmed not in Hawaii but in Puerto Rico.) Granted NCIS: New Orleans may have been more costly to produce, but the same unique flavor was there as in shows like Treme and, on rare on-location occasions, True Blood. It really was unique. Of course, I know I’m not in any of the demographics most prized by advertisers when they’re considering which pieces of bait to throw out to catch the real “product” of TV shows, which is paying customers for whatever they’re selling, so I’m well aware that no one really cares that I won’t be watching. But I care. — Lucki W, Chicago

Matt Roush: The fact that you care is more than enough reason to share this, and I’m sure you know you’re not alone. I’m indifferent to most spinoffs, especially in the procedural genre, feeling they contribute to the perception of the broadcast networks as creative deserts, but I understand fans’ attachment to them, especially when the setting sets them apart. And much as I loved visiting Hawaii for the first time earlier this year (not the big island, though), I would agree that it’s been overdone, especially on CBS.

An Anchor Gone Missing

Question: What happened to Anthony Mason on CBS Mornings? I thought he was an informed, intelligent co-host. — Richard C

Matt Roush: No argument here. He’s a class act, and CBS News agrees. This is an instance of a news division recognizing an asset like Anthony Mason may be better suited for something other than an early-morning anchor chair. When they decided to revamp, move and rename the morning show, they also made the smart call to free up Mason to become a lead culture reporter who will be seen across the spectrum of programs, on CBS Mornings no doubt but also certainly on CBS Sunday Morning, where he is no stranger. I see this as a win, although I’m sure his fans will miss seeing him every day.

A Fallen Star’s Hidden Gem

Question: Please answer a question that none of us can find the answer for. Several seasons ago, SundanceTV ran a continuing series about two best friends that came back from Iraq to their hometown in the deep south. In the first season, Christina Hendricks from Mad Men was the girlfriend. These guys go on to solve murders, etc. I thought one of the guys was Michael K. Williams, who recently died, yet this show is never listed in any obituary. The shows was called ??? and ??? — Beth C, Rancho Palos Verdes, CA

Matt Roush: You’re thinking of Hap and Leonard, a terrific series that aired on SundanceTV for three seasons from 2016-18. Michael K. Williams was Leonard to James Purefoy’s Hap, and they were Vietnam veterans in Texas who kept getting caught up in baroque and violent misadventures, though the show was heavily laced with dark humor. This series deserves to be better known — happily, all three seasons (six episodes each) are streaming on Netflix — and if it was neglected in many of the appreciations of Williams’ too-short life and career, that’s because his work on HBO was so much more visible, and it’s where he created his most memorable roles on The Wire, Boardwalk Empire, and Lovecraft Country.

A Raw Deal

Comment: I haven’t read any comments about the big move of Let’s Make A Deal, but “my” opinion is, it SUCKS! My mother watched this show religiously all her life until the end and I have been watching for as long as I can remember and I’m now 70. It was a great “morning” show. I’d grab my coffee and that’s how I’d begin my day. After that, I didn’t give a care what was next. WHY FIX what’s not broken??? Drew Barrymore must be having ratings issues is my guess. What “IS” the reason??? TOO BAD! This move is awful. Now I start my day doing work around the house for that hour. That 9:00 am hour doesn’t get me to even turn ON my TV! So good luck to Let’s Make A Deal because as they say, “I’m outta here!” I will NOT be watching in the afternoon. I hope this rotten move was worth it. They lost a LONG-time fan! — Suzy D, Palos Hills, IL

Matt Roush: And this is what happens when you mess around with someone’s daytime TV routine. For the record, this isn’t the case in every market — Drew’s syndicated talk show is airing in afternoon time periods as well as in the mornings, depending on the location — and these moves are at the discretion of the local affiliate, which is where Suzy should be directing her ire. (Where I live, Drew airs at 9 am/ET, a very competitive hour for talk TV, immediately followed by Let’s Make a Deal and The Price Is Right, which from a programming point of view makes sense for the high-energy game shows to air in a two-hour block.)

Cheering Clickbait

Comment: In TV Guide Magazine’s Cheers & Jeers section, I have to absolutely disagree with Damian Holbrook’s Jeers to Clickbait! The “payoff” with this Netflix thriller was that it was one of the most riveting “who did it” American-produced crime shows that I have seen in a very long time — my husband and I could not wait to watch the next episodes, and the ending was mind-blowing! It is still a highly recommended show by almost everyone we know. (Word spread very fast!) It had the quality of the fine crime shows that air on Masterpiece, Acorn, and BritBox!! — Patricia B

Matt Roush: Having found myself in many “agree to disagree” situations during my years as a TV critic, I’ll just point out that on the Rotten Tomatoes meter, the audience/user average score (65%) is considerably higher than the critics’ average (54%), so this corresponds with the mixed reviews I’ve seen, including Damian’s Jeer. (I’m Switzerland on this one, because Clickbait falls into that ever-widening abyss of shows I haven’t found time for yet amid the streaming glut.)

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.)