Ask Matt: Is ‘Joe’ Too Out of the Ordinary?

Ordinary Joe James Wolk NBC
Fernando Decillis/NBC
Ordinary Joe

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.

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Is Keeping Track of All Three Joes Too Big of an Ask?

Question: I watched the first episode of NBC’s Ordinary Joe as it sounded unique. But I have to admit to whiplash with three scenarios (Joe as nurse, cop, and musician) and a cast that changes roles in each of these. I’m already anticipating shifts in time like This Is Us which is going to be difficult to keep track of especially if they take big breaks in the airing schedule. Have you viewed future episodes that would convince me to keep watching? — CM

Matt Roush: Ordinary Joe is one of those shows you’re either going to have to accept for what it is, or not. The premise of the series is to follow each Joe and the people in his world — who don’t change, although their relationships to him do — through these three disparate life paths. Each episode will be structured around a unifying event — in this week’s episode, which I found stronger than the pilot, Joe reckons with the personal legacy of 9/11 (when his policeman dad perished) in very different ways, each reflecting the Joe he has become. I’ve seen through next Monday’s (Oct 4) episode, which isn’t quite as strong, but I’m compelled to keep watching and to recommend others to do so, because Joe is trying something different and ambitious, which you can’t say about 90% of network TV. While it’s a lot to keep track of, there are visual cues — his hair, the color palette in the cinematography — to remind you which Joe you’re watching, and I’m enjoying the process of comparing the differences in each timeline. This isn’t a show you can casually watch, I’ll concede that, but how is that not a refreshing change from shows you could basically write yourself?

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A Romance Budding in the Shadows?

Question: Will the current season of What We Do in the Shadows feature either a one-time fling or the start of an ongoing romance between Guillermo (Harvey Guillén) and The Guide (Kristen Schaal)? The reason why I’m asking this is because the fifth episode seemed to contain moments that both situations could be possible. — Alex

Matt Roush: That might be fun — these are both wonderful characters, and it’s always a pleasant surprise to see Kristen Schaal when she drops in — but I’m not aware of any such storyline. And even if I were, I wouldn’t tell, because as I suppose I should remind everyone at the start of a new fall season, this isn’t a spoiler column. Whenever possible, I try to preserve surprise and follow the network’s lead in terms of what to tease about what’s coming next.

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Look Who’s Back in the CSI World

Comment: I love Matt Lauria and have since Friday Night Lights. But though I’m happy to see him on my TV again, he’s playing a brand-new character on the CSI: Vegas reboot — even though he played an FBI agent on the original CSI. — Rachel H

Matt Roush: Good catch. He only appeared in a handful of episodes in the 2011-12 season as Agent Matthew Pratt — and this was well after William Petersen had departed the show, so I’m not even sure if I was still watching regularly at that point—but he seems happy to be back in the CSI universe, this time with a steadier gig.

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MIA and RIP

Question: What happened to the character and actor who played Jackson West on The Rookie? — Roy

Matt Roush: [Spoiler Alert for those who haven’t watched the season premiere of The Rookie]: Titus Makin Jr., who played Jackson, has left the show, so the producers killed off his character in the season opener. It’s unclear if this was his or a creative decision, but it appears that they wrote him out knowing he wasn’t coming back for this season. Makin has a whole other music career and identity as Butterfly Ali, so maybe that’s where we’ll hear from him next.

Royally Peeved at the Emmys

Comment: So the Emmys have come and gone again with the Best Drama award once again going to The Crown, which to me is another great disappointment — I am so sick and tired of this obsession with the royal family, give me a break already. I am certainly hoping that Better Call Saul and Ozark return this year and will win to stop this awful trend. If they reward anything similar to The Crown, I would sooner hope that it would be a dramedy such as the great Succession which does return soon and realistically characterizes the rich as how contemptable many of them really are. — JV

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Matt Roush: I suppose it will surprise you that this was The Crown’s first Emmy win for Best Drama you may be confusing the Emmys with the Golden Globes, which I would never recommend. Given that neither Succession (the 2020 winner), Saul nor Ozark were eligible this year, and this was one of the strongest seasons yet for The Crown thanks to the Diana and Margaret Thatcher storylines, I take no issue with its success this year. Maybe if the show hadn’t swept the acting categories, including one we’ll discuss next, it wouldn’t seem quite so egregious. But this was always going to be The Crown’s year at the Emmys, so next year let’s all hope the voters will spread the wealth more equitably.

The Nominations Weren’t All White

Comment: Several days after the Emmys show, I’m seeing a lot of “Emmys So White” nonsense and my head’s going to explode. My issue is NOT that more than 40% of the nominees this year were actors of color, but more that most came from shows that I thought were not good (Lovecraft Country), some I didn’t watch (Pose), and categories where they may have been deservedly nominated (black-ish) but were out of their league given the competition or were shoehorned into a category (supporting in comedy) where Saturday Night Live sketch artists compete with sitcoms. (Once again, the Emmys need to better define categories.)

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I can’t speak to Michael K. Williams losing to Tobias Menzies because I was long gone from Lovecraft before he was even in it. Or Billy Porter or Mj Rodriguez because I didn’t watch their show. But Ted Lasso (and its cast), The Crown (and its cast), and Mare of Eastown (and its cast) were all superb — and to denigrate any of the winners from those shows by making it sound as if the voters were somehow prejudiced against actors of color from other shows is, IMO, ridiculous and lessens how deserving all the winners were.

I love Olivia Colman, but I thought Emma Corrin was far more deserving in that category. The Queen’s Gambit was superb and let’s face it, without Anya Taylor-Joy maybe it doesn’t become the phenomenon it was, and I thought she deserved Best Actress in a limited series. But can I argue with Kate Winslet‘s win? No. Here’s where I would have rooted for a tie. My point is: Not being able to get into the heads of the voters and not wanting to fall back on the trope of “some years the nomination’s the win,” I have to say that this year I agreed with most of the winners and would’ve agreed with two or three others per category, especially in cases with multiple nominees in one category from one show. But to editorialize after the fact and blame losses on “Emmys So White” is unfair, stupid, and wrong-headed. — Michael E

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Matt Roush: This is obviously something of a political and cultural minefield, but you make your points fairly, while admitting to blind spots such as the brilliant Pose cast and Michael K. Williams, who gave a marvelously complex and moving performance within a flawed but fascinating series. As you point out, the Academy as a whole did a creditable job in nominating people of color and diverse shows — though while I am a big fan of Mare of Easttown and The Queen’s Gambit, I’m still astonished that Amazon’s powerful The Underground Railroad never got much traction.

Realistically speaking, in a year when The Crown was positioned to sweep the drama awards, and Ted Lasso in comedy, this was not going to be a particularly diverse winners’ circle. (Even Tobias Menzies seems to agree that Michael K. Williams was deserving with his gracious after-the-fact dedication of his win to his peer.) I tend to agree that some of the commentary after the awards was hysterical, not to mention predictable. Of the major awards, only Williams’ loss truly surprised me. (Well, Anya Taylor-Joy’s as well, and Emma Corrin’s, but hard to argue with those winners.) The challenge for the Emmys, and for other awards groups, is to continue to advocate for inclusion in the nominating process and then see where the chips fall.

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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.)