Ask Matt: ‘Law & Order’ Revival No Laughing Matter

The cast of Law & Order: Jerry Orbach (Det. Lennie Briscoe), Angie Harmon (Asst. D.A. Abbie Carmichael), Sam Waterston (Exec. Asst. D.A. Jack Mccoy) and Jesse L. Martin (Det. Edward Green)
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Law & Order

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.

What Happened to NBC’s Funny Bone?

Question: I’m here to talk about how NBC is reviving the original Law & Order. I can certainly see the appeal of having three hours of these shows (One Chicago‘s success), but would some variety be so bad? I was surprised when NBC’s fall schedule had no comedies. I’ll admit I was intrigued by and planned on watching Law & Order: For the Defense, but I certainly would have preferred if that 8 pm/ET Thursday hour had been taken by Mr. Mayor (Season 2) and Superstore (Season 7). The network’s upcoming comedies Grand Crew and American Auto are also shows I will be watching. Law & Order: For the Defense didn’t go anywhere, and everything I’ve heard about The Blacklist recently revolves around how it should have been canceled four years ago. Now they’re reviving a show that was canceled 10 years ago? Who doesn’t like to laugh? — John

Matt Roush: It is a sad state of affairs when a network once renowned for its “must-see” Thursday comedies can’t find room for even a little levity in its procedural-clogged lineup. Much was made of this when NBC’s fall schedule was announced, with all of its comedies (sadly, not including Superstore, which ended last season) held to midseason. That said, as reboots and revivals go, bringing back the Law & Order mothership after it was so abruptly canceled a decade ago isn’t the worst idea. Like the CBS revival of CSI: Vegas that begins next week, going back to the source of the superior original that started the trend can remind you what made it so appealing before we started experiencing franchise/spinoff fatigue.

Will La Brea Go the Way of Lost?

Question: I’ve just watched the first episode of NBC’s La Brea and it looks like it might be an interesting new series. That said, I am also having flashbacks to the first season of Lost. That show also started out promising, and no matter how weird and confusing it became, I had already drunk the Kool-Aid and stuck with it to the end. With one of the worst series finales ever, it was six seasons of wasted time. I’m hoping La Brea will not follow in Lost’s footsteps. I will definitely give the show a chance, but if it starts showing signs that it’s going in the same weird and confusing direction that Lost did, I will not hesitate to bail on it. Have you already seen some upcoming episodes and in your opinion does it seem to be heading in a no-nonsense direction? — JC

Matt Roush: I haven’t seen beyond the pilot, which only screened for critics shortly before the premiere, so I imagine we’ll all be experiencing this special effects-laden series more or less simultaneously. But before we speculate on its future, I disagree vehemently that however one feels about Lost’s controversial finale, that does not erase six seasons of sophisticated, challenging, and spectacular entertainment. And unless La Brea raises its game quickly and steeply, it’s not worthy of being mentioned in the same sentence. (Unless it’s how I phrased my preview earlier this week as “Lost for dummies.”) With that caveat, I’ll happily cheer the show on for its unabashed cheesiness and chutzpah. Network TV could use more big swings of B-movie escapism like this.

A Local’s View of La Brea

Comment: I watched the series premiere of La Brea as a So-Cal (Southern California) resident, familiar with the area where this is set, so I’ve been excited to see this series since I saw the first promotion. However, I might have to re-watch it just to see if they missed any clichés in this pilot: separated, hard-drinking, ex-military guy separated from his wife, angsty teens, etc. Add that to the obviously computer-generated animals in the sinkhole, and I’m not sure this is going to be a show I can watch without giving myself a headache from eye-rolls. I think I owe it to the actors to give it a couple more episodes to establish itself, but I’m not overly hopeful. What is your take? — Paul

Matt Roush: I’m only hopeful in the sense that La Brea opened to promising ratings, so those many Olympics promos seem to have paid off, and I’m happy these days if anything looks like a hit on the beleaguered broadcast networks, even if it’s unlikely ever to end up on my yearly top-10 list the way Lost often did.

Fred also wrote in to say he was “embarrassed to say I enjoyed the La Brea pilot. Of course, it’s not Lost quality (or anywhere close) but I’ll stick with it unless I get bored. Do you think we’ll ever see a network series on par with Lost again?”

Matt Roush: Now this last question really intrigues me. As I’ve been talking up the new season on radio and other platforms, when this subject comes up, I’ve said repeatedly that if Lost were to arrive on the scene today, no way would it be airing on ABC. It would be on Hulu or some other streaming service. That seems a given the way the industry is heading.

A Final La Brea Observation

Question: How many others have noticed that the crack in the sky in La Brea looks an awful lot like the crack through time in episodes of Doctor Who? Can we expect to see a TARDIS in future episodes? — LW

Matt Roush: You’re the first one to mention it to me. Maybe there are only so many ways to depict a magical time portal. But to your rhetorical question, I doubt even the Time Lord can fix what ails these poor souls who fell into the land of the lost.

Giving the Hook to the Hybrid Tony Awards

Question: What the heck was CBS thinking with the Tony Awards? I have always loved to see the actors we may not know win awards, so I was excited to hear they would be back this year. Only to find out the broadcast was a two-hour commercial for Broadway (that’s OK but I wanted to see the awards). After research, I found that they were streamed earlier in the evening. Well, thank you for nothing, CBS. I don’t stream and missed an award show I was really looking forward to seeing. Hopefully next year they will get it right. — Lesley D

Matt Roush: To put it mildly, this was not an ordinary year for the Tony Awards, delayed for more than a year by a pandemic that shut down the 2019-20 Broadway season at midpoint. (No musical revivals nominated, only one musical lead actor, and so on.) For a while, it looked like the ceremony, whenever it happened, might be online only — more zoom theater, whee! Furthermore, occurring off-cycle in the fall when the Tonys typically air in June, this uneasy hybrid was likely a one-year experiment. (That said, if Paramount+ could continue to present the craft and special awards that are presented early and haven’t aired on the CBS telecast for years, I’d watch.) I’m sorry more didn’t get to witness the first two hours on Paramount+, with Audra McDonald as the classiest of hosts, some gracious speeches, and at least one blockbuster performance from Dreamgirls icon Jennifer Holliday. But given how puny the ratings were, even by Tonys standards — not a surprise given the timing — we’re lucky even this much of a Broadway celebration made it on air.

Is That All There Was?

Question: I’m a big fan of Vera, the hit British cop show on BritBox. Recently a new season was announced, and two new episodes were dropped, a week apart. That was two weeks ago. Do you have any news on why we’re not seeing more episodes? Maybe the pandemic is to blame, and I know the episodes take longer to produce (90 minutes each). But BritBox made a big deal out of a new season of Vera, and what—only two episodes? Love your column, and thanks for your help. — Kathy

Matt Roush: The British are known for their notoriously shorter seasons, but happily, there’s more Vera to come beyond the two movie-length episodes that dropped last month. Production of the 11th season was disrupted because of COVID concerns, and the remaining episodes will be available in 2022.

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.)