Ask Matt: Tyra’s Two Left (Well-Shod) Feet on ‘Dancing With the Stars’

Tyra Banks Dancing with the Stars
ABC/Christopher Willard
Dancing with the Stars

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.

Memo to ABC: Dancing Isn’t America’s Next Top Model

Question: Who designs the clothes that Tyra Banks wears on Dancing with the Stars? Is it the producers or Tyra or someone else? In her attempt to be unique, she actually looks ridiculous because her clothes are very unbecoming. I wish Tom Bergeron could come back. Erin Andrews and Brooke Burke always looked so elegant and brought a sophistication to the show, which the show has lacked these past two seasons. On another note, I am happy to see the judges making the decisions on the bottom two contestants each week. After all, this is supposed to be a dance contest, not a popularity contest, as it sometimes turned out to be in seasons past. — June

Matt Roush: Kudos to June for finding anything positive to say about Dancing with the Stars in its current incarnation. That’s very rare in my email bag since the transition from the original host to Tyra Banks as star and executive producer. I figure the clothing comment is more of a rhetorical question, but in the show’s credits, Natalia Barzilai is listed as Tyra’s costumer (along with a tailor, stylist, and the usual hair and makeup credits), though with Tyra calling the shots, it’s all on her, quite literally. I’ll always see this as one of the more unnecessary and polarizing makeovers of a franchise that was losing steam for reasons that had nothing to do with its host.

Most of my mail on the subject has been like this comment from Susie K: “I have finally stopped watching DWTS entirely. I thought I’d get accustomed to Tyra Banks and how bad she is at hosting. Now we are offered “stars” no one ever heard of. Am I alone? I have been a faithful viewer until recently. I was sorry when Tom Bergeron left and can’t think of a good reason to replace him with Tyra Banks.”

Matt again: Even with Tom and Erin, the show was having trouble finding “stars” worthy of the title, combing through the flotsam of reality “personalities” and only occasionally finding someone able to break through the way, say, Helio Castroneves did early on.

What’s Hallmark’s Hangup?

Question: Why is it the Hallmark channels have no problem with murder, yet have a huge problem with both coarse language and intimacy, even the suggestion of intimacy? I mean you can kill someone, but don’t say “Damn” while you’re doing it. Or God forbid that a couple, even a married one, even hints at having sex. I guess all those children we see on Hallmark are pod people. — Alan, Orlando

Matt Roush: OK, this made me laugh. I have rarely heard anyone complaining about the lack of vulgarity or explicit content on TV. Hallmark prides itself on being a safe haven for those who decry the coarsening of language and sexual content on prime time and elsewhere. Yes, there’s murder in their cozy mystery movies, but as my mom used to say about Murder, She Wrote back in the day, they tend to be “nice” murders, rarely if ever graphic. There’s plenty of opportunities to gross yourself out elsewhere, and my main beef with Hallmark product is its sameness and predictability-which is also what many of its fans crave. But again, thank you for giving me a smile for the day.

Missing and Defending Big Sky

Question: Do you know when Big Sky will be back on? This past week it was off, and this week Queens is on in its place, and I was wondering what is going on with Big Sky.— Natalie

Matt Roush: The show (with Grey’s Anatomy as its helpful lead-in) returns Nov. 11 after a two-week break. The first week (Oct. 28) was a traditional Halloween pre-emption, and this week’s absence can be seen as ABC’s attempt to boost Queens’s profile in its early weeks. I don’t know if there’s any other contributing factors to these and a few other high-profile shows taking a week or two off early in the season, but I’d advise getting used to more interruptions in the weekly flow of episodes, as Covid precautions make production more expensive and time-consuming than before, and it’s possible more shows will need small breaks during the season to catch up.

Comment: We get something on network TV like Big Sky that isn’t formulaic like NCIS, FBI, or SVU, and everybody is upset about a show with quirky characters and bizarre mysteries. Thank goodness for Big Sky. I for one have enjoyed every episode so far. I happen to like the serialized format that tells the equivalent of two mysteries a year. It irks me that in this day and age, people would rather have everything tied in a bow after 45 commercial-free minutes. Hoping the streaming audience gives this show enough of a boost to last a few more years. — OF

Matt Roush: In principle, I agree with this. One of the reasons I’m still watching Big Sky is that I’m on board with the premise and have long been a fan of the C.J. Box novels that are the (superior) source material. I enjoy seeing it go over the top, although as I’ve said earlier, by trying to continually top itself the show is becoming more ludicrous than suspenseful. I also like how its setting distinguishes itself from all of the big-city or Hawaii-set crime dramas, but wish it were telling its story less clumsily and obviously. I’ll stick with it, though, and I sense that the network will, too.

Where’s the International Star Power?

Question: I’ve tried to get into the new FBI spin-off FBI: International but am finding it difficult to really engage with any of the characters because of a clear lack of star power. It seems odd to me that CBS would agree to a spin-off like this without any real household names as their lead characters. FBI proper has Missi Peregrym, Jeremy Sisto and at its launch had Sela Ward. FBI: Most Wanted has Julian McMahon and in the past had known performers like Kellan Lutz and Keisha Castle-Hughes [who just returned]. Why do you think FBI: International was cast without any known stars in its core ensemble? Is this the reality of network TV now that none of the known stars want to work on broadcast? — Matthew C

Matt Roush: I wouldn’t generalize to that extreme, just as I don’t see the various FBI series as being particularly star-driven. And while it’s true International has the least recognizable ensemble in the franchise, series lead Luke Kleintank has some notable credits (especially Prime Video’s The Man in the High Castle), and maybe because the focus of the show is on international intrigue, casting a globally diverse crew of relative unknowns was the point. In the bigger picture, I have often argued that TV is better at creating new stars than repackaging old favorites, which could be what they’re hoping for here, so maybe it’s just as well that they didn’t try to shoehorn a big-name TV veteran into the mix. (Although if no one breaks out, there’s always time.)

A Different Sort of Cancel Culture

Question: I love Lior Raz of Fauda and with great excitement looked forward to watching his new show Hit & Run. However, the show has been canceled after one season, and my understanding is there is a tremendous cliffhanger at the end of that one season. So help me, Matt. I am dying to watch this show, but why should I? If Netflix didn’t believe in it, and the result of watching will leave me with anxiety of wanting to know what happened, why watch? But oh my, I truly want to! What would you do? – Michael R

Matt Roush: If you’re that big a fan, I’d use the old adage that forewarned is forearmed and go for it. You already know this is all there is, so it’s not like you’ll be shocked when you get to the end, or any more disappointed about Netflix’s decision than you are going in. So why deprive yourself of the chance to watch one of your favorite actors do his thing, even if the story doesn’t get to reach its natural conclusion. This is the same argument I use when people ask why they should ever watch another TV show when one of their favorites gets canceled. For all of the frustration when a show gets prematurely axed, I figure I at least had the experience of enjoying the show for the time it was on.

And Finally …

Question: What has become of This Is Us? Will it return in January? Is this the last season? — Rachel A

Matt Roush: While this may seem obvious to many, it’s a fact that TV scheduling is often confusing. In this case, it was known early on that NBC was holding This Is Us till midseason, in part so the show could air straight through to the end without significant interruption. The networks haven’t officially announced many dates yet for the 2022 midseason, but you can count on This Is Us to return to Tuesdays, probably in January, once La Brea wraps. And it will be the show’s final season, which was always the plan.

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.)