Ask Matt: Is ‘La Brea’ Meant to Be a Joke?

La Brea cast NBC
Sarah Enticknap/NBC
La Brea

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.

Will We Be Going Back to the Magical Sinkhole?

Question: I cannot stop watching La Brea, which is so bad that it is funny, kind of like Sharknado except I think it is supposed to be a serious drama. Are there enough people like me out there watching this show to keep it on the air? — Scott H, Houston

Matt Roush: I find myself in a similar situation, watching aghast at how inept so much of La Brea is while almost enjoying it for its cheesiness. (And I’m not much of one for hate-watching anything. Who has time anymore?) Still, I’d be shocked if NBC doesn’t bring this one back. It seems to be doing well by whatever network TV’s standards are anymore. It does make some noise (possibly guffaws) and watching this reminds me at times of my squandered childhood spent in front of shows like The Time Tunnel and Land of the Giants. If I were that age now, I’d probably be digging La Brea for all the right reasons.

Rust Left a Sour Aftertaste

Comment: [Major spoiler alerts!] That was a pretty depressing finale for Showtime’s American Rust. Billy will most likely be brain-damaged or worse, his mom will now always be extorted by her husband who suspects her of arson, Lee’s dad has committed suicide, Del may be in trouble with the Pittsburgh police detectives, and Isaac finally comes home to confess to the murder, little worm; too little too late. What a cesspool of a town is Buell! Hopefully there’ll be no Season 2!! — Judith M

Matt Roush: Thank you for sparing me the ordeal of watching the last episodes. I gave up after maybe the fourth or fifth, and I’d bet not very many made it even that far, because Rust just felt like a pretentious wallow in misery from the start. Despite some actors I admire, I just couldn’t get invested. I’ll be very surprised if Showtime orders a second season of something this downbeat and unpleasant that seemed to generate almost zero buzz.

Did Baptiste Go Too Dark?

Comment: I’m just weighing in about the latest season of Baptiste on Masterpiece Mystery! I was so looking forward to it after having enjoyed the previous season filmed in Amsterdam. However, after two episodes and even a couple of attempts to go back in case I would change my mind, I had to give up. Too many flashbacks. Too dark. Too angst-filled. Too many twists and turns and complications and the assumption that I was going to remember details from last season’s storyline. I will have to content myself with Call the Midwife and Grantchester. Thank goodness for those two shows. Pamela

Matt Roush: I liked this more than Pamela, if only for the Fiona Shaw factor, but I’ll concede that Baptiste, a spinoff of The Missing (which aired on Starz), is a lot edgier and more violent than the Masterpiece norm. In my initial review, I noted that it was “unusually grim” for the franchise, and was absolutely not suitable for casual viewing, “as the action continually moves back and forth over 14 months.” (This sort of structure is also the weakest aspect of the otherwise gripping Hulu docudrama Dopesick.) This was definitely an outlier for Masterpiece, and I’m not surprised the current second season was it’s last.

SEAL Team Went Blue

Comment: A while back I posed the question of whether the move of SEAL Team to Paramount+ would also entail abandoning broadcast content standards. A recent synopsis of the first episode after the move confirmed that there were multiple f-bombs dropped. Seems as though the show for which I enlisted has been KIA. Even if I were to subscribe, I won’t be watching. — Tommy T

Matt Roush: This is the least surprising thing I’ve heard in some time. I’ll be curious if some fans might rally around an unsanitized version of a military drama where the characters talk like actual soldiers under pressure.

Bring On the Dancing Baby!

Question: Will there be an Ally McBeal remake? We recently watched the original full series (though they would have done well to stop before the final season) and we were taken by how forward-thinking the show was, way ahead of its time. We could use this type of magical realism mixed with a romance backdrop, filled with quirky, imperfect characters. More please! — Marco G

Matt Roush: There was a report to this effect back in March, but spring and summer and now fall have come and gone since then with no news or updates, so I’m assuming it’s either stuck in development hell for the time being or that wiser minds have prevailed. I would counter that Ally McBeal was very much a show of its time, and while many of its issues would still be relevant, this seems trickier than most to try to recapture that special lightning in a bottle. If this were to be a reimagined remake with a new cast (like ABC’s The Wonder Years), that could be interesting. But it’s hard for me to envision the original players hitting those same neurotic beats without being even more annoying and indulgent than the series sometimes felt the first time around. Still, reviving so-called “intellectual property” is the trend of the moment, so anything could happen. And since Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist went away, I’ve been pining for some musically driven whimsy.

In Defense of This Season’s Dancing

Comment: You obviously get a great deal of negative response regarding Dancing with the Stars, so I wanted to offer a somewhat different take (not on the change of hosts, as that has never made sense). I think the most recent one has been a very good season. Having Len Goodman back has been a big plus, as has the return of a small live audience. The themes (like how they were always so important in the early days of American Idol) have been entertaining in their own right, with the Grease and Queen weeks being especially notable successes, and the dancing has been top-rate.

The all-female JoJo Siwa/Jenna Johnson combo has proven to be far more than a gimmick, Melora Hardin has shown that a 50+ female celebrity *can* be a legitimate threat as a competitor and not just early-week cannon fodder, and Iman Shupert has dispelled the myth that basketballers are too tall to be enjoyable partners for the pros in the series. There was even a Paso Doble (from Hardin) recently that actually resembled a Paso Doble! Unlike in past seasons, a “bad” celebrity dancer hasn’t been propped up by off-screen, often politically motivated, voting (ala Sean Spicer) while the “best” celebrities were eliminated far too early (only Spice Girl Melanie C was a notable casualty, but she probably wasn’t a threat, performance-wise, to win anyway). Personally, I’ve handled any lingering issues with Tyra Banks having replaced the Bergeron/Andrews duo by mostly just ignoring her and her most intrusive habits, while also getting a good snicker or two out of some of her outfit choices (Britney Spears Week was a whole lot of bad on her part) while being surprised that she admitted during Grease week that she’d never seen the movie until a few days earlier (which didn’t really help her cause as far as being seen as a “good fit” as host).

In some ways, the Tyra criticism has staved off some of what could have been true raised eyebrows about all the technical errors that have popped up since she came aboard, and never seemed to happen during all the live show years of the past, such as (last year) her being given and reading the wrong results one week, and (in recent weeks) the wrong group intro package being aired before a group dance and (minutes later in the same show) her coming back out of commercial with a dead microphone. All in all, though, after a rocky season last year, this year’s DWTS has been a truly enjoyable one after a few seasons (including when the wonderful Bergeron was hosting) that felt a bit like a chore to watch. If people who were previous fans of the show dropped out simply because of Tyra’s presence, or (and you know, unfortunately, there were some) JoJo’s teaming with Jenna, they’ve really missed out on one of the show’s better seasons in quite a while. — Morgan

Matt Roush: I’m glad to hear that Dancing enjoyed a bit of a comeback this season — I agree that from what I’ve glimpsed of the current cast, they raised the bar somewhat from recent years, and I know I would have rooted for Melora Hardin. It’s also true that the caliber of “stars” during the last few Tom BergeronErin Andrews seasons left a lot to be desired, but the hosts were the least of the reasons why the show was going downhill.

Out for Blood

Question: CBS has just released its 2022 midseason schedule and Blood & Treasure is not on there! Has CBS forgotten that the show existed? Are they holding it over for summer? It seems that all the articles on the Internet haven’t mentioned B&T not being on the midseason schedule, and it’s been THREE YEARS since B&T’s first season aired! Will Season 2 of that show ever see the light of day? — Chris B

Matt Roush: Looking at the midseason lineup, I can’t imagine where they’d even schedule a show like this that was so obviously designed as an escapist summer series. I have no information on when or if a new season will air this summer or otherwise, but Blood & Treasure still appears on CBS’ press site as an active series, and it if had been discontinued or truly canceled, it probably would have been removed. So don’t lose hope.

And Finally …

Comment: I thought ABC’s Queen Family Singalong was a great show. Next up should be ABBA; use your influence with networks. — Jill P

Matt Roush: I love that you think I have that sort of pull with the networks. (If I did, we’d still be watching Prodigal Son on Fox.) But this is a great idea, and while timeless, ABBA is newly hot again with a new album and new visibility. (I enjoyed the recent Sunday Morning segment on the band’s history.) And as anyone who has seen Mamma Mia in person knows — I’d as soon forget about the movie version(s) — it’s almost impossible to sit still and not at least mouth the words when those catchy songs start playing.

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.)