Ask Matt: How Early Is Too Early for Christmas Specials?

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Courtesy of CBS/©Classic Media

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.

When Red-Nosed Day Comes Too Soon

Question: I’m sure you get complaints about this every year, but “holiday creep” is out of control this year. Our local PBS station ran a full afternoon of classic Christmas specials on Sunday, Nov. 21. The topper is CBS airing Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer the Monday before Thanksgiving. Who do they think they are, Hallmark or Lifetime? — Mary Kay

Matt Roush: And here I thought the “holiday creep” (love this phrase) was the Grinch — who also made an early arrival this year, although airing the day after Thanksgiving on NBC feels a bit more appropriate than Rudolph showing up before Turkey Day. For what it’s worth, CBS is repeating Rudolph and the Frosty the Snowman specials on the more seasonal date of Dec. 11, but I get your point. I also prefer my holiday traditions to be timed closer to the actual holiday. [For the record, now that Thanksgiving is behind us, I am officially open to listening again to my favorite holiday music.]

In Defense of Yellowstone’s Tough Love (and Talk)

After the previous column’s assault on Yellowstone’s graphic language and the subplot of Beth and Rip taking in a young boy to help raise, albeit roughly, I expected to hear from the show’s considerable fan base, which hasn’t deserted the hit over its adult content. And sure enough …

Comment: I think that the way Beth and Rip treat Carter on Yellowstone is based on how they both grew up. It says something to their character that they took in the boy. We see the relationship with Beth and her mother and how she did not treat her very well. And blaming her for her death really gives you an insight to why Beth is the way she is. As for Rip, he loved his mother dearly and she was taken away from him and he had to learn to survive on his own. And he has done pretty well. I’m excited to see how this storyline plays out because I truly feel they are going to be tough but loving. The way they treat him is not like loving suburban parents raise their kids, but the game and dynamics are completely different on the Yellowstone ranch. — Katie

Matt Roush: If they were acting out of character when it comes to how they’re treating this boy, that would be more problematic to me than the way the storyline is actually playing out. I sometimes wonder what show people thought they were watching the first three seasons, given the shock some are expressing over Season 4. Or as this unsigned e-mail puts it:

“If y’all live on a ranch, rough talk is part of the landscape. Live with it or move to the city.”

Ringing This Fan’s Bell

Comment: The second season of the new Saved by the Bell is so funny and even better than the first. I think they did a better job integrating the original cast and ideas with the modern reimagining. I also appreciated that they gave Kelly and Zack a lot more nuance than the first season did, helping the new kids grow and mature instead of basically making them the villains of the new show. That being said, for all the Easter Eggs to the original, there were surprisingly few plotlines involving Screech (Dustin Diamond), including one (where Zack lets Screech run the final race of a competition to impress a girl) that would have (no spoilers) worked in the season finale. In fact, they actually explicitly retcon it out of existence when Zack says he never would have let someone else run a final race. Hopefully, Zack will shed the lies cast on his character even more in Season 3! — Justin G

Matt Roush: This is a show I was not in the right place at the right time (or the right age) for the first time around, so neither generation really speaks to me. But I’m glad fans are enjoying the reboot.

What About the Other Ghosts?

Question: I have enjoyed the CBS show Ghosts from the beginning. I noticed in the most recent issue of TV Guide Magazine that the headless ghost that is usually seen walking around in the background was included in the cast picture. Is there any chance that in the future, there will be a story about this ghost or will he be one of the ghosts in the background, like the ones in the cellar? — Annie Marie

Matt Roush: I’ve dealt with the headless ghost issue before, and last time I checked with the network, the answer I got suggested these background ghosts (including the headless guy) may come in handy as needed. As we’ve learned as Ghosts has developed, not every ghost in the core cast is seen in every episode, and that’s probably a good thing. The recent introduction of the Revolutionary War Redcoat ghosts from the outside shed is another sign that the possibilities for storytelling are as broad as the comedy, and I’m hoping the show will be around for a long enough time that every ghost with a good story will have his or her day, including those unfortunates in the basement.

Better Red Than Dead

Question: Just one man’s opinion on a show many probably stopped watching several seasons ago, but I’m enjoying The Blacklist this season. I always found Megan Boone the weakest member of the cast, and her departure means her character’s constant angst and the endless MacGuffins are gone as well. This season seems more of a return to the show’s Mission: Impossible-ish roots (Steven Hill’s version, not Tom Cruise‘s). They may still be playing out the string, but the show still feels more alive than it has in years. And James Spader and his hats just never get old. — Rick C

Matt Roush: This is gratifying to hear. One of the reasons I drifted from this show, and many like it, is the overall weariness that sets in when a series is built around a deep mythology or (worse) relationship tease with few satisfying answers that are always strung out past the point of caring anymore. The best part of The Blacklist for me was always the blacklist capers and the nature of the criminals the Task Force sought, not the Red-Liz backstory dynamics. And yes to the hats. Also: Steven Hill! How many even remember there was a Dan Briggs before there was a Jim Phelps? Well played.

And Finally …

Comment: Another quick note about the issue of TV shows promoting and then killing off big names quickly: The same thing seems to have happened on Apple’s Invasion, which touted Sam Neill — the biggest name on the show — as its main star only to seemingly kill him off at the end of the first episode. We’re up to episode 8 this week and still no sign of him, suggesting he’s gone for good … or is he?? Either way, that’s another one to add to the list of this new pattern. — Nick

Matt Roush: Fair enough. And kudos for sticking with that series way longer than I managed to. Sam Neill’s early departure really does feel like a bait and switch, and while even if I knew whether he turned up on or before the finale I couldn’t tell you (my spoiler policy), the fact that he’s been MIA for the bulk of the season reinforces the downside of this kind of stunt casting.

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.)

Invasion - Apple TV+

Invasion where to stream