Ask Matt: Wash Your Mouth Out, ‘Yellowstone’!

Yellowstone Kelly Reilly
Paramount Network
Yellowstone

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 some Fridays.

Is the Cursing Getting Worse on Yellowstone?

Question: I’ve always enjoyed and was waiting in anticipation for this new season of Yellowstone. All things considered, I knew to expect the usual swearing. Am I being too sensitive when I say that this season they really have kicked the swearing into high gear? I just sit and brace myself, waiting for the next F-bomb to drop! — Beth F

Matt Roush: You’re not alone. Since the new season started, to monster ratings I might note, I keep hearing from folks who, unlike Beth, seem to have forgotten that this is a particularly foul-mouthed cast of characters, sometimes leaving me wondering if Montana hadn’t changed its state motto to “Oro y f-ing plata.” Yellowstone is rated TV-MA for a reason, and while the violence (which has yet to be criticized in my mailbag) and sex are part of it, the main reason is crude language, befitting these ruthless and rude people. I can’t quantify whether the level of profanity has increased from season to season — to my ears, it’s always been high — but I decided once this became a topic to count how many F-bombs were thrown in the last few episodes. You may not be surprised to learn that the average is around 40 — the number goes way up when we go inside the bunkhouse, but Beth (Kelly Reilly) and her man Rip (Cole Hauser) really let it rip as well.

The point of all of this is not to condemn profanity for profanity’s sake when it comes with the territory. But when it is overused to almost comical effect, it becomes numbing and loses its impact. Besides, where do they think they are, Deadwood?

Save That Boy from the Dutton Ranch!

Question: Why do the writers of Yellowstone have to have that bitchy woman (Beth) treat that little boy (Finn Little as Carter) so mean? He does not deserve it. All our friends watch it, that is 24 of us, and we do not like the way she and her (not quite) husband treat him. We are all parents and that is not right. We would never treat our children like that. They are not fit to be parents. If this does not change for the better, we will stop watching!! — Rose S

Matt Roush: Oliver Twist had it easy compared to poor Carter, that’s true, but as Jimmy (Jefferson White) and others have learned over the seasons, it takes a thick skin to survive on Yellowstone. And what I see happening with Beth and Rip taking in Carter as unofficial foster parents is a case of tough love minus the love. Yellowstone is anything but a sentimental show, and it requires a tough constitution even to watch it, I’d think, so while I’m not expecting a group hug or a Christmastime family viewing of It’s a Wonderful Life anytime soon, I find this storyline among the more intriguing this season, to see if the damaged duo of Beth and Rip have it in them to mentor and not destroy this hard-luck kid.

How to Regard the Return of Law & Order?

Question: So will the new Law & Order be a renewal, a relaunch, a reboot, a re-imagining, or simply a return from hiatus? — Rick C

Matt Roush: Now that’s my kind of rhetorical question. What’s in a name, right? NBC officially announced the show’s return — scheduled for Feb. 24, after the Winter Olympics — as the “21st season,” so I’m looking at it as a long-delayed continuation of the mothership that started it all. Obviously, with many new characters among the detectives and district attorneys (most still to be announced), but Law & Order was always known for its regularly revolving door.

Killing Them Not So Softly

Question: Well, I see that another show has decided to so-call “shock” us by killing off a potential major character played by a big-name actor, namely Kyle Chandler‘s early exit from Mayor of Kingstown in once again the first episode. This is again only about one year since Ryan Phillippe‘s similar exit from Big Sky. Once again I question WHY??? Is this another attempt by a network, in this case Paramount Plus, to garner more viewers to its platform or what?? To me this is quite contrived and can really get old fast and be a turn-off. Your thoughts would be appreciated. — JV

Matt Roush: As I noted at the time when Big Sky premiered, it’s a calculated risk to subvert the audience’s expectations so suddenly and darkly. It could easily backfire for someone who was looking forward to a Kyle Chandler show, but it does establish a tone that the stakes are high and anyone’s game for a violent end — although so much of the promotion about the dreary Mayor of Kingstown suggested that Jeremy Renner was the star, the opening scenes felt confusing that he was playing No. 2 to brother Kyle.

For me, the early twist was more effective on Big Sky, but maybe that’s because I was expecting it, having read C.J. Box’s books. (I didn’t expect it in the pilot episode, though, and Ryan Phillippe’s character of Cody had been established in previous volumes, which made his death much more of a lingering shock to readers than to first-time watchers.) As with the profanity discussed in the earlier Yellowstone question, this kind of bait-and-switch can grow tiresome if overused. I’ll admit I didn’t see Kyle Chandler’s death coming, though given what an unpleasant and muddled drag Mayor is turning out to be, maybe he’s the lucky one.

A Happy Wake-Up Call for The Morning Show

Comment: I’ve previously sent you mail complaining about things happening on TV. Today I have positive feedback. I’m here solely to praise Season 2 of The Morning Show. Billy Crudup has been amazing this season (once again) as Cory Ellison. The “Confirmations” episode is one of the best episodes of television I have ever watched and Bradley’s struggles with her brother Hal this season were hard to watch at times but ultimately I think they are doing a good job with that addiction story so far. Karen Pittman is another actor that caught my eye. I expect The Morning Show to do well during the 2022 awards season. I would definitely be voting for Billy Crudup and Reese Witherspoon instead of, say, Jeremy Strong and Sarah Snook from Succession. But we’ll talk about that more next year. For now, I will end by saying that Kerry Ehrin and her team really stepped it up in Season 2. I’m very pleased. — John

Matt Roush: In my Season 2 review, I gave credit to this “slickly entertaining” series and the brilliant casting, but to honor it and its stars above the even more caustic and funnier (which is to say, less self-important) Succession? I think not. That said, always happy to hear from a satisfied customer. This A-list workplace dramedy is great fun to watch, and I will be surprised if it doesn’t make a splash, at least in the nominations, as the awards circuit starts heating up.

Liking the New Guy at NCIS

Comment: I’ve been a fan of NCIS since the first episode (and JAG before that). But it seems I’m in the minority when it comes to the new leadership. I was getting really tired of Gibbs’ angry, rebellious, law-breaking attitude on the show and actually looked forward to the character’s departure as it was foreshadowed. I really like Gary Cole, and his character’s lighter, more interactive relationship with his coworkers is refreshing. The brooding, silent, and secretive boss schtick was getting a little old for me. — Paul, San Diego, CA

Matt Roush: How’s the weather out on that limb? Seriously, though, thanks for sharing. I’ve said from the start that if it was inevitable for NCIS’ marquee star to leave, which it has been apparent was the case for quite a while, Gary Cole is an inspired choice to take the reins. Shows like NCIS are all about giving fans a certain comfort level, and Mark Harmon provided that for almost two decades. I get why longtime fans are still rattled not to see him in charge, but Paul is right that the writing was on the wall for some time, and life (and TV) moves on, though perhaps not with as much of the fan base as before. That’s also inevitable with a long-running TV show.

And Finally …

Question: I’m not a big fan of NCIS Hawai’i. As NCIS series goes, on a scale of 1-10, I give it a 1. So I was looking around for something else to watch at that time and found The Lost Symbol on NBC. But 1 episode and it’s gone? Highly enjoyable, compared to the competition. Is there any hope it will be back on network TV or has it been consigned to streaming which I don’t do? — Rick

Matt Roush: NBC’s one-time promotional airing of Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol came when the series was already well underway on Peacock. As far as I know, there are no plans to air the complete miniseries on the network — which once upon a time, when broadcast networks still aired miniseries, would have been a natural on NBC. (I felt the same way watching Peacock’s gripping Dr. Death miniseries, which a few years ago would have been a hit for USA, and years before that on NBC.) I know I sound like a broken record, but the shift of priorities to streaming platforms isn’t going to stop and is only accelerating. Welcome to the 21st century.

That’s all for now, and until next week after the Thanksgiving holiday. Remember that 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.) Until next time, have a happy and safe Thanksgiving!