Ask Matt: Superheroes on the Decline at The CW?

Batwoman Javicia Leslie
The CW

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.

Has a Power Producer Lost His Superpower?

Question: With the cancellation of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow and Batwoman, does that mean that Greg Berlanti‘s reign as Supreme Overlord of the CW is on the decline? – Brian

Matt Roush: I guess that’s one way to look at it, although it still sometimes seems like every other show out there comes from Greg Berlanti’s amazingly prolific production company (You and The Flight Attendant among those that reveal a diversity of products beyond comic-book adaptations and The CW). I have long wondered when the tipping point would come when a network airs so many of the same sorts of shows, and all it took was a rumored impending sale of the network and a mega-merger swallowing its production company (Warner Bros. Discovery) to halt the proliferation of DC shows on The CW. What really surprised me was that Legends wasn’t given the chance for a proper sendoff after such a long run, but as others have speculated, so long as the Arrowverse still has a foothold (though not as big a footprint) on The CW, we could still see some of these characters from time to time, and that could be an avenue for closure. The fallout from this merger will take some time to process, but it’s also affecting what you’ll see on the Turner networks (fewer scripted shows on TNT for sure), and hoping that HBO Max will come to the rescue is probably a pipe dream.

From Broadcast to Streaming and Back to Broadcast?

Question: Some of my favorite shows from broadcast TV moved to streaming — shows like Evil, SEAL Team, and Lucifer — but I’m in the category of refusing to pay for something I wouldn’t use much of. Is there any chance reruns of those seasons will be offered as reruns on broadcast TV? — Jim C

Matt Roush: I doubt you’d see these shows repeated on their former networks, but it’s not out of the question for shows like these to eventually make their way to syndication, perhaps on cable. (Lucifer is already airing on TNT, and SEAL Team would also seem a natural for this, although Evil is so specifically bizarre I imagine it will remain a streaming-only show for the foreseeable future.) Each of the shows you mention moved to streaming for different reasons — Lucifer rescued from Fox’s cancellation, Evil and SEAL Team moved from CBS to the streaming platform to keep them viable — but in the bigger picture, it’s no secret that these companies see streaming as their future, which is why for the time being these new seasons will likely stay exclusive to the streaming sites.

All Aboard the Memory Train

Comment: In the April 29 episode of Blue Bloods, actor Steve Schirripa’s character Anthony Abetemarco made a comment about a possible threat to his boss Erin Reagan. He commented that the threat was harmless due to him having trains as a hobby. Then I remembered his hobby and where he was killed when he played Bobby “Bacala” Baccalieri on The Sopranos. I thought that was quite funny and had to explain it to my family. — Tom Y

Matt Roush: Once a fan of toy trains always a fan. I love this observation and the fact that Blue Bloods would embed such a knowing “easter egg” for sharp-witted listeners. Let’s hope things end up better for Anthony than they did for Bobby.

An Acting (and Writing) Tour de Force

Question: (Spoiler Alert for those not keeping up with Better Call Saul): In response to the kudos for Michael Mando in the “Rock and Hard Place” episode of Better Call Saul, I’m just wondering if Michael Mando was allowed to go off-script and implement any type of improv. I’m asking because it wasn’t his performance, it was the delivery of his performance that seemed both organic and spontaneous. I am specifically speaking about everything that he said prior to his demise. I hope that he wins an award for his outstanding performance! He really brought the Nacho character to life, added layers of depth and quality that seemed true to himself, although not knowing him, his heartfelt, authentic expressions tell me that he was not so unlike the genuine, caring character that he portrayed. — Pamela P

Matt Roush: Nothing I’ve seen in the post-mortems for this great episode and swan song suggest Michael Mando was doing anything but giving vivid life to the script of WGA Award-winning and multiple Emmy-nominated executive producer and writer Gordon Smith (who also directed the episode). I’d imagine when you’re delivering the words your own director has written, you’d stay close to the script while bringing your gifts, technique, and personality to what is obviously a very heightened situation. These drama categories are always so competitive, but I’d love to see Mando acknowledged for his role as Nacho. This would be high on the list of the best TV episodes of 2022 to date.

Striking Out at the Bowling Alley

Comment: Regarding CBS’s How We Roll, it’s very disappointing that the powers that be took an interesting premise and threw a gutter ball by inserting the usual contrived sitcom plots instead of focusing on what actually happens on the Pro Tour. The only saving grace for the show is Julie White and Chi McBride. Hopefully, it will improve to a strike from the 7-10 split it is now. — David M, Saint Charles, MO

Matt Roush: Hard to see how. How We Roll is wasting a decent premise and some fine performers — I’m hoping to catch Tony winner Julie White soon among an inspired female ensemble in the Broadway comedy POTUS — with such tired writing and execution I couldn’t make it past the first few episodes sent for review. I might give a good sports comedy about bowling a try, but this isn’t that show.

Same Old Same Old

Question: I recently cut my cable and purchased a digital antenna. As a result, I have been watching more of the standard networks and shows, such as the different versions of the FBI and NCIS shows. Though I know they are all highly rated, I’m noticing that the plots for all of these shows are all the same: This person did it, no this person did it, no this person did it. Oh, actually this person did it. They’re getting boring. How about writing a few shows where the plot is totally different and unpredictable for a change? — Dennis K

Matt Roush: My sympathies. You are caught in a procedural vortex, and while it’s true the traditional broadcast networks aren’t giving you much variety to choose from to find an escape route, you might try an ongoing thriller like ABC’s Big Sky, an occasional hospital drama (also formulaic) or maybe even a comedy to break up the monotony. Rule of thumb: If the show has spawned a spinoff (or multiples), originality isn’t the point.

Or, since you’ve “cut the cord” from cable, you might consider investing in a streaming portal and see what awaits you in the digital world. As a final note, and expanding on a recent exchange in this column about a world beyond cable, here’s a tip from D.P.:

“When my Internet provider Google Fiber decided to get out of the cable business, I wound up following Google’s suggestion of subscribing to YouTube TV, which in most markets around the U.S. carries about 60 to 80 of the channels you would usually get on cable. There are other similar services, but I chose YouTube TV because they are one of the few to carry local PBS stations. So, though I no longer have cable TV, I still have most of the channels I used to enjoy on cable. The price for YouTube TV plus my Internet access is about 1/3 lower than the amount I paid for cable and Internet before. (This does not include the amounts I pay for various streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, etc., which I was already paying anyway.)”

Matt again: It’s a brave new TV world out there, and I’ve heard from others who have embraced this as a way to keep plugged into the legacy networks while keeping your options open for the plethora of new streamers that seem to never stop producing intriguing new content.

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.)