Ask Matt: Can ‘Designated Survivor’ Survive the Melodrama? Plus: ‘Gilmore Girls’, Sports Overruns and More
Welcome back to the weekly Q&A with TV critic (also known to some TV fans as their “TV therapist”) Matt Roush, who’ll address whatever you love, loathe, are confused or frustrated or thrilled by in today’s vast TV landscape. 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. Note: Ask Matt will now be posting on Fridays most weeks.
Question: I really want to continue to like Designated Survivor, which as you’ve noted had a great pilot, and I’ve generally enjoyed the subsequent episodes too. But they’re just piling on more and more absurdity. I have a pretty high threshold for this (I still watch Scandal and How to Get Away With Murder), but don’t you think the FBI should have some sort of protocol for an agent being compromised in case of a kidnapped son? And someone in Kirkman’s office should have been able to find out about the son’s disappearance the day before. These aren’t difficult dots to connect. And I just saw that Designated has undergone a third showrunner change this year. What do you think this means for it, and how soon will we begin to notice any changes/improvements/different approach of the new showrunner on air? Also, ABC is running ads saying that Match Game will air after the sitcoms in January. Does this mean Designated will be going on hiatus? While I appreciate the intent to run as many originals in a row as they can, do you think a lengthy hiatus will help a show that’s continuing to drop in the ratings already? Might the hiatus and the show-runner change be somehow connected? — J
Matt Roush: There’s no doubt Designated Survivor is going through more than the usual freshman-year growing pains, and my real problem with the show is that it can’t decide whether to be The West Wing (a political procedural with soap opera leanings) or 24/Homeland (a terrorism thriller), and the two narrative strands aren’t coexisting comfortably—or, worse, credibly. I’m not aware if the winter hiatus has anything to do with a creative course correction and a change in showrunners, or if it’s just part of ABC’s winter plans to give the show a rest so that when it returns, there will be fewer interruptions and/or repeats. As I write this, ABC has yet to release its midseason plans in detail, so can’t say how long Match Game will be used as a temporary filler. (These game shows are an awfully cost-effective way to plug holes.)
Designate the President’s Kids Out of Existence
Question: Regarding the complaint about the paternity subplot on Designated Survivor, do you think this is the show’s version of 24‘s Kim and the mountain lion? I really wish that they’d figured out they don’t need the son around at all. Hell, they should’ve just made the new president and first lady childless. Would’ve cut down on at least some of the annoying subplots. — Jay
Matt Roush: I’m not sure I’d go so far as to render the Kirkmans barren, but that brat is right up there with Kim and Homeland’s Dana Brody as being a potential show-killer. Anything involving the president’s personal life has come off as so maudlin by comparison with the rest of the show. That needs to be fixed, or abandoned entirely.
On Likability and, Again, Designated Survivor
Question: A couple of comments about the most recent mailbag: I agree wholeheartedly with Spirit-Chaser: I’ve got to like someone on a show to keep watching it. Why would I want a whole cast of depressing, unlikable people in my home every week? I watched the first four episodes of Good Behavior before bailing, hoping Michelle Dockery’s character would show me some reason for wanting to watch her journey, but it never happened. NYPD Blue lasted for 12 years, because Andy Sipowicz’s journey to redemption was something we could all root for. Whether it was the writing or the quality of Dennis Franz’s interpretation, there was something in that character that made us keep watching. Whatever Andy had, Letty doesn’t.
As for Designated Survivor, I bailed as well, because it was starting to look like 24: a crisis every 60 minutes. When the show started, it was noted in several places that the premise was ripped off from Tom Clancy’s Executive Orders. If only they had hewed closer to that story line (plenty of crises, yes, but also a lot about rebuilding the government). Unfortunately, it became obvious that the model was more 24 than Clancy. I bailed out before his daughter was chased by a cougar.
Finally, since there was a lot about The CW in the mailbag: Where is iZombie?! — Rick
Matt Roush: That’s a great comparison of today’s notion of an anti-hero with a truly epic character like Dennis Franz in NYPD Blue. Andy’s demons felt earned, real, not contrived just for the sake of being twisted and unpleasant. Bringing NYPD up also reminds me how the TV crime drama has diminished in recent times. Imagine a character this rich, this uncompromisingly played, on any of the Chicago or CBS procedurals. Point taken as well on Designated Survivor, and my, doesn’t that 24 cougar storyline have mythical legs? As for iZombie: You may have missed The CW’s midseason announcement, which revealed that the horror comedy will return for its third season with a two-hour opener on Tuesday, April 4, after the transplanted DC’s Legends of Tomorrow wraps its season the previous week.
What a Revolting Development for Good Girls
Question: Were you as shocked as I was that Amazon dropped Good Girls Revolt after one season, and just as the story was getting going? I hope someone will pick up this timely period piece. What do you think are the odds? — Lisa
Matt Roush: It’s always surprising when a streaming service acts like an actual old-fashioned network and cancels a show prematurely—especially one with this much buzz. I had some issues with the show, but thought it had a terrific story to tell, about female journalists rallying to get credit (and pay) for their work at a Newsweek-like magazine which only allows them to operate as unsung researchers. There are reports that the show’s studio (Sony) is aggressively shopping it around, and I hope that happens, as this really deserves at least one more season to continue, or possibly conclude, the story.
Is There a Generation Gap in Gilmore Fandom?
Question: I am finding the reactions to the Gilmore Girls revival to be fascinating. I am in your camp, in that I found the whole thing to be genuinely delightful (particularly “Winter” and “Fall,” both of which were Amy Sherman-Palladino’s episodes; coincidence?). I thought the ending was excellent, if abrupt, and it made the Christopher scene rational upon reflection. One of the things I always loved about GG was that it often had characters I loved do unlikable things, and yet the story was (usually) better for it.
One thing that I have found fascinating is that, in my observations, there has been a generational divide in the response to the Gilmore Girls revival, particularly that last scene. My teenage and early twentysomething relatives were crushed, disappointed and livid. But relatives and friends in their late 30s and 40s (and up) found familiarity and solace in the ending. Perhaps it has to do with the worldview and lessons learned, but it strikes me as intriguing that for one group the ending indicated discord, and for the other group the ending indicated purpose and peace. I, for one, don’t think there needs to be another minute of the show. I think this was the ending; it was beautiful, and clean, and strong (kinda like Friday Night Lights, which I also don’t think needs the much rumored movie). — Erin
Matt Roush: That’s a fascinating theory, and while I wouldn’t want to over-generalize about any one age group’s feelings, I am struck by the fact that so many fans seemed to want Rory to be some sort of wish-fulfillment role model, and the way her story turned out (at least at the very end) dashed their expectations. I’m with you about a continuation of the series, at least for now. This is how Amy Sherman-Palladino always intended to end the series, and so much of A Year in the Life seemed to be a valediction for the beloved characters in and around Stars Hollow. Another homecoming might feel too forced—although just try to stop me from watching if it happens. (And I couldn’t agree more about Friday Night Lights. There’s no topping that finale.)
Missing The Missing
Question: When will Starz be showing Season 2 of The Missing in the U.S.? It’s already aired in the U.K., and I can’t wait to have the fabulous David Morrissey back on my TV screen. I couldn’t find anything about it online. And my mother wanted me to tell you thank you for mentioning Dr. Jeff in your recent column. She’s glad to hear he’ll be back. — Diane
Matt Roush: More good news. Starz will soon announce that the second season will air this winter, and if it’s even half as compelling as the first, we’re all in for a dark treat. The new season involves a missing-person cold case in Germany, and the grieving parents are played by Morrissey and Keeley Hawes (most recently in the delightful The Durrells in Corfu). The connecting thread between the two seasons is the return of Tcheky Karyo as French detective Julien Baptiste.
Weapon Firing on All Cylinders
Question: I am absolutely delighted with the new Lethal Weapon. I didn’t think it would stand up to the movie quality with Mel Gibson and Danny Glover. But I find I like it even better. Do you think this show will last a half-dozen seasons? – Jay F
Matt Roush: That’s a rather specific target, but I gather you’re asking if Lethal Weapon has the potential to run multiple seasons, long enough to be a player in syndication. My guess is yes, and that this is precisely the sort of show Fox was hoping to develop to be a utility player now that Bones (returning Jan. 3) is entering its final season.
Why Weren’t Fall Duds Yanked Sooner?
Question: Why aren’t this season’s rookie shows Notorious and Conviction on ABC and Pure Genius on CBS (along with The Odd Couple in its third season on CBS) just being put out their misery and being canceled right away, instead of hanging around for the duration of their original episode order (except for Notorious, which was cut from 13 to 10)? I know that the networks aren’t quick to cancel low-rated shows these days because of time-shifted DVR and online viewing ratings, but all of these terrible low rated shows aren’t doing very good in L+3 and L+7 ratings either! All of these shows deserve to have the old-fashioned quick hook instead of being just dead shows walking! – Chris
Matt Roush: Maybe you weren’t around during the days when there was an outcry any time a network would yank a show after just a handful of airings, setting off accusations of itchy trigger fingers. I can’t see how the new normal of exercising patience with new shows, or letting them play out the episodes that have already been produced, is a real problem. It’s not like you’re being forced to watch these stinkers, and some of the feedback I’m getting (on Notorious, anyway) indicates there’s at least a small following for some of these shows. And what’s the alternative for replacing them, repeats?
Not a Good Sport About Sunday Overruns
Question: I am fed up with CBS Sports and how they mess up the Sunday night lineup. Surely I’m not the only person who feels this way. It’s bad enough when the games run long and bleed over into the start time of 60 Minutes. But the worst is when the game ends a little early and they switch to another game that throws the schedule off at least 15 minutes. And then there are the times that the game ends about five minutes late, they still switch to another game instead of starting 60 Minutes. I detest sports and this behavior makes me dislike them even more. Can anything be done? – Pamela
Matt Roush: Blaming CBS won’t do you any good. They’re just doing their job. The real issue—and I’m shocked it took so long this fall for the question to arise again, as it does most every year—is that sports trumps all in the world of network programming, and given what they’re paying to show these NFL games, there’s no incentive to do otherwise. Keep in mind that this dilemma only affects the East and Central time zones for the most part, and CBS remains committed to a schedule of four hour-long shows on Sundays. (Some weeks they push the start time back to 7:30/6:30c for 60 Minutes, but that rarely works, either. And there are times when the overrun goes so long that they scrap the 10/9c show—these days, Elementary—on both coasts, but that’s rare.) You can write or otherwise complain to CBS, but it won’t do any good. Football is still king, and the only real solution is for CBS to follow Fox’s lead and vamp after the late game, starting the Sunday lineup at 8/7c. (That would mean airing 60 Minutes at 8/7c, with only two shows following. Again, not likely to happen.)
Writers Guild Snubs black-ish
Question: So black-ish still can’t break into the Writer’s Guild Awards nominations, but new streaming or cable shows immediately show up. Even Westworld, which is hardly universally loved critically, but it’s on HBO, so bow down. It’s really absurd how the industry as a whole treats shows on broadcast TV as lesser than, simply because it’s on broadcast. Black-ish is stellar, even just to pick the “Hope” episode from February and last week’s “Being Bow Racial” deserves it. If it was on FX or Netflix, you know it would be nominated. Even This Is Us can’t make it into the drama category before Westworld, though I’m glad to see an episodic nomination for it. Also Speechless got an episodic nod in writing for last week’s episode, which I thought was the best of the series thus far. Still, it’s ridiculous that there are no nominations for black-ish. —BigTVFan
Matt Roush: There is a definite stigma to broadcast network TV when it comes to awards recognition. (Only This Is Us made the series cut this year, in WGA’s New Series category.) I’m maybe even more staggered that something as fearless and original as Crazy Ex-Girlfriend would be ignored for its writing. Too bad Showtime passed on it. If it were airing on premium cable, it might have had a better shot at being taken seriously. I agree with you about the merits of black-ish and its standout episodes (especially “Hope”) being at least as worthy as multiple episodes of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, although I was surprised to see a Son of Zorn episode sneak into that episodic category.
Question: Will there ever be a crossover between Criminal Minds and NCIS? If there has been, what season was it? — Scott
Matt Roush: I’m pretty sure this has never happened—in part because most crossovers only tend to happen between shows that are produced by the same team. But really, could you imagine two less similar procedurals in tone? I couldn’t see this working even if the stars (and producers) somehow aligned.
That’s all for now. Thanks as always for reading. I 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). Or submit your question via the handy form below: