Ask Matt: Will ‘Grey’s’ Be ‘Grey’s Without Meredith?

Grey's Anatomy Ellen Pompeo
ABC/Liliane Lathan

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.

If Ellen’s a No-Show, Will We Be There for Grey’s Anatomy?

Question: I see that Ellen Pompeo will only be in eight episodes of Grey’s Anatomy this upcoming season. Considering how long she has been leading the show, it is reasonable why she would want to pursue other opportunities. This is why I’ve never been mad at an actor for choosing to leave, even though I haven’t liked the circumstances of some exits (*cough* Alex *cough*.) Still, seeing less of Meredith at this point seems like a bad idea. She hasn’t worked at Grey Sloan on a regular, consistent basis since being temporarily fired at the end of season 15, so it seems like they have been preparing for this possibility. But her name is still on the show itself, and the finale ended with her needing to stay to help the hospital rebuild. Now she’s just going to leave again?

If Ellen Pompeo wants to do something else, that’s okay. But that being the case, they really should give the show a final season centered around her and let the show come to its natural conclusion. I know that this is counterproductive from a business perspective because the show makes money and ABC would like to keep it going indefinitely. But I found last season to be consistently frustrating and wholly unsatisfying, and that was with Meredith being on every episode, albeit sequestered in a boring Minnesota storyline. Dragging Grey’s out in a lesser format with Meredith being in fewer than half of the expected number of episodes to be produced just seems cruel and does damage to the show’s reputation and legacy. I’ve been on this train since 2005 and don’t exactly want to jump off, but it is also disheartening to see the show limp on in such poor condition. What do you think? — Jake

Matt Roush: Looks to me like this 19th (!) season will be the litmus test ABC and Shondaland need to see if Grey’s Anatomy has a life beyond Ellen Pompeo and the show’s namesake, Meredith Grey. The theory has long been held that when she leaves, the show’s over, but this sort of half-in/half-out existence will likely reveal if the franchise can still thrive with her being either entirely absent or just a recurring presence, which I could see happening in the future. But I agree that having Meredith just limp off the stage without a strong story would be a disservice to the character, the fans, and the show. I won’t prejudge, but it does feel like the curtain is ever closer to closing on Grey’s.

Are Daytime Soaps’ Remaining Days Ticking Away?

Question: Does Days of Our Lives moving to Peacock spell the beginning of the end for the daytime soap? Do you see this move having any effect on the remaining soaps on broadcast TV? — Scott Y

Matt Roush: Hardly the beginning of the end, this is more like the next-to-last gasp toward the end for the genre. The beginning of the end began quite a while ago, when the networks began shedding some of the format’s biggest titles. (I’m still in shock over All My Children, and that’s been off ABC for more than a decade!) What’s most significant about Days’ departure to Peacock on Sept. 12 is that for the first time, one of the Big Three networks which once aired multiple soaps during the day will now be without a single daytime drama on their linear lineup. (This will leave only General Hospital on ABC and The Young and the Restless and The Bold and the Beautiful on CBS.)

A Swift Kick to the Curb

Question: I was expecting some closure on the series finale of Tom Swift. Instead, we were left with cliffhangers that made the episode seem more like a season finale. What gives? Do they at least plan to make a movie to tie up the loose ends? — Bonnie T

Matt Roush: Forget a movie, at least on The CW, which is shedding shows right and left in advance of a potential sale of the network. (Maybe the next season of Nancy Drew, from which Tom Swift spun off, can pay some lip service to what happened next in Swift-land.) What most likely happened here was that the producer/writers were taken by surprise at the show’s quick cancellation, given the previous track record of CW shows that typically went on for years with similarly puny ratings (until the recent purge). The ax no doubt fell too late in the game for the show to be able to course-correct and provide an actual ending for the story. This is just the latest cautionary incident in leaving viewers hanging, and my take is always that if producers aren’t already guaranteed a next season, they should take pains to craft a satisfying season-ending (even if there are some dangling storylines) rather than set up a bunch of cliffhangers that will leave viewers more frustrated than they already are that the show won’t be back.

The Mystery of the Missing Mysteries

Question: My wife and I have always enjoyed the whodunit mysteries on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries. Access to that channel is one of the reasons we have our particular cable package. But it’s been quite a few months since there’ve been any brand-new mystery movies: dramas and rom/coms, yes, but not mysteries. I recall that some actors “defected” from Hallmark to another channel, but will there be any new mysteries before 2023? Or even in 2023? — Paul L

Matt Roush: I don’t have information on which, if any, of the channel’s mystery-movie franchises will be back. Of the movies in the pipeline that have been announced through September, only one fulfills the “Mysteries” part of the channel’s moniker. Currently scheduled for Sept. 25: Francesca Quinn, PI, starring Mallory Jansen as the titular private eye, who teams with her detective ex (Dylan Bruce) to solve the murder of her fiancé. It’s possible that could be the first in a series, but the ratio of romance-to-mystery movies seems to be weighed in favor of love story/romcoms at least in the near future.

Will We See More of the Future Queen?

Question: I love Starz’s historical period-piece dramas. The one I’m currently obsessed with is Becoming Elizabeth. I know that with these kinds of dramas they are usually one and done, however, this hasn’t been marketed as one and done. Now that the season finale has aired, is there any chance that the show will get renewed or is it heading for a cancellation? — Josh

Matt Roush: Starz hasn’t announced anything yet, but this story seems especially ripe for another season or two, if only because there’s still so much more history to dramatize before the princess becomes Queen Elizabeth I. This feels different from the channel’s adaptations of various Philippa Gregory historical novels, which exist on a continuum but can also feel more self-contained. I expect we’ll be seeing more of young Elizabeth, just can’t say how soon.

Let the TV Tell You What’s Going On

Question: In regards to the letter writer who complained about the dark scenes in The Terminal List, I have a suggestion. Viewers should try Audio Description. Even if you have good eyesight, it’s really helpful. We use it because my husband is legally blind and it helps him a great deal, and me too! We use it with DVDs, network TV, streaming TV, etc. It’s typically found in Audio Settings (the same place you would switch the audio to a different language), just choose Audio Description. There’s also a great website to find out more about this service and all the platforms where it’s available. If you think this would be helpful, please pass the word! — Gay

Matt Roush: Thanks, Gay, happy to pass on this advice. I usually only hear about this function after viewers have accidentally triggered Audio Description in their settings and reach out to me in a panic because they can’t understand why their TV is describing the very things they’re watching. For those with sight impairment, this is a boon, and much as I sometimes put on closed-captioning for some UK/Australian shows to help decipher what I’m hearing, using Audio Description for scenes shot in the dark sounds like a good fix to me.

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.)