Ask Matt: ABC’s Less-than-‘Wonder’ful Scheduling, ‘Good Fight’ Endgame, ‘Vampire’ Love

Elisha Williams, Dule Hill in The Wonder Years
ABC/Matt Miller

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] and follow me on Twitter (@TVGMMattRoush). Look for Ask Matt columns on many Tuesdays and some Fridays.

A Summer Displacement for The Wonder Years

Question: You’ve probably heard by now that the second season of ABC’s The Wonder Years reboot will air in the summer. What do you think of this decision? The season finale aired last May. Holding it until midseason is one thing. But now, by the time it returns, audiences won’t have seen a new episode for over a year. ABC has not prioritized scripted television in the summer for a long time, so it will probably be surrounded by a sea of repeats and reality shows. This would also seem to complicate things for the cast and crew of the show. If episodes don’t even begin to air until summer, how and when is ABC going to make a renewal decision? Are the cast and crew just supposed to sit out this pilot season? This seems to put the possibility of their future employment at risk if a) they can’t go out for anything due to their Wonder Years commitment and b) ABC later decides to cancel the show. Can you see a positive in here? It would be a real shame for ABC to just throw this show away, but I’m not sure how else to look at this. – Jake

Matt Roush: This series was conspicuously absent from ABC’s midseason scheduling announcement, and I’m afraid I don’t see much of an upside to this. It’s always possible that ABC will show the series some love and give The Wonder Years an early renewal before the second season begins airing, but that seems unlikely. If that doesn’t happen, it’s hard not to see how it could be anything but over at that point, although I’m not privy to business matters like contract extensions and the like, and it’s sweet of you to care about the circumstances of the cast and crew when they’re in limbo like this. Why they wouldn’t give this a shot alongside their big new hit Abbott Elementary in hopes of a boost is beyond me.

Can This Marriage Be Saved?

Question: [SPOILER ALERT] It has been a while since I got mad at my TV. It is bad enough that The Good Fight has to end. But I recently watched the latest, next-to-last episode “The End of Democracy.” Why oh why did they feel the need to do what they did to Kurt (Gary Cole) and Diane (Christine Baranski)? Call me a hopeless romantic, but if I truly felt one thing was solid on that show, it was the two of them. Was it to make way for Gary Cole doing NCIS? I truly love this show and have followed them along with it (though I do wonder at times what drugs they take … kidding), but this has truly saddened me. This is the part where you quote MST3000: “Repeat to yourself, it’s just a show.” I should really just relax. Thank you for letting me lie on your couch and vent. Diane, please tell Kurt to get back in the car and … Kurt … get back in the car and go back to Diane! — George

Matt Roush: My only possible response to this (being spoiler-averse before something airs) is to remind you that there is still one more glorious episode to go this week (available Thursday), so it’s not over until it’s over. And I too wish The Good Fight weren’t over. I’ll miss this show more than most. I’d rather address the Diane-Kurt relationship in more general terms, and say that I felt their split in last week’s episode was quite realistic when you consider the opposite worlds they inhabit politically, and when push came to shove regarding Diane’s future post the current apocalypse, what choice did she have? The actors’ chemistry, though, is staggering, which has made this subplot of their romance and unlikely marriage a bright spot in our toxically polarized landscape. I doubt NCIS had much to do with any of this. Obviously, the producers would have limited access to Gary Cole, but given that these were the show’s final hours, they could simply have finished the show without rocking this boat. But that’s not the Kings’ (Robert and Michelle) way, and I guess I’m surprised they didn’t get to this point sooner.

Seduced by the Vampires

Question: My husband and I are really enjoying Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire. I’d say after Andor, it’s our favorite show we’re watching right now. Do you know how’s it’s doing and whether AMC is happy with it? (Before the days of streaming, it was pretty easy to tell based on ratings how a show was faring, but today, I can’t make heads or tails of it.) I love that the show is really taking its time with the story from the original novel, and the idea of Louis as unreliable narrator is a clever way to account for the changes from the source material. In some episodes, my favorite scenes have been the banter between Daniel and Louis, and I’m excited we’re going to learn more about their original interview through flashbacks. Do you know whether the plan is to include stories from other Vampire Chronicles novels in this series, or will there be spinoff series that focus on The Vampire Lestat, Queen of the Damned, etc? (I’m especially interested to see how they treat Memnoch the Devil.)

By the way, my husband and I stopped halfway through Episode 1 and bought a subscription to AMC+ to get rid of the commercials that kept interrupting the dramatic tension, so if that was their intended strategy, it worked! — Kirk F

Matt Roush: AMC will love the fact that Vampire drove you to the streaming site (where you can watch most AMC programming a week early, and without ads). My sense is that you aren’t alone, and a surge in viewership and subscriptions for this, smartly paired with the final season of The Walking Dead, surely pleased the network. Not that it really mattered, because AMC was already all in on the Anne Rice universe. Vampire was renewed for a second season before it began, and AMC has rights to the full catalog of Anne Rice titles encompassing the Vampire Chronicles and the Mayfair Witches, including the crossover books. Whether they’ll be produced as spinoffs or continuing under the Interview with a Vampire banner remains to be seen.

A Sensitive Topic Handled with Sensitivity

Comment: Can we PLEASE give a shout out to the writers of the Nov. 1 episode of New Amsterdam? They dealt with the sensitive subject of abortion in the very best ways I’ve ever seen, from the patient who refused chemo because it would harm her baby, to the doctor who shared her experience with two abortions of her own with young students, to Iggy who delivered an apology that went against his principles. I am SO sad this show is in its last season. — Sharon

Matt Roush: This is such a third-rail topic, but how can any medical drama ignore it? I agree that New Amsterdam handled the subject with unusual skill and empathy, truly for all sides (except, maybe, the protestor harassing patients, for which there is no excuse, though not to be met with violence). I was glad to see the great Debra Monk (as the hospital board’s Karen) get a big moment as well, recounting a horror story from the pre-Roe days. I’m sure there are many who objected to this episode for even existing, but I’m glad Sharon’s take was the one that made it to my mailbag.

The Future of The CW

Question: Why would Nexstar, the new owners of The CW network, want to air mostly reality shows? Why would the new execs think that anyone that watches scripted shows like Walker, The Flash, Riverdale and Superman & Lois prefer to watch unscripted shows instead? While I understand reality shows are much cheaper to produce, some of the shows that are on the network are filmed in Canada or Georgia, where it’s cheaper to film and produce than shows that are filmed in L.A. and New York. And do the new execs not realize that most of the network’s viewers are the people that stream all of the scripted shows online, or record it on their DVRs? I really hope that the new people in charge leave some room for scripted shows, even if some of them are foreign acquisitions. – Chris B

Matt Roush: Isn’t it clear by now that the current CW viewer is not of much value to the new owners? They’re scrapping most if not all of the current slate of youth-oriented fantasy/superhero adventure programming, and we’ll see what survives. (If I had to guess, I’d say Walker and The Winchesters and possibly the All American franchise are safe for now, because of their built-in audiences, but I could be wrong.) The answer to your questions boils down to one word—profitability—which these shows might have been to Viacom/CBS and the then-Warner Bros. because of streaming and international sales, but the new owners are looking to transform The CW into a more general-appeal network with more cost-efficient programming. I don’t endorse this move, figuring that by cheaping out it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy for irrelevancy, but then, I could never make sense of The CW’s model of making the same type of show over and over with such puny viewership results as a loss-leading strategy.

And Finally …

Question: In light of today’s television landscape, do you consider it safe to say that none of the Big Four broadcast networks would commission a family-oriented series similar to Flipper, Lassie, The Waltons or Little House on the Prairie? Would a major streaming service like Netflix or Disney+ do so? – Chris

Matt Roush: Actually, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see a broadcast network revive one of these family-friendly chestnuts or something similar. The streamers, too, for that matter. They’re all crazy for pre-sold IP (intellectual property), and The CW (the current version, anyway) is already in the Waltons business, with a second holiday movie scheduled in two weeks. If your question is meant to suggest that family-oriented TV is out of fashion, I’m not sure that’s entirely true, either. Sometimes it seems everything old is new again, and as the TV audience continues to fragment, I expect we’ll see all of the platforms go back for the future to see what sticks.

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. (Please include a first name with your question.)