Ask Matt: Year-End Yays and Nays for ‘The Americans’, ‘This Is Us’, ‘Outlander’ and more
Welcome back to the 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. Look for upcoming Ask Matt columns on most Fridays and Tuesdays.
Question: I read your column and stories all the time in TV Guide, and I just wanted to say thanks for including both This is Us—which is awesome—and The Americans in your “Best TV of 2016” list. I’m always happy to see that you continue to have faith in The Americans. It’s such a well-written and well-acted show, and I wish it would get the far-reaching recognition it deserves. At least we get two more seasons, and I can’t wait! — Bonnie
Matt Roush: Thanks for the positive feedback. The Americans may be late to the awards parties, but it has been a constant presence on my (and many other critics’) best-of lists from the start. I felt it was important to give This Is Us prominent exposure because it’s such a rare bird: an emotional family drama on a broadcast network that’s actually a hit. I always hear that this is the sort of show people want to see, yet so seldom do they succeed. All in all, I’m pleased with the variety of shows I spotlighted this year. As you can imagine, though, there were a number of omissions that prompted readers to write in. But first, a contrarian view of This Is Us.
Question: Am I the only person in the entire free world who isn’t totally in love with This is Us? I’ve watched it and tried to love it, but the jumping back and forth makes me nuts. If they could just do it a little less, I might enjoy it more. Same reason I stopped watching Quantico. — Jill
Matt Roush: Most of the pushback/backlash I hear has to do with how manipulative the show is in jerking tears, but I don’t mind. I’m a sucker for that sort of thing, and the characters are so well defined and so well played I’m happy to play along for now. And while I have gone on record about how annoying the time-shift gimmick has become on suspense melodramas like Quantico and How to Get Away With Murder, in this case I can’t agree. The two timelines give the show a fresh way of telling family stories, reflecting who the adult kids have become by how they were raised. And given that the flashbacks are our only window to observing Milo Ventimiglia as one of TV’s most admirable dads ever, that’s always time well spent.
Question: The omission I’m most surprised by was Rectify. Thought was one was a shoo-in. But you can’t include everything. – Ryan
Matt Roush: That is true, and thanks for being so nice about it. (Others weren’t quite so forgiving.) Rectify was probably the toughest show to leave off the list, because to the very end the show never lost its quiet, moving dignity. But as I attempted to narrow the field, my priority was to include shows that I felt defined the year in TV. And with only one or two slots available to what I’d consider “cult” (as in, stubbornly under-the-radar) TV, I opted to go with Crazy Ex-Girlfriend for its fearless energy and comic and musical inventiveness. It’s unquestionably a more uneven piece of work, but so audacious and entertaining I couldn’t bear ignoring it.
Question: Come on now … what about Outlander!!!! – Susan
Matt Roush: What about it. It’s a terrific series, but Season 2 will never be my favorite. (It tackled my least favorite of the books I’ve read to date.) Let’s see how Season 3 turns out, and I’ll consider it. And if you saw the actual year-end issue of TV Guide Magazine, which I always encourage my online readers to do, you would have noted that Outlander was prominently featured in our staff’s picks, a supplemental list that allowed me to overlook other favored series (including Transparent, Orange Is the New Black, American Crime, The Night Of and Braindead, among others).
Question: My top 10 would have to include ABC’s Speechless. — James
Matt Roush: I considered this—in fact, I had toyed with making one of the 10 items an all-around tribute to ABC’s wonderful brand of family comedy—but I ultimately decided to focus on black-ish, which had a standout season, though I referenced Speechless within the item (as well as Fresh Off the Boat and The Real O’Neals—and I’d add The Middle for good measure).
Question: Why didn’t you include FX’s Better Things in your 10 best shows of 2016 list? – Chris
Matt Roush: I wanted to, but with only 10 titles at my disposal, and a surge of distinctively personal comedies to choose from, I went with the most original: FX’s Atlanta, though I gave shout-outs to Better Things (and Insecure and streaming’s Fleabag and One Mississippi) within that item. All five were worthy of inclusion.
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), and you can also submit questions via the handy form below.