Ask Matt: The ‘Walking Dead’ Finale, Did ‘The Real Love Boat’ Sink & More
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.
Dead and Yet Alive
Question: What are your thoughts on the series finale of The Walking Dead? With all the build-up, I was expecting (fearing?) a higher body count, though I suppose I’m mostly glad our heroes made it through the final ordeal largely intact. It felt strange, though, to watch a finale feeling it wasn’t really the end of the story or series. Does that make sense? — Timothy
Matt Roush: Makes perfect sense. There’s no challenge more difficult than delivering a satisfying finale to a series with this passionate and massive a following. What surprised me the most was how sentimental the episode was, with probably more hugging than in the Waltons Thanksgiving movie that aired the same night. The one major character death felt earned and was appropriately moving, although it had the gauzy tone of one of those Ali McGraw Love Story-style beauty death scenes. I didn’t mind that so many characters were spared, although knowing in advance how many characters were heading off to their own spinoffs diluted much of the suspense.
Which brings up the real issue, as Timothy points out, that because we all already knew the franchise is expanding — and if we didn’t already, those promos kept reminding us — this felt less like a series ending than a pause between spinoffs. There was big action, some true zombie scares, a long overdue comeuppance, and an awesome explosion, so the finale checked off a number of the necessary genre boxes. I’m just glad we can leave this group of heroes in relative peace and not have to endure another season that introduces a new set of villains to test them. That storyline was done to, pardon the pun, death.
When a Network Abandons Ship
Matt Roush: The series was sinking in the ratings on the network’s all-reality TV night, so CBS dispatched the series to its streaming site, Paramount+, for the remainder of the season. It appears that the new episodes are being made available On Demand, so you could try checking that out.
The Incredible Shrinking TV Show
Question: How can a show like Young Sheldon exist when there is more commercial time than actual acting in every episode? — Robert P
Matt Roush: You’re not too far off the mark. I went onto the Paramount+ streaming site to check out the running time without ads, and of the seven episodes of Young Sheldon that have aired to date this season, two clock in at a mere 18 minutes, four at 20, and one made it all the way to 21 minutes. This is the paradox of today’s commercial TV networks. Fewer of us in this DVR and digital age are sitting through commercials, and the ad load just keeps expanding. My hat’s off to those who actually sit through these shows in real-time.
The Password Is … Enough!
Question: When Password started in the ’60s, it was a great show with guest celebrities and contestants. The new version has Jimmy Fallon as a celebrity guest every week. It is a bore to watch him and the constant trite antics and answers by him week after week after week. Is the show ever going to go back to two celebrity guests or shall I just stop watching? — Winston
Matt Roush: NBC’s reboot of Password, which I agree can get awfully hectic at times, comes directly from its revival on Fallon’s The Tonight Show, so if and when the game show returns, I’d expect the format to remain largely the same. So to answer your question: You’re probably better off looking elsewhere for your word-game bliss.
Pilot Not Ready for Takeoff?
Question: Were you as shocked as I was to read that David E. Kelley’s Avalon won’t be going forward on ABC? It was ordered last winter without a pilot. I’m guessing ABC/Disney execs didn’t like what they saw. That’s sad, because many shows quickly improve after the pilot. I’m disappointed because I usually love DEK written-or-produced shows (L.A. Law, The Practice, Boston Legal, and now Big Sky). I see that the Avalon showrunners are shopping the show to another network or streamer. We know it won’t be Disney-owned Hulu. On another note: The most recent new episode of Big Sky was brilliantly paced, very well-written, and excellently performed by every cast member. This third season has been impressing me every week it airs. Here’s hoping for a fourth! — Fred
Matt Roush: I was surprised mainly because Avalon had received a straight-to-series order, so the execs must have loved the pitch. Or were so on board with being in business with Kelley again when Big Sky took off that they’d take anything he’d offer them. (It doesn’t hurt that Avalon’s source material was a story by Bosch author-creator Michael Connelly.) I’m not privy to their decision-making process, but either the pilot didn’t measure up or the show may no longer fit their scheduling needs. Maybe they let a potential hit slip away. It’s been known to happen. And I’ll really be shocked if Big Sky doesn’t make it to a fourth season. The challenge will be to find another season-long guest star of Reba McEntire’s caliber.
And Finally …
Question: Regarding the most recent episode of Abbott Elementary: How many grades does Abbott teach? I’ve never heard of an elementary school going up to 8th grade. This feels weird for a show that specifically has “Elementary” in its title. In my school district, elementary was kindergarten through 5th, middle school was 6th through 8th and high school was 9th-12th grades respectively. — JL
Matt Roush: I’m hardly an expert on the education system and have no idea how common (or rare) this is, but when I was going to elementary school in the dark ages, my school in small-town Indiana was K-through-8 for my first few years, then split into elementary and middle, so I went to a different building for 5th grade and returned to my old school for 6-8. The only way I know this is still a thing is that I recently watched a terrific POV documentary, Let the Little Light Shine (airing Dec. 12) about a high-performing elementary school in Chicago that services Kindergarten through 8th grade (and is shown resisting an effort by the newly gentrified community to be converted into an integrated high school). The one aspect of that Abbott Elementary episode that didn’t ring true, although it made great comedy, is that even an incurable positivist like Janine wouldn’t likely be able to force her 2nd graders on an 8th-grade science project. Watch and learn? Maybe. Drop eggs? A big no.
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.) I wish everyone a most happy Thanksgiving!