Ask Matt: ‘The Conners’ Parent Trap, ‘Rookie’ Moves & More

Jane Curtin and Katey Sagal in 'The Conners'
ABC/Eric McCandless

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.

Mamma Mia, Jane’s Too Young for This!

Question: Why would the execs and casting directors hire Jane Curtin to play Katey Sagal‘s mother in an upcoming guest appearance in a Christmas episode of The Conners? Nothing against the OG SNL cast member, who’s a fabulous actress, but she’s too young to play the mother of Katey’s character Louise Conner. They’re only seven years apart in age! Was Carol Burnett (21 years age difference) not available? I’m sick and tired of people being miscast age-wise playing opposite their onscreen child/parent! — Chris B.

Matt Roush: First, as one who tries not to prejudge, I bet Jane Curtin can pull it off when the episode airs Wednesday. She’s such a pro. I would like to think these comedy veterans have a sense of humor about such things, although it is kind of ridiculous. And this is hardly the most extreme case: When Angela Lansbury played Laurence Harvey’s ice-cold mother in 1962’s The Manchurian Candidate, she was only three years older than her co-star, and she got an Oscar nomination for the role. (She was often cast older than her years). In the bigger picture, when producers are asked questions like this, they will typically say they picked the best person for the role, and in this case, I see it as a happy reunion (all things considered) of Curtin and Conners executive producer Tom Werner, who held a similar position on one of her biggest hits, Third Rock from the Sun.

Rookie On the Move

Question: The Rookie: Feds has steadily improved this season. The last few episodes have been extremely well done. I read there is a major crossover event in January with the original Rookie airing on Tuesday. Do you feel that the pairing will help increase ratings for the low-rated spin-off and possibly earn it a renewal? Looks like ABC is confident with the aggressive move. I just hope they can compete against the powerful FBI shows on CBS. I will likely watch the original FBI and the Rookie shows live and record the FBI spinoffs. — Fred

Matt Roush: More than just a crossover, The Rookie is taking up residence on Tuesdays as a lead-in to the Feds spinoff (at 8/7c and 9/8c respectively), starting Jan. 3, part of an all-crime drama lineup including the new Will Trent (based on Karin Slaughter’s terrific page-turners). Stacking procedurals from the same franchise on the same night seems to be a solid programming strategy these days, although pitting two Rookies against three FBIs could be counterproductive. We’ll have to wait and see how it shakes out, but the network has invested a lot in the Rookie brand, so I’ll be surprised if they give up on either show easily.

Is East New York Here to Stay?

Question: We love East New York on CBS. All of the characters at the police station are so real and likable. We like the precinct commander (Deputy Inspector Regina Haywood, played by Amanda Warren), Jimmy Smits, and Richard Kind. Please tell us about the ratings for that show. We hope it comes back after the break in almost the same time slot on Sunday night. More people should be watching that show. I hope it doesn’t get canceled. — Jane T

Matt Roush: I don’t really study ratings much anymore, because I’m not sure what the metrics are that determine a show’s survival in today’s shrinking network-TV landscape. But from what I can tell, East New York (which regularly appears in TV Guide Magazine’s Top 25 Shows list, itself not a guarantee for renewal) is doing just fine on Sundays, even against NBC’s football juggernaut, thanks to a well-protected time slot most weeks between The Equalizer and NCIS: Los Angeles. That’s not changing in the new year, and given CBS’s track record with procedurals, I’m fairly confident East New York will get a multi-season run.

Operating to a Different Drummer

Question: Is it just me or is anyone else really annoyed by the constant drumbeat and ridiculous upbeat music they play during almost every scene of New Amsterdam? It distracts from the show and it’s just unnecessary. What are your thoughts? — Joanne

Matt Roush: At least you won’t have to put up with it much longer, given that the two-hour series finale is set for Jan. 17, shortly after New Amsterdam’s return from holiday hiatus next month. I tend to regard that bee-bopping accompaniment as Max’s signature, following him on his optimistic rounds to save the hospital, and perhaps the world, with his pie-in-the-sky idealism. I initially found it, and him, very irksome. But over time, I came around to the show and I try not to let it distract me from the parts of the show that work best, which tend to be a little quieter in the soundtrack department.

Mary Hartman, Where Are You?

Question: Back in July 2021, it was announced that TBS was going to reboot Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman (1976-77) with Emily Hampshire from Schitt’s Creek playing Mary, Now that TBS is out of the scripted series game, do you know if this died too or if it’s going to another outlet. I was looking forward to it. I wish the original would stream somewhere, too. — Jeffrey

Matt Roush: Instinct tells me this is probably dead, at least where the Turner channel is concerned (in the wake of the Discovery-WarnerMedia merger and subsequent cutbacks). I’ve scoured the trade publications to see if there’s any new news about this remake. And there isn’t. It could be stuck or lost in development-hell limbo, but given the current appetite for reviving so-called intellectual property, I’d like to think this isn’t the last we’ve heard of Mary Hartman‑although as in so many cases, it will be hard to top the original.

And Finally …

Question: I watched Yellowstone from beginning to end. I liked it for the plot line, characters, and scenery, but found fault with the scriptwriter, who has a problem with the English language. Seems he has to use the “f”-word in each and every sentence whether it is called for or not. How does the excessive use of the word enhance the story? As that’s the case, I’m not watching the new show. Has anyone else complained? — Barbara Z

Matt Roush: Frequently, though not as much recently (in my mailbag, anyway). Considering the blockbuster ratings for the current season, it appears most of the show’s fans have been able to get past this issue, although I’ve also noticed this season that they’re only dropping the f-bomb a few times per scene (if then), instead of a few times every minute. (The bunkhouse excepted.) Maybe Taylor Sheridan, the show’s creator and writer, is mellowing a bit — with language, that is, because that bloody catfight in Sunday’s episode between Beth and Summer was beyond brutal. His shows are rated MA for a reason, but even so, strategic use of profanity is often much more effective than its overuse. Even in Montana. (And I’m not about to miss Harrison Ford and Helen Mirren in the upcoming 1923 spinoff, regardless of how roughly they talk.)

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.)