Ask Matt: Spinoff Mania, ‘Night Court’ & Long Streaming Waits

Kevin Costner in 'Yellowstone' Season 5
Paramount Network

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 most Tuesdays and very occasional Fridays.

Spinoff Fatigue

Question: Why do Paramount+, Showtime, and AMC have so many spin-offs/upcoming spin-offs? Do they have problems finding or coming up with original content? Don’t get me wrong, Better Call Saul was great, but I’m glad that they are leaving the Breaking Bad franchise alone now. I wish I can say the same about The Walking Dead. I lost count of how many spin-offs that show has. Now Showtime is doing spin-offs of Billions and Dexter, not to mention Paramount+ with Yellowstone’s spin-offs. Can these networks just let sleeping dogs lie? — Marques

Matt Roush: I assume your last question was purely rhetorical, because the answer at the moment is a big loud no. IP (“Intellectual Property”) is the currency of the moment, especially with these networks that are hoping to reinvent themselves or at least stay viable by squeezing as much juice as they can out of familiar titles. (And let’s not forget Starz and its multiple iterations of Power and soon to spin off Outlander.) It’s possible, of course, that some of these series will be worth watching. The companies obviously feel they’re giving the audience more of what they want, or wanted. The danger here, as we’ve seen in particular with Showtime offloading shows already produced (Ripley) or canceling shows that may be lacking in franchise potential (Let the Right One In most recently, itself a series version of movie IP), is that the market for something new and original, something that might deserve to stand on its own, appears to be shrinking. And that’s not a positive trend.

The Jury’s Still Out

Question: I’ve watched all of the episodes of the new Night Court reboot, and read your comment about it online. I keep hoping it will get better — it’s not all that bad, but suffers from the same thing as most current sitcoms: overacting and over-delivery of lines. The old pro, John Larroquette, is good, as always, but all of the other characters act as if they know they’re in a sitcom. They deliver every line as if they know how clever they are, and loudly in case the audience doesn’t get it. They have unnatural pauses waiting for the laughs. Real people don’t behave like this, unless they’re trying to become the most hated contestant ever to appear on Jeopardy!, but that job was filled last week. — Bill A.

Matt Roush: Let’s give that Jeopardy! kid a break. It’s one thing to appear awkward on a high-pressure quiz show, and another to be a trained professional who should know something about performing on camera (not to mention the director who allows for the mugging). Like you, I’m trying to find the good in the Night Court reboot, since it’s going to be around for at least another season, but outside of Larroquette and to a lesser degree Melissa Rauch (who needs better material), it’s just painful most weeks. There’s an art to acting in a multi-camera, live-audience sitcom — which most liken to the theatrical experience — because you have to play to the audience, which includes timing for laughter, but not overdo it. When it’s off, it’s uncomfortably noticeable.

The Waiting Game

Question: For those of us that don’t have the Paramount Network and are not able to watch Yellowstone as it’s released, will we have to wait until the second half of Season 5 has ended to watch on Peacock? Or will we be able to watch the first half sometime before the second half comes back? Making us likely wait until fall or winter to watch the whole Season 5 is excruciating. — Jenny

Matt Roush: If the past is any indication, and it usually is, I’m afraid you’re in for a long wait. Looking back at the history of past seasons, Peacock has not streamed Yellowstone until well after the current season concluded, usually by a few months. I will never understand the intricacies of streaming deals, but it would make sense for Paramount Network to hold onto exclusive rights to the new episodes until the full season has finished and can then be binge-watched on the streamer. (It’s already weird enough that because of the pre-existing contract, Peacock has rights to a Paramount show whose other spinoffs are all exclusive to Paramount+.) But I only know what the streamers announce month to month, and it doesn’t appear the new episodes of Yellowstone will be available anytime soon.

Question: I love Ghosts, my family might say I’m a bit obsessed — possessed? — about both shows, Ghosts on CBS and the original BBC Ghosts. The British Ghosts is available on HBO Max in the U.S. I realize HBO Max is going through some, for lack of a better word, “things,” but it has Seasons 1-3 already but no Season 4. The BBC released Season 4 waaay back in September in the U.K. Do you know when HBO Max will release the next season? If you haven’t watched it, give it a try. It’s just a smidge better than the CBS one (IMHO). — Cherie M., Charlotte

Matt Roush: As noted in the previous answer, I have no crystal ball in terms of future streaming schedules unless already announced. So I’m in the dark about when HBO Max will get streaming rights to the latest season of the U.K. Ghosts, hopefully soon. And while I respect your fondness for the BBC version, which is great fun, I will not compare the two, given that the British series has so far produced a grand total of 27 episodes over four seasons—that’s the way they roll over there (and people complain to me about American shows having shortened runs!)—while the wonderful CBS version has already surpassed that number in its second year, so I’ll allow for a bit more unevenness. They’re both great, as Cherie says, and I encourage fans of the CBS version to check the original out.

Mind-ful of Terminology

Question: I’m delighted to hear that Criminal Minds: Evolution will be back for another season, but I’d love it if someone could clear something up for me. When Evolution first dropped it was being touted as a revival of the original Criminal Minds, and as such, it was referred to in the media as Season 16 rather than Season 1. Okay. All well and good. However, when it got renewed, I expected media outlets to continue this trend, referring to a subsequent season as Season 17, etc. But I find that the renewal announcements are calling this a “season 2” of Evolution rather than S17 of Criminal Minds. Any idea why the sudden change in terminology? — Erin

Matt Roush: Depends on the media outlet, I guess, and neither way is wrong. I went back to find the official renewal announcement from Paramount+ and the very careful wording only referred to “another season” or a “next season,” never assigning a number. Our own story had it both ways, referring to the renewal as the second season of the new iteration and the 17th overall, which is how successive stories have framed it. So it’s really up to you as to how you want to perceive it. If the show continues to evolve, as it did this year, into a fully arced season-long manhunt, it will be basically a new version of the old series, but with so much of the cast intact and the lapse between the CBS and streaming versions so short (as opposed to the 10-year gap for Law & Order between seasons 20 and a much less satisfying 21), I don’t have a problem with seeing Evolution as a continuation of Criminal Minds, not a spinoff.

And Finally …

Question: I know you’ve received a lot of complaints regarding loud background music interfering with dialogue. This one’s about how we the viewers are increasingly supposed to be able to read phone texts without the contents popping up larger in visual bubbles or being repeated aloud. Clearly, I’m expected to have an even bigger screen than my decent but modest television — or be younger with better vision, but there’s nothing my wife nor I, both 50-something with corrective lenses, can do about that. I don’t need bells and whistles like the delightfully creative ways texts are handled on the Disney+ series Ms. Marvel, just a decent close-up of important plot elements. Am I alone in your mailbag here? — Rafael B.

Matt Roush: Hardly. I can’t keep publishing variations on the same rant each week, but next to loud music and too-dark cinematography, the ability (or lack thereof) to read texts onscreen, now such a pervasive plot device, pretty much leads the pack these days. Note to producers: Blow up the type!

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.)