Ask Matt: Already Missing ‘AMLT,’ Rescuing ‘Lone Star’ From Plot Holes & More

Romany Malco, James Roday Rodriguez, and David Giuntoli in 'A Million Little Things'
ABC/Darko Sikman
A Million Little Things

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.

Not Every Ending Is a Cancellation

Question: Why was A Million Little Things canceled? It is the best show on TV with great characters and cast members. Are viewers only interested in bloody violence, corny humor and reality shows? — Kathy

Matt Roush: There’s a distinction to be made between a show being canceled and allowing a show to end on its own terms, which appears to be the case here (as it was a year ago with This Is Us), with producers hewing to a five-season game plan. We’ll find out this spring whether the ending will satisfy fans, but at least we won’t be left with a dangling cliffhanger. The real issue Kathy is raising, though, is that we’re seeing far too few human-scaled shows about friendship and family in the pipeline. And with A Million Little Things following This Is Us out the door, we’re left with precious few shows that push our emotional buttons.

The Show is 9-1-1, Not Undercover Biker

Comment: I simply can’t understand why TV writers, who I’m sure have a tough enough job, so often try to take a show way off course. Take the recent ridiculous plot about Rob Lowe’s fire captain character in 9-1-1: Lone Star becoming a temporary undercover agent in an FBI sting against a group of right-wing extremist motorcycle gang members. I’ve read that the ratings for this season haven’t been as robust as in years past. Part of that may be due to competition, another to a show aging, but surely some of it is due to the writers taking the plot in a direction it was never supposed to go. I would remind them and the producers that the name of the program has 9-1-1 in it. It’s about fire rescues and saving people in dire straits and often weird emergencies.

It is not a spy series or a political intrigue drama — or, even worse, the idiotic plot twist about one firefighter, Marjan, losing her job and quitting for the most ridiculous of reasons. (She wouldn’t apologize for calling a woman whose life she saved “crazy.” I’m pretty sure this wouldn’t even make it to HR without being dismissed. Even in these sensitive times, it was completely unbelievable.) What’s next? An episode of FBI where the agents spend the entire hour catching up on paperwork? Or the Night Court reboot not having a single scene in a courtroom? The writers need to remember what made their shows popular in the first place. And stop with the endless going off script. I appreciate that they’re looking to try something new. But it’s not why those who like the show tune in. — Aaron F.

Matt Roush: Actually, it sounds like you don’t appreciate a show like this trying something new. Or at least something so off-brand. Not that I’m defending the preposterous turns a melodrama like Lone Star can take. I often hear complaints from viewers about both 9-1-1 shows when they veer too far away from the emergency/rescue situations into the personal soap operas, but that’s where this genre lives now, whether the first responders are in L.A., Texas or Chicago. As for the show’s ratings, I’d bet that separating it from 9-1-1 (when both aired on Mondays) and putting it on Tuesdays opposite a bunch of other procedurals would explain any downturn (not that I pay much attention to ratings anymore).

Giving Credit (or Not) Where It’s Due

Question: What determines whether or not a performer will be listed in the opening credits of a TV show? I look back to Lost in Space, where Jonathan Harris (Dr. Smith) was always listed as a Special Guest Star, yet he appeared in every episode. Right now, I am interested in Blue Bloods. In the first couple of seasons, Amy Carlson (Linda Reagan) had her name listed but no photo like the other cast members in the credits. Her name was removed when her character was killed. However, I have never seen Vanessa Ray (Eddie Janko-Reagan) listed in the opening credits, either just her name or face, though she does appear in the family dinner scene. I am confused because she has appeared in some major storylines and in fact, there have been episodes when I see more of her than I do of Len Cariou (Henry Reagan), who is featured in the credits. Does the performer have to negotiate to get their names in the opening credits or is there some other criteria they must meet? — Rob

Matt Roush: Depends on the show and on the contract. It’s all about the contract. This can seem complicated and doesn’t always make sense, but generally speaking, the core cast gets top billing, and regulars added to the show are billed in order of their longevity — Vanessa Ray and Marisa Ramirez are listed as “Also Starring,” meaning they’re core-adjacent — while other cast members fall into a “recurring regular” category, which is why Gregory Jbara (Moore), Steven R. Schirripa (Anthony), Robert Clohessy (Gormley), Abigail Hawk (Baker) and others are always listed as “guest stars.” With Blue Bloods specifically, the opening credits appear to be reserved for OG Reagans.

Give the Mayor Some Love!

Question: The Paramount+ drama Mayor of Kingstown is a phenomenal show. It is unique, intense, and compelling. Jeremy Renner is so well-established as an actor with an incredible skill set, and he has taken this role to a whole new level. It is always hard to imagine that he could get better at what he does, and yet again he has. I have been disappointed that I see so little discussion about Mayor of Kingstown and its amazingly talented cast. Do you think it’s living in the shadow of Yellowstone and other Taylor Sheridan projects? This show and cast need to be recognized in a big way! — Marie C.

Matt Roush: There’s little doubt that Taylor Sheridan’s other shows (the Yellowstone prequel 1923 most recently, and Sylvester Stallone’s Tulsa King) got bigger media bumps because of their star power and because their hooks were considerably higher concept than what’s happening in Kingstown. Which isn’t to say this is a lesser drama, just that all kinds of shows are getting swallowed up in the bottomless pit of streaming, and not everything can get the attention it may deserve. Jeremy Renner has been in the news lately mostly because of his injuries with the snowplow, which might have renewed attention to his show in its second year. But most of the discussion has been the hope that he’ll recover well enough to get back to work on whatever project suits him.

What if Late-Night TV Airs Earlier?

Question: With the recent talk that networks may turn over the 10 pm/ET time slot to local affiliates, I was curious as to your thoughts on how it would impact late-night talk shows. It seems like that could be damaging to those shows. Right now, there is a half-hour for local news between the show that airs at 10/9c and the first talk show. If that time slot is given up, that gap grows to 1.5 hours. I don’t think the ratings for the late-night talkers have been great. I think they may actually be on a decline. Would the network move up the talk shows to the 11/10c time slot or is that still considered affiliate time? With the Late Late Show being replaced by @midnight, I do wonder if we are seeing the beginning of the end of the late-night talk show as we have come to know it. This may sound harsh, but the format feels a bit dated. While The Daily Show is not the powerhouse it once was, the 30-minute format does seem optimal. Even if the networks don’t give up that hour, will late-night talk shows need to evolve to survive in the future? What are your thoughts? — Todd, Sugar Land, Texas

Matt Roush: I’m afraid my crystal ball is a bit fuzzy when it comes to a paradigm shift this extreme. The reason any of the networks would give this time back to the affiliates would be to keep costs in line while the audience across the board for linear programming continues to erode. For now, these predictions seem to be a bit premature. (NBC, which floated this possibility first, has pretty much confirmed it will not abandon the 10/9c hour in the 2023-24 season.) But since you asked to tackle the hypothetical, I’d wonder if by airing the late-night shows a half-hour or hour earlier (depending on if the affiliates produce a full hour of lucrative local news) that it might increase the available audience. It’s entirely possible some of these shows could tweak their format as well, leaning into comedy and away from empty chatter, although the networks also see these shows as valuable promotional tools for their network and studio product. The one thing I can guarantee is that as the landscape and our viewing patterns continue to evolve, real-time ratings for shows like these (and just about everything else) are not likely to grow.

And Finally …

Question: I just saw that The Price Is Right needs to move from its longtime studio due to a renovation at Television City, but there wasn’t any information about how The Young and The Restless and The Bold and the Beautiful will be impacted by this as well. Will they have to move and, if so, what are they going to do? – Teri

Matt Roush: I reached out to CBS and was told there’s no news yet on either of these fronts. The reason The Price Is Right reportedly has a new home already (in Glendale) is because the show’s production company, Fremantle, has a long-term lease investment in the new studio property. Whether the daytime dramas will be forced to move during the renovation and expansion, finding a new home on another studio lot, remains to be seen. Both shows have been renewed through 2023-24, so wherever they’ll be filmed, they’re staying put on CBS.

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.)