Ask Matt: Finales for ‘Picard’ and ‘Goldbergs,’ FX’s Shrinking Cable Footprint, Aging Those ‘Conners’ Kids & 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 most Tuesdays and very occasional Fridays.
Picard’s Grand Finale
Question: How much fun was Star Trek: Picard’s Season 3? Unlike many Trek fans, I enjoyed Season 1 and the exploration of Jean-Luc’s psyche and the potential regrets he experienced after his forced retirement from Starfleet. Season 2 didn’t work as well, but I watched every episode; when given the opportunity to spend time with one of my all-time favorite characters, I will “engage.” Although I adored The Next Generation at the time it originally aired, when Season 3 was announced, I was wary of nostalgia for nostalgia’s sake. And while the series finale felt a tad rushed and a bit heavy-handed with fan service for my taste, the vast majority of Season 3 offered so much more than just the legacy factor.
The list of what I loved about Season 3 is long: Todd Stashwick’s performance as Captain Shaw was “chef’s kiss” superb, but the pinnacle would have to be getting that emotionally satisfying conclusion to the Ro Laren storyline from the TNG episode “Preemptive Strike.” What an unexpected and glorious gift almost 30 years in the making. I am beyond grateful to Michelle Forbes for reprising her iconic role and to showrunner Terry Matalas for, well … all of it. You gave the season 5 stars in your review, but I don’t know how many episodes you were able to watch in advance. Now that we are officially past the spoiler stage, any thoughts on the final season you want to share? – Kelly
Matt Roush: I had seen the first six episodes — including the outstanding Ro Laren episode (which I couldn’t and wouldn’t spoil by even teasing her surprise return) — before writing the initial review, and it was my joy to plug the show each Thursday in my “Worth Watching” columns, including as the remaining episodes became available on a weekly basis. The words “fan service” tend to make me cringe, because it feels so dismissive toward an enterprise (so to speak) that was so dedicated to sending this ensemble off with a creative flourish. Otherwise, I agree wholeheartedly. Todd Stashwick was a great addition, especially in those early episodes when he looked hilariously askance at the arrival of the legendary Picard-Riker tag team. Amanda Plummer was one of the most enjoyably florid villains since the great Khan — her final words still make me laugh — and as they introduced each of the TNG family along the way, I found myself eagerly awaiting the next episode so eagerly that Picard is high on my list of favorite TV things to date in 2023.
Is ABC Shortchanging The Goldbergs’ Swan Song?
Question: The Goldbergs is finishing out their series run with only a 30-minute episode? Seems like they could have ushered out the series by stretching out the finale to an hour. — Mark
Matt Roush: Not to be ungenerous, but it seems to me that The Goldbergs may have stretched out its time on the air maybe a season or two beyond its prime. (Not uncommon for family comedies that get long in the tooth, even without the problematic Jeff Garlin factor.) I’ll miss Wendi McLendon-Covey’s 1980s-era smothering mothering, and regardless of how I feel about the show, it does feel strange for a sitcom ending after 10 seasons not to get an expanded retrospective for a final bow.
FX’s Shrinking (Cable) Footprint
Comment: With the conclusion of Snowfall and the upcoming final season of Mayans M.C., it feels like FX has some major holes to fill in the near future. I know they still have American Horror Story, but they usually have some standout dramas. I believe an Alien series is in development and a new season of Fargo but it just doesn’t feel like they have the quantity of series like they used to. It seems like series that would have aired on the network are streamed on Hulu. It appears they are focusing on streaming at the expense of the network. FX has a reputation for strong and well-produced series, but I don’t think they are getting the love nowadays that they deserve. I admit I may be missing something, but FX has provided such great entertainment over the years, I would hate to see it relegated to being an afterthought. — Todd G.
Matt Roush: This is one of the paradoxes of our new streaming age. FX as a brand is doing just fine — as long as you also have access to FX’s programming on Hulu, which is where many of their most provocative and acclaimed new series are airing. (Case in point: last year’s universally acclaimed The Bear.) I’m at a loss to understand why they don’t put shows like this on the linear as well as streaming platforms simultaneously, and it often feels to me that outside of the legacy shows that were associated with FX before Hulu was a factor (American Horror Story, Fargo, What We Do in the Shadows, etc.), any truly buzzworthy FX show will now be a Hulu exclusive. (Not sure about the Alien series and the upcoming Shogun remake, but I’m never surprised when a much-anticipated FX show ends up as “only on Hulu.”) This is the trend of the industry, of course, with many media companies favoring their streaming outlet at the expense of the traditional network. (I still feel that Peacock’s Poker Face would have been a hit on NBC or USA.) I don’t imagine the pendulum will swing back anytime soon, or maybe ever.
Gone Too Soon
Comment: I am truly upset that The Resident has been canceled. Yes, it didn’t end with a cliffhanger, but there were so many stories left to finish. I was just as upset with this as I was with the demise of God Friended Me. Tell me why we need so many cops-and-robbers show and not enough feel-good shows. Another good one is So Help Me Todd. The way the networks work, I suspect that it too will be canceled after its next season. Thanks for letting me vent, what are your thoughts?? — Karen P.
Matt Roush: I think it’s a pretty universal feeling of despair whenever a favorite show goes off the air. It hurts when it happens after just a season or two (as in the case of God Friended Me — or, in my case, Fox’s Prodigal Son, which I’m still not over). It may even be more painful when the show has been around a while, like The Resident, which made it six seasons before being canceled. (I know people were just as traumatized by New Amsterdam, another Tuesday night medical drama, ending this year after a shortened fifth season.) When you’ve grown accustomed to a show, its demise is never easy to accept, even if the producers get the opportunity to produce an intentional final season (not the case with The Resident).
To your other point: There’s no question network TV leans too heavily on crime drama, though some might argue there’s a surplus of hospital shows as well. This is hardly new, and outliers like God Friended Me (and Joan of Arcadia before it), as well as family/friendship dramas like A Million Little Things and This Is Us (and Parenthood before it) have traditionally been hard sells in a medium where formula genre programming tends to be everyone’s comfort zone. At least CBS gave an early lifeline to Todd, which was hardly a sure thing. As I often say, enjoy it while you can.
They Grow Up So Quickly
Question: On The Conners, I’ve noticed that they aged up Darlene’s son Mark Healy from 15 to an 18-year-old high school senior! This is very evident in the show’s storyline of Darlene trying to get Mark into college after he graduates from high school, which she did by getting hired as the lunch lady at a college that finally accepted Mark for free in return for her accepting a job there. In the revival season of Roseanne, Mark started out as a 10-year-old elementary school student, and now The Conners bypassed most of his high school years. Why did the show’s writers do this, even though Mark’s portrayer Ames McNamara is 15 years old? This is just so jarring, just like The Conners not mentioning Dan and Roseanne’s youngest child Jerry after Roseanne mentioned him in the Roseanne revival season! – Chris B.
Matt Roush: Accelerating the growth of children in family comedies is fairly common — didn’t Becky’s daughter, Beverly Rose, have an unnaturally short infancy? — and few shows have played as loosely with continuity as The Conners. (Don’t ask about Jackie’s past and a handful of other offspring who proved inconvenient for the reboot.) In most cases, the showrunners and writers will tell you they advanced the age of their young characters for the purposes of story, and it seems clear that they were more interested in Mark’s college prospects than multiple seasons of following him through high school. (For me, on the occasions I watch, the actor has shot up enough in adolescence to be a convincing high school senior.)
And Finally …
Comment: While I enjoy most of the episodes of Fox’s Accused, I feel there is room for improvement. Many episodes need more than one hour — actually more like 40+ minutes. Perhaps some episodes could air the second half the following week. I do recall some anthologies back in the day airing in 90-minute or two-hour slots. I realize that wouldn’t work for Fox as they don’t air programming at 10 pm/9c and a low-rated show like Accused would take up an entire prime-time evening. — Fred
Matt Roush: Accused isn’t perfect, and I do feel some weeks that the story rushes to a resolution: a pat happy ending in some cases, and in others, as discussed in a previous column, it can be jarring when the conclusion takes an unsavory or surprise twist. The show’s executive producer Howard Gordon has suggested that some stories might merit an eventual sequel, and I’m curious to see how the format will evolve in a second season. Two-part episodes (or a two-hour mini-movie) could help vary the mix, although it might be hard to stretch when the hook of the series is to have you keep wondering through half of the episode what the alleged crime of the week even is.
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.)