Ask Matt: MTM Tributes, Behind Dem ‘Bones’ Bones, ‘Scandal,’ ‘Taboo’ and More

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Welcome to the Q&A with TV critic (also known to some TV fans as their “TV therapist”) Matt Roush, who’ll address whatever you love, loathe, are confused or frustrated or thrilled by in today’s vast TV landscape. 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] (or use the form at the end of the column) and follow me on Twitter. Look for upcoming Ask Matt columns on most Tuesdays and Fridays.


Singing Mary’s Praises

Question: First of all, I want to say I was a huge fan of The Mary Tyler Moore Show. I feel it was the best comedy show ever on TV. The supporting cast and writing were second to none. My comment is concerning the special that aired on CBS last Thursday night Gayle King hosting. Considering that both The Dick Van Dyke Show and Mary’s show aired on CBS, the amount of clips available would be substantial, why are we airing Oprah’s spoof on the Mary Tyler Moore opening plus a segment on how Oprah told her staff never to surprise her again after Mary appeared on her talk show? I have nothing against Oprah, but considering the impact Mary Tyler Moore had on television, I felt the air time could be better spent. The 20/20 special that aired on Friday night was much better. Your thoughts? – Patty

Matt Roush: The clip of Mary Tyler Moore surprising Oprah on her show was a constant during the coverage of the icon’s death last week—and to me it was one of the best examples of how MTM had influenced the culture at large. So I wasn’t surprised to see Oprah featured so prominently at the top of a special hosted by Gayle King, given their connection. But like you, I felt that letting their conversation go over more than one segment was indulgent, to say the least, especially considering the network’s wealth of material on one of their greatest stars. I was out Friday and didn’t see the 20/20 special, but I heard from others that it was a more satisfying salute. In case you missed it, here’s my column on “why Mary mattered”—and still does.


Question: I’m a long time fan of your column, and I meant to send this in after last year’s NBC tribute to the great James L. Burrows and all the wonderful shows he had a hand in creating, but with the passing of the incomparable Mary Tyler Moore, I’m finally doing it. With the networks looking to squeeze every second of time for as many commercials as they can run, it doesn’t seem like we’ll ever see the likes of the catchy, hum or sing-along as you watch, themes of shows produced prior to year 2000. My top of mind top 10 are (the first three are in order): The Mary Tyler Moore Show (never will that hat throwing scene be topped), All in the Family (Edith screeching away at Archie’s side by the piano was not to be missed), The Bob Newhart Show (Bob making his way home from his ‘work wife’ Carol to Emily — classic), M*A*S*H, Laverne and Shirley, Taxi, Cheers (NORM!), Wings, St. Elsewhere and Hill Street Blues. Do you have any favorite theme songs that come to your mind that make you smile with the memories of shows from our childhoods? — Staci

Matt Roush: These are all favorites of mine, and the image of Mary tossing her hat, along with all of the other moments in that memorable montage, put that theme-song sequence at the top of the list. The art of the title sequence isn’t entirely dead—on those weeks when Elementary displays the entire Rube Goldberg mousetrap mechanism, I always pause to watch—but it is increasingly a rarity, and I miss it. As a kid, I loved the story song set-ups of shows like The Brady Bunch, Gilligan’s Island, The Beverly Hillbillies, and the panel assembly of The Wild Wild West that continued through the bumpers before each commercial break always entertained me. And Batman of course (Bam! Pow!). In more recent times, the stirring theme of The West Wing was something I never tired of. But Mary (and let’s not forget Laura greeting Rob in The Dick Van Dyke Show opening, with that ottoman gag), she’s one of a kind.


A Bone to Pick With Bones

Question: With Bones soon coming to a close, I have a question that I’ve been anxious to get the answer to for a while now. In most episodes after they get a body to examine, they clean off all organic matter and are left with just the skeleton, which is sprawled out on an examining table. Is it just me, or is the skeleton they use the same one every time? It sure looks like it is. – Ken

Matt Roush: For this, I went to our in-house Bones expert, Marisa Roffman, who by coincidence had recently spent time with the guys who make the Bones body for an upcoming “Meet the Crew” feature for TV Guide Magazine. Her report: “With the skeleton, it can’t be the same: having victims with different ages, heights, genders, damage to the bones, etc, they can’t use the same one every time. There are times part of the bodies are recycled, but it’s not the same skeleton (or remains) every week.”


Is Scandal Back on Its Game?

Question: I have to say Scandal‘s premiere was really back to form. I thought it was a great and promising start. What did you think? — Al

Matt Roush: I’ll say this: It wasn’t dull. And any chance to see Bellamy Young chew the scenery, in defeat or otherwise, is a treat. Watching Olivia (Kerry Washington) go on the warpath against Cyrus (Jeff Perry), ABC’s SECOND accidental president of the season, also promises to be good fun. I’m not sure I have the appetite for something that goes this relentlessly over the top in a bizarro-world political fantasyland, given the current state of affairs, but this did seem more like the Scandal of old, and that’s probably a good thing.


In Defense of Taboo

Question: Have you been watching Taboo? Several episodes in, I’m really liking it. Probably a lot to do with Tom Hardy—who seems to eat these types of characters for lunch—but I also like Oona Chaplin and I’m wondering where that relationship is going, how twisted it’s going to get, and if that’s why the series is called Taboo. It’s very dark with a fantastic look (kudos to the set decorators and art designers on this one). I also like that the writers are doling out Hardy’s story in bits and pieces via quick flashbacks. Very intriguing. Reminds me just a bit of Ripper Street (another favorite), but far darker in tone and peopled mostly with villains and those on the border of villainy with dark secrets and darker intentions. No real good guys so far and no rays of light. – Michael

Matt Roush: The things you like about the show is what makes Taboo a turnoff for me. This is maybe too comfortable a role for Hardy, and as I wrote in my very negative review after screening the first three episodes in advance, this feels like a vanity production and the show’s tone seems to establish darkness for darkness’ sake, with little new to say except to push the content to new and violent extremes. I’ve nothing against dark dramas in principle, even though I’ve grown weary of shows that go straight for the underbelly perhaps too eagerly in recent months, but as revenge melodramas go, Taboo came off to me as singularly uninspired.


Follow-Ups on Emerald City and Timeless

Continuing discussions from the most recent Ask Matt column:

Question: A couple of things. As a life-long Baum fan (I was introduced to The Wizard of Oz in second grade), Emerald City is a no-go for me. While it has great scenery and wonderful costumes, it is leaden in both writing and acting. It desperately needs some humor and could have taken some cues from its lead-in Grimm in balancing the funny in a dark show. Speaking of Grimm, has NBC given any clues to its replacement? I am hoping we are not returning to yet another hour of Dateline. – Sharon

Matt Roush: That was my takeaway on Emerald City as well. A little more whimsy amid the fantasy would have helped. But I’m afraid the ham-fisted portrayal of the Wizard alone would have been a deal-breaker for me on this one. And none of NBC’s mid-season announcements have yet addressed the future of Fridays once Grimm and Emerald City finish their runs, presumably in early spring.


Question: I’m not confidant about the renewal of Timeless. Like you, I was sure Forever would get renewed and we all know what happened there. So my question is are there any ways to tell the network we want it to stay before it’s too late? And after all this time, is there a realistic chance of Forever making a return? – Ayanna

Matt Roush: Nothing’s stopping you from lobbying NBC in support of Timeless, through social media or the old-fashioned approach of actual mail, and I’d advise doing it now while there are still a few episodes left in the freshman season, which concludes Feb. 20. With Forever: No. If it were to mount a comeback, that would have happened by now. Occasionally miracles do happen, but generally for shows that left bigger footprints.


That’s all for now. Thanks as always for reading. (Most weeks, columns will appear on Tuesdays and Fridays.) I 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), and you can also submit questions via the handy form below.