Ask Matt: A 'Crazy' Comparison With 'La La Land', plus a pre-Mary Richard TV Role Model, 'This Is Us,' and More

Matt Roush
Robert Voets/The CW

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.


Question: I’m wondering if you feel as I do, that the whimsical, creative and original Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is so similar to the feature film La La Land? Now with La La Land getting so much Oscar buzz, I hope some of those fans will check out the wonderful, underrated Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. Rachel Bloom is a funny and talented powerhouse. And the musical numbers are just brilliant. — Laurie

Matt Roush: Can’t say Crazy came to mind while I was watching that dazzling movie, but I can see the comparison in the magical surrealism of their fantasy musical numbers. The big difference being that La La Land is grounded in a much more realistic world than the kooky, recklessly madcap setting of Bloom’s fabulously warped imagination. Good news is that The CW has defied all reason to give Crazy a third season. With added exposure on Netflix, I’m also hopeful that more will succumb to its twisted charms.


Is This Is Us Working Too Hard?

Question: Do you think that maybe This Is Us is suffering some from getting so popular so fast that the stories are beginning to suffer? There are just so many examples of holes in the stories. Could it be it doesn't seem to bother the writers, because they seem on a mission to either make every episode sappier than the last or create a new "shock" surprise we didn't see coming. I love Jack, but he has been pushed as so perfect that my eyes are starting to roll back in my head at some of his story. What you may call nuanced I might call forced. Can they really keep up a "shock" surprise every episode for the next two and half seasons? - Teresa

Matt Roush: There’s no doubt This Is Us works overtime to pull the heartstrings, and no one pretends it isn’t manipulating our emotions shamelessly—though awfully effectively. You’d have to be more specific on what “holes” you’re talking about, because the way the show is structured means we’re not getting all the information about all of these characters until the context is filled in, often with a pertinent flashback (the meat of the series). But if you object to its sappiness and your eyes are rolling instead of tearing up, then maybe This isn’t the show for you. I appreciate the fact that it can surprise us with reveals like William’s romantic life, but I don’t see that sort of twist as driving the show.


A Precursor to Mary Richards

Question: I loved The Mary Tyler Moore Show too, but I was in my 30s during its run, so I wasn't influenced by her in any way. I'm a bit annoyed by the inference that Mary Richards was the first depiction of a never-married, independent career woman. During the 1950s, when I was a teenager, there was Susie MacNamara, Private Secretary to talent agent Peter Sands. Granted, she was "only" a secretary, but she pretty much ruled the office and always seemed to have the upper hand over her boss. And in those days, secretary, along with nurse and teacher, were pretty much the only career aspirations of girls. And only until they married, when they were expected to quit their jobs to be full time homemakers and mothers. Susie MacNamara was my role model and inspired me to become a secretary, although I'm afraid I never achieved the glamorous status that she did. But I still wanted to give her a shout-out for being an anomaly of the 1950s: an independent career woman. - Marci

Matt Roush: Maybe you weren’t influenced by Mary, but surely you were inspired. I love this remembrance of a show that was even before my time—although I’ve always been a fan of the saucy Ann Sothern, who played Susie in Private Secretary from 1953-57 on CBS, a character so popular she reprised the role in the premiere of The Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Show in late 1957. I also appreciate the social context that reminds us how Susie was as much a pioneer in her day as Mary was in hers. But in terms of long-term cultural impact, again perhaps a product of a more revolutionary era, there really isn’t any comparison.


Before Trump’s Parade Passes By

Question: Don’t know if you’ve gotten other feedback from the inauguration or not, but I was VERY disappointed when it got to the parade part. We had watched everything from about 8 in the morning  and were really looking forward to the parade since one of our local bands in the area was going to be marching and we really wanted to see them. We live in Arkansas and the band was from Russellville. Anyway, when it got to the parade festivities, we were expecting it to be like the Rose Bowl parade (or one similar) where as each group appears, the commentators introduce them: who they represent, where they are from, etc., and CBS for some reason had nothing but three guys commenting and questioning ALL of the daily activities on the other half of our screen. We could hear in the background some of the parade introductions about each group but the gabby CBS guys just kept blabbing and blabbing about the day’s activities and we missed the parade folks entirely—except for seeing them for a short glimpse. I wonder if other folks had the same complaint and if you can relay our complaints to CBS??? — Dianne

Matt Roush: This is the first I’ve heard. Publishing this gripe probably means CBS (or more to the point, CBS News) will be made aware of it. And having marched in the front row of a high-school band from Indiana—even televised at the Orange Bowl Parade my sophomore year—I get where you’re coming from. But your mistake is in seeing the inaugural parade as anything but a news event on a day of tumultuous history. It wasn’t like a holiday parade where cheerful morning-show talent is on hand to remark on the acts and floats. I’m not sure, but suspect an outlet like C-SPAN would have covered it in full—they tend to let political events run with minimal commentary—and if that was why I was watching, I would have flipped around to see if anyone was focusing on the parade itself. My suspicion is it might have been a futile search.


When Game Shows Go Blue

Question: I enjoy games and I enjoy game shows. I was delighted when some old favorites were renewed. But I have been very disappointed because of the filthy language. Why do the celebrities feel they have to talk dirty to be funny? I hear a bleep and they all laugh and I have no idea what was said. I don’t think I want to know. The writers need to clean up their act, too. The questions often invite dirty responses. The way the celebrities climb all over the set, comparing notes or whatever does nothing for the game either. Match Game is the worst offender. Clean it up so we can enjoy the game. — Barbara, Wyoming

Matt Roush: This isn’t the first complaint I’ve seen about the Match Game revival. Not sure where the outrage is coming from, since the popular ’70s version was pretty risqué as well, though perhaps not as flagrantly vulgar as the new ABC incarnation. The issue here is that Match Game is barely even a game, it’s a comedy show with silly questions. (Only the money round at the end takes us back to the show’s roots as an actual word game, which has me missing Password all over again.) My disappointment when ABC brought some of its summer game shows back in the new year is that Pyramid was missing from the rotation. (Is Michael Strahan too busy with GMA?) Now that’s a straight-up game show. And honestly, as long as Jeopardy! keeps going strong, I’m content.


Today’s Trivia Moment

Question: I was watching the Jan. 27 episode of Dr. Ken and noticed the Wyoming license plate in Clark's apartment. As a resident of neighboring Converse County, I was wondering what the reference was to Goshen County. Any idea?!? — Dee

Matt Roush: We reached out and got an answer from Ron Olsen, the show’s Emmy-winning set decorator: "The Wyoming license plate has a cowboy on a bucking horse on it. We decided that Clark collected kitschy cowboy items after seeing him at a cowboy party in Season 1. He's got lots of cowboy plates and figurines in his kitchen." Good eye for detail, Dee.


A Hallmark of the Past

Question: We have noticed in the past couple of years there haven't been any Hallmark Hall of Fame productions on the “big 3” networks. Is this because Hallmark has two cable channels now? And if so, it's a shame, because the only movies they produce for those channels are romance and mystery movies, not the classic stories that made Hallmark Hall of Fame famous. — Vincent

Matt Roush: It has been quite a while since even the network Hall of Fame presentations lived up to that billing. When I first started covering them in the late 1980s and 1990s, they were on a high with movies like Sarah, Plain and Tall, August Wilson’s The Piano Lesson and the remarkable Promise with James Garner and James Woods. (Look that one up.) There were also occasional literary adaptations from the likes of Anne Tyler (Saint Maybe, Breathing Lessons). I always looked forward to them. But even before migrating to ABC and then exclusively to Hallmark, with a very few exceptions, they began to reflect the schmaltzy tone of the Hallmark movie franchise, devaluing the “Hall of Fame” brand. But the real reason you don’t see them on network TV anymore is that the broadcast networks have almost entirely abandoned the TV-movie format. This was one of the last vestiges of a time-honored tradition, and I’m not sure if we’ll see a comeback. (Although ambitious miniseries on the horizon, including ABC’s When We Rise and Fox’s Shots Fired, remind us it’s not an entirely lost art.)


That’s all for now—and for the next week, as I’ll be away, so look for the next column sometime in mid-February. Thanks as always for reading, and remember that 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.