Ask Matt: Oprah on '60 Minutes,' 'Jane'’s Shocking Death, 'Riverdale,' and More
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 firstname.lastname@example.org (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.
Oprah’s New News Gig
Question: What are your thoughts on Oprah Winfrey joining 60 Minutes as a special contributor this fall? As a longtime viewer and champion of the series, I am cautiously optimistic. Although she is not a traditional journalist, I think her perspective could be beneficial to the broadcast. — Ryan
Matt Roush: I see no reason to think she’d be anything but an asset to the program or could somehow tarnish its well-deserved reputation as the gold standard for network newsmagazines. 60 Minutes is and has always been a class act, and so is Oprah Winfrey (save perhaps for some of the more questionable programs on her OWN Network). She may not be a “traditional” journalist, but she comes from a news background, and there’s no questioning her abilities as a mass-appeal broadcaster and, perhaps even more important, storyteller. Much will depend on the sorts of subjects and stories she brings to 60 Minutes, but there’s been a feeling ever since she quit her daytime gig that TV needs more Oprah, and this seems as good a fit as any.
Grieving for Jane’s Loss
Question: (Spoiler Alerts Ahead!): I don't know if I can keep watching Jane the Virgin after that (spoiler). I just. I mean. I watched all of 24 and loved it. I can deal with characters dying. But that was something else. That was so horrible. Is that real? I've been in denial. I've written you twice before and included how much I love Jane the Virgin. I actually, seriously might stop watching this show because of what happened last week. - Jordan
Matt Roush: Because I was on vacation when this happened, and also because I’ve fallen a bit behind on this show—like so many others, it’s hard to keep up even with shows you like when trying to stay ahead of the constant flow of new programming—this was a spoiler to me as well. (Stop reading if you haven’t watched and/or care.) But judging from the open letter Jane’s show-runner/creator Jenna Urman made available to grieving fans, they’d been plotting the death of Michael for quite some time. As she astutely noted in her letter, the real issue may have been the timing: “I’ve had so many tweets lately about how Jane is a bright spot these days. And I know you just watched a gut punch of an episode. So, I just wanted to reassure you that Jane’s optimism will rise up.” It’s also worth remembering, as Urman points out, that Jane the Virgin is, above all else, a telenovela, and while comic in overall tone is not immune from operatic tragedy. If Jane can eventually get past this, so too will most fans, I imagine. Stay strong.
Where’s the Riverdale Buzz?
Question: Even though I'm not super-familiar with the Archie comics, I'm enjoying Riverdale. I seem to be one of the few, though. This show seems to seriously lack the buzz and ratings that The CW's other comic adaptations have. Why is Riverdale lacking, and how long do you think the CW will give it before pulling the plug? - Lucy
Matt Roush: Seems to me the critical buzz (including my own review) has been pretty strong, and we at TV Insider are still buzzing about it, and sometimes that’s enough, especially with The CW. Given its continued allegiance to an acclaimed but marginal performer like Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, I’d be surprised to see the network give something this offbeat and interesting the bum’s rush. If it doesn’t get at least a second season to try to grow its base, I’d be shocked. That said, even with its background with the iconic Archie comics, Riverdale was never going to have the built-in audience that comes with the DC superhero franchises. Now if Jughead starts flying around in a cape, that’s a different story.
A Hirsch Fan, Dollars to Donuts
Question: I just watched the pilot episode of Superior Donuts and I thought it was pretty good. The one thing I liked most about the show is Judd Hirsch. I've always been a fan of his work from Taxi, Dear John and Numb3rs. How would you best describe Judd Hirsch as an actor? — Allan
Matt Roush: As I noted in my own review, I feel sort of the same way, and I especially enjoy his chemistry with co-star Jermaine Fowler. There’s an everyman appeal to Judd Hirsch that characterizes the best character actors, which in most regards is what he is, even when in a leading role. I guess the best words to describe him as an actor would include “reliable,” “intelligent,” “wry” (the latter depending on the character) and always “engaging.”
Question: I have stuck with How to Get Away with Murder since it first aired, and I have to admit it is getting tiresome. The characters are not even worth rooting for anymore. They are pretty much all terrible people. What is the likelihood that this show is renewed for a fourth season? I don't know where they could even go from this point.- Felicia
Matt Roush: As you probably noticed since you asked this, ABC has renewed all three of its “TGIT” melodramas for the next season. I’m still watching Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal, but have to say you’ve outlasted me when it comes to Murder—not just because the characters are obnoxious, which they mostly are, but because the convoluted storytelling just became too silly, even by “TGIT” standards. There are times I’m still tempted to tune in out of respect to the great (and soon to be Oscar-winning, I’m betting) Viola Davis. But I know she’s capable of better. And I suspect she knows this show, as it has evolved, is beneath her as well. And yet I’m sure it’s a fun character to play. If not to watch anymore.
Can Spader Make the Emmy List?
Question: Do you think James Spader will ever get an Emmy for The Blacklist? This man can do more acting with just his facial expressions than most actors can speaking dialogue. I'm really upset that the Emmys are now awarding the cable shows and forgetting all the fine acting on the network programs. - Gerry
Matt Roush: Looks like he’ll have to settle for the three Emmys he got playing Alan Shore on The Practice and Boston Legal. The Emmys has yet to nominate him for this show—although he has two Golden Globe nominations as Red—and after this much time, it’s hard to imagine the voters suddenly waking up to a show that in many ways has peaked (I’ll admit; I gave up on it during that preposterous Liz-is-dead period). I admire James Spader as well, and am glad he’s found another successful role on TV, but I’m thinking it’s not his performance that’s the issue here, but the sort of show he’s on that tends to get ignored by the Emmys anymore. Boston Legal may have been just as over the top, but allowed for big David E. Kelley-type verbal flourishes that tickled the Emmy voters’ fancy. And there’s no putting the genie back in the bottle when it comes to competing against actors in cable, pay cable and streaming shows. The real litmus test this year will be whether the Emmy voters recognize the work being done on NBC’s This Is Us.
Peeved at Network Pop-Ups
Question: I have to wonder if networks really think they gain viewers with the now ever-present (and large) logos during shows. And worse, the increasingly frequent ads for pending shows. Some of these take up 20% of the screen. How many viewers do not know what channel they are watching and are unaware of pending shows they want to watch? I have chosen to abandon network/cable TV in favor of Netflix/Amazon/Hulu not because of the cost of cable, but because I simply got too annoyed by all the intrusions. — Nelson
Matt Roush: You’re hardly alone on this one. The pop-ups that bother me the most are the animated ones, where characters move or things explode, distracting the eye from the action elsewhere on the screen. I understand why they’re there—because in a DVR world where many of us speed through the ads, it’s one of the few ways of guaranteeing attention—but the annoyance tends to outweigh the utility, so your complaint (a common one) is more than fair. The fact that we now have more options to avoid them makes them even more problematic, you’d think.
That’s all for now—and look for more questions and answers on Friday. 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@example.com or shoot me a line on Twitter (@TVGMMattRoush), and you can also submit questions via the handy form below.