Ask Matt: James Corden Triumphs, the ‘Bachelorette’ Reveal, ‘black-ish,’ MTM 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 [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: Is it just me or does everything James Corden touch turn to comedy gold? He did it again hosting the Grammys. CBS should flip Corden and Stephen Colbert's shows. Colbert is more suited to the later night slot, and Corden could give the Tonight Show serious competition. - Maurice
Matt Roush: Don’t think that hasn’t been rumored, especially after James Corden’s “Carpool Karaoke” segments began to take off. But Stephen Colbert has been coming on strong lately, beating Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show the last few weeks, no doubt on the strengths of his political commentary (which is what made his name in the first place, and even now, he’s a bigger brand name than Corden). That could be an anomaly, but as popular as Corden has become—and he’s clearly a go-to guy for big theatrical spectaculars like the Grammys and the Tonys—I wouldn’t expect CBS to make this sort of radical change with these personalities. Colbert’s show is still often a work in progress, but it’s their late-night flagship, and CBS is committed to it. The network has to be thrilled that they have this embarrassment of riches.
Boo to the Bachelorette Spoiler
Question: Why would ABC's The Bachelor through Chris Harrison spoil the show for its audience by revealing the new Bachelorette early on Jimmy Kimmel, while she's one of the four remaining contestants currently on The Bachelor? I find that to be very disrespectful to their viewing audience, who invest their time in watching it. — Donna
Matt Roush: That does qualify as the most extreme sort of spoiler, and kind of hard to ignore, given the significance of this casting. From what I can tell, the official explanation is that because of the quick turnaround between seasons—The Bachelorette premieres May 22, barely two months after the current season’s finale on March 13—they wanted to get the word out so they could attract the best array of bachelors to woo Rachel. And while in principal I agree that it’s disrespectful to jump the gun on this sort of announcement on behalf of those watching the show, when has “respect” ever had anything to do with this sordid spectacle of serial dating? When I heard they’d cast their first African-American Bachelorette, my first thought was they’d at last achieved equal-opportunity romantic exploitation.
ABC Spoiled black-ish, Too!
Question: As you know, a recent episode of black-ish involved Dre and Bow throwing a party to reveal the gender of the baby via the color of the cake. But ABC took the oomph out of this reveal by having spoiled it in the ads for the show, in which Dre said, "Finally, the son I've always wanted but never got!" This isn't an issue if you watch everything via DVR and skip all the ads, but especially since ABC would prefer people to watch live, what gives? Yes, that's a funny line, but they could have just as easily promoted it by "Watch to find out the gender of the baby!" and saved the surprise for fans. Instead, it made us, the viewer, be ahead of the characters for the first act of the show and ruined the effect of the reveal. ABC's publicity department should be more careful in the future and respectful of the story the show is trying to tell, which CLEARLY included the gender reveal being a surprise. Also, honestly, don't you think it's about time for the baby to be delivered? Rainbow found out she was pregnant during May sweeps last year, if I recall. I'm not sure how much time has passed on the show, but they had a summer vacation in the premiere. It seems like if they wait until May sweeps for the birth, that will be 12 months, rather than nine. I was expecting the baby birth to line up with February sweeps, but now I'm not so sure. Your thoughts? — Jake
Matt Roush: I was away when that episode aired, and I probably would have ignored the promos in any case, but yes, that does sound like a bad call from ABC’s marketing department. And I have no problem with putting off the arrival of the new Johnson baby until, presumably, May sweeps (no birth announcement has been made yet, to my or my editors’ knowledge). I kind of like the fact that this hasn’t been a “pregnancy season,” per se, in that it hasn’t dominated the storylines all year, which would be tiresome. And time on shows like these is elastic enough that it doesn’t really seem like they’re going for some freak Guinness record for Bo going beyond term.
Mary’s First Big (Body) Part
Question: With all the tributes for Mary Tyler Moore (may she rest in peace), none that I saw addressed an iconic TV role for which only her legs were seen. I don't remember the show (a bit before my time), but I remember many years ago, it was "revealed" that it was her "legs" that were seen, but never her entire person. Whether her voice was heard I don't recall, whether MTM was ever credited or shown in the show's credits, I do not recall, but what was the name of that TV show, and did it come before or after her iconic role on The Dick Van Dyke Show? And speaking of the old Van Dyke show, who played their "son" Ritchie on the show, and what did he have to say about her? - Sydney
Matt Roush: The show you’re thinking of is Richard Diamond, Private Detective (1957-60), as early David Janssen drama, which was Mary’s first buzz-worthy TV role (not counting commercials as Happy Hotpoint), mostly because she was heard but never seen, except for her legs, as a telephone-service operator known as Sam. The gimmick kept her identity mostly a mystery until (as the story goes) a 1959 TV Guide story called her out—as “Mary Moore”—in a fashion spread on ladies’ hosiery. She left the show around that time, reportedly because the publicity she was getting was spoiling Sam’s aura. Two years later she was cast as Laura Petrie to Dick Van Dyke’s Rob, and the rest is TV history. Larry Mathews played little Ritchie, and as far as I know (he pretty much left the business), he never had a bad word to say about either of his TV parents.
Question: What about Marlo Thomas? Was not she a role model? - Linda
Matt Roush: Absolutely. This isn’t a competition, mind you. The ’60s and ’70s gave us a number of TV role models, and as the adorable Ann Marie on That Girl, Marlo Thomas was an inspiration for those hoping to chase their dream in the big city. The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and Mary Richards, may be more enduring because hers was a less idealized story in a less romantic setting and more easily identifiable—although arguably Mary had more success as a TV producer than Ann did as an actress, while Ann at least had a steady beau in Don Hollinger. (And even without the legacy of That Girl, I’ll be forever grateful to her for Free to Be … You and Me, a TV special I fondly remember from the ’70s that has perhaps even more relevance today.)
Question: I have been enjoying the second season of Mercy Street on PBS and was wondering if you had the time or inclination to watch any of this season. The first episode of last season seemed to put you off with its Old South clichés, stilted dialogue and stiff acting. I was expecting one of the Green sisters to exclaim, "Fiddle-dee-dee!" Happily, they didn't, and I continued watching mainly to get history lessons missing from my high school American history class in Alexandria, VA, where the show is set. Life in Alexandria under Union occupation was complicated for everyone there. I feel the show depicts those complications fairly effectively through its numerous characters and subplots. I hope PBS will be able to make more dramas like Mercy Street, maybe executed a little better. Not all the great stories happened in the UK and the British Empire, as much as we may appreciate and enjoy them. — Frank
Matt Roush: I made it through the first season of Mercy Street and have not yet done the same with the second—although if it gets renewed for a third, I may try to find the time. Couldn’t agree more that I would like to see PBS continue its investment in homegrown drama. I also would like to see them raise the bar dramatically, although I’m willing to accept your assertion that the show improved. Here’s a thought: Instead of grafting a clichéd original story onto a historical setting, why not adapt an actual American classic? Hawthorne, Twain, Cather and the like.
An SVU Episode MIA
Question: Will we EVER get to see the Law & Order: SVU episode with Gary Cole that was shelved because it seemed too much like the life of the current White House Occupant? - Unsigned
Matt Roush: It hasn’t been scheduled yet, which is not to say that it won’t be. Although given the sensibilities involved, this may be the one case where being “ripped from the headlines” ultimately backfires, when truth becomes stranger than fiction. The episode stars Cole as a businessman running for office whose campaign is marred by accusations from women in his past. As the actor told The Hollywood Reporter, “You didn’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out where they’re getting this from.”
Question: I wonder why I can find any version of Law & Order on TV at any hour of the day. However, I can't find a Homicide: Life on the Street rerun to save my life. Do you know why that is? — Unsigned
Matt Roush: Some shows repeat better than others, and despite its acclaim, Homicide was never a ratings hit, and its syndication shelf life would have been limited. Whereas Law & Order was built for syndication, telling gripping self-contained stories in a way that it hardly matters what season you’re watching in what order. (Although there was that Homicide cross-over . . .) What’s more puzzling is why Homicide doesn’t seem to be available currently on any of the streaming services. It surely deserves to be.
That’s all for now—and look for more questions and answers next week. 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.