Ask Matt: Paying for ‘The Good Fight,’ New/Old Face on ‘NCIS: LA,’ ‘Black Sails,’ ‘Timeless,’ 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: Mine is not a question so much as an opinion on the upcoming The Good Wife spinoff The Good Fight—not on the show itself, though I feel that it will be a very good show since so many people from The Good Wife are returning, but the fact that we will have to pay CBS extra money for the privilege of being able to view the show at all. Feel free to call me a Chicken Little, but I just want to quietly suggest that people should consider the ramifications of shows such as The Good Fight and the upcoming Star Trek: Discovery series becoming legitimate hits for CBS’s All Access channel.
My biggest fear would be that if this endeavor becomes successful for CBS, how long will it be before ABC, NBC, Fox or even The CW decides to give this idea a whirl and withhold some key new series or, heaven forbid, move a successful current series to an All Access channel of their own. I for one feel that we already have more than enough streaming services with original programming of their own to pay for (Netflix, Amazon, Hulu) and certainly don’t need the major networks to get in on this action as well. I hope that The Good Fight is indeed a great show, but I just can’t bring myself to pay out more money just to watch one show. I believe that this is a very slippery slope that we are standing at the edge of, and I don’t think I want to take that leap. I can’t wish CBS good luck with this new business model of theirs—but I do hope that they’ll release the box set at some point. – Terry
Matt Roush: As you’d expect, I got quite a bit of mail on this subject with similar concerns, though most were like Schatzi, who simply wrote: “I enjoyed the premiere of The Good Fight, and I am sad that I will not be able to see future episodes. I have no intention of subscribing to CBS All Access just to see that program. First they foist Bull on us, then tease us with The Good Fight. What are they thinking?”
Well, obviously they’re thinking and hoping these two original series will drive traffic to and increase brand awareness of their subscription/On Demand/archival service. The other major broadcast networks are aligned with Hulu for distribution of their current shows, and if they start producing premium material exclusively for subscribers, you might have actual cause for concern. I figure shows like The Good Fight and Star Trek: Discovery will still be the exception, but what rankles me as a critic is that CBS is putting its best efforts—no offense to its everyday formula programming, which is quite popular— behind a paywall, while settling for uninspired remakes (MacGyver, Training Day) over the air. On the other hand, for all of its acclaim, The Good Wife was never a breakout hit, and the spinoff might never have happened without this option of turning it into a premium series with more adult content. (We’ll have to wait to see what makes Discovery so special, besides its built-in cult appeal.) As one of my friends pointed out, you could opt to wait for the show to air all of its episodes, then subscribe and give it a look, or maybe if this backfires, CBS will put the episodes on air or online, though I wouldn’t count on it.
Question: Do you have a sense of why CBS hasn’t taken advantage of its relationship with The CW to increase the content of CBS All Access? If they are trying to make their paid streaming service flourish, it would seem like an easy way to gain access to more content and subscribers. Not sure if this is a plus or a minus, but it would also give Greg Berlanti a spot for original programming when he finally scrapes the bottom of the DC barrel and decides to produce Etrigan: The Series (complete with spells in iambic pentameter) – Chris
Matt Roush: I’ll admit, your joke went over my head—or maybe I need to spend more time in Stuart’s comic-book store on The Big Bang Theory. The simple answer is that The CW has struck what I imagine is a lucrative deal to put its shows on Netflix shortly after their seasons end. I believe this is what has kept marginal performers like Crazy Ex-Girlfriend alive, so that seems like a corporate win-win to me, though I’m the farthest thing from a business expert.
A Familiar Face in the NCIS World
Question: It was fun to see John M. Jackson returning as Admiral Chegwidden in Sunday’s week’s NCIS: LA. It has been 21 years since he first appeared in JAG, and outside of Star Trek and soap operas, it can’t be that often a character reappears 20-plus years later in a spinoff of a spinoff. It seems from his final scene that he may be hanging around for a while. Have you heard if he’s going to be a recurring character? – Jason
Matt Roush: That was a nice surprise, and a gift for fans. I’m not sure how often he’ll recur, but I have every reason to think you haven’t seen the last of him.
Could Black Sails Raise Another Flag?
Question: I’ve been a big fan of Black Sails on Starz. I know this is the final season, but do you know if the network has given any thought to carrying on the adventures of Long John Silver? It is an obvious idea for a new series, and would have the advantage of bringing the Black Sails fans in right from the start. What do you think? –Peggi
Matt Roush: Currently focusing on their endgame and not wanting to spoil it, the producers have been mostly coy so far (including with our reporter) about their hopes for extending the franchise. But Starz has a history of doing this, most notably with Spartacus, so I wouldn’t be the least surprised to see this pirate adventure return at some point, though perhaps not immediately, with an adult twist on the Treasure Island legend.
Does Timeless Have a Future?
Question: For a show that started out as a mildly entertaining show that I thought I’d “give a chance,” Timeless turned into something I eagerly looked forward to each week by the time of the season finale. It was never “high art” or anything, but for a show that set out to entertain, it did a great job. I thoroughly enjoyed the twists and turns, and I even enjoyed the Rittenhouse machinations throughout time, despite the fact that I usually despise shows that have to put a “conspiracy” behind everything. This is a show that could have dealt completely with black-and-white good/bad, but they dealt in a lot of shades of gray and, mostly, did it well (OK, most of the Rittenhouse people were pretty clearly bad). As for the finale, I like that they wrapped up the main season plot with time for a denouement (and, of course, setting up the next season). And I’ve been able to see a lot of twists coming on TV shows lately, and I was genuinely surprised by the twist involving Lucy’s family. The only real false note I had with the twist at the end is that the Rittenhouse plans seem to have required Flynn to go back to a certain time period to find someone (I’m trying to avoid too many spoilers). Did Rittenhouse actually plan that? Has there been any word on the show’s renewal chances? – Scott
Matt Roush: No comment on the Rittenhouse nonsense, but yes, Timeless was a fun romp and I’m hoping NBC gives it another whirl. At the moment, it’s in limbo, not having scored an early renewal (unlike This Is Us, which got picked up for two more years), so we may have to wait until May when NBC announces its new lineup to know for certain whether Timeless will be part of it.
Where the Hell Is Lucifer?
Question: Lucifer is a devilish good show. It is well written, well scripted and well acted. The devil himself would be proud of this superb acting ensemble. The show possesses all of the necessary elements to make it entertaining. It is a police procedural that contains drama, mystery, romance and light comedy. Who could ask for more? But how does Fox expect such a good show to expand its audience base when the show is put on one hiatus after the other? The show is now on a three-month hiatus. What is Fox thinking? Fox needs to give the devil his due and quit putting this great show on one hiatus after the other. What do you think, Matt? Since Fox is so busy promoting its new shows, I hope they don’t lose sight on what a gem of a show they have with Lucifer. — Jackie
Matt Roush: I think we might want to cool it on the devil puns, but the show does ask for it, I suppose. And the good news in all of this is that while you’re impatiently waiting for the show to return on May 1, Fox went ahead and picked the show up for a full third season. Interruptions for holidays and for midseason tryouts are an infernal (sorry!) part of doing business, but Lucifer obviously has an angel on its shoulder at the network.
Curious About the Critic’s Routine
Question: Obviously, you watch a LOT of TV, but how do you watch it? Do you watch everything in real time, do you speed watch through certain shows, do you listen to certain shows in the background while doing other things (sitcoms are great for this), do you quit watching if you start to get bored and move onto another show? What platforms do you use? What time(s) of day? And how do you prioritize what you watch? Inquiring minds want to know. — Maurice
Matt Roush: I’ll try to simplify a very complicated answer by noting, without whining, that it’s more difficult than ever to stay atop the mountain of TV, and I don’t pretend to watch everything. I do try to sample most anything that’s new on major networks, cable and streaming—scripted, anyway, with some dabbling in reality and docu-series—and more often than not, I’m being presented with multiple episodes of new series (sometimes an entire season) before premiere, and the real challenge addresses your question of prioritizing. Because any time I spend four or eight or possibly 13 hours (hi, Netflix) with any one show, that’s four or eight or 13 hours of something else I’m not watching. I tend to do the majority of my advance screening through my computer anymore, and with ongoing TV, on the DVR or Hulu or some such. Rarely in real time, except for news and occasional late-night, because time is so precious now. I try not to fast-forward through anything I might actually write about, and the only show I regularly watch while doing something else (like laundry) is Jeopardy! The bottom line is that because I’m generally spending most of my work time, when not writing, with new and newly returning series, and the streaming universe can be a real rabbit hole (for better and for worse), I don’t have as much time anymore to keep up with more run-of-the-mill weekly TV, though it helps to be at TV Guide Magazine with a dedicated staff that is often able to stay current with what I can’t or choose not to.
As an object lesson, look at a partial list of what’s premiering on Sunday, March 5, alone: FX’s Feud: Bette and Joan (a must-see), ABC’s Time After Time (2-hour premiere), Fox’s Making History time-travel sitcom, NBC’s Chicago Justice, E!’s The Arrangement, the finale of Victoria on PBS’s Masterpiece, the return of Little Big Shots and Shades of Blue on NBC and The Last Man on Earth on Fox. How would you choose?
Calling the Midwife
Question: I never see anything pertaining to PBS’s Call the Midwife. When will its next season be premiering and why has it taken so long? – Monica
Matt Roush: The sixth season will premiere April 2, and British series tend to be of shorter duration than American shows, so the long lapse between seasons is hardly unusual. If it makes you feel better, the show (now set in 1962) has been picked up for three more eight-episode seasons, which will take the nurses and nuns of Nonnatus House into 1965.
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.