Ask Matt: 'Nashville' Shocker, Snafu at the Oscars, ‘NCIS: LA,’ Future of the Miniseries, 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.
R.I.P. Rayna Jaymes and Nashville’s Future
Question: I have never felt the need to write regarding a TV show, but I had become invested in Nashville watching it since its inception on ABC. Then I followed it to cable. Rayna and Deacon's storyline was as integral to the program as the music. Who made the decision to allow her to die? I couldn't believe my eyes. My heart is heavy regarding this decision, but this was the last time I am watching Nashville due to this monumental decision. I suspect others will agree with me. — Norma from Ohio
Matt Roush: According to all accounts, including our own interview with the show-runner, this was Connie Britton’s call to move on, and you’re one of many who wrote in to express similar dismay and even in some cases despair. Now that we’ve had a weekend to absorb the shock, I wonder how many loyal fans will indeed stay away, though I imagine quite a few will tune in this week at least to pay their respects. Read on for more reactions to this game-changing tragic twist.
Question: I’m a faithful reader of your column in my TV Guide Magazine. I guess a lot of people are asking you about last week’s shocking Nashville episode. What I can’t understand is that there was a lot written about whether or not the show would be back on this year, and then finally, the CMT pickup. What I can’t fathom is that Connie Britton would agree to another season and then leave the show after such a short time. It seems only likely that the choice to leave would be hers, not that the producers would let her go. She was the main star, with Hayden Panettiere more in second place. Seems like there really is no show without the main star! Almost all the cast revolved around Rayna. Well, I just hope you (or someone) will shed some light on all of this. I’ve been watching the show since it started, and none of this makes sense. - Joy
Matt Roush: Again, I ask you to read our interview with Marshall Herskovitz, who’s among TV’s more thoughtful and accomplished producers (thirtysomething, Once and Again) and see it if makes any more sense—which it still might not. I’m still wrestling with the notion that the show’s star would make the move to a new network with the series, knowing all along she was plotting an exit strategy. If you’re looking for a silver cloud in all of this, it’s that Connie Britton chose to help re-establish Nashville in its new home before taking leave, and she has left it in capable hands. The real question is whether it was wise for Nashville to proceed at all, knowing it was losing a character who’s a primary story engine and the heart and soul of the show, not to mention its most charismatic star (especially if you factor in her chemistry with Charles Esten). All in all, a precarious situation.
Question: With your recent comments about Nashville being more grounded and less hysterical this season, I was wondering if you think the show can keep that up after the loss of the wonderful Connie Britton. I am expecting the show to become the soap of Deacon constantly fighting his devils. The show would be better if it showed the strength he gained from his relationship with Rayna. — Ed
Matt Roush: I share your hope and concern, and I imagine that’s where Deacon’s character is heading—but not without a long and turbulent road that I’m not sure I’m in the mood to endure with him. I’m somewhat encouraged that when the show returns after a hiatus, there will be a three-month time jump allowing some of the characters to have moved on—or not—and for the show to reset itself. We’ll see if that’s enough, because the last thing we need is for Nashville to turn into a mopey melodrama. Again.
Not Laughing at the Oscars
Question: This year's Oscars was a joke. First they take way too long to get to the Best Picture award, then they pull a Steve Harvey on us and announce the WRONG PICTURE! You think a lot of folks avoid watching the Oscars nowadays, just wait till next year! -DP
Matt Roush: You may be right—although at least that shocking debacle with the Best Picture award got people talking, which is more than I can say (and what I pretty much said in my review) about the rest of the bloated show. So much unnecessary padding, with gags that either didn’t work, like the overlong tour-bus prank, or were overplayed, like the Kimmel-vs.-Damon feud (which I ended up having to explain to some people) that often felt like we were watching Jimmy Kimmel Live at the Oscars, for better and for worse. At least his own show takes a full week to approach the four-hour mark.
Paying Respects to Miguel Ferrer
Question: When does NCIS: Los Angeles plan to do a memoriam for Miguel Ferrer? It's been several weeks now, and I have seen nothing to commemorate this actor who contributed so much to the show. - Chris
Matt Roush: Look for a tribute to the popular character actor this Sunday, March 5. Sometimes it takes a while for a show to catch up to events in real life when a cast member passes away while still in production. Listen for a cover of “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” played by Ferrer’s band, The Jenerators, and a remembrance title card at the end of the episode.
Could the Miniseries Stage a Comeback?
Question: If When We Rise does well for ABC, could you see more broadcast networks looking at miniseries again? Why or why not? - Unsigned
Matt Roush: Let’s hope so. Hard to remember the last time a network devoted this much time within one week to a dramatic project of this scope, and I’ve missed this format. When We Rise isn’t perfect, although its messy overreach is well-suited for the subject of social revolution and gay-rights activism, and if it does well, I’d hope the networks would get back in the “event” business with more specials of this type. I wouldn’t be surprised, though, if this turns out to be a tough sell, given the heavy subject matter and our shift in viewing habits—it will be binge-watchable on Hulu, for those who prefer to watch that way. If it’s a hit, that would be great, especially since TV is notorious for copycatting anything that works (see the rise in made-for-TV musicals in recent years). If it’s seen as a disappointment, it might confirm the long-held belief that longform drama airing on consecutive nights is a thing of the past. Regardless, the “limited series” is still very much in vogue, with shows like FX’s delicious Feud: Bette and Joan and the upcoming new seasons of American Crime (March) and Fargo (April) telling complete stories in weekly installments. I’ll take my quality miniseries wherever and however I can get them.
Is Code Black On Life Support?
Question: What is happening with Code Black? The show is really good, but have not heard if it is coming back next season. Is it? I do not like the show they put on in its place. — Mkie
Matt Roush: Well, you don’t have to suffer with its replacement anymore, since CBS yanked Doubt off the schedule after only two episodes, one of the quickest cancellations in quite some time. The Criminal Minds spinoff Beyond Borders will take its place on Wednesdays starting March 8, and to answer your question, Code Black is currently in limbo, awaiting news of a renewal that may not come until CBS announces its new fall lineup in May.
House Keeping and Cancellation Angst
Question: First off I would like to ask about a show that was supposed to have a third season but as of now has not and seems to have been lost somewhere, namely, USA's Playing House, which was a lot funnier than some other sitcoms currently airing. Did USA change its mind and send it off to a streaming service or what?
Finally, every time lately I decide to try a new show it seems to get an immediate ax—case in point, CBS and Doubt, and I am currently watching their token Saturday show, Ransom. Does this look like a goner, too? At this rate, I do not know what to try and not to try. - JV
Matt Roush: From what I can tell, Playing House is still waiting for an airdate, but it’s a bit of an outlier at USA, which mostly airs dramas, so be patient. (It might make sense, actually, for this to move over to sister channel Bravo, where it would fit in nicely with something as irreverent as Odd Mom Out.) And the demise of Doubt, as previously noted, was shockingly quick and sudden, given that even the networks tend to take more time nowadays before nixing a show. The current norm is to let a show play out its original episode order before making that decision, but in this case, CBS most certainly did not give Doubt the benefit of the doubt. With Ransom, the stakes are considerably lower on Saturdays, and it’s an international co-production that likely isn’t costing the network all that much to program on a night that’s largely an afterthought anymore. So its future is more about whether the show’s multi-national partners decide to keep it in production than how well it’s doing on CBS.
That’s all for now. 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.