Ask Matt: Syfy’s '12 Monkeys' Strategy, Death on 'Nashville' and 'Survivor,' Plus ‘Feud,' 'Lethal Weapon,' 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 Ask Matt columns on most Tuesdays and Fridays.
Monkey-ing Around With a Syfy Hit
Question: SyFy has announced it’s doing a linear binge for Season 3 of 12 Monkeys. All 10 episodes will be shown over three nights, May 19-21. Plus giving the critically acclaimed cult show a fourth and final season renewal order for 2018. Isn’t this the first broadcast/cable network that is releasing a whole season as a binge? Do you think that this is a new model for how TV series shows are going to be released now, since binge watching has become the norm and embraced by the viewing public since Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, etc. are changing the way we watch our shows? - Caryle
Matt Roush: It’s certainly a sign of the times. There have been a few examples of broadcast and cable networks releasing an entire season of a series for digital binge-watching at the launch (NBC’s Aquarius in the first season, more recently Freeform’s Beyond and the upcoming Famous in Love, and probably more), but they still tend to schedule these shows on a weekly basis for those who prefer that model. The Monkeys strategy—four episodes on Friday, with three episodes each on Saturday and Sunday of that May weekend—is very aggressive but also fascinating and perhaps intuitive. Because outside of die-hard binge obsessives, I imagine most people take a pause after burning through three or four episodes of most series. (That’s about my limit when I’m previewing something; after that, it begins to blur, unless the show is truly amazing.) Monkeys is such an immersive and challenging series that waiting a week between episodes can just add to the confusion. This seems a perfect way to present it, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see more shows of a special nature given this treatment. But we’re not yet to the point where this will become the norm for most network and even cable series. They still want you tuning in on a weekly basis as much as possible.
A Nashville Death Wish
Question: I was one of the many fans thunderstruck by the death of Rayna on Nashville. By the end of the episode, I was asking myself: If they had to kill off a major character, why not the constantly annoying teenage daughter Maddie? Of course, I'm sure the death had nothing to do with the actual storyline, just Connie Britton's career, but still, boy, what a missed opportunity to have gotten rid of a truly irritating, whining character. I will give the show a chance when it returns, but do not see how it's going to hold together without Rayna at its core.
(P.S. Double Jeers to CBS!! I was so looking forward to watching Katherine Heigl and Elliot Gould on the small screen in Doubt. Two airings? They could have changed it to a different night, like Saturdays, where there is never anything on, or ran the episodes during the summer, instead of the incessant reruns or irksome reality shows. Feels good to get this off my chest, thanks!) — Maria
Matt Roush: Maddie drives me crazy, too, but I’m hoping the death of her beloved mother grounds her in a way that begins to redeem the character, which appears to already be happening. And while your rather shocking suggestion to kill off a problem child is to a degree understandable, given the level of aggravation she has contributed to the show, no way were they going to split up that real-life Stella sister team of Lennon (Maddie) and Maisy (Daphne).
As for Doubt, CBS hasn’t made any moves beyond the sudden cancellation, but it’s still possible it will be burned off during the off-season, perhaps on low-risk Saturday nights, or made available online. The show wasn’t mentioned in CBS’s first wave of summer scheduling announcements, but these days, it’s rare for a show that’s in the can to disappear entirely.
Is No Animal Safe on Survivor?
Question: How could the tribe on Survivor even think about killing a baby goat OR its mother? The live chickens that the producers supply is bad enough! Survivor almost lost a viewer that has watched since day one! (P.S. Down with the tribe member Sandra who refers to herself as "queen"!) — Charlie
Matt Roush: The name of this game is surviving, and hunger is a constant for the castaways. Always has been, and that adds to the drama. I’m glad for your sake that the goats were spared, but I can’t really judge these players for doing whatever they can to feed themselves. As for Sandra, she is the show’s only two-time winner, so the royal ego is at least earned, if not enjoyable to watch. Let’s see if her hubris backfires this time.
Feud: Fair or Foul?
Question: Now that we're a few episodes in, what's your take on Feud: Bette and Joan? I normally love everything Ryan Murphy does, but this is falling flat for me and I can't figure out why. It feels overly crass and vulgar. I'm far from a prude: I'm never bothered by cursing, nudity, etc. in entertainment, but something about it here feels odd. Am I just being weird? - Jamison
Matt Roush: You’ve presumably watched Scream Queens and American Horror Story, and find this crass and vulgar? Maybe it’s the subject matter, and you’re not used to seeing characters like these movie-star legends (and their bosses) shown at their worst, it’s hard for me to know why this doesn’t work for you. I love the show, in part because I’m fascinated by that period of movie history, and the making of What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? in particular. There’s no doubt the entire project is stylized to the max, so much so that if you’re not feeling it, you may well wonder what all the fuss is about. It all builds to the April 2 episode (the furthest I was able to watch in advance) in which Bette and Joan face off during the Oscars, and if that episode doesn’t knock you out, then this clearly isn’t the show for you.
Looking for the Quirk
Question: I enjoy your reviews and they have led me to some great programs. While I await the return of Mr. Robot, Stranger Things, Falling Water, Sense8 and Twin Peaks, what quirky show am I not watching that I should be? — Cathy
Matt Roush: Two come to mind. Did you sample Humans, AMC’s sci-fi drama about artificial intelligence that just wrapped its second season? That’s well worth anyone’s time. And given the shows you cite, hard to imagine a trippier show currently on the air than FX’s Legion.
Taking a Stand Against Bigotry
Question: Why are you giving space in your column to the bigoted question about a transgender character on Doubt, and why not call out the bigotry more forcefully? — Heather
Matt Roush: I struggled with including that question, which usually is a sign that I probably shouldn’t have. Rule of thumb: Whenever I see questions in my mailbag of the “Why are there so many gays on TV?” variety, it’s obvious the underlying question is “Why are there so many gays in society?” and that is an attitude I won’t entertain, and it’s not appropriate for this forum anyway. Same for complaints about representations of interracial or interfaith relationships on TV. When people complain of an “agenda,” it’s usually their own that’s being expressed. Which is why I almost never read comments in my online columns.
The political climate these days is so heated that I would like to think of this column as something of a safe haven, unless of course the content of the TV shows being discussed invites it. Like, say, last year’s OJ projects or ABC’s American Crime or this week’s Shots Fired on Fox. Or the discourse in late night on shows like Full Frontal and Seth Meyers’ brilliant “A Closer Look” segments. With Doubt, the only agenda in featuring Laverne Cox’s character was that of professional pride.
My original response to that question was far more sarcastic, but in discussing the situation here with some colleagues, I decided the best approach was to let the writer’s own words speak for themselves. If the result in any way normalized bigotry toward transgenders, I apologize.
Here’s another response to that exchange, from Carrie: “Good answer! Exactly what I would have said. You're my TV hero.” I wouldn’t go that far, but it lessens my regret for having given that point of view a platform.
And now, back to our regularly scheduled programming:
In Praise of Lethal Weapon
Question: I did not know which direction the TV version of Lethal Weapon was going. I was surprised I liked the TV version. It was really good, and I hope they can get at least five seasons out of this. Clayne Crawford and Damon Wayans make a good team. The Lethal Weapon series are some of my favorite movies. They should let Danny Glover make a cameo. - Elaine
Matt Roush: There’s still time, since the show has been renewed for a second season, and with Bones exiting soon, this does look like it has the potential to be Fox’s next long-term keeper. It’s easily one of the better transfers from movies to TV, and wouldn’t Glover be great as Murtaugh’s former mentor, or maybe even his dad?
That’s all for now. We’ll pick up the conversation again 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.