Ask Matt: Is the ‘Race’ Still Amazing? Rebooting ‘Will & Grace,’ ‘Blindspot,’ ‘Designated Survivor’ and ‘Criminal Minds’
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.
Back Into the Race
Question: What do you think of the new season of The Amazing Race? I’d been waiting for months and wasn’t particularly thrilled with the idea of pairing strangers but found that I enjoyed the premiere very much. I thought this was the best casting they’ve done in years and the strangers twist added a new dimension to the game. – Matthew
Matt Roush: So far so mostly good. The Amazing Race has a way of showing people at their best and worst, because of the frustrations of travel and getting lost and struggling either physically or mentally at challenges. And it has been interesting and even fun to see teams seemingly comprised of opposites pulling together, at least in these early legs, while teams who might look invincible turn out to be their own worst enemies. We’ll see how it develops, but I’m on board for now.
Question: Who had the bright idea to put The Amazing Race on at 10/9c? It’s one show the family can watch to see different places and cultures as armchair travelers. It also shows what team work is about, vs. Survivor or Big Brother stuck in one location and constant whispering and back-stabbing and the same old contests. – Barbara
Matt Roush: This issue was addressed in an earlier column, but it may bear repeating, if only to remind readers in this digital age that scheduling still matters to many viewers. My initial instinct is to just say record it and watch it at an earlier time on another night, but that’s not always an option. And in terms of optics and content, The Amazing Race does feel like a show that deserves to air in an earlier time period. In a perfect world, CBS might have found a way to air this in between seasons of Survivor in that Wednesday time period. Or my own favored scenario would have been to return The Amazing Race to Sundays, where it was a perfect bridge between 60 Minutes and scripted shows. But CBS isn’t likely to dislodge a powerhouse like NCIS: Los Angeles in favor of an Emmy-winning blue-chip reality competition that the network seems to take for granted these days.
Will & Grace: Reboot or Retcon?
Question: I’m on the fence about the upcoming Will & Grace reboot. Although I adored the series, I absolutely loathed the finale. Spoiler alert for those who didn’t watch: For Will & Grace to get into an epic fight and not talk for almost 20 years wasn’t exactly a great ending in my opinion. Sure, it was different, and they did kind of reunite in the end, but I still hated it. I hope the reboot will forget this ending. Turning to cable, have you heard any news about the Deadwood and Flight of the Conchords movies? HBO announced they want to make the movies but haven’t heard a peep. — Megan S.
Matt Roush: By the time Will & Grace ended, it was not what you’d call in its prime, and the series finale left a particularly sour aftertaste. Let’s hope these new episodes—NBC recently increased the order from 10 to 12—won’t worry too much about continuity or overly concern themselves with continuing storylines. The reason it’s back at all is because the surprise election-themed reunion episode filmed independently last fall reminded fans of what they always loved about the show: the banter and antics of these four over-the-top characters. Ignoring the mistakes of the past would seem to be the right way to go in this presumably short-term revival.
As for Deadwood and Flight of the Conchords movies: These projects are beginning to feel like urban legends. Any time the subject comes up, either HBO or those involved in the original shows insist they may well happen. And should either ever actually go into production, it’s not likely to be a secret. For now, they’re still either being written or in development hell, and until they actually get a green light, I’m not getting my hopes up or holding my breath.
U.S. Series Need to Cut to the Chase
Question: We have become very disappointed in Blindspot this season and have quit watching it. What started out as a creative and clever idea has now regressed to repetitious stories about Shepherd, Sandstorm, the brother, and the annual killing of Patterson’s newest boyfriend. I think I enjoy the BBC approach: Write 6-8 episodes and reach a conclusion, while American TV seems dependent on writing 16-24 episodes and hope to get renewed for another 16-24 episodes, ad nauseam, which works against telling a complete and compelling story. — Larry
Matt Roush: Ad nauseum is right. This is an excellent point, especially when it comes to high-concept thrillers like Blindspot, Quantico and others in that genre—few of which I’ve been able to stick with past a frustrating first season. Sustaining these shows over the long haul is very difficult, and keeping up with the mythologies rarely feels like it’s worth the effort. As our viewing habits continue to shift, and the self-contained binge-watching model becomes more attractive, the market for gimmicky shows like these may diminish unless they can promise quicker, more satisfying payoffs.
Will Designated Survivor Survive?
Question: In my opinion, Designated Survivor is the best show on TV since the original 24, and I feel it doesn’t get the credit it deserves. Why did so many weeks pass before they brought it back? I realize the networks are all doing this and I don’t understand why. I feel all the networks are trying to put too many shows on in a season, quantity over quality. Reason? – Unsigned
Matt Roush: A three-month hiatus is pretty extreme for a first-season show, but the alternative would have been for the show to run straight through (minus a holiday break) and its finale might already have aired, prompting other complaints. Although given Designated Survivor’s highly serialized nature, that still might have been the better approach—except for the fact that the series is going through show-runners at a fast clip (it’s already looking for its fourth), which may also have accounted for the long break.
To address the bigger question of why this sort of on-and-off schedule occurs at all, it helps to look at the long view, that networks are now playing a year-round game, which means managing its assets as best it can. With Designated Survivor, that entailed airing the season in two distinct halves with a midpoint break, using the attempted assassination as a cliffhanger. This is how many cable series do it, and it might have helped if ABC had planned to relieve it with something less jarring than episodes of Match Game (the network’s apparent go-to placeholder, currently filling the void left by the cancellation of Time After Time).
Question: Is Designated Survivor being renewed? – Jan
Matt Roush: Most likely. ABC hasn’t yet issued many early pickups for next season beyond the obvious, but this seems a good bet, including the fact, as mentioned above, that they’re seeking a new show-runner for a presumed second year.
Of Differing (Criminal) Minds
Question: Please, anything about Criminal Minds? Just can’t get enough of Matthew Gray Gubler. His Reid in these episodes is just fascinating – Angel
Question: Just wondering whose idea it was to ruin Criminal Minds. We have watched since the beginning, through Gideon’s departure, and all the Hotch drama. Now we will not watch while Reid is in prison, and I will not be back. My roommate is still taping, hoping for a resolution, but I am gone. Why would they do that to a beloved character? — Lori
Matt Roush: And never the twain shall meet. You either love or loathe story arcs like the one that has kept Reid behind bars for so long. Eventually, he’ll get out, I expect, but producers would most likely argue that giving characters big stories like these, however frustrating and overextended, at least shake things up for a show that’s this long in the tooth (and recently renewed for a 13th season).
The Catch Sounds Like …
Question: This may seem like a frivolous question, but believe me, it’s not meant that way. I loved watching The Chase last season, my kind of light, enjoyable escapism. Haven’t seen it this year because I’m immersed in The Blacklist: Redemption, but I’m wondering, having gone from Janet Evanovich’s complete Stephanie Plum series and now am into her collaboration with Lee Goldberg on the Fox and O’Hare book series—about an FBI agent and a master thief—whether the TV series was taken from these books. Especially since Lee Goldberg had been a TV writer for Monk (and others) AND the second book in their series is titled The Catch. Do you know whether it’s a coincidence, one more takeoff on the To Catch A Thief ilk, or whether the books and the TV show are a duo? I’m just curious. — Dorothy
Matt Roush: Pure coincidence. And here’s the thing (an honest mistake, I didn’t catch it the first time I read your question): The ABC show is called The Catch. Capers like these do have a sort of generic ring to them, but it’s the comfort level that attracts us to them, I suppose. While Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg are not connect to this show, there is a novelist whose original treatment led to the development of The Catch: Kate Atkinson, whose wonderful Jackson Brodie novels were adapted into the BBC series Case Histories, starring Jason Isaacs (and shown on PBS’s Masterpiece Mystery!). Check that one out.
Question: Can you find out who will pick up The Blacklist on NBC? Neither Hulu, Amazon Prime nor Netflix is showing the recent 2016-17 season? — Spurdy
Matt Roush: Not sure what you mean by “pick up.” The original series will return to NBC with new episodes April 20, once the Redemption spinoff finishes. Episodes from the current fourth season are available on nbc.com, but the streaming deal doesn’t extend to Hulu or other platforms. (And Netflix only gains access to seasons of ongoing network series once they’ve concluded.)
Question: Any word as to when if ever we will get to see the unbroadcast “Unstoppable” episode of Law & Order: SVU? – Matt
Matt Roush: Nope. (For those with foggy memories, this is the “ripped-from-the-headlines” episode about a politician whose campaign is sidelined by accusations of sexual misconduct, originally scheduled to air in the fall but derailed by the Trump candidacy and eventual win.) It appears the 18th season’s schedule is set through the end of May with no sign of this episode. It may yet air someday, but for now, it still appears to be too hot to handle.
Question: Any renewal news on Secrets and Lies or Pitch? Thanks! – Neal
Matt Roush: No and no, and possibly not until the upfront presentations the week of May 15. Both may be long shots, but Pitch at least had great buzz among those who watched, and is something different, so I’m rooting for its return.
Question: Do you have any idea when Broadchurch Season 3 will be airing in America? Thanks! – Ronnie
Matt Roush: It’s currently airing in England, but BBC America hasn’t announced a premiere date beyond sometime this year. Worked pretty well when Broadchurch’s brilliant first season aired during the summer, so that’s what I’m hoping for, if not sooner.
Question: So I read that Time After Time was canceled. After rewatching the fifth and last episode that aired, it ended with scenes from the next episode. This tells me that there are more episodes in this series in the can. Will they be picked up by another network or will ABC complete the series at another time? — Gene
Matt Roush: As usual in these cases, it’s unclear. The remaining episodes could be burned off during the off-season or on a Saturday night, or could be made available online or for streaming. At the moment, nothing has been announced one way or the other, so the completed episodes are still in limbo.
That’s all for now. We’ll pick up the conversation again later this 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.