Ask Matt: ‘Feud’s Awards Dilemma, Carrie Coon (‘Leftovers’ and ‘Fargo’), ‘Homeland,’ Freddie Highmore post-‘Bates,’ and ‘Training Day’

Feud - Susan Sarandon, Jessica Lange
Suzanne Tenner/FX
Susan Sarandon as Bette Davis, Jessica Lange as Joan Crawford.

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.

Jessica Vs. Susan?

Question: I have now devoured all of FX’s brilliant Feud, and am obsessed with one life-imitates-Hollywood-life conundrum: Who do you think is going to take home the Emmy, Jessica Lange or Susan Sarandon? I’m sure they got along better than Joan Crawford and Bette Davis, but how are Emmy voters going to choose between these superlative performances? The final episode was so heartbreaking! — Victoria

Matt Roush: This year’s limited-series/movie actress field is going to be one intense category. Not only the two Feud leads, but they’ll likely be facing fellow Oscar-winning contenders including Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon from HBO’s Big Little Lies, and possibly Oprah Winfrey for The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, which aired on HBO the same weekend as Feud’s fabulous finish.

But let’s focus the discussion on Jessica Lange and Susan Sarandon, because of the irony that their characters had their most epic falling-out at the 1962 Oscars, when Bette was nominated for Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? and Joan wasn’t, and Crawford got her revenge when she contrived to accept the trophy (for winner Anne Bancroft) to show up her co-star. This also reminds me of the infamous 1950 Oscars, when Bette Davis was nominated for a career-high role as Margo Channing in All About Eve, but when co-star Anne Baxter (Eve) put herself up in the lead actress category, they may have canceled each other out, and both lost to Judy Holliday for Born Yesterday. (Another remarkable also-ran that year, echoing some aspects of latter-year Joan Crawford, to put it mildly: Gloria Swanson as Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard.)

Since I’ll eventually have to make a judgment call, I’d give odds to Jessica Lange here. The tragic arc of the Joan Crawford character, especially in the latter chapters, will resonate with voters, and whereas I never really lost sight of Susan Sarandon in her characterization of Bette, Jessica truly disappeared into the role of Joan. If they do cancel each other out, I’d think Nicole Kidman has a good chance as the abused wife in Lies. An embarrassment of riches here.

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Can There Be Too Much Carrie Coon?

Question: I am a fan of both The Leftovers and Fargo. I saw Carrie Coon on stage before The Leftovers began, and think she’s a superb actress. I’ve watched the season openers of both shows on which she is now starring and I enjoyed them, but I just have a nagging feeling that the fact these shows are running at the same time might be a little distancing due to her presence in both. I know shows get scheduled when they get scheduled, and I hope that the strengths of these shows and the actress make this potential problem a non-starter. What is your take on this? Or am I being hypersensitive?

Also, I just caught up with the rest of the season of Homeland, which I thought was pretty solid. I guess it’s no longer a buzzy show, but I would love to see Rupert Friend and Elizabeth Marvel get some recognition for their performances. Your thoughts on the season? — ML

Matt Roush: I think it’s terrific that Carrie Coon is on TV in such strong and disparate roles, and the coincidence of both series airing at the same time is something to celebrate, not fret about. The Leftovers and Fargo couldn’t be more different, as are Nora and Gloria, and I can’t see how it takes away from the impact of either that the same great actress is appearing in both. (The same could be said of Emmy winner Regina King, doing double duty last year and this in The Leftovers and American Crime.) I do commend your taste, though. These are great shows.

As for Homeland, I found it an uneven season (bottoming out in that melodramatic incident when Quinn was under siege in Carrie’s house—and later when he fatefully removed the bullets, duh, from Astrid’s gun), but it got much more gripping toward the end, when the impact of the fake-news conspiracy inflamed opposition to president-elect Keane. That was scary, as it is in real life—which is, after all, a Homeland specialty. Not sure I bought Dar Adal’s about-face at the end, but that was a suspenseful climax—and Keane’s subsequent reaction, though rushed in some regards, was chilling. I agree that Rupert Friend and Elizabeth Marvel were terrific. Friend was hard to watch all season as the damaged Quinn, but he’ll be missed. Marvel is always formidable, on stage or screen, and this is one of her best roles yet. Certainly can’t wait for round 2 between her and Carrie.

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Life After Norman Bates

Question: Now that the wonderful Bates Motel is ended, what does Freddie Highmore plan to do? I was initially afraid to watch this show because the original Psycho scared me so much that I couldn’t shower for weeks. This version is so compelling and the acting so marvelous that I am already feeling withdrawal. There are very few shows reaching this high potential. – Dorothy H

Matt Roush: Agreed that Bates Motel exceeded expectations in so many ways. The good news, conditionally (because we don’t know yet if it has been picked up), is that Freddie Highmore is tackling a network series next, playing the title role in the ABC drama pilot The Good Doctor, as a young autistic surgeon whose awkward mannerisms—something he perfected as Norman Bates—is exceeded by his surgical skills. The West Wing’s Richard Schiff and Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce’s Beau Garrett are among his co-stars. Highmore also wrote and directed some Bates Motel episodes, and he’s putting that experience to use developing a new romantic drama for NBC, Long Distance, with Bates executive producer Kerry Ehrin. It’s pretty clear we haven’t the last of this talented young man. (For more on Freddie, read our first-person account of his time on Bates Motel.)

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Absence Doesn’t Make the Heart Grow Fonder

Question: I am a very long-time reader (started when you were reviewing the original 24 back in the day). I know viewing habits have changed tremendously during this time. When I was younger, series left off in May and restarted in September; now with all the options, there are shows starting and stopping year-round. Am I the only one who finds myself losing interest during the long lag times in some of these series’ seasons? Do you know if this is a discussion in industry circles? I have been a fan of so many shows (Tyrant, The Last Ship and Humans come to mind immediately), but when they finally reappeared on the schedule, I just couldn’t get back into them. I know some of the cable shows have mini-seasons and that would seem to work better, but none of the shows I watch do this. Outlander and Bosch are two exceptions. I don’t know if this is because I love the books or they are just that good. Am I alone? – Denise

Matt Roush: First, thanks for your loyalty. And second, you’re never alone when it comes to matters like this, and it’s not just the long break between short seasons that frustrates viewers, but the confusion of never knowing when or often if to anticipate their return. I’ll admit that when the time came to dive back in to season 2 of Humans, I had to do some homework, including rewatching the end of Season 1, to refresh my memory. (So much TV happened in the interim, just saying.) Ditto, more recently, with Better Call Saul. It’s usually worth it to reacquaint yourself with a returning show of any true quality, but this is the reality of the TV business anymore, especially in a period of such high volume and a desire among all networks, broadcast or cable, to have original product regardless of season.

One reason Outlander and Bosch may be immune to this problem, besides the fact that they’re both fine shows, is that their seasons tend to have a distinct arc with beginning, middle and end, reflecting the fact they’re adapting actual books in a long-running series. And each season provides a bit of a reset instead of assuming you remember all the dangling plot threads from the previous season.

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Any Future for Training Day?

Question: I have loved watching Training Day, but what is going to happen after the death of Bill Paxton? I believe his character Frank Rourke would be hard to replace with anyone else. The series is good and I would like it to solve the mystery of Kyle’s father. — Mary Ellen

Matt Roush: The show probably wouldn’t have made it to a second season even without Bill Paxton’s untimely passing. When CBS moved the show to Saturdays, effectively burning off the remaining episodes, that is as clear a sign as any that it won’t be back, so the tricky issue of recalibrating the show to account for Frank’s absence is now moot. I can’t say if they resolve the storyline involving Kyle’s father’s murder, but it is at the core of the final two episodes of the season. Here are CBS’s descriptions for May 13 (Kyle’s trust in Frank is shattered when he learns that Frank has been lying to him about the circumstances surrounding his father’s death) and May 20 (Kyle, Tommy and Rebecca must rescue Frank when he goes on a rogue mission to Mexico to local intel linked to the murder of Kyle’s father).

The Magic of The Magicians

Question: I wanted to second your recommendation for Syfy’s The Magicians. I was unsure starting this show whether to continue to go forward, but for me it strengthened and improved. I was really surprised when I ended up with Margo as my favorite character, when I couldn’t stand her to begin with. Also, with a magic-based series, it is truly great to have every decision made have results that affect not just the protagonists but the larger universe as well. – M

Matt Roush: That’s a very good point. The twists in this adventurous show aren’t only about how their gifts affect each other’s many complicated relationships but about the wonders and dangers of magic itself.

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Netflix Queries

Question: Do you know if the second season of the brilliant Lady Dynamite started production? Any word from Netflix on a premiere date? I really miss those pugs. – Maribel

Matt Roush: I don’t know about production—the show was renewed last July, so it’s conceivable they’ve been back to work on a second season—but I do know Netflix hasn’t announced a premiere date yet. And good news for Maria Bamford fans: Her next Netflix stand-up special, Old Baby, premieres Tuesday, May 2.

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Question: Will Wentworth be returning to Netflix with a new season? I enjoyed the first seasons. It’s the Australian Orange Is the New Black. — Pogo

Matt Roush: A fifth season appears to have just started airing in Australia, and I’d figure Netflix will add it to the lineup when it’s available. We don’t get as much information from Netflix about its acquisitions as we do about its original productions, so be patient.

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.