Ask Matt: 'Fargo's’ New Season, 'black-ish' Spinoff, 'Pitch' Post-Mortem, 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 Ask Matt columns on most Tuesdays and Fridays.
Feeling Fargo Yet?
Question: I would love your opinion of this season of Fargo. I absolutely loved the first two seasons. But I can't wrap my head around this one. I want to love it, but it's just not working for me. – Karen
Question: What is your take on this season of Fargo? I'm ready to give up. I find it flat and boring this year. The characters aren't engaging or connected enough to one another. The pacing feels off. I know it's gotten critical raves, but I'm just not seeing it. I would be curious to know what appeals to you about it this season. - Jameson
Matt Roush: The cast, the writing, the sense of menace beneath the most benign facades, the uncertainty of how the various plot threads will entwine and who will be claimed as victims: Those are attributes of Fargo that made the first two seasons my favorite shows of their respective years. If I’m not quite ready to make that claim with Season 3, I am still mightily entertained, and it seems a bit early to be making a judgment on a show this original only three episodes in. As I try to see what people don’t see in Fargo this season, I would say that the evil forces aren’t as instantly well defined as they were with Billy Bob Thornton’s Lorne Malvo in Season 1 and with Jean Smart and her doomed crime family in Season 2. This is no knock on David Thewlis as Varga, who’s exuding all manner of corruption from his rumpled frame as he invades the territory of Emmit Stussy. Maybe the fact that both Stussy brothers (Ewan McGregor in a terrific dual role) are such losers, despite Emmit’s parking-lot success, makes it harder to root for them or even to pity them the way we did with Martin Freeman and Jesse Plemons/Kirsten Dunst in past years. Where Fargo excels again this year is in its female leads, whether good (Carrie Coon) or naughty (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), they’re wonderful.
If you’re still unconvinced, check out Wednesday’s episode, with an introduction like no other and a musical motif that had me grinning even when things got messy. New characters are still being introduced, so be patient. Even less than top shelf Fargo is pretty fantastic. And really, hasn’t the show earned the benefit of the doubt by now?
black-ish Heading to a Different World?
Question: What did you think of last week's backdoor pilot on black-ish? I am surprised at how much I enjoyed it, and I would definitely watch it if ABC picks it up. — Jake
Matt Roush: It’s maybe not the most original idea to send a sitcom kid off to college and build a show around that experience—see A Different World—but Zoey (Yara Shahidi) is no more Denise than black-ish is a clone of The Cosby Show. I enjoyed the episode, which in its depiction of a black dorm under threat of being shut down was actually more reminiscent of the current (and excellent) Netflix comedy Dear White People. Broader for sure, especially in the doltish administration characters played by Chris Parnell and Veep’s Matt Walsh. With Kenya Burris and Larry Wilmore steering this project, I’d definitely give it a shot. And if it doesn’t go forward, I hope they can weave Zoey subplots into the show as effectively as The Middle has done with the campus antics of Axl and Sue.
And now, some follow-ups to topics discussed in the latest Ask Matt column:
What’s Killing the Daytime Soaps?
Question: Know what’s killing the remaining soaps? A lack of continuity. Actors like Jen Lilley get bored with stale writing that repeats the same plots infinitum. She knew she had more to offer the world than that. Older actors like Jane Elliot and Lyn Herring aren’t interested in a handful of lines each week opposite their younger co-stars, whose characters exist because the older characters’ backstory was rewritten to fit those new relatives into the continuity. If daytime dramas are to survive, the old soaps have to go, so new ones with logic and continuity can take their place. Lastly, those new shows need to have writers who script long-term. not just to pop a rating during sweeps months. - Joe
Matt Roush: All interesting points, and since I can’t pretend to be an expert in this arena, I will only say that I never want to underestimate what it takes to churn that many hours of daily drama on a weekly basis over a seemingly infinite time span. Is the answer to retire the aging shows or to allow them to reinvent themselves with the inevitable growing pains? By now, these few remaining emblems of a once thriving industry are so well established as brands I don’t see them disappearing for a new breed.
'General Hospital' Veteran Jane Elliot on Being Tracy Quartermaine and Leaving After 53 Years in the Biz
Was Pitch a Victim of Bad Timing?
Question: Just wanted to take a quick at-bat to bemoan the premature demise of the terrific Pitch, which left its loyal fan base in the on-deck circle with a nice cliffhanger. I was certainly hoping for some extra innings here from a show which finally got the baseball exactly right for those of us who are baseball fans AND interwove the hardball action with some wonderful characters and plotlines from the players to management and owners. I have to think that Fox mismanaged the airing of the show to come to this outcome. Instead of being anywhere near the regular MLB season—probably should've shown it out of season for baseball when the fans need a fix, and can't just get it from the NFL or March Madness. Too bad. With the approval of MLB, you'd think it should have garnered a bit more hype and a few more eyeballs. I've been missing this show since the last episode was aired. At least I have Aaron Judge and the Yankees. But I will certainly miss Kylie and Company. - Michael
Matt Roush: Kudos on all of the baseball pun-ditry, and it’s interesting given your criticism to note that Fox originally announced Pitch as a midseason series, but within days of the Upfront presentation a year ago had decided to put it on the fall schedule. It’s possible this might have played better in the winter (with the promise of spring training), or at this time of year as a new baseball season is getting underway. Being scheduled on Thursdays during the height of Thursday Night Football season might not have been the best idea, either. I’m always sorry when a show trying something this different doesn’t get at least a second chance. Feels like a missed opportunity.
Recommending the Batman Origin Story
Question: No question, but I really wanted to thank you for your mention of Batman & Bill in your recent "What's Worth Watching" column. I feel sure that I would never have noticed or paid attention to this without your mention, and having watched it, I'm in awe about just how well done this documentary is. I'm not a big Batman fan at all (except for the 1960s TV show), but I was drawn into this story from the beginning and was surprisingly emotionally affected by the whole thing. Thanks again! It's just another example of the value of your columns. — Paul
Matt Roush: I appreciate that, and for the chance to plug this special again. It’s streaming on Hulu and well worth your time, whether you’re a fan of the Batman comics franchise or are merely interested in the creative process and who ends up getting (or taking) credit.
Lost in Quantico
Question: I have been watching the current season of Quantico even though I did not watch Season 1. Since they seemed to be rebooting from Season 1 and since I like Russell Tovey, who was added to the Season 2 cast, I thought I would give it a shot. I liked the episodic structure with the lesson of the week at the Farm and the parallel story of the G20 hostage crisis even though it was sometimes confusing. As the president's special team story has progressed, it has really started to bother me that nearly everyone that comes in contact with Alex mentions what a hero she is. How could she be an effective spy when everyone knows who she is? And where is Harry anyway? With more characters from Season 1 showing up, I am increasingly lost. It wasn't a great idea to launch into this show Season 1 unseen, but I didn't find it available to stream until recently. I don't know that I would be enjoying it any more if I had seen Season 1 first. The plotting and characters just get more and more ridiculous and the overuse of the "throw a party to get intel" plot device is way past tiresome. One of your TV Insider colleagues says this show is likely to be cancelled. I hope so. Are you following this show? If so, what do you think about this season? — Frank
Matt Roush: I’ll tell you when my interest in Quantico began to wane—when it took a three-month hiatus from December to March in its first season, and when I tried to rejoin the action, I couldn’t make heads or tails of what was going on in either time frame and concluded I wasn’t as invested in the convoluted story as I thought I was. (I’m beginning to have that same opinion of Designated Survivor, which also lost steam during a long winter hiatus.) Bottom line: Some shows require more work than they’re worth, and the initial kick of Quantico’s narrative gimmicks turned out to be its worst enemy. I don’t have an opinion of this season, because when the ratings began to crater and ABC moved it to a different night, I figured it was pretty much over, anyway. And you have to draw the line somewhere.
Still Hanging, Four Years Later
Question: Can you give me hope for an ending to The Glades? The series, now on Netflix, ended with a cliffhanger in season 4. I really enjoyed the series. — Mary
Matt Roush: I’m not in the false hope business, so I have to advise moving on where this show is concerned. Although it does intrigue me now that The Glades is streaming, after having been canceled abruptly in the summer of 2013, it’s like pouring salt in the wound that A&E scrapped the show leaving its hero’s fate so unresolved. If Netflix were to have rescued this show the way it did Longmire (for which we’re all grateful), it surely would already have happened.
That’s all for now. We’ll pick up the conversation again soon. 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.