Ask Matt: NBC’s ‘This Is Us’ Scheduling, ‘Amazing Race’ Aftermath, ‘Fear the Walking Dead,’ Superhero Fatigue, and More

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Ron Batzdorff/NBC
Sterling K. Brown, Chrissy Metz and Justin Hartley in NBC's This Is Us.

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.

Is This Is Us Better Off Staying on Tuesdays?

Question: I know This Is Us is an important asset for NBC, but do you think it’s better off moving back to Tuesdays for Season 2 rather than becoming the centerpiece of a reinvigorated “must-see” Thursday lineup, as originally planned? And how do you think Chicago Fire is going to fare, now that it’s being shifted from its longtime home on Tuesdays to the 10/9c hour on Thursday? — Randy

Matt Roush: I was initially encouraged at the thought of a new Thursday lineup bolstered by This Is Us and the Will & Grace revival. But I hadn’t taken into account the impact of Thursday Night Football, which NBC will inherit in November, threatening to disrupt the flow of the all-important second season of This Is Us, where everyone is hoping to see the breakout hit grow even stronger. Going up against football on CBS in the first weeks of the season might have dampened its ratings as well, so putting it back on Tuesdays seems the right move—also for continuity’s sake, because fans are used to seeing the show on that night, and why fix what isn’t broke. This programming shift also entailed moving the Law & Order: True Crime miniseries on the Menendez brothers to Tuesdays, displacing Chicago Fire—but that franchise is so durable I imagine its fans will follow Fire wherever it goes.


Race Should Have an After-Show

Question: There has been a lot of talk lately about the abrupt ending to certain reality shows like Dancing With the Stars. I agree that they should do more after the announcement. Look how great the after-show about Survivor is, and even the Bachelor franchise (which you couldn’t PAY me enough to watch) does an “after the rose” show. If EVER a show needed a wrap up after-show, it is this year’s edition of The Amazing Race, another show that often leaves me with a feeling of coitus interruptus! It would be great to hear about how these relationships fared after the show. Were any of them able to remain friends? It amazed me that these twosomes were given prizes of a “vacation for two”. What if they never want to see one another again? What do you think? Wouldn’t that be good TV? – Alice

Matt Roush: Can’t argue with that, especially after this season. (I’ve wondered about the logistics of those “trip-for-two” rewards as well, especially when won by contestants with significant others. Who goes, who stays, can they bring a plus-one?) The dynamics within this season’s teams would reward the sort of reflection an after-show could provide. I can’t imagine Scott and Brooke would ever speak to each other again, for instance, and “Team Fun” was such a joy they deserve their own spinoff. And thanks for the “coitus interruptus” laugh; that suggests a stronger connection to The Amazing Race than I could ever imagine.

It Would be Criminal to Lose More Minds

Question: Will Kirsten Vangsness and A.J. Cook be granted a higher pay and so brought back to Criminal Minds? The series has already lost too many people and we’ve seen before that nobody liked A.J. Cook gone, right? The same outcry would happen if she and Kirsten would both leave and it would cause more instability for the audience, maybe this time too much to take. Speaking of actresses, is it 100% official that Sophia Bush is leaving Chicago PD? – Francesca

Matt Roush: The longer a show runs, the costlier it becomes and the trickier the contract negotiations in an ensemble cast tend to be. That’s what’s playing out right now as Criminal Minds heads into its 13th season, and I would think the studios and network involved would step up to keep these longtime players in place, especially Kirsten Vangsness. I’m no Criminal Minds fan, but I can’t imagine the show without Penelope. Still, until the deals are made, nothing’s certain. As for Sophia Bush: She’s definitely leaving Chicago PD, by all accounts her choice, though the door is, as always, open for her to appear as a guest star, since they didn’t kill her off.

Fear the Walking Dead Lost in Translation

Question: I got so frustrated with Fear the Walking Dead‘s constant Spanish dialogue and trying to read the translation at the bottom that I quit watching. Yeah, I get the action is in Mexico and that is the language. Now The Americans is doing it in the extreme with the Russian. Prior seasons, it was just a touch here and there. I am so busy trying to read, and trying to figure out at what pace I have to read, that I am totally missing the action in the scene. Sometimes these shows are using the white lettering on top of a light background and you can’t even read it! If you have to look away, you have no clue what is happening. I’ve spoken to others who are frustrated, too. — Unsigned

Matt Roush: The alternative, of course, and which was the norm for years (until shows like Lost popularized multi-culture storylines in their native tongue), is to have characters speak accented English even when they realistically wouldn’t. I appreciate the authenticity from a critical and dramatic perspective, although I wish the Russian segments of The Americans this season had been more compelling, and the big problem with Fear the Walking Dead, no matter what language they’re speaking, is that the dialogue often isn’t worth the effort.


Holy Superhero Fatigue!

Question: The current season of Arrow ended on a cliffhanger but since it’s coming back for next season, Team Arrow will likely survive in one form or another. But after five seasons, the story lines have grown more repetitive. Is it time for the show to think of an exit strategy, or is there still enough momentum to keep chugging away like Supernatural does? Second, I think superhero TV show fatigue has set in. None of the CW’s superhero TV shows really stood out to me this season. In particular, Season 3 of The Flash was quite a slog with the “Flashpoint” storyline dragging on all season long. I wish the show could provide shorter story arcs that last half the season instead of one season long story arc. Has the genre reached the saturation point on TV? — Brian

Matt Roush: From a programmers’ point of view, it seems they’re just getting started, with more DC and especially Marvel-related projects being developed on multiple platforms. Personally, I’ve checked out of most of these convoluted shows, finding none of them as enjoyable as they initially were (Flash and its multiple universes a special case in point). I am looking forward to Netflix’s The Defenders in August, though, which has the inspired idea to put several series’ heroes together under one title, which seems a very economical approach. With the CW glut, it feels like way too much of a no-longer-such-a-good thing. And as popular as the genre is now, I’d be surprised if any of these individual shows has the longevity of Supernatural.

Baby Bashing on Dirty Dancing

Question: It is really hard to imagine that the producers of ABC’s remake of Dirty Dancing did not audition a number of actresses to fill the role of Baby, and yet the choice of Abigail Breslin was definitely not the right one for this iconic role. Of all of the parts, her performance was the least convincing and that, in turn, rolled over into the relationship with Johnny (Colt Prattes). Who has the final say in casting a part? How is the actual “casting” process handled? — Shelly

Matt Roush: My very limited knowledge of the casting process would suggest a collaboration among the producers and director, the casting director and the network all signing off on such a high-profile choice. Looking back at the press releases from the studio, Abigail Breslin was the first star announced for the project, so this was decided very early on, and while I agree she was one of many weak links, I can understand why going with an established Oscar-nominated former child star to play Baby made sense on paper. On film, however, yikes.

Will Will & Grace Acknowledge Its Own History?

Question: My question is about the very highly anticipated (at least in my house) Will & Grace reboot airing this fall. I was wondering if you have any information about how the producers plan to deal with the very decisive series finale and if they will be addressing the fact that both Will and Grace had spouses by the time the series ended. Are there any plans for Bobby Cannavale or Harry Connick Jr to appear on the reboot? Will their characters be mentioned? Has any of this information been revealed yet? I know this isn’t a spoilers column, but I was very curious about this, and do you think the producers should address this or is it better to just pretend the last episode never happened? – MJ

Matt Roush: I’m hoping this will all be addressed at the NBC portion of this summer’s press tour, if not before, but speculation is that both this and ABC’s Roseanne revival will engage in some serious retcon revisionism from their final acts. The idea here is to recapture the vibe of the show from its peak, and if that means ignoring pesky bits of continuity along the way, most fans probably won’t mind. Whether this means ignoring significant characters like Leo (Connick) and Vince (Cannavale) remains to be seen, but the lure here is seeing the core characters of Will, Grace, Jack and Karen back in action, magically transplanted to 2017 “as if they never said goodbye.”


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.