Ask Matt: The 'Kevin' Conundrum, Summer TV Picks, 'Prime Suspect' Prequel, Netflix Cancellations, 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.
What Is Kevin Waiting For? Reboot Queens!
Question: So Kevin Can Wait fires Erinn Hayes, basically admitting their mistake in not just restarting The King of Queens with Leah Remini, who is now returning. What I can’t figure out is why Kevin James & Co. are double dipping on that mistake AGAIN by not just changing the premise of the show with Remini returning back to Queens, which is what most people would want. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me—not! With all the reboots of TV shows, a rebooted King of Queens would have made perfect sense. But this mess, I fear not even these two together can save it. Probably just more Hollywood ego, refusing to admit the mistake. - Steven, Indiana
Matt Roush: With reports of an as-yet-undetermined “different creative direction” for the show in Season 2—as if creativity has anything to do with this tired sitcom vehicle—this switch basically reveals how little thought went into bringing Kevin James back to his old network. Reuniting him with Leah Rimini is a nod to his fan base, obviously, and if he’s up to it at age 90, can Jerry Stiller be far behind? Whatever Kevin Can Wait turns into, it’s doubtful it will be worse than what came before, but critically speaking, this feels like the worst sort of pandering. And you’re right that a simple reboot of The King of Queens would at least have been honest about CBS’s intentions.
Any Summer TV Hits Coming?
Question: What are your recommendations for new summer viewing, and I mean in the drama or comedy area. I know about the game shows and talent-type shows, but need something along the lines of Under the Dome and Wayward Pines. — Donald
Matt Roush: I always appreciate getting some direction in these sorts of questions. There’s plenty of original scripted summer TV coming our way, on a wide variety of platforms as usual, but following your examples, the most promising show I’ve sampled so far is NBC’s Midnight, Texas (starts July 25), a playful supernatural drama adapted from books by Charlaine Harris (True Blood). Haven’t seen any of it yet, but CBS’s Salvation (July 12), about the world facing an asteroid collision, could be worth a look. There’s also the final season of Orphan Black kicking off this weekend, and the return of Game of Thrones in July, of course. I’m also hoping that TNT’s Will (July 10), which I hope to be getting to soon, is as enjoyable as it sounds, because who doesn’t like a period-piece romp about young Shakespeare. That at least will be different.
In comedy, I’m happy about the returns of Playing House on USA (June 23), Younger on TV Land (June 28) and especially Difficult People on Hulu (Aug. 8). And if you’re not watching ABC’s delightful Downward Dog and NBC’s provocative The Carmichael Show, both currently airing, you’re missing two keepers. On Netflix, I was surprisingly entertained by GLOW (June 23), an ’80s comedy riff on the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling. Keep in mind that because every week is its own hurdle of new programming to wade through, I haven’t been able to look too far ahead, so there are very likely a few special discoveries still to encounter. (This time last year, I wasn’t expecting anything from Stranger Things.) But these are a few titles that are at least on my radar.
And let’s not forget another tidal wave of British mysteries, led by the third and final season of BBC America’s Broadchurch (June 28), which from what I’ve seen so far is quite powerful. Which leads to the next question.
Is a Younger Tennison a Plain Jane?
Question: Is PBS’s Prime Suspect: Tennison worth watching? I can't see anyone in the role of Jane Tennison other than Helen Mirren. I understand this is a prequel—but unless you tell me it's a great series and shouldn't be missed, I'm not sure I want to invest the time. What say you? - Beverly
Matt Roush: I’ll be reviewing the series more fully later this month, upon its June 25 premiere. The good news is that the time commitment is relatively minimal (compared to, say, Netflix dramas), with only three 90-minute episodes. Sounds like you’re approaching this ’70s-set prequel with understandable skepticism, and while this is a solid procedural and hardly a waste of time, I wouldn’t call it essential. For die-hard fans, it might be enough to watch Jane in her early 20s (played by doe-eyed Stefanie Martini, no match for the formidable Mirren—though who is?) learn the ropes of police work while trying to be taking seriously amid the patronizing sexism of this boys’ club. It builds to a strong and suspenseful finish that lays some groundwork for the tough, uncompromising detective she’ll become, but if you’re seeking a truly satisfying British crime drama, I’ll steer you toward the Broadchurch finale.
A Genius Piece of Work
Question: Longtime reader here. Wondering what your thoughts are on National Geographic’s Genius, the story of Albert Einstein, based on the book Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson. My wife and I have enjoyed it immensely, but wonder how it's doing on a channel known more for their magazine, with beautiful photography and long-form articles, or for their more scientific programming? We've really enjoyed Johnny Flynn as the young Einstein as well. Is there any chance for an Emmy nomination for him? Of course Geoffrey Rush is always great, but this is clearly a young Einstein story. - Rob
Matt Roush: Now that Genius is well into the back half of its story—episode 8 of 10 airs Tuesday—it would appear Rush has now taken over the role, though I agree Johnny Flynn was terrific as the young scientist. I’m playing catch-up with the more recent episodes (when in doubt, blame the glut of Netflix product), but my initial impression of Genius from previewing the first few weeks was very positive. And while this is National Geographic’s first scripted series, it has had success with scripted specials in the past, and this is particularly well produced, written and acted. Not sure whether Genius has made much of a ratings impression, but it has already been renewed for a second season—the subject will be revealed when Einstein concludes—so for now, it’s a part of the channel’s future, setting a pretty high bar for National Geographic’s scripted development.
Is There a Future for Shows Canceled by Netflix?
Question: I am hugely disappointed with Netflix's decision to cancel Sense8 and The Get Down, two of the most original, entertaining series on TV. While The Get Down had a lot of story ground that it could cover in future seasons, I didn't feel like the audience was left completely hanging with the last episode. However, Sense8 ends with a lot of unanswered questions. I understand that the Wachowskis and J. Michael Straczynski had mapped out five seasons, so clearly there is a lot of story left to tell. Any chance that Netflix will either change its mind or some other network will pick it up? If nothing else, condensing the last three planned seasons into one would make fans happy. I know it is an expensive show to produce, but is there any sliver of hope for Sense8 fans? - Arnold
Matt Roush: Hard to imagine. As you noted, both of these shows were very expensive, even by Netflix’s deep-pocketed standards, though I wouldn’t be entirely surprised if the company were to announce something like a Sense8 movie somewhere down the line so as not to leave the characters entirely suspended in limbo. But that’s just speculation. Because the company never reveals viewer data, it’s hard to know (outside of the expense) why these shows were ditched when other less buzz-worthy (though probably more economical) shows continue. Looking back, Netflix probably should have announced The Get Down as a limited series, given what a costly and complicated production that was. The global nature of Sense8 plays better into Netflix’s vision as an international marketer, so cutting it short was more of a surprise. It’s impossible to predict where Netflix will zig or zag next, but for now, I would measure my hope about a comeback for either property.
The Host With the Most (Shows)
Question: Are you serious? Another show hosted by Steve Harvey? This is a bit of an overload. There must be other hosts out there. — Carol
Matt Roush: Hey, don’t give Ryan Seacrest any ideas. But yes, with ABC now airing back-to-back Steve Harvey game shows on Sunday as of this weekend (with Steve Harvey’s Funderdome joining Celebrity Family Feud), which has pushed NBC’s Little Big Shots to Wednesdays so he doesn’t compete with himself—and that show’s about to spawn a spinoff, Forever Young, on June 21—in addition to his daytime and syndicated shows, the word “overexposure” comes to mind. And yet, until or unless this saturation begins to show signs of diminishing ratings, I imagine he’ll remain TV’s go-to host for mainstream popular entertainment.
Question: For years I kept GSN (Game Show Network) as my default channel whenever there was nothing better to watch. I also used to be a fan of Steve Harvey. Why (and which mental giant) did they decide that if audiences like Family Feud, let's run it 18-24 hours a day!? It’s ridiculous! I'm sure that others, like me, have pretty much written off the channel most of the time! Any sanity in the future? — Marti
Matt Roush: Maybe there can be too much Steve Harvey. Truth is, many cable networks lean on certain shows to fill what seems like endless hours of the schedule, and while it can seem like overkill, it’s hardly unique to GSN. Anecdote: A few years ago, when I picked up a holiday stomach bug while visiting family, I remember laying in bed at my mother’s house hearing from down the hall the bells and whistles of Family Feud, half-hour after half-hour, blearily wondering if the supply would ever run out. Then later on, the dial had magically changed to History for a steady block of Pawn Stars repeats. That’s how these channels operate. Clearly, there’s a formula that tells the programmers which shows work best as video wallpaper. (In my own home, while I’m toiling away sampling new shows during the day, the other TV has been known to stay on a steady stream of Law & Order: SVU repeats, and that’s not even limited to one channel!)
Happy viewing, everybody. That’s all for now, and we’ll pick up the conversation again soon, though with travel over the next week or so, this column may not be on its regular schedule for much of June. 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.