Ask Matt: More 'Peaks' Pique, The CW's 'Dynasty' Reboot, 'Dog' Debate, 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.
Why Twin Peaks Could Give You a Hangover
Question: Since you are our “TV Therapist,” I thought that I should seek your virtual couch about Twin Peaks: The Return. Like so many others, I was enthralled with the first season of Twin Peaks, disenchanted by the middle of the second season, and looked forward to the sequel. I waited to watch The Return until I had a chance to view Fire Walk With Me, but I have now caught up with the first five hours. While viewing, I had some recurring thoughts: What on earth was that?! Should I be drinking alcohol while watching this? I don’t remember the second season being this bad. Wait—should I be drinking a lot of alcohol while watching this? Should I give up and just re-watch the first season of Twin Peaks? So my real question for you: If I decide to keep watching, do you recommend a red or white wine, or should I go straight for the hard stuff? — Sara Anne
Matt Roush: Rule of thumb: Red is my friend when watching something against my will, but I’m not quite sure liquor alone can help make palatable such an epic folly as this languorous, tiresome and largely incomprehensible series, which has yet to generate a positive comment in my mailbag. (Not soliciting, mind you, just noting.) After seven episodes, I hold to my original opinion from the opening weekend that TP: The Return is "the longest midnight movie ever," for better and mostly for worse, for cultists only. Here are a few other recent comments:
Question: This isn't a question, more like an observation. As a fan of Twin Peaks back in the day, I think the current "version" of it should have been RENAMED to reflect what the knuckleheads Lynch & his partner [Mark Frost] have morphed it into. Here are some suggestions: 1) "Say What?" 2) "Repeat That" 3) "Really?" 4) "You're Kidding, Right?" 5) "Boooring" and my personal favorite: 6) "WTF????" — Solitary Man
Question: At this point it seems the only thing more idiotic than the first five parts of Twin Peaks is ME for wasting these hours watching. There has been so much hype about its return at this point I can't see why Showtime would waste their money (and mine) on this. In anticipation, I even rented the DVDs so I could reintroduce myself to the characters before it returned. Will it come together soon? — Unsigned
Matt Roush: I can't make any promises or predictions on what's to come, since Showtime and David Lynch have refused to make any of the series available for preview. But there were some glimmers of hope, and an almost orgasmic reaction from Peaks acolytes, after the seventh episode (June 18), which included callbacks to missing pages from Laura Palmer's diary—which once upon a time would have thrilled me no end, except these excerpts pretty much told us what we already knew—a reference to Audrey Horne's unhappy fate, and a face-to-face between the formerly unseen Diane (now a platinum-haired Laura Dern) and Evil Cooper. Maybe I'm just not liking the flavor of the Kool-Aid these days, but I find these references more self-congratulatory than illuminating. The new Twin Peaks is almost defiantly anti-dramatic—did you enjoy watching that guy sweep up the Roadhouse floor for two full minutes?—with long stretches of tedium punctuated by spasms of overwrought nonsense, making for a very long slog. How did this not end up on Netflix, where we could have at least made our way through it over a long weekend instead of an entire summer.
Does the New Dynasty Have a Chance?
Question: What do you believe are Dynasty's real chances at succeeding after the catastrophic Melrose Place revamp? The CW has not had a good track record with soaps: 90210 was just a relatively decent player that couldn't compare to the original Beverly Hills 90210, Melrose Place 2.0 was a complete failure, and Riverdale didn't really merit a second season. Since Gossip Girl and One Tree Hill, The CW has had no success with soaps, hence I am not expecting Dynasty to become a success story. Do you feel different? In my mind, there would be a way to generate some buzz and that would be if they were willing to bring some prime-time soap veterans. For example, if Dynasty is willing to reunite Grant Show with original Melrose queen Heather Locklear, I would then consider giving it a chance. But unless The CW is willing to invest in some star power, I don't see myself bothering to make this appointment TV. -David
Matt Roush: For me, the real comparison here is not to The CW's failed reboots of latter-day Spelling shows but to TNT's wan remake of Dallas, which couldn't survive the death of its J.R., the great Larry Hagman. The original Dynasty was the Texas blockbuster's glittery ’80s counterpart, a wallow in conspicuous Reagan-era consumption and brawling bitchery, and reviving it carries significant risks, both in terms of not being able to live up to the original and in terms of being the wrong show at the wrong time. How much allure and appeal will the Carringtons even have in a polarizing Age of Trump? I've screened the pilot episode, and it's certainly trashy enough, and the newly multi-cultural casting—Crystal (the new Krystle) is Latina, for a start—is intriguing, and as in the original first season, there's no sight of Alexis yet. (The timing of her arrival and casting will be critical to the show's long-term success.) I agree it's troubling that The CW wasn't even able to reignite the pop-culture lightning of 90210 and Melrose in those revivals. Resurrecting this relic may be even more problematic. And I still can't wrap my head around Grant Show as the new, considerably younger incarnation of Blake Carrington.
It's a Dog's Life, for Better or Worse
Question: Downward Dog is a brilliant show. My question is why do broadcasters have a great show then cancel them? I'm hoping this show has a long life. Please do not cancel! — Trudy
Matt Roush: If it were up to me, I wouldn't. And that decision has yet to be made. Only two weeks left to go, with the final two episodes doubling up on June 27 in the 10/9c hour, which feels like bowing out with a whimper. (The double run keeps the finale from airing on July 4, but airing that late, even after a Bachelorette lead-in, probably won't help the overall ratings picture.)
In the bigger picture, broadcasters, like everyone in the business (including cable and possibly even streaming), make their call on renewal or cancellation for a variety of reasons. Do they see a creative future for the show? Do the ratings indicate a potential for growth? Is there critical and social media buzz? It's the latter area where Downward Dog may have its best chance for survival. The scheduling has all the appearance of a post-season burn-off, but Dog has made just enough noise that ABC might want to think about keeping it in its stable. Here's hoping.
Question: I tried your Downward Dog show and could only stomach about two episodes. After hearing the word "like" about 40 million times, I just couldn't take it anymore. Plus, it was boring!! — Bridge
Matt Roush: It's not my show, though I was a fan from the start. And without question, Martin the dog's repeated use of the word "like" is, like, the most frequent complaint made against Downward Dog, y'know. I'm not sure why it doesn't bother me, because in a human being, I find that manner of speech so aggravating. But I accept that because no one can actually hear him, this is how Martin (voiced by series co-creator Samm Hodges) is most comfortable expressing himself, and combined with his off-key philosophizing, I somehow find it and him endearing. As for the show being boring, I look at Downward Dog's low-key and unassuming style to be as refreshing as Martin's tunnel-vision perspective on life is fascinating. And excepting Nan's boorish boss (who became a bit more likable when we learned he was scared of dogs, which only endeared Martin to him), the show is so sweet-natured that I look forward to every episode and will miss it when it's over.
How to Watch Orphan Black
Question: I read that Orphan Black will not be on Netflix, but on the BBC. So no binge watching for me? — Laurel
Matt Roush: I include this question to illuminate just how confusing TV can be in this streaming era, and how Netflix and others have spoiled (or possibly warped) the way we think about watching TV anymore. For the record, Orphan Black has only ever aired original seasons on BBC America. The first four seasons are available for streaming on Amazon Prime (not Netflix), but not the current and final season. For that, you'll have to wait until the season finishes airing. Which is still pretty much the case for 90% of TV, though the tonnage of Netflix originals might make you think otherwise. A show this dense with a mythology as complex as Orphan Black might benefit from the kind of all-in-one-weekend binge-friendly scheduling that Syfy gave the most recent season of 12 Monkeys, but that's not the case here. To watch the final episodes now means watching it weekly.
How to Watch Madam Secretary
Question: I am a middle-class middle-aged woman in the United Kingdom, and I just want to say that Madam Secretary is the most amazing drama that I love to sit and watch mid-week and have a glass of wine and usually indulge in ice cream. Thank you to all who produce this show. - Christina
Matt Roush: TV as comfort food (and drink), can't think of a better notion on which to end a column, and a fitting bookend to the boozy Twin Peaks conversation. Thanks for sharing. I enjoy Madam Secretary, too, though it often makes me pine for the more dazzling writing and acting of my all-time favorite political drama, The West Wing. Even when it aims for geopolitical espionage and action drama, Madam Secretary is oddly a very relaxing show. And I am peeved that CBS has shuffled it in the fall to the late 10/9c slot on Sundays—which means the network will occasionally jettison and postpone an original episode when there's an extreme sports overrun in the East and Central time zones. Which then creates its own flurry of complaints in my mailbag. Happens every year.
That’s all for now, and we’ll pick up the conversation 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.