Ask Matt: Emmy Reaction, 'The Good Place,' 'The Good Fight,' Fall TV Predictions ('Young Sheldon,' 'Ghosted')

Matt Roush
Vivian Zink/NBC

THE GOOD PLACE -- Pictured: (l-r) Ted Danson as Michael, Kristen Bell as Eleanor Shellstrop

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.

 

A Dis-Placed Comedy, and Emmy’s Love for Family

Question: I was disappointed, but not terribly surprised, to see the lack of love for Crazy Ex-Girlfriend from the Emmy nominations. However, I'm a bit more alarmed by the lack of attention to The Good Place. The CW at least seems committed to Crazy Ex, so if the show comes back and performs in line with what it has previously done ratings-wise, I'd like to think The CW would let the show finish the four-season planned story arc the creators have talked about. With The Good Place, since it is both newer and on NBC, I get the feeling that it was renewed for its quality and that they were hoping Emmy nominations would increase its visibility. Since it didn't get that attention, do you think this will have any bearing on its renewal chances?

Most of the episodes are still available On Demand, but the DVD release of Season 1 isn't even coming out until mid-October, by which time the second season will already be in the midst of airing. For something this heavily serialized, it would seem that making the episodes available on disc or streaming earlier would only help give audiences more time to find the show prior to new episodes resuming in September. I'm worried about what happens to The Good Place if it returns at or below its levels from last year.

And while I’m at it, how does Modern Family keep getting voted into the Best Comedy race every year? Even putting aside the fact that shows like Crazy Ex, Good Place and older ignored favorites like The Middle don't get in, have voters actually watched Modern Family lately, or are they just checking its box out of habit? I have watched Modern Family from the beginning and consider myself a big fan. I still find it enjoyable to watch more often than not due to the winning chemistry and performances of the cast. But the last few seasons in particular have definitely been less exciting and funny than it was in its justifiably decorated earlier days. So how does it keep getting in for good-enough but less-than-outstanding work? Do voters actually think the current episodes they're seeing are as good as it's always been? And how much of the season are they actually seeing on their screener DVDs? — Jake

Matt Roush: Given recent trends, it’s hard for me to imagine any broadcast network comedy, even one generally acclaimed like The Good Place, counting on Emmy nominations to bolster its profile. As I noted in my Critic’s Notebook overview, only FX’s Atlanta made the cut among freshman comedies, and ignoring that would have been a real travesty. (The CW might as well be invisible to Emmy voters, though I was gratified that Crazy Ex-Girlfriend at least got a song nomination—even if I’d have preferred the Marilyn/Madonna-esque “The Math of Love Triangles” or “Love Kernels” to be recognized over “We Tapped That A--.”)

I would imagine that NBC’s expectations for The Good Place’s second season will be modest, and if the quality holds up and it doesn’t altogether tank, that will be enough. I agree, though, that in this environment, any effort to keep the show in front of the public eye would help. (Why is the shocking season finale currently unavailable on Hulu, for instance? Weird.)

Regarding Modern Family, who knows what compels Emmy voters to go for the same show year after year even after it’s peaked? This isn’t happening as frequently as it used to given the new multi-verse of options, especially on the drama side, but remember that Family won five consecutive best-comedy Emmys, a rare feat, and it would be more of a shock for it to fall off the list, although obviously there were many contenders at least as deserving.


Unfair Advantage for Saturday Night Live?

Question: How is it that Saturday Night Live can compete in both the comedy series and variety series categories? Its cast gets to compete in comedy series categories, but the show itself gets put in variety. Shouldn't it have to compete for Best Comedy if it wants its actors to be able to compete for comedy series awards? - Kate

Matt Roush: Until 2008, performers on Saturday Night Live and its ilk competed in the grab-bag category of Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Series. When that category was discontinued, SNL ensemble members began to compete alongside their peers in more traditional comedy shows—and guest hosts began competing in the guest-actor comedy categories. Saturday Night Live isn’t alone. All performers of shows in the Variety Sketch category—which include past nominees Fred Armisen (Portlandia) and Keegan-Michael Key (of Key and Peele) as examples—are eligible to compete with comedy-series actors. What you’re suggesting, it seems, is to collapse the Variety Sketch shows into the Comedy Series pool, which might be disadvantageous to the sketch shows because they’re somewhat less dependent on continuing characters and story. Although others might argue that the sketch artists have an advantage, because they can win on the strength of a single breakout character or routine (such as Kate McKinnon’s Hillary). This is maybe not the most perfectly matched playing field, but I’m OK with the system as is. It allows different kinds of comedy shows to be rewarded for what they do best, while honoring the best comedic performances overall.


Orphan Black - Tatiana Maslaney

Tatiana Maslany x 2 in Orphan Black

Clones Missing In Action

Question: Can you offer any explanation as to why Tatiana Maslany of Orphan Black is consistently snubbed in the Lead Actress Emmy category? As far as I'm concerned, she is doing some of the most amazing work of anyone today. And she could be in the Supporting Actress category as well for any of the clones! — Unsigned

Matt Roush: Here’s where I remind you that it’s a good idea to do a little research before you rant. It took a few seasons for the Emmy voters to catch on, but they’re not snubbing this remarkable actress. She was nominated in 2015, won for best actress (a pleasant-surprise shocker) in 2016, and would likely have been nominated again if the show had been eligible. Because the final season didn’t premiere on BBC America until June, it wasn’t. If she’s passed over next year, then feel free to complain.


Fight-ing Words

Question: I agree with David Bianculli’s comments about CBS and The Good Fight. Isn't it enough that we pay quite a bit for cable as it is? Now CBS wants us to pay extra for new shows. I am a long-time fan of CBS and I am disappointed by this. To make matters worse, they tease viewers by letting the first episode appear on regular TV. Can't anything be done about this? I find it hard to believe that a lot of viewers will pay for this. - Dorothy

Matt Roush: I lost count of how much mail I got on this subject during The Good Fight’s run earlier this year, and while I empathized with the complaints then, and agree with David’s on-point commentary—welcome to TV Guide Magazine and TV Insider, by the way!—this sequel probably only exists because CBS was seeking new exclusive product to drive subscribers to this fledgling streaming service. You’re already doing your part, voting with your wallet by not biting, and if neither this show nor the upcoming Star Trek: Discovery attracts enough subscribers, then maybe CBS will rethink this business strategy and make this sort of premium product available to its most loyal customers without soaking them for it.


Will & Grace, upfront, lede

Eric McCormack, Debra Messing, Sean Hayes and Megan Mullally in Will & Grace

Predicting Fall’s Potential Hits

Question: We are still months away from most of the fall premieres, but what shows do you think will break out? Comedy-wise, it feels like Young Sheldon and Will & Grace have the best chance and the most amount of buzz. On a side note, is NBC still planning to use the branding of “Must See TV” for their Thursday lineup given that it’s four comedies on the night again? Also, why was Great News, a comedy with extremely low ratings, given the post-Will & Grace slot when they could have slotted a new comedy? Wouldn't it be weird that one is multi-cam and the other single-cam?

On the drama side, it feels like Fox's The Gifted and possibly The Good Doctor on ABC have the best chance. I also see NBC's The Brave, due to The Voice lead-in, being the breakout of all the new military dramas. Also Law & Order: True Crime could get sampled, due to the familiarity of the Menendez brothers case, the Law & Order branding, and the This Is Us lead-in. Finally, it seemed shocking that NBC's buzziest pilots, Reverie and Rise, were held for midseason, why do you think that is? Guessing NBC wants to give them a push during Super Bowl and Olympics. And why is NBC wasting the This Is Us lead-in on Chicago Med later in the season, when they could use it on a new drama? - Ryan

Matt Roush: That’s a lot of questions, but most of your handicapping seems right in line with many of the early predictions from analysts, who tend to play it safe by championing shows with pre-sold titles (Will & Grace), strong lead-ins or spinning off of successful brands like The Big Bang Theory (with Young Sheldon) or any iteration of Law & Order.

What I’m hoping for is something to emerge to take the audience by surprise, the way This Is Us did last fall. The best shot for that may be ABC’s The Good Doctor, an emotional medical drama starring Bates Motel’s wonderful Freddie Highmore as young savant surgeon with autism. That’s one of the few new network pilots that made me want to watch more. (Fox hasn’t yet made available a full pilot episode of the promising-looking The Gifted.) Young Sheldon is easily the most delightful of the comedy pilots I’ve screened to date, and that should do well when CBS’s Thursday lineup kicks in after football. And while The Brave may ride The Voice’s coattails to success, I’m betting CBS’s Seal Team, with the durable David Boreanaz, will also pop.

To address your other questions: I don’t know if NBC is still planning to revive the “Must-See TV” marketing, but without This Is Us on the night anymore, it’s a lot less must-see than the original plan. The best reason I can give for Great News being renewed and given the choice post-W&G time period is its pedigree. NBC wants to be in business with the 30 Rock team including Tina Fey and Robert Carlock, even if it means nurturing this lesser effort. NBC’s even more critical relationship with Dick Wolf might explain why Chicago Med will join This Is Us when the Menendez miniseries wraps. And regarding shows held to midseason, including the musical drama Rise (which I’m eager to see), it’s not unusual anymore for networks to hold back shows they believe may benefit from extra promotion they wouldn’t get in a crowded fall. The Super Bowl/Olympics promotional push won’t hurt, either. But it’s kind of shocking that NBC only has three new shows premiering in the fall, and one of them (Will & Grace) isn’t all that new.


A Ghost of a Chance?

Question: Do you think Ghosted will do well on Fox? I love the concept, but could it be confusing to audiences that the show is called Ghosted, but they are hunting aliens and not ghosts? I love the cast, but could their popularity help the show? I've got so many questions about this exciting show. — TD

Matt Roush: Seems to me Ghosted has an OK chance, although it’s true they’ve mixed supernatural metaphors here, giving the show a title that invokes Ghostbusters when it’s actually a spoof of The X-Files, pairing skeptic Craig Robinson with true-believer dweeb Adam Scott. But who’s to say they won’t find themselves in a haunted house at some point? Worked for Abbott & Costello.


TNT Lightning Round

Question: Is TNT's Major Crimes finished or coming back this summer? - Sue

Matt Roush: Neither. TNT renewed Major Crimes for a sixth season, but an air date hasn’t been announced. We’re far enough into the summer without any word of its return that I wouldn’t expect to see it back until late fall or winter. It looks to be a shorter season than usual, with only 13 episodes ordered to date.

Question: Are we expecting to see "Lady Mary" back in Good Behavior any time soon? — Mary

Matt Roush: Maybe not soon, but eventually. And please, Letty (played by Downton Abbey’s Michelle Dockery) is no lady. TNT renewed Good Behavior for a second season, which hasn’t been scheduled yet. The first season premiered in November, so like with Major Crimes, I’d expect to see it return in late fall or early 2018. Year-round programming makes it hard to predict.

 

That’s all for now, and 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.