Ask Matt: ‘Aquarius’ and ‘Hannibal’s Demotion, ‘Good Wife’ Devotion, Summer Cult TV and More
Question: What do you think about NBC moving Hannibal and Aquarius to Saturday nights because of the low ratings both shows were getting on Thursdays? While it’s no surprise that the now canceled Hannibal is moving to Saturdays, it’s very surprising that the network also chose to move Aquarius, a show that has been renewed for a second season. The reason why Aquarius had low ratings on Thursdays was because NBC had put the show’s entire first season online, and many of the show’s viewers had already seen all the episodes online. The online success of Aquarius was the reason NBC renewed the show for a second season! By moving Aquarius to Saturdays, is NBC now reconsidering renewing that show and might end up canceling Aquarius? And if they really intend on moving forward with another season of Aquarius next summer, will they release the entire second season online for a few weeks around the time the show airs on TV like they did this season? – Chris
Matt Roush: These are questions I’m betting NBC’s execs will be fielding when they take reporters’ questions at the upcoming TCA press tour, which I’ll be attending. (It starts next week, but the broadcast networks don’t kick in until August.) I’m sorry, but also not surprised, that Hannibal is slinking off the air in this graveyard slot—it’s a small miracle it managed to make it to three seasons—but the Aquarius experiment is a different story. It’s possible the show would have been a ratings failure even without the digital exposure of the entire season, but the question is whether it makes sense to NBC’s bottom line to give it away digitally and then to try to sustain it with a regular weekly airing schedule. Obviously, that didn’t work this time, and there’s also the question of whether the entire second season can be produced in time to execute the same binge strategy, if they even want to go there. I guess NBC could just dump Aquarius, as some have speculated, but odds are that they will give it a second chance. (If you did make it to the end of the 13 episodes on a binge, you’ll know the story is far from over.) How they’ll present and schedule it is the big unknown, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Aquarius were to air the next time the old-fashioned way, with the opportunity for binge-watching occurring only after the entire series has already aired.
Question: I am a longtime reader of your column dating back over a decade now. I actually can’t believe it’s been that long. In the past we have communicated about our love for The Good Wife, and normally I would be right with you in your angst at the show being excluded from the Best Drama and Best Actress Emmy nominations. However, I think this year the Academy got it right by excluding them. The truth is that this past season, while fantastic for TV as a whole, was one of the weakest seasons that The Good Wife has ever produced. Let’s be honest, between the election story that went nowhere, the inane and pointless stuff with Louis Canning, the non-romances Alicia had with Finn and Johnny, and the bizarre behind-the-scenes politics that clouded Kalinda’s exit, this past season was a mess. The one strong story arc they had was Cary’s arrest and trial, but they concluded that far too early and left little room for it to impact that show as a whole. With all that said, I can’t help but be left with the strong feeling that this is a show that might have reached the point where they are past their peak and should consider ending soon? What are your thoughts? — Matt
Matt Roush: Thanks for your loyalty, and I hope you can appreciate that I’m not entirely on board with your argument. I’ll concede the show had an uneven season, and I wish the whole Kalinda/Archie Panjabi mess hadn’t occurred, but even if it’s a personal blind spot, I’ll assert that even a middling season of The Good Wife is better than most other dramas, and was at least if not more deserving than current nominees House of Cards, Homeland and Downton Abbey. (Again, as always, opinions will differ.) The fact that the Emmys ignored the show for its brilliant fifth season (although Julianna Margulies won) possibly spurred to me speak out more that was required for on behalf of a weaker sixth. But no regrets. Maybe I’d be more mollified if the Academy hadn’t also ignored The Americans and Justified again and given Empire such a weak reception. Also, whatever one might think of last season’s storylines—and I was more on board with the election and its sour aftermath than you—the moral dilemmas Alicia faced with her legal and political career last season were more than Emmy-worthy. And while I’m sure The Good Wife is closer to the end of its run than the beginning, one spotty season isn’t enough for me to be demanding an endgame just yet. Whenever that time comes, I will miss this show and these characters immensely.
Question: I really appreciate the quality programming that SundanceTV has been providing with Rectify and Deutschland 83. My question: Is Deutschland 83 a limited series or is it expected to have additional seasons? How have the ratings been for this show? — Robert
Matt Roush: I don’t follow Sundance’s ratings—not sure anyone does; if ratings were as much a factor as critical buzz, would Rectify still be airing?—but I did ask about Deutschland‘s future and was told no decision has yet been made. Which leads me to think there’s a possibility it could go beyond one season. Let’s see how the story plays out. I know I’d watch more if it’s warranted.
Question: You have commented favorably on the two shows I have come to enjoy the most over this summer. Wonder what you think of them now? They’re both imports and I guess somewhat under the radar. I am not a particularly big genre TV fan, but BBC America’s Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell has grabbed me. The story is fascinating, with just enough mystery about it to make you want to get to the bottom of it. It looks great, and the acting is very good. I’m really impressed by Bertie Carvel, who hits all the notes as the tormented Strange.
PBS’s Last Tango in Halifax this season has been a bit more soapy, with the adult offspring no one knew of and the unexpected death. But it’s executed so well by the writer and actors. And the show is not afraid just to have scenes of these great characters just relating to each other. It’s touching and human and often very funny. And the four lead actors—Derek Jacobi, Anne Reid, Sarah Lancashire, and Nicola Walker—deserve awards. — Miles
Matt Roush: These are both very enjoyable shows, although I’m afraid this year’s summer glut has put Tango on the back burner for now. (That’s a nice future binge for a snowy winter day.) Couldn’t agree more about the quality of the writing and the performances. I love these characters, and look forward to spending more time with them, sudsy subplots notwithstanding. And while there are times I feel Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell may have overreached in trying to condense Susanna Clarke’s magnificent novel into a seven-part miniseries, I love the look and tone of it, and agree with you about Bertie Carvel being a revelation. (I saw him on onstage in Matilda, but he’s relatively new to me as a TV actor, and he’s making the most of this star turn.) In the bigger picture, your question reminds me what an exceptional summer of TV choices we’re enjoying.
Question: What has happened to the great show A.D. The Bible Continues that used to be on at 9/8c on Sunday evenings? It seems that once they have a great show, the national networks are not happy and have to change to something else! — Edward
Matt Roush: In the case of A.D., NBC simply ran out of episodes. All 12 that were produced for this season aired, and NBC moved on. Unfortunately for fans of the show, the ratings didn’t live up to expectations—given what a hit The Bible miniseries had been on cable—so NBC passed on a second season. But there are reports that producers Mark Burnett and Roma Downey plan to keep this franchise alive on the religious-themed online channel they’re planning to launch in a year or so.
Question: I know the ship has probably sailed on The Middle ever getting any Emmy love, but I recently re-watched the episode where Sue responds to Darrin’s proposal. I know you’ve raved about Eden Sher’s performance in that episode (and rightly so), but I realized that in that episode everyone (including the writers) were firing on all cylinders. Everyone had a great part to play, especially in the early scene around the dinner table. I’d argue that episode rivaled anything most other comedy shows did this season, including Modern Family’s episode that all took place on Claire’s laptop. While I know the Emmy voters seem to prefer edgy/groundbreaking fare (leading to The Middle being ignored initially), do you also think that once they’ve decided to ignore a show, they don’t come back to reconsider it? Sure, it’s still not really groundbreaking or edgy, but for a show going into its eighth season, it’s still consistently funny. I’d argue it was the most consistently funny show on the broadcast networks this season. — Scott
Matt Roush: No argument here. I recently discovered a few episodes from last season I’d missed that were still lingering on my DVR, and they were all home runs. This particular episode with the proposal, and Sue asserting her vision for a greater future than Darrin could ever imagine, wasn’t just funny, but unexpectedly touching. I can only think that there’s a perception in the industry that The Middle lacks the sophistication and “hip” irony that characterize the typical Emmy-nominated comedy, and it’s the Academy’s loss that their members are failing to recognize a modern, and I’m betting enduring, classic that gives voice to characters from a middle-of-the-country underclass too seldom seen on TV.
Question: I was wondering if you had any thoughts on the odd feud between Adam Goldberg the actor and Adam F. Goldberg the creator of The Goldbergs. It seems that Adam Goldberg the actor isn’t happy that people have been confusing him with the Adam Goldberg character portrayed on The Goldbergs and wished The Goldbergs had named the Adam Goldberg TV character something else. In turn, he ticked off Adam F. Goldberg by implying on Twitter that The Goldbergs had moved to TV Land. Have there been other cases of Hollywood types sharing similar names and feuding? I’m going to stop there-all this trying to keep the different Goldbergs straight is making my head spin. I’m glad there is only one Matt Roush. — Brian
Matt Roush: Would that this were true. (Google me, you’ll discover there are others, who remarkably use the same spelling.) Usually, if those in show biz learn they share a name with another in the industry, they change it slightly—as in the case of the dueling (but to my knowledge never feuding) Vanessa Williamses, where one uses an “L.” on occasion to distinguish herself. I’m only tangentially aware of this Goldberg feud, which seems beyond childish, especially on the part of the actor (who may be regretting his part in it). Let’s just say that unless the actor Goldberg decides to do a guest spot on The Goldbergs, which might actually be fun, this is an easy one to ignore.
That’s all for now, and because of the approaching TCA press tour, this column will be appearing more sporadically the next few weeks. (The next one will likely post next Thursday.) But please keep sending questions and comments to [email protected] or shoot me a line on Twitter, because this give-and-take requires your participation.