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 firstname.lastname@example.org (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 Closer Look at a Late-Night Snub
Question: We were on vacation when the Emmy nominations were announced, so I'm a little late in voicing my disappointment that Seth Meyers did not get nominated. I think his "A Closer Look" segments are so good, and in my opinion much better than anything Jimmy Kimmel does (except for his statements about his son's illness and what he and his wife experienced). Is Seth just too political for the typical Emmy voter? I think Stephen Colbert is just as pointed in his political comedy as Seth, and Stephen got nominated. What are your thoughts? - Gwen
Matt Roush: In this category of variety-talk, I'm not sure it's even possible to be too political this year of all years. Of the six shows nominated, only CBS's The Late Late Show With James Corden and to a lesser degree Jimmy Kimmel's show on ABC tend to favor comedy over commentary (and Kimmel's monologues can be pretty scathing). With Samantha Bee's Full Frontal competing with John Oliver, Stephen Colbert and perennial also-ran Bill Maher of HBO, you'd almost wonder if Seth Meyers was overlooked because Late Night isn't political enough—although I agree his "Closer Look" segments are among the best and sharpest in the business. I take some solace in knowing that Seth and his Late Night staff were nominated for writing, quite deservedly (over Maher's and Kimmel's shows), but late night has become a crowded field, so not everyone is going to make the cut.
Gypsy: An Insult to Therapists?
Question: What is your take on the new Netflix show Gypsy? I like the therapist-crossing-boundaries theme, and also raising a transgender child, but cannot get past what a TERRIBLE therapist she is. Example: Instead of advising a clinging mother to examine how her own suffocating, controlling, needy, judging behavior is driving the daughter away, she says, "I'm sure she loves you. It takes time." She then whines in a staff meeting that the woman "won't take responsibility" and wants to quit because therapy is doing her no good. (The mother is correct).
This brings up a larger issue for me. As one working in the field, I rarely see a film depiction of what I consider good therapy. Instead it is hand-holding, reassurance, pap and platitudes. Dianne Wiest in HBO's In Therapy was good, but before that I have to go back to, what? Klute? We're talking decades. And don't give me The Sopranos' Dr. Melfi; she was so caught up in her concepts and philosophies (The center cannot hold! The falconer has lost the falcon!) that Tony Soprano rightly exclaims, "What the *&#! are you talking about?" I cannot explain this. It is a safe assumption that people in the film industry have a greater than average participation in therapy, and that the lure of association with fame and fortune would draw some top therapists to places like Hollywood. So why then are we given the stereotypical passive-ineffective models who never do what a therapist is for: to point us toward what we have not been willing, or able, to face in ourselves? —Jason
Matt Roush: What an interesting question and subject, and the best generalization I can give you is that almost no professional in any field is satisfied by the way they're portrayed in the entertainment media. I know that's the case with most shows about journalists (excepting high-end docudramas like All the President's Men; don't get us started on The Newsroom), and lawyers and doctors I'm acquainted with tend to shun legal and medical shows for obvious reasons. Therapists, I would imagine, are no exception, and In Treatment was unusual in its avoidance of melodrama to give dramatic insight into the process. Regarding Gypsy, it's a failure on so many levels—it's slow, dull, pretentious, preposterous—that I bailed midway through. (Too much TV, too little time for dreck.) Naomi Watts' character is, without question, horrible at her job. She's also not terribly interesting in the way she goes about screwing up her personal and professional lives. As a therapist, you have every right to object to this treatment. As a critic, I object on the grounds that it's lousy drama and worse entertainment.
How Much Dancing on the Horizon?
Question: I know Dancing With the Stars is scheduled to return this fall, but will there be a spring edition given American Idol (which I know will air on Sunday, but they may need Mondays for the result show) and DWTS Junior (do we know if this show will have same host and judges)? — Tom
Matt Roush: The new season of Dancing arrives a week before most of ABC's other shows, on Sept. 18, but can't really tell you much about its midseason prospects. ABC might enlighten us when the network steps up at the TCA press tour next week, because I bet there will be questions about how big a footprint the new American Idol is expected to have on the schedule in 2018. If it airs more than once a week, what other shows will have to take a hiatus? I also haven't seen any updates regarding timing or personnel on the junior version of Dancing, the notion of which makes my skin crawl. Whether Junior gives Dancing a rest in the spring, or (a better thought) joins next summer's rotation of disposable reality shows, remains to be announced.
Lower Standards for Summer TV?
Question: Do you review summer TV shows on a curve? I certainly do. I'm much more harsh during the regular season. I doubt I would give shows like CBS's Salvation and ABC's Still Star-Crossed a second look (or maybe even a first) had they aired during the very busy regular season. That said, they are good enough for me now and I'm happy I gave them a chance. But no summer show impressed me like Downward Dog. — Fred
Matt Roush: I'd like to think I judge summer TV the same as I do shows from any other time of year, because with TV's non-stop year-round rollout anymore, there isn't that much of a distinction. The difference being that broadcast network TV tends to use summer more as an incubator for low-cost reality, and whatever scripted shows are part of the mix are either burnoffs not deemed worthy of the regular season (Still Star-Crossed) or cheaply acquired international co-productions (ABC's new Somewhere Between and any number of Canadian imports from past summers) or escapist genre shows designed specifically for this time of year (CBS's Salvation following the lead of Under the Dome, BrainDead, Extant and others). A possible exception to this rules is NBC's new Midnight, Texas, which I enjoyed as a fun summer diversion, which might be thought of as condescension. If it holds up, including its first week's not-bad ratings, it might have the sort of staying power that could propel the show from summer into the regular season lineup. (NBC's Grimm-free Friday lineup could use it.) And what can I say that I haven't already said about Downward Dog? Would have been a gem any time of year, and probably just as hard a sell.
What's to Become of Mother?
Question: Was PBS's My Mother and Other Strangers a one-season show or will there be a second season? It ended with what I thought was a cliffhanger. I really liked it and would hate to have it end that way. - Pat
Matt Roush: At the moment, there's no word on a second season, so even if it does gets a green light, it may be a while before we see how this wartime romantic triangle plays out. This certainly didn't feel like it was written as a one-season drama, given how unresolved the key relationships were in that fifth and final episode. So let's hope this isn't the last we've seen of these fine, flawed folks. And it's ironic in retrospect that when I reviewed it, I made reference to the premature cancellation of another British import, Home Fires, on a cliffhanger. How annoying if we were to see this suffer the same fate.
Giving Digital Its Due at the Emmys
Question: Fans of daytime soap dramas know that the Daytime Emmy Awards has had a category for streaming dramas for years now. Outstanding Digital Daytime Drama Series, and they have also added acting categories. They have evolved to add more categories over the years. The awards are presented during the Daytime Creative Arts Emmy Awards. — Teresa
Matt Roush: I assume this helpful information is in response to the recent discussion in this column about how shows on platforms beyond traditional network and cable TV are being considered at the Emmys. In the prime-time arena, when it comes to full-length scripted programming, it's all an even playing field. But like the Daytime Emmys, the prime-time awards also feature special categories for short-form programming on a variety of services that runs the gamut—comedy, drama, animated, nonfiction, including actors—and covers everything from actual networks to apps to digital channels (ABCd/ABC.com) and online destinations like Funny or Die and go90, network websites (AMC.com), even government ones (arts.gov) and a few outlets I'm not even sure what they are. So that's one way the Emmys are spreading the wealth. But to altogether segregate streaming series from network shows? Not going to happen.
That’s all for now, and we’ll pick up the conversation again soon, although with the annual TCA summer press tour underway, the schedule will be more erratic than usual. 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@example.com or shoot me a line on Twitter (@TVGMMattRoush), and you can also submit questions via the handy form below
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