Ask Matt: Are the New Muppets Too Mean? Plus Big Bang, Emmy Snubs, Scream Queens, Scorpion 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. Please send your questions and comments to [email protected] (or use the new form at the end of the column) and follow me on Twitter.
Question: As a long-time Muppets fan, I watched the pilot of ABC's The Muppets, and largely agreed with your take. When did the Muppets get mean? The Muppets are great because for the most part they're eternally optimistic (Kermit aside, who was always just barely keeping everything together) but these Muppets are nasty. Do you think they've gone too far with this attitude? I'm hoping that after the first batch of episodes, they'll find their footing and balance out their tone a bit. - Jason
Matt Roush: We should find out very soon if viewers come back for more or were turned off by the first episode's bitter undertones. The Muppets' premiere got good sampling, not a surprise given the amount of promotion and their enduring appeal. And I will say that next Tuesday's episode, during which Miss Piggy falls under the influence of Josh Groban and the workplace suddenly becomes nicer—for a while—tickled me more. I don't think this is a lost cause, and sometimes pilot episodes push the tone a bit to test the waters, but as I noted in the review, this new version may take some getting used to.
Big Bang Fallout
Question: What did you think of The Big Bang Theory's season opener? I thought it was better than the finale, as less time was spent on Stuart (who had some good lines, unlike in the finale) and no time spent on Raj and his new girl. The strained Penny-Leonard fight kept on being more strained, and yet I guess I did not mind it as much because (1) I knew it was coming and (2) It was better written then in the finale. Next week's episode is likely going to focus on the unhappiness of at least three relationships (and perhaps four, depending on the state of Howard and Bernie), which is not what I think most fans such as myself wants to see or find particularly funny, but I will stick with it for now. I do not find it sad that after so many years and a long buildup, Penny and Leonard got married under the condition they did, but perhaps that will be somehow addressed later. Any predictions on if Shamy [Sheldon-Amy] is actually done and over or will they have make up s.....well, whatever they would do to make up? — Sean
Matt Roush: I enjoyed the episode—poor Stuart trying to take advantage of the situation in particular—and was glad they didn't draw out Leonard and Penny's nuptials. Also am very curious to see the fallout from Amy's split with Sheldon. To address your questions and concerns, I recommend you read our post-show interview with the showrunner. I wouldn't be surprised if the Amy-Sheldon relationship takes more interesting twists before they reconcile, if they ever do, as Sheldon tries to understand his part in the break-up. And if she ever finds out about the ring …
Emmy Snubs (Mayim Bialik, Tatiana Maslany, Jonny Lee Miller)
Question: So Allison Janney won her inevitable Emmy for Mom. Wonderful for her. Yippee skippy. But what will it take for the Academy to finally recognize Mayim Bialik for her work as Amy on The Big Bang Theory? She brings such nuance and humanity to a role that could have been nothing but a caricature or stereotype. Will this coming season's break-up storyline help be giving her a little more meat to work with? What's a girl got to do to win an Emmy around here? — Sabrina
Matt Roush: You may be on to something here. I have no problem with Janney repeating her Mom win for last season, considering the material she was given, including the death of her ex-husband triggering a relapse (played for very dark laughs). But I'd like to think that Amy's journey of independence, sticking to her guns despite longing for a connection, will give Bialik enough of an Emmy reel to increase her odds. She was absolutely my second choice in that category, and I'd love to see her take one home. Still, it's getting harder for these broad network comedies to get their due these days, so it may always be a long shot.
Question: Regarding the Emmys, Viola Davis is a marvelous actress, but she won the award for playing one role. While Tatiana Maslany plays six different roles and makes each one believable. Does she escape notice because of the type of show Orphan Black is, or because of the network it is on? I can't help but wonder if the Emmy voters even watch some of the shows that they are supposed to vote for. - Karen
Matt Roush: It's a fair concern, especially for a cult series like Orphan Black. Her nomination was already a bit of a miracle, and as remarkable as Tatiana Maslany's achievement is, hers isn't the easiest show for a casual viewer to appreciate. (I'd like to think voters checked out the episode she submitted, but even that's not a guarantee anymore.) Her biggest handicap to winning is the show's relative obscurity, but given the historic nature of Viola Davis's win, and the magnificent speech that followed, I wouldn't have wanted this year's result to be any different. There's always next year.
Question: Why, why, why hasn't Jonny Lee Miller been recognized by the Emmys? He knocks it out of the park in every single episode of Elementary. He carries the show (there's hardly a scene without him, so the amount of work alone deserves an award). Even with the joancroft debacle of Season 2 and the unwatchable Kitty in Season 3, I stayed with the show just for his performance. Are Emmy voters just watching HBO? When an actor can make a viewer become emotional during a crime drama and make you forget you are watching an actor, he deserves something. — Sam
Matt Roush: In a different time, when there weren't so many platforms producing great drama, it would be unthinkable that Jonny Lee Miller could go unnoticed for a performance like this in a mainstream drama. It's really a matter of volume. While I could quibble with some of this year's nominees in the lead actor drama category, they covered a wide variety of cable and streaming outlets, and I'm just as annoyed that The Americans' Matthew Rhys has never made the cut.
Scream Queens a Camp Classic?
Question: I have to disagree with you about your opinion on Scream Queens, Matt. Scream Queens works because it is complete and utter camp and doesn't pretend to be anything but. That, to me, is why American Horror Story: Coven was so miserable. It needed to be total camp or something more serious. It couldn't make up its mind. If SQ can avoid that trap, then I'll keep watching. Fave show of the season, so far. — Joe M
Matt Roush: For more context, this exchange began on Twitter when my esteemed colleague Joe Adalian from Vulture noted, "Networks are right to bet on shows like SQ vs. Minority Report/Limitless/Rosewood. They need brands. SQ is a brand." I kind of agree with this in theory, because those other shows bore me to tears, which is something you'd never say about Scream Queens. So I tweeted back, "But you need to back up a 'brand' with actual content. Which is where the trashy, tawdry SQ falls sadly short." Enter Joe M's defense of Scream Queens, which I'll answer by saying that I have a high threshold and respect for camp, and SQ's style of callous insult humor still strikes me, as I wrote, as closer in tone to a bunch of mean tweets written by 14-year-olds. Didn't find it funny, campy or anything but cruel, immature, hollow and asinine. Now Empire? That's a camp classic. I do agree with Joe M that Scream Queens is far more entertaining than AHS: Coven, which was my least favorite season of that show until Freak Show happened.
Is Scorpion Too Over the Top?
Question: I really like all the actors and the characters they play on Scorpion. I also understand that with television you have to just not think about how certain things could never happen. But I just could not do that with the season premiere. It was just too out there. The balloon, come on. Can they not come up with ideas that seem at least halfway plausible, or have I become too cynical in my old age? I guess I could continue to watch and just shake my head the whole time. I think my neck might get sore. Thanks for listening. — Sandra
Matt Roush: The balloon incident was a bit much for sure, but so was Walter (Elyes Gabel) and Paige (Katharine McPhee) discussing their mutual attraction while trying to knock out of the sky a plummeting Russian satellite that was threatening millions of lives. To enjoy a show like Scorpion, you have to be able to accept and enjoy the ridiculous. I kind of appreciate the show playing with stakes this high. It keeps it from seeming ordinary. This isn't something I watch on a regular basis, and I kind of got a kick out of it.
Life in Pieces Is No Modern Family
Question: The first new show I watched this season is Life in Pieces, and I have to ask: Are the program honchos teenage boys? It was awful, and such a waste of James Brolin, Dianne Weist and Colin Hanks. I was not planning on watching it, due to most reviews, but I decided to give it a try based on the strength of the cast. Wish I had this half-hour back. I was ready to change the channel during the "frozen glove" sequence. The people are portrayed as morons who probably could not figure out how to cross the street (especially the one that just gave birth). I cannot imagine what the table read sounds like. I cannot imagine anyone is laughing. Even some of Modern Family's clunkier episodes are far superior to this one. Do the writers and programmers think we are idiots, and do these actors need the money that badly? I also predict this will be the first show canceled. Thank you for letting me vent. - Katy
Matt Roush: There is a major disconnect here between the quality of this cast and the low tone of much of the humor (especially the childbirth subplot), and I'll be curious to see if the show doesn't eventually try to raise its game. (But I see the new mother will be dealing with breast-feeding consultants in the second episode, so not terribly hopeful.) If more of Life in Pieces were like the scene at the mock funeral—except for Brolin's hokey speech stating the show's theme—I'd be on board with a family comedy with these actors in it. But regarding your prediction, I'm sorry to tell you that as long as the show airs after The Big Bang Theory, it's probably going to get a decent enough sampling to last at least until this combo moves to Thursdays in November. On the other hand, if it loses too much of the Big Bang lead-in, it could be replaced quickly by shows in the wings like Mike & Molly or (no improvement) The Odd Couple. Time will tell.
That's all for now, but we'll pick up the conversation again next week. Let me know what you think of the new shows and premieres as the new season gets underway. 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). Or submit your question via the form below: