Ask Matt: Why a New ‘Supergirl’? Plus: Violence in ‘Gotham’, ‘Grandfathered’, ‘The Grinder’, ‘Longmire’

Melissa Benoist stars as Kara Danvers/Supergirl in the new action-adventure drama SUPERGIRL, on the CBS Television Network. Photo: Matthias Clamer/Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. © 2015 WBEI. All rights reserved.

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 unless it’s common knowledge. 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: I was wondering what could have prompted CBS or any network to consider a Supergirl series, considering the fact that the character was featured in a long-ago theatrical movie starring Helen Slater that didn’t do all that well and was critically drubbed. Sure, the TV show is great so far, but I’m still curious about how they could have decided to give the character another chance, this time on TV. — David

Matt Roush: Don’t you think 31 years—yes, it’s been that long—is enough time to give someone else a chance to get it right this time? (Besides, wasn’t it a fun idea to briefly show Helen Slater and Lois & Clark‘s Dean Cain as Kara’s adopted Earth parents?) Given the current boom in comic book-inspired super-heroics on the small and big screens, it was probably only a matter of time before someone went back to this source, and thankfully there seems to be an appetite for a female-driven version of what’s usually a heroes’ boys club. The biggest concern was whether a mainstream entity like CBS would be the right home for Supergirl. Given how big the opening week was, and how enjoyable the series is, let’s stay positive on this one for now.

Do Grandfathered and Grinder Have Staying Power?

Question: I’m thrilled to see that Grandfathered and The Grinder have gotten full-season orders. These two shows make us laugh out loud. Not only will I watch anything with William Devane, including his endless gold commercials, but every single character in both shows is likeable and enjoyable. Sure, every new show needs tweaking here and there, but the only problem I have found so far is the ridiculous family viewing of Ray Donovan with younger children (on The Grinder). Maybe moving them to a different night that doesn’t compete with TV’s No. 1 show (NCIS) would be beneficial to them both. — Teresa

Matt Roush: As I recently wrote in praise of both comedies, one of the happier circumstances of the networks taking more of a wait-and-see approach this fall is the ability it gives for terrific shows like these to be nurtured in hopes of catching on, especially something with as offbeat a premise as The Grinder. (Even the Ray Donovan gag made me laugh, it was so silly—and I love that they even called out that it was crazy for the parents to get upset that it had been erased from the DVR given that all the episodes are always available on demand.) As for the scheduling: There aren’t that many slots available for Fox comedies, and while I’d like to see The Grinder in particular get some exposure on the Sunday lineup, which is friendlier to offbeat fare (see The Last Man on Earth), these shows also have the benefit of being in-house Fox productions that The Powers That Be truly believe in, so even with these pitiful numbers, they’re seemingly safe for now.

Gotham, Robin Lord Taylor, Cory Michael Smith

Gotham‘s Robin Lord Taylor (left) and Cory Michael Smith

Is Gotham Too Gory?

Question: What is up with Gotham? We were told it would be different this season, but it seems bloodier and more violent than ever!! I am glad to have Selena back. She is a fun character. — Melissa

Matt Roush: I agree about Serena, and thought the Firefly mini-arc in which she was prominently involved was strong, but when a season is subtitled “Rise of the Villains,” the implication was always that Gotham would be doubling down on the mayhem, which is pretty much what’s happened. I have a pretty high threshold for such things, but even I’m surprised at how gruesome the show is for its early (8/7c) time period. At the same time, I’ve been impressed by the work this season of Cameron Monaghan (precursor to Joker), Robin Lord Taylor (Penguin) and Cory Michael Smith (future Riddler), and James Frain and Jessica Lucas are pretty fearsome as the Big Bad Galavans—not to mention how much more interesting Erin Richards is as Crazed Barbara—so I guess I’m OK with the focus being on the villains for now. The challenge is to make the good guys as charismatic. (And outside of Sean Pertwee as Alfred, that’s just not happening.)

In Support of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and Jane

Question: Despite its off-putting premise, I have really fallen in love with Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, which has been utterly hilarious and entertaining. Really, the only bright spot when it comes to new broadcast network shows this fall. I was less psyched to see that the ratings of the show are ridiculously bad even by The CW’s standards. What do you think are the chances that the CW will give the show a full-season order? Even if the show gets canceled afterwards, I really would love for them to have a full season before bowing out. Also, what do you think about Rachel Bloom’s award show chances? She has been a real discovery, effortlessly charming, funny and captivating all at the same time. Despite being low-rated, Jane the Virgin was able to pull off a Golden Globe win for Gina Rodriguez. Will Crazy Ex-Girlfriend be able to do the same for Rachel Bloom, even though the show is flying even more under the radar? — Billy

Matt Roush: The initial good news is that The CW gave Crazy Ex-Girlfriend an order for additional scripts, but whether it gets a full-season run could be as much a matter of the network’s inventory—they’ll need to try some midseason shows somewhere on the schedule—as a reaction to the show’s dismal ratings. The CW is always the hardest network to predict when it comes to loyalty toward shows that barely drive the ratings needle. As for Rachel Bloom getting her due as a bona fide musical-comedy discovery: A long shot, no doubt, but the Golden Globes (and various critics’ awards groups) is probably her best chance to get noticed in the short term, given those voters’ history with occasionally embracing the underdog.

Question: Thank you so much for introducing me to Jane the Virgin. I bought and watched the whole first season during a wonderful couple of weeks this summer—every episode made me feel happy, which is uncommon with TV! I just read that viewer numbers for this terrific show are down. Would it help the ratings in any way if we were to watch it on Hulu within a couple of days of the episode airing rather than watching recordings on our DVRs? – Jen

Matt Roush: I’m not sure it makes much difference. As long as you watch it on some platform, The CW is happy. In business terms, watching live is always best. But of all the broadcast networks, The CW is most vocal about the “TV Everywhere” experience, knowing that its target audience is perhaps the least likely to be yoked to a TV show’s time-and-date airing.

Has Anything Been Canceled Yet?

Question: So is the new term for a TV show getting canceled “reducing the episode order?” It’s like every day there was another “ehhh” show getting its episode count trimmed instead of just saying they are canceled. I know in seasons past the networks canceled good TV shows that didn’t have the ratings and stopped showing the episodes that were already produced. But now it’s like they are keeping bad shows on just for the hope that it will catch on, or possibly because they don’t have anything they can replace it with. — Henry

Matt Roush: On the various radio outlets that I talk with weekly about TV, I’ve been remarking about how I can’t remember a fall season when no show had been yanked off the air by the first week of November. Obviously, several “going out of business” signs have been hung on shows whose episode order has been cut back (Minority Report, Blood & Oil, Truth Be Told), and when NBC announced the January start date of Jennifer Lopez’s Shades of Blue in The Player‘s Thursday time period, that was the first real cancellation notice, I guess. This likely has something to do with the new metrics of TV viewership, as networks take a longer view to see how a show is performing online or on demand, but also economics are no doubt at play, and it makes more sense to burn off a show’s remaining episodes than to try to slap something new on the schedule, especially this late in the calendar year when holiday specials and repeats will kick in a few weeks from now. Come January, most of the fall’s duds will be gone, and then we’ll start up the whole process again.


Longmire‘s Robert Taylor

Longmire‘s Future

Question: Do you have any insight into whether Longmire will get a fifth season? I took your advice and binge-watched Longmire this summer, wrapping up just in time for Season 4 to premiere on Netflix. I adored the first three seasons and liked Season 4 a lot. (My only quibble is that they dialed back the romance between Walt and Vic—not because I think the show needs that romantic bit, but because I don’t like it when showrunners stop and start and stop and start relationships. It just feels manipulative. [SPOILER ALERT] I thought Branch’s death was handled well—they gave adequate time to wrap it up, but also moved on to other things.) Anyway, is it a bad sign that Netflix hasn’t made any announcement for a fifth season [as of Oct. 28]? I don’t even know when an announcement should be expected. This whole new world of non-TV TV shows—complete with a total lack of information regarding how many viewers any given show has—makes it difficult to determine how well a show is doing. — Kirsten

Matt Roush: I included this question, which arrived in my mailbag two days before Netflix announced the good news last week that Longmire would indeed get a fifth season, in part because I wanted to end the column on a positive note, but also to illustrate the uncertainty with which so many TV fans live nowadays. Especially with these new platforms like Netflix refusing to issue information about how many and who are watching, you never really know until you know. Sometimes a network will renew something before a show even starts (as with Starz most recently regarding Ash vs. Evil Dead), and sometimes there’s a long wait for a deal to get made, or not made. You can’t really read anything into these periods of limbo, but until a show is actually declared dead, there’s no reason to give up hope. And Longmire happily reminds us that, in this new TV universe of so many choices, cancellation isn’t always the last word, either.

But What About The Whispers?

Question: Has The Whispers been axed? — Jeremy

Matt Roush: And then there are situations like this. ABC did finally pull the plug on this sci-fi series nearly two months after its summer season ended. The only surprise in this case would be if someone came to its rescue.

That’s all for now, but we’ll pick up the conversation again soon, so keep sharing your thoughts on new and returning series and other TV matters. I can’t do this without your participation, so please send questions and comments about TV to [email protected] or shoot me a line on Twitter (@TVGMMattRoush). Or submit your question via the handy form below.