Ask Matt: Monday's Comedy Drought, Plus: A Super Supergirl? A New Star Trek, The Walking Dead 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, 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: Why are there no comedies on Monday night? I used to love coming home from work and watching the CBS comedy block. How I Met Your Mother, 2 Broke Girls, and from seasons past King of Queens and Everybody Loves Raymond. Now all I see is reality shows and sci-fi/fantasy. What gives? — Pam
Matt Roush: It's a good observation, because with Supergirl joining Scorpion and NCIS: Los Angeles, this is the first time CBS has scheduled a Monday lineup without any comedies since at least the I Love Lucy era—or as my revered colleague Michael Schneider puts it, "since the advent of prime time. Crazy, huh?" Pretty historic, for sure, but also an indication of how hard it is even for a mainstream outlet like CBS to build successful comedy blocks on more than one night (and CBS's focus right now is on Big Bang-fueled Thursdays, which now includes Monday transplant 2 Broke Girls). The high-concept drama strategy is working pretty well for CBS right now against the Voice juggernaut. But NBC sees an opportunity here, which is why its promising midseason comedies Superstore and Telenovela will be setting up shop on Mondays come January. And to be fair, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and Jane the Virgin officially qualify as comedies, just not the half-hour sitcom variety. They're a great alternative if you're seeking a good laugh on Mondays right now.
Why Isn't the CBS Network Airing the New Star Trek?
Question: What do you make of CBS rebooting Star Trek on its monthly-fee VOD service? Is this an attempt to reanimate the Trek cash cow in time for the 50th anniversary, or a way to test the waters with the possibility that nu-Trek could be moved to the broadcast network if it does well? What do you think of the show's chances for success, given that so many people are sick of paying for TV? — Julie
Matt Roush: This is the ultimate good-news/bad-news scenario. Good news: Star Trek is coming back to TV. Bad news: It won't exactly be airing on TV, but available exclusively to CBS All Access subscribers after the pilot airs on the network. The answer to your question is that CBS is absolutely hoping to cash in on next year's 50th-anniversary Star Trek fervor with a planned 2017 launch of this reboot, but the ultimate goal is to drive people to this new CBS revenue stream with high-profile original product. A lot can happen over the next year, but the development of these non-broadcast platforms is only likely to escalate, so unless this experiment is a total failure and no one shows up (unlikely), the new Trek will be braving this new frontier without an eye on traditional CBS, as it were.
Could Supergirl Get the Post-Super Bowl Slot?
Question: Given CBS will broadcast the Super Bowl in February, what are the chances the network will put Supergirl in the post-game slot? It seems like the only other option would be Limitless, but a superhero showdown probably lends itself better to the spotlight. —Emily
Matt Roush: I've heard worse ideas—for me, CBS still holds the all-time prize for worst post-Super Bowl programming ever, with a particularly disgusting episode of Criminal Minds in 2007. Supergirl would be a suitably upbeat and exciting choice, and networks tend to use this platform to anoint or boost a new or enduring hit show, or possibly use the slot to premiere something (Undercover Boss in 2010) or launch a new season of a franchise like Survivor. CBS has yet to give The Big Bang Theory or NCIS the post-Super Bowl exposure, which might seem unnecessary given how strongly these shows perform regularly. The good news at CBS is that there are plenty of options, but I'd be on board with a mega-Supergirl episode, although you'd think that would already have to be on the drawing board if it were to happen.
Walking Dead: Emmy Buzz and Critical Knocks
Question: You recently touched on the subject of awards with a question about Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, and it made me wonder how distance in time affects these things, as it does movies. Yesterday I watched the "Here's Not Here" episode of The Walking Dead, which guest-starred John Carroll Lynch. I was already surprised to see him on this show, but was blown away by his performance. I have never seen a more nuanced and natural portrayal in my life. It was almost as if his dialogue was extemporaneous. Is it too long until the Emmys, or is there a chance that it will be remembered by the time the nominations happen? — Althea
Matt Roush: He was terrific, I agree, and that wonderful episode is a reminder that for all the gruesome zombie-fighting havoc and high mortality rate, The Walking Dead at its best is a trenchant study of humanity tested to its limits and occasionally finding moments of grace, as in the character of Eastman. I'd love to see John Carroll Lynch earn a guest actor nomination, but it may be a long shot—not so much because of the months that will pass between the air date and the nominations, but because of how underappreciated this genre is in general and this show in particular when it comes to the Emmys. I feel much the same about Patti LuPone's riveting performance as the doomed Cut-Wife on the past season of Showtime's Penny Dreadful. Amazing work on a show that either flies under the voters' radar or isn't considered seriously because of the type of stories it tells.
Question: I have been underwhelmed by The Walking Dead this season, mostly due to the apparent stupidity of Rick and his followers and the seeming inconsistencies in the world-building. I still like the show, but why if they have all of the walkers in a herd close to each other do they not throw a little gasoline and light a match? Why are they letting themselves get killed? It makes no sense. Also, why do the Wolves not have guns? Rick's people seem to have a ready supply of guns and bullets and now cars with gasoline. Also, if someone is being chewed on by a herd of walkers wouldn't it seem to make more sense for that person to shoot themselves rather than fire off a few random shots into the walker crowd. I am getting really frustrated. I hope they are heading somewhere with this. If I wasn't enjoying Melissa McBride's performance as a '50s housewife so much, I would have probably already given up on the show.
Similarly, although at least the plotting makes sense, Cristin Milioti's performance is making Fargo for me. Her character's struggles gives a sense of reality and depth to the story, and her family relationships are multi-dimensional and quite lovely. — Kristi
Matt Roush: I'll respectfully disagree with you about the current Walking Dead season, which is overwhelming in its scale and, most recently, its sensitivity and humanity. One of the appeals of watching shows with these types of apocalyptic disaster and survival themes is our impulse to play along and jeer that we would know better than to execute a seemingly stupid plan like what Rick and his gang tried with this ginormous zombie herd (which initially played like the grisliest cattle drive I'd ever seen). We can second-guess these characters all we like, but my reaction is almost always to acknowledge that I probably wouldn't have made it to the second episode, or possibly the second act break. And nitpicking a show to death because it doesn't jibe with one's sense of logic is not my favorite way of watching TV. I assume the Wolves are operating more primitively because they haven't found a stockpile of arms the way Rick and his crew did—or maybe they just devolved into a more savage state for some other reason. There's probably a better explanation I haven't had time to explore, but also a lot that's unknown and unexplained in this world where rules no longer have much meaning, so either you go along for the ride or you jump off. Your choice.
On to Fargo: I love Cristin Milioti's sensitive underplaying of Betsy Solverson (and trying to look past the coincidence of her playing another doomed-before-her-time mother). As extreme and bizarre as the situations and so many of the characters are on Fargo, there's an underlying humanism that raises the stakes on all sides. And the contrast between the depravity of a family like the Gerhardts and the decency of the Solversons (which will continue into the next generation with adult Molly from Season 1) is another reason why Fargo is so very special to me. Plus it's so gosh-darned entertaining!
The Player's Losing Hand
Question: It's the first time I've asked you a question, but I've been following your column for some time. Really enjoy it! Here's my question: If it's true that The Player is getting canceled, will we get to see a satisfactory ending/wrap up to the season? My husband and I watch the show together, and we did the same with another show Philip Winchester was in called Caruso that we never got to see an ending to. We are just two fans of his that are hoping this show won't have the same fate! Any insights? — Melissa
Matt Roush: Welcome to the conversation, Melissa. And no offense to anyone who enjoys this show—Winchester deserved much better after his years in the trenches with Strike Back—but I'm not sure there would ever be a satisfactory way to resolve such a weird premise as this show has. I wouldn't expect a miracle on this one, given how convoluted the set-up is and how short the run will be. But if they do find a way to wrap it up, be sure and let me know how that went.
Question: With regard to The Player, in that series star Wesley Snipes just signed this week to play Negan on The Walking Dead, is that the official cancellation notice? — Dean
Matt Roush: Actually, the official notification came about a week or so earlier, when NBC announced that the new Jennifer Lopez crime drama Shades of Blue would take over The Player's Thursday time slot in January. It was already a dead show walking, but once the new tenant is in place, it's really over.
Jess, Where Are You?
Question: When is New Girl going to finally make its season debut? —Karen
Matt Roush: You'll know as soon as we do, whenever Fox makes its midseason plans official, probably quite soon. We're just now starting to get information about shows returning in early 2016—like USA Network's Suits, back on Jan. 27—and I'd expect New Girl to be among those rolled out in that next wave of programming.
That's all for now, but we'll pick up the conversation again next week, 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.