Ask Matt: ‘This Is Us,’ ‘Exorcist,’ ‘Outlander,’ ‘Supermarket Sweep’ and More

This is Us - Season 2
Ron Batzdorff/NBC
Pictured: (l-r) Hannah Zeile as Kate, Niles Fitch as Randall, Logan Shroyer as Kevin, MIlo Ventimiglia as Jack

Welcome to the Q&A with TV critic (also known to some TV fans as their “TV therapist”) Matt Roush, who’ll try to 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 [email protected] (or use the form at the end of the column) and follow me on Twitter @TVGMMattRoush. Look for Ask Matt columns on most Tuesdays and Fridays.


Do the Pearson Kids Drive You Nuts?

Question: I don’t know if it is me, but I have a hard time watching This Is Us. I love Mandy Moore (Rebecca) and Milo Ventimiglia (Jack), but I cringe at the children. I am thinking of starting a drinking game each time the kids come on and frown, pout or show an unhappy face. It makes you wonder, because it is meant to show (at least to me) that the parents were good, but their kids are messed up! Whether it is Kevin “I never got enough attention,” or Kate “I am a fat girl” or Randall “I am a black man who grew up in a white world,” I find it hard to watch them. It was not hard for me to figure out where Kevin’s story line is going, and if the 3 adult mopers weren’t enough, lets add a new young one into the mix (Deja). I know wallowing in misery seems to be the bread and butter of this series, but my goodness, I want to like it and just can’t. I have not once reached for a hanky and I cry at the drop of a hat!!! I guess I need to find a new hat! — George

Matt Roush: Maybe because I have this issue to a much larger degree with Amazon’s Transparent—love Maura (Jeffrey Tambor), loathe the children more each season—I am much more tolerant of the flaws in this far less pretentious series. I will share, though, a conversation I had recently in which I was describing one of the more contrived storylines this season: the family attending Kevin’s reunion taping of The Manny, only to bail one by one to confront their own personal crises. While I was moved by at least one of the payoffs (especially Randall’s admission that he’s afraid to do anything he might fail at, including foster parenting), you had to endure some groaning too-much-like-TV manipulation to get there. That’s also happening with the Deja foster-child situation, which feels like a lesser Parenthood subplot. Again, some affecting moments (Beth doing her hair), marred by heavy-handed plotting (Deja cutting said hair off after Randall opens his mouth again).

More often than not, I am still moved by This Is Us, and in particular I don’t think you’re giving Kevin’s storyline enough credit. (Ditto Randall, whose younger version hit a home run last week dealing with his dismissive grandma.) It’s not that Kevin didn’t get enough love and attention—Jack sure looked like a super-fan in the football stands—it’s that he has repressed his feelings toward his father and his death to an unhealthy degree, and I’m drawn to see how that will continue to play out. I’ll wrap this discussion by conceding that This Is Us is far from perfect, and a sophomore-season backlash is to be expected, but as one of the few shows on any network that even tries to make an emotional impression, it’s one I absolutely will not miss.

Still Possessed By The Exorcist

Question: You & I had the same opinion about last season`s The Exorcist (we both liked it), and I was wondering how you liked this year`s episodes? I was skeptical on the first one, but now I`m in! I love it again—maybe even more than last year! It`s just as terrifying. I really liked last week’s episode (SPOILER ALERT) about the mother faking her daughter`s possession. Of course, the movie The Exorcist is my favorite horror movie of all time. I saw it three times when it first came out—that`ll give you an idea of my age! — Barbara

Matt Roush: And here’s an idea of my age: I was just under the radar of getting into an R-rated movie when The Exorcist was first released, and I still remember my desperation to get someone to take me. (Sadly, it didn’t happen during its first run, but it was worth the wait. And I did get the book.) As for the TV show, it’s been a bit of a slow burn for me so far, and nothing’s going to top the Regan reveal of last season, but I agree the Oct. 13 (Friday the 13th) episode was my favorite to date, with the crazy-mom twist and how it will lead our exorcists to the island. I just wish they’d got there sooner. And I’m weary of conspiracy plots, so the Vatican subplots are leaving my cold. But I give the TV Exorcist credit for pulling no punches when it comes to the big scare moments (and I enjoyed last week’s homage to The Birds, another horror favorite), so it’s still on my must-watch list. And if you really love The Exorcist, you’ll watch to watch Sunday’s “Treehouse of Horror” trilogy of The Simpsons, which spoofs the movie classic.

Outlander Season 3

Will Outlander Ever Get Awards Love?

Question: I get emails from the Gold Derby site, and there were 15 expert predictions regarding Emmy nominations. Out of the 15, Caitronia Balfe of Outlander got about 12 or 13 nomination predictions, the phenomenal show got none and most of all, SamHeughan, who outdoes himself with his acting both in the last episode of the first year and three of the episodes of this season, only got one?? What is wrong with these people? Is it his good looks that keep them from looking beyond that and not seeing what a phenomenal actor he is? Claire is great too and absolutely deserves any nominations. Also Tobias Menzies was neglected too. A darn shame, but I feel the actors and shows they were predicting to win, were all the same old, same old. Will not be watching this coming year. — Connie

Matt Roush: I participate on Gold Derby’s Emmy expert panel each year—although my track record is such that “expert” may be stretching it a bit anymore—and believe me when I say that I and many others would love to see a show as well produced and acted as Outlander make the cut. (This is a particularly timely question, given the anticipation for Sunday’s reunion episode for Claire and Jamie.) But in that forum, we are being asked for our predictions of how the nominations will go, not our preferences. And we try to predict the behavior of Emmy voters, who have so far proven immune to Outlander’s charms, so by not going there, we were actually correct.

Your question is really being directed at the Emmy voters, who are behind the curve of even the Golden Globes when it comes to acknowledging this series. I suspect the voters are just not watching, what with hundreds of other options out there. And given the continuing glut of high-end dramas, Outlander will probably continue to be a long shot in seasons to come.

How Sweep It Is

Question: Supermarket Sweep is going to be on what channel & when? The article didn’t say. I used to watch that show when it was on. — Photoman

Matt Roush: The article didn’t say because that was just an announcement that rights to the show have been acquired in anticipation of a comeback. No network (cable, broadcast, syndicated) has been attached yet, and no timetable. But given the response I’ve heard in my radio interviews and elsewhere, there’s a rare appetite for this.

Halt and Catch Fire - Lee Pace

Lighting a Fire Under Emmy Voters

Question: Do you think there is any chance that Halt and Catch Fire, probably the most underrated show on television, will finally get some Emmy love this year? Not only was it one of the most intelligently written and directed shows (probably one of its problems), but the acting has been phenomenal. Kerry Bishe, Toby Huss, Scoot McNairy have all been superb in these final episodes. Glad AMC gave it the final episodes to give the characters and the audience closure. — Elaine

Matt Roush: The miracle is that AMC let the show continue to its natural end. It would be beyond belief that the Emmy voters would finally take note of this sleeper, however well deserved. The field is just too crowded, and despite some of the critical buzz, especially for Bishe, I’m afraid this will be one of many that just fell through the cracks.

Why Streaming Shows Take So Long Between Seasons

Question: Regarding the question claiming that Netflix delayed the release of Longmire, that simply is NOT the case. As the administrator for the Longmire Posse Official Fan Site, I can attest that the final season was still in the post-production process last week! Netflix cannot release a show that isn’t finished. They were not stringing fans along. They were patiently waiting for a finished product, affording the producers the time they needed to edit a complex season with many elements. — Pamela

Matt Roush: Very fair point, and one I wish I’d thought of. The frustration of fans who binge-watch a streaming series and then impatiently count the months until it returns is understandable, but they need to keep in mind that because Netflix and Amazon (and selected others) only release a season when all of the episodes are written, filmed, edited and ready to be screened, it takes a much longer time to turn these shows around.

Monday Night Ratings Woes

Question: My favorite new show is NBC’s The Brave. I’m worried. If they cancel it because of low ratings, I may finally lose my mind. Forever, anyone? Still upset over that show. — Pam

Question: I really love Scorpion. I have heard its ratings are falling. I think 10/9c at night is too late for a family show. How to get CBS’s attention? — Pat

Matt Roush: I bundled these two questions together because both The Brave and Scorpion are suffering from the same condition: airing opposite a brand-new breakout hit, ABC’s The Good Doctor. It’s too soon to know how either network will respond to this challenge, but with Scorpion already in its fourth season, it has a better chance of continuing, possibly in a different and/or earlier time period. (Pat is right that the light capers Scorpion specializes in could play better earlier.) Hard to say about The Brave. It’s still early days, but The Good Doctor has clearly stolen its thunder, and the first step will be for NBC to decide whether to pick it up for a full season.

A Discriminating Critique

Question: I have always enjoyed your thoughts even when they disagreed with my own. However, I take offense at your recent statement concerning the cancellation of Major Crimes and its older demographics. You state TNT could be making a shift to a “younger, more discriminating ” demographic. As opposed to an older, less discriminating one? You do realize how that sounds, right? — Stefanie

Matt Roush: I do now. And without making excuses, I’ll just point out the irony that I was responding to someone who was generalizing that an older demographic was somehow less eager to embrace more complicated, serialized shows. I was cautioning against that assumption and then made a similar gaffe in the sentence you quote. But you only quote me partially, because I was really describing niche programming more than the demographic, but I shouldn’t have used the word “discriminating.” The point I was trying to make is that TNT and USA is programming more for the niche these days while largely abandoning the mainstream, and that’s not going over well with their former core audience. We’re all discriminating viewers in our own way, whatever it is we decide we like to watch. My bad.

And Finally …

Question: Did you say that Major Crimes has been discontinued OR did you say there will be one more season? – Marian

Matt Roush: A fair point of confusion. When TNT announced the Oct. 31 premiere date of Major Crimes’ sixth season, the network confirmed it would also be the final season. So officially, the show has been discontinued, but there is still one more season yet to air, let’s hope with a satisfying series finale scheduled for Jan. 16, 2018.

That’s all for now, and we’ll pick up the conversation again soon. 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 protected] or shoot me a line on Twitter (@TVGMMattRoush), and you can also submit questions via the handy form below.