Ask Matt: Debating ‘Mom’ 2 TV Kevins, Future of ‘TGIT,’ ‘Good Doctor,’ and More

cheers and jeers;
Darren Michaels/Warner Bros.

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.


Taking Issue With Mom’s Life Choices

Question: (As printed in the Oct. 30-Nov. 12 issue of TV Guide Magazine): What happened to Mom? It seems like it’s turned into the Anna Faris and Allison Janney show without Christy’s (Faris) kids. Also, when you’re in AA, I thought you were supposed to stay away from people who could influence you—and Bonnie’s boyfriend is always drinking. — Sandy

Matt Roush: Mom, which returns Thursday on CBS, has always focused on the fraught mother-daughter relationship of Bonnie (Janney) and Christy, and their comic chemistry is the show’s greatest asset. But as the series evolved, it has become about a new family: their AA support group of Marjorie (Mimi Kennedy), Jill (Jaime Pressly) and Wendy (Beth Hall). Christy’s kids are still recurring characters, who return when the story calls for it—and their absence illuminates Christy’s failings as a parent, not unlike Bonnie’s. Mom is about human imperfection, and that includes Bonnie’s volatile and risky romance with Adam (William Fichtner). If they didn’t have issues, it would be less funny.

Which prompted this response:

Question: The letter printed in TV Guide Magazine last week echoed my concerns about Mom as well. I’m not sure I agree with your answer. Bonnie dating an alcoholic (oh, yes, he is) really has nothing to do with the mother-daughter relationship the show relies on. There have been very few times when his drinking has become a comedy issue vital to any storyline, with the one exception of the pot brownies or cookies or whatever they were. If he were not an alcoholic, even if he were a social drinker, there would be no comedy vacuum. But the fact that he IS an alcoholic and Bonnie, so very newly and tentatively sober, would never, ever get away with dating him—her sponsor would be livid—and Marjorie is not. I get it, lots of it is funny. But the show is getting away with giving the impression that it’s okay, and it’s not. The episode about the young girl dying was heartbreaking and so honest and real that it sounds like the writers do care about this crisis. Then they should not make light of other, incorrect issues about alcoholism. Like it or not, the show has a responsibility to be honest about this. Scripts written authentically needn’t take away from the comedy. It’s the little things that matter. Someone needs to pay attention. I’m sober 34 years and counting. I know what I’m talking about. — Susan

Matt Roush: I appreciate this perspective and wouldn’t presume to be an expert on the ins and out of the AA process. But Mom is not a documentary, and from a creative perspective, which is how I look at things as a critic, it seems to me that Mom has never shied from the fact that Adam is less than perfect for Bonnie. Her habit of making bad life choices is a running theme and gag for the show. In fact, this week’s season opener (which I haven’t seen in advance) even has Bonnie getting “cold feet when considering her future with Adam.” Where that leads I don’t know, as that might involve spoilers, but it suggests the show may be looking at this issue with some degree of seriousness (though always with a barbed sense of humor).

Mom is a tricky and risky show, the way it finds laughs in the darkest of situations. I’ve never thought it was irresponsible, though, so hoping wherever they take this relationship it will find a way to stay relevant as well as funny. That is Mom’s gift, and one of the reasons it’s one of my favorite TV comedies.

Kevin, First Save Yourself!

Question: Imagine this show: A lost man returns to his hometown after the death of his brother-in-law to help his sister recover from her loss and to be a male presence in the life of his teenage niece. He is struggling with his own failings, including a meaningless but highly successful big-city career, a bad break-up and a suicide attempt. In the course of trying to fit back in with small-town life and heal from his own and his family’s tragedies, he begins to slowly find himself and a new purpose in life through random acts of kindness. Why didn’t Kevin (Probably) Saves the World do that show? Why the angels who aren’t angels, and Kevin being the LAST righteous person who has to find 35 other righteous people even though he’s the last of them (???), and isn’t particularly righteous anyway? Why the meteor and the flashes of “the universe” showing him weird scenes in the middle of deserts and under water and, what??

I love Jason Ritter, so despite being warned—I should know better than not to listen to you, but you were wrong about The Orville, so I took a shot here—I tried to watch this mess. I really wanted to like it. It had the makings of a feel-good show, heartwarming, almost Parenthood-like. Why did they ruin it with this high-concept crap that makes absolutely no sense? Can we petition them to drop another meteor on the angel and pretend that part of the storyline was a delusion Kevin had during his post-attempted-suicide recovery? It’s going to be pulled from the schedule soon, isn’t it? Le sigh. — Toni M

Matt Roush: These days, it’s hard to predict how long a network will be patient with a struggling show, but it would seem Kevin’s days are numbered. (Not a ratings expert, especially anymore, so don’t hold me to that.) And your problems are the same I have with the show. If the high concept made more sense, I might be able to accept that the sheepish Kevin had been chosen for some greater mission in life. (I didn’t have these issues with the too-short-lived Eli Stone, also on ABC.) But there’s enough poignant whimsy in Kevin’s own story that he and the show don’t need the rest of this nonsense. I love the idea of this all being a delusion, but it’s probably both too soon and too late to think about a reboot.

Kevin Can Wait - Leah Remini, Kevin James

Leah Remini, Kevin James.

And Then There’s Kevin the Widower

Question: KEVIN COULD WAIT BEFORE HE KILLED HIS WIFE. I really didn’t like that they “killed” Kevin’s spouse from last season. I think the show lost a lot, with this kind of sad approach to a situation comedy. Leah Rimini was good as a guest star. Now I really don’t know what I’m watching. Is it Kevin Can Wait? King of Queens remastered? A confused mix of both? You’re an expert. I wonder if people are pleased with this new situation. — Bemvenutti

Matt Roush: Most of the mail I got on this subject has been a collecting holding of the nose about the bad taste involved in this unfortunate transition. Here’s someone who came up with a much better solution.

Question: This is not asking a question, but making a comment on the character of Donna on Kevin Can Wait. I really liked Erinn Hayes, however I don’t think she was in the right role for her. I think they should have come back saying Donna finally had her fill of Kevin being the inconsiderate, self-absorbed person and she divorced him and took the two younger kids and moved out of state. I think Kevin has a good comedy relationship with the older daughter and her husband. The other two, to me, are just wasted air. Bringing Leah Remini in to kick his butt is just what the show needed to keep going. I know that Erinn Hayes firing has brought a big backlash, but lets face it, she did have to go. — Toni E

Matt Roush: I love this idea of Donna divorcing him and making a better life for herself—as opposed to the afterlife—but I would bet if this even came up in the writers’ room, it would have been torpedoed because it would make Kevin (the character, if not the star) look bad, as opposed to just silly and clueless. I do agree with one thing: Erinn Hayes was better than this show, and like her, I have moved on.

Can TGIT Survive Without Shonda?

Question: With Scandal ending and Shonda Rhimes going to Netflix, how will ABC continue TGIT? I believe they have two shows still from Shondaland, but will both be part of TGIT? — Alex

Matt Roush: I’d think the Grey’s Anatomy firefighter spinoff would be a natural for the Thursday lineup, and maybe the young-legal-eagle For the People drama as well. Beyond that, it’s a fair question whether the “TGIT” brand is so associated with the shows of Shonda Rhimes that it would be disbanded as a franchise when her shows alone can’t fill the night. But I’m not convinced that needs to happen. Even as famous as Shonda and her company have become, with fans more aware than ever of behind-the-scenes talent in this social-media age, if ABC were able to develop compatible shows from other producers to air alongside Grey’s, they could keep “TGIT” as a concept the way NBC was able to promote “must-see TV” for so long, when that was actually still the case.

Freddie Highmore

Is The Good Doctor Mocking Its Hero?

Question: I have a comment about The Good Doctor. I see why many people enjoy the show, but to me watching an adult autistic person have a meltdown on TV or make inappropriate comments to patients (that presumably conjure laughter and mockery in the viewing audience) is not my idea of entertainment. Furthermore, and perhaps most importantly, I find it insulting to autistic adults who manage to survive in this society. — Pat

Matt Roush: Is Dr. Shaun Murphy (Freddie Highmore’s character) not surviving, even thriving? I’d think the autistic community, and those living with and loving those on the spectrum, would be encouraged to see a character in this environment. Obviously, his outbursts are unsettling to patients and his fellow doctors, but I don’t see The Good Doctor as mocking or ridiculing him or his condition. He’s on a steep learning curve, and so I would think is the TV audience, coming to grips with Dr. Shaun’s humanity, which embraces both his genius and the aspects of his behavior that would ordinarily make a medical career such a long shot. If anything, Doctor errs on the side of sentimentality, not cruelty.

A Knot-ty Question

Question: With the recent reboots of Dallas and now Dynasty, do you think there’s a chance that my all-time favorite nighttime soap—namely Knots Landing—will get another chance in prime-time? — Linda

Matt Roush: I hear you, but oh, please no. If these reboots had been a resounding success, which they most certainly have not been, then maybe it would be worth revisiting my beloved cul-de-sac. Even with the nostalgia factor of presumably seeing some longtime favorites launch a new generation of Seaview Circle neighbors into a world of scandal and romance, there are some shows that were of their time and should be allowed to remain unsullied in memory. I can’t think of anything sadder than a failed Knots Landing comeback. That said, currently dreaming of another round of strip croquet…

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.