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 firstname.lastname@example.org (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.
Where Did Valley Go?
Question: What happened to ABC’s show Ten Days in the Valley? I am really into that show and I want to see how it ends. I tuned in last Sunday and the program wasn't on. Instead ABC showed another episode of that stupid Shark Tank. What the Hell?! Is the network going to bring back this very good show—even you gave it a good review—at a different day or time, or are we viewers going to be cheated out of the conclusion of this intriguing mystery? — Colleen
Matt Roush: Judging from my mailbag, the disappearance of Ten Days in the Valley took a lot of readers by surprise. Here’s the situation: ABC pulled the show from the Sunday schedule very late in the game last week—even I missed the switch, though to be fair I was plowing through two late-November Netflix shows, so I was preoccupied. Valley will now play out the rest of its episodes on Saturdays, in late December and early January, which is about as graveyard a shift as you can imagine. For your DVR purposes, Valley returns Dec. 16 with back-to-back episodes, with new installments on Dec. 23 and 30, and the two-hour finale currently scheduled for Jan. 6. On the positive side, at least you will get to see how the mystery plays out.
Why Did Valley Fail?
Question: My friends and I love Ten Days in the Valley and are so disappointed. Personally, I think the Sunday night spot was bad because that night has so much competition. This is a much better show than Scandal or How to Get Away With Murder, but with those audiences, couldn't they have introduced Ten Days in one of those time slots? Or immediately after Designated Survivor. Sorry, ABC, I've tried watching your shows, and with Ten Days failing, the only show left for me is Designated Survivor. Back to CBS. — Unsigned
Matt Roush: The Good Doctor would beg to differ at your ABC defection, but I get your point. The failure of Ten Days kind of fascinates me, as I looked at it as an attempt on the part of a broadcast network to do the sort of heavily serialized mystery thriller that tends to thrive on high-end cable or streaming. With its unsympathetic characters—even Kyra Sedgwick as the frantic mom was a complete mess as a human being—it also plays into the anti-hero trend so prevalent elsewhere. As often happens, when a network tries something outside the norm, it backfires, and Valley was not helped by ABC putting it on a reconfigured Sunday lineup where it was the only scripted offering at the very end of the night. When it didn’t open strong, despite some positive reviews (many were mixed), it was unlikely the audience would grow because of the complicated serialized nature of the story.
So while Valley was far from perfect, it probably wouldn’t have been considered such a dud in the world of cable or streaming. And it also reinforces the notion that today’s audience is being conditioned not to have to wait a week between episodes of nail-biting narratives. (Which may have contributed to the disappointing showing of Fox’s latest 24 reboot last winter.)
Praise for Middle, Lament for Myself
Question: How good was this week's The Middle, with the Hecks trying to give up their roles in the family? It built to a raucous but hilarious climax—and then tore at our heartstrings with the reveal about Grandma—but the long scenes with rapid-fire dialogue were so well-written and can only reflect the confidence the writers have in knowing who these characters are. Once again, another testament to how strong this show is (in Season 9 no less!) and how much I for one am going to miss it when it ends.
On another note, I was really beginning to love Me, Myself & I and am very disappointed that CBS pulled it from its schedule. Do you think it would have fared better on ABC, paired with, say, The Middle or Modern Family? I can even see it being a companion for American Housewife. I thought Me, Myself & I had some genuine warmth, and especially enjoyed Young Alex's dynamic with his brother Justin and his stepfather. Such a shame that this show is yanked while 9JKL survives (for now!) — Nick
Matt Roush: The Middle is without doubt enjoying a marvelous final season, which is cause for both celebration and some sadness, because shows that are able to sustain this quality over the long haul are few and far between.
As for Me, Myself & I, here’s another example of a show that doesn’t adhere to a network’s formula and is shunned and quickly dropped (although apparently the remaining episodes will air later, I would bet being burned off in the summer or over the holidays). I admired the originality of the premise, and agree about its sweetness and warmth, but am not as surprised that it didn't catch on, because nothing about Alex seemed so exceptional as to merit this much attention to the various stages of his life. Because of that, I’m not sure it would have had much more success on ABC, although that network’s successful brand of offbeat family comedy would at least have been more compatible. The real indignity here is that Me, Myself & I will be replaced by Matt LeBlanc’s truly dreadful Man With a Plan. How sad.
About Larroquette’s Other Show
Question: Seeing as how John Larroquette is on the show Me, Myself & I, does this mean the end for the TNT show The Librarians? I know Season 4 is due to return in December, but any word on the future of the show? — Brian
Matt Roush: This question probably came in before the bad news about the CBS sitcom circulated, but even so, John Larroquette was always committed to both series. (He even missed last summer’s TCA press-tour panel for Me, Myself & I because he was in production on The Librarians at the time.) New info: TNT just moved up the premiere date for Season 4 of Librarians by a week to Dec. 13, and there’s no indication (yet) that this would be the final season, so for now, I wouldn’t worry.
The Gifted and the Miracle of Television
Question: While I really like Fox’s The Gifted, please explain something to me: How can a character be chased, be arrested, be thrown into jail, escape, reunite with her friends and wreak havoc upon people and yet her eye makeup is beautiful, her lipstick not a smudge, her nails remain perfect, not a chip. This also applies to many other shows. This is wrong. — Norma
Matt Roush: Why do you think they call them Gifted? I jest. Surely you’re not watching the show for realism, but as jarring as it may be to see a beautiful actress go through hell and still look camera-ready, from the network/studio perspective, they probably figure that watching her look a right mess for an extended period of time—since these mutants rarely catch a break, let alone a breath—would be less enjoyable for the common viewer. Or maybe eternal unsmudged beauty is another of her gifts?
Good News for Those Pining for a Western
Question: Noticeably absent for some time is any Western genre show. Am I the only fan longing for a good old shoot-'em-up Western? — Mike
Matt Roush: Of course you’re not. “What Happened to the Western?” is probably somewhere in my Top 10 of most frequently asked questions (right around, “What Happened to Saturday Night TV?”). The genre has long fallen out of favor, and we’ve discussed this at length in previous columns, but here’s a happy bulletin. I just watched a rip-roaring new Western limited series that will premiere on Netflix the night before Thanksgiving, Nov. 22. It’s called Godless, and it’s heaven-sent, set in a New Mexico town populated mostly by widows, who must prepare for the arrival of a truly vicious outlaw gang led by the terrific Jeff Daniels. The final-episode shootout would make Sam Peckinpah swoon. On the other hand, if you’re waiting for the broadcast networks to get back in the Western business, you’re probably in for more disappointment. Unless Godless becomes the next Stranger Things, and we should be so lucky.
What’s With These Early Finales?
Question: I was shocked at the end of last week's Chicago Fire episode that they said to stay tuned this week for the winter finale. Winter Finale? Didn't the season just start in late September? How many episodes have aired so far...maybe 5? I'm guessing this means that we won't see a new episode until January? Am I the only one who thinks this is nuts? I mean how many episodes are even in a regular season anymore? I noticed last year that there seemed to be far fewer new episodes of The Big Bang Theory as well. In fact it got to the point that I even forgot to watch it. I can see why more and more people are turning to Netflix. At least you can watch a new episode whenever you like and not wait for months! On a side note, I love your column and I wanted to thank you for everything you do. — Janice
Matt Roush: You’re welcome, and I understand your frustration. I tend not to watch promos, so I’m more shocked they would be calling these “winter finales” instead of “fall finales,” since winter doesn’t officially start until Dec. 21. But the reality of the situation is that NBC will begin airing Thursday Night Football games, as it has in past seasons, starting next week, forcing a hiatus of the regular Thursday lineup (while CBS resumes its regular Thursday schedule this week). You’re right that this kind of interruption doesn’t usually occur after a mere six episodes, but taking the glass-half-full approach to the situation, that will likely result in fewer repeats later in the season. (And remember that come February, the entire NBC schedule will make room for the Winter Olympics for more than two full weeks.)
And now for a bit of a reality check: The Big Bang Theory last season aired its usual quota of 24 episodes, but because that can’t fill the months from September to May without occasional repeats, it may not feel that way. Repeats are nothing new on network TV. And while Netflix may be the flavor of the moment, it’s almost absurd to suggest we don’t have to wait even longer between seasons of their original series. Yes, when a new season drops, it’s all there for you to watch when you want and how you want. But if you binge it like candy, the wait for the next batch to be ready can be excruciating. No system is perfect.
Are Sweeps Still a Thing?
Question: I was wondering if the traditional sweeps months have changed? I ask because I thought November, February and May are traditional sweeps months for TV ratings and this current season feels like it is ending sooner than later. It is barely the beginning of November and I feel like I'm seeing more "Fall Finale" promotions much earlier than normal. Granted I am more of an NBC live watcher (This is Us, the Thursday comedies) so maybe it is just NBC and the other networks I usually DVR and watch at a later time so I miss the commercials. But is NBC in particular or the networks as a whole ending sweeps episodes earlier than usual? And if so, why? — Steve
Matt Roush: NBC’s Thursday Night Football commitment explains much of this confusion, but while the networks make a lot less noise about sweeps months any more—ABC is the only network I can recall issuing a November release this year about its special programming (the CMAs, the American Music Awards, etc.)—it’s still a thing, which means most every show will air original episodes through the month, with the possible exception of Thanksgiving weekend. Sweeps are just a lot less noticeable any more, given the fragmentation of the TV audience and our ever-evolving viewing habits.
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@example.com or shoot me a line on Twitter (@TVGMMattRoush), and you can also submit questions via the handy form below.