Ask Matt: ‘NCIS,’ ‘The Gifted,’ Gender Equality on Military Dramas, ‘Ten Days’ Trauma and More

NCIS - Maria Bello, Pauley Perrette
Sonja Flemming/CBS
Pictured: Maria Bello, Pauley Perrette

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

Can The Gifted Play to Non-Comics Fans?

Question: I do not know if you read the X-Men comics, but I am loving Fox’s The Gifted not only for its realism in depicting what a world with mutants would be, but for all the elements and references they are bringing from and making to the comics. What do you think now that the show is a few more episodes in? — Sam

Matt Roush: I don’t read the comics—any comics (not singling out Marvel), there just isn’t time in this Peak TV era, or, to be honest, inclination—and one of the main reasons I lift The Gifted above the pack of TV’s ongoing superhero/comic-book fantasy glut is because I don’t feel I need to have read the comics to enjoy this story of a fugitive family that hooks up with the Mutant Underground. As the series progresses, though, I am a bit concerned that if the focus falls too far away from the family and onto the Mutants and their back stories, it may lose me. I’ve given up on most of TV’s current wave of superhero shows because I find them to be too much work for too little payoff. So far, that’s not the case with The Gifted.

Women in Military Dramas

Question: I have watched SEAL Team, The Brave and Valor. I like SEAL Team and The Brave and the situations into which they get. Valor had an opportunity with a female helicopter pilot to show women in traditional male military roles. Unfortunately, they have made it sophomoric, and the relationships are like being in high school with the cliques and the looks—men and women can’t work together with the sexual innuendos?! The team on The Brave is cohesive and includes a woman as the equal to the men, and with a woman in charge. SEAL Team does a good job showing the seasoned team versus the trainee wannabes. — Diane H

Matt Roush: All fair points. Valor is a junky soap masquerading as a military drama, while SEAL Team and The Brave are more conventional mission-of-the-week dramas that are, at the very least, professional. If this genre appeals to you, let me again recommend National Geographic Channel’s The Last Road Home docudrama miniseries. While its gender inequities are inescapable—the women characters are primarily back home on base, anxiously waiting word of their men (real-life Army Wives)—it’s based on fact, and is a reminder that most missions of this sort aren’t neatly executed in an episodic hour-long time frame.

Ten Days in the Valley

Ditching Ten Days the Last Straw?

Question: Ten Days in the Valley is gone as far as I see. By the end of December, no one will remember what the hell happened so far. Network TV is getting so cheap and the seasons so short they are not worth watching anymore. I am probably going to turn off my cable and switch to Amazon and on-line networks…and read books. Six to eight episodes is not a season. Disgusted with TV and commercials for 15 minutes out of every show. — Sincerely, (I am a fan) Lucy

Matt Roush: I assume you’re a fan of this column, and not, at least right now, of TV in general. Fair enough. Feels good to vent, right? I don’t, however, share your feelings about shorter seasons, depending on the show. (And few broadcast network shows have seasons shorter than 13, and even cable series tend to go at least 10. Ten Days was always intended to go just 10 episodes, which for an episodic thriller feels about right. Even at that length, some episodes have felt padded.) But you’re right about Ten Days essentially being a dead show walking. It’s a good thing all of its episodes were already in the can before the season started. When it returns mid-December on Saturday nights to play out the rest of the season—details are here, for those who keep asking—do not entertain false hope of a second season. At least this particular story, of the daughter’s kidnapping, will be resolved.

Could Saturday Night TV Be Revived?

Question: Putting aside the “why” and “what” of “What Happened To Saturday Night TV?”, do do you think it would be POSSIBLE to revive the night? I can’t tell if it’d be impossible because now no one is expecting good TV on Saturdays or if, done smartly, trying to revive Saturdays might be an excellent way for a network to break through the glut of shows. Maybe try something with a lot of buzz or a built-in audience. If CBS tried the new Star Trek, for example, on Saturdays, I’m assuming Star Trek fans would watch. — Kirsten

Matt Roush: I’m afraid that ship, spaceship or otherwise, has sailed, but I’ve heard worse ideas. And there is the long-held theory that if you make something that’s good enough, people will come, maybe even on Saturday. (Example: This Is Us thwarting conventional wisdom that the family drama was dead.) It’s still unlikely any commercial-based network would risk an enterprise (so to speak) as costly as a new Star Trek series, or similar format, on a night that has fallen so far off the programming radar. The shrinking economics of the business work against the networks investing again in a seventh night of original programming, unless it would be inexpensive reality or news (of the Dateline or 48 Hours variety) or maybe game shows. The days when a show like The Golden Girls could be a top-rated show on Saturday night really does seem like a relic of another era.

Random Thoughts on (What Else) NCIS

Question: Regarding Reeves (Duane Henry) on NCIS: I love the character, but I believe he is a bit character on the show. I believe he would be better served as a lead on NCIS: Europe. Think of all the storylines they could incorporate. Would be a bonanza. — John

Matt Roush: Just what we need, another NCIS spinoff. Don’t give CBS any ideas, and I wouldn’t put it past them—although the international Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders spinoff didn’t go anywhere. Anyway, given fan reaction I get in my mailbag, that might indeed be a better use for this otherwise marginal character.

Question: No. 1 star on the world’s No. 1 drama on TV’s No. 1 network and never been nominated for an Emmy—explain that! – Myers

Matt Roush: I have to think this was prompted by Mark Harmon once again gracing this week’s cover of TV Guide Magazine. What can I say? The Emmys have no interest anymore in the weekly network procedural, and stars like Mark Harmon will have to settle for worldwide popularity. (This really isn’t that different than the movies and Oscars, which tends to reward performers in deeper, darker, more personal dramas.) Doing a quick search for the last time an actor was nominated for an Emmy for playing a crime-solver of any sort—not counting Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson for that bizarre first season of HBO’s True Detective—was 2010-2011, when Timothy Olyphant was nominated for his role as U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens in FX’s wonderful Justified. The last time an actor in a broadcast-network crime drama was nominated was Simon Baker in the quirky The Mentalist for the 2008-09 season.


Lightning Round

Question: My favorite show is Elementary. So well written and acted, why the lousy time slot? — Marcia

Matt Roush: Lousy time slot? Do you know something I don’t? Right now, Elementary doesn’t even have a time slot—it’s on fall hiatus, not slated to return until midseason, and it’s not yet known whether it will return to its former Sunday 10/9c time period (agreed, a lousy time slot, currently occupied by Madam Secretary, which we discussed in the most recent Ask Matt column).

Question: Any word when Code Black will return? — Brian

Matt Roush: Not until CBS announces its midseason rollout, presumably in the next few weeks.

Question: My favorite new show The Good Doctor wasn’t on this Monday night (Nov. 6). Please tell me that it hasn’t been canceled. — Ann R

Matt Roush: It hasn’t been canceled. In fact, it has been picked up for a full season, and is a slam-dunk to be renewed for a second. It is far and away the breakout hit of the fall season. But panicked reactions like this to an unnecessary one-time pre-emption (for a special hyping the CMA Awards later in the week) remind us of the risks of screwing around with a show’s schedule this early in the run.


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.