Ask Matt: ‘This’ Much Angst, ‘Rudolph,’ Future of ‘Blacklist’ and ‘Behavior’

This Is Us - Chrissy Metz, Chris Sullivan
Ron Batzdorff/NBC
Chrissy Metz as Kate and Chris Sullivan as Toby

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.

Is This Too Heavy?

Question: This Is Us has begun to be more of a trial to withstand than it is a pleasure to visit. I’m wondering if viewer reception is reflecting this. I can’t help comparing it with my beloved Parenthood, in which every episode delivered warmth. (Angst was not, in that series, an obligatory penance.) I began watching with much hope, looking toward renewing my visit with a family I liked. I find it is becoming more of a dread, like I hear some families have toward each other during difficult “together holidays.” I know I’m not alone in this reaction. How can this be reversed? — Michaela

Matt Roush: This Is Us is still a powerful performer for NBC, and any slippage (which is inevitable for most shows) has been minimal, considering the state of most broadcast TV. What’s more an issue is the volume of backlash, also probably inevitable, about the high percentage of downbeat storylines in recent episodes. Kevin’s substance abuse and Kate’s miscarriage are both solid avenues for drama, but to be happening concurrently in the “Number” trilogy can’t help but seem like piling on. I too would like to see the show lighten up a bit—wouldn’t be hard—in the new year, but it’s never going to be The Middle. And my memory of Parenthood, though also fond, is of being put through many manipulative wringers to get to the hugs and reconciliations. (Randall’s foster-parenting storyline seems especially cut from the Parenthood pattern, and comes to an emotional climax this week, though not quite as shattering as the Kevin and Kate storylines.)

I will say that for every letter I get complaining about the turmoil on This Is Us, there’s another empathizing with these characters, who have been embraced by the culture in a way no family drama has been able to achieve in years. And that includes Parenthood, which for some reason never caught on at this level. Which also makes This Is Us a bigger target. I am, however, gratified that Kate’s and Randall’s storylines have contained an element of hope, and this week’s episode indicates Kevin may finally be snapped out of his funk, perhaps not by his own will. Here’s to a happier 2018 for everyone.

Question: I noticed at the end of last week’s episode of This Is Us, the voice-over stated that this week would be the fall finale. When would it be returning to the air? — Jetty

Matt Roush: Welcome to the dreaded December hiatus, which affects many network shows, especially continuing dramas. For the most part, NBC’s prime-time schedule will resume the first week of January, with This Is Us back Jan. 2.

Question: On the November 21 episode of This Is Us, Kevin went to look at his old home. The address was 1646, but when the gentleman went back in, the address was 1920. Can you please explain that? — Doris

Matt Roush: Unless I hear otherwise—I’ve asked, and seen speculation elsewhere—I will assume this was a continuity glitch. It happens, even on the best of shows.

Christmas - Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

Shining Brightly, Every Year on CBS

Question: Year after year, I never see Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer on Freeform’s (formerly ABC Family) “25 Days of Christmas” lineup. It’s always Rudolph’s Shiny New Year or Rudolph & Frosty’s Christmas in July. So imagine my excitement to see the Nov 27-Dec 10 issue of TV Guide Magazine and its calendar of holiday showings across all channels. Rudolph was listed for multiple occasions on CBS. Is there some proprietary rights issue that prevents the original Rudolph (the one that actually takes place during Christmas) from airing on Freeform with its brethren? — Brianna

Matt Roush: Yes, CBS has exclusive broadcast rights to the original (and for me, the one and only) Rudolph special, which is why it wouldn’t show up on a cable outlet that’s part of the ABC-Disney stable. I get the confusion. I’m still a bit discombobulated by ABC securing rights years ago to A Charlie Brown Christmas and NBC doing the same with How the Grinch Stole Christmas, both of which I grew up watching on CBS, where the classics originated during my own 1960s childhood. These are precious properties, which is why they don’t air everywhere.

Crystal Ball Renewal Corner

Question: Ratings for The Blacklist have not been spectacular, but they have been steady. Of course they are going up against Empire and Survivor (I have no idea why people watch that show), but do you think the show is doing well enough to be renewed for a sixth season? — Sharon

Matt Roush: Despite NBC’s habit of moving the show around from night to night, which rarely helps in the long run, Blacklist is at the very least a known and reliable player that likely does well internationally, which suggests the network would be inclined to keep it going as long as it’s profitable and its two stars (James Spader and Megan Boone) stay on board. I wouldn’t worry until the network either moves it to a death slot like Fridays (the current home of Blindspot, running on fumes) or benches it until midseason or some such. Right now, it looks to have another few seasons before things get dicey.

(For the record, since you asked, Survivor is my current show of choice in that time period. Old habits die hard, and while I don’t watch every season, I’m hooked again this year—for now. Certain types of reality-competition TV make for enjoyable variety through the week. A steady diet of any one type of TV show gets old quick. Which is why at least some of us still watch that particular show.)

Good Behavior - Hottest Couples

Michelle Dockery and Juan Diego Botto of TNT’s Good Behavior.

Question: I am really enjoying Good Behavior this season—every bit as good as the first season. So many twists in the plot and various settings (camping, drag bar, etc.). The acting is terrific. Just wondering if there is any news about a third season. — Lorna

Matt Roush: Probably a bit early for a renewal to be announced, since the second season doesn’t even end until Dec. 17. I haven’t been keeping up on the ratings (not my department), but the buzz is still fairly strong, and with TNT still in such a transitional state, I’d be surprised if they let this one go so soon. Speaking of which …

TNT’s Rebranding Not Dynamite to Procedural Fans

Question: I can’t figure out why TNT is canceling all the crime shows. First, it was Rizzoli & Isles, which I loved, and now Major Crimes. I love this show because it is about cops, yes, but also family. I consider it to be one of the best shows on TV now. The characters are believable and acted by wonderful actors. Why do the networks cancel shows like this and leave junk like The Bachelor on? I will not get interested in any more shows on the TNT network. — Jeane, Gastonia, NC

Matt Roush: Don’t blame TNT for The Bachelor, which is ABC’s stain on the popular culture. If TNT were going all-out into developing reality programming, which it isn’t, that might be an issue. But the situation with TNT is a regime change in which the old-school procedurals that used to define the network have been retired, one by one, culminating with the end of Major Crimes—which spun off from The Closer, once TNT’s signature series (and never equaled in my book). Like USA and several other competitors, they’re moving away from the mainstream to produce edgier, darker crime and genre dramas, which may not be as popular but are intended to attract a different demographic. And maybe even compete with premium channels and streaming for critical and awards attention, though that is so far an uphill climb. For me, watching these networks altogether abandon a successful formula to satisfy a niche itch is a perilous strategy. Why not keep the tentpoles that allow you to take risks? At any rate, the departure of Major Crimes in January is certain to leave quite a void.

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.