Ask Matt: ‘The Good Doctor,’ CW’s ‘Crazy’ Scheduling, ‘Godless’ and TV Westerns, ‘Jeopardy!’ Rules and More
Is This Freddie Highmore’s Time?
Question: I’ve been enjoying ABC’s The Good Doctor all season, mostly because of the fascinating lead character of Dr. Shaun Murphy, but this week’s fall finale was especially strong, most particularly the performance of Freddie Highmore, as he ever-so-gradually melted down until his final traumatic explosion. To think that earlier this year he was still doing amazing work as the creepy and tormented Norman Bates on Bates Motel, for which he shamefully never received recognition by Emmy or Golden Globes voters. That he could so effortlessly step into this new and so different role, and be just as moving and credible, is quite an achievement. Because The Good Doctor is actually a hit, is there a chance young Freddie could finally get the attention he deserves? — Sylvia
Matt Roush: Let’s hope so. We may get an inkling of what’s to come on Monday, when the Golden Globe nominations are announced. This group has a history of championing young talent in noisy shows—think Party of Five, Keri Russell in Felicity, and the stars of Jane the Virgin and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, to name a few. I’d be surprised if this breakout hit is ignored, especially where Freddie Highmore is concerned, and the show’s high profile might even work in his favor when the Screen Actors Guild nominations (arguably a tougher nut to crack, especially for a broadcast network show) come out later in the week. Even regarding the Emmys, there’s an opening with Kevin Spacey from last year’s list obviously not eligible. This is such a bold star performance I’m betting it has a good shot of breaking through even in this always-crowded field. He certainly deserves to.
Still Crazy After Three Seasons
Question: Do you think airing one episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend in December after a two-week break, and then going off the air again until January, is a good idea for this perennially low-rated show? I'll watch, obviously, but I kind of wonder if the small but reliable audience it has built up will forget that it's on or something. I kind of like how ABC has structured the Shonda Rhimes Thursday shows to run consecutively until Thanksgiving and then be gone until they're back on, so we don't have to do this is-it-on-is-it-off dance. Also, more importantly, what do you think of its renewal chances? I’ve read Season 3 has already wrapped, so if they aren't getting renewed, they wouldn't have a chance to nix a cliffhanger. I hope quality wins out and they get to be back again. — JL
Matt Roush: I had the good fortune to attend a recent panel discussion with Rachel Bloom at the 92 St. Y in New York, during which the fourth episode of this season—“Josh’s Ex-Girlfriend Is Crazy,” the one with the Josh Groban cameo—was screened, which Bloom declared was her favorite episode to date. She emphasized her plan was still to conclude the series in four seasons, and seemed quite confident there would be one. Bless The CW for sticking with this one-of-a-kind show, scheduling issues aside.
Yes, it would be preferable for a show like this to run straight through with few interruptions (except for holiday weeks), and airing a random episode in December probably isn’t a good thing. And yet the episode itself, the first ever without “Josh” in the title, is a very good thing, and I’m glad to have an opportunity to rave about it, especially Paula’s (Donna Lynne Champlin) big number, a typically off-color and hilarious ABBA tribute about … well, if you haven’t already been spoiled, enjoy for yourself. All of which leads me to conjecture that The CW will likely defy the laws of TV ratings yet again and give Crazy one last wacky season for Bloom and her talented team to bring her tuneful adventure to a proper close. Should that not happen, I’m confident she would somehow find a home for this final chapter, crazy as it sounds.
Could Godless Bring About a Western Rebirth?
Question: Having just finished the excellent Godless on Netflix, it brings to mind again the question: Why aren't there more Westerns on TV? There are so many shows from the 1950s and ’60s they could mine for material, such as The Rifleman, Maverick, Gunsmoke and many more. Especially in this day and time when we need heroes, maybe it's time to give Westerns a chance again. — Terry
Matt Roush: What I most appreciated about Godless, which I raved about last month, was that it was a thoroughly original Western, not a remake or reboot. Not that such a thing wouldn’t be welcome under the proper circumstances, and as we’ve discussed many times in this column, the Western is a genre that once dominated TV and has mysteriously fallen out of favor, despite a number of attempts to jump-start the format. (AMC has had some success with Hell on Wheels and currently with The Son, but those are exceptions to the rule.) It’s difficult with Netflix to gauge the impact of any one series, and because the volume is so great, a show like this could get lost amid the mass of premieres. (Spike Lee’s She’s Gotta Have It premiered the very next night, on Thanksgiving.) I’d love to see Godless break though in limited-series nominations in the year ahead, which might awaken the industry to the potential of Westerns, especially when executed this well. Until that day arrives, we’ll always have Lonesome Dove.
What Is a Great Jeopardy! Trivia Question?
Question: On Jeopardy! the second-place contestant always ends up with $2000 and the third-place contestant with $1000. On the December 5 telecast, the two finished in a tie, and viewers would have expected each of them to receive $1500. Yet on the screen it showed the man receiving $2000 and the woman $1000. I hope you can explain this seeming gender discrimination. — Philip
Matt Roush: Sexism had nothing to do with it—as it if would on my very favorite quiz show ever. Jeopardy! was playing by the rules, which according to a spokesperson goes like this: Whoever has more money heading into “Final Jeopardy” finishes second in case of a second/third place tie. Which is how that night’s game played out. I love when a legitimate question can be resolved this easily.
They’d Fight for More Episodes of Brave and S.W.A.T.
Question: I love the show The Brave. It was one of the most intense shows on TV. Is it coming back, or is NBC going to drop it like so many other good shows that aren't given a chance? It came out at the same time as S.W.A.T. and SEAL Team, both good shows, but The Brave had me sitting at the edge of my seat. — Cyndi
Matt Roush: The Brave will be back in January to finish out its 13-episode first season, and it’s not necessarily a death sentence that it will sit out the back half of the season without producing a “back nine.” I agree with you that it is the best of this year’s primetime military dramas, but it was clearly overshadowed on Mondays by The Good Doctor in the same time period, so we’ll probably have to wait until a new lineup is announced in May to know if this is coming back. NBC spun The Brave’s numbers as positively as it could when announcing the winter midseason lineup, so maybe they see some long-term potential here. It’s certainly a nice break from all-Chicago all the time.
Question: I love the new show S.W.A.T. Will it have another season? — Virginia
Matt Roush: Jumping the gun (so to speak) a bit on this one, since only six episodes have aired as of this week. But this is the sort of show that tends to work very well on CBS’s lineup, so whether it stays on Thursday or moves to another night for strategic purposes, I’d be surprised if it doesn’t get an early pickup and I imagine it will be around for a while.
Question: Your review of History’s Knightfall reminded me of a show I liked and hadn't seen in a while. I was going to Ask Matt about its status but my own research determined that FX’s The Bastard Executioner was canceled two years ago. Typical, because as many are known to lament, "they always cancel the shows I like." It got off to a bloody start but developed into a drama of entanglement. — Hal
Matt Roush: I was underwhelmed by Knightfall, but I find it far less ponderous than the short-lived Bastard. If this genre of swashbuckling historical drama appeals to you, it’s still hard to beat Vikings.
A Christmas Gift
Question: Regarding It Happened One Christmas not being found on DVD, I actually own a copy. I bought it years ago on iOffer.com, and there are several sellers who still have this wonderful film available. This is a great website to find lost TV classics not available anywhere else. I've purchased many complete TV series and movies from them over the years and the quality and prices are always excellent. — Jamie
Matt Roush: Thanks for the tip. It looks like It Happened One Christmas (the Marlo Thomas gender-reversed homage to It’s a Wonderful Life) is still available on this site, but I can’t verify the quality (though Jamie can). And an unsigned correspondent writes in to inform us that a (low-resolution) copy of the movie is currently on YouTube.