Ask Matt: Remembering ‘Downward Dog,’ Plus ‘Lies’ and Awards, ‘The Middle,’ ‘Good Doctor,’ Carol Burnett and More

Downward Dog - Allison Tolman
DOWNWARD DOG - ABC's "Downward Dog" stars Ned as Martin and Allison Tolman as Nan.

Welcome to the Q&A with TV critic (also known to some TV fans as their “TV therapist”) Matt Roush, who’ll 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. Look for Ask Matt columns on most Tuesdays and Fridays.


A Dog-gone Favorite of 2017

Question: Matt, thank you for including Downward Dog in your Top 10 of 2017! I loved this show. ABC never gave it a good chance by giving up so soon. It was unique, heartwarming, funny, and I thought brilliantly written from Martin’s perspective. I really hoped another network or cable network would’ve picked it up.
 — Angeline

Matt Roush: You and me both. Without question, my inclusion of Downward Dog in my Top 10 list has generated the most response of anything I’ve put on one of these lists for ages—and it was a tough call, because I had to leave off so many great shows (currently regretting not finding room for FX’s Better Things and The CW’s Crazy Ex-Girlfriend). The audience may have been small for this poorly scheduled comedy, but the affection ran deep. A few other comments:

From Marilyn: “Like you, I loved the now-canceled Downward Dog. Martin’s soulful observations were full of profound wisdom, unique humor, and his gentle, slightly paranoid take on his dog/human interactions. Is there anything viewers can do to help these under-appreciated gems before (or after) they are axed?”

Matt: In this case, there was little time to mobilize support on social media or elsewhere, because the run was so short and took place during the transition from the regular season to summer with little support from the comedies it was flanked by, since they were in repeats. ABC seemed to do everything in its power to bury this show before it began, and it’s a shame.

From Terri in Alabama: “Thank you for highlighting Downward Dog in your Roush Review Top 10. It definitely deserves a spot. It was the little show with a big heart. Martin sucked me in from the start along with his human pals. Shame on ABC for letting this one get loose. I miss Martin too.”

From Janice: “I realize shows come and go, but I am so sad that Downward Dog never got the chance to develop a greater audience. I found it so charming, original and funny, and just feel it needed more exposure.”

Matt again: It surely does feel like a missed opportunity, and that’s why I included it this year in a list I tailored as closely I could to shows that reflected this specific year in TV. Very few repeat visitors on the list, and all are shows that resonated with me deeply through the year. Including another underappreciated comedy, ABC’s The Middle, which I gave one last shout-out to in this year’s Top 10 list, and which also generated some new mail.

Giving The Middle Its Due

Question: I have loved The Middle since day one. This finale season has been exceptional. The episode where everyone declared they were done playing their respective roles in the family dynamics was beyond stellar. I am shocked, at the very least, as to why this show does not receive more award love. The Critics Choice Awards nominations came out last week and no love for the Hecks. Shocking. Well, not really. Maybe it is because they do not address any of the hot-button topics that people like to see but instead just portray a normal struggling family. Interested as to what your thoughts are on this since you have always been a fan. — Sharon

Matt Roush: To be fair to the Critics Choice group, they are responsible for a rare Eden Sher acknowledgement as best comedy supporting actress in 2013. But generally, the show and its cast are invisible come awards time because The Middle doesn’t tend to make noise or try to be particularly edgy or hip to anything but the humorous realities of middle-class family life in the middle of the country. Talk about your “forgotten people”—though rendered with great love and wit. During its peak years, Roseanne suffered much the same fate for much the same reason. And that was a much bigger hit.

Question: I’ve been a longtime fan of The Middle, and while I’m sad it’s the last season, it’s making me crazy! I’ve been wanting to see Sean and Sue together for years and now that it’s on the verge of happening, they are dragging it out. Can you please share any scoops you might have on when they will finally get together? — Jenn

Matt Roush: Even if I knew, which I don’t, I wouldn’t spill, since this isn’t a spoiler column. I’ve loved the way they’ve teased out this not-quite-relationship, especially this year, when each is on the verge of making a move and something comes between them. They’re obviously soul mates, so I’m expecting this to be one of several happy endings heading our way in the back half of the final season. Just how or when, I’m OK with being surprised. (That said, if The Middle ends without them declaring their feelings for each other, that would be wrong. And out of character for them and for the show.)

The Status of Lies

Question: I get that HBO’s Big Little Lies was originally ordered as a miniseries, but with last week’s renewal, it is now a continuing series. So how is it still kosher for it to compete as a Limited Series at the Golden Globes when we now know the end of the season was not actually the end of the story? – JL

Matt Roush: It’s not exactly kosher, but it’s too late to change designations now that the process is this far underway. (And they’re not giving back their multiple Emmys, either.) It’s tricky with shows that blur the line between limited and ongoing series—see PBS’s Sherlock movies as another case in point—and while we’ll have to accept (for now) the first season of Big Little Lies competing against more self-contained work, future seasons (even if there’s just one more) should be moved into the drama series categories, the way Downton Abbey did after its freshman year. We’ll see how HBO argues it when the time comes.

Hanging ‘Madam Secretary’ Out to Dry?

Question: Madam Secretary is my favorite show and it is being shredded every Sunday night as the last hour after Sunday Night Football. It’s hard to find the beginning and harder still to find the ending. Is this going to kill an otherwise fine and entertaining show? — Twyla

Matt Roush: Imagine my amazement this Sunday when football miraculously ended on the East Coast before 7 pm/ET and the entire night’s schedule ran without delay. That’s almost a pre-Christmas miracle. Seriously, this is one of the most frequently asked questions about whatever show is unlucky enough to inherit that spot at the end of CBS’s Sunday lineup. My answer almost always is to note that the network is more than aware of the disadvantage facing any show playing clean-up on that night and doesn’t penalize it because of that. Something has to air there—although I’ve also always wondered why, on nights of significant overruns, CBS doesn’t just drop a sitcom repeat there instead of wasting a perfectly good episode of a show that deserves better. (This also applies to the nights when CBS starts the Sunday lineup late at 7:30/6:30c to account for an overrun, meaning Madam Secretary won’t end before 11:30/10:30 at the earliest, which is prohibitively late for many East Coast viewers.) Bottom line: CBS isn’t trying to kill this show—even accusing ABC of trying to kill Downward Dog is overstating the case—but moving Secretary out of the earlier time period is generally a sign that the network doesn’t see much in the way of growth potential and is letting it play out whatever seasons are left in a time slot with fewer expectations.

Where is That Good Doctor?

Question: Can you give us any clues as to the where in the world Dr. Shaun Murphy, from The Good Doctor, has gone? — Bernie

Matt Roush: I’m assuming you’re not talking about the show being on hiatus for December. Or that Freddie Highmore is no doubt celebrating his well-deserved Golden Globe nomination. If you’re asking me what the character himself is up to since his meltdown in the midseason cliffhanger, well, that would qualify as a spoiler. And as mentioned above in one of the questions about The Middle, I don’t believe in those, and can only speculate Shaun has run off to some place where he temporarily feels safe, but will be back at work before long, though not without some serious work to do regarding his emotional stability.

Striking Back With New Heroes

Question: While traveling down a rabbit hole on the interwebs the other day, I noticed there’s a Season 6 of Strike Back listed, with episodes airing in October and November, minus Philip Winchester and Sullivan Stapleton. Do you know if these episodes are available in the U.S.? —Ken

Matt Roush: They will be. Strike Back will be returning to Cinemax on Feb. 2, with new team leaders of Section 20 played by Luther’s Warren Brown and Daniel MacPherson. I presume the level of action will be much the same. As in: explosive.

So Glad We Had That Time Together

Question: It was wonderful to see the old comedy pieces on CBS’s Carol Burnett 50th Anniversary Show. They still bring tears to bent-over laughter. Is there ever a chance that the networks will revive a great Saturday night comedy lineup? — Val

Matt Roush: In a word, no. The business and industry has changed to such a degree that it’s hard to imagine original programming of that ambition airing on Saturdays again, at least not in the foreseeable future. I’d just be happy to see the comedy-variety format revived successfully on any night of the week. Many have tried, including the great Carol Burnett herself, but rekindling that magic appears to be stubbornly elusive. But oh yes, watching those talented clowns crack each other (and us) up, then and now, is something to treasure.


That’s all for now. 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.