Ask Matt: Where Are the Kids (on ‘Big Bang’ & ‘Mom’), HBO’s ‘Westworld’ & ‘Barry,’ ‘Lost in Space’ Debate
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.
Where Are the Kids?
Question: I have watched The Big Bang Theory from the beginning but am about to give it up for the reason that there have been two babies born and we have never seen them? Why have them if we’re not going to see them? — Doris, Cridersville, Ohio
Matt Roush: We do hear about them, especially as the arrival of the Wolowitz babes has impacted the lives and relationship of Howard and Bernadette. Other characters, most notably Stuart and Raj, have been drawn into the parenting situations from time to time as well. But to expect Big Bang to somehow turn into a family comedy at this stage of the game is beyond unlikely. It’s always a risk to add children to an established show—look at Grey’s Anatomy and how rarely we ever see Meredith’s brood—and while it’s unrealistic that little Halley and Neil Michael haven’t taken over their parents’ lives as real babies do, that’s not entirely out of character for a sitcom about geniuses who aren’t always at home in the real world.
Question: How is the hit comedy Mom just ignoring the fact that this “single mother” has had her children just disappear without a trace or a mention in a few seasons now?? The show is called Mom, but where are the kids??? — Donna
Matt Roush: I’m revisiting this recurring question/complaint one last time—in deference to the approach this month of Mother’s Day, and because kids on TV is something of a theme in today’s column. It’s not true that Christy’s kids, Violet and Roscoe, somehow suddenly vanished. Those storylines developed over time. It’s a fair comment, though, that a real-world sitcom like Mom should do a better job at referencing this aspect of Christy’s life, that having both kids no longer a part of her daily existence is a significant failing on her part (reflecting her long estrangement from her own mom, and Bonnie’s with hers). Mom has successfully reinvented itself as a comedy about a new sort of family unit—Christy, Bonnie and their fellow travelers in AA—but it wouldn’t hurt for them to at least reflect occasionally on what’s past, and what’s been lost.
These Kids Today!
Question: I’ve lately been observing the talent of child performers on TV shows and it struck me just how wonderful some of them are! Julia Butters, who plays Anna-Kat on American Housewife, has got to be one of the funniest, natural and sharp young actors on TV today. Giselle Eisenberg (Sophia on Life in Pieces) is another, as well as Elisha Henig, who plays the son on Alex Inc., to name just three—can you tell I’m a comedy fan? How do these kids get so good at what they do? Is it just natural talent? Do they go for acting lessons? These are mostly rhetorical questions, though I’d also love to know who are some of the child actors whose performances you currently enjoy on television (on comedies or others), and any former child actors who you can recall leaving strong impressions in the past? — Nick
Matt Roush: I’ll use this discussion to throw one of my final bouquets to the younger co-stars of ABC’s The Middle as it approaches the end of its run this month. (The series finale, airing May 22, is wonderful, by the way.) Watching Eden Sher as Sue, Charlie McDermott as Axl and Atticus Shaffer as Brick grow over the years has been an unending delight, and rare among TV children, they’ve stayed distinctly funny all along the way. I’d as soon not go into the memory archives for fear of leaving off someone obvious, but with a question about Westworld on the horizon, I’ll call out Evan Rachel Wood for her exemplary performance on Once and Again (along with Shane West and Julia Whelan). These young actors moved me like few others in that underappreciated Herskovitz-Zwick classic.
HBO’s Westworld and Barry: Confused and Appalled
Question: I watched Westworld from the very first show, and after the last episode all I can say is I am very confused and don’t know what is going on. So many dead people and I have no idea how this happened. What am I missing here? — Roger
Matt Roush: At this early stage of the season, it’s OK to feel you’re still in the dark. (I previewed the first five episodes, and still am not always sure what’s happening or even when.) I find Westworld endlessly fascinating, especially as it peels back more layers of the park while the hosts rally for revolution. It’s a very different show from the first season, and I appreciate that.
Question: I love Henry Winkler in Barry, but the language in it was really over the top. I can’t understand why the writers seem to have a need to use such filthy language. More surprised that Winkler would agree to it. Oh well, that’s what is happening in this country. Just saying! Of course I for one will no longer watch. — Pat
Matt Roush: You are aware you’re watching HBO, I presume? I may be as desensitized to TV profanity as I appear to be to the live audience/enhanced laugh track (a continued bête noire in my mailbag), but this doesn’t bother me when I enter a world as weird and violent as Barry’s, especially on a premium channel known for pushing content envelopes. It would probably bother me more if they all spoke in euphemisms. I will agree, though, that dyspeptic acting coach Gene Cousineau is one of Henry Winkler’s best roles in ages, probably since Barry Zuckerkorn on Arrested Development, and since it’s hardly a secret that Winkler is one of the most decent guys in all of show business, this is authentically terrific acting. How great would it be for this legend to finally get an Emmy for such a performance?
Lost in Space: Pro and Con
Question: I normally agree with most of your observations, but after your review, I have to speak up for the reboot of Lost in Space; I think the show has done a good job updating the premise and tone of the original. The first couple of seasons of the original was very much “family centric” and character-driven before it turned into the “monster of the week.” I think they’ve maintained that aspect. The flashbacks and adventure work for me; there’s no nudity or “gory” violence; special effects are great; maybe just moves too slowly for some viewers, but a decent show for youngsters and tweens. I think Irwin Allen would approve! Looking forward to season 2! — Steve C
Matt Roush: “Moves too slowly” is an understatement, but I’ll concede my childhood memories of the show may be a bit cloudy, and may have clouded my judgment. I mostly took objection with the family not even being alone on this planet for the entire first season, which felt like a set-up to the show many of us had hoped to see. I’m really getting sick of the slow build we’re meant to indulge on so many shows, this in particular.
Not surprisingly given the title and the genre, Lost in Space has stimulated a wide range of reactions in my mailbag. A sampling follows:
This from another Steve: “I TOTALLY agree with Bob S about Lost in Space. I was so hoping for some connection to the original, but it was just TOO different! After reading bad reviews, I chose to see for myself. I watched ONE episode only to confirm, it SUCKS!!!!”
From Joe P: “In regards to the Netflix reboot of Lost In Space, my entire family just doesn’t understand your review of this as well as the comments of many of your followers. We are three different households who all have totally enjoyed the show. Maybe because we didn’t get hung up on the title and just viewed this as a very good new sci-fi show. We are looking forward to the next chapter.”
And Joaquin wrote in to ask: “If the Centauri tri-star system (Proxima, Alpha and Beta stars) are the closest stars to Earth’s solar system (about 4 light years from our sun), what planet/star systems did the Jupiters crash on while the Resolute was on its journey from Earth to Proxima Centrouri? There are no star/sun systems and their supposed planets in this empty space.”
Matt again: Are you confusing me with Neal deGrasse Tyson? I haven’t the foggiest idea how to approach this cosmic question. The answer may lie in the stars, but I’m afraid I’m stuck here, lost on Earth.
Question: I have fallen in love with Good Girls on NBC. It’s become appointment TV for me on Monday nights. I see the season is ending for them. Will they be back in the fall? — Janeen
Matt Roush: Maybe fall. Maybe midseason again. Maybe never. It’s a tough call. Good Girls loses more than half of its Voice lead-in and really suffered when airing opposite a juggernaut like The Good Doctor. (Not so much the case with ABC’s The Crossing, which also gets middling-to-puny ratings.) Seems to me that this is a promotable title with very appealing stars, and could evolve if nurtured into an even more interesting series. Again, hard to say. The NBC upfront presentation revealing the new lineup of shows is just two weeks away, and we’ll know more then.
Question: Is NBC’s Champions coming back? It’s growing on me! Every time I watch it, I like it more! The supporting acting ensemble is well defined and pretty funny. The writing is very clever. And the boy who plays Michael (J.J. Totah) is terrific! If it’s canceled, I hope they find another venue for him, he’s really good! Thank you! — Betty
Matt Roush: Again, hard to predict. Personally, I’d probably have enjoyed this comedy more if it were about Michael being raised by his quirky mom (Mindy Kaling) than by yet another self-absorbed man-child like his biological dad (Anders Holm). We’ll see which shows make the cut later this month.
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.