Ask Matt: Abby’s ‘NCIS’ Departure (Where Was Gibbs?), ‘Lethal Weapon,’ the ‘black-ish’ Split

Two Steps Back
Patrick McElhenney/CBS
Mark Harmon as Gibbs on 'NCIS'

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.

Abby’s NCIS Swan Song

Question: Too bad that it took Abby’s shooting on NCIS to get Mark Harmon to act in a scene with Pauley Perrette this season. I guess we’ll never know, but I can’t help but wonder if Harmon’s immature behavior was what led to Perrette’s decision to leave the show. And then we read that Clayne Crawford’s bad behavior has put the entire cast and crew of Lethal Weapon in jeopardy. Do you think it’s possible for Lethal Weapon to survive at this point? — SC

Matt Roush: These two issues, and shows, have taken over my mailbag the last few days, so this column will reflect that. (I expect next week’s Upfront announcements, and other season finales, will vary the mix going forward.) I’ll save the Lethal Weapon discussion until later, except to note that it was already “on the bubble” where renewal was concerned and this latest upheaval has made it an even iffier proposition.

With NCIS, my main concern was that Abby not be killed off. And after that fakeout involving the underdeveloped character of Reeves—did anyone really think that was Abby under the sheet?—it was clear she’d recover and find her own path out of the lab. So yay for that. But whatever is responsible for Mark Harmon and Pauley Perrette not appearing in scenes together for her entire final season, no one to my knowledge has gone on record about this—including in Pauley’s cover story exit interview for TV Guide Magazine, where her silence about her co-star seemed to speak volumes. Since my appetite and time for gossip is so limited, I tend to put this in the same category as Julianna Margulies and Archie Panjabi working separately for years on The Good Wife and never elaborating on why. Some more reaction follows.

Question: Is the rumor true about Pauley Perrette leaving because of Mark Harmon’s dog? It would explain them not being in any scenes together all season and that weak finale between them. — Leo

Matt Roush: I had to look this one up, and even if there were any truth to this story, it wouldn’t explain why they couldn’t rise above and do their job—which is creating the fiction, satisfying to millions of fans, that Gibbs and Abby had a singular father-daughter type bond within the team. The final wave from across the street was so inauthentic it would be laughable if it were actually funny.

More reaction: “I felt saddened by Pauley Perrette leaving NCIS, but almost sadder still is the obvious rift between her and Mark Harmon. They did not even do a last scene together, just from a distance. I didn’t believe the story about Mark Harmon’s dog being the cause, but now I am wondering. If they had any scenes together this season, they were few and short. Even when Gibbs returned from being held and tortured they had no reunion scene together. What is going on?”

An unsigned remark: “I just watched Pauley Perrette’s final episode on NCIS and all I could focus on was how Mark Harmon wasn’t even professional enough to appear in a scene with her. Except, that is, for the one scene where she was unconscious! It was even more noticeable because of all the flashbacks where they appeared together. Amazingly petty. Kudos to Ms. Perrette and the rest of the cast for a great episode.”

Is Lethal Weapon Over?

Question: I just got done watching Fox’s Lethal Weapon finale, but nowhere can I find if it was the season finale or the series finale. I sure hope it’s not the series finale, I think it’s one of the best TV series on right now. I don’t understand why it’s never been in TV Guide Magazine’s “America’s Most Watched 25 Top Show” chart. It has heart, comedy, action, and characters you really care about—it’s the complete package. Please tell me it will be back next season!! — Linda

Matt Roush: I wish I could, but this renewal will likely come down to the wire, and perhaps hinge on whether the studio (Warner Bros.) can find a replacement for the Riggs character and actor, and whether that even makes sense. Concerning your confusion about finales, unless it’s billed as a series finale—as in the case of New Girl next Tuesday—you should assume it’s meant to be a season finale. Although when a show hasn’t been renewed yet, it’s more of an either/or. And in this case, if the show isn’t renewed when Fox makes its announcements on Monday, the series will unfortunately end on that Riggs-got-shot cliffhanger.

Is black-ish Too Much of a Downer?

Question: I really hope that black-ish will conclude this marriage drama theme. It is really a downer, depressing and too painful to watch much more. Most people have experienced enough trauma in their own lives and families to last a lifetime. It was refreshing to get away and appreciate entertainment with characters that have problems but work them out, hopefully in an episode. This is particularly important in this negative political and social climate in which we have been living lately. I am so sick of people fighting each other, insulting and putting others down in REAL life! I can’t take much more of these characters fighting as I cry while totally relating to the pain depicted by the children (it really got me when tough little Diane broke down). But it’s too much! I can’t take much more of this. If they have them break up, I’m done watching! There are enough if not too many programs depicting constant bickering and trouble. It’s nice to be able to enjoy a family that is not perfect but working it out for a change. Especially a black family! That is something we as a people need to see more of—something to aspire to. We need more of THAT, NOT the drama! A happy ending can be so much more inspirational and it really does make a difference for many of us—especially our impressionable children! — Cornel

Matt Roush: We addressed this issue last week, but it’s an important one, and since the show appears to be doubling down on this storyline, it’s worth revisiting. Situations like this are where critics and fans sometimes have to agree to disagree. I feel it’s important for a show as relevant and adventurous as black-ish to confront issues like marital strain and separation honestly and in depth, even at the risk of alienating some viewers in the short term. To wrap it all up within a single half-hour would be a disservice to the characters and to the reputation this show has built over four provocative seasons. In these last few episodes, the funny has been hard to find, it’s true, but just because some situations aren’t laughing matters shouldn’t make them off limits for series creators and writers. Here’s another take:

Question: The black-ish marriage-on-the-rocks plotline took me by surprise and has already lasted longer than I thought it would. But I agree with you, it is a gutsy and very well written idea. With a 50% divorce rate in the U.S.—I don’t think it’s ultimately going THERE—it’s logical, even for a “comedy” show. The flashbacks were wonderfully used (included the ones with Dre and his mother). It would be fascinating if these episodes, stressing the drama rather than the laughs, were the ones that land the leads Emmy nominations and maybe wins. — Michael

Matt Roush: Sometimes it takes getting serious for a comedy, especially on network TV, to get taken seriously. Thankfully, black-ish is already on the Emmy radar, even making the cut in the comedy series category the last two years—although standout episodes like “Hope” were passed over for writing. I imagine the leads and the show will get nominated again, and maybe even have a better chance at a win with Veep out of the running this year.

Playing Catch-Up With New Shows

Question: I have been a longtime reader but recently trailed off due to going back to school. Since I don’t have as much time for TV that I would like, I have missed the start of many new and great shows. However, when I do have time to watch TV, I go to my On Demand only to find the last four or five episodes available, or maybe a scattered few highlight episodes. Is this done for a reason? How can I get caught up in a new show, if I cannot see how it started? They make sure to disable fast-forwarding so I am not missing the commercials. Let me also be clear that I am really referring to new shows. I can’t expect every season of every show to to be there. Am I in the minority? — John

Matt Roush: This is where, depending on the show and network, streaming services and network websites can come in handy. Not knowing which shows you’re trying to catch up on, I’d steer you away from your cable’s limited On Demand menu toward services like Hulu (for current runs of Fox, NBC and ABC shows among others) or Netflix and Amazon (for past seasons of many shows) or the specific network’s own website, although in many cases, an ongoing series may not stack its entire current season on any platform for contractual reasons. Every series is different, and availability depends on the deal made with distributors. They don’t make it easy, and sometimes you’ll need to do a bit of research to see where the most episodes of a series will be available—and if you’re desperate enough, maybe even pay for the privilege on iTunes or Amazon and the like. Good luck!


Question: My husband and I watched the season finale of Chicago PD last night and just about had a stroke when Al (Elias Koteas), Voight’s best friend, died!!! We knew from the previous show he had been stabbed in jail, but had faith that he would live. I cannot tell you the shock and heartbreak when he didn’t. The show is great but just won’t be the same without him. We will miss you, Al. — Jan

Matt Roush: As I’ve said many times before, if a character’s death has dramatic impact and import—and in this case, the death of Olinsky is a reckoning of sorts for Voight’s many sins—then it’s justified within the overall scheme of a show like this. The fact that it rocked your world tells me the producers were doing their job.

Nominate Red, Then Move Blacklist

Question: I have been hooked on The Blacklist since Day One. James Spader has never been nominated for an Emmy for his role as Red Reddington, for which he does a great job. Big oversight. Will this show be renewed for another season? If so, it needs another day and time. The current time is too early for viewers with young children because of the violence. — Unsigned

Matt Roush: It’s a different playing field from when James Spader won three Emmys in four years for playing Alan Shore on The Practice and Boston Legal. With that track record, it is surprising he never got Emmy attention (although he does have two Golden Globe nominations) for Red, but that ship has likely sailed. As for the show, I’d be surprised if it weren’t renewed, but we’ll know for sure by Monday, when NBC kicks off the broadcast networks’ Upfront week. Keep checking for updates. And I agree about the too-early time period—not so much because of family considerations, because the so-called Family Hour is pretty much a thing of the past in today’s digital age. But for scheduling purposes, this kind of show tends to play better later. So if The Blacklist is renewed, I’ll be curious to learn what NBC does with it.

That’s all for now. Because I’ll be attending many of next week’s Upfront presentations, the posting of Ask Matt columns may be delayed, but 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.