Ask Matt: ‘Crazy’s Ex, Prejudging ‘Insatiable’ & ‘Buffy-Charmed’ Reboots, ‘Face Off’ Demise

The CW
Sarah Jeffery, Madeleine Mantock, Rupert Evans, and Melonie Diaz in The CW's 'Charmed' pilot (The CW)

Welcome back 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.

Are They Crazy to Bring Greg Back As Someone New?

Question: What are your thoughts on the recent announcement during the TCA press tour that Skylar Astin will be playing Greg in Crazy Ex-Girlfriend this season? I love the show, and they haven’t steered us wrong yet, so I’m trying to give them the benefit of the doubt here. But I really doubt this is going to work. Santino Fontana’s version of Greg was such a major part of the show’s first season and a half, and he was so good in the role and around for such a long time, that I don’t really think a recast is a good idea. Plus, they wrote him out so well when Santino left that I don’t really feel the need to see Greg again. If Santino were available to drop by for an episode or two, it might be fun fan service, but he’s not (thanks, Tootsie), so I really wish they would leave Greg well enough alone. This is nothing against Skylar Austin who I like and who will probably do a good job, but this just seems like an exceedingly weird choice. — Jake

Matt Roush: Weird idea, yes, but Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is a weird show. Wonderfully weird, always has been, and I’m more than willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. In part because the idea isn’t that they’re recasting the character of Greg—which would be a disservice to Santino Fontana, who was terrific—but re-imagining him. Maybe it will be a disaster, but I’m intrigued.

Here are a few excerpts from the TCA session in which Rachel Bloom and executive producer Aline Brosh McKenna attempted to explain the decision. “[It] feels experimental and playful, like our show, but as you will see when the show airs, it will be kind of a great statement on how our perception of people changes,” Bloom said. “Greg is sort of a barometer of how Rebecca has changed, because she will not have seen him for two years.” She sees this as a “really unique opportunity to bring back this almost mythic figure and look at it from a different angle.”

McKenna noted that they reached out to Santino Fontana to let him know this was happening—he’s back pursuing his musical theater career (including, as previously noted, the musical version of Tootsie for the upcoming Broadway season), so presumably he’s at peace with this. And Bloom hastened to add that the show’s meta way of commenting on itself, as well as on musicals and TV in general, means that they won’t be ignoring what’s going on here. “Rebecca is going to call it out, be like, ‘This person is different. WTF?’” While I still miss Santino as Greg, I love that to the very end, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend refuses to play it safe.

Insatiable Shamed Too Soon?

Question: What are your thoughts on the backlash that the new Netflix series Insatiable received before it even premiered? It got accused of fat-shaming and there was a big petition to keep Netflix from premiering it. I was very confused by the strong reactions to the show before even a single episode had aired. And I don’t even get the fat-shaming argument, as the show is being told from Patty’s perspective, and the bullying and insults directed at her are clearly not condoned and represented as something hurtful and damaging. In a world where overweight people do have to deal with that sort of bullying (especially online), I find it strange that so many people would be against a show tackling that particular problem. I have mixed feelings on the show itself (I have seen three episodes), as it is very campy and fairly manic, but it just strikes me as weird that this show has elicited such a strong response. — Shasha

Matt Roush: I almost never condone pre-judging any TV project, which seems to happen more and more in this age of incessant social media. And while I didn’t follow this particular mini-controversy very carefully, I had already pre-screened several episodes of the putrid so-called comedy — I couldn’t make it past three myself (I may have stopped at two) — and figured once anyone actually saw Insatiable, they’d realize the whole fat-shaming issue was the least of its tonal problems. I was much more offended by the way this vulgar, unfunny series trivialized the issue of teenage obesity, and even more so by the way it used false accusations of predatory sexual misconduct as an over-the-top plot device. The show is a creepy, smarmy misfire, and if somewhere buried in this mess is a message against bullying the overweight or otherwise marginalized people, that would not have deserved the premature outcry from those judging the show merely on its premise or trailer. However, the seemingly universal negative reviews I’ve seen were absolutely earned.

Keeping an Open Mind on New Charmed, Buffy Versions

Question: What’s your take on the extreme online outcry directed at the Charmed and Buffy reboots? While I myself have mixed feelings about reboots, because sometimes it does feel an awful lot like networks and studios just want to milk a known IP for some quick cash, I’m also weirdly intrigued by them at the same time, with the possibilities in which these stories can be told differently and the opportunity to spend more time in these universes. I am the biggest Buffy nerd in the world and I probably would have given a Buffy reboot with a black Buffy a fair chance, just like I am going to be excited about it now that the writer has hinted that it will be more of a spin-off with a new character at its center.

And speaking of reboots, Battlestar Galactica was a reboot that became a classic in its own right. Thus, while I understand the fear of a loved property being diminished by a potentially bad reboot, at the same time I don’t understand why people just don’t want to wait and see what it is actually like before passing judgment on it. And even if it’s bad, I am not sure if it would actually diminish the original series. The American adaption of Skins was pretty awful, but the British version still remains a classic teen drama that continues to be enjoyable and still has its place in history. I also wonder about what your opinion is on how much time should pass before a show is rebooted. For example, would there have been less of an outcry if Charmed had been rebooted 10 years later? – Matt

Matt Roush: I’m generally always of an opinion that we should wait before judging, although I understand the skeptical attitudes in this moment of reboot fatigue. To be clear, the Buffy project in particular appears to be more of a spinoff, involving a new slayer, though details are sketchy since it’s still in early stages of development. With The CW’s Charmed remake, as previously discussed in this space, it’s a similar story being told with entirely new characters, so maybe that’s a bit of a reboot-remake hybrid. I’m much more excited about a new take on Buffy than I am of a Charmed do-over, which reflects my respective level of fandom for those original shows. But in both cases, I entreat potential viewers to keep an open mind, and I do agree that however they turn out, I doubt they’ll significantly diminish the legacy of the shows that came before. Especially Buffy.

Let Sleeping Frasiers Lie!

Question: Will the reboot madness end? I joked after the announcement of a Murphy Brown reboot that we’d be seeing reboots all over the place, like Frasier the retirement home years, or Seinfeld, the Twitter feed about nothing. Then I read that Kelsey Grammar is TALKING about revisiting Frasier Crane. Look, I liked a lot of these rebooted shows on their original run, but they ENDED for a reason! Can’t they stay dead?! — Unsigned

Matt Roush: Shows like these never truly die, at least as long as there’s a syndication window. (Over the Christmas holidays, one of those rare periods when I have time to indulge in vintage TV, I luxuriated in classic Frasier episodes on Cozi TV—which isn’t the same as pining for a comeback.) I’m afraid that as long as the networks are looking for a way to keep or win back their shrinking (and aging) audience, we’re likely to see this trend continuing for a while. It’s not all bad news, though: The revived Will & Grace is a treat, Roseanne had its moments (good luck to The Conners), and I’m hopeful that Murphy Brown will feel newly relevant again as the old crew fights the “fake news” war. But without John Mahoney to ground those lovably insufferable Crane brothers—and it’s unclear if David Hyde Pierce as Niles would even be part of this package—a new/old Frasier doesn’t sound especially promising.

Facing a World Without Face Off

Question: Do you know why SyFy is ending Face Off? I love this show and looked forward to seeing it every season. Isn’t it cheaper for them to make than a regular scripted series? I thought it was really original, fun to watch and different than anything else on TV. — Laura

Matt Roush: I feel your pain. This was always among my favorite reality-competition series, and I’m going to miss it. To answer your question, I’ll direct you to this excellent report from reality-TV expert Andy Dehnart, which boils down to the usual reason for cancellation—declining ratings—as well as an apparent shift in programming priorities at an ever-evolving Syfy. I also think Syfy erred in past years by running the seasons too close to each other—in 2017, the 11th and 12th seasons were barely separated by a month—and may have burned out the franchise a bit. I’m hoping Syfy will reconsider once some time has passed, and maybe revive the show on a less frequent basis with even higher production values (as befits the trade of fantasy make-up the show celebrates). I also need judge Ve Neill to get her own show. I think I’ll miss her warmth, humor and wisdom most of all.

What on Earth Is Going On With Cancellations?

Question: With 100+ channels, and nothing I want to watch, why have quirky gems like People of Earth and The Last Man on Earth not been picked up? If they had had better time slots, they would have been more popular. No one seemed to know about them. — Jan

Matt Roush: I’m not sure unfavorable (though in these cases, stable) time periods are as much to blame as the whole “100+ channels” situation. It’s harder than ever for shows to break out, especially quirky cult comedies, and these days it’s almost impossible to predict how patient networks (including cable) will be in letting these shows run if they don’t show a growth curve. Last Man on Earth at least got four seasons. Your final comment on how “no one seemed to know about them” also says a lot. Shows like these tend to have intensely loyal followings, however small. But if they don’t make some kind of noise, they’re doomed. And the percentage of shows rescued from cancellation by other platforms remains fairly small.

And Finally…

Question: Do you know when Good Behavior will return? — Bea

Matt Roush: A question I get a lot, and which should be framed “if,” not “when.” TNT still hasn’t committed to a third season, although there has been some industry buzz about trying to finish up the storyline with a short third and final season, or movie/limited series finale (a la Timeless). No movement on this front that I’m aware of, and for now, the show remains in limbo.

That’s all for now—and until next week, as I’ll be traveling back from L.A. later this week. 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. Please include a first name in your question.