Ask Matt: A Reluctant Farewell to 'Big Bang,' Fallon on Fridays, the Ubiquitous Gerald McRaney
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.
Does Big Bang Have to End?
Question: It’s one thing if a series has run out of steam and shows signs of going stale. It’s another thing entirely when a series like The Big Bang Theory is as fresh and funny and character-driven as ever. And still consistently places in the top 20, often top 10, in weekly ratings. So my whole family joins cast members in asking why on God’s earth is this completely original series ending? Not only is it a huge hole for CBS to fill, IF they can even manage to, but it is a huge hole in the lives of millions, who depend on the series to make us laugh, something we badly need. I would also suspect that there are plenty of people who write and produce the show who would like to keep it going, at least for a few years longer. — Lynn
Matt Roush: I feel your pain, but I’m at peace with Big Bang signing off after 12 seasons, with a record (for a multi-cam comedy) 279 episodes come May. There’s little doubt that CBS would love nothing more than to have a few more seasons of its comedy tentpole, and any time a long-running show folds its tent, it signals the dissolution of a literal family of well-compensated employees, from actors to writers to crew. And while it has been reported that Jim Parsons’ desire to move on may have been the deciding factor in not pursuing additional seasons, negotiations for lucrative shows of this duration get awfully complicated. There are also creative considerations at play here. While I agree the show is still mostly enjoyable, the wedding of Sheldon and Amy in many ways signaled a beginning of the end—how do you top that? (and don’t say a baby). And much like how the last big CBS comedy hit Everybody Loves Raymond ended of its own will after nine seasons because the principal parties didn’t want to run out of gas before the final bow—same with The Middle this year to a more modest degree—I would rather a show like this go out strong rather than “show signs of going stale” before ending.
A Big Bang Without Sheldon?
Question: I understand that Jim Parsons made The Big Bang Theory such a hit, but the other characters are fun, amusing and, I think, could carry on without Sheldon. The writers are great. Did anyone ask why BBT has to be canceled? Maybe Sheldon could take a temp job away and let's see if BBT can make it without him. — Val
Matt Roush: The one thing no one with Big Bang desires is to produce a diminished version of the sitcom—which it would almost certainly be if it lost its comic engine. Obviously they could send the character back to the North Pole, or into space or some such, but the result would likely feel even more gimmicky than usual and carry the whiff of desperation.
Are Tonight Show Fridays a Thing of the Past?
Question: I am a huge, huge fan of Jimmy Fallon and The Tonight Show, but I have noticed a change in programming as of late. In the past month, the Friday night episodes have been listed as new, but the only new elements are the opening segment and Thank You notes. Is this just something they are doing for the summer or is it a ratings issue? I really hope, being such a big fan, that it's just temporary. — Terri
Matt Roush: You can rest easy. After Labor Day, Fallon’s Tonight Show will resume Friday originals. The idea was to try out a “hybrid” format during the dog days of late summer, blending past interview and celebrity segments with fresh opening material. There will be new Friday episodes going forward after the holiday (although both this show and Stephen Colbert’s Late Show tend to tape two shows on Thursdays to give the writers and producers a bit of an end-of-week breather).
Is Gerald McRaney the Busiest Guy in Show Biz?
Question: My question is regarding Gerald McRaney. He seems to show up on at least one series per season and on a wide variety of networks. He’s on Shooter this summer, and I see he will be on NCIS: LA this fall. He was good on Simon & Simon. Can you explain how it is he shows up all the time? Is it a contract with certain production companies? — BJ
Matt Roush: Gerald McRaney has the enviable fortune of being an in-demand character actor, probably now more than ever since his 2017 Emmy win for his guest role as Dr. K on This Is Us. He’s versatile, he’s effective whether playing a good or bad guy, and he’s a comfortably familiar face for millions of viewers. That’s why so many shows want to work with him.
Bully for Bosch!
Question: You can file this with all of your other "why oh why doesn't the TV Academy recognize" letters. I am absolutely addicted to Bosch on Amazon Prime Video. The work of Titus Welliver is nothing short of perfection, and I personally would tune in to watch Lance Reddick read the phone book. Have you seen the show—and if so, your thoughts? — Rob
Matt Roush: I’ve been a fan of Michael Connelly’s book series for years and was surprised it didn’t come to TV sooner. (It’s a perfect fit for Amazon, given the brand’s association with book sales.) I agree that Titus Welliver is just about perfect as Harry Bosch, and Lance Reddick makes any show better (Fringe, Lost, The Wire) with his formidable presence. It’s a solid adaptation of a terrific franchise and I look forward to each season. That said, I’m not surprised it flies under the Emmy radar. Crime dramas and procedurals, even smartly serialized ones like Bosch, tend to be ignored and/or underestimated in the current drama series boom. In a simpler and less cluttered time, this would be a standout.
Blame Canada for Carter
Question: Get Carter? I've watched the first couple of episodes and it's not horrible. It is definitely from the "light summer fare" mold with Jerry O'Connell playing the same charming doofus as he did on Crossing Jordan (and Sliders, etc). I was pleasantly surprised to see Sydney Poitier, as I haven't seen her in anything in probably 10 years. And, of course, Kristian Bruun was so much fun to watch in Orphan Black. Now I've seen plenty of Canadian import shows in my day, but I have never watched a show that looked, felt, sounded, smelled and tasted so Canadian. It couldn't be more Canadian if every character walked around chugging maple syrup straight from the bottle. I'm actually surprised that WGN America picked up this and 100 Code, two shows that feel so distinctly foreign (obviously, more so with 100 Code). Come to think of it, Bellevue definitely felt like an import, too. It seems odd that such a conservative-leaning network would buy up all these imports, but I'm grateful they did. Any deep thoughts on this subject? — Woody
Matt Roush: Let’s just hope for WGN America’s sake that no one imposes crushing tariffs on TV imports from across the border, because that’s where all of its “originals” are coming from these days, starting with Bellevue and continuing with Carter. I had to laugh at your description of this show being “not horrible.” Talk about damning with faint praise. (I also chuckled when WGN America issued a press release with a critic’s quote citing O’Connell as being “likable and competent in the role.” Okayyy…) Shows like this, and ABC’s Take Two, redefine weightless, but as a way to while away a summer hour harmlessly, I get it. (Although vintage reruns of shows from the ’70s might actually feel fresher.) The reason WGNA is going this route is because it’s way cheaper than producing original series themselves.
Will Trial’s Courtroom Be Back in Session?
Question: The whole cast of NBC’s Trial & Error is great in this hilarious show. Will it return in the fall? — Eleanor
Matt Roush: Fall? No. Ever? Hard to say. Both of its seasons, NBC used T&E as a midseason—or, this year, summer—replacement, in each case doubling up on episodes each week as if to acknowledge that watching multiple episodes, binge-style, makes this serialized true-crime spoof even funnier. At present, the show appears to be in limbo, with NBC reportedly having let its option for renewal lapse, and the studio now shopping it around. I’d love to see more, especially if they keep finding defendants as memorable as John Lithgow and Kristin Chenoweth.
That’s all for now—and until after Labor Day, so have a happy holiday weekend before the fall TV barrage begins. 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.