Ask Matt: Saving 'Designated Survivor,' 'Big Bang' and Live-Audience Sitcoms, 'Last Man Standing,' and More
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.
Did Designated Survivor deserve to survive?
Question: Do you actually get mail asking for Designated Survivor to be revived? I'm glad Netflix’s decision to produce a third season, after ABC’s cancellation, puts people back to work, but out of all the canceled shows that Netflix could have brought back, it feels like that one isn't particularly beloved anymore. I used to watch it regularly, but reached my limit about 2/3 of the way through Season 1. — Jake
Matt Roush: Oh yes, I get mail about Designated Survivor and just about every show that gets canceled, no matter how obscure or short-lived or (in certain cases) critically reviled. I’ve learned doing this column that every show has at least some sort of following. In the case of Designated Survivor, not enough of one to justify continuing on ABC — and I certainly don’t blame the network for washing its hands of a show that never quite figured out over two seasons what it was: a thriller, a political and/or family drama? And with a revolving door of show-runners — Neal Baer will be its fifth — it never truly capitalized on the pilot’s bold premise and potential.
That said, Netflix saw that the show had a strong international following, and finally was able to work out a deal after what appears to be lengthy negotiations — complicated by the fact that Hulu had streaming rights for the two ABC seasons, while Netflix carried the show overseas. (This fall, U.S. streaming rights will revert to Netflix.) I bailed on Designated early on in Season 2 when it became clear it was still a mess creatively, but this new lease on life and new direction — the next season (only 10 episodes) will deal with Kirkman (Kiefer Sutherland) campaigning for re-election — will likely bring me back to the fold. It’s rare for a show to get this many chances, but maybe third time will be the charm.
And before fans of other defunct series begin clamoring to wonder if their favorite show might be picked up by Netflix or another streaming service, the answer is still usually no, although quite clearly, miracles still do happen.
Does Big Bang Ending Harm the Multi-Cam Sitcom?
Question: I completely agree with you regarding The Big Bang Theory. I am sad to see it go, but it’s definitely time to say goodbye. My fear, however, is that we may also be seeing the end of multi-cam sitcoms as a format. I hope that is not the case. I grew up watching these kinds of shows and I happen to like hearing a live audience laugh. I really hope this isn't the end, but it seems that fewer and fewer successful sitcoms use this format. — Felicia
Matt Roush: Rest easy. This classic form of TV comedy isn’t going anywhere. It may not be favored by Emmy voters — of eight nominees for Best Comedy this year, none are filmed in front of a live audience — and despite the gripes from those who say they hate “laugh tracks,” this style of sitcom has traditionally produced TV’s most popular comedies: Big Bang, Everybody Loves Raymond, Friends, all the way back to The Mary Tyler Moore Show, All in the Family and the earliest days of I Love Lucy. There’s still very good work being done in this format, including Big Bang and Mom, the Will & Grace revival and Netflix’s reinvention of One Day at a Time. And while the single-camera filmed comedy is more prevalent today, and certainly tends to get more critical attention and industry accolades, I doubt it will ever become extinct.
Sexual Innuendo No Laughing Matter
Question: More a comment than question: I've found that the #MeToo era has given me fresh eyes to old favorites, and I don't like what I see. I love The Big Bang Theory. But I was watching some old clips on YouTube, and Wolowitz's behavior towards Penny is just appalling. At one point, he uses a camera on a remote-controlled car to try and see up her skirt. It's played for laughs. I understand that his inappropriate sexual advances were part of the "humor" of his character, but… it's actually not funny. I don't watch a ton of TV these days. (This Is Us, The Good Place and NFL games are about it.) But I hope the culture is changing so that sexually harassing females is no longer considered a joke. — Kirsten
Matt Roush: I think you can count on that. Wolowitz’s lechery (in his pre-Bernadette days) was mostly harmless, considering the source, but the innuendo and objectification of women that once made for easy laughs is now much more of a cultural minefield. I hope by being “woke” we haven’t lost the capacity to laugh at the messiness of human desire, but there is nothing funny about sexual harassment of any sort.
Last Man Standing Will Get Its Due
Question: Why wasn’t Last Man Standing mentioned in TV Guide Magazine’s special Fall Preview issue touting “Every New Show?” The Conners were. Very disappointing. — Susan
Matt Roush: There seems to be some confusion on this subject. And while this isn’t a forum for me to discuss editorial decisions even if I wanted to, I can say that Last Man Standing will be prominently featured in the appropriate venue, TV Guide Magazine’s Returning Favorites issue, which is out next week. The editors decided that The Conners was basically a new show, given its rebranding after the loss of its title star, which is why it’s presented in the Fall Preview issue, devoted entirely to new series. Last Man Standing pretty much defines the concept of a Returning Favorite, and its resurrection a year after its cancellation is a great story that TV Guide Magazine looks forward to sharing with its readers.
A New Shade of Blue?
Question: I liked Shades of Blue. Can they continue with the same cast and put another actress in Jennifer Lopez’s place? I was thinking the lead lady from Quantico. — Theresa
Matt Roush: Beyond unlikely. The series was always intended as a vehicle for Jennifer Lopez, who was an executive producer of the show, and the arc of her character, Harlee Santos, was Shades of Blue’s spine. Without her, there really is no show. And I’m betting now that Quantico is in her rear-view mirror, Priyanka Chopra will find more satisfying work that stepping into someone else’s shoes on another struggling TV show.
Escaping Darkness With Lodge 49
Question: I want to give you credit for what you do. I don't know how you can watch so many shows and not pull your hair out in frustration. So many of them are bad, boring or downright depressing. I truly appreciate your recommendations and thank you for pointing out shows I might otherwise miss. One such show is AMC’s Lodge 49. I like the quirky sweetness of it and that is not too heavy and dark! It is a breath of fresh air and I am so glad you told me to give it a shot. I don't binge-watch TV and I am watching it weekly, but each episode has gotten better for me. Thank you! — Shelley
Matt Roush: You’re welcome, and I hope more discover the offbeat charms of this truly original sleeper during its first season. It’s an underdog in so many ways, and I was glad to have made its acquaintance this summer. And kudos for pointing out the pleasures of watching a show in weekly chapters, as opposed to an all-in-one-gulp binge. That’s still a great way to consume TV.
And Finally …
Question: How come the Mary Tyler Moore Show episodes are not in rerun? I know the public would love to watch them all over again. We loved that show. — Eleanor
Matt Roush: So did we all, but in today’s digital age, many shows live on through streaming rather than syndication. You can still find many episodes of this beloved series, if you know where to look. SundanceTV appears to be the only outlet replaying the episodes on a national basis (and then in the wee hours), and the first three seasons are currently available for streaming on Hulu along with other TV classics.
That’s all for now. 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.