Ask Matt: New Season ('Manifest,' 'Good Doctor,' 'Million Little Things,' 'God Friended Me'), 'SNL' & Emmys
Welcome back to the Q&A with TV critic (also known to some TV fans as their "TV therapist") Matt Roush, who'll try to 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.
Is It Worth Getting Hooked on Manifest?
Question: Okay, I watched the first episode of Manifest and am intrigued. I like shows like this but hate getting sucked in only to have it canceled without a satisfying ending. Yes, I'm looking at you, Colony, Dark Matter and Timeless. Thankfully, the network decided to make a movie to bring closure for Timeless fans. I'm reluctant to start watching this type of show because of the networks canceling them in mid-story. Why don't networks give shows enough advanced notice so they can close out a show? — JC
Matt Roush: Truth is, there’s no guarantee when it comes to TV that any show will make it for the long run—and even if it goes multiple seasons, may still end prematurely and without a satisfying finish. And while broadcast networks, because of the commercial and financial pressures, are more inclined to pull a show that may not be pulling its weight, it happens on cable and even streaming on occasion. It may seem obvious, but given the question, it’s worth pointing out that producing episodic TV is a complicated and expensive process, with stories plotted out well in advance. Especially now with so many different metrics beyond overnight ratings to measure viewership, networks aren’t always in a position to give producers an early enough heads-up to wrap a series, especially within a first season. And once a show finishes production, going back to film an episode or a movie to provide closure is very rare because it’s so costly. (Timeless is the exception to this rule.) I’ve often argued in this space that producers of marginally rated high-concept serialized shows do themselves and their fans a disservice by ending on a wild cliffhanger in hopes that will force the network’s hand to renew.
With all of that said, let me turn to Manifest in particular. An intriguing premise, for sure, though also stubbornly earthbound in execution, and it feels like a show that by the third or fourth episode we’ll know if it’s a keeper. (First-week ratings were encouraging, though much of that can be attributed to the Voice lead-in and promotion of the initial plane-lost-in-time hook.) As for your reluctance to jump on board, I always ask: Would you deny yourself the pleasure of watching a show you enjoy just because of an uncertain future?
Is Jared Gone for Good on The Good Doctor?
Question: This week on the premiere of The Good Doctor, Jared (Chuku Modu) left. My question is: Is he going to return? I think he is a great friend to Shaun, and with Dr. Glassman going through cancer treatments, he needs a friend. — BJ
Matt Roush: If he returns, it won’t be as a series regular. As often happens between seasons, especially for newer shows, some significant cast shuffling occurred, promoting Christina Chang (Dr. Lim), Will Yun Lee (Dr. Park), Fiona Gubelman (the odious Dr. Reznick) and Paige Spara (Sean’s former girlfriend, Lea) to regulars, while dropping the characters of Jared and Dr. Melendez’s ex, Jessica (Beau Garrett). I felt they gave Jared a strong and even moving exit, including those bonding moments with Shaun, and one that made sense given the overall storyline and his conflict with Dr. Andrews (Hill Harper). The fact that he’ll be missed, especially by Shaun and Dr. Browne (Antonia Thomas), may actually be a good thing, dramatically. And it’s always possible we’ll see him again if the story calls for it.
'Good Doctor' Star Freddie Highmore on Lisa Edelstein's Dr. Blaize, Lea's Return & What's Next for Shaun
Feeling the Feels on A Million Little Things
Question: So you got me to watch the premiere of A Million Little Things—it sounds like The Big Chill for TV—but it's not from Herskovitz-Zwick, so can it really be as good as the original thirtysomething? Ron Livingston's character being killed off in the first episode — perhaps due to the actor's commitment to Loudermilk? — reminds me of a series several years ago wherein the father/husband died in the first episode leaving the family to cope without him. I was thinking, perhaps, of Tom Skerritt but I can't find such a series among his credits. — Hal
Matt Roush: Well, I hope you weren’t too disappointed, because I didn’t intend in my review to indicate it would have the same impact as thirtysomething (or even The Big Chill, because that movie had more of a nostalgic reunion feel). The point I was making that the show, judging from the first three episodes, feels perfect for ABC, with Shonda Rhimes-like soapy hooks in the context of an emotional workout such as you’d use to get with golden-age Herskovitz-Zwick shows.
And the show you’re trying to remember is ABC’s Brothers and Sisters, another series whose fan base would probably enjoy A Million Little Things. Tom Skerritt appeared in Brothers’ first episode, but wasn’t a regular once the character passed. Ron Livingston is listed among the regular cast of the new series, so I expect we’ll see much more of him in flashbacks as his survivors try to figure out why he took his life.
Reboots vs. Revivals, and God’s Debt to Joan
Question: First, a completely trivial question: The reboots of Murphy Brown, Will & Grace and Roseanne show on my TV information screen (and on IMDB) as seasons 10 or 11. In other words, as continuations of the original series. Hawaii 5-0 and the new Magnum P.I., on the other hand, show as brand new series. My curiosity arises because I want to know when the inevitable reboot of Law & Order happens, will it become the longest running drama (if SVU hasn't already surpassed it) or will it have to run for another 21 years? Will it depend on how much of the old cast they can get?
On another note, while I haven't seen God Friended Me yet, none of the reviews I've seen make any mention of the marvelous Joan of Arcadia, yet the premises seem awfully similar. Is there any comparison: Do I have any hope the new series will match the quality of the older one? — Rick
Matt Roush: We need to get more precise with our language about these comeback series, because revivals—meaning shows returning with their original casts—are a different breed from reboots, which reprise a series’ basic premise and characters but with new origin stories and actors. If NBC and Dick Wolf ever do get around to bringing the original Law & Order format back, it might actually bridge those worlds, since the show was always known for its revolving-door cast, and there was no one from the first season still around for the 20th. So if it just picked up with a new set of detectives and prosecutors, and their respective bosses, perhaps borrowing from the world already established on SVU, I’m thinking they could get away with billing it as a continuation and not a reset. Especially if Sam Waterston’s Jack McCoy is still able to be involved. Wouldn’t that be great.
Regarding God Friended Me: Comparisons to Joan of Arcadia and Touched By an Angel are most inevitable, given the network—and the latter because of the Sunday time period—but it’s best to look at God on its own merits, not how it compares to the others. This has a much lighter feel than Joan, and deals with a non-believer who can’t figure out where these posts are coming from, so has more of a skeptical tone built into its DNA. I doubt this will be taken as seriously as Joan was, which received a Humanitas Prize and Outstanding Drama Emmy nomination for its first season.
Should Sketch Comedians Compete Against Series Stars?
Question: Since 2008, the Emmys has let Saturday Night Live performers compete in the comedy supporting actor categories after they got rid of the Variety Performance award. Since then, quite a few SNL cast members have been nominated for an Emmy award in the supporting categories, and an SNL cast member (Kate McKinnon) and recurring featured player (Alec Baldwin) have both won Emmys, Kate in 2016 and both in 2017. While these SNL cast members get nominated year after year, a bunch of other deserving actors in other shows get snubbed, which isn’t fair to those actors! I think the Emmys should bring back the Variety Performer award for the SNL cast members so that actors like Rita Moreno from One Day at a Time and Annie Potts from Young Sheldon can get the nominations in the supporting actress comedy categories they so rightfully deserve! What are your thoughts on this, Matt? — Chris B
Matt Roush: I was especially perturbed that Rita Moreno was shut out this year in favor of three members of SNL’s ensemble. (Thrilled when Alex Borstein won for The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, but if Rita had been nominated, I’m betting she’d have taken it.) As always with the Emmys, there’s no perfect solution, and the Variety/Music Performance category was always a confusing mess, encompassing sketch performers, late-night and awards-show hosts, with the winner many years representing solo music or comedy specials, with the occasional Oscar and Tony host. I’m always reluctant to suggest the Emmys expand an already daunting number of categories, but I wouldn’t object to a category that would separate series comedy acting, where characters are developed over the long haul, from sketch and stand-up based performing.
And Finally …
Question: My favorite show/series of all time was Dexter. Considering the way the series ended, it seems as if there is room for a Dexter comeback! PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE! — John
Matt Roush: Plead all you want, I doubt this will ever happen. They took that risky character about as far as he could go, some would argue too far, but I concede that where the show left Dexter wasn’t satisfying for almost anyone. He deserved a more epic final curtain, not a cop-out fadeout. Given the reboot craze, I guess I wouldn’t be too surprised if the killer of killers emerges again, but given how the series declined in later seasons, I can’t say I’m screaming for it. Those early years, though … wow.
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.