Ask Matt: 'SNL' Cold Opens, 'Big Bang' Trivia, The 'Modern Family' Death Lottery, 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 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.
Running Cold, or Hot, on SNL
Question: Why are the opening moments of Saturday Night Live called a "Cold Open?" What would be a “hot” open, a pre-recorded open? Thanks for all of your info you post each week. — Walter
Matt Roush: Seems a fair question, especially after this weekend’s season premiere opened with so much heat, featuring Matt Damon’s over-the-top impersonation of Judge Kavanaugh. The phrase has nothing to do with temperature and all to do with timing. The “cold open” is a term referring to any opening scene that throws you right into the action without any set-up or title sequence. Lots of shows use them, but SNL tends to make more noise than most, opening with whatever is the most buzzed-about incident of the moment. (I only wish the rest of the episode, besides some biting moments on “Weekend Update,” had measured up. Otherwise, it was a painful start to the season.)
Magnetism in a Big Bang Kitchen
Question: On The Big Bang Theory, what are those round objects on the side of Howard and Bernadette’s refrigerator? My mom thinks they are magnets. — MS
Matt Roush: Lots of Internet buzz about these unusual kitchen accessories. By all accounts, they are magnetized—but they’re actually small containers, often used for holding spices. As SNL’s Church Lady used to say: How convenient!
When Mourning Comes on Modern Family
Question: I agree with those who feel that Modern Family killing Stella, the dog, does not warrant a three-episode arc nor affects all the characters. But DeDe’s death would. Do you agree? — Gwen
Matt Roush: This who’s-gonna-die speculation is getting awfully morbid, making me wish the producers hadn’t teased the fact that there will be a “significant” death on the show this season. (This is why I prefer my TV without spoilers.) Next to the dog, Shelley Long’s character of Jay’s first wife (and mother to Claire and Mitchell and their various offspring) seems the most popular, or at least expected, choice to go to the great sitcom beyond. It’s a loss that would strike a chord with most of the show’s major characters without affecting the core ensemble. Whatever happens, I still wish the show had chosen to let this passage come as a surprise.
A Late Start for ABC’s Tuesday Lineup
Question: Where is Splitting Up Together with Jenna Fischer? It was on ABC, I think, and I can't find any mention of it anywhere. I hope it is coming back. Thank you for any information you can provide. — Pat
Matt Roush: Be patient. The midseason sitcom co-starring Oliver Hudson was renewed and will return to ABC’s Tuesday lineup once they stop double-running Dancing With the Stars on Monday and Tuesday. (This dismal season, that’s a lot of mediocrity spread over two nights.) This is the latest launch of any network lineup, and it promises to be a big night for ABC, when on Oct. 16 the newly christened The Conners (formerly Roseanne) will return, joined by the premieres of promising new comedy The Kids Are Alright and Nathan Fillion’s new drama The Rookie, with the returns of black-ish and Splitting Up Together filling the 9/8c hour.
Why Isn’t There Room for All in Peak TV?
Question: There's a wide variety of shows on network, cable and streaming TV, so why isn't there room for such gems as Galavant, Trial & Error and other creative, enjoyable, funny shows? — Val
Matt Roush: A simple question that’s rather complicated to answer properly and succinctly. The bottom line here is the bottom line of the TV business, and even with so many expanding platforms, there will be wonderful shows that either fail to find their audience, are poorly scheduled and/or promoted, and possibly are just too niche in appeal to succeed in the long term in a mass marketplace. The fact that we got two seasons of both of these cult comedies (and in Galavant’s case, musical) was something of a miracle, although the jury apparently is still out on whether Trial & Error will be able to find a new home for a third season.
When You Can’t Set Your Clock By TV
Question: Why do many programs run over their 30 or 60 minute time period by a minute or two? I often record programs, and when I play them, the last minute or two of a story’s wrap-up is lost. The program is recorded precisely at 30 or 60 minutes but the broadcast lasted a minute or two longer. — Ellen, Margate, FL
Matt Roush: This practice has been going on for a long time—and it can be even more confusing with certain cable programs that produce oversized episodes running 15 or more minutes longer than the usual hour with commercials. Those with DVR recorders tend to have less of an issue with this, because the programmers generally provide information about which episodes are expected to run a minute or so longer, and generally it works (although it still sometimes lops off the last few seconds of a show—especially noticeable if you’re a fan of Chuck Lorre’s vanity cards). The reason for these overruns is very old-school, with schedulers believing if a popular show runs into another show’s time period, it may keep viewers from turning between episodes to the competition. This usually ends up just annoying viewers for the reasons you state in your question. If your device allows you to do it, I always recommend recording a few minutes beyond the allotted time slot—or even recording the following show just to be safe.
Who Does The Deuce Have to (Bleep) to Get an Emmy?
Question: I'm still digesting the Emmys hits and misses, and it hit me that HBO’s The Deuce, which I thought was one of the best new shows on TV last season as well as one of the best dramas, period, seems to have been shockingly overlooked. I understand (but do not condone nor agree with) leaving out James Franco. The stories that came out in the wake of the #MeToo movement probably cost him an Oscar nomination(s), and looks to have affected him here as well. A shame, because his performance—as twins no less, which shockingly didn't help Ewan McGregor to a nomination for Fargo either—is stunningly good. IMO (much) better than nominees Ed Harris and Jeffrey Wright in Westworld. Same with his co-star, Maggie Gyllenhaal. I'm wondering if it was a combination of the above (in Franco's case) mixed with the series' subject matter, which is gritty and tough to watch, but expertly done. Not to denigrate those who WERE nominated, but for me, leaving out others who are as deserving if not more so only undercuts the accolades for those who made the (sometimes) dubious cut. — Michael
Matt Roush: Before we put this year’s Emmys in the rear-view mirror, this oversight is worth noting, especially with the second season currently underway on HBO and the acknowledgement that it will enjoy only a three-year run, with next season being the last. It is surprising, given the production quality of recreating the sleazy 1970s at the very least, that The Deuce didn’t receive a single nomination, not even in the technical areas. I realize there’s little room left over when buzzier shows like Game of Thrones and Westworld each reap over 20 nominations, but this deserved better, and so did its stars, most notably James Franco and, for me, Maggie Gyllenhaal, who I hope gets noticed for her work this season. What a fascinating character. Still, it’s entirely possible this will stay under the radar, much like David Simon’s other neglected gems for HBO, including The Wire and Treme.
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.