Ask Matt: 'The Conners,' 'This Is Us' in Vietnam, Eden Sher's Sue Spinoff, 'Shameless'
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.
Will Viewers Stick With The Conners?
Question: I can't believe 67% of people won't watch The Conners because there’s no Roseanne! Sara Gilbert, Laurie Metcalf and John Goodman are the show, not the crass Roseanne. — Debra
Matt Roush: The verdict is still out on this one (the latest tally on our poll moves the numbers up to 76% against), but judging from the ratings for the series premiere of the Roseanne-free spinoff, people were at least curious enough to check back in this week to see how The Conners would handle this transition. (In the same poll, 57% seem to approve of the way The Conners dealt with Roseanne’s death from an opioid overdose.) The ratings, not surprisingly, were down significantly from the spectacular tune-in to the first episode of last spring’s revival, but they’re on par with what Roseanne was averaging by the time last season ended, which indicates a still powerful following for the Conner family. Personally, I’m rooting for the show, especially if it stays as strong as the funny-sad premiere.
This Was a Powerful War Story
Question: I thought this week's “Vietnam” episode of This Is Us was one of the series’ best. I've been down on this show so far this season, but this episode got back to what This Is Us does best—diving into who its characters are and how they became those people. It is a much better show when it focuses on that rather than the more contrived plot lines of the big three (i.e. Randall running for office in Philadelphia when he lives 2 hours away in N.J.). Any thoughts? — Katelyn
Matt Roush: I was especially impressed that the show enlisted acclaimed author Tim O’Brien (The Things They Carried, also one of the expert voices in PBS’s Vietnam War series) to contribute to this powerful episode. I tend to agree that Jack’s backstory is the spine of the series: whether wooing Rebecca or raising the kids at various stages of their development, and this new tack of Jack looking out for his troubled younger brother (Michael Anganaro), and the fallout with his abusive father, is very potent material and helps explain a lot about the great dad Jack would become. I'm not as down on the rest of the show as you, but I don’t expect every episode or storyline to hit a home run, either. I admit I’m more invested in Kevin’s search into Jack’s wartime past, Kate’s attempt at pregnancy and Toby’s depression than Randall’s earnest civic crusade, but let’s see where it all goes before making a final judgment.
Is Sue Heck Too Limiting a Character?
Question: As someone who a while back wrote to you about my interest in what Eden Sher would tackle after The Middle was over, I must say that I'm somewhat on the fence about the possibility of ABC’s Sue Heck spinoff series. Sher seems capable of so much more than what she sometimes got to do as that character, so I hope that if the series gets the green-light, the show-runners allow her to spread her wings. In other words, as far as spinoffs go, more Frasier and nothing resembling Joey. Maybe something, as far as tone, that finds a way to marry, say, The Mary Tyler Moore Show and New Girl. If played correctly, Sher could have the opportunity to develop an iconic TV character arc. Or the show could play it safe and blow a big opportunity for something special.
Speaking of spinoffs (or reboots), do you think as the final season of The Big Bang Theory moves forward, there might be a decision to spin off a character into another series? Maybe Raj, as that character how the most room to grow. Also, do you think the Murphy Brown reboot might have garnered more buzz had it gone the route of the Lou Grant spinoff from The MTM Show, transplanting the character from a comedy to a drama? Both took place in the field of journalism, so the foundation would have been the same. It would have been risky, but Murphy would have avoided the potential of having the sort of "stale," been-there-seen-it-before feel that could be holding it back now. — Todd S
Matt Roush: Some really interesting questions here. In order: Eden Sher as Sue Heck. I get what you’re saying, and if the spinoff presents her only as an eternally optimistic loser, that would get old quick. I wouldn’t want Sue to ever lose her sunny disposition, but the evolution of an independent Sue in a big-city environment could be interesting and great fun.
A Big Bang spinoff: I wouldn’t put it past CBS and Warner Bros. to try to keep milking this hit franchise in some form, but I can’t imagine watching a weekly series built around Raj—or, honestly, any of the supporting characters on their own. It goes against the current inclinations of a broadcast industry now obsessed with spinoffs, reboots and revivals, but I hope Big Bang can go out on a high and be content with that. (Like, say, Everybody Loves Raymond.)
Murphy Brown as a drama? No thanks. The flaws of the current revival largely have to do with taking its preachy and self-righteous mission too seriously, even when I agree with the points it’s scoring. As a drama, it would likely be unbearable.
A Shame That the Gallagher Family Is Shrinking
Question: How long do you think Shameless will go on after Fiona (Emmy Rossum) and Ian Gallagher (Cameron Monaghan) leave the show? In my opinion, Fiona Gallagher is the glue that holds the show together. — Don
Matt Roush: It’s hard for me to imagine Shameless without Fiona. (I hate that Ian has left the family fold as well; he was my second favorite character.) From a critic’s point of view, the departure of Fiona seems the perfect end point for the series, but that’s not how the business tends to work. Shameless is such a success for Showtime that I expect they’ll try to keep it going for at least a 10th season (not yet confirmed), the same way Showtime keeps playing out Ray Donovan, which might have used the death of his wife Abby last season as an endpoint instead of an excuse to relocate back to the East Coast. (I'm still curious enough to watch.) Fiona leaving feels like the beginning of the end for Shameless, but how long Showtime will let it continue (one, two seasons?) is hard to predict. If the network had a deeper bench of hit dramas, it would probably be easier to let this one go.
Network Shows Going to Netflix
Question: I understand that Designated Survivor has been picked up by Netflix. I can’t find it. When does it start? Will it pick up where the original left off? I think it was one if the best shows on TV. — Cynthia
Matt Roush: The first two seasons of Designated Survivor migrated to Netflix from Hulu this fall, but a third season won’t arrive until sometime in 2019 (no air date yet), because with Netflix, an entire season must be written, filmed and ready to watch before it becomes available for streaming. The new season is expected to pick up with President Kirkman (Kiefer Sutherland) running for re-election, with all of the political intrigue that entails. Which seems like a really smart focus for the show to re-establish itself in the streaming universe.
Question: We loved both Lucifer and Scorpion. We heard that there is a new season for Lucifer, but it's on Netflix. Is this true? Any possibility of watching Scorpion on Netflix as well? One of the reasons we pay for Netflix is to see the shows we like. — Bonnie
Matt Roush: Netflix did pick up Lucifer for a fourth season, but like Designated Survivor, you won’t see it until presumably sometime in 2019, when an entire season has been filmed and is ready to go. (The first two seasons are currently streaming on Hulu, but at some point, those rights are likely to revert to Netflix.) Scorpion belongs to CBS, and those (free) episodes are exclusive to the CBS All Access streaming service for now. As deep as Netflix’s TV library goes, it won’t give you everything you want to watch. And that’s only going to get worse as more companies (ABC/Disney, etc.) develop their own subscription streaming services. Hard to know when it will reach a tipping point. For many, it already has.
Blacklist on the Back Burner
Question: Why is The Blacklist not coming back until midseason? They drop a huge bomb on us at the end of last season and now we have to wait. I hope the ratings are still good. I love the show, although I do miss Tom (Ryan Eggold). I like New Amsterdam, but he’s not the sexy, lean mean killing machine he was on The Blacklist! — Pam
Matt Roush: Considering the saintly life-saving character Ryan now plays on New Amsterdam, that’s probably a good thing. Blacklist was put on the shelf until midseason for the usual reason: to give the network a chance to launch some new shows (Manifest and Amsterdam in particular), and with football taking up Sunday, The Voice occupying Mondays and Tuesdays, and all three of Dick Wolf Chicago shows filling the Wednesday lineup, there wasn’t a lot of prime-time real estate left—unless you shuffled the show off to Fridays, which would likely do more harm than good. I’m sure NBC will promote the return of Blacklist heavily when the time comes, but it does hurt a show’s momentum when it’s off the schedule this long.
And Finally …
Question: Any hope of seeing Good Behavior and Taboo again? Maybe Vikings? — Mary
Matt Roush: Good Behavior is still in limbo, awaiting word from TNT—but it hasn’t been seen since last December, so the prospect isn’t great, although there has been talk of wrapping it up with a TV-movie or the like. FX renewed Taboo, but no word yet when Season 2 will air. But there is a date for new episodes of Vikings. History will resume the fifth season on Nov. 28.
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.