Ask Matt: New Face on 'Mom,' Doctors as Patients on 'Grey's,' Mickey Mouse Club, 'Murphy' Amnesia
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.
What’s With Loudmouth Tammy on Mom?
Question: I've been watching Mom on CBS since Episode 1 and the ensemble cast with Anna Faris and Allison Janney is a delight. I understand adding a love interest/fiancé for Bonnie (Janney), and the rest of the AA group is terrific, but I can't for the life of me understand why they added Kristen Johnston to the cast. She's big, loud, mugs every time the camera's anywhere near her, delivers most of her lines at a bellow and generally sucks the air out of the room. Plus her character seems to be there to annoy the rest of the cast. I know she annoys the hell out of me. So again: Why is she here? — Michael
Matt Roush: Tell us how you really feel! Seriously, I get that Johnston’s character of ex-con Tammy could be something of an acquired tastelessness, but now that she’s moved off Bonnie and Christy’s (Faris) couch and into cat-lady Marjorie’s (Mimi Kennedy) home, perhaps less of her will be more acceptable. I’ve been a fan of Johnston since her Emmy-winning run on 3rd Rock From the Sun, and she’s just as over the top here, which seems appropriate given her circumstances. I have enjoyed watching Mom evolve over the seasons as Christy and Bonnie adopted their new family, and I was actually tickled when Tammy joined this group of hard-luck born losers, each seeking their own path to recovery. Tammy’s may be the rockiest yet. It will almost surely be the loudest. Mom isn’t the most subtle sitcom on TV in any given week, and while Johnston has raised the volume, I don’t find her presence out of character.
The actress guest stars as Allison Janney's foster sister on the CBS show.
Physicians, Heal Thyselves!
Question: On Grey's Anatomy, Richard's first wife and his lover both had Alzheimer's and died lonely deaths, and now his second wife (Debbie Allen as Dr. Catherine Fox) has cancer? Is he cursed or something? I know it's a drama, but seriously, that's a pattern. I love the show, but they have done the significant-doctor-character-becomes-the-patient storyline many, many times with more characters than I can count. I'm kind of disappointed to see them returning to this well yet again with Catherine. What is going to make this time any different than when we went through this storyline with any of the others before her? Are they really so hard up for new ideas that they have to repeat this one again? Just last year they did it with both Amelia's mega-tumor and April's near-death experience. I'm a huge fan of the show and will continue to watch it as long as they continue making it, but...really? What was intended to be a big emotional episode mostly had me rolling my eyes. — Jake
Matt Roush: I’ll again play devil’s advocate, to a point. I agree that Grey’s has gone to this well too many times, often on behalf of characters who didn’t merit such special treatment (I’m in the camp that considers Amelia and April among the show’s most aggravating characters ever). But giving Catherine this life-threatening storyline has the potential to be more impactful than most—if only because she is such an integral part of so many characters’ lives, including the hospital’s itself. Presenting her diagnosis in the context of husband Richard’s challenged sobriety raises the stakes as well, plus there’s son Jackson to consider and everyone else who looks upon Catherine as a mentor. And it’s Debbie Allen, for crying out loud! I also get that long-running medical dramas are in constant danger of repeating themselves—please don’t let her appear as a ghost to Richard in seasons to come—and Grey’s is perhaps more susceptible to this charge than most because of its soapy nature. But I’ll admit I’m curious to see where this story is headed in the back half of what’s turning out to be another enjoyable season.
The EP/actor/director also shared if she'll be there through the series' final episode.
They Joined the Jamboree
Question: On ABC’s recent Mickey Mouse's 90th (Birthday) Spectacular special, original Mouseketeers Bobby Burgess and Sharon Baird were introduced. Are they the only ones left from the 1955 show? — Carole
Matt Roush: Of the original cast members who were under contract for the full run of the original 1955-59 Mickey Mouse Club, and are most closely identified as the original Mouseketeers (known to some as the “Red Team”), only Annette Funicello and Doreen Tracey have passed away. According to a quick search, Lonnie Burr, Tommy Cole, Darlene Gillespie, Cubby O’Brien and Karen Pendleton are also still around, but may not have been available for the reunion.
It's the second live-action 'Star Wars' series planned for the upcoming Disney+ service.
And Did They Return the Gifts?
Question: In the new Murphy Brown, why hasn't there been any mention that Miles and Corky were once married? — Sue
Matt Roush: This is a classic case of sitcom “retcon” (as in “retroactive continuity”), in which a show decides to ignore events from its past life when it gets a fresh start. (The new Will & Grace ignored the original series’ ending, to its benefit.) I’ve read some suggestions (unconfirmed) that because the Miles-Corky marriage happened after series creator Diane English left the show, she opted to just ignore that it ever happened—and to be honest, it probably never should have—and that’s why it never comes up. Given how rocky some of those final seasons were, it may be just as well.
From 'Single Parents' to 'Murphy Brown' where does your new favorite fall?
Swept Away in November
Question: For years, I've conditioned my husband to expect our DVR to fill up in November, February and May when sweeps hit, and set aside a little extra time to catch up on our favorite shows. This year, I've been surprised to see that a lot of shows we watch have taken a bye week. This Is Us, New Amsterdam, The Rookie, The Resident and many others were missing from the schedule last week or this week. And next week is Thanksgiving, so I'm guessing there will be a lot more shows in reruns or pre-empted by specials.
It makes me wonder if sweeps are even a thing anymore. So much TV is now streamed or time-shifted, and advertising is included in app/online viewing. Are the years of needing to set aside an extra couple of hours on the weekends to catch up on TV three times a year a thing of the past now? Or is it just the early Thanksgiving this year making this an anomaly? — Toni
The networks have already ordered full first seasons.
Matt Roush: Sweeps months aren’t what they used to be, but the reason so many Tuesday series took the first week off this month was because of the unprecedented interest in midterm election day on Nov. 6. (I was surprised that Fox aired repeats of The Resident and 9-1-1 this week and can’t really explain that.) And yes, there will be more repeats and pre-emptions to come as Thanksgiving approaches next week. (Already!?!?!?!)
From a network business point of view, sweeps months are still monitored for setting ad rates, which is why you see special events like the CMA Awards this month—and the Oscars, Super Bowl and Grammys in February most years—but the mega-stunts and star-studded miniseries of years past are largely a faded memory. You can still count on most networks to run original episodes during these months (reverting to a mixed pattern of repeats and originals in months between), but your example of setting aside time on the weekends to catch up on TV is no longer just a sweeps-time event. It’s year-round in an era of “peak TV,” and there’s never enough time to catch up.
These Ratings Are Murder!
Question: Why do you think How To Get Away With Murder ratings are so poor, when they're having one of their best seasons? — Tamaca
Matt Roush: My guess would be that it’s too little too late. Almost every show, regardless of popularity and quality, declines over time, and this uneven melodrama always had its work cut out for it to sustain momentum. Murder is probably safe as long as ABC continues to invest in the “TGIT” brand. But with Scandal retired, the night doesn’t have the oomph it used to, which also may have contributed to Murder’s downturn.
He also teases Timothy Hutton's upcoming role.
A Few More Aggravating Things About TV
Question: Why Why Why! do so many shows like Face Off and cooking shows, etc play annoying repetitive music in the background? Whose idea was it to have all those stupid pop-ups appear on the bottom of my TV and how did they decide they should all do it? Do networks get together to add bad things to torture us? — Maria
Matt Roush: No one said watching TV would be easy. But I agree, if I have any criticism of Face Off, which I loved till the end (and keep hoping Syfy will eventually reconsider and revive, though I’m OK with giving it a rest for now), it’s the repetitiveness of so many formulaic beats every episode, including the incessant music. For so many TV producers, silence is not golden and they feel compelled to fill every second with some kind of ambient noise.
It’s such a relief to see encouraging faces around the famous tent every season.
Regarding pop-up ads, which usually promote some sort of upcoming show on the network or other paid sponsor, that’s one result of so many of us fast-forwarding through ads these days. By inserting these messages, however annoying, into the bottom of the frame while we’re watching the actual show, that’s one way to get noticed. Of course, the aggravation factor could easily backfire on what’s being promoted, but the battle is to get the pop-up in front of many eyeballs as possible. If it didn’t work, they’d probably stop doing it.
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 with your question.