Ask Matt: Love for ‘Kominsky Method,’ Coverage of a President’s Funeral, F-Bombs in Space, ‘Legends’
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.
Love for Kominsky
Question: I always enjoy reading your page to find out the latest news on TV. My husband and I just finished watching the first season of The Kominsky Method on Netflix. We thoroughly enjoyed it! We laughed and laughed—and there were some serious/sad parts too. We are in the same age bracket as Michael Douglas and Alan Arkin so we can relate. Is this series going to be renewed? We certainly hope so! — Phyllis, Murfreesboro, TN
Question: I haven’t seen any mention of the Chuck Lorre Netflix series The Kominsky Method. It’s a hoot and geared to the Baby Boomers as we stumble through our twilight years. My concern is I haven’t heard any word of renewal. Would love to spend more time with these characters. As expected, the acting is stellar, especially Michael Douglas. Fingers crossed for Season 2. — Cathi
Matt Roush: No mention of The Kominsky Method? Check out my rave review, and I’m thrilled that it made the list of the AFI’s Top Ten TV shows (for which I was a jury member) and did well in the Golden Globe nominations (my Globes analysis). I loved this show start to finish, especially its mix of the funny and the poignant, and how it bravely confronts the indignities of aging with wit and heart. Douglas and Arkin are both superb, at the top of their game, and so is Nancy Travis as Kominsky’s student/love interest, Sarah Baker as his daughter, and so on. No word yet on a second season, and Netflix is so secretive who knows when we’ll hear. But given the year-end accolades and awards buzz, I’d be shocked if there isn’t a second season, as long as the stars are willing (and why wouldn’t they be)? This is another high point for Chuck Lorre’s career.
When News Merits Breaking In
Question: I’m always impressed at what a thorough, thoughtful job TV networks do covering major news events like the death of a former president. But major, lengthy coverage of events like this seriously disrupt television programming. I’m curious: Do you have any information about how networks deal with issues like lost advertising revenue, ad placement, rapid coverage of events, program rescheduling (particularly live programs like The View, or sports events). Also, when it was announced that President George H.W. Bush had died, there was a host of retrospective specials that were broadcast within hours. Had these shows been previously created or did news departments scramble to put them together? Do networks have stockpiled news footage of noteworthy politicians, world leaders and celebrities that they can quickly edit into news stories and specials? — Maurice
Matt Roush: These are fairly broad questions and I’ll do my best to generalize, but there are times in our public life, and a presidential funeral is high on that list, when networks (particularly broadcast networks) must do their civic duty as custodians of the airwaves, and news takes precedence over profit. Live entertainment broadcasts (which may be seen on the West Coast later) and syndicated shows go dark, and it’s up to the local station whether to find another place for the pre-empted show. (Most just go unseen, and that’s how it goes.) In the case of President Bush, his declining health had been known for quite some time, so most news organizations would have been prepared for this and had retrospectives ready to go. (60 Minutes in particular aired a profoundly affecting segment Sunday, with thoughtful interviews conducted before his passing with his son and two other former presidents.)
Watch Your Frack-ing Language!
Question: Do my ears deceive me, or is the new Syfy series Nightflyers filled with four-letter words that polite programming is not allowed to say? And did the writers deliberately go out of their way to invent a new alien life form that sounds exactly like “Vulcan??” —Steven
Matt Roush: Welcome to the new basic-cable normal. Words I’d never expected to hear on commercially supported TV are now almost commonplace. I noticed it first, as usual, on FX, which is known for pushing the adult content envelope. But USA followed suit, and Paramount’s Yellowstone almost made me blush with its foul mouths, and now Battlestar Galactica almost seems quaint with its use of “frack” to substitute for actual swear words. Nightflyers is just following suit. And yes about the “Volcryn” aliens being sought by the Nightflyers crew: If there was anything original going on in this disappointing miniseries, I missed it.
When Comedies Get Serious
Question: What do you think of the way most shows handle social/topical issues? Shows like Barney Miller, The Jeffersons, Good Times, etc. just knew how to talk about controversial things yet remain funny and more importantly timeless. Of course I didn’t need to mention All in the Family which all these so-called “comedies” are trying to rip off, but that show had brilliant casting and writing, plus Norman Lear made sure it was hilariously funny first, using the characters and their very established relationships to introduce an issue naturally and organically into the reality they lived in. I think most of these shows today forget the nuance of blending comedy and social issue/politics. Do you think that’s why shows like Murphy Brown. black-ish, etc. struggle in their ratings, and can you see any of these shows having relevance after 2018-19? — Mitchell
Matt Roush: The 1970s were undoubtedly a heyday for seriously great and socially relevant comedy writing, led by Norman Lear’s All in the Family and its spinoffs. (An example of his influence can be seen in Netflix’s wonderful reinvention of his One Day at a Time, which blends the funny and the topical quite well.) Some current shows do it better than others, though even the classics back in the day had uneven moments. But among today’s more ambitious comedies, black-ish generally works for me in how it deals with matters of racial identity in a supposedly post-racial affluent society. (The episode where the family gathered around the TV to watch coverage of a Trayvon Martin-like shooting incident was extremely well done.) I would agree that Murphy Brown’s heavy-handedness, when depicting the embattled and demonized media in this insane political climate, works against it, especially in mining actual laughs out of the situation. It’s the right idea, just executed more clumsily than I’d hoped. Ratings aren’t an issue for me. We no longer live in a three-network universe where people watch TV as it airs in real time, and viewership for just about everything but football is fragmented. Plus, so many people seem to choose to only watch what reinforces their own beliefs (and, in some cases, prejudices) that I’m glad at least some shows try to make a difference.
Legends Has Found Its Way
Question: I was very disappointed when Constantine was canceled, but I am thrilled to have him on DC’s Legends of Tomorrow. I previously felt like I had to watch Legends because of crossovers, and now I want to watch it! It’s so much better now. Do you agree? — Dawn
Matt Roush: I don’t watch any of the comic/superhero shows on a regular basis—really more a function of limited time anymore, but also an oversaturation issue—and in my discussions with those who do, Legends is enjoying its best buzz ever, and if I could choose one to watch right now, it would be this one. It seems to have inherited Flash’s former reputation as the lightest and most purely entertaining of the CW superhero shows, and that’s more my speed.
Continuing the Discussion …
Question: Regarding the latest This Is Us debate (over the twist in the Vietnam storyline): Why not show the uncle to be alive? It does actually happen in the news every now and then, that some poor, forgotten soldier either got captured, lost, or simply deserted, and was discovered, years later, to have been “rescued” by the locals and to have lived for decades amidst them. — BL
Matt Roush: The objection from the viewer who wrote in was more about the way the surprise twist was presented, but I agree with you in principle, and we’ll have to wait until the new year to see how the story (and the character of Uncle Nicky, played by Griffin Dunne) plays out. There’s a reason Nicky went off the grid, and I’m curious to learn more.
Question: On The Walking Dead, Rick more or less promised Negan that he would take his hatchet and bury it in his head, pun intended. I can tolerate Rick leaving, but I was so looking forward to him keeping his promise. — Doyle
Matt Roush: You and me both. That’s just one of many angles that felt frustratingly unresolved with Andrew Lincoln’s departure. And whatever’s behind the lazy twist of someone leaving Negan’s cell door open, that ticked me off so much I almost feel they’ll need to beg me to come back in February. (Though I’ve gone this far with the show, so I probably will.)
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.