Ask Matt: The ‘Million’ Time Switch, Netflix Minimizing?, Fates of ‘Rookie’ & ‘Magnum,’ an Unsung Donovan
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.
ABC’s Million Move Endangering Station 13?
Question: I get that they’re trying to use Grey’s Anatomy to boost A Million Little Things when the latter moves from Wednesday to the post-Grey’s slot in January. It’s a business reason, which makes sense. But this also seems to be an opportunity for creative issues to crop up between Grey’s and Station 19 (like having Ben show up alive on Grey’s before the spinoff premiere aired). If the two Shondaland shows were designing their forthcoming episodes believing they would be aired concurrently, and yet Grey’s is coming back almost two months ahead, it seems like the timeline will be out of whack if there are any episodes that are meant to be seen together, especially as it relates to the Ben/Bailey separation story being told across both shows when we left off before the break. I’m not sure ABC would notice or care, but this is still odd. — Jake
Matt Roush: I tend to agree with you on the “don’t care” speculation. This midseason move suggests two things to me: that ABC is very invested in A Million Little Things getting more traction in the back half of its first season, and that the network isn’t as concerned about the status, fate and future of Station 19, including timeline continuity with the Bailey-Ben storyline. The wise move from the Grey’s/Station team would be to limit crossovers moving forward for this very reason.
Is Netflix Shrinking Its Originals?
Question: Why is Netflix suddenly making series with only six or eight episodes? They used to produce shows with 12 or 13 episodes, which was great. Now we feel like we just got into the show and it’s over. Seems they intend to do the same reduced episodes with Lucifer and Designated Survivor when they make a new series. Very disappointing. — Jean
Matt Roush: Depends on who you’re talking to, I suppose, because you are really barking up the wrong critical tree by griping to me about this issue. I am and always have been of the “less is more” school when it comes to binge-watching, and I can think of almost no Netflix series of the 13-episode variety (especially the Marvel shows) that wouldn’t benefit from significant trimming. I’ve gone on record saying many of Netflix’s originals would be twice as good at half the length, and “Netflix bloat” has become almost a critical cliché. (Case in point: I admired some things about the Netflix version of The Haunting of Hill House, but even at 10 long episodes, some clocking in at over an hour, it felt egregiously padded to me.)
My understanding is that Lucifer and Designated Survivor will return with 10-episode seasons, which seems the norm these days, and if they can keep the episodes under an hour, that seems appropriate to me. But two of the best Netflix series of recent months—the British import Bodyguard (at a taut six episodes) and Chuck Lorre’s The Kominsky Method (at eight)—were distinguished and elevated by their economy of storytelling. (Same for Amazon Prime’s Homecoming, with its half-hour episodes.) Bodyguard was just as long as it needed to be—British series tend to be tighter and shorter, and that suits me fine—and if Kominsky left me wanting more, that’s a rather rare feeling these days. (Now if only Netflix would just go ahead and renew it!)
A Future for Rookie and Magnum?
Question: I know you have mentioned that The Rookie was up against some tough odds in its Tuesday time slot, but based on its storylines, I think that it has cut the mustard and should continue on in 2019. Do you have the pulse on what ABC is going to do? That final episode left me in shock as to who gets shot!! — Sam D
Matt Roush: Yes, that was a classic midseason cliffhanger, wasn’t it? The good news for now is that ABC picked The Rookie up for a full season (of 20 episodes; it got a late start), and while it’s not the blockbuster some may have expected—almost nothing is these days, especially in same-night live viewing—the point to make in its favor is that the show has improved significantly on what ABC has typically aired in that time period. Hard to project at this point on the decisions a new regime at ABC will make when setting next season’s schedule in May, but I’d think they’d give The Rookie serious consideration for a second year—but would he still then be a rookie?
Question: I’ve enjoyed the reboot of Magnum P.I. Sure, it’s not as good as the original I grew up with—come on, it’s Tom Selleck!—but I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how much I like the update and the new cast (especially the actress playing Higgins). How is it doing in the ratings and do you think it will be renewed? — Unsigned
Matt Roush: I’ve received precious little positive feedback on this particular reboot, so kudos for going out on that limb. The new Magnum is sort of in the same position as The Rookie: not the hit the network may have expected, but it has stabilized an iffy time period, and Magnum is said to sell well overseas, which could help make it profitable for the network and studios. CBS can be less forgiving to underperformers than rival nets, so I’d think it could go either way regarding renewal at this point. These days, it’s really hard to say what to expect when a show’s neither a colossal flop nor a breakout hit.
The Saddest Donovan Brother?
Question: With so many great shows on TV giving actors amazing roles, it’s understandable that many minor roles will be overlooked. But in the spirit of Larry Drake and his wonderful acting as developmentally-challenged Bennie in L.A. Law that won him two Emmys, I’d like to do a shout-out for Dash Mihok, who has been playing Bunchy on Ray Donovan. I perk up whenever he’s on the screen, knowing his backstory in the show as a victim of sexual abuse by priests and seeing every bit of his anguish in everything he does, mostly when he isn’t talking. Such sadness. Maybe award shows should add categories for these many minor players who act their hearts out and touch ours so profoundly. Just being nominated would be recognition of a job perfectly done. — Jim
Matt Roush: Actors like Dash Mihok qualify in supporting categories—and Jon Voight (a bigger name, obviously) has been singled out twice from the Ray ensemble for Emmy nominations, even winning a 2014 Golden Globe—but the field is so huge anymore that quietly poignant work like Mihok’s is bound to go unrecognized. I agree that his moving and full-throttle performance as Bunchy is almost painfully sad—although this season he has plenty of competition on the show, as just about everyone in the family is in as deep and dark a funk as I can remember. I find myself cringing whenever Bunchy has a win (like retrieving the stolen ransom money), because I know it will be too good to last.
Both Moms on Mom Deserve Recognition
Question: I am a huge fan of Mom and of Allison Janney. However, my question is why doesn’t Anna Faris ever get nominated for some of the awards that Allison does? I think Anna is just as important to the show and she does a great job. I think she deserves recognition. Anna as Christy is playing one of those characters that is just so funny, and so easy at pulling her part off, I think she becomes invisible. I felt this way about several people if not the whole cast of The Middle. — Debbie
Matt Roush: I would argue that the role of Christy is not so “easy” to pull off, because in many ways, although she does fuel her share of comic situations, Christy is in a manner of speaking the “straight man” on Mom, trying to stay grounded amid the more outrageous behavior of characters like Bonnie (Janney), Jill (Jaime Pressly) and this season, Tammy (Kristen Johnston). Beyond the fact that it’s tougher than ever to crack into these categories—Patricia Heaton couldn’t do it through nine seasons of The Middle—Anna’s role calls for being upstaged often, and that kind of work (which I agree is very well done) rarely gets the attention it deserves.
Alec Baldwin a Saturday Bright Spot
Question: Initially I was sad to hear that ABC had punished Alec Baldwin by moving his fabulous The Alec Baldwin Show talk show from Sundays to Saturdays. But Saturdays, other than the occasional SNL show, have always been a wasteland when it comes to entertainment. Now Baldwin’s fascinating guests and scintillating conversation that are reminiscent of the iconic Jack Paar and Dick Cavett shows are illuminating Saturday nights. Congrats to ABC for punishing Baldwin and giving viewers wonderful programming on Saturdays. Hopefully they’ll keep up the good work! — Scott
Matt Roush: I appreciate this “glass half full” response to The Alec Baldwin Show being banished to the Saturday graveyard, where it will burn off however many more episodes will be produced of what I have to think will be its one and only season. I’d like to think the broadcast networks could look at low-impact nights like Saturday as a place to nurture this kind of show, which typically would be more at home on cable. But this isn’t so much nurturing as much as sending a perilously low-rated show out to pasture. (Ironically, Baldwin will return to his higher-profile gig as smarmy Match Game host when ABC brings the show back in prime time on Wednesdays at 10/9c on Jan. 9, filling the slot until Whiskey Cavalier premieres in late February.)
Question: I was wondering if it has been announced when One Day at a Time will have its new season on Netflix. It is usually on at the beginning of January, but it is not listed among the recently announced January premieres. – Natalie
Matt Roush: Good timing. Just this week, Netflix confirmed that all 13 episodes of the third season of one of my favorite family comedies will premiere Feb. 8. Can’t wait.
Question: Why did NBC schedule the Darci Lynne: My Hometown Christmas special so late (9/8c) on a school night? Too late for the kids to stay up to watch. — Doris
Matt Roush: Blame the power of The Voice, which NBC wasn’t likely to bump from its 8/7c Tuesday slot (on the night of semi-final eliminations) on Dec. 11 to make room for even this kid-friendly Christmas special. I assume Doris isn’t able to record the show for the youngsters to watch later at an earlier time, which would be one way to go. And sorry to say, on the only other scheduled rebroadcast of the Darci Lynne special, on Wednesday Dec. 19, NBC is airing it once again in the 9/8c hour, following a repeat of the Lego Jurassic World animated special.
Matt Roush: Well, now there has been. The characters in Kominsky occupy a very different world than Grace and Frankie, but some of the issues regarding aging are obviously similar. And in both cases, Netflix deserves praise for defying demographic trends by giving top-flight actors of a certain age the chance once again to shine.
Note: This is the last column for 2018. Ask Matt will return in early January. 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.