Ask Matt: The Path to Remaking ‘Magnum,’ ‘Rent’ and Live Theater, ‘Blacklist,’ ‘Neighborhood’

The Woman Who Never Died
Karen Neal/CBS
Magnum P.I. on CBS

Welcome 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.


Revisiting Magnum

Question: Is it reported why the original idea for the new Magnum sequel from Eva Longoria was scrapped? If that had been made instead of this scrappy reboot, I actually would’ve watched it as well as a lot of original fans and new. But this remake is so polarizing that it’s always gonna have negativity around it, and I feel bad for the actors. — Ken

Matt Roush: Don’t feel too bad, because late last week, CBS gave the new Magnum P.I. an early renewal for a second season, deserved or not. Regarding the Magnum series Eva Longoria’s production company pitched back in 2016, which would have focused on Magnum’s grown-up daughter: That was developed for a different network, ABC, and it went the way of so many pilot proposals—which is to say, nowhere. I don’t know exactly why, but when CBS got back in the Magnum game a year later, it went the more traditional route of a recast contemporary reboot/remake. I agree that I’m not aware of any groundswell of support around this lackluster new version, but maybe CBS is hedging its bets in case they can’t work out a deal to keep Hawaii Five-0 going past a ninth season (though they probably will), this would keep the network in the Hawaii business for a while longer.

Can Live Theater Translate to TV?

Question: Regarding your review of Fox’s Rent: If you want that electricity and spark, then go see it live on stage. You’ll never get that from a televised version, live or recorded. The very fact that you are watching it delivered as a flat, two-dimensional production on your television negates that spark you wanted. The type of theater experience you thought should be there can only be experienced live, as in live and in person, rather than “live” broadcast on your television screen. — Terry

Matt Roush: I respectfully disagree. Televised theater can be very exciting, never equal to being there, of course—but that’s not really an option with these specials, is it? Even the musicals produced without an audience (The Wiz probably the best example), if cast and directed properly, can be very entertaining. And the live Broadway performances captured for PBS, cinemas and streaming services are a valuable way for these productions to be shared to a wider audience than can afford or arrange to go see them live. Fox’s Rent had its moments, but was muddied in execution and obviously compromised by circumstance, and that might have been the case as well if it had actually aired live. We’ll never know. But while the ratings were even more disappointing than the reviews, I hope the networks will keep trying.

Is Blacklist’s Time Period a Death Sentence?

Question: I’m wondering why The Blacklist is now on Fridays. Does that mean this is its last season?! — Minina

Matt Roush: It’s more a question of real estate than anything. NBC doesn’t have a lot of available time periods, especially with Dick Wolf occupying an entire Wednesday night with his Chicago shows. And some of the more obvious time periods—like Mondays at 10/9c—the network chooses to use to launch new franchises (Manifest to be replaced in late February by The Enemy Within). A Friday time slot doesn’t necessarily have to be a death sentence—CBS’s procedurals do quite well—and while Blacklist’s numbers will almost certainly drop on this challenging night, expectations tend to be lower, and it will likely improve on what came before. The real question, if the show is renewed for a seventh season (which seems likely), is when the network will deem it not worth the cost to keep an expensive series going in a marginal time period.

The Neighborhood Is Thriving

Question: I am loving the new CBS freshman sitcom The Neighborhood. I think Cedric the Entertainer is perfect, and I love all of the characters. Do you think it will get a second season? Also, I think Man With A Plan airing at 8:30/7:30c after it on Monday nights will be a better lead-out than Kevin Can Wait (that show was a train-wreck in my opinion). What are your thoughts? — Steven

Matt Roush: Your question arrived just as CBS rewarded the show with an early renewal (along with the aforementioned Magnum and another freshman hit, Dick Wolf’s FBI). I would have predicted a renewal for The Neighborhood even if CBS hadn’t beaten me to it. And I second your assessment of Kevin Can Wait, but am not convinced that Man With a Plan is any more inspired. Still, it’s bound to be an improvement on Happy Together, the nonentity that just finished its Monday run.

Playing Hooky From Schooled

Question: Can you help me find a reason to like Schooled? I’ve been a fan of The Goldbergs since the beginning, and I really want to like the spinoff. I was a kid in the ’90s, so you’d think a show by the writers of The Goldbergs set then would click. But it’s just not working for me. The setup of the show just doesn’t work. I don’t look to The Goldbergs for absolute realism, but the idea that Lainey could be hired as a teacher despite having no experience or qualifications just because the principal is scared of Beverly Goldberg is pushing it. We watched her drop out of college last year to start a band! The sloppiness of her exit from The Goldbergs to transition to this show makes Ben’s career change from surgeon to firefighter on Station 19 look like Shakespeare. At least there, they attempted to give him an arc that led to his choice to make a change.

Frankly, the premise of Schooled seems to undercut the value of actual teachers who put in the work necessary to become good at their jobs. The show seems to get humor out of Lainey making bad decisions and being a poor role model for the students, like when she blackmails a student in the pilot and makes a bet with a teacher about a student in the second episode. I just don’t find any of that funny or endearing. The subplots with the other teachers, who worked really well in supporting roles on The Goldbergs, seem silly and convoluted here. For now, watching the show feels obligatory because I like The Goldbergs, but it seems to be devaluing the original show (which itself hasn’t been as fresh as in prior seasons) as cast members exit to focus on the latter. How much did ABC send you for review ahead of the premiere? Does it get better? — Jake

Matt Roush: I remember screening the first few episodes before briefly weighing in on this middling spinoff, but ABC hasn’t sent more, and I’m not inclined or interested enough to keep tabs on this one. (Disclosure: Beverly aside, I’m not much of a Goldbergs fan, either. I find it too shrill to be enjoyable.) I don’t understand the sense of obligation here. No one’s forcing you to watch. This is pretty much a misbegotten attempt (and not the first) to spin off this show, and I generally find that a lazy way to go about programming a network. Unless, of course, you’re talking Frasier, Maude, Good Times, Rhoda, Phyllis, and others that worked because they came from great source material.

From the Anglophile Corner

Question: Is The Crown ever returning? We really enjoy the show and will miss Claire Foy, but we are waiting with bated breath to see the next season. — Jetty

Matt Roush: You and millions others, including me. Netflix hasn’t announced a timetable for the show’s return—and with streaming, it can take a while, because the entire season must be finished, including post-production, before it can be made available. All that we know for sure is that the new season will air sometime this year, and with Olivia Colman (an Oscar contender for The Favorite) as the queen and Outlander fan favorite Tobias Menzies as Prince Philip, there’s plenty to be excited about.

Question: I would like to know why my favorite show, PBS’s Call the Midwife, is ignored by all of the awards shows. Could it possibly be because it isn’t violent, has compassion, and has prominent female characters? – Ellen

Matt Roush: Putting one’s understandable cynicism aside, I figure Midwife’s low profile on the U.S. awards circuit—it has been nominated for a variety of awards in the U.K.—may have more to do with the fact that in its earliest and best seasons, Midwife was crowded out, along with most other British imports, by the global success of Downton Abbey. It has been around long enough now that it just doesn’t make much noise, and it doesn’t even appear to have been submitted for consideration during the last Emmy nominating process.

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.