Ask Matt: Are the ‘Kids’ All Right? ‘This Is Us,’ ‘The Good Doctor,’ and More
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.
Will ABC Be Patient With Its New Kids?
Question: I really am enjoying The Kids Are Alright, one of the few shows I still watch on ABC besides Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Fresh Off The Boat. I wish this show would get more recognition, because I really think it’s a refreshing series and reminds me of my other favorite family show The Middle in some ways. Do you think the network will give it time to expand its audience seeing as how the buzz it does get is usually positive? — David
Matt Roush: This is one of my new favorites as well, and I plan on giving it another shout-out next week when it airs an episode dealing with the Vietnam draft (haven’t had a chance to watch yet). The irreverent tone set by the extraordinarily well cast parents, and the interplay among a group of very funny and distinctive kids—all boys, which is part of the joke—does send out vibes reminiscent of The Middle, albeit with an added glow of nostalgia for the changing times of the 1970s. I figure Kids, not unlike The Middle, will likely go ignored by the industry, which rarely showers awards on traditional family sitcoms anymore (Modern Family in its heyday and black-ish being notable exceptions). But I’d be surprised if ABC doesn’t stick with this one for a long while. It’s an in-house production, reviews and buzz are generally strong and positive, and it fits the network brand beautifully.
Why Use Two Actors to Play One New Character?
Question: I love This Is Us: the characters, how it ties between multi-generations, and I especially love the Vietnam storyline with the Big Three’s Uncle Nicky. My question is why they hired a different actor to play Nicky as a 70-year-old, rather than use the same actor who played Nicky from his 20s to his 40s? Was it because the actor who played the younger Nicky wouldn’t have been believable playing an elderly version of the character? (They also had two different actors play Randall’s biological father for both his younger and elderly years). If so, then why does Mandy Moore get to play Rebecca in both her younger adult years and in the present day as a middle-aged woman in her 60s? I personally don’t think that she looks believable as a middle-aged woman (not to dismiss Mandy as an actress, since she does a great job playing Rebecca). That’s my only quibble for this show—though the thought of having to wait three weeks between episodes when it just came back from its holiday break is very frustrating, UGH!!!!). — Chris
Matt Roush: The criticism of Rebecca’s older-age makeover not being particularly believable is a fairly constant one, but one of those things a This Is Us fan just has to live with. The core cast is so established in our minds that recasting for an Older Rebecca probably never even was considered—much like the flash-forwards of an Older Randall wouldn’t make sense with anyone but Sterling K. Brown in old-age makeup. With the character of Uncle Nicky, it’s more of an opportunity to give two fine actors a chance to interpret a complex character, and while Michael Angarano (young Nicky) is only three years younger than Mandy Moore, so it could be argued that he could be made up to play the older version, it’s so much more effective to have an age-appropriate actor with the gravitas of Griffin Dunne take on the part, so we’re not distracted by makeup issues at the very least. And I agree: This storyline is This Is Us at its best, and both actors are excellent.
Did Good Doctor Miss a Teaching Moment?
Question: I am sad that The Good Doctor did not use the opportunity to explain Sensory Processing Disorder on its recent “contagion” episodes. SPD is a condition that most autistic children and adults suffer from, as well as many who are not autistic. When Dr. Shaun Murphy was overwhelmed with sound, from people and machinery, it would have been an opportune time to bring this condition to the mainstream. With autism so misunderstood by the general public, this was a missed chance. — Kimberly
Matt Roush: That’s a fair point, and maybe ABC should have aired a PSA to call attention to SPD. But to be honest, while I personally was not aware that this condition had a name, I more than understood that Shaun was experiencing sensory overload as a symptom of his autism—echoed in the most recent episode by the autistic patient’s roommate/boyfriend, who was so sensitive to light. Sometimes dramatizing a condition has as much if not more impact than spelling it out in exposition, but when it comes to The Good Doctor’s illumination of the human condition of autism, you can probably never err on the side of too much information.
Question: Your description of the Magnum PI retread as “lackluster” is too kind. Perdita Weeks and Amy Hill are always welcome at our house, but the rest of the cast have no chemistry or charisma in their roles, the writing and direction are wretched, and the Hawaii setting is entirely wasted on pedestrian photography and staging. With mostly favorable memories of the original, we gave the new model an extended tryout, but canceled it from our DVR days before CBS decided to pick it up for another season. It was the only CBS show we watched or recorded. The net’s disdain for its broadcast content and audience could not be more clear: Retread, recycle, renew, repeat, then count the money. Thanks, but no. — J Norris
Matt Roush: In a nutshell, you have described the conventional critical wisdom about CBS’s formulaic programming. To be fair, when the network does try something different (remember the brilliantly weird BrainDead?), few tend to show up and it implodes. I would also argue that Madam Secretary doesn’t feel like an assembly-line product, and I’m very intrigued about the upcoming serialized drama The Red Line, which will air eight hours over four Sundays this spring, indicating the network doesn’t always play it safe. But usually, yes.
Find Sue Another Home!
Question: Expanding on your recent reply in Ask Matt about The Middle’s stalled Sue Heck spinoff, I’m sure the follow-up question on the minds of fans is: Since Warner Brothers is the studio for The Middle and the Sue spin-off, what’s keeping them from shopping this series to other networks and streaming services? A perfect example of recent spinoff success is the studio’s The Big Bang Theory and Young Sheldon. Company execs know how to do it right, so why put the brakes on this just because ABC and Fox execs are involved in “a clearing of the decks”—or a better description for it would be “huge egos who want to propose other crappy pilots as long as they are their own crappy pilots.” — Richard
Matt Roush: Here’s where the business of show business comes into play. As much as we revere The Middle and Eden Sher as Sue Heck, it’s nowhere near as popular or lucrative a franchise as a juggernaut like The Big Bang Theory, and CBS made the smart move of spinning off the younger version of Sheldon while Big Bang was still active, giving Young Sheldon a sure-fire lead-in. The ABC/Disney/Fox merger is very complicated, and I imagine this won’t be the only casualty—if there even is a connection between the two events. As for the Warner Bros. studio shopping the Sue spinoff around, some industry trade reports have suggested that as a possibility, so who knows. But if it’s going to happen, it had better do so soon.
So Many AMC Questions
Question: Do you have any idea what became of AMC’s Humans? The last time the series was shown, AMC buried it at odd times and treated it badly. I’m obviously a big fan of it. Was it canceled? — Sue
Matt Roush: Humans (a favorite of mine as well) is currently in limbo, and I haven’t seen an update since summer, at which point the show’s producers were indicating that talks were ongoing for a fourth season. If it happens, I imagine AMC or someone will broadcast it here, even if in the margins of prime time. But the Brits will likely have to make the first move on this one.
Question: Any idea when Into the Badlands will be returning on AMC? This mid-season break has been going on for almost a year. — Mark
Matt Roush: Well, half a year anyway. (The last episode aired in mid-June.) It’s beyond me to decipher AMC’s programming strategy, which isn’t all that uncommon with cable networks that don’t operate on regular seasonal timetables. But the back half of the 16-episode third season will air sometime, and I’m confused as well at the delay, because I was under the impression this was one of the channel’s more popular series.
Question: Will The Son with Pierce Brosnan be returning on AMC? — Martha
Matt Roush: Rarely a week goes by without someone asking about this Western series, which hasn’t been seen since the 10-episode first season wrapped in June of 2017. AMC renewed The Son for a second season around that time, and I haven’t a clue why it’s taken so long to return. But the last time I saw a network promo, clips from The Son were included, and there is talk that both Son and Badlands will be back on the lineup sometime this spring. Stay tuned.
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.