Ask Matt: ‘Grey’s and ‘Good Doctor,’ ‘NCIS: LA’ Wedding, ‘Neighborhood’ and More

Bill Inoshita/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.

Has Grey’s Gotten Even Soapier?

Question: I have watched Grey’s Anatomy for years, but the past three or four years it is barely about patients and medicine. It is mainly about affairs between doctors and other doctors besides those they are married to, or a wife just finding out a doctor returning is carrying her husband’s child. Then couples or lovers will run into each other in the hallway and go to the break room and start making out. Also, doctors do not get personal with patients and let them set up a date with someone. Last week’s episode was all at a party where others fought about affairs going on and arguments started up with yelling and hitting. And one other thing: Interns do not wear white coats the same length as doctors do. Their coats barely go beneath their waist. Either improve the show or take it back to dealing with medicine, not just affairs. I think The Good Doctor is much more realistic. — Marijo

Matt Roush: Realism has never been Grey’s Anatomy’s strong suit, but I believe what has allowed the show to become (as of last Thursday) the longest-running medical drama in prime-time history — with no end immediately in sight — is the balance it has so breezily maintained between medical drama and flat-out soap opera since the very beginning: when Meredith slept with McDreamy (her boss and future husband) in the pilot episode on the eve of her internship, 14 years ago this month.

Some episodes and seasons balance the elements better than others, but I don’t feel it has gotten that much worse as of late. It could be the newer characters aren’t as compelling as our old favorites, but that happens with most shows. Just the week before the milestone episode — which I agree was way too light on medicine and way too heavy on contrived interpersonal conflict (Owen and Koracick coming to blows in particular) — Meredith set a hospital record for the longest surgery, which was obviously a “metaphor alert” but also a reminder of the skills these characters bring to their many risky and often over-the-top surgeries. The best episodes are those that involve strong medical stories (which in Grey’s tradition often reflect what some of the docs are facing in their personal lives) and move the core characters’ stories forward. It’s a winning formula that might not be to everyone’s taste but seems to satisfy the still robust fan base. (And seriously, who isn’t digging the new romance between awkward surgical resident Schmitt and ortho hottie Dr. Kim?)

In Praise of Doctor

Question: I want to give a huge shout-out to The Good Doctors February 25 episode, “Believe.” It is rare in this day and age for the name of God to be mentioned in a TV show except as a by-word. And yet, in this episode, the actors prayed, quoted scripture, and even witnessed a miracle. FINALLY, Christians are not pushed to the “back of the room” and told to keep quiet. Thank you, ABC and The Good Doctor, for a wonderful, inspiring episode. — Jonelle

Matt Roush: I was also reminded of the character on Grey’s (written out last season) of Dr. April Kepner, played by Sarah Drew, who was never ridiculed for her deep religious beliefs, with which she occasionally struggled when things went bad at the hospital. She was often annoying, but not because of her religion — and that kind of portrayal is rare on TV in general. Another reminder that both Grey’s and Good Doctor are admirably diverse in so many regards, and I hope Doctor in particular doesn’t develop amnesia about this faith-based aspect of Drs. Morgan and Melendez.

Your Presence Requested at the NCIS: LA Wedding

Question: I note that at no point in your cover story re NCIS: LA and the big marriage was there any mention of Hetty Lange (Linda Hunt). I am aware she was badly injured in an automobile accident in real life and has been mostly incommunicado in the storyline this season. Is Ms. Hunt returning to the show in the future? By any chance is there a surprise appearance at or around the wedding part of the proceedings? It really wouldn’t be NCIS: LA without the redoubtable Ms Lange! She is much missed! — Carol

Matt Roush: CBS hasn’t issued any updates about Linda Hunt since releasing a statement from the actress in November in which she pledged to return “later this season.” Should her comeback be a wedding surprise, I’d prefer to keep it that way, since we don’t do spoilers here. (I have no knowledge one way or the other, and haven’t consulted the writer of the article, because if such a thing is being kept under wraps, there’s a reason.) It’s fair to say that all fans of the show are eager for Hetty’s return, whether it’s publicized or not. And well worth throwing a bouquet whenever she’s back.

Couldn’t Deeks Clean Up for His Wedding?

Question: Is CBS kidding? I think Deeks (Eric Christian Olsen) looks terrible: unkempt with that mop and beard. Why didn’t they make him do something really nice for their wedding and cut that mop and shave? The grunge, dirty look is out in my opinion. I like watching NCIS: LA, but every time he comes on he annoys me. — Theresa

Matt Roush: In our story, Olsen is quoted as joking, “My hair looks like a Muppet.” He’s in on the joke, and while I often get complaints in my mailbag about characters looking too scruffy on TV, that look has been built into Deeks’ laid-back persona from the time of his introduction on the show. Since they didn’t change it even for this grand occasion, I figure you’re just going to have to get used to it, or look the other way when he comes on.

Cedric Needs a Stronger Foil

Question: I don’t know how you feel about The Neighborhood. but while I love the star talent of Cedric The Entertainer, Tichina Arnold and Marilu Henner, I feel like the show would’ve been a lot funnier and more interesting had they replaced Max Greenfield‘s character with someone who could go toe to toe with Cedric. Cedric’s character is essentially supposed to be a George Jefferson for 2019, so what’s missing is an Archie Bunker. Instead, they had the mother of Greenfield be the Archie Bunker type, but that doesn’t have real impact. Part of what made All in the Family amazing for me was the chemistry and back-and-forth between Archie and George, two sides of the same bigoted coin. The white guy on the show is another super-liberal try-too-hard type we see all the time, which is less funny and more safe. Tim Allen‘s character from Last Man Standing, while not a racist, is conservative, which is exactly who’d make more sense to put up against Cedric’s character. John Larroquette, Kelsey Grammer, Judd Hirsch: Anyone of them would be a great foil for Cedric the Entertainer. — Benson

Matt Roush: This is an interesting perspective on a show that clearly doesn’t want to be as interesting or groundbreaking as that Norman Lear classic. I get where you’re coming from and agree with you that this show (as with so much of network TV anymore) tends to play it too safe, which is a fundamental flaw. But I also understand that the show’s creators weren’t looking to copy the All in the Family dynamic, instead flipping it on its head by making Cedric’s character of Calvin the more prejudiced, suspicious and unyielding one. While it might be funnier if he were dealing with a fellow curmudgeon, the comedy of this series is intended to come from Greenfield’s character of Dave and his often hapless efforts to bend over backwards to be politically correct and inclusive in his approach to his new neighbors. Although looking at the show’s premise more closely, why would an Archie Bunker type move onto this block in the first place?

Never Say Neverland Again

Question: Why don’t they just leave Michael Jackson alone? He’s been dead almost 10 years now, and whatever happened or didn’t happen is now between him and God. We need to stay out of it altogether. — D. Jett

Matt Roush: This lament obviously refers to HBO’s controversial airing of the two-part Leaving Neverland documentary and its allegations of child sexual abuse. While I feel your discomfort on this issue, I have to side with Oprah Winfrey (who hosted Monday’s follow-up discussion, After Neverland) that the subject transcends any legacy of Michael Jackson’s, and however one regards his accusers, this is not something that should be left between anyone and his/her God, any more than the charges of child sexual abuse among Catholic and other Christian clergy or any other human being should be swept under any carpet.

Ordeals in Watching Reality Competitions

Question: The Masked Singer finale was ridiculously long, don’t you think? I really only tuned in to see the performances and the winner. To have to sit through (or fast forward, as I did) over an hour of season recaps? — Amy

Matt Roush: All I can say is thank the powers that be for the FF function. So many results shows are bloated beyond endurance, and when the content is as puny as on The Masked Singer, I can only imagine how tiresome that would be. At least you had the good sense not to watch in real time.

Question: I am a big fan of World of Dance. I am NOT a fan of the camera cutting away from the dancers just to see the hosts looking at the dancers. This is so irritating! I want to see these incredible dancers… dance. I want to see their whole piece. I’m sure I am not alone in this opinion. Why does this show do this? May I offer a suggestion? When we watch golf, baseball, hockey or football, the host’s comments are “off camera.” This is a great system. The audience is happy to see all the action and the hosts give their opinions. I wish someone will change the way this show is shown because I don’t NEED to see the hosts’ faces multiple times during every dance. — Linda

Matt Roush: I wish I could provide some hope that this will change, but I have the same adverse reaction to most reality contests, on NBC in particular, where the star power of the coaches on The Voice or the panel on America’s Got Talent, let alone Jennifer Lopez as the executive producer/star judge on Dance, tend to upstage the acts with their too-easily-astonished expressions. (And surely you don’t imagine J Lo is going to suggest fewer cutaways to her and her fellow celebrities gaping in awe.) I’ll stick with my summer favorite, So You Think You Can Dance, which isn’t immune to cutaways but tends to honor the dance — and I mean actual dance, not acrobatic dance crews — more faithfully.

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.