Ask Matt: 'Enemy' a Weak 'Blacklist?' Nit-picking 'Rookie,' Comedy Debate, Ducky on 'NCIS' 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.
An Enemy of the People?
Question: So I've watched NBC's new show The Enemy Within, and it just seems to be a Blacklist wannabe. There are a few variations, but the storyline is pretty much the same. One difference I find between the two is that even though he is not an overly good person, Raymond Reddington is a likable character. I don't find much likable about Enemy's Erica Shepherd (Jennifer Carpenter). It seems to me that they should just put her in some deep dark hole and leave her there. Am I the only one who feels this way? — JC
Matt Roush: Probably not. The show's doing OK by today's standards, though this week dropped half of its Voice lead-in audience, but clearly hasn't popped the way The Blacklist did on Mondays in its early days. In my own mini-review of Enemy's premiere, I likened it to "The Blacklist without a sense of humor," and described Erica as one of those "pushy know-it-all[s]" who wear out their welcome fairly quickly. The set-up is almost comically similar to The Blacklist, in that she's a criminal (though one manipulated into her downfall) who's being enlisted by the feds to secretly go after a long list of embedded spies up to no good. It's as if NBC was shopping for a Blacklist replacement — which it no longer needs, since the long-running James Spader thriller was just renewed for a seventh season. Now Enemy seems even less necessary.
Making Rookie Mistakes
Question: As a retired police officer, I find The Rookie extremely hard to watch! It's bad enough that they keep calling the rookies "boot," which nobody ever does, or have an officer telling them who they can or cannot date, which they would never do. But a recent episode insinuating that rookies wear long-sleeve shirts while established police officers wear short-sleeve shirts, is the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard! ALL officers wear short-sleeve shirts in the summer and long-sleeve shirts in the winter. The length of their sleeves has nothing to do with their status on the police department! — Shelley
Matt Roush: I defer to (and thank you for) your experience, and especially agree that the sleeve distinction seems silly — living in New York, I'm fairly sure everyone's in short sleeves during our sweltering summers. Maybe things are different in the LAPD? The Rookie is purportedly based on a true story of a middle-aged rookie, and the show no doubt has police consultants. But it's like when doctors watch a medical show or lawyers check out legal dramas, they're rarely satisfied with this kind of heightened "reality."
Remembering Comedy Classics
Question: I don't think the real problem is the multi-camera/live-audience sitcom format as it is most of these shows these days try too hard to be a "sitcom," with all the cheesiness and broadness of the worst type of comedy. I mean there have always been gems that were multi-camera: Frasier, Soap, Cheers, Barney Miller, All in the Family, WKRP in Cincinnati, NewsRadio, Seinfeld, Sanford and Son, The Jeffersons, Everybody Loves Raymond, Good Times, Maude, The Golden Girls, etc., and that's not even scratching the surface. These are considered some of the greatest TV shows of all time, so it's not the format, it's more the writing and acting, directing and casting, etc. The only multi-cams airing today I actually like are Last Man Standing and Man With a Plan. If sitcoms focused on making great television again, then problem solved. — Kendall
Matt Roush: This comment may be in response to the recent discussion about Mom, which happens to be among my own current favorites in the multi-cam comedy format (along with The Big Bang Theory and the revival of Will & Grace). As always, and especially when it comes to TV comedy, this is a "to each their own" situation. There is no doubt that many if not most of TV's truly "classic" comedies that stand the test of time were in the multi-cam/studio audience tradition — but I've lost count of how often in my mailbag I hear from someone who reacts to studio laughter (and the sweetened "laugh track") as if it were an affront to humanity. I enjoy both styles of comedy, and agree up to a point that the writing of those 1970s, '80s and even '90s blockbusters leave most of today's in the dust — though I don't quite see how a show as ordinary as Man With a Plan fits into the pantheon described above. And I'll add, as I always try to do nowadays, a plug for the Netflix version of One Day at a Time. It's a gem.
Question: I'm finally asking: Why do they say, "Filmed before a live studio audience?" Is there a dead studio audience? — Lilith
Matt Roush: Ha! Very funny. But seriously (kind of), this over-elaboration may stem from the days when TV still needed to make a distinction between comedies that were filmed before audiences on sound-stages (live to tape) as opposed to single-camera filmed comedies using canned laughter (not-live, though not exactly dead). Nowadays, almost no single-camera comedy uses a laugh track, and that's a good thing.
NCIS's Seldom-Seen Heroes
Question: On the March 12th episode of NCIS, a returning Ducky (David McCallum) said that he didn't know what challenges were ahead of him, but that they wouldn't include NCIS. Does this mean that one of the only two remaining original members of the NCIS cast has decided to leave for good? Any reasons you know of that could have prompted this departure, considering his screen time had been reduced drastically in the current season? — Robert
Matt Roush: As noted elsewhere in the wake of this week's episode, David McCallum had purposefully scaled back his participation this season very noticeably, in what amounted to a partial retirement so he could spend more time with his family on the East Coast. At 85, it's understandable that traveling back and forth as he had done for so many seasons was getting old. The network hasn't released any statement to my knowledge confirming this was the last we'll see of Ducky — and it's possible he'll still grace the show on occasion in a "special guest star" status. But his restricted contract only covered this season, so I wouldn't be surprised if the graceful exit he spoke of this week means that we'll see even less of him going forward.
Question: Given that "ghosts" from the past keep popping up on NCIS and the hint was dropped in episode 13, can we expect to see or at least hear more about Ziva David in upcoming shows? — Bill
Matt Roush: We addressed the Ziva tease in this space shortly after that episode aired, and I'll reiterate: Will we hear about Ziva in episodes to come? I'd bet on it. See Ziva? Less clear, and I hope it's a surprise if and when it ever occurs.
A Dark Night for Videos
Question: No question, just a comment. ABC's Videos After Dark is just garbage, it was so disappointing. My friends and I watched just minutes and we hope it goes off the air, but I have a feeling it won't. — Mary Ann
Matt Roush: Your feeling is justified. ABC billed Tuesday's airing as a "sneak peek" for a run of episodes expected to air later this year. And your opinion is equally valid. I made it through a few minutes before the smugness of it all made me pine for the class act (joking) that was The Bachelor.
Bob Saget on Returning to His 'America's Funniest Home Videos' Roots With Edgier 'Videos After Dark'
Question: Is Perdita Weeks (Higgins on Magnum P.I.), related to Honeysuckle Weeks, who was in Foyle's War and other British dramas? — Unsigned
Matt Roush: Yes, good catch. She is the younger sister of Honeysuckle Weeks, and they have a younger brother (also an actor) named Rollo. And now I'm missing Foyle's War all over again.
Question: Do you have any information as to when Netflix will be ready with the new season of Designated Survivor? —Gwen
Matt Roush: A premiere date hasn't been announced, but the scuttlebutt is that we should expect to see the long-awaited third season in early summer. (Remember that an entire season must be filmed and ready to air before it will drop for streaming.)
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 you