Ask Matt: Sour Notes in Scheduling ‘Idol’ vs. ‘Voice,’ the Future of ‘Heart’ Minus Lori, a ‘Rookie’ Death
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.
When Singing Shows Drown Each Other Out
Question: Any thoughts on why the suits at NBC and ABC are consistently scheduling The Voice and the new American Idol during the same time period (and sometimes even on the same day)? Logic would dictate that a talent competition show would score more viewers and higher ratings if it wasn’t also competing against a similar show. Is this yet another case of corporate ego overshadowing common sense? — Maurice
Matt Roush: Simply put, yes. And this is all on ABC’s scheduling gurus, opting to air extra episodes of Idol on Mondays for five weeks (through April 15), going head-to-head with The Voice, which has occupied that slot for years and NBC has no reason to budge. It seemed less of an issue when a spring season of Dancing With the Stars would compete with The Voice on Mondays, as the demographic overlap and similarity of program isn’t as noticeable. (Both singing competitions took a hit this week on Monday, but Voice as usual came out on top.) These shows tend to have fairly big footprints on the schedule—when Idol was its peak, Fox couldn’t get enough of it—and ABC seems to have been locked into Mondays for the second edition of Idol, choosing to fill the Bachelor void instead of disrupting one of its comedy nights (Tuesdays or Wednesdays). Whatever the reasoning, it’s a mess.
Will Heart Still Beat Without Lori?
Question: In the wake of the college admissions scandal and Hallmark’s firing of Lori Loughlin, is When Calls the Heart canceled or will they rewrite the script to eliminate the character or find a replacement? What happens to the unaired episodes? I’m sure you are getting a lot of e-mails about this! — Cathy
Matt Roush: Not as many as when Heart killed off its male lead, but yes, fans are concerned. Possibly needlessly. According to all of the reports I’ve seen, Hallmark is not canceling When Calls the Heart, but the show has gone on a creative hiatus—including being pulled from the air for the time being—as they retool the episodes yet to air to react to this unfortunate situation. How exactly it will all play out remains to be seen, but I wouldn’t sweat the details. It’s bound to be a bit awkward when the show returns in whatever altered state the firing of Lori Loughlin entails.
Mourning a Rookie Casualty (Spoiler Alert!)
Question: A Rookie mistake? I’m deeply disappointed that the latest episode of The Rookie (spoiler!) killed off Mercedes Mason’s Captain Andersen in its closing moments. She seemed a great fit for the role and the show, an empathetic leader with a steely edge. I fear The Rookie will be hard-pressed to fill that gap. Although she was notable in earlier roles (then as Mercedes Masöhn), Mason really struck a chord when she dashed into the credits of The Finder, gun in hand, clad in her skimpies and a Geoff-Stults-size white shirt. And her Deputy Marshall Zambada was one of several highlights in that charming but too-brief show’s run. It’s not clear whether her departure from The Rookie was Mason’s choice, a network decision or the producers’ call. It was reported, and seemed apparent in early episodes of The Rookie, that she’d taken up the role shortly after giving birth to her first child. If that contributed to a decision to depart, we can’t argue a parent’s choice. But if she was dropped from the cast, no amount of dramatic impact and anyone-can-die-ness will balance the loss of her character to the ongoing story. — J Norris
Matt Roush: From all I can tell, knowing nothing of Mercedes Mason’s personal situation, this appears to have been purely a creative choice to up the stakes for the title character (Nathan Fillion as John Nolan). As the show’s creator, Alexi Hawley, tweeted: “It definitely has an impact on how he sees and does the job—if anything, he feels a greater responsibility to succeed to honor her memory, and the faith she placed in him.” Hawley also suggested this twist was debated in the writers’ room—“but it ultimately felt like the most dramatic and powerful way to impact our story.” Character deaths in ongoing procedural dramas are never considered lightly, but from at least Hill Street Blues onward have been deemed essential in reflecting the hard reality and life-and-death stakes of the actual job.
Question: Has The Rookie been renewed for a second season? I am really enjoying watch Nathan Fillion as well as the entire cast. I do hope it has been renewed. — Betty
Matt Roush: The Rookie is still waiting for word on a renewal and may not know for sure until the network sets its fall schedule in May. It wasn’t the breakout hit many had expected, given Nathan Fillion’s track record on ABC with Castle, so it’s very much “on the bubble” for now. This Tuesday time period has been a headache for the network for years, and while The Rookie is only doing OK, it could be so much worse. Staying cautiously hopeful on this one.
Saving Our Shows Is All About Business
Question: On the One Day at a Time situation: What people don’t realize about how these canceled-then-saved shows work is that it’s not just about the fight of the fans, but the networks have to have something in it for them. Last Man Standing of course had a HUGE campaign for them by the fans, and while that was a major factor, Fox was going to renew it because it was a mega hit show on Friday nights and they wanted to launch their own Friday night of comedy anyway so they seized the opportunity. Same with Brooklyn Nine-Nine and that despite social media love, that show was never a giant ratings grab, so the fans are lucky that NBC had been wanting to get that show or else it wouldn’t have been rescued. So while fan support is crucial, it isn’t solely responsible for these decisions. — Antwone
Matt Roush: Most people probably realize that these decisions, including the occasional rescue, are all about business. In the case of the comedies you’ve mentioned, both pickups were also helped by the fact that these shows were produced by the studios associated with the networks: Last Man is from 20th Century Fox Television, and Brooklyn Nine-Nine from NBC-Universal. Now that the Fox studio has been absorbed into Disney, that factor is less important to the Fox network (now a separate entity) than the fact that the Tim Allen sitcom is doing very well on Fridays. One Day at a Time is at a disadvantage because it’s from Sony, an independent studio, meaning that unless some new sort of co-production deal is made, there’s no back-end upside for any major network to pick it up. In this case, it would be more about doing the right thing—and we all know how rare that can be.
Why Is Secretary Not a Contender?
Question: The person asking about Bill Pullman’s lack of Emmy love for The Sinner made me immediately think of Madam Secretary. Such a terrific series. Great writing (timely and important) and wonderful performances across the board amongst the series regulars and the guest stars, and every year at Emmy time: zilch. Why? Because it’s a network show? — Michael
Matt Roush: That is no doubt part of it, at a time when only This Is Us gets any serious Emmy attention among broadcast network dramas. (I’ll spare you the broken record about how difficult it is for any show to get traction amid the glut of adventurous streaming, premium and cable series.) But to look at Madam Secretary specifically, while I enjoy it and agree it’s a welcome wish-fulfillment political drama during these absurd and polarized times, it doesn’t call attention to itself with the verbal pizzazz and high style of Aaron Sorkin’s The West Wing, which was an Emmy darling for most of its run. And I sometimes wonder if that show would have fared as well in today’s overstuffed and overheated climate. I’ve always considered Secretary a solid show, and I never miss it. But it would have to really raise its game to get on the Emmy radar.
Question: When is Yellowstone coming back? I love Kevin Costner and I hope they don’t let him die too soon. The series won’t be as good without him. — Unsigned
Matt Roush: Just this week, Paramount Network set the premiere date for the second season for June 19. And I wouldn’t worry about Costner, despite last season’s gloomy prognosis for his character of John Dutton. Without him, there’s no show.
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.