Ask Matt: ‘Big Bang’ and ‘Thrones’ Finales, High Road for ‘Arrow,’ Drowning Sorrows Over ‘Whiskey’
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 Friday.
Warm Thoughts for Sheldon Young and Old
Question: I thought The Big Bang Theory‘s finale was good, but not groundbreaking (you could say the same thing about the show as a whole, which isn’t meant as a slight, as I enjoyed the show throughout its run). I’m actually kind of glad the finale didn’t try to do too much and provided a “nice” goodbye to the gang. When I saw that they were airing the season finale of Young Sheldon between the final BBT episode and the retrospective, I was a bit puzzled — until I watched the YS episode. All I can say is the way Young Sheldon tied into both the BBT finale and BBT as a whole was awesome. That last scene had me in tears (even more than Sheldon’s Nobel acceptance speech), even upon rewatching it. Really, Young Sheldon‘s season finale was like part 3 of BBT‘s finale and served as an awesome farewell to Sheldon’s future friends. I hope that Young Sheldon is able to continue to succeed now that it will be kicking off the Thursday night lineup. — Scott
Matt Roush: Note to readers: I’m opening with questions and comments about Big Bang’s finale because I fear its farewell got somewhat lost in the furor over Game of Thrones ending a few nights later. Which is unfortunate, because this series really stuck its landing — arguably, an easier job than bringing a behemoth like Thrones to a conclusion. Big Bang did exactly what it needed to do to send its characters off with warm feelings, and the fadeout of them back home sharing a takeout meal in the living room reminded me what a ritual the show had become for so many of us and how we’re going to miss it. (CBS, too, but that’s another story.) And I agree that the Young Sheldon episode that followed, which gave us glimpses of Sheldon’s future “family” of friends while the young genius contemplated the possibility of a lonely life, was incredibly poignant. And even better, surprising. To Scott’s final point: I doubt Young Sheldon will be the juggernaut that Big Bang was in kicking off the Thursday lineup, but the last two seasons have probably generated enough goodwill that it should do fine. (And the new series following it in the fall, The Unicorn with Walton Goggins, was among the most promising pilot teases I saw during last week’s network Upfronts.)
Saying Goodbye to Friends — and Friends
Question: Now that The Big Bang Theory has ended its 12-year run, I’m curious as to how it compared to the only other similarly big series finale event I’ve personally been witness to: Friends. As I was watching the finale of The Big Bang Theory, it dawned on me that the ending of Friends is the only similar sitcom ending event I’ve been emotionally attached to and made a point to sit down and watch with a group of my own friends. Is there any comparison, such as viewers, that can be made between the two? They were both great in their own right and accomplished so much, even becoming a permanent piece of American pop culture. So it’s probably a bit unfair to compare them. But both were such large events that I am curious as to how the series finales compare to each other. — Beth
Matt Roush: If your comparison point is ratings and viewership, keep in mind that when Friends signed off in 2004, the TV landscape in a pre-streaming era was very different, and network TV commanded a much larger average audience in real-time viewing. So while the Friends total (52.5 million) eclipses the estimated 18 million or so who watched Big Bang’s finale, the CBS sitcom still has bragging rights (per the New York Times) as this year’s most-viewed network entertainment show. In terms of satisfaction, I’d say they’re on par. Neither show overreached, and left us feeling good about having spent time with these memorable characters, which in most regards is the best you can hope for.
What Next for Big Bang?
Question: My big question: I want to know if The Big Bang Theory is going to be on Netflix or Amazon Prime Video since the series is now done? — Aaron
Matt Roush: That’s the mega-million-dollar question, and from what I can tell by surveying some industry analysis, the odds are that The Big Bang Theory could be a centerpiece of WarnerMedia’s upcoming streaming service, due to launch later this year. It’s a crown jewel of the Warner Bros. TV library — along with the aforementioned Friends, which stayed put on Netflix for another year after that company paid dearly ($100 million) for the privilege. The question is whether WarnerMedia will forego what could be very lucrative streaming deals for Big Bang on competing services by keeping it exclusive to their own new platform at launch. It remains to be seen, but whatever happens, we’re talking significant money at stake here. Not that the show isn’t already raking it in with syndication and cable deals.
Thrones’ Thorny Endgame
Question: Looking at all the backlash Game of Thrones is getting — never even watched it myself, but my best friend did — it reminds me of the mess of the end of Lost, another critic-baiting type of smash of the time, though now I barely know anyone who even talks about that show much less remember it. I think we can chalk it up to these shows being in the endless list of super-popular shows that don’t end well. Then there’s The Walking Dead. This happens a lot with most TV shows with a handful of exceptions, but I’m wondering why this seems to happen so often? Arrogance of the people involved? Being too successful at the beginning? Just curious why this pattern happens more often than it should. — Kendall
Matt Roush: I’ll steer you toward my own “Critic’s Notebook” analysis of the various hurdles involved in wrapping up a sprawling monster like Thrones, but to put it in context as simply as possible, when a show is this big — and that goes for Lost, and for The Walking Dead, which is currently operating on fumes — the expectations for a big ending that would be satisfying to all are almost impossible to live up to. With Lost, the answers were never going to be as tantalizing as the myriad mysteries of the island. With Thrones and to a lesser degree with Dead, the allure was always conflict, not resolution, which with this epic fantasy began to feel more and more like a predictable letdown. There was much about the Thrones finale I actually liked, but with the exception of the dragon melting the Iron Throne, little wowed me the way the show (and books) did at their peak. That’s kind of the nature of the beast. (And please spare me charges of “arrogance,” when it comes to the ambition it takes to pull off a show of this magnitude, however imperfectly. Same goes for Lost. If you want to talk arrogance, consider Walking Dead refusing to give up the ghost in its current creatively depleted state.)
A 12-Gun Salute to Arrow
Question: Kudos to Stephen Amell and Emily Bett Rickards for their emotional and satisfying goodbye at the end of Arrow’s 7th season. I love the risks this show took to move away from canon and make it stand on its own. Oliver and Felicity have been the heart of this show despite everything (with Diggle, of course). What is next for Stephen Amell? I know he is contracted for Season 8, but does this mean his contract ends with CW when Arrow ends? Or will he be kind of the father figure coming back when needed for Barry, Kara, etc.? Also, can we give it up for Stephen Amell. What a great captain he has been all these years. Kind, supportive, and generous. No wonder he has amassed such a large social media following. Younger stars could learn from the captain, this is how to use social media correctly. — Dana
Matt Roush: This has always been my impression of Stephen Amell, and I’m glad fans are giving him the respect and affection he deserves as Arrow approaches its endgame. We may want to see how Arrow actually ends before speculating on its star’s future with The CW’s many other (too many?) superhero franchises. But it could sense for Oliver to reappear, come crossover time, if the story calls for it. Though I wouldn’t blame him if he wanted to give the vigilante costume a rest for a while.
Whiskey Went Down Smooth, But Gone Too Soon
Question: I decided to give Whiskey Cavalier a shot and liked it enough to invest in the program each week. I figured a smart, funny, sexy show with a great cast and fantastic locations would be around for a few seasons. WRONG! What are the chances it might get picked up by another network? — Fred, St. Augustine
Matt Roush: Typically, I answer these questions about canceled shows finding a second life with a cautious “never say never, but probably not” response, especially when they’re axed after just one season. But after Netflix came to the rescue of Longmire and (more recently) Lucifer and Designated Survivor (coming June 6), fans have begun to hope against hope that streaming services might save all of their gone-too-soon faves. Which is still more the exception than the rule. But it’s possible that a streaming platform, or maybe even a more conventional cable outlet, might go for something with the sleek, escapist and feel-good appeal of Whiskey Cavalier. At last week’s Upfront press briefing, ABC’s entertainment chief Karey Burke singled out Whiskey as a tough call, and the “last decision we made” at the 11th hour. (It didn’t help that it came from an outside studio, Warner Bros., when ABC now favors in-house product from ABC Studios/Disney and the newly absorbed Fox studio.) Trade reports suggest that Warner Bros. will aggressively shop the show, believing in its international sales appeal. So this may have a better chance of continuing than many, but it’s hardly a guarantee.
Matt Roush: Can’t say for sure, and if someone actually said why, I missed it. In researching some reports on the making of the special, I saw just a few references to Goldie Hawn being unable to attend. May have something to do with her not living in Hollywood, but any number of factors could have kept her away. She was certainly well represented in the classic clips, which seems appropriate. And if anyone needed to be there, it was Lily Tomlin, to recreate some of the most unforgettable characters Laugh-In ever generated. But yes, Goldie was missed.
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.