Ask Matt: Timing of 'Big Little Lies,' 'Schitt's Creek,' 'Good Fight,' 'Younger' 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.
Does Lies' Summer Run Hurt Its Emmy Chances?
Question: Is it true that Big Little Lies won't be eligible for this year's Emmys but for 2020 instead? If so, why would HBO do this? Fear of Big Little Lies overshadowing the worst season of Game of Thrones? It just doesn't make sense. When you have talent like Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon (just to mention a few), you want them to bring all the attention you can, and let's be honest, no other cast can bring the talent than these ladies are able to display each week. Is HBO expecting that the TV Academy remembers Big Little Lies a year from now? I mean, just after two episodes, they should, but again why run that risk instead of a guaranteed 2019 Emmy awards clean sweep? — David
Matt Roush: It's true that by premiering in June, after the Emmy eligibility cutoff, that Lies will be a factor in next year's, not this year's, Emmy nominations. But don't cry for these talented ladies. They have the mighty marketing muscle of HBO in their corner, and while much time will have passed between the season finale in late July and next year's nomination process, HBO will do everything in its power to keep the show and its stars visible. HBO had a similar issue last year when it premiered its new drama Succession in June and the limited series Sharp Objects in July, and both are expected to do well in the nominations this year. Lies also has Emmy precedent on its side, with eight wins for the first season, so it's not likely to be ignored. You may be right that HBO didn't want Lies to compete against Thrones, which even while polarizing remains an Emmy front-runner, but the timing shouldn't impact something this high-profile.
Falling Into the Creek
Question: My daughter recently turned me on to Schitt's Creek. I binge-watched seasons 1-4 on Netflix and am in season 5 on Pop TV. This is an amazing show and I'm surprised there is not more said about it. So original, and Daniel Levy is a genius! I can't say enough about it! Do you think because it is a Canadian show it does not get as much coverage? — Margaret
Matt Roush: Schitt's Creek is slowly but surely emerging from the ranks of cult TV to pop-culture hit, and if it took a while to happen, and/or for the more mainstream media to notice, it's more a function of the network it's on (Pop), which many people probably don't even know they have, than the country of origin. The turning point probably came when past seasons became available on Netflix, which is when people in my own circle started telling me they'd found it. (Even if we'd beat the drums for it earlier; kind of like Crazy Ex-Girlfriend not gaining traction in the wider world until it began to be exposed on the monster platform that is Netflix, no matter how often critics such as yours truly raved about it.) More and more, it's being taken as seriously as any other top-tier comedy. This year, Schitt's Creek even made it onto the Television Critics Association Awards radar, nominated for outstanding achievement in comedy and individual achievement for its star, Catherine O’Hara. That qualifies as a breakthrough.
Fight Lost in Translation?
Question: It was because of your continued good reviews of The Good Fight that I decided to watch it once it became available for free on regular CBS. (I absolutely refuse to pay for yet another streaming service.) And I really enjoyed the first two episodes! But I've noticed that even though the show is supposed to be an entire hour in length, it is more like the standard 42-ish minutes in order for CBS to stick in lots of commercials during the broadcast. So something (other than the swear words) has been cut out. Have you watched the shortened versions? If so, since you've seen the hour-long episodes, can you tell what is missing? I can't see that anything has been cut, but I was just curious what was left out. — Sarah
Matt Roush: I haven't watched the edited episodes — it's really a function of time; even in summer, I can barely keep up with the new stuff I choose to look at, and haven't the luxury to rewatch anything — but I'm encouraged by your reaction that the episodes are satisfying in their altered form. I looked back to the first episodes of the first season, and they generally run just about five minutes longer than the broadcast norm (47 or 48 minutes, one 52 but another just 44 minutes), so I'd think the trims could be done without affecting the larger narrative too much. The seasons are available on DVD, which if you can get your hands on them would be another way to compare and contrast.
Matt Roush: In recent years, this very busy (and understandably in-demand) actor has been able to juggle continuing roles in Veep and CBS's short-lived Fam with his role as Diane's husband Kurt McVeigh on The Good Fight, so I'd expect that would continue. He's a recurring, not a lead, character on The Good Fight, and I imagine that they'll find a way to work out how to fit his guest appearances on Fight around his more prominent role on the black-ish spinoff. I hope so, anyway.
A Positive Take on Showtime's City
Question: I saw your less-than-flattering review of City on a Hill, and for one of the rare times I disagree with you. I watched the premiere last Sunday and thought it was terrific. Dense. A whole lot going on: character-wise, plot-wise. Thought the acting was solid across the board. Granted, Kevin Bacon's character of the corrupt FBI agent came on a bit strong, maybe over the top, maybe a bit too transparently corrupt and cock-of-the-walk, but the other characters seem to know it and accept it and give the newbies fair warning. And given the setting and time (Whitey Bulger land) I'm sure there were law enforcement guys like that. Bacon seems to be relishing the role, and for me, is making it work. And Aldis Hodge is great as the counterbalance, fighting battles at home and at work with little room to breathe. There is a whole lot going on here, and I thought the opening hour was chockablock with intriguing stuff: the armored car crew, the infighting amongst the DA and law enforcement, Feds and locals. Didn't see the last-second "twist" coming either, so really looking forward to the rest. — Michael E
Matt Roush: I'm glad you like it, and perhaps I'll warm up to it as it continues the first season, which I hope to stick with in its entirety. (I reviewed the show off of the first three episodes, which is all they made available before the premiere. The series got mixed reviews, but mine was probably among the more negative.) I actually enjoyed Kevin Bacon's swaggering performance, almost as much as he seems to, but there was little in this series — except maybe the twist you referred to — that I felt I hadn't seen scores of times before in other crime dramas and movies. City on a Hill seems to relish its clichés, which only grew thicker as I kept watching, and the only part of the Aldis Hodge (ADA Ward) story I found intriguing was his conflict with the neighborhood minister, who sees him as a sellout.
Growing Old Waiting for Younger on DVD
Question: Why is Younger, after so many seasons, not available on DVD in the U.S.? For those of us with limited channels or no streaming services, it's one of those love-to-be-able-to-watch shows. — Paul
Matt Roush: I'll use this opportunity as a reminder that I don't really cover the DVD side of the industry, which has noticeably receded in recent years as streaming and digital downloading became such a prominent part of a show's afterlife. Much as the music industry has moved away from CDs, so has TV marginalized the DVD business — not altogether, but Younger is just one of many contemporary shows that appear to be bypassing the production of discs. It has always been up to the studios to decide when or whether to release their shows in this format — sometimes music rights make it prohibitive as well — and because it's not seen as profitable as it once was (when streaming is a much less costly way to distribute the material), this will probably become even more noticeable in years to come.
This also applies to vintage TV. I'm getting a lot of questions, after bringing the show up recently, about why a long-running prime-time soap like Knots Landing only released its first season on disc. I have to think the sales didn't inspire Lorimar (or whoever now holds the rights) to keep marketing it in DVD. Our best hope is that shows like these, with such a large inventory of episodes, will eventually find their way to streaming services who will offer them in full.
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.