Ask Matt: Potty-Mouths on ‘Designated Survivor,’ ‘Yellowstone,’ ‘City on a Hill,’ Plus ‘MacGyver’ MIA, ‘Walking Dead’ and More

designated survivor kiefer pic

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.

Wash Your Bleeping Mouth Out!

Question: I really enjoyed seasons 1 and 2 of Designated Survivor for its attention to current events and thriller aspects. However, season 3 is very off-putting to me. The foul language and frequent use of the f-bomb are totally uncalled for and unnecessary, especially by the older characters and the president. The quality of the show has gone from A/B to D/F. Very disappointing. — Christina

Matt Roush: Welcome to the world of streaming, where unlike on broadcast networks like ABC (Designated Survivor’s home for its first two seasons), there are no content or standards/practices restrictions. I imagine some would argue that the saltier language this season better reflects the world in which these characters operate, especially during an ethically challenged election campaign, but there’s no question that it’s a shock to see these earnest characters suddenly become potty-mouths. (That said, I loved the addition of Julie White as the no-holds-barred campaign manager. She made the season for me.)

This issue has become a recent fixation in my mailbag, and here are a few more examples.

Question: Why do the writers for most of the shows on the streaming and cable networks feel the need to use the f-word in every other sentence? Just because you can doesn’t mean you need to. It doesn’t add anything to the story, doesn’t seem realistic (at least not in my world), and for many of us it’s a real deterrent. I have quit watching so many shows just for that reason. Most recently, City on a Hill. I’m a huge Kevin Bacon fan and was excited to see he has a new show, but I tried watching and after hearing the f-word no less than a dozen times in the first minute and a half I turned it off. It’s becoming more and more difficult to find anything decent to watch. — Carla

Matt Roush: “Just because you can doesn’t mean you need to” is a universal truth that should be hanging in every writers’ room — as well as wherever it is our relentless Tweeter-in-Chief does his business. But honestly, what did you expect tuning into Showtime for a gritty crime drama on premium cable, whose very mission is to push the envelope? While City on a Hill lays on the swear words almost as much as it does the genre clichés, it at least seems appropriate to that environment. But again, I’ll stress, less would be more, and more effective, and just because you can …

Question: Why is it Yellowstone is so popular — and the f-bombs are so plentiful in every scene? Hearing f**k so often tends to make it comfortable in one’s own vocabulary. I like the friends I have now, who would be offended if I began using such language. I just deleted the show from my “series manager.” (And I was getting invested in the characters and story.) — LH in CT

Matt Roush: This issue was raised frequently during the first season as well, but it doesn’t appear that the language has affected the show’s overall performance, as it seems to be doing just as well in the second season. Why is this happening? More and more, basic cable networks are trying to compete with premium and streaming services by ratcheting up the adult content, sometimes flagrantly. To be honest, it feels to me that Yellowstone has dialed it back a little this year so far — although in any scene dealing with the cowboys or Beth, you need to gird your loins for the worst.

Question: If you have watched Kevin Costner‘s TV series Yellowstone on WGN America, you’re aware of the over-the-top bad language. Although this is a cable network, how can this be allowed? — Doris

Matt Roush: Cable networks aren’t subject to the same content restrictions (or FCC oversight) as the over-the-air broadcast channels, and in recent years — spurred largely by FX, AMC and a handful of others — basic cable channels now regularly trumpet the sorts of words they used to either bleep, mute or otherwise edit out. Advertisers don’t seem to mind. But obviously, a number of viewers don’t see this as an improvement.

Another Designated Survivor Gripe

Question: My husband and I are huge fans of Designated Survivor. We were devastated when we learned it was canceled. Now we are even more devastated to learn it is being revived on Netflix. Not fair! Not everyone has Netflix, can have it, or wants to pay for it! — Gail

Matt Roush: An understandable reaction, but this is the direction the industry is heading, and without Netflix, there wouldn’t be a third season at all. It’s always possible this season (like the others) will be released eventually on DVD if you’re willing to wait. Or find friends with Netflix who are willing to binge along with you.

Question: Why did CBS push MacGyver off the fall schedule? — Christa

Matt Roush: Studying the network’s new Friday lineup should answer that question fairly simply. By holding MacGyver to midseason, this opens up a slot on Friday that lets CBS relaunch its Magnum P.I. reboot behind the similarly Aloha-themed Hawaii Five-0 slot, which moves into MacGyver’s 8/7c time period. This gives CBS more cross-promotional (and potential crossover) possibilities with its Hawaii franchises. You may be right to be concerned for MacGyver‘s long-term future, though. Once CBS sidelines a show to midseason (see Elementary and Life in Pieces, most recently), it’s usually the beginning of the end.

From Whiskey to Dead

Question: With the cancellation of one of my favorite new shows, Whiskey Cavalier, what do you think the chances are of Maggie (Lauren Cohan) coming back on The Walking Dead? With all the killing off of characters on Walking Dead, it might be a refreshing change for one to come back. — Barbara

Matt Roush: Good point, and I can’t imagine that Lauren Cohan won’t return to the role of Maggie at some point, possibly soon. Even during the short run of Whiskey, she said she wasn’t entirely finished with Maggie, but appreciated the break to do something more fun and glamorous. (Who can blame her?) Given the extremely unsatisfying way they abruptly wrote her out of the Walking Dead storyline, they can just as easily abruptly write Maggie back in.

The Son No Longer Rises

Question: I really enjoy the AMC series The Son and was disappointed that AMC didn’t renew it for a third season. Pierce Brosnan is outstanding as Eli McCullough. I love the flashbacks to the young Eli and the flash-forwards to Jeannie McCullough running the company in the 1980s. Is there a chance that another network will pick it up for a season 3? — Debbie

Matt Roush: It seems very unlikely, which I’m sure isn’t a happy thing to hear as the series signs off for good this Saturday. Given the series’ spotty production history, limping to the finish line after being kept off the air two years between its two seasons, this looks to be another casualty in the underappreciated and sadly neglected genre of the once-powerful TV Western.

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.