Ask Matt: Emmy Reactions (‘Good Place,’ ‘SNL,’ ‘Fosse/Verdon’), Snubbing Broadcast TV, ‘Last Man’ Update
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 theform at the end of the column) and follow me on Twitter. Look for Ask Matt columns on most Tuesdays and Fridays.
[Editor’s note: As you’d expect, the mailbag was dominated by early reactions to Tuesday’s announcement of this year’s Emmy nominations, so much of today’s column will be devoted to that.]
Dammit, Janet, We Love You!
Question: She was robbed! The fact that D’Arcy Carden did not get nominated for a Supporting Comedy Actress Emmy for the “Janet(s)” episode of The Good Place is an absolute crime. Add to that that this particular show took a year to shoot and that she not only played all the characters in the series, but even one of the characters playing another one of the characters (it makes your head spin just thinking about it!) is just more evidence that the TV Academy isn’t paying attention. At least that episode was nominated for writing, but it wouldn’t have worked without Carden’s abilities, and she deserved not only the nomination, but the statue as well. Janet, who knows everything in the universe, would certainly agree! — Aaron F
Matt Roush: And who am I to argue? I imagine the organizers of the Emmy nominations announcement earlier this week were also surprised, as they chose D’Arcy Carden to be one of the two presenters—and it’s often a nice moment when one of them gets a nod. (But the Outstanding Comedy and Writing nominations are hardly small potatoes, and bravo to Ted Danson and Maya “the Judge” Rudolph in the guest category.) There’s no question Carden gave a virtuoso performance in that episode, and is a delight in all of the others. But the supporting category is so crowded this year that eight nominees qualified (suggesting very close voting), and with multiple nominees from Fleabag and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, plus a first-time nod for Barry’s Sarah Goldberg and one last chance for Veep’s Anna Chlumsky, there was even only one slot for a Saturday Night Live performer this year (the inimitable Kate McKinnon). A few of the choices are a bit suspect—and may have more to do with name recognition or the notoriety of a particular program than the actual performance—but what it often boils down to is that I imagine many of the voting members just didn’t see this brilliant episode. Which is a shame, and an unfortunate blind spot.
Why SNL Players Compete Against Comedy Series Stars
Question: After seeing this year’s Emmy nominations, I have a question about how the category for a show is determined. I don’t usually follow things like the Emmys that closely. So maybe this question is more common knowledge for some. But I saw that Kate McKinnon was nominated for supporting actress in a comedy for Saturday Night Live. But Saturday Night Live doesn’t seem like it should be in the same category as traditional scripted comedies. Saturday Night Live itself is nominated in the variety-sketch series category. So how is it that the cast members of Saturday Night Live can be nominated in the comedy category when the show itself is considered a sketch variety show? It seems like an actress in a traditional scripted comedy should have had Kate McKinnon’s spot in the supporting actress in a comedy category, not that her work on SNL isn’t great. Is it just that there is not a category for individual actors and actresses for sketch variety shows and so those actors get considered in the closest related category? If I had my way, I’d have nominated D’Arcy Carden from The Good Place instead. On a side note, I’m happy to see Mandy Moore get some recognition for her work on This Is Us! — Beth
Matt Roush: This issue comes up frequently, and it probably bears repeating. There once was an Emmy category designated for Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Series, but it was retired in 2008. And while Saturday Night Live performers (including Tina Fey, Will Ferrell, Mike Myers, Phil Hartman and Molly Shannon) were frequently nominated, the category was a mishmash of a grab-bag that included awards-show hosts and musical performers in concert specials, and the last time an SNL player won in that category was Dana Carvey back in 1993.
Since the category was dropped, SNL players are often considered in the supporting category, and while it’s obviously apples and oranges when choosing between someone who excels in live sketch comedy and someone who plays an ongoing character in an episodic series, I’m OK with acknowledging great talent who are part of a regular comedy ensemble. This year, Kate McKinnon is the only SNL regular nominated, which is a much quieter showing than usual. Last year, Alec Baldwin (who won before), Kenan Thompson, Aidy Bryant, Leslie Jones and McKinnon (who has won twice in the category) were in the running. (But as usual, SNL cleans up in the guest actor/actress categories, with six guest nominees: Matt Damon, Robert De Niro, John Mulaney, Adam Sandler, Sandra Oh and Emma Thompson).
Who Will Win Doesn’t Always Mean They Should
Question: Why did you change your mind in your most recent Emmy analysis about who you want to win for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series, choosing Patricia Arquette for Escape at Dannemora over Michelle Williams for Fosse/Verdon? Why aren’t you rooting for Michelle anymore? And why do you want Mahershala Ali to win for Outstanding Actor for Limited Series for True Detective when that limited series has been terrible after the show’s first season? — Chris B
Matt Roush: Let’s make a distinction between predictions and preferences. When it gets closer to Emmy time, I’ll write my usual who will/who should win analysis, separating my predictions about who is most likely to win from who I would prefer to win. (Sometimes they’re the same, but not always.) I’m still wavering in my thoughts about Patricia Arquette vs. Michelle Williams, a very tough call—and Amy Adams in Sharp Objects is no slouch, either. Right now, it seems to me that the remarkable transformation Arquette made to play that dowdy, unhappy, restless collaborator in the prison break feels like classic awards bait—though the same can be said for Williams’ transcendent work, reclaiming the legend of Gwen Verdon, which to me (but perhaps not to Emmy voters) was the TV performance of the year. Again, it’s an impossible choice.
As for Mahershala Ali and True Detective: I felt the third season was a return to form after a terrible second round, and even if we agree to disagree on that, the performance of double Oscar winner Ali was undeniably terrific, playing a complex character over multiple time frames. That again feels like the kind of showy work that is a slam-dunk at awards time, though the competition is very stiff, and I were casting my own vote, I’d go for Jharrel Jerome, who was so heartbreaking as a young man trapped in the legal system in Netflix’s When They See Us.
Should Network TV Get Its Own Emmys?
Question: In your recent wish list for Emmy Nominations, out of around 50 different mentions, only 3 were for broadcast network shows: The Big Bang Theory, The Good Doctor and Freddie Highmore. And you repeatedly stated that deserving network shows and performers were likely to be shut out by cable/streaming competitors. So explain again why there isn’t a need for two separate awards shows: one for the basic networks, and one for cable shows/streaming services. — Maurice
Matt Roush: Sorry, not budging. (And I’m pretty sure this is becoming an annual argument.) Playing devil’s advocate, what would you call the awards show for broadcast shows only: The Also-Rans? The Consolation Emmys? Wby don’t they deserve to compete with the very best on other platforms? To me, it makes a statement when the precious few shows and stars (and writers, directors, designers, etc.) from broadcast shows make the cut that somehow they’ve bucked the odds to get the attention of the TV Academy. I agree that it isn’t fair that some very good work on network TV is getting overlooked, but in the bigger picture, the solution to this paradox is for the networks to tell bolder, riskier stories. Even then, it might not matter to an industry whose members seem to gravitate toward premium cable and streaming. But a show like This Is Us is evidence that if a network series touches a chord in the culture, breaking through the insane clutter that is now the TV landscape, Emmy nominations (and even a win now and then) may follow.
Clarifying Last Man’s Standing
Question: I am very confused about your recent remark when you said you did not know when Last Man Standing would return for Season 8. Fox confirmed weeks ago it would be on Thursday nights at 8/7c next year after the football season. The stars of the show tweeted about it. Please correct this information because many people are very confused. Some think the show is canceled again. I also know they begin taping the show next Month on August 13th. — Lori
Matt Roush: I stand (so to speak) corrected. And newly informed. To be fair, unless I missed it, Fox has not issued a specific release about its midseason plans and it hasn’t been reported in the entertainment trades. (Fan sites are likely another matter.) I apparently missed the tweets from the stars, which for me is not an uncommon occurrence. But late or not to the party, this midseason scheduling makes perfect sense. With Fridays no longer available on Fox, Thursdays after football is probably the best place for the network to attempt a comedy block (albeit competing with sitcoms on CBS and NBC on the same night). And the bottom line is to reinforce the fact that while Last Man Standing will be MIA in the fall, it most definitely is not canceled.
Question: Will there be another Endeavour series? — Berlee
Matt Roush: Happily, yes. The Inspector Morse prequel (which airs on PBS as part of Masterpiece Mystery!) was renewed for a seventh season, which reportedly will move forward in time to 1970.
Question: Why did they cancel The Enemy Within? It is one of the best dramas on TV this year. Do you think USA or Fox might pick it up and continue it? — Linda
Matt Roush: The “why,” as usual, is a matter of ratings. The series didn’t hold the Voice audience that has launched other dramas more successfully, and for a serialized thriller, not growing week to week is pretty much a death knell. It’s very unlikely it will emerge elsewhere. USA would be the most likely candidate, as it’s part of the NBC-Universal family and the show came from their studio. (And as we’ve seen with A.P. Bio, which was just rescued from cancellation for NBC-Universal’s upcoming streaming service, sometimes dead isn’t always dead.) But even that seems a very long shot.
That’s all for now—and be aware that for much of the rest of the summer, this column will post less regularly. 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.