Ask Matt: ‘NCIS,’ ‘Stumptown’ and Fall TV, ‘Instinct’ and More

Erik Voake/CBS

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.

Welcoming Ziva Back to NCIS

Question: What are your thoughts on Cote de Pablo‘s return to NCIS? Now they’re saying she’ll be back for two more episodes [beyond the premiere episode]! This is such great news for fans and, I think, as well for the show, because Ziva’s presence has been sorely missed. — Lauren

Matt Roush: My take on this is pretty simple: As long as she’s willing to give to the show, whether it’s two more episodes or even longer should it come to that (you never know), the return of Ziva is a gift to NCIS and its fans. Sparking renewed interest in a show’s 17th season is nothing to scoff at.

Something About Stumptown Seems Familiar

Question: Is it just me, or does Stumptown look like just a female Rockford Files rip-off? Lord, these imitations, I swear, lol. — Shanice

Matt Roush: You know what they say about imitation being the sincerest form of whatever, don’t be surprised if Stumptown gets the last laugh if it holds up beyond the very entertaining pilot episode (ABC, Sept. 25). Beyond the fact that this is an adaptation of a comic book, there are worse role models for a show than Rockford, heaven knows, and does that mean TV should no longer attempt scrappy private-eye dramas in which the hero — or here, a heroine wonderfully played by Cobie Smulders — takes a licking and keeps on ticking, to the audience’s delight? Give it a shot if this kind of offbeat action drama is your thing. Stumptown is one of the fall’s more promising pilots, and Smulders is a genuine TV star.

A Fall Preview

Question: With the new TV season starting soon, which shows are on your list of must-watch? — Amy

Matt Roush: Let me use this question as an opportunity to guide you toward TV Guide Magazine‘s classic Fall Preview issue (currently on sale) which runs down the new series premiering on network, cable and streaming in the next months. In my column in that issue, I provide an overview of the new shows — focusing on the characters — that have jumped out at me so far. While I’m sure there are even more discoveries to come, my short list includes Walton Goggins‘ surprisingly charming star turn in the CBS comedy The Unicorn, Cobie Smulders’ afore-mentioned tough gal in Stumptown for ABC, Bradley Whitford pulling a curmudgeonly Mr. Holland in NBC’s delightful Perfect Harmony, and I’m very intrigued by CBS’s big swing in supernatural mystery with Evil, from the creators of The Good Wife. (Michael Emerson oozes evil as that show’s antagonist.) In streaming, there’s a nifty Paul Rudd double act in the cloning fantasy-comedy Living With Yourself on Netflix, Amazon’s star-driven anthology Modern Love, and the Apple TV+ behind-the-scenes TV drama The Morning Show. Premium cable highlights include HBO’s bold reinterpretation of Watchmen and an adaptation of the fantasy His Dark Materials, and Forest Whitaker as a 1960s mob boss in Godfather of Harlem for Epix. And that’s just for starters.

A Rocky Road to Fargo

Question: Will the TV series version of Fargo ever return? — Wilber

Matt Roush: You betcha! It’s been a long wait — the third season of Noah Hawley’s terrific anthology finished airing two years ago in June — but Fargo is always worth the wait. The fourth season begins production this fall for a 2020 premiere, with an impressive cast including Chris Rock, Ben Whishaw, Boardwalk Empires Jack Huston and Gomorrah’s Salvatore Esposito. The new setting will be Kansas City, Mo., in 1950, when Italian and African-American crime syndicates fatefully clash. Can’t wait.

The Wide World of Streaming

Question: First Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime. Then YouTube Red and CBS All Access. And coming up: Disney+, Apple TV+ and HBO Max. You know what would really help? Some type of company to bundle all these services and offer them for a consolidated price. And maybe we can call it … cable? — Joe

Matt Roush: Believe me, you’re not the first to suggest this or make similarly ironic observations about the a la carte nature of the ever-growing array of streaming options. It’s a brave and costly new world out there, and we’re still waiting to see how it will all shake out, because even many consumers who’ve already cut the cable cord will be hard pressed to subscribe to everything.

More Reaction to the Cancellation of Instinct

Question: My wife and I were very disappointed to hear that Instinct was unceremoniously cancelled, leaving us with an unresolved cliffhanger. The show was intelligent and fun, and watching Alan Cumming is always a delight. Was CBS afraid of showing a same-gender couple successfully raising a child next season when Dylan and Andy adopt? — Michelle

Matt Roush: While I understand the disappointment, I’ll steer you toward Alan Cumming’s gracious post on social media referenced in an earlier column, in which he gave the network credit for breaking ground with a lead gay character in a stable marriage as part of an otherwise standard procedural. While it’s fair to criticize the network for what seems a short-sighted business decision, if CBS had been scared of the subject matter, they wouldn’t have gone there in the first place.

Question: With several unanswered questions on the series finale of Instinct, it makes me wonder if CBS plans on continuing it on CBS All Access, like it did with the Good Wife sequel, The Good Fight, which of course I found infuriating with yet another way to money grab. — Pat

Matt Roush: No, this won’t be continuing on the streaming service, which isn’t intended as a dumping ground for canceled shows. The Good Fight was always conceived as a premium offering; if CBS All Access didn’t exist, the show probably wouldn’t, either.

Question: I wanted to take a moment to thank the Powers That Be on their cancellation of Instinct. Their disposal of such a clever show has emphasized how network TV executives no longer program for anyone other than those who feed upon the lowest level of mass banality. But I thank these same execs for leading me to the light of more disposable income now that I’ve cut the cable cord. — Connie

Matt Roush: You’re hardly alone. But good luck finding any outlet that doesn’t occasionally disappoint its viewers by canceling shows too soon if they don’t perform to a certain level. Even the streamers are doing it now, though it’s often more obvious when a network abruptly axes a show right before its finale the way CBS did with Instinct.

And Finally …

Question: Why is Home & Family only on once a week? It used to be on from 10 am until 2 pm Monday through Friday, then it was on Monday thru Friday from 10 am until 12 pm. Now it is only on once a week from 10 am to 12 pm. — Unsigned

Matt Roush: Even TV shows sometimes take summer breaks, and according to Hallmark, Home & Family is on hiatus through August, with first-run episodes airing on Fridays. The series will return to its regularly weekday schedule, Monday through Friday, starting Tuesday, Sept. 3, with the Season 8 premiere at 10am EST/PST.

That’s all for now, and until next Friday because of the Labor Day holiday weekend. 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.