Ask Matt: Meet TV’s New Rascal, Emmys Shun ‘Sugar,’ ‘Instinct,’ ‘Dark Shadows’ and More

Cobie Smulders on phone in Stumptown
ABC/Kailey Schwerman

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.

The Lady Is a Scamp

Question: I LOVE Lucifer! It has a sexy, smart, rascal lead who relishes the freedom to not follow the rules, struggles with evolving ethics and loyalties, but is grounded by a core of integrity. It reminds me of White Collar and Castle, which I adored. Instinct also had that sexy, smart, rascal spirit, but I was sad to see it was canceled. I’m looking for another playful, clever, rascal character. I didn’t see any in TV Guide Magazine‘s Fall Preview. Can you help me find one? Male or female, gay or straight? — Corinna in KY

Matt Roush: The one breakout character of the season who best fits this bill — who I did single out in my own Fall Preview overview of new “unforgettable characters” — is Portland, Oregon’s “scrappy and sexy” PI Dex Parios, played by the terrific Cobie Smulders in ABC’s Stumptown. Dex breaks the rules, can dish it out and take it, and has been likened in this very column to a female Rockford (James Garner, look it up, a classic). She’s wildly appealing, even when her behavior is borderline appalling, and embodies the spirit you seem to be looking for. I hope the show lives up to my very high expectations and finds an audience on Wednesdays. Stumptown is great fun.

The Emmys Low on Sugar

Question: How is it possible that Queen Sugar is left out of Emmy and Golden Globe nominations each year in both the drama and acting categories? This is an excellent show! The cast has repeatedly been outstanding every season and really stretches their acting chops episode after episode. Viewers and critics love This Is Us, and I’m one of them, but I put Queen Sugar right up there in quality and storyline. The show is so emotional that I have a hard time getting through a viewing without welling up with tears at some point. People don’t know what they are missing. (And FYI, I’m a 65-year-old white woman, so this is not an opinion based on race.) This show needs recognition! — Susie, Lexington, KY

Matt Roush: I hear you, and I’ll admit this is one of those shows I admire but have had trouble finding time to keep up with (past seasons are available for streaming on Hulu, and I imagine the recently concluded fourth season will be available there at some point). You’re right that in another time, a sensitive show like this — not to mention one of OWN’s prestige dramas (along with the current, and excellent, David Makes Man), with the backing of Oprah herself — would have been a likely candidate for mainstream awards attention. But as I often find myself replying when this question arises about any number of shows, the volume of shows nowadays makes it nearly impossible for all but a few breakouts to make the cut. (And this year the Drama Series category filled out to eight shows, including at least one very deserving underdog in FX’s Pose.) Queen Sugar does deserve to be noticed, and it’s hardly alone. On the plus side for Queen Sugar‘s creator Ava DuVernay, her excellent Netflix miniseries When They See Us is a real contender, with 16 nominations.

What Did They Just Text?

Question: Why do a vast majority of TV shows feel the need to show (usually) important-to-the-plotline text messages on the phone screen itself that is so zoomed out? Not everyone can afford the oversized LCD TVs that would make the screen bigger and clearer to read, and those of us that have a hard time seeing the screen can’t read the messages. As an example, the show Younger shows the content of the text messages on the TV screen in “word bubbles” in bigger writing without showing the individual phone screen with the smaller and harder-to-read text. This is a great help for the viewers with bad eyes! I seriously doubt anything will change based on one person’s rant, but if there’s any chance of this procedure changing it would be fantastic! — Greg M

Matt Roush: This is one of the more frequent complaints in my mailbag — along with “shows are filmed too dark” and the ever-popular “background music is too loud.” I’m glad you found an example of a show that writes it right, which at least provides a helpful contrast. Many of these pet peeves reflect how so many shows lean on gimmicks like text messages (or dark-to-opaque cinematography or blaring underscoring) without considering how annoying it can be to us Constant Viewers. I hope if producers read this, they’ll check out the way Younger (a delightful show, by the way) presents its texts, and follows suit in a way that doesn’t strain our already overtaxed eyeballs.

Mitigating Factors in Instinct Cancellation?

Question: Do you think the DirecTV/CBS conflict this summer could have contributed to lower ratings for a show like Instinct, partially leading to its cancellation? I know I was unable to watch it for several weeks during the blackout, and eventually moved on from watching CBS shows in general, even after they returned. — Pat

Matt Roush: A network like CBS has a fairly sophisticated research department — even after its legendary chief, David Poltrack, stepped down this year after a half-century (and countless interviews with journalists such as yours truly) — and they would always factor in circumstances like a blackout with one of its distributors, or (because this will come up soon again) football overruns on Sundays. Whatever the network’s reasoning was for canceling Instinct, it won’t satisfy fans. And the way I see it, once a network (especially CBS with so many successful procedurals already) begins marginalizing a show, in this case pushing back Instinct from midseason into summer, the writing was on the wall. Because the show didn’t make a miraculous comeback in its second season — not that anyone should have expected it to, with or without setbacks like the DirecTV debacle — the network simply gave up on it.

The Shadows of Our Past

Question: I’m trying to find a place to watch the whole original Dark Shadows TV series. I did find it on Hulu, but they only had seasons 1-2, 17-21 and 26 (1 episode). I’m wondering where I can watch the original Dark Shadows in order? — Nycole

Matt Roush: I’m not always successful on these searches — quite a bit of TV from that golden era isn’t available for complete streaming (boxed sets of DVD are another story — and the gigantic coffin full of Dark Shadows DVDs I purchased several years ago may not be an option for everyone). But happy news in this case, especially if you’re an Amazon Prime Video subscriber: All 26 seasons of the original Dark Shadows appear to be available on Prime Video. Good luck with it. I attempted a rewatch a while back, but those early seasons are slo-o-o-o-o-w going. Still, it took me back to my youth, when rushing back home to watch the latest adventures of Barnabas, Quentin and the other Collins ghouls was something of a Gothic obsession.

Missing in the Fall

Question: Manifest was one of my favorite shows last season and I read that it was renewed for a second season. But there does not seem to be any info about Season 2 in TV Guide Magazine‘s Returning Favorites issue. Any info? — Rita

Matt Roush: For that, you’ll need to check out our Winter/2020 Preview issue later this year, when we’ll deal with the many midseason shows heading our way. I answered a similar question recently, pointing out that Manifest was on the midseason back burner and not airing in the fall. But now it strikes me that it might be helpful to list the other network shows that were renewed but held to midseason (or sometimes later).

So here goes. Also from NBC: Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Will & Grace, Good Girls, Blindspot, America’s Got Talent: The Champions, Ellen’s Game of Games, Little Big Shots and World of Dance. From CBS: Criminal Minds (for its last season), MacGyver, Man with a Plan, The Amazing Race and Undercover Boss. From ABC: American Idol, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (its final season), Station 19. From Fox: Last Man Standing, Hell’s Kitchen and other Gordon Ramsay shows (with The Orville now moving exclusively to Hulu). From The CW: DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, In the Dark, Roswell, New Mexico and The 100 (its final season). I might have missed a few reality franchises in there, but you get the gist. The TV season never really stops.

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.