Ask Matt: Emmys, ‘His Dark Materials,’ ‘C.B. Strike,’ and More

71st Emmy Awards - Show
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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.

Some Pleasant Surprises at the Emmys

Question: As you pointed out in your review, the Emmy show was a chore to watch and deserved its dreadful ratings. But I personally was delighted about many of the winners, in particular the bushel of awards reaped by Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Fleabag. (If people never heard of it, maybe now they’ll watch this brilliant gem.) I’m curious which wins surprised you the most, for better or for worse. — Shep

Matt Roush: This really is Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s year, isn’t it? Critics saw it happen this summer when Fleabag pretty much swept the TCA Awards, and then so many of the Emmys’ comedy categories. I felt she and the show had a shot, but wasn’t convinced the voters would buck Emmy tradition (where shows and stars tend to win repeatedly) and turn away from Veep in its final season. So that was a surprise. I was hoping Netflix’s wrenching miniseries When They See Us, about the exonerated Central Park Five, would do better, although if it was only going to win one prime-time Emmy, I’m glad it was for Jharrel Jerome. That was a great moment. And I also get what an achievement Chernobyl was, so those wins made sense. On the down side, I was bummed that Deadwood: The Movie lost out to yet another segment of Black Mirror (of which Bandersnatch is not a high point). This deprived the ceremony of a chance to honor the great David Milch for his masterwork, and that felt like a lost opportunity. Otherwise, though I might have wished some awards had gone a different way, it’s hard to argue against the great work that was honored. And if Emmy night does nothing more than to drive traffic to Fleabag on Amazon Prime Video, it will have been worth it.

Where Were the Network Shows at the Emmys?

Question: Why don’t the Emmys have categories for the broadcast network shows? I used to watch every year to see who would be named best in their category. Now, almost all the nominees are from HBO, Netflix and streaming sites that can only be seen on cable, satellite or streaming on your computer. Not everyone subscribes to the above mentioned. I think it is grossly unfair, not only to the networks, but to the fans as well. Is this the price we pay for future technology? It’s just not right! — Teri

Matt Roush: It’s not the technology, it’s the content. And there’s so very much of it these days that it has changed the complexion of the Emmys perhaps irreversibly. There’s no doubt these awards, more than most, are experiencing an existential crisis, because of the explosion of platforms and shows within them that have stolen the thunder from more traditional network TV. That’s not likely to change. Which means, much like when the Oscars ignore box-office behemoths in favor of smaller and more personal movies far fewer have seen, you may not feel you have a rooting interest for programs you haven’t been exposed to. But to answer your basic question, networks are not genres, and are not going to get their own category anytime soon. Emmy voters judge shows on their quality, not on where they can be seen or by how many. And as I’ve said numerous times before, Game of Thrones notwithstanding, the Emmys is not a popularity contest. If it were, it would be the People’s Choice Awards.

Question: Each year I say I will not watch the Emmys any more due to regular TV shows being mostly ignored. Do they honestly believe that everyone is only watching cable stations or streaming shows into their home? I just cannot understand their reasoning. — David

Matt Roush: This argument, which I hear all the time, underscores the difficulty the Emmys has in attracting the large audience it used to get. (Airing opposite football on a fall Sunday doesn’t help.) The Emmys will continue to rotate among the broadcast networks for the foreseeable future, despite the irony of it all, because the TV Academy desires the broadest exposure (and the revenue). The producers would probably love it if more popular and mainstream shows would make the cut once in a while. They don’t get a say. The best way to understand the reasoning is that the Emmy voters (who all work in the TV industry) lean toward shows that don’t hew to formula, which works against roughly 80% of network TV. They’re not voting for HBO or Netflix or Amazon, they’re merely trying to acknowledge the highest-quality shows.

Why This Fantasy Sounds Familiar

Question: The new show that’s coming out on HBO, His Dark Materials, sounds just like the movie The Golden Compass. Is this new show based on that movie? I really loved that movie and was waiting for more to come, but read that there wouldn’t be any more movies because of a bit of controversy about the subject matter. Can’t wait to see the new show. — Laurie

Matt Roush: The HBO series, which premieres Nov. 4, isn’t based on the movie, but both are adaptations of the same literary source material: Philip Pullman’s fantasy trilogy, which is titled His Dark Materials, of which The Golden Compass was the first volume. HBO is obviously hoping its version goes a bit longer than the film franchise.

More Strikes Coming to Cinemax

Question: I really enjoyed the Cormoran Strike series of crime novels written by J. K. Rowling (published under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith), which chronicle the cases of private detective Cormoran Strike and his assistant Robin Ellacott. So far, there are four published novels in the series. The fourth, Lethal White, was released in September 2018 and Rowling has plans for at least another 10. Needless to say, I was elated when her first two Strike novels were adapted as a BBC One TV series that aired in the summer of 2017. It’s my understanding that the series was renewed for a second season, based on the third book, Career of Evil, which aired in two episodes in Feb. and March 2018. So a two-part question: Have these made it to U.S. telly yet? And are there going to be any other Cormoran Strike TV episodes that you know of? — Reese

Matt Roush: This series aired on Cinemax as C.B. Strike, combining the first two BBC One seasons, which covered the first three books. The good news is that filming is underway for a new four-episode season, covering the material in Lethal White. Tom Burke and Holliday Grainger reprise their roles of Strike and Robin, and I’d look for this to air in the U.K. and U.S. sometime next year.

Give Break a Break!

Question: Regarding the rant you recently published about Reef Break: I hope it gets renewed. It’s a great summertime escape that’s easy to follow. You never know what’s going to happen. Since when did TV shows have to deal with reality? Most reality shows have nothing to do with reality. Summer shows are meant to be fluff fillers. If this person didn’t like the show, they didn’t have to watch it, instead of requesting that it get canceled. There are a lot of shows out there that I don’t watch and wonder how they can still be on the air — but I would never request them to be canceled, because obviously people are watching it. — DM

Matt Roush: OK, my bad in publishing a mean-spirited (though funny to me) swipe at a harmless piece of fluff. Most of my mail is from viewers begging the networks to save a show, no matter how negligible, and to be honest, I know many viewers are out there wishing the networks would raise the bar a little higher, though maybe not in the lower-stakes summer months. At present, still no word on renewal prospects for Reef Break or Grand Hotel on ABC.

And Finally …

Question: This is not a question, but I did not know where to make my statement. I am so very glad they decided to bring back The Rookie. It is an awesome show and I love Nathan Fillion. He is a great actor, so whoever is responsible for it, thank you. — Sandra

Matt Roush: That would be ABC. And in case you were looking for the show on Tuesdays, where it used to air, The Rookie has now moved to Sundays at 10/9c starting this weekend. It’s a challenging time period, so spread the word. And thanks for giving me the opportunity to end this column on an upbeat note.

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.