Ask Matt: ‘Grand Hotel’ and Summer TV, ‘Modern Family,’ ‘Stumptown,’ ‘Big Brother’ & More

ABC/Byron Cohen

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.

What Does the Grand Hotel Cancellation Say for Summer TV?

Question: I was shocked but not surprised that ABC canceled Grand Hotel after one season. The show was the #1 rated scripted summer series in viewers, and the #2 rated scripted summer series in the 18-49 demo! Why would ABC cancel the show even though the show had higher ratings than Blood & Treasure on CBS, and that show got renewed for a second season. Why can’t Hulu (where it streams) save the show since Disney owns both ABC and Hulu? Most of the network shows that premiered this fall debuted below Grand Hotel’s 1.0 18-49 demo rating in L+SD, yet the networks are giving these shows a chance because of time-shifted viewers ratings. Why couldn’t ABC give GH that same chance, but with lower expectations for the summer? I also think that CBS, NBC, and ABC shouldn’t even bother airing scripted shows during the summer anymore, since they always cancel them after one or two seasons in recent years (the last time ABC had hit scripted summer shows were Rookie Blue and Mistresses). One exception: BH90210, which dropped in the ratings after its highly rated premiere episode, but had a really good time-shifted ratings boost. If all the broadcast networks are canceling their scripted summer series after too-brief runs and not lowering their expectations for the summer, then they are better off just airing reality and game shows! — Chris

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Matt Roush: You obviously study ratings in far greater detail than I have time or care to, so thanks for that, but a network’s decisions on which shows to keep or to cancel are likely more complicated than a mere numbers game anymore. For a heavily serialized show like Grand Hotel, if it doesn’t pop the way they’d hoped from the start, the likelihood of it building steam in future seasons is diminished. (I’m not saying that’s the reason, just one possible reason.) Blood & Treasure has continuing story arcs as well, but can be more easily enjoyed as a weekly global adventure series, so seems to fit better in the CBS playbook. Your point about the value of scripted originals on the networks during the summer is a good one, and I’ve wondered about that as well. Even if they’re not intended that way, these summer shows often feel like burn-offs, escapist larks at best, with little nutritional value in most cases. And if the networks don’t care about them, why should we? Although it’s a bit soul-crushing to think of giving up three months of the year to a menu consisting of nothing but reality and game shows (some, as always, better than others).

Question: ABC must be kidding me that they canceled Grand Hotel. Can we email (executive producer) Eva Longoria to pursue another network? — Fred

Matt Roush: You can try. Unfortunately, I can’t be your middleman. And the odds are against it, since the show was produced in partnership with ABC, which would require some tricky negotiations to continue, even if there was a buyer. A parting thought: For those who’d like to spend more time in this world, Netflix is streaming three seasons of Gran Hotel, the Spanish series that inspired it. I hear it’s fun.

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A Missed Opportunity for Modern Family?

Question: As excited as I am for ABC’s “Cast from the Past Week” of stunt casting all next week, especially the reunions of Girlfriends (on black-ish) and The Drew Carey Show (on American Housewife). I was shocked that they missed a perfect opportunity to have one with Modern Family and Ed O’Neill‘s true classic show Married with Children reuniting the Bundys. This seems like a huge oversight and something that many fans have been waiting for since Modern Family began. I mean, after all these years Married still seems to have a huge audience with the resurgence of it on reruns and Hulu. I don’t know if this was on purpose or not, but either way, what a missed opportunity to bring back one of TV’s best sitcom casts ever. — Bart

Matt Roush: Most but not all ABC shows are participating in this stunt, and while you’re right that it might have been fun to see the former Al Bundy share the screen with Peg, Kelly and Bud, it could be that beyond the logistics of corralling the Married actors — Katey Sagal is currently employed on The Conners in a recurring role — there may be a more philosophical reason why they passed. Because this is Modern Family‘s final year, each episode likely feels more significant to everyone involved (next week’s episode involves each of the Dunphys taking care of Haley’s twins). And to pull focus this way with “very special” guest stars just might not have been in their playbook. (Personally, I always kind of hoped that the show would bring on Tom Cavanagh for a guest shot, reviving those lovable Ed vibes with Julie Bowen.) But yes, I agree that it would have been a great fit for a week of programming that I’m surprised is taking place before what we used to think of as the November “sweeps.”

Not Another Love Triangle, Please!

Question: Stumptown has me really excited, but I’m worried because I sense a love triangle coming, and I hate love triangles. Any idea if they’re going to keep playing around with Dex/Grey and Dex/Hoffman or if they’re going to pick one pairing and stick with it? — Rosalie

Matt Roush: This question was submitted before Stumptown‘s second episode aired this week, which may have put these fears to rest. Among the many refreshing things about this enjoyable series is how it has so quickly established, through Wednesday’s flashbacks, a male/female relationship in Dex (Cobie Smulders) and Grey (Jake Johnson) that is about friendship and mutual support, not a will-they/won’t-they vibe. Because these characters already went there, after their first drunken meet-cute six years ago, ultimately deciding it would be healthier just to duck that bullet going forward. So while Dex’s relationship with Detective Hoffman (Michael Ealy) is still in flux, if she’s going to get busy with anyone, it’s him. Which doesn’t rule out future romantic complications, obviously. Although Stumptown doesn’t seem like the kind of show that’s going to lean on sentimental rom-com clichés. Dex isn’t that kind of girl.

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Oh ‘Brother,’ Take Two

Question: I have a different take from Loretta’s comments on the Big Brother 21st-season finale. I think it was totally fair game to call out the racism and sexism of Michie (and other houseguests) in the finale. The problem was that most of the behaviors for which they were called out weren’t actually shown in the CBS prime-time airings of the show throughout the summer. So this meant a majority of viewers were probably confused as to what hateful words were uttered by any of the houseguests, unless you had access to the Live Feeds (via paid subscription) or Big Brother After Dark. In the eyes of most at-home viewers, these allegations had no context. Since clearly the producers had planned beforehand for Julie to broach this topic, couldn’t they have shown a short (bleeped-out) clip-reel to precede Julie’s questioning? (I remember they famously did this at the Big Brother All-Stars reunion, in regard to James mocking Janelle’s weight, and Mike Boogie sexually shaming Erika). At least then, the criticism from David, Ovi, and Kemi would have made more sense to the audience. – Janet

Matt Roush: This seems a fair point to explain why some Big Brother fans were so upset by the confrontations in the finale. But it also underscores and reinforces the criticism CBS took for not calling out the contestants’ worst behaviors during the primetime shows as the season progressed. Saving it all for the finale was too little too late and seems to have left just about everyone unsatisfied.

Emmy Clarifications

Question: I just found out through this week’s Ask Matt that Fleabag is/was a one-season show. If that’s the case, why wasn’t it nominated in the limited series category? I mean, I’m kind of glad it wasn’t, because I wished for Michelle Williams to win for Fosse/Verdon with all my heart. Speaking of limited series, when American Horror Story first aired, the reasoning behind it being called a limited series was because the actors would only be playing the characters for one season, much like an anthology show. Now that the show is almost 10 years old and many of the characters have been recurring through other seasons, wouldn’t that negate the first-season Emmy wins, or at least indicate that the show is far from a limited series? Thanks for all you do, Matt! — Mark W

Matt Roush: You’re welcome. And I’m sorry if I gave an inaccurate impression, but Fleabag did produce two distinct seasons — although with only 12 episodes total, fewer than most network comedies do in a single year. So it counts as a comedy, not limited, series. As for American Horror Story: the Emmy board agrees with your argument, and this year, American Horror Story was removed from the limited-series field and competed against regular drama series, which may account for its modest showing. Big Little Lies will be in the same situation next year, no longer a “limited” series since it continued the story into a second season. But this doesn’t wipe out these shows’ previous wins in the limited-series categories.

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And Finally…

Question: How can Yellowstone not get nominated for any Emmys? — Greg

Matt Roush: Maybe next year, when Game of Thrones is no longer around to dominate so many categories, smaller shows on smaller outlets like Paramount Network will get more of a chance. The stock answer is that, even with an Oscar-winning star like Kevin Costner as a beacon, there are just way too many shows competing for a finite and small number of slots. It’s harder than ever to break through.

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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.