Ask Matt: ‘Emergence,’ ‘Evil,’ ‘Jeopardy,’ ‘Stumptown’ & More
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 Answers Aren’t the Point of Emergence
Question: ABC’s Emergence is by far my pick for the fall’s best new network drama. But at 55 years of age and with at least a couple of decades of watching these sorts of shows, I do not really care about the resolution. I just want to enjoy the plot and characters. Whatever the final “answer” the writers come up with will almost certainly disappoint! (Aliens? Evil scientists? Mutant human beings? Who cares?) So they just need to keep up the quality of storytelling for a couple of seasons and I’m good! — Mike
Matt Roush: Good point, and this expresses my initial reservation about the show as well. We’ve been burned so many times by shows that string out a mystery for far too long, either inevitably disappointing us with a trite conclusion or (worst case) being yanked off the air before even getting there. With the terrific Allison Tolman (as sheriff Jo) leading a strong cast through the muddle over the plane crash and what makes little Piper tick, there’s plenty here to sustain a series if it doesn’t get too bogged down in conspiracies and exposition and the like. It seems like they’re moving pretty quickly to get to the origin of Piper, especially with the introduction this week of Terry O’Quinn‘s character, so maybe you’ll get your wish.
What’s in an Evil Name?
Question: I am giving Evil a chance because 1) your review was encouraging; 2) CBS has created some great dramas when it goes beyond the procedural model (The Good Wife, Person of Interest); and 3) I’ll watch anything with Michael Emerson. That being said, what moron came up with the title of the show? The show plays like a cross between The X-Files and a panel discussion on EWTN, and I can see some interesting possibilities. But that title! What message is that trying to send? – Rick
Matt Roush: I remember people taking issue with the title of The Good Wife as well (also from Robert and Michelle King), but they eventually got used to it. This is such an intriguing series, with no two episodes quite the same — which is a good thing — and the way I look at it is the title is taking a long view of the nature of evil in its many manifestations: not just demonic, but also in society at large, in social media — or, as we saw this week, even in a hacked digital assistant. (Some fun and playful ambiguity in that non-resolution.) The series is clearly designed to generate debate between matters of faith and the supernatural and science and pathology, with some creepy night terrors and drug-enhanced visions thrown in for good measure. I feel like I’m still in the process of figuring out just what Evil is, and the fact that it can’t be pigeonholed or the title easily explained is a plus in my book. (Alternate titles: God Unfriended Us? The Why Files?)
Acknowledging the Long History of Jeopardy!
Question: I’m a big Jeopardy! fan, and certainly a fan of Alex Trebek, but why do they always seem to forget that there was a Jeopardy! before Alex Trebek? It’s been around a lot longer than 36 years, with Art Fleming the excellent quizmaster before Alex Trebek. – Barbara
Matt Roush: This is true, though in my faithful watching of Jeopardy! over the years, I have often heard Alex and the contestants (especially those with a family history of appearing on the show) acknowledging the great Art Fleming and the previous versions. There wouldn’t be a Jeopardy! without it. But as memorable as the daytime version was (and to a lesser degree the earlier syndicated spinoffs), the current iteration is the one that will go down in the history books for its longevity and sustained excellence. And here’s to Alex Trebek for staying in the game for as long as he feels capable. We wish him all the best.
More Stumptown Love
Question: I just read your review of ABC’s Stumptown and I wanted to say thank you! I especially loved your line, “It’s not important TV but it’s important for TV” because you are correct that it’s enjoyable and doesn’t feel at all like something we’ve seen before. I’ve been getting a little tired of the “been there, seen that” feeling with some procedurals. I had only seen Cobie Smulders as Agent Hill in the Marvel-verse, so I am really happy she gets a chance to shine on her own and carry a show. — Gwen
Matt Roush: Thanks for that feedback. I’m always intrigued which new shows will spark the most interest in my mailbag — hardly a scientific measurement, but it does reflect a certain degree of engagement — and by that metric, Stumptown is this season’s winner so far.
Giving Credit(s) Where It’s Due
Question: Too bad that there is not an Emmy category for opening credits. I think that AMC’s Lodge 49 is not only a charmingly quirky show, but their opening credits artwork and music knock it out of the park. This week’s mariachi rendition of the theme song was absolutely perfect. Kudos to everyone associated with the show. It is a gem! — LAF
Matt Roush: Actually, there is an Emmy category for this. (There’s a category for just about everything, except distinguishing broadcast from cable/streaming shows, to some people’s chagrin.) It’s called Outstanding Main Title Design, and this year it went to Game of Thrones (a second win for redesigned titles). There’s also a category for Main Title Theme Music (this year’s went, quite appropriately, to HBO’s Succession.) I agree the Lodge 49 title sequence is a good one, and so is that of its AMC companion piece, The Terror: Infamy (both end their seasons on Monday). Everything about Lodge 49 is so wildly original and offbeat it feels like a small miracle.
You Break It, We Don’t Buy It!
Question: I find it unbelievable when a character in a TV show breaks a glass against a wall in their own place or throws their cell phone and breaks it or really trashes their own place. It makes no sense in that they would then have to clean up the mess. I would never consider doing that in my own house, and some of the things they break are very expensive to replace. Especially in a drama. can they keep it real? Your thoughts? — Bob in Portland
Matt Roush: So many TV pet peeves, and this is absolutely one of them. I’ll take it a step further. Whenever I see someone get bad news in their office (work or home), I count to three in hopes they won’t swipe everything off the top of their desk in a fit of messy rage. I am almost always disappointed in that regard. Who are these people? It would be more realistic if they slammed their palms on the desk (as I have done) in an expression of pique and then cried “OW!” (as I have done) and moved on (as I have done). But that probably wouldn’t make “good TV.”
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.