Ask Matt: ‘Madam President’? Also: Michael Weatherly & ‘Bull,’ ‘Blue Bloods,’ a ‘Family’ Resemblance
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.
Hail to This Chief!
Question: I’m so sad to know this is the last season of Madam Secretary. Here’s a thought: A new show (with the same cast) will replace it, called Madam President. Right? Right? Powers that be, please say yes! We just can’t lose Elizabeth! — Carol (Big Téa Leoni Fan)
Matt Roush: I get where you’re coming from, and I’d watch as long as they’d keep making it. But if you’ve noticed the opening title card in the first two episodes, it flips from Madam Secretary to Madam President, so they’re already making that show. And apparently from the network’s point of view, this is an appropriate way to give closure to Elizabeth McCord’s story. Fans would obviously prefer a favorite show to go on forever, and while I’ll be sorry to see this end after only 10 episodes of a sixth season, I’m glad it gets to go out on its own steam. Many shows, especially ones that aren’t blockbuster hits, don’t get that luxury.
Calling Bull on Weatherly
Question: Why does Michael Weatherly still have his own show when it seemed pretty clear that he at the very least created a hostile work environment for Eliza Dushku on Bull? She said he sexually harassed her. So why is he even still working? Everyone else accused is not working. Dushku couldn’t finish the show due to Weatherly’s behavior and received her full salary. Makes him seem guilty and makes the studio guilty of aiding and abetting a likely crime. What makes him so special? He should be held to the same standards as any other actor/man. I will never watch anything with him in it. In fact, it makes me sick. Dushku all the way! — Christian
Matt Roush: This very question came up at this summer’s Television Critics Association press tour, when CBS Entertainment president Kelly Kahl was grilled about why Michael Weatherly faced no consequences or sanctions and why Bull is even still on the air. There’s no answer likely to satisfy critics of Weatherly’s on-set behavior, but Kahl noted that the actor has apologized, shown remorse and has undergone “leadership coaching” in the aftermath. Eliza Dushku’s $9.5 million settlement is rather remarkable (representing what would have been her salary over multiple seasons if she had become a regular, as had been intended), though doesn’t mitigate the seriousness of her allegations. But the bottom line here is the bottom line, and Kahl explained: “To us, it’s a show that does very well. It’s a very popular show. I think more than 10 million people watch every week. Michael is loved by our audience. And even after these allegations came out, people continued to watch. So it’s a popular show that we want to keep on our air, and it’s a very good show as well.” Should viewership slip noticeably, that would be the end of Bull, and in this case, cancellation would be the best (and probably only) revenge.
A Family Resemblance
Question: I think I’m having a case of Deja Vu! I’ve seen the first episodes of Almost Family, and I feel certain that I’ve seen this exact show before, but with British or Australian actors. Is this a remake? — Sharon
Matt Roush: Yes, this is based on an Australian series, Sisters (not to be confused with the superior NBC drama that aired for much of the 1990s). The first — and so far only — season of the Aussie series aired in 2017 and found its way to Netflix a year ago, so that’s why it rings a bell with you. I haven’t checked the original series out, but have to assume it’s better than the one Fox developed (which is putrid) or why would the network have ordered such an unsavory series with such an icky premise?
Families Don’t Always Get Along
Question: Blue Bloods is far and away my favorite TV watch. The loving, very realistic family interactions keep the story line authentic. Lately, the interaction between father and daughter (Erin and Frank) is far more bitter than sweet. After their job-related battles, they no longer “kiss and make up.” Is this an intentional blip in the script or is there a real angst between the two very talented actors? — Bonnie
Matt Roush: It’s called dramatic conflict, and the actors are just doing their job. Good for Blue Bloods to keep stirring the pot 10 seasons into its run and keeping it interesting. A family that always gets along despite work-related strife is neither all that interesting nor very realistic. If somehow you no longer believed there was familial love driving their actions, that might be a problem. But that’s not likely to happen on this show. It’s not Succession.
Annoyed by Carol
Question: I watched the first episode of Carol’s Second Act and decided I cannot watch another one due to the annoying laugh track. Anyone else agree? – James
Matt Roush: I’m sure you’ll find many on your anti-laugh track bandwagon, but as I find myself explaining several times a season (especially when a new crop of multi-camera comedies arrive), this form of theatrical comedy performed in front of a live audience is and has always been beloved by millions, harking back to the glory days of I Love Lucy and (in my own formative years) All in the Family, The Mary Tyler Moore Show and other ’70s classics. As with single-camera sitcoms, there are some that do it better than others, and the real issue here is that the writing on Carol’s Second Act is fairly mediocre, making the audience laughter (almost certainly souped up) seem more noticeably forced. When these shows work, they’re often among the most popular comedies on TV (Big Bang Theory just a recent example). But for another, even less generous take on Carol, read on.
Question: SHAME ON PATRICIA HEATON FOR TAKING ON THIS HORRIBLE, HUMORLESS AND INSIPID comedy??? WHATEVER POSSESSED HER OR KYLE MCLAUGHLIN? ARE THEY SO DESPEARATE FOR MONEY? IT STINKS! — Sue
Matt Roush: When readers submit comments in all caps — WHY, PEOPLE, WHY? — I usually fix it in the editing process. Not this time. (And I laughed that “comedy” was the one word in lower-case. Point taken.) It really gets the message across that Sue HATES this show. I’m not sure Carol’s Second Act is offensive enough to merit such an extreme reaction, but Patricia Heaton’s track record is so solid (with the underrated The Middle and the blockbuster multi-cam hit Everybody Loves Raymond) that expectations may have been too high for her comeback in a grindingly ordinary workplace sitcom.
Question: Do you agree that American Horror Story: 1984 on FX is the worst season ever? The characters are ridiculous, and there is no break in the show from the relentless mayhem and killing. — Linda
Matt Roush: There’s plenty of competition with past seasons, because I’ve felt this anthology franchise has been running on grotesque, sophomoric and not-very-scary fumes for years. But this season surely ranks among the worst from what I’ve seen (and I think I’ve already given up). The beauty of even crappy slasher movies is their brevity. To build a whole season around the genre is both too little and too much.
Question: Is Siren coming back? — Barb
Matt Roush: Yes, Freeform renewed the supernatural mermaid drama for a third season. I’d expect you’ll see new episodes sometime early in 2020.
Matt Roush: A Frequently Asked Question that makes me think CBS should be doing a better job of informing its audience that a number of its ongoing shows are being held back until midseason. Along with MacGyver, CBS shows not currently on the schedule that will return over the next year include the final season of Criminal Minds, plus Man with a Plan, The Amazing Race and Undercover Boss.
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.