Ask Matt: 'Riverdale' & Luke Perry, Tiffany & the 'Kids,' a 'Terrible' Idea, 'Voice' Staying Power
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.
Paying Homage to Luke Perry
Question: I really enjoyed the Riverdale episode which paid tribute to the late Luke Perry. Although very moving, I was wondering about the guest appearance of Shannen Doherty. Although I have nothing against her, I was wondering how "special" appearances like this are made. Does an actor request to be part of the tribute, or do the producers of a particular show solicit an actor or actress for a part? I'm wondering because it was well-documented that Doherty and Perry purportedly didn't get along during the filming of Beverly Hills 90210, whereas Perry and Jason Priestley continued their friendship off camera. I know of course that the character of Brenda and Dylan were a couple, but so was Dylan and Kelly Taylor, so I just thought it odd that Doherty was the cast member to participate in the tribute show and not another actor, one who was actually friends with Perry. — Sydney
Matt Roush: Whatever differences the cast members of 90210 may have had during the filming of that pop phenom back in the day are best relegated to the dustbin of the gossip archives. (And were spoofed broadly in this summer's BH90210 reboot.) By all accounts, Shannen Doherty signed on to the Fox show and to the Riverdale season opener — reportedly at the producers' behest — largely as a way to honor her former co-star. They're all older and presumably wiser now, and in our own BH90210 coverage, Doherty credited "wisdom and maturity and time" to the new group dynamic on that show. The collective sorrow over the untimely passing of Luke Perry no doubt also helped bring them all together. Why Riverdale reached out to Doherty in particular I can't say, but it worked, and her regard for Perry seems genuine, so why question it now?
Stop Upstaging the Kids!
Question: Talk about disappointment! We were so looking forward to watching the new Kids Say the Darndest Things. We remembered Art Linkletter and Bill Cosby hosting the show many years ago and how much we enjoyed it. The new show features a comedian that I'm sure most people haven't heard of, and she is trying to make the show all about herself. The cute kids are hardly a part of the show! We wanted the show to be about the kids and it wasn't. We watched twice and that was enough for us. This was a big fail, ABC. — Sandy
Matt Roush: Sounds to me like your biggest issue here is that you're not a fan of Tiffany Haddish — and I beg to differ that she's unknown by most of today's audience, as she has exploded on the comedy scene (though maybe not so much on mainstream TV) in recent years and has been pretty hard to avoid. One thing’s for sure: She's not a wallflower, but up to now she has always been an over-the-top crowd-pleaser. It may have been a miscalculation for her to open the series with a stand-up set before bringing the kids on, and I'll concede that her mugging won't be to everyone's taste — but then, neither is that of some of the kids who are so eagerly playing to the camera. The early reaction in my mailbag was very positive about this new incarnation, which is definitely louder and brasher than the Cosby (and certainly Linkletter) versions.
When Will It Be Ivan's Turn?
Question: TV seems to have a thing for Russian monarchs: Peter the Great and now Catherine the Great. How about doing the most interesting Russian monarch, Ivan IV? — John M
Matt Roush: Yeah, what would be so "terrible" (so to speak) about that? This 16th-century ruler does seem overdue for an epic TV treatment. Besides Sergei Eisenstein's classic two-part movie that was filmed in the 1940s — the second part released posthumously in 1958 and a third part scrapped because of Stalin's objections — Ivan is sort of a no-show in the historical drama genre. Until that day comes, we'll have to settle for the great Helen Mirren's performance as Catherine in HBO's deluxe four-part miniseries, starting Monday, Oct. 21.
Still in Good Voice
Question: I just want to say that after all these years, The Voice still feels fresh and funny; I am amazed how the show has been able to survive the departure of most of its original coaches and the formula still works. Nonetheless, Blake Shelton continues to be the soul of the competition, and without him I don't think the concept can survive. Hopefully we won't need to find out anytime soon. Any thoughts? — David
Matt Roush: It has been a while since I checked in on this show — in today's overstuffed landscape, you can't watch everything, and certainly not every season of every competition show (though I'm currently hanging in there with Survivor) — but I agree that it's hard to imagine The Voice without Blake Shelton. I think I'd miss his jokey rapport with Adam Levine, but I'm sure John Legend is a good fit. For those who like the way The Voice works, I'm sure it's as satisfying as ever. My own take is that after the always-entertaining blind auditions, the show loses something with its team format, and the coaches loom so large over the proceedings that it doesn't surprise me that no winner of this show has ever reached the heights of the greatest American Idol contestants during its long-ago peak.
Happy Holidays on Hallmark and Lifetime
Question: I've looked online and seen that Hallmark and Lifetime both have streaming options of their own. I currently don't have them on my cable, but I love the countdown-to-Christmas stuff they do. I wouldn't mind paying for a one-month subscription in December. However, I've seen reviews from last year saying they didn't have the current Christmas movies on their sites. Do you know if the new Christmas movies will be on Hallmark Movies Now or Lifetime Movie Club? — Amy
Matt Roush: My answer to this is complicated by the fact that I can't tell their new from their old movies. They all look the same to me. But I just saw a release from Hallmark about a "Movies & Mistletoe" programming event on the Hallmark Movies Now service, promising 20 "new holiday premieres" on the platform, at least two a week from late October through late December. These appear to be movies that are new to the service, though maybe not brand-new, and distinct from the new movies airing on Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movies & Mysteries during this year's "Countdown to Christmas" and "Miracles of Christmas" series of movies. (Hallmark Movies Now also has a giant library of past titles that will be available from Oct. 25.)
I know even less about Lifetime Movie Club, but this service appears to have themed playlists, and holiday movies will surely be an option — though whether that includes any of the 28 premieres in this year's "It's a Wonderful Lifetime" series (beginning Oct. 25) I can't say. My advice would be to sign up for these services on a free trial in November or December or whenever the holiday spirit moves you and check out what they're offering. Otherwise, there's a blizzard of new movies rolling out every week on their respective cable channels, so that should keep your DVR busy. Besides, I always thought part of the appeal of these cookie-cutter movies was that you could watch them over and over, because it's not like any of them have surprise endings.
Loving Those Evil Children
Question: Regarding the recent discussion of CBS's Evil, I think the title is really one of the best parts of this show. And why aren't we shown the heroine's children a bit more? Or is that coming at some point? — Lyn
Matt Roush: Hoping you watched this week's (Oct. 16) episode, because Kristen's (Katja Herbers) four girls were all over it. While I find myself reacting more like the character of Ben (Aasif Mandvi) when confronted by that quartet of chattering magpies, it is a refreshing and different vibe to see Kristen at home with her loving and needy brood. (I wish she could afford a nanny, because the grandma played by Christine Lahti is a hot mess as a babysitter.) There are a lot of moving parts to Evil, which is very much an ensemble series, so I expect some weeks we’ll see a lot of Kristen’s family and some weeks not at all. (Only four episodes have aired so far, so it’s early days.) I was startled to realize after this week's episode that we didn't see or hear of Michael Emerson's character of Leland Townsend even once, and I didn't really miss him, though he fascinates me in an appalled way. I'm sure some future episodes will focus more on the characters of David (Mike Colter) and even a sidekick like Ben, but the four girls are listed as series regulars, so you'll be seeing more of them throughout the season.
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.