Ask Matt: Fall Season’s Winners and Losers, ‘NCIS: LA,’ ‘Madam Secretary,’ Colbert MIA & 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 Friday.
Which New Fall Shows Should Stay or Go?
Question: We’re a month into the new fall broadcast season, and already there are two casualties: NBC’s Bluff City Law and Sunnyside. Did either of these fast fades surprise you? Any others you see coming? And so far, only Fox’s Prodigal Son and the animated Bless the Harts have been given a full season pickup. Which of the new crop of shows do you expect to get the good news soon? — Anita
Matt Roush: First off, a confession. I pay very little attention to ratings anymore, and since it appears no new series this fall qualifies as a breakout hit on the level of a This Is Us, I’m actually more surprised when some shows muddle on without getting the quick ax. I had Sunnyside pegged as the first comedy to fold — not that it was the worst of a mostly mediocre lot, and I liked the idea of a civic-minded show about people seeking citizenship, but it was built around a stubbornly unfunny character (played by Kal Penn), as opposed to the same network’s Perfect Harmony, which pivots on a hilariously curmudgeonly Bradley Whitford. I’m a fan of Jimmy Smits, so had hoped for more from the dreary and preachy Bluff City Law. But no, not surprised. And while it’s really hard to fathom what separates a hit from a flop on network TV anymore, I can’t imagine Fox’s unbearable Almost Family sticking around for the long term, though it gets another week’s reprieve, being bumped by the World Series.
As for shows I’m expecting (or hoping) to get full-season pickups, I figure it’s just a matter of time before ABC gives Stumptown and Emergence the go-ahead, and for CBS to do the same with The Unicorn and Evil. These, along with Prodigal Son, are among my favorites of the fall. The others pretty much fall into the “who knows” or “who cares” category for me.
More McRaney on NCIS: LA!
Question: Can Gerald McRaney become a regular on NCIS: Los Angeles? The October 13 episode was fantastic with him. It reminded me of him as Rick Simon on Simon & Simon. His character and Hetty would be very entertaining. — Marie
Matt Roush: By my count, Gerald McRaney has appeared on NCIS: LA as Retired Navy Admiral Hollace Kilbride at least five times over the years (most of them in 2018), so he’s clearly a favored recurring guest star, and for now, that seems to be the extent of his involvement. There’s no show he doesn’t make better — I’m still thrilled that he finally won an Emmy in 2017 for his guest role as Dr. K on This Is Us — so I imagine he’d be welcomed back any time. But I haven’t seen anything to suggest that the producers are looking to expand the core cast, so you’re probably going to have to settle for enjoying him next time he returns. (I agree, though, that an episode centered on Hollace and Hetty would be great.)
What Happened to Team (and Family) McCord?
Question: I just caught up on the first two episodes of the final season of Madam Secretary, and I feel as though Elizabeth’s team has been broken up! Of the key staff members we got to know through the last 5 seasons, only Blake and Daisy remain. Jay’s departure was explained, but unless I missed it, Matt the speechwriter is gone. (Did I forget an explanation at the end of last season?). Even one of the McCord children is gone, studying overseas. I feel like the transition from Secretary of State to President is missing some key components. Can you shed some light on what happened? Actor’s choice or storyline purposes? — Felicia
Matt Roush: These seem to be mostly creative decisions as Madam Secretary transitions to Madam President in these final episodes. Some of this could have been dictated by budget, but the way it has been reported is that this last season in the White House has become almost a new show, requiring various shake-ups. I was struck in the most recent episode, when Elizabeth was presented several versions of a speech to deliver regarding the ban on autonomous unmanned weapons (or “killer robots”), that we didn’t see a speechwriter at all. There is a sense, including in the way that the tiresome congressional hearings are playing out, that President McCord is more removed from much of her staff than Secretary McCord was, and maybe that’s why we no longer see Matt or someone like him. Regarding the family, only eldest daughter Stevie (Wallis Currie Wood) is a series regular anymore, and that reflects how the First Couple are pretty much living in an empty nest, which is a plot point they’ve addressed. My understanding is that before the series is over, we’ll likely see at least a few of these former supporting characters making appearances. But to be honest, given the way Washington actually works, it was pretty amazing for Secretary McCord’s staff to stay intact as long as it did. (And I still miss Bebe Neuwirth.)
The In Between of It All
Question: I have discovered Mr. Inbetween on FX and think it is great. It seemed to appear out of nowhere. Can you tell me more? Also, Mr. Mercedes is one of my favorites. I stumbled onto it last year. Great cast. Can you tout this to readers so it won’t end? — Judy
Matt Roush: Mr. Inbetween is a curiosity from Australia that FX picked up when it was commissioned for the network’s Australian counterpart. It’s based on a 2005 movie, The Magician, which also starred Scott Ryan in the same role of Ray Shoesmith, a hitman with a heart. It’s currently in a second season with no word yet about a third.
As for Mr. Mercedes, I did tout the show quite frequently during its first season on AT&T’s Audience Network, which was based on the first book in Stephen King‘s celebrated Bill Hodges trilogy. The series threw me a bit when it leapfrogged past book two to adapt the third book for Season 2, but now they’re telling the Finders Keepers storyline in the third season. Brendan Gleeson is terrific as Bill, and the strong supporting cast includes recent Emmy winner Jharrel Jerome (When They See Us) as sidekick Jerome. Can’t say if the show will continue beyond the third season, because only three books were written by King. And maybe “that’s all he wrote” should be the guiding principle here. Although if Audience thinks there’s life left in the character (remains to be seen), you might see more.
Question: Has NBC’s The InBetween been renewed? It sure seems to fit in with some of the new entries this fall (Evil, Emergence). — Tahnee
Matt Roush: I take it you’re referring to the supernatural-meets-procedural aspects of these shows, and you may be right, although I find Evil and Emergence far superior to this summer filler. At the moment, NBC hasn’t announced a pickup or cancellation for The InBetween, and the more time that passes, the odds tend to decrease. Although these days, you really never know.
A No-Show on Late Show
Question: Stephen Colbert seems to have a week’s worth of reruns every other week. Does he have a contract that calls for this, or is he in some sort of rehab? — Paul, Riverside, IL
Matt Roush: Ouch. I don’t begrudge these shows or their stars occasional time off, because the schedule is grueling, although I admit I was also thrown that The Late Show with Stephen Colbert had scheduled time off during a week when a Democratic debate was happening — which is typically a ripe occasion for a live broadcast. This was his first break since the Labor Day hiatus, and if that seems lazy to you, so be it.
Question: In my eyes, you really are the TV Guru! I love black-ish and was wondering about the little boy. He has not been shown this season and I was wondering if you knew why? Also, I love Pennyworth, but it still has not been renewed. Do you think it will be? — Laurie
Matt Roush: Well, thanks for that title. Do I need to grow a beard? With black-ish, I assume you’re talking about the youngest Johnson child, Devante. My experience has been that unless a show’s storyline is all about the baby, whenever a new blessed event graces a large TV household, there comes a time when it’s just easier not to have the infant on camera, even if it looks to us like it’s being neglected. (I used to wonder all the time about Meredith’s often unseen kids on Grey’s Anatomy.) But next week’s Halloween episode of black-ish has a subplot in which Junior is planning for his little brother’s first trick-or-treat experience, so he’ll likely make a re-appearance then.
As for Pennyworth (for the uninitiated, it’s a period-piece adventure, featuring a pre-Batman Alfred, that aired this summer on Epix): It’s always hard to predict, but it would be surprising if anything from the DC universe, however marginal and offbeat, didn’t get a fairly long leash. So stay hopeful.
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.