Ask Matt: A New ‘Revenge,’ the ‘NCIS: New Orleans’ Death, ‘Little Mermaid,’Dancing’ Malaise & 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.
Do We Need More Revenge?
Question: What do you think of the news of ABC developing a reboot of Revenge? I can’t wrap my head around this. I watched every episode of the original series, long after it had gotten stale, mostly because Emily VanCamp was such a compelling lead for it. But that show ran out of gas creatively somewhere around season two and in hindsight would have been much better served as a single-season miniseries. I guess we’ll see how this develops, but at first glance I can’t get excited about a sequel series to something that already overstayed its welcome. — Jake
Matt Roush: I can’t argue with you about Revenge running out of steam — I think I bailed midway through the second season — but I’ll keep an open mind about the proposed reboot, which according to reports would be an entirely new story built around a different character, this time Latinx, who has her own reasons for seeking payback against a big-bad nemesis. The premise of Revenge was always strong, even when the execution wasn’t, and I’d be more excited if ABC were to announce that Revenge was coming back as an anthology, granting your wish of single-season and self-contained revenge melodramas that would pose less of a risk of spinning their wheels. Another intriguing element of a Revenge reboot (a trend that rarely gets my pulse racing) is that the story will reportedly feature a character from the original series to help jump-start the plot — and could that be anyone but Nolan Ross (Gabriel Mann)?
A Death in New Orleans
Question: Often TV Guide gives viewers some kind of warning of a shift in a favorite show’s cast, so I’m still trying to wrap my head around the ambush and shocking subsequent death of Special Agent Christopher LaSalle (Lucas Black) on NCIS: New Orleans. He was — to me, at least — a fundamental part of the show, and his absence will be keenly felt by fans and the other characters, especially by newly minted field agent Sebastian Lund (Rob Kerkovich). What gives about Lucas Black’s departure? — David S
Question: Why in the world did they kill off LaSalle?? Did he want out? He was my favorite character after Scott Bakula! I swear, there is no rhyme or reason for some of the decisions networks make! — Kathy B
Matt Roush: Not being a fan of spoilers, I’m actually thrilled that NCIS: New Orleans was able to keep this tragic twist a surprise for viewers, not tipping its hand or teasing a “who will die” storyline. By all accounts, including a video posted by Lucas Black and supportive cast members, this decision was a personal one, that after more than five seasons of filming on location for much of the year, the actor decided to re-prioritize his life to spend more time with his family. (This work/life balance conflict also explains why Scott Caan is often absent from Hawaii Five-0, which I get asked about all the time.) There are also reports speculating that Black could return to the Fast & Furious movie franchise now that his schedule has opened up. This sort of departure is not unheard of on shows that film on location, which is why NCIS: Nola has an especially busy revolving door. But there’s no doubt this is a blow for the show, as LaSalle was one of the more appealing characters.
Did Mermaid Sink or Swim?
Question: Here is my quick assessment of Tuesday’s Little Mermaid Live! on ABC. Of course, the animated portions were highly engaging and fun to watch again. It is among my favorite Disney cartoons ever! The live production was mostly well produced. But I must admit Sebastian’s costume worn by Shaggy looked incomplete, kind of like a half-baked Michael Jackson or Eddie Murphy red-leather suit from the ’80s! Poor Shaggy! It was also very unprofessional when John Stamos as the baker went out of character to announce he wished he’d played the prince. I don’t blame him for wishing he could because the baker character was awful. Not really his fault, though. The Ariel and Eric were amazing! Both gorgeous and flawless vocals. Queen Latifah was fantastic like she always has been. She possesses extremely strong vocals! Your thoughts? — Fred
Matt Roush: We’re on the same page about Shaggy’s laughable costume, although I’ve read that when they tried to outfit him with crab claws, it looked even sillier. But I was a lot less generous to the overall production in my review than you were. The special did well for ABC, and as a promotion for next week’s launch of Disney+ it was probably genius, but with the possible exception of watching Queen Latifah rip through Ursula’s numbers, I kept wishing they’d just show the movie again and stop interrupting with these bland, cheesy production numbers. The hybrid format intrigued me on paper, but now that I’ve seen it in action, I hope next time Disney will commit to a proper live production. It works on Broadway (mostly).
Can Dancing with the Stars Be Fixed?
Question: Maybe Pigs can Fly. Maybe Hades will Freeze Over. And maybe, just maybe (Heaven forbid), lead-foot Sean Spicer, arguably the worst dancer in the history of Dancing with the Stars, will actually make it to the finals…and even (shudder!) win. And should that unthinkable ballroom travesty occur, it will shatter the festering pretense that the show is still about celebrities learning to dance. What once was an honorable dance competition has morphed into a partisan popularity contest and laughable spectacle. The cracks appeared with last season’s controversial win by radio personality Bobby Bones, which quickly built up a crescendo of criticism. Producers took a pause to reevaluate the show — but even this season’s twist of allowing the judges to vote on the bottom two can’t control America’s vote. (Sailor’s out? Sean’s still clumping around? I’d laugh if I wasn’t so disgusted.). And doing viewer voting in real time, and only through apps or from the DWTS website is shutting out some viewers from voting, which is skewing the results.
Producers can’t control America’s vote. But there are things they could do to help restore the show’s withering-away reputation. Have the next season feature only past contestants who were surprisingly and shockingly voted off prematurely (it began on season 5 with Sabrina Bryan), and only the judges vote. No viewer voting. Ratings for such a show would reveal whether viewers actually want to watch a genuine dance competition, or are tuning in to gawk at the embarrassing wannabes providing comic relief. And speaking of comic relief…it’s time producers stopped putting said personalities on the show. When American Idol rebooted itself, they wisely stopped putting obviously bad singers into the auditions, even though doing so guarantees social media buzz, water cooler conversation, and umpteen articles and analysis in pop culture periodicals and on entertainment websites. Refraining from this temptation has helped restore Idol‘s legitimacy and legacy. Dancing with the Stars needs to do the same, before the show quicksteps down in flames and ratings. — Maurice
Matt Roush: As you can imagine, this is a favorite topic in my mailbag, especially after this week’s elimination of the delightful Kate Flannery while lightning-rod Sean Spicer carries on, having yet to make it into the bottom two (at which point, see ya). Maurice makes many good points, and eloquently, and echoes complaints since the beginning of the season about the way voting is being handled. But when has Dancing with the Stars not been a popularity as well as dancing contest? Even when it works against the show, it’s part of Dancing’s appeal, though when you inject politics and “anti-Hollywood” bias into the proceedings, it sours it for all. And that’s the producers’ fault. (Even Tom Bergeron lamented this casting before the season began, hoping for a cycle that could be spared this sort of controversy during such polarized times.)
I don’t think Dancing should move away from audience participation, though, because like with American Idol and The Voice, it’s built into the format and creates a deeper sense of engagement when the playing field is more level. (That said, Dancing should revert back to a format where voting in one episode is revealed the following week, so everyone from coast to coast can play along.) Allowing the judges to take out the lesser dancer in the bottom two isn’t a bad idea and could keep future Bobby Bones or Sean Spicers from actually winning the whole thing. I also agree that Idol mostly moving away from humiliating auditions is a good thing, but part of the charm of Dancing (when it works) is that by letting some terrible amateurs in the door, some have actually grown along the way, resulting in some touching moments when they surprise themselves even when they know they’ll never make it to the end. On the flip side is the current situation, when the “vote for the worst” element overtakes the show. And your idea for an all-star season of those who were booted off too soon? I’d watch that.
Don’t Lie, Is Perfectionists Really Dead?
Question: Is there any chance for Pretty Little Liars: The Perfectionists to be picked up by HBO Max (or another network) and renewed for a second season? — Ivo
Matt Roush: Given how many original shows HBO Max is putting into play — I’ve lost count of how many press releases they issued over the last few weeks — including a number of reboots, I guess I’d have to say there is a slight chance. Though the series aired on Freeform, making it appear more likely that the short-lived Liars spinoff might be better suited for Disney+, Perfectionists was produced and distributed by Warner Bros., so if this or another Liars offshoot were to show up anywhere, maybe HBO Max would be the place. In the bigger picture, I’d be surprised if we’re not treated to something more from the Liars universe before it’s all over.
Following Shows from Platform to Platform
Question: With the vast array of platforms available to show TV content, such as broadcast network, basic cable, premium cable and streaming services, now comes the inevitable instances where a show moves from one platform to another, such as The Orville moving from Fox to Hulu, or The Expanse moving from Syfy to Amazon Prime. Do you think this will cause viewers to think twice about investing time in a show if they think there is a chance that it will move to a platform that they don’t have? For example, I will be able to continue watching The Expanse since I have Amazon Prime, but now I have to decide if I want to add Hulu so I can continue to watch The Orville. Throw in the fact that Comcast Xfinity is removing Starz from their channel lineup, which now means I may not be able to watch the next season of American Gods unless it’s on a platform I already own. What’s an avid TV viewer to do if they want to keep up in the Platinum Age of Television? — Tony
Matt Roush: The answer is: Churn. As the number of streamers continues to expand, I imagine many consumers will jump from one to the other to watch specific series, then cancel until something else catches their eye. (This is how it has worked for years with many premium cable services, which people would hop on during the run of a show like The Sopranos or Game of Thrones and then cancel until the next season.) These companies will take your money no matter how often you join or cancel, and there’s always a chance that once you’re inside the door, you’ll see enough on Hulu or Apple or CBS All Access or whatever to keep you on board. But no, I don’t think this new trend will inhibit people from sampling a show they’re interested in on broadcast or cable. If you don’t try a show, how will you know you like it enough to follow it, should that be its fate? Which, when it comes to a show like The Expanse, beats cancellation.
Question: I have a big disappointment with CBS airing two of my favorite shows, God Friended Me and Madam Secretary, on Sunday nights after the football game, which always runs overtime, making 60 Minutes and the two shows I mentioned run late. It’s very difficult to record when they run much later than their scheduled slots. So, I’m just missing them altogether. Boo to CBS scheduling. — Faye
Matt Roush: I am frankly amazed that this is one of the first complaints on this subject I’ve received so far this fall. The issue comes up every single year during football season, because CBS is always in the position of having to delay the start of its regular Sunday lineup for Eastern and Central time zones. It has been a bit less noticeable this year on weekends when CBS airs the late-afternoon game and starts the Sunday schedule at 7:30/6:30c. It’s still a miracle if it starts on time (though a 5-10 minute delay is better than 45). Rule of thumb, if you’re recording any CBS series on Sunday: Set your machine or DVR for at least 15 or 30 minutes extra. You’re even better off, and it can be easier, to simply record the entire following show to be safe — or in the case of Madam Secretary, which airs last, the local news. This is not a new situation and it isn’t likely to change unless CBS follows the Fox playbook and opts not to start its lineup of original programming until 8/7c (which would cut one show out of the schedule). It’s aggravating, I know, but how can anyone still be surprised by this?
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.