Ask Matt: The Return of Hetty, Laughing With ‘Unicorn,’ Hallmark Pros and Cons

Bill Inoshita/CBS

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.

When Is Hetty Coming Back to NCIS: Los Angeles?

Question: I am so missing the wonderful Hetty (Linda Hunt) on NCIS: Los Angeles, such an integral part of the show. Any chance Esai Morales returns? He had great chemistry with the rest of the team. — Emily

Question: The new TV Guide Magazine issue (Nov. 11-24) clears up where Barrett Foa has been, but where is Hetty? There seems to be no one heading the L.A. office at all. — Janet, Hesperia, CA

Matt Roush: Feels like deja vu, to be fielding lots of questions again about Linda Hunt’s status on the show, following last year’s long hiatus while she was recuperating from a car accident. The article Janet is referring to is a preview of this Sunday’s (Nov. 24) episode, which marks the return of Barrett Foa as Eric Beale after he took time off this season to appear in a play. Judging from the promo, we’ll also see Hetty again, because it was her clandestine mission that sent Eric to San Francisco in the first place. Our reporter who covers the show, Kate Hahn, tells me that Hetty has another big episode coming up the following Sunday, on Dec. 1, written by series star Eric Christian Olsen (a story about that is published in the Nov. 25 issue out this week). In that episode, Hetty is shattered upon learning that one of her past recruits has gone to the dark side and is targeting the team. These episodes will be a great relief to Hetty fans, but in the bigger picture, while the show to my knowledge hasn’t said anything officially about Hunt’s low profile for much of this season, I think it’s fair to regard her at present more like a recurring regular, who’ll appear when the story dictates, rather than a full-timer with the presence she had on earlier seasons.

As for Esai Morales: Haven’t heard one way or the other, but he’s currently appearing in the DC Universe series Titans, which could be limiting his availability.

Can Evil Sustain, and Is Unicorn a Comedy?

Question: First of all, thanks again for your preseason recommendations. Stumptown, Evil and The Unicorn have all found slots on my DVR. Stumptown, in particular, seems to get better every week. But I do have a couple of questions. First of all, how do you see the long-term prospects for Evil? Because of the nature of the plots, most episodes are not going to be wrapped up in a neat bow in 44 minutes. Personally, I don’t find that a problem — the pleasure of the episodes is not in the resolution of the MacGuffin — it’s in the reactions of the three principals to the cases they are given to handle. But I can see this as an uphill climb for CBS, The Procedural Network.

As to The Unicorn, my question is more philosophical: Is this really a comedy? Don’t get me wrong, I love it. But other than the fact that it’s half an hour long, and that it’s inherently funny to see Boyd Crowder and Billy Crash playing Jim Anderson (and let’s see who else is old enough to get THAT reference), what makes this a comedy? Pick up the script of most network comedies and you see, “Setup zinger, setup zinger, character says something uncharacteristically sincere, setup, zinger, commercial break, setup zinger.” Even the single-camera, “quirky” comedies (Arrested Development, The Good Place, Better Off Ted) have obvious laugh lines or sight gags designed to elicit a laugh every couple of minutes. Yet in the early episodes, I can’t think of a single line of dialog that was intended to get a big laugh (a wry smile, maybe, but no guffaws). Asked another way, if the show were to expand to an hour, would we still consider this a comedy, or the latest family dramedy? At any rate, thanks again for the recommendations. — Rick

Matt Roush: I’m hopeful that Evil is a keeper for the long term, even though it’s quite obviously a bold and risky departure from CBS’s more typical formulaic approach to storytelling in its dramas. Two things in its favor: an early renewal for Season 2, and the “less is more” aspect of a shorter, 13-episode season. (The finale is currently scheduled for Jan. 30.) I’m all for shows that leave us wanting more, whether it’s within an episode or not having to struggle to fill an entire 20-plus-episode season.

And as much as I like Evil, I’m head over heels for The Unicorn, which I have no problem characterizing as a comedy. Although it deals with matters of grief and healing, I don’t even see it as a dark comedy. It is, though, an adult and emotional comedy, which is a tricky balancing act. This show feels to me like it has the makings of an instant classic, with each of Wade’s overly concerned friends so well defined and, truly, funny in their own ways. (I’m particularly fond of Michaela Watkins and Rob Corddry as neurotic Delia and Forrest.) In Walton Goggins‘ lovely and warm performance, Wade never asks for and often recoils from sympathy, and because the series wisely started a year after his wife’s passing, this widowed family man’s misadventures in the dating world, or most recently trying not to look like a jerk with a fellow airplane passenger (Missi Pyle), have walked a fine line between poignant and hilarious. This week’s Thanksgiving episode (Nov. 21) had me laughing and choked up, two of the things I most enjoy in a good TV show.

And while I did get and appreciate your Jim Anderson (Father Knows Best) reference, I had to look up Billy Crash (from Django Unchained) — I’m obviously behind on my movies. (Though I did see, and enjoy, Tarantino’s latest.)

Where Does MacGyver’s Return Leave Magnum?

Question: I see that CBS’s MacGyver reboot premieres its fourth season on Feb. 7 in 2020. What time slot, as Hawaii Five-0 and Magnum P.I. have the 8/7 and 9/8c time periods? Will they be moving the shows around? They wanted to do crossovers for these two shows and that is why they put them back to back. Now what? — Meissmer

Matt Roush: When MacGyver rejoins the Friday lineup, it will be in its former time period of 8/7c, with Hawaii moving back an hour. According to CBS, Magnum will return in the spring after MacGyver finishes its run. Shared time periods are part of TV’s new normal. As for the long-expected Hawaii-Magnum crossover, that’s finally happening, with episodes scheduled for Jan. 3. Happy New Year!

Bah Humbug on Hallmark’s Lack of Mysteries

Question: It is beyond me why the Hallmark Movies & MYSTERIES Channel has filled the channel with Christmas movies, 24/7, almost half of the year!!! They should use the regular Hallmark Channel for that and give us “mystery” fans actual “MYSTERIES” on the Movies & MYSTERIES Channel. I’ve given up on Hallmark, except to buy an occasional card, but will head over to Acorn TV to watch actual mysteries or tune into METV to watch Perry Mason reruns. – Joyce

Matt Roush: Sounds to me like you’ve fixed your own problem. And while I empathize, Hallmark is no dummy when it comes to knowing what so much of its audience base wants, and that seems to be Christmas pretty much any time of the year. If the M&M brand declared itself to be a wholly Hallmark Mystery Movie channel, your complaint would have even more merit. Another great place to find top-notch mystery programming is on the PBS Passport site, which typically comes with a membership to your local PBS affiliate, which I encourage everyone to have.

Hallelujah to Hallmark’s Movies

Question: Thanks for the wonderful story on the Hallmark Christmas movies and letting me know I am not alone in my love of them. My wife and I would love to be an extra in one of their movies. Is it possible to get a schedule of when they are shooting? I’m a guy who loves Christmas and have loved watching them since July. I tend to be in a good mood most of the time and people ask me how I can be that way. One of the reasons is the Hallmark movies. Why? Because they are “feel good” movies, they show how people who seem bad can become good, they help me believe in guardian angels and that some of them are loved ones we have lost, but are still with us, and I can watch them with my kids and grandkids. It is such a wonderful alternative to the violence and sexual content on most of the rest of the channels. — Tom

Matt Roush: What a great tribute to the Hallmark brand. One person’s sappy is another’s salvation, and we’re all entitled to seek out happiness wherever we can find it. I’m afraid I don’t possess a production schedule for the Hallmark movie factory and couldn’t play middleman even if I did, but they make so many I doubt there’s ever a time — except maybe the holidays? — when they’re not cranking them out. As our story indicates, you’d also have to go to Canada to be in the background. If I hear anything further on this front, I’ll pass it on. Anything to enhance your perpetual (and enviable) good mood!

A Grey’s Comeback?

Question: With both Bailey and Amelia pregnant on Grey’s Anatomy, any chance Addison (Kate Walsh) might be returning? Especially because of the crucial role she played in Amelia’s first tragic pregnancy. I would love to see her back. — Leslie

Matt Roush: Nothing has been announced yet on this front, but there’s plenty of buzz on the subject, it makes sense thematically, and Kate Walsh has said she’s always happy to go back to Shondaland, and Grey’s in particular, if the story fits. In this case, it certainly would.

How ABC Missed the Boat — and Jefferies’ Next Move

Question: To further your comments on the impending cancellation of Fresh Off the Boat: It is quite obvious that ABC had one opening in filling a time slot, so that instead of giving it to a more deserving and fresher comedy like The Kids Are Alright, they went with the current hot prospect Constance Wu on Boat, which backfired when she expressed her disappointment.

My current peeve is that suddenly out of nowhere, a weekly comedy show that I looked forward to each week — namely, The Jim Jefferies Show — is also being canceled. Do you have any idea why? And this goes down while Tosh.0 now has 10 seasons and Drunk History six??? To me, Jefferies is far more entertaining and also a little thought-provoking. — JV

Matt Roush: I’ve already beat the Kids drum recently, so basically I agree with you on the first point. What a short-sighted cancellation that was.

In announcing the end of the Jim Jefferies Show with its final episode tonight (Nov. 19), Comedy Central indicated they hope to develop more projects with him in the future, so the split appears amicable. This may also have much to do with the fact that the topical Australian comedian is currently developing a sitcom for NBC, with a put pilot commitment — meaning there’s a penalty if the pilot doesn’t air, and usually means the show’s a go — in which Jefferies would play a fictionalized version of his outspoken self. So you haven’t seen the last of him.

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.