Ask Matt: Latest ‘DWTS’ Shocker, ‘Madam Secretary’ & the Hearings, ‘Good Doctor,’ ‘Veronica Mars’

ABC/Eric McCandless

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.

Could Ally Really Have Quit Dancing?

Question: Like (I’m sure) most viewers still hanging in with this season’s Dancing with the Stars, I was both shocked that James Van Der Beek wound up in the bottom two, and was eliminated by the judges, but also stunned that Ally Brooke asked if she could give her spot in the Finals to James. This request obviously took host Tom Bergeron by complete surprise, who quickly changed the subject (without really addressing the request). But it has me wondering: What if Ally had refused, live, on camera, to participate in the finals, because she didn’t think the elimination of James was fair. Obviously taking such a stance — what I would call the Hunger Games maneuver — would have blown up social media, and deepened the cracks becoming more and more evident in the show’s real-time, Internet-focused procedures. What might have happened if Ally, or any contestant, did this? What contractual obligations and constraints are contestants under? — Maurice

Matt Roush: I’m not familiar enough with the show’s contractual rules to give a definitive answer, but contestants have left the show for medical and personal reasons before, so if Ally or anyone chose to bow out for the greater good — although keep in mind, this is a mirrorball we’re talking about — I don’t imagine they’d stop her. It would certainly add drama. While I believe her gesture was genuine, and her chagrin at James making a too-early exit was shared by many, Tom Bergeron handled the situation correctly in the emotion of the moment, proving again what a pro he is in this harder-than-it-looks role. But losing James this close to the end is indeed a real bummer.

When Political Drama Gets a Bit Too Real

Question: At a moment in history when we are witnessing impeachment hearings in real time and which reflect, for many of us, a battle for the very soul of our democracy, how could the creators of Madam Secretary imagine that a fictional rendition of impeachment proceedings would be appreciated by its audience? I for one am no longer a fan. — Jean

Matt Roush: At least you won’t have to worry about it too much longer, since Madam Secretary signs off for good on Dec. 8, with just a few more episodes left — and by the finale, it looks as if this storyline will thankfully be in the rear-view mirror. (Elizabeth’s husband and daughter testify in this week’s episode on Nov. 24, and maybe that will be the last straw.) CBS has announced a plethora of guest stars — the U.S. women’s soccer team, Tyne Daly (sister of series star Tim) and Peter Frampton, who’ll be performing at a McCord family celebration — for the series finale, which sounds to me like it will be upbeat. But to your point, keep in mind that shows are filmed well in advance, and while impeachment talk was brewing as the season was being planned, they couldn’t have known these episodes would be airing while the actual inquiry was proceeding in real time. I’m OK with Madam Secretary of all series acting as a mirror and idealized respite for our own more berserk political times, but I also wish the final season hadn’t been quite so dominated by this heavy-handed storyline.

Question: Why is no one addressing the fact that multiple programs are being pre-empted by the hearings (especially missing The View). Not even aired on OD Spectrum! — Nan

Matt Roush: Maybe because it’s a given that during historic events of national importance on this scale, the TV networks are expected to live up to their public-service mandate and carry the news as it happens, even at the expense of regular programming like The View and other topical talk shows, which understand this is how it works.

Can These Doctors Heal Their Relationship?

Question: Is the Lim (Christina Chang) and Melendez (Nicholas Gonzalez) relationship really over on The Good Doctor? The show’s official Instagram account released a photo of Limlendez in September of “a truly precious moment” (a hug between the two of them). That scene has not happened yet this season. I may be in the minority, but I hope they work things out! — Mary

Matt Roush: It’s possible the Instagram photo was purely promotional, but regardless, I’m sure you’re not alone in rooting for this couple. Working for one’s boss rarely goes well in workplace dramas like this, so I’m not surprised at the latest hurdle. But as to what happens next, I haven’t a clue (and I don’t do spoilers). ABC’s descriptions of the next few episodes don’t mention this relationship at all, so I’d expect the impasse to last at least for a while.

Shark-Jumping on Riverdale and Veronica

Question: Has Riverdale jumped the shark? I mean, this is a show that always been on the edge of the improbable, but Season 4 is so far-fetched that it seems really laughable. The corpse of Jason, Cheryl’s brother, storyline is creepy and silly (not that Riverdale doesn’t do silly, but still this is a new level of stupidity). It is sad to see this fun show go south so early in its run (we are only in Season 4!). What do you reckon?

On another note, congratulations to Hulu for passing on another potential new season for Veronica Mars. I’ll said it once and I’ll say it again, that if Rob Thomas wanted to change from a romantic comedy/mystery show to a full mystery show, the problem here is that the fans didn’t sign up for this. We supported Veronica as a CW brand, which is romantic/mystery. If he wanted to do a different show, then he is entitled to, as are we to just stop watching. — David L

Matt Roush: For me, Riverdale was swimming with sharks from the beginning — it always felt too over-the-top, and I prefer my childhood memories of Archie and the gang from the original comics — so I’ll take your word for it that it’s only gotten more so. Regarding Veronica Mars, about which it has been reported that there are currently no plans to move forward with new episodes — which, given the way the business now works, doesn’t mean someone won’t go there eventually — it’s clear that the final tragic twist continues to irk many fans, and I get it. Maybe it is the wisest decision to let the dust (as in bomb residue) settle for a while before taking the next step, if ever.

Diversity in Hallmark Holidays

Question: I am a devotee of Hallmark and just finished watching a movie, which I notice was filmed in 2010. I was amazed at a scene showing a Hassidic man trying to buy a Christmas tree! Not only would that be against his religion, but that entire scene was ridiculous! If this was supposed to be a combination of Christmas and Hanukkah, why wasn’t there a scene in the man’s home showing a menorah and his children playing with a dreidel? I am really disappointed with Hallmark! — Zelda M

Matt Roush: Complaints about diversity have dogged the Hallmark formula for quite some time — I can’t address this specific example, except to say maybe the guy had a reason for buying the tree, and you’re right that his Jewish traditions deserved airtime as well. But it looks like Hallmark and at least one of its rivals in the ubiquitous Christmas-movie biz are getting a bit more woke. In Double Holiday, scheduled for Dec. 22 on Hallmark, a Jewish career woman introduces a co-worker to her family’s Hanukkah traditions while they compete to plan an office Christmas party. Lifetime goes a similar route in Mistletoe & Menorahs (Dec. 7), in which two co-workers learn to appreciate each other’s Christmas and Hannukah cultures in another rom-com set-up. It’s about time.

Holiday Mystery Dilemma Solved!

Question: A possible compromise regarding the issue of Hallmark Movies & Mysteries being absent any “mysteries” during the holiday season, brought up by Joyce in a recent Ask Matt column, might have been for each of the recurring movie-series characters featured on HM&M to star in a Christmas-themed mystery. I seem to remember Monk having several such episodes during its run. It would serve multiple purposes: providing additional movies for Hallmark’s all-Christmas-all-the-time marathon from October through December, offering a chance to further cement HMM’s “mystery” brand, and maybe even presenting an opportunity for viewers who don’t watch a particular series to more easily step in and sample them as part of the whole Hallmark “Christmas experience.” Actually, I’m a little surprised the network decision makers haven’t yet taken a look at the benefits of such “crossover” opportunities. Maybe next year. — Todd

Matt Roush: That’s a really good idea. Not being a Hallmark movie encyclopedist, I can’t say with authority that there has never been a Christmas-themed installment of any of these franchises. And many of those series’ stars appear in the channels’ Christmas films, so why not do holiday episodes with these established characters? Your move, Hallmark.

A Muddied Grey’s Milestone

Question: What did you think of Grey’s Anatomy‘s 350th episode last week (Nov. 14)? As I was watching it, with all of the flashbacks, references to previous events and returning characters, I wondered if the whole point of the firing storyline was to lead up to this walk down memory lane for what they knew would be episode #350. As a longtime fan, it was cool to see so many former patients come back in defense of Meredith, especially Katie Bryce from the pilot. So I appreciated what they were trying to do. However, that didn’t make the whole set-up of her being fired any less ridiculous. Couldn’t they have come up with another way to acknowledge the history of the show without having to fire Meredith to do it?

I also understand what they were trying to go for with Derek’s incompetent surgeon not remembering Meredith, but that didn’t work either. If Meredith and Derek were just average doctors at some ordinary hospital, that might have worked. But Meredith is a Catherine Fox (formerly Harper Avery) Award-winning surgical legend descended from the equally legendary Ellis Grey, and Derek was similarly portrayed as being a genius in his field. It seems extremely illogical to me that a surgeon would forget that he was the one who killed Derek Shepherd or that he wouldn’t recognize Meredith, given her notoriety. The show can’t have it both ways. Either they’re a famous surgical power couple or they’re not. At least she’s back to work — although since Alex, Webber and Owen remain at Pac-North, we’re still going to be doing the multiple hospitals dance. How long until they just merge for some convoluted reason and we can put this all behind us? — Jake

Matt Roush: Excellent point about the doctor on the panel not recognizing Meredith. Unless he killed so many famous doctors that he can’t keep them all straight, he should have been able to do the math and recuse himself before Meredith screamed him to death. I’m not sure where the Pac-North storyline is headed, although at least it’s different, and watching those doctors in less posh circumstances adds a bit of novelty. All things considered, this has been one of the messier and most contrived seasons of Grey’s in a long while. Better luck in 2020?

That’s all for now — and until after Thanksgiving. So let me give thanks to all of my readers and contributors, 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. And Happy Thanksgiving!