Ask Matt: 'Talent' and 'Survivor' Controversies, Monday Night Must-Sees (Including 'Prodigal Son'), 'Grey's' Twist & 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.
The Uproar Over Talent Firing Its Judges
Question: I was watching KTLA in Los Angeles and the entertainment reporter Sam Ruben talked about the controversy on America's Got Talent. Apparently Gabrielle Union and Julianne Hough have been criticized on social media for their wardrobe choices and hair styles. And Sam added that Gabrielle Union has been accused of being too black. So NBC has not renewed their contracts for next year. This is disturbing on so many levels. What is wrong with the public and their criticisms on social media? And what is wrong with NBC? I loved Gabrielle and Julianne. Loved their wardrobe choices and variety of hairstyles and their personalities. I thought they were a good fit with Simon Cowell and Howie Mandel. I don't do social media, but boy, I wish I did. — Melinda, Whittier, CA
Matt Roush: This story blew up last week, and the criticisms over the female judges' appearance seem to be just the tip of a toxic workplace iceberg. According to reports (this Vulture story is a good summary), Gabrielle Union in particular spoke up about matters of racial insensitivity on the set and clashed with Simon Cowell over issues including smoking. How am I not surprised that there are minefields on a Simon Cowell set? Statements are flying back and forth in an attempt at damage control, but this incident clearly is a stain on AGT's cheery reputation. And I would think social-media commentary is the least of the show's worries at this point.
Survivor Controversy Hard to Shake
Question: The two-hour Survivor episode that aired Nov. 13 was so hard to watch and get through. I'm honestly still sorting out my feelings about everything that went down and don't know if I can continue with this season. So many of the players have soured in my view from their actions, and I don't know if I can root for any of them. I have this week's episode on my DVR and cannot bring myself to start it. Are other viewers experiencing the same feelings? Have you been watching the season? — Carson
Matt Roush: You're hardly alone in your revulsion over the infamous #MeToo incident in which Kellee revealed to fellow female castaways Missy and Elizabeth her discomfort with castmate Dan’s habit of inappropriate touching. While pretending to empathize, they actually used this confession as a tool to evict Kellee from the game, sandbagging den mother Janet as well and for a time leaving her vulnerable to elimination. Missy and Elizabeth apologized after the episode created instant and viral backlash, and I'm somewhat gratified that both have since been blindsided out of the game — while irked that Dan continues to play as if nothing happened. The fact that Survivor has adopted a "show must go on" mentality after this incident, with the more recent episodes carrying on without a mention of any of this, is hard for many Survivor fans to accept. I'm aware that others have followed your example and bailed from the rest of this season. Can't say I blame them.
Monday Night Must-Sees
Question: I would like to plug two shows that do not seem to get talked about too often in your column but deserve to be: namely Fox's fantastic Monday night of 9-1-1 and Prodigal Son. I just got caught up on their most recent entries and was overwhelmed with 9-1-1's heartbreaking story on the death of the musical prodigy, and the trick of addressing her backstory after being fatally injured by the ambulance driver made it even more gut-wrenching. I know that sometimes you call things like this shameless melodrama, but I hope that you are not in that opinion here. To me, it deserves an Emmy nomination. I am also happy to see The Walking Dead's Tom Payne killing it in Prodigal Son, and I think he is better off as Dead continues to sink lower every week. I finish my Monday night with the great The Good Doctor on ABC and can you tell me why Freddie Highmore has never gotten an Emmy nomination??? He is long overdue. — JV
Matt Roush: I feel I've done my due diligence with plenty of plugs for Prodigal Son this season (as recently as Monday for the midseason cliffhanger) and even a follow-up review in TV Guide Magazine. I agree that it's a blast and one of my favorite new series of the fall, and a much better developed role for Tom Payne than the ill-fated and underwritten Jesus on Dead. I don't follow 9-1-1 as closely, as I tend to dip in and out of most procedurals because there's no time to watch everything, but I've enjoyed it for its high-stakes melodrama and on those occasions when a situation hits deeper, as the one you describe seems to have done.
Regarding Freddie Highmore's lack of Emmy recognition: It's difficult any more for actors on broadcast network TV dramas to break through against cable and streaming headliners — besides the actors on This Is Us and Hugh Bonneville of Downton Abbey, the drama lead actor category hasn't featured a broadcast network star since Hugh Laurie's long (and unrewarded) run as House nearly a decade ago. But since neither Better Call Saul (Bob Odenkirk) nor Ozark (Jason Bateman) aired in 2019, maybe there will be room for Freddie this year. His sensitive and thoughtful work surely deserves more attention than it's getting.
They Twist, We Shout
Question: Please tell me that the possibility of Owen being the father of Amelia's baby is just a red herring on Grey's Anatomy. I can't deal with that, not when she is finally happy. — Bugsy
Matt Roush: I wouldn't spoil how this storyline plays out even if I could. But surely you've watched Grey's long enough to know that no one stays happy on that show for long. If Amelia's suspicions turn out to be true that Owen may have fathered this child instead of Linc, this creates all kinds of complications, the kind Grey's is famous for. I wouldn't be surprised either way, but I'm hoping for everyone's sake that there are no medical complications this time. I'd like at least that much of a happy ending for her.
Left Unhappily Hanging by SVU
Question: Why did the producers of Law & Order: SVU consider it necessary to schedule the second part of the superb current episode to be aired when the show resumes on Jan. 9? We were very upset when we saw the "Who Killed JR" type of cheap trick announced at the end of part one on Nov 21. Other shows have successfully used such a gap as a suspense tool to encourage audiences to watch a subsequent season, but in my opinion, this particular series should have relied on the intelligence of their sophisticated viewership to continue watching this consistently excellent program without resorting to insulting the audience by choosing this story to run over their six-week hiatus. Your thoughts? — Mitch
Matt Roush: I get where you're coming from, but this is the new reality of network TV, even for a long-established show like SVU. The "fall finale" has now become something of a midseason cliffhanger for many shows, and while it's somewhat out of character for SVU to build a multi-episode arc with a cliffhanger, it's not unprecedented. The idea is to give NBC something with which to bang the drum loudly when the lineup returns after the holiday break. SVU should be above such nonsense, but in this case, it's being a team player, even at the expense of its fans' patience.
Dancing Should Let Everyone Vote
Question: I really enjoyed watching this season of Dancing with The Stars but was really upset that I could not vote for the dancers as I live in the Mountain time zone. Why have the Western states been taken out of the voting process? I wanted to give up watching it when I found out I could not vote. I also believe the outcome would have been different if the other half of the United States had input. Do you see ABC going back to allowing the entire country to vote? — Lynn, Phoenix
Matt Roush: This was a common complaint I fielded a number of times during this season. Given the criticism Dancing took from critics and fans over excluding such a large part of the audience from voting during the live show — well, they could vote, but not while they were able to watch (which makes the whole process more of a popularity than talent contest than ever) — I'm hoping they will reverse course and let all of America have its say again, with results announced the following week as in past years. For the record, I have no problem with the judges becoming even more a part of the judging system to try to keep certain travesties (Sean Spicer's too-long run) from occurring. I don't know if the show will go back to the previous system, but if the goal is to please the fan base and encourage participation, I'm hoping they do, although even then, there will be results that make fans unhappy. Comes with the territory.
That's all for now. 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.