Ask Matt: 'Jeopardy!' Is the Greatest, 'Emergence,' Crossover 'Crisis' & 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 Fridays.
Will Jeopardy! Start a Prime-Time Game Show Renaissance?
Question: Our entire family was caught up in the excitement of the Jeopardy! The Greatest of All Time tournament, and while we were happy for Ken Jennings' victory, we were sorry when it ended so soon after only four (of a possible seven) nights. Alex Trebek noted during the final match that this might be the last time we see these champions together, which seems hard to imagine. Do you see a future for them, for Jeopardy! in prime time, for game-show events like this? — Brad
Matt Roush: Isn't it great when something lives up to the hype, while earning terrific ratings to boot. I'm sure every network is spinning its wheels (to borrow another game-show metaphor) to try to capitalize on this frenzy. There are reports that ABC could bring these high-profile players back in another format, maybe even to test their wits in another game — although there's truly no better quiz show than Jeopardy! — and already, ABC is planning a comeback of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire in prime time, while CBS is reviving celebrity prime-time editions of The Price Is Right after having some success over the holidays. I'm sure we haven't seen the last of these guys — James Holzhauer in particular, who already seems to be mulling his media options.
Regarding the actual tournament, I was bowled over by how hard Ken Jennings was playing, and winning, by large enough margins in the first game to seal the deal for each match. The combination of luck (landing on Daily Doubles and answering correctly, and keeping them away from James) and skill was awfully impressive. And while it wouldn't have mattered on the last night, because James missed the Shakespeare clue (a really good one) in the second Final Jeopardy, I was floored when he didn't bet it all in the final of the first game, which would have kept him and Ken closer. What a great event — and "event TV" is what this is all about. I'm looking forward to what they'll come up with next in this genre, but having seen what happened with the original Millionaire, can't help but worry about burnout if it's overdone, like so much else in TV land.
The Future of Emergence
Question: We have just finished watching episode 10 of Emergence. I checked the IMDB and it shows only 12 episodes. Are they not getting a full season? It is one of the best, most intriguing shows I have ever seen. Please say it is not being canceled? — Judi
Matt Roush: You're right that there are only two episodes left in the first season, with the finale set for Jan. 28, which is officially the 13th episode (the 12th and 13th constitute a two-parter). But that's not necessarily a cause for concern. Emergence was always designed to have a 13-episode first season, and shorter runs are becoming more common on network TV, especially for high-concept genre series which could benefit from tighter story arcs. (CBS's Evil will also wrap its first season that week, and NBC's Manifest, which didn't return until midseason this month, only aired 16 in its first year.) This isn't a situation like NBC's Bluff City Law, which had its initial order cut short and is almost certainly not destined to return. Any worries regarding Emergence comes from the fact that, unlike Evil, it hasn't received an early renewal. But that's not the same as being canceled. We may not know for sure until May, when the next season is announced. (So it wouldn't hurt to send messages and letters of support to ABC while you can.)
Here's another testimonial, from Lynn B of Connecticut: "I'm following two outstanding new series this year: CBS's Evil, which has been renewed, and which you wrote up in a recent issue, and ABC's Emergence, which is extraordinary but which is, apparently, in limbo. It has an excellent cast, wonderful writing (I make this sound dry, but believe me, it is not) and suspense to spare, if you like the idea of artificial intelligence on the devious side — and who doesn't. I would hate to think something this good will just disappear, especially since so much of what gets an extension is not worth watching in a world of HBO, Starz and the rest of cable."
Matt Roush: I've grown attached to the show as well and am hoping for the best. This Tuesday time period (10/9c) has traditionally been a tough one for ABC in recent years, and while it hasn't been a breakout hit, Emergence could emerge as a keeper with a little patience. Its fate could also hinge on how well For Life, the legal drama that takes over its spot, performs, although they're very different kinds of shows.
What's the Most Common Gripe About TV?
Question: I get frustrated watching Emergence because the music is so loud that it is difficult to hear the dialogue. Can't someone notice that and fix it? — Marion
Matt Roush: If I ran every complaint I got on this issue, there'd be no room for anything else. At least this one was specific, so I'll use this as my annual opportunity to address the incontestable fact that almost every show, especially in TV drama, is culpable in laying on the music too thick, so what's intended as background becomes foreground. I'm especially aware of it in medical shows when music plays over scenes when surgical masks further inhibit dialogue, but action and suspense series are just as guilty. (The other most common complaint: TV shows are shot too dark.) If networks and producers get even a fraction of the mail I receive on this subject, they know it's an irritant and they obviously don't care. (We won't even get into blaring commercials or we'll never stop.)
In my own limited experience, not being all that technically minded, we bought a sound bar to enhance and sharpen the sound coming out of our primary TV and have had less trouble because of it. (For the smaller TV in the bedroom, I put up with the sound coming out of the unit, and it sometimes is noticeable.) Others have taken to activating closed captioning, which we sometimes do on streaming services with some of the British dramas, but that's more about thick accents than loud music. It's intrusive, but at least you'll get the dialogue.
The Men Deserve Better on Grey's
Question: The sudden departure of original cast member Justin Chambers from Grey's Anatomy, without any fanfare after 15 years, brought the realization that the men on this show either die dramatically or disappear discreetly. George O'Malley, Mark Sloan, Derek Shepherd and even Charles Percy were all killed off. Preston Burke was quickly written off due to behind-the-scene issues with Isaiah Washington. Meanwhile, the women typically get more uplifting endings like Callie Torres, April Kepner, Arizona Robbins, Christina Yang. The exception there is Lexie Grey, but she died "together" with her love Mark Sloan. Their endings were likely guided by what best serves future storylines, but it's an interesting statistic. — Angelo
Matt Roush: Confession: I had to look up Charles Percy (a transferred Seattle Grace surgical resident who was killed after only 13 or so episodes during the 2010 hospital massacre). This is an interesting point, that the long-running male leads tend to have unhappier ends. It's unusually unsettling, though, to think that Alex Karev will just fade away without some kind of acknowledgement of what he brought to the show for so many years. There's still time this season to do him justice. If that doesn't happen, there really needs to be some more explaining than that the actor was itching to move on. Before taking a final bow?
Suffering Crossover Fatigue
Question: After watching the five-part "Crisis on Infinite Earths" crossover in The CW's Arrow-verse, I thought the ending was anticlimactic and the five-part crossover went on too long. Maybe I'm suffering from crossover fatigue from trying to get keep straight the jumbled storylines for the various shows over the past couple of seasons. The crossovers used to be fun, now they just seem to be a slog. I'm starting to regret asking you about a Supergirl/Arrow-verse crossover eons ago. Do you think the crossover event lived up to the hype? Is the future plan to give viewers even more DC universe shows? - Brian
Matt Roush: I'll take your word for how this crossover "event" played out. Fatigue is a good word. Overkill is another. I don't have an opinion, because while we have reporters on staff who follow these particular shows, I'm not one of them. There was a time when I followed Arrow and The Flash and at least sampled a few others, but once they started introducing alternate worlds and the like, I grew weary of how convoluted they were all becoming with not enough payoff for the effort. (Plus, the DC and Marvel influx coincided with the explosion of TV platforms, and there's only so much time in anyone's life.) From the looks of it, even with Arrow ending, The CW will continue expanding these worlds, and for those who like this sort of thing, more (super)power to them. I'll acknowledge them when they happen in my daily online columns, but from a distance. (I even tried to get into Batwoman this season, seeing that it was trying something different, but it was too dark and blandly executed for my taste.)
Question: If ABC really wants to protect The Rookie, as you recently suggested, they'll move it back away from Sunday nights where, IMO, "TV series go to die," a phrase I previously applied only to CBS and which has proved to be false of them in the last few years. — Hal
Matt Roush: Not that long ago, ABC owned Sundays with shows like Desperate Housewives, Once Upon a Time, Revenge and the like, so these things are cyclical. CBS has traditionally been strong, as has Fox with its animated lineup, and of course NBC with football, on a night that is regarded as one of the most-watched of the week. Which is a roundabout way of saying that a Sunday time slot is not necessarily a death sentence, but ABC put an on-the-bubble show like The Rookie there (following an incompatible lineup of light reality) to give it another chance instead of outright canceling it. It’s unlikely the network will give the show another weeknight spot at this point — there aren't many open ones — but hard to say. I do know that ABC wants to be in business with Nathan Fillion, so there's that.
That's all for now—and because of the holiday weekend, until next Friday. 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.