Ask Matt: ‘Lone Star,’ ‘Whiskey’ Reactions, ‘New Pope,’ Hopes for ‘Emergence’ & More

Michael Lavine/FOX

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.

Lone Star, Stop Goofing Around!

Question: 9-1-1: Lone Star is a real imposter of 9-1-1. Get real and serious, folks. We don’t want to see the fire chief so vain about losing his hair and acting like a fool. I am shocked at Rob Lowe for accepting this role. 9-1-1 is serious. They show what goes on with emergencies and with what happens in the station between the folks. The last straw in Lone Star was when that lady called the number about her neighbor. I know we have nutty folks out there, but this took the cake. I will not be watching it anymore  But I PRAY THE REAL 9-1-1 COMES BACK ON SOON. AND IT GIVES US REAL ACTING. — Diane

Matt Roush: If only there were a line to call about TV emergencies… but I digress. Not being one to confuse 9-1-1 with high drama — I enjoy it when I tune in mainly because the crises and stunts are so outrageous — I actually appreciated the levity in parts of the two-part Lone Star opener. The original isn’t without a sense of humor at times as well, but for Rob Lowe of all pretty-boy actors to participate in a spoof of vanity — even worrying about his hair treatments during a cancer diagnosis (and we can all sign on to his skin-care regimen) — showed guts, as far as I’m concerned. Mocking the bigotry of the nuisance caller was also a self-reflective jab at how self-consciously diverse — race, sexuality, creed — his new crew is. I’m not making an argument here for 9-1-1: Lone Star as anything but a diversion, and spinoffs are most certainly not the direction I want TV to keep heading, but in this case, lightening things up hardly feels like a disaster.

A Shot of Bad Taste

Question: We looked forward to the new Ron Howard-produced series 68 Whiskey on Paramount Network and were overwhelmed with disappointment! We expected, perhaps, a combo of M*A*S*H* and ER and instead were treated to a graphic and filthy sex education class. Even though we’re of an older generation, we cannot understand the need for Porn101! No thanks. And yes, it’s been removed from our continuous record option. — Dave and Barb, Parma, Ohio

Matt Roush: As I noted in my own mini-review when this contemporary war dramedy premiered, I was likewise disappointed by the show’s immediate headlong dive into sophomoric and smutty shenanigans. The characters are mostly caricatures, the situations so far ludicrous, and while I’d be on board with an anti-authoritarian satire like M*A*S*H or Catch-22 set in the Afghan conflict, there’s little evidence this show could ever measure up. The ratings for the premiere were solid, so maybe it will grow in time into something more significant than an exercise in pushing cable’s ever-expanding envelope into bad taste.

Praying for Pope, and Zoey

Question: If I remember correctly, you liked HBO’s The Young Pope, so am curious to your thoughts on The New Pope. Based on just the first episode, it looks like a worthy sequel, but I wish they had extended the story arc for (the late) Francis II. It looked like a juicy battle with the Curia was brewing, as well as some philosophical discussions about returning the Church to its roots.

As to the recent discussion in your column on the scheduling of NBC’s Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist, I enjoyed the pilot, but disagree with Hal about the Sunday placement. In fact, I find the Sunday scheduling encouraging. If NBC is looking at this as the series to follow the end of the football season, then 1) expectations might be lower and 2) the season will be limited to 13 episodes, which should make it easier to maintain the quality. Both items should make renewal more likely. On the other hand, no matter how it plays out, I’m love with Jane Levy. — Rick

Matt Roush: I’m with you on The New Pope. So far, it appears to be as sophisticated and intriguing as the first series, and I’ll be following it as it goes forward. (Not able to watch weeks in advance on this one, because of the glut of TV being what it is anymore.) As for the musical Zoey, which returns Feb. 16, I agree that Sunday is hardly a death sentence for the show, and that “less is more” could be a blessing for a production this ambitious.

Crusading for Emergence

Question: I agree with other fans on ABC’s Emergence (my favorite show of the new season along with Stumptown). Usually, I’m wary of getting hooked on this type of show (Lost, Manifest) that seem to travel one of two roads: a wonderfully intriguing idea and characters, which works and gets solid ratings and therefore puts you in a weird spot of loving a show that may run for years because if they pay off the central mystery, it’s over; or it doesn’t get ratings, keeps building to a crescendo in season 1, ends on a terrific cliffhanger and gets canceled and the fans are left in permanent limbo. So far, I am an unabashed fan hoping for the former and willing to ride this one wherever it goes. — Michael

Matt Roush: Unfortunately, Emergence for all of its virtues isn’t a breakout hit like either Lost or even Manifest — but who knows how they’re reading the metrics on shows like these anymore? Like you, I’d follow this thriller — and especially Allison Tolman (and more recently Enver Gjokaj as the appealing Agent Brooks) — wherever and for as long as they’d take us, but the real cliffhanger will be whether ABC gives the show a second chance. The network’s track record isn’t great; remember Forever, which wasn’t? But at least we have one more exciting episode to finish out the first season.

Hey, You, What Happened?

Question: Why did they take the show You and put it on a channel we do not get? We used to watch it every Sunday. — Debbie

Matt Roush: It’s getting to the point where referring to Netflix as “a channel we do not get” is akin to regarding cable as a pesky neighbor of broadcast we’d just as happily ignore. The TV world has once again changed, and streaming services are a fact of life, with Netflix the behemoth. While I get that not everyone is able or willing to add Netflix to their plate, its existence is impossible to ignore. To this particular issue, You was a critical success but ratings disappointment for Lifetime, and while the channel had renewed You for a second season before the first even aired, the show probably would have died there if Netflix hadn’t picked it up — and You only gained traction among viewers (despite critics’ and Lifetime’s best efforts) when it began streaming. I imagine the second season will eventually be available on DVD for holdouts. I recommend it.

When Two is Too Much

Question: I like Last Man Standing, but I don’t understand the new format of it being on for an hour, with two half-hour episodes. — Cynthia

Matt Roush: As you probably noticed this week, Fox is now back to airing a single episode of Last Man Standing on Thursdays, paired with the new sitcom Outmatched. Airing back-to-back episodes for the first weeks of January may have been a stunt to call attention to the popular sitcom’s midseason return, having sat out the fall, and also a way to squeeze in more new episodes because of the backlog. Either way, given the critical reception (including mine) for the new comedy, Fox may have been better off with a full hour of Last Man Standing after all.

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.