Ask Matt: A ‘Fresh’ Spinoff? Plus ‘Arrow,’ ‘Whiskey,’ Midseason Scheduling & 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.
Another Sitcom Spinoff for ABC?
Question: I find it odd that ABC would order a backdoor pilot from the fading Fresh Off the Boat (last week’s “The Magic Motor Inn” episode) in its final season. Shouldn’t this have been done when FOTB was newer and enjoyed higher ratings? I’m also shocked that we didn’t get a spinoff for ABC’s much bigger hit Modern Family. Still saddened that the Middle spinoff with Sue (Eden Sher) never got off the ground. — Fred
Matt Roush: I’m not sure what the status is of the Fresh spinoff, which would focus on the Indian family introduced in last week’s episode. Reports in the industry trades suggested that while this episode was part of the development process, an actual pilot would need to be shot during the current pilot season for Magic Motor Inn to be considered. Not entirely sure if that’s happening, but it would certainly be on brand for a network that prides itself on the diversity of its family comedies. The timing would actually be advantageous, since with the departure of Fresh Off the Boat there are at least time periods available. Regarding other spinoffs, it is curious that ABC didn’t try to capitalize more on Modern Family — although for most of its run, it was produced by a non-Disney-owned studio — and I agree that not building a show around Sue Heck is a lost opportunity. (Again, a different studio makes it a harder sell.) Spinoffs aren’t always my favorite thing, but you never know when the next Frasier will happen.
Arrow Left Us Satisfied, But Enough With the Arcs
Question: The seasons leading up to the end of Arrow were pretty uneven, but the last episode was pretty satisfying. The thing the drives me nuts about Arrow and some of the other CW superhero shows is having a Big Bad for an entire season or longer. I enjoy a new story each week a lot more. Having Diaz kick Team Arrow’s butt for 20 episodes or more just got boring. Love the crossover episodes, though: nice change. Thoughts? — Sharon, Maine
Matt Roush: By all accounts, including our Arrow expert Damian Holbrook‘s terrific post-mortem, the Arrow finale was everything a fan could want. Plus Felicity! However, I get where you’re coming from about the extended arcs. If all you watch is the CW superhero shows and can follow all the interconnectedness and serialized storytelling, more (super)power to you. But for the rest of us, who operate on a broader canvas, it can be a drawback, and when the shows began to introduce parallel worlds and multiple timelines, I pretty much checked out of the entire “verse.” Simplicity and economy are not crimes in TV storytelling, and while making these shows episodic and formulaic procedurals-in-capes is probably too much of a course correction, there should exist a happy medium.
Your point about the Big Bad each season is also a good one. I’ve noticed it most with The Walking Dead, which I almost dread returning to next month, because I’m so tired of that grotesque Alpha — and of Negan, for that matter. I miss the days when the heroes were facing the existential zombie threat more than going to war with each other. (I know the point is that man is the real monster here, but I get it already.)
Midseason Waiting Game — and Masked Singer Angst
Question: My husband and I have been wondering whatever happened to Man with a Plan, as we really enjoyed the show.
Also, I cannot understand why some people are upset about a basketball player lasting longer than Patti LaBelle and Michelle Williams on The Masked Singer as none of us knew who we were rooting for. Laila Ali’s daughter said she had felt bad when she discovered she had voted against her mother but she did not even know her mother was on the show. — Carldene
Matt Roush: Just this week, CBS set the return date for Man with a Plan, which will join the Thursday lineup on April 2, along with the new Pauley Perrette–Jaime Camil sitcom Broke. (They’ll take over for The Unicorn and Carol’s Second Act, respectively; each will have wrapped their first season by then.) It’s a confusing time of year, with shows coming and going — and a new season of The Amazing Race hasn’t even been scheduled yet, looking more like a summer show at this point. (Since people keep asking.)
As for the Masked Singer issue: People are actually upset about the Thingamajig (NBA’s Victor Oladipo) outlasting the Butterfly (Williams) and the Flower (LaBelle)? As you noted, no one knows who’s actually who under those costumes — sometimes I’m not even sure who the “celebrity” is once exposed — and the stakes seem much lower here than even on something like Dancing with the Stars. If you can’t enjoy a show like this for its pure silliness, what’s the point?
No Bleeps in Wartime
Question: I’ve enjoyed watching the new show 68 Whiskey but can’t get over the cursing. I know that’s how they would talk in real life, but how does the FCC allow it? — Chuck, Florida
Matt Roush: The FCC’s rules for profanity (and whatever counts as “indecency” anymore) that inhibit broadcast networks don’t apply to cable channels, because they’re seen as subscription services. It used to be that the basic-cable channels — as opposed to premium pay channels like HBO and Showtime — would censor themselves, out of fear of offending advertisers. Some still do up to a point, but for others, all bets are off when it comes to language, especially on more progressive channels like FX and Paramount Network (see Yellowstone as another example). At times it feels like they’re showing off with this newfound liberation, at other times it feels germane to the characters and world being portrayed. My biggest problem with 68 Whiskey is that it’s all edge and raunch, with little in the way of compensating wit or compelling characters or anything else that might distinguish a cutting-edge war dramedy.
Question: We have been watching Vienna Blood on PBS and my husband and I are hooked. When we saw all the Austrian and German actors, we thought it was going to be with subtitles and kind of hard to follow a mystery while reading the translation at the bottom of the screen, and were pleasantly surprised it was in English. The first two episodes were great. Do you know if they have ordered a Season Two? I know it just finished airing in the U.K. I also cannot believe that the British lead is the same guy that is currently in Avenue 5. — Katy
Matt Roush: It’s too soon to know if BBC Two (the originator of the series) will renew Vienna Blood for a second season — the three episodes (which PBS is airing as two-parters) only finished airing in December — but there are apparently more books in the series on which this is based, so it’s possible. And if BBC produces them, PBS would almost certainly pick it up. And good catch about Matthew Beard, who plays Freud acolyte Max Liebermann and also appears on Avenue 5 as the earthbound Mission Control assistant Alan. Couldn’t ask for more different role—or looks.
And Finally …
Question: Regarding Bull: It says in TV Guide Magazine that he is expecting his first child with his ex-wife or girlfriend Whatever happened to his daughter with Ziva? Is she just out of it? — Judy G
Matt Roush: You’re getting your Michael Weatherlys mixed up. Bull — as in Dr. Jason Bull — is a different character than Tony on NCIS, and they live in different fictional worlds. If you watch NCIS regularly, you know that off-camera Tony has been reconciled with Ziva, and he has long been caring for daughter Tali during her absence. This has nothing to do with what’s happening on Bull. I suppose that it’s hard separating an actor from his best-known character, especially when he lands a new gig on the very same network. But I hope you’ll indulge me when I say that this confusion made my day.
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.