Ask Matt: Finales of ‘Good Place’ and ‘Evil,’ a Smoking (Vaping) Medical Trend, Syndication Vs. Streaming & More

The Good Place Kristen Bell
Colleen Hayes/NBC
The Good Place

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.

Ending in a Good Place

Question: What did you think of the finale of The Good Place? I loved it. Also a nice surprise that Shout Factory has announced a Complete Series Blu-ray release for May. (The first 3 seasons were released on DVD only, so I’m glad I never bought those and will get this one.) It’s so satisfying when a series actually gets the ending right. — Jake

Matt Roush: Isn’t it, though? I tend to be an easy crier, but even so, I had a field day blinking back tears through the finale of this series. It was so wise, so touching, so sweet and spot-on and still funny in its generosity toward its characters. There was also an acknowledgement throughout about “knowing when to leave,” not just as a TV show not overstaying its welcome but in a philosophical understanding that (in Chidi’s words) “Mortality adds meaning to our lives,” even in the afterlife. [Spoiler Alert] Watching each of the characters decide, except Tahani (who found a new purpose), to go through the door, not knowing what was on the other side, because “the true joy is in the mystery” as “the wave returns to the ocean” was beyond moving. But I was most enraptured by the “Pinocchio”-like twist for Ted Danson‘s Michael, who became so enamored by humanity that of course he had to finally become one. Just perfect.

Not Enough Evil on TV

Question: I watched the season finale of CBS’s Evil, and it was SO creepy! I wish Evil had 18 episodes per season. I think it’s the only broadcast series that I wish ran longer! — Ed

Matt Roush: I tend to agree, but since I have long been a proponent of “less is more” — especially during this overwhelming period of “peak TV” — I’m on board if series creators Robert and Michelle King choose to stress quality over quantity in this remarkably clever and chilling show. I love that the Evil finale even made us question the capacity for evil in its main character, Kristen (the superb Katja Herbers), when [SPOILER ALERT] the crucifix burned her palm after the episode had already suggested she might have killed the freed serial-killer Orson to protect her family. Lots of dark twists in that episode, and while I understand why network series are ordering shorter seasons of shows, the downside is that we are going to have a very long wait until the second season begins. (Fall at earliest, some nine months away.) At least CBS has already renewed Evil. Grabbing for bright spots wherever I can.

A Whole Lotta Vaping Going On

Question: Did anyone else notice that three of the medical shows (Chicago Med, New Amsterdam and Grey’s Anatomy) all had a similar storyline of teens vaping in roughly a week’s time? — Susan T

Matt Roush: Great catch! I did notice that last Tuesday’s New Amsterdam (Jan. 28) and Thursday’s Grey’s Anatomy (Jan. 30) had very similar and cautionary vaping storylines, but missed the Med of Jan. 22 the week before. While it’s unavoidable for medical (and often crime) dramas to overlap, because after all there are only so many stories to tell, it is rare for them to collide in such a concentrated time frame. What this really reveals is how prevalent the alarm over the vaping epidemic is in our culture at the moment — the current cover of New York magazine blares the headline, “We will be vaping for the rest of our lives.” (Let’s hope not.) It’s only natural for producers of these shows to grab onto such relevant issues. Can the coronavirus pandemic be far behind?

Will Streaming Kill Syndication?

Question: With CBS and soon NBC starting up streaming services and mentioning their property will be exclusive to their service, I am wondering what will happen to the shows currently in syndication? For example, the three NCIS franchises are showing on ION TV and USA. ION also has Criminal Minds, Blue Bloods and other crime-based series. If CBS and NBC pull their shows, ION will lose most of their current lineup. What will happen to shows in syndication if they are made part of the streaming service? — Dewey

Matt Roush: I doubt there’s much cause for worry on this front. The exclusivity applies to streaming, the new frontier. Shows that might once have been on Netflix or other streaming rivals will now be exclusive to these new platforms that are seen as the future for so many media companies. That doesn’t mean syndication is going away, on cable or local broadcast outlets. The market isn’t as robust as it used to be, but there’s still a need to fill these lineups with infinitely repeatable programs, and few shows fit the bill better than these CBS procedurals and other crime and/or medical dramas. (Law & Order, anyone?) As long as syndication remains a profit center for networks and studios, many shows that do well in this arena will continue to be shown on these channels. Streaming, though, is another story, and companies are much less likely to share if it helps drive traffic to their own services. Of course, I could be reading the situation all wrong. It’s a very messy and unpredictable time in this ever-changing industry.

Hey, That Mayor Looks Familiar!

Question: I caught a rerun of Law & Order on WeTV in which the role of mayor of New York was played by Michael Bloomberg. (Great typecasting!) As he is currently a candidate for president, shouldn’t that episode have been pulled from rotation? Or do those rules not apply to cable programming? — Kelvin

Matt Roush: I’d think at this stage of the campaign, brief cameos on Law & Order dating back to 2004 (when Bloomberg was basically playing himself during his run as mayor) would fly under the radar to the point that the equal-time rule wouldn’t apply. (I’m a little fuzzy on the details when it comes to syndicated repeats.) But it’s a valid concern, given the state of our overwrought political nation, that maybe these very few episodes in which he appeared from nearly a decade ago should be benched until the votes are counted. (It would be especially surreal if one of the many Bloomberg ads appeared during one of these repeats.)

And Finally …

Question: I am enjoying mixed-ish, but the youngest daughter is starting to drive me crazy. Are others complaining about her smart-ass character? Once an episode is plenty. — Unsigned

Matt Roush: I take it you’re referring to Mykal-Michelle Harris as the precocious Santamonica (whose character will grow up to become the recurring black-ish aunt played by Rashida Jones). You’re the first nay-sayer to express any reservations to me, but I look at her as the latest in a long line of scene-stealing child stars, a tradition that harks back to The Cosby Show (first with Keshia Knight Pulliam, then Raven-Symoné — who’s also part of the black-ish family as an adult) and way before. I’ve seen this young actress hamming it up on talk shows (another tradition), which suggests she’s catching on. So I’d advise getting used to her, or hitting the mute when she takes center stage. Because I’m pretty sure we haven’t heard the last of her.

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.