Ask Matt: The End of 'Ray,' the Short Run of 'Evil,' CW's Crowded Slate & 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.
We Didn't Get to Say Goodbye to Ray!
Question: Are you as shocked as I am that Showtime has retroactively canceled Ray Donovan, making the recently concluded seventh season the last? The happened without any warning or allowing the show any kind of build-up to a finale, like most long-running series get. And worse, viewers get no resolution to the many dangling storylines, and we're left with the downer image of Bridget's poor naïve husband lying on the street, dying in a pool of blood. Unfair on so many counts! — Jim H
Matt Roush: I'm not exactly shocked, because I've felt the quality of Ray Donovan fading in recent years, and getting through even a shorter season like this last one was beginning to feel like a chore. It wasn't the same show, and certainly not a better show, once it left Los Angeles for New York. I also felt the series never truly recovered from the tragedy of losing Abby. An hour spent with Ray was getting to be an awfully gloomy proposition. But I am surprised that Showtime, which tends to let just about all of its popular shows run for way too long (Shameless and Homeland in particular — although I am keen on watching the final season of the latter), is pulling the plug so abruptly on a show that had received a number of Emmy nominations over the years and was one of its signature dramas. I haven't been this unsettled since Showtime's Penny Dreadful suddenly ended after its third season without letting anyone know in advance that it was the final curtain. At least that one was planned. (And I can't wait for the City of Angels revival of that franchise coming this spring.)
According to Ray's showrunner, an eighth season — which almost certainly would have been the last — had been planned, and no way were they looking at this season's finale as a series wrap-up. I guess you could say that Ray finally learning why his beloved sister Bridget killed herself, and getting revenge on her abuser, resolved one of the series' overarching storylines. But getting shut down before the final act is beyond unfortunate for the writers, actors — and, more important to this forum, the fans. Showrunner David Hollander suggested this might have been a casualty of the CBS-Viacom merger, but whatever the reason, it's not a happy surprise.
Cutting Evil Short
Question: Was Evil a short season because the Kings planned it that way, or did CBS consider the show risky (it certainly defies their formula) and only roll the dice on half a season? — David
Matt Roush: As discussed recently in this space, shorter orders of certain types of network series are becoming more common, and as far as I know, this was always the plan with Evil. From series creator Robert and Michelle King's point of view, they didn't have to vamp to fill out a full season's worth of episodes. The fact that it's such a risky premise for such a traditional-leaning network probably makes the shorter season a win-win from both the creative and programming sides. I'm just thrilled CBS gave the show an early renewal.
Does The CW Even Have Room for Canaries?
Question: With The CW renewing every show that hasn't previously announced a final season, as well as with some straight-to-series pickups like Superman & Lois, and Walker, do the prospects of the Green Arrow & The Canaries spin-off seem slim? I would have imagined it would have been picked up by now, but after hearing nothing I'm starting to worry! — Marc
Matt Roush: It would be extremely out of character for The CW not to pick up yet another outgrowth of the Arrow-verse, so I wouldn't worry too much. Like most networks, CW is programming mostly year-round, so even if this doesn't make the fall lineup, they may want it to fill in for another show at next year's midseason. But should it not happen, don't you think The CW already has enough shows of this genre?
Multi-Season Orders No Longer a New Frontier
Question: My question about the new Star Trek: Picard series is: How did the network greenlight a second season before the first one even began? — TY
Matt Roush: This is becoming standard operating procedure in the industry, especially when it comes to sure-fire prospects like a Star Trek spinoff featuring an iconic character like Picard. It's not unusual for cable (especially premium channels) and streaming services in particular to give multi-season orders on the front end, even before a series launch. This works from a business and creative perspective as well, because these shows are such large investments and greenlighting a second season early gives the writers and producers an opportunity to plot far in advance. Of course, if a show doesn't live up to expectations, then someone's out a lot of money. But with a show like Picard, I don't think anyone's worried about that.
What Did They Say?
Question: Why does Matt Czuchry of The Resident talk like everything he says is a secret that he doesn't want anyone to hear? He mumbles so low, I can't hear or understand anything he says! Apparently closed-captioning is a go-to if you want to know what he's talking about! — B. Jones
Question: My husband and I are frustrated trying to hear cast members on some TV shows speak just barely above whispering. This happens during shows such as The Resident, Chicago Fire, 9-1-1 and others. We turn the volume up so we can hear them talking (sounds like mumbling to us), then other sounds during the shows end up blasting us! It's been going on during the last 2-3 seasons. We're considering not watching them any longer. What's going on here and can't the actors be made to talk louder like they used to do? — Debbie, Frustrated in Colorado
Matt Roush: I recently noted (as I do once a year at least) that The Most Frequent Complaint About TV is the background music that often drowns out dialogue in the foreground. This comes a close second, that actors aren't projecting, which could also be a function of the first, all suggesting that sound levels on many TV shows are problematic. Closed-captioning is one answer, so perhaps is enhancing the sound system so as not to rely solely on what's coming out of the TV. I can't imagine why producers and networks would knowingly put out something that is unintelligible, but it's clearly an annoyance to many.
And Finally …
Question: I have a perfect answer to Alex leaving Grey's Anatomy with no notice. Izzie crooked her little finger and he went running. — Deborah
Matt Roush: Well, that's one theory. And certainly better than him just sneaking away to care for his mom and never being seen again. I'm still curious to see how this plays out.
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.