Ask Matt: 'Grey's' Farewell to Alex (Con and Pro), 'Outsider' Finale, Reality Retreads & 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. (We know background music is too loud, but there’s always closed-captioning.).
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 many Tuesdays and Fridays.
Say It Isn't So, Alex!
Question: Please give me a reason not to drop Grey's Anatomy immediately. I had to restrain myself from throwing things at the television last Thursday. This is the absolute worst way they could ever have written Alex out of the show. I would have preferred him to die than to do this. I've been a loyal fan since almost the beginning, but coming in the midst of a season that has been a complete chore, this is as close as I have ever come to removing my season pass. Please do your TV therapist thing and heal this for me. Ugh. — Jake
Matt Roush: Even my powers of persuasion can go only so far. There was almost (but not quite) universal reaction of eye-rolling disdain to the twist that found Alex running away from his marriage to Jo, his responsibilities as a Seattle doctor, and perhaps even worse from his long-term friends and colleagues, to return to an unseen Izzy and the adorable twins he just discovered were living in rural Kansas. After the initial "WTH" screams, the whole unsatisfying off-camera nature of the narrative began to kick in. Even if you accept the logic as a "forever Alex and Izzy" shipper, the way the story was told was clumsy and just plain weird. And while it's still unclear just why Justin Chambers made such a hasty retreat from the show on which he has spent 16 seasons, this can't help but leave a bitter aftertaste. In the big picture, though, Grey's has recovered from worse and continues to chug along as a TV habit that millions are unwilling to break. If I can make it through the McDreamy calamity, and even Denny's Ghost, I suppose I can get past this as well.
Nicely Done, Alex!
Question: I see lots of furor over the way Grey's Anatomy wrote out Alex Karev, but I liked it. Plainly, they didn't want to kill off the character, but they needed to find a way for him to leave without looking like a total rat. So they have him leave to be with the love of his life AND the kids he didn't know he had, which makes him only a partial rat. But who can complain about a man connecting with his children? — Clark
Matt Roush: I'm so glad I heard from the other side on this. While from a creative perspective I found the episode to be mostly a disaster, I admit that as a longtime fan of the show, once I realized I was going to be treated largely to a clip episode, I began to enjoy on a purely aesthetic level the look back at when they were all so young and glowing. I also couldn't help reflecting on just how devoted we were to these characters at that early peak period in the show’s history (when it was part of a wave of ABC mega-hits including Lost and Desperate Housewives). I rarely have the luxury of time anymore to dive back into the past seasons of shows on the streamers like many fans may do, so the nostalgia of it all was appealing. Up to a point. Otherwise, while I get what Clark is saying about Alex's desire to be a good dad (such as he never had), the cowardice and absurdity of Alex hiding behind "Dear John (or Jo)" letters to plead his case was TV at its very worst.
Memo: End Your Show Before the Credits!
Question: A general gripe in light of yet ANOTHER post-credits "tag" scene, this time on the finale of HBO's The Outsider. Why, oh why, do directors/editors/showrunners insist on this aggravating strategy? It is absurd that they would think that general TV-watching behavior has changed after so many decades to the point that everyone is going to sit through the credits to see if there's yet another scene – especially one that is critical to the resolution of the story (as in The Outsider). I know of numerous people who missed Sunday's final scene, and my husband and I would have too had I not read online a story ahead of time that mentioned watching to the *very* end. Other recent offenders include the Season 3 finale of Stranger Things and the penultimate episode of Watchmen, both of which I found out about online, requiring me to go back and fast-forward through the episode to the end. I understand that the MCU has created this as the new norm for their movies, but for TV, enough is enough! If there's a scene that the show wants you to see, put it BEFORE the final credits. — Lauren
Matt Roush: I agree that this tends to be a cheap "gotcha" device and in this case was unworthy of the high quality of an unusually engrossing (though ultimately somewhat anticlimactic) Stephen King adaptation. I was more dismayed that they now apparently see this as an open-ended premise, with (spoiler alert) Holly now sporting a scratch that suggests the threat from El Cuco is far from over. The way The Outsider slowly introduced the supernatural into its unorthodox murder investigation, and the very particular tragedy of Terry Maitland, was a large part of the story's appeal, and I doubt that same effect can be duplicated in what will now just be another go-round of a monster hunt, should HBO green-light a second season (which seems inevitable). But to your point, yes, this trick is annoying, and no, it's not going away. (One word: Westworld.)
Bring on Some New Reality Stars!
Question: It is a crying shame that there evidently are no more people left on the planet worthy to compete on reality TV shows. The pool has been completely exhausted, it seems, so all that's left are people who have already appeared on these shows, multiple times, sometimes many many times across multiple shows, such as Big Brother-to-Survivor-to-The Amazing Race, back and forth, and 3-4 times on "All-Star" editions of each of these shows, and as is coming up in the "All-Stars" season of Top Chef, one of whom will be making their fourth appearance on the show. Enough already! Get some new people! I am tired of it and will not be watching any more All-Star editions. I enjoy seeing new people make complete fools of themselves and once they have done that, I don't need to see any more of them. — Glenn, Oklahoma
Matt Roush: A fair point, especially when they cross-pollinate, and I frankly have no use for people who become famous only for chasing fame on reality TV shows. (Case in point: Bachelor and Bachelorette contestants who instantly segue to the Dancing with the Stars ballroom.) I will make an exception in some instances, like the current Survivor: Winners at War season which marks a major anniversary (a 40th season) by gathering teams of all past winners — although I get the point when it seems we're never rid of players like Boston Rob and Sandra. It can also be interesting when contestants who almost made it to the end on shows like Top Chef get a second shot — though maybe not a third and fourth. Like Glenn, I prefer any season of any reality-competition show (the only kind of "reality" show I tend to indulge) where the contestants are all new to me, and that's especially true with an adventure series like The Amazing Race. I don't even require them to make fools of themselves, figuring that just comes with the territory.
Why Add to a Character's Misery?
Question: On Station 19, they've given Sullivan (Boris Kodjoe) complex regional pain syndrome. It's the first time I've seen this in TV in the 28 years that I've had it, and at first I was excited to see this. Where did they even run across CRPS, it's not that common. My excitement waned when it became clear that they weren't interested in treating CRPS seriously but as a path to turn Sullivan into a drug-stealing addict. They could have given him nerve blocks, gotten him a TENS, even prednisone helps. It's not even clear that opioids work on this kind of pain. People with chronic pain syndromes are already stigmatized enough and face lots of challenges to get their medication in these opioid-addicted times. Why are the PTB at Station 19 going out of their way to add even more stigma to this serious and debilitating problem when they could make good TV by simply taking him through the struggles that people who really have this face. I'm just tired of seeing TV shows always going the drug-addict route. Show something else for a change. Or at least get the treatment right. I know it's fiction, but stop using my real-life issues as a catalyst for drug abuse. — Karen
Matt Roush: First, thanks for sharing your valuable perspective, and I hope you've been able to find some relief from your chronic pain issues. As for Station 19, it's not entirely surprising that a melodramatic procedural would take a malady such as CRPS and find a way to heighten the drama, in this instance tying it to a pervasive current social problem like opioid addiction. While I understand your dismay that the character has gone down this road and empathize with the fear that such a depiction further stigmatizes those suffering with CRPS, it doesn't sound like they're minimizing or cheapening the seriousness of his situation. (I'm writing this before Thursday's episode airs, in which Sullivan turns to Grey's Anatomy's recovering addict Amelia Shepherd for help, which also sounds like a proper step on the road to treatment.)
When Kids Should Wash Their Dad's Mouth Out with Soap
Question: Tried to watch the new Breeders show on FX. Lasted 10 minutes. I love Martin Freeman, but the profanity was outrageous. Do you think the child actors were on set when the adults dropped those F-bombs? — Paula
Matt Roush: It wouldn't surprise me, but I've also read that the kids' parents were on set throughout, so it's not like they weren't being looked after or didn't understand this was all an act. But to your point: Breeders is a very dark comedy about parental anxiety taken to the profane extreme (which is the FX way) and obviously isn't going to be for all tastes. There are, ultimately, tender moments beneath the surface stressfulness, but getting there requires an awfully thick skin.
More About That Sanditon Ending
Question: The ending Andrew Davies wrote for Jane Austen's Sanditon on PBS's Masterpiece was cruel, and I am sure that it was untrue to Jane Austen's style. Austen probably would have had Charlotte's new friend, Susan, with all her wealth and connections, find the money to complete the Sanditon project and save Sidney and Charlotte's romance. Otherwise, there was no reason to have Susan in the story at all. If not a whole other season, this could be easily rectified in one more episode. How romantic it would be for Sidney to show up at Charlotte's family home and announce that he couldn't go through with a marriage to Mrs. Campion! I don't think I could ever watch another project that Davies has a hand in. — Nita, New Jersey
Matt Roush: The fallout continues, and disappointment that Sanditon didn't get a second season is understandable — hope dies hard, and never say never, though for now, there's no good news — but to blame the writer seems a bit unfair. Andrew Davies has adapted some of the best British dramas ever, and he's as chagrined as anyone that his version of Sanditon ended where it did. He was recently quoted as saying, "I don't know if you could tell from watching it, but we were rather counting on getting a second series!" In the past, I have chided show-runners of many series (usually on American broadcast TV) for contriving season-ending cliffhangers on shows that weren't guaranteed renewal, thus leaving viewers frustrated when left hanging. In this case, I'm confident Davies and the show's producers had no clue ITV would pull the plug after just one season. I agree, though, that it wouldn't take much for Charlotte and Sidney to get the happy ending that's part of the classic Jane Austen formula. I'm still hoping we'll eventually get there. (Hello, Netflix?)
And let this be the last word on Sanditon for now:
Question: For all viewers who were disappointed that PBS's version of Sanditon really has not ended, they should search for a copy of Sanditon, by Jane Austen and Completed by "Another Lady." Published in the 1970s and possibly reprinted in the 1990s or later, the "Another Lady" is a 20th-century author who completed the novel. And yes, it ends happily for Charlotte and Sidney. — Judith
Matt Roush: Thanks for that tip. This version appears to be available at Amazon (including for the Kindle), so be of good heart, fellow romantics, and pursue your happy ending accordingly.
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.