Ask Matt: ‘Stumptown’ and Bubble Shows, the Bright Spot of ‘Dark Ages,’ Legal Crossover Dreams & More

Miracle Workers Dark Ages - Daniel Radcliffe
Stanislav Honzík/TBS
Miracle Workers: Dark Ages

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.

Does Stumptown Have a Future?

Question: I was disappointed to see you recently describe Stumptown as underrated, because it’s my favorite new show of the season. I was also surprised to find that it’s almost over already, far too soon. With only 18 episodes, it seems like ABC doesn’t have a lot of faith in the show. Do you see a second season for Dex? — Rick

Matt Roush: Hard to say, because Stumptown falls into that “bubble show” category of series that are neither breakout hits nor all-out flops. The episode order isn’t really a cause for concern, as shorter runs in prime time are becoming more commonplace for economic and scheduling purposes. (That said, if it had been a bigger hit, this might have scored a full back-nine order.) When Stumptown was first announced, ABC was very bullish on having signed Cobie Smulders for this role, and I have to believe the network is pleased with the show’s quality, though wishing it were drawing a bigger audience. But ratings aren’t the only determinant, so I’d guess the show’s chances are at least 50/50.

And here’s something that gives me hope. In a recent Hollywood Reporter roundup of news related to the coronavirus outbreak and industry shutdown, Lesley Goldberg (one of the very best reporters in the business) suggested that “bubble shows now have a sizable advantage. After all, these are programs that networks have already spent millions to license and market, and, almost as important, see as a known quantity. “Shows you’d have said ‘no’ to in May are now looking good because it’s stability in a time of change,’ says one source.”

Whatever works in Stumptown‘s favor is OK with me, and if there’s any silver lining in this very dark cloud we’re all under, I’ll take it.

Question: Have you lost your love for Stumptown? I think it has gotten better as the season progresses and the actors settle into their roles. I was attracted by Cobie Smulders and then completely won over by the casting of Jake Johnson, seeing him in a more mature, dramatic role is a revelation for me. Yeah, it can be kind of case of the week procedural-ish, but the relationships between the characters is what makes it for me, particularly the Dex/Ansel/Grey dynamic, and the banter. I about plotzed when they gave Grey the Han Solo quote (“She don’t look like much, but she’s got it where it counts, kid”) in “The Dex Factor” (I had to run it back to make sure I heard what I heard). Anyway, I’m starting to worry about its renewal chances. I keep reading that it is losing audience, but I’ve also read that it’s got pretty good DVR number and Hulu views, do you think those will be enough to save it? —Laura

Matt Roush: Still a fan, though I admit I fell behind for a while — so many casualties in the glut that is “peak TV,” that I don’t always have time for the shows I actually want to watch. You make many good arguments why Stumptown in particular is worth saving, so let’s hope its reach beyond Wednesday nights on ABC helps the network and studio come to a positive conclusion.

Question: I’m really enjoying Stumptown, but what the heck happened to Camryn Manheim? She hasn’t been seen for quite a while (when you add in all the pre-empted weeks). — Woody

Matt Roush: Her role as Lt. Cosgrove is what is typically regarded as that of a “recurring regular,” someone who appears as needed, but not every week. (Same goes for Tantoo Cardinal as Sue Lynn, the casino owner, who hasn’t been in all episodes.) If there’s more to her absence than that, I’m not aware. But as long as she’s listed in the credits, they still consider her part of the family.

A Comedy for the Ages

Question: I just wanted to say how much I enjoy the TBS show Miracle Workers: Dark Ages. It is just so silly, but it is also one of the few comedies that make me laugh out loud. I have always been a fan of these types of offbeat comedies. I wasn’t even aware of this show until I read an article on this site a few weeks back about the start of the second season. I know the first season is a totally different story with the same actors and I’m hoping I’ll be able to see Season 1. Usually in the past a show like this doesn’t last long, so I’m hoping this time will be different. I hate when a show I really like gets canceled too soon. — JC

Matt Roush: Again, hard to predict when it comes to networks like TBS to know which shows they’ll stick with. But even if Miracle Workers is renewed, it’s very much a comedic anthology, and while some of the ensemble players would likely return, it will be an entirely different premise, as different as Dark Ages (which often reminds me of the Monty Python-esque Jabberwocky) was from the first season set in a comical Heaven. And in the bigger picture, how great is it to have shows that simply make us feel good for watching? Essential these days.

Missing Gentleman Jack

Question: Do you have any information about Gentleman Jack returning to TV? I see the picture of the star on that brief shot of an accumulation of other actors that appears before the start of many of HBO’s programs, but never any mention anywhere about its return. You are my only hope of finding anything out. — Dotless

Matt Roush: I don’t have a date for you, whether later this year or in 2021, but HBO (with the BBC) definitely is planning for a second season of this enthralling series, which upends the gender expectations of a period drama. (And every time I see that image of Suranne Jones as Anne Lister in the HBO collage, I keep wondering how the Emmys and others neglected to nominate her. Maybe next time.)

Rhyme and Reason

Question: With regards to Lincoln Rhyme: Hunt for the Bone Collector series, is the intent every season — should the show be renewed — to always be about the Bone Collector or will it be renamed each season after one of the books? — Donna

Matt Roush: That’s a fairly big “should,” though as in the previous discussion about Stumptown, all bets are off when it comes to predicting what will and won’t survive to next season, given the current crisis. Should Lincoln Rhyme survive — and wouldn’t his name be enough of a title, like Bosch on Amazon Prime Video? — common sense suggests that either each season will be built around a similar arc (although not the Bone Collector, since he’s no longer in the picture, and if he were, it would feel redundant) or juggle one or more of the plotlines of Jeffery Deaver’s best-sellers, the way Bosch has handled Michael Connelly’s impressive oeuvre.

Order in the TV Courtrooms!

Question: Please tell me there’s an All Rise/Bull crossover in the works? — Carroll W

Matt Roush: Not this season (even if production weren’t affected by the outbreak), and a long shot to ever happen. I get why you’d be excited at the prospect of the back-to-back Monday legal dramas cross-pollinating, but they are shot on different coasts (All Rise in Los Angeles, Bull in New York) and, more critically, are produced by separate production companies (All Rise is from Warner Bros., Bull an in-house CBS TV Studios production). Crossovers are more common when the shows share executive producers and location proximity. In this case, that would be incredibly difficult, though maybe not impossible, to pull off.

And Finally…

Question: With so many shows canceling and suspending production, do you think some networks may think outside the box and bring back old fan-favorite shows, like The Middle, to air reruns to fill slots and help keep people entertained when everyone is stuck inside? Or will we be stuck with endless reruns of the current seasons of current shows? — Teri

Matt Roush: More likely the latter, although I’ve noticed that some streaming services are extending their “free” tryout periods to offer viewers more options, at least in the short run of this difficult period. Regarding The Middle, I was pleased to learn that Freeform is airing repeats many weekday afternoons (this Friday from noon to 4 pm/ET), so maybe you could record those to enjoy at your leisure. The problem with putting shows like this back onto the prime-time network schedule is the issue of license fees (The Middle was a Warner Bros., not Disney/ABC production). But we’re still in the early days of the industry grappling with systemic changes and, eventually, content shortage, so anything’s possible, and creative solutions like these to keep viewers happy and engaged are maybe not so far-fetched. We’re in uncharted territory, to be sure.

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. Everyone stay safe and healthy!