Ask Matt: 'Resident' and Early Finales, the Silent 'Conner,' Wrestling with 'Sinner' and 'Zoey' & More
Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist
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.
Question: I love The Resident and this week's episode was stellar as ever. I believe the preview for the next episode, which is airing in two weeks, stated it was the season finale. Is that right? I had read an article that they were almost done with their last episode of the season when the shutdown happened. It seems that would have been more than just one more episode from where we are now. So, was this season only supposed to be 20 episodes? Or are they shortening their season to just 20 episodes and we'll perhaps get a bigger season next season with the extra episodes from this season? Actually, has it even been renewed for season 4? So many questions! I hope you can help! — Liz
Matt Roush: It's a confusing time to be sure, but I beg of everyone, don't let TV add to your anxieties. Everyone and everything is affected by the current outbreak crisis, and it's impossible to project the long-term (or even short-term) impact. So enjoy your shows while you can and trust that when things become safe enough to resume business (as normal or otherwise), more answers will be forthcoming. With The Resident, as with scores of other shows that were nearing the end of their season's production, the pipeline ran short by a few episodes (in this case a 23-episode order), and while some of these episodes may have been finished filming, the post-production process had to be suspended as well, which is why a number of series will be ending in April instead of May. (This is not to be confused with the handful of series that finished their runs this week, which was already planned, and those shows along with several more about to end had already finished their shorter episode orders.)
What happens to these unaired or unfinished episodes remains to be seen. It's possible they'll be added on to the following season—The Resident hasn't been officially renewed, but no one expects it not to be — and that seems the most logical solution, because in most cases gearing up for production to complete just a few episodes may not be feasible. (As previously discussed, a show that's actually ending its run, like Supernatural, will complete its final episodes.) For now, we just need to let nature take its course, and hope for things to get back on track when possible.
Why is D.J. the Silent (or Unseen) Conner?
Question: We are two seasons into The Conners, as well as the first season of the revived Roseanne. And in all that time, Michael Fishman's D.J. has never had a storyline of his own. At least half the time, he isn't even in an episode, and when he is, he's relegated to one or two scenes and four or five lines of dialogue. Even the kids on the show get more screen time than he does. What's the deal there? Why don't the producers and writers ever give him anything to do? — Scott
Matt Roush: I can only answer from a critic's point of view, but there's no question that as The Conners has developed minus Roseanne, the core of the show is now the single-mom tag-team of Darlene (Sara Gilbert) and Becky (Lecy Goranson) both living at home with Dan (John Goodman) and their kids, with Aunt Jackie (Laurie Metcalf) always hanging around, but D.J. and his daughter considerably less so. Logistically, D.J.'s frequent absence can be explained by the fact that he doesn't live with the rest of them, and Dan's home is where the majority of the action takes place. I would also venture to surmise that the writers simply haven't found a way to make D.J. as funny or interesting as the rest of the characters. And while Fishman can be refreshingly unpolished, which worked for him as a child actor, I don't see much evidence that he could hold his own against these adult pros and how well they're carrying this season's storylines.
In Praise of Young Sheldon
Question: Since I am a senior citizen, I have been watching TV for many, many years. I can't remember a show that had such perfect casting as Young Sheldon. Every single character in that show is just perfect for the part that they play. I really look forward to that show every week and know I will have lots of laughs. — Becky
Matt Roush: That's a great testimonial for a show that I know gives many people a lot of pleasure. These days, that's a commodity we can all appreciate.
But Where's Sheldon on All Access?
Question: I just subscribed to CBS All Access and I have a question for you. Why don't the first two seasons of Young Sheldon come with? Amazon Prime charges for them at this time. Is it because of a syndication deal that CBS won't allow free access to the episodes on All Access? What does "All Access" even mean anymore? – Michael, NJ
Matt Roush: No streaming service is perfect, and with more on the way, there's never going to be one that gives you everything you want. In the case of CBS All Access, some of what you would think would be its most popular legacy titles — JAG, classic CSI — only offer selected episodes and seasons, not the full library. And that is no doubt due to lucrative syndication deals in cable or elsewhere that prohibit this sort of streaming exclusivity at present. With Young Sheldon, the site is offering only the current season, and one of the network's biggest hits ever, The Big Bang Theory, is nowhere to be seen — and that's because it's heading later this year to the WarnerMedia-owned HBO Max, which shelled out a fortune for streaming rights. And because Young Sheldon is also a Warner Bros. show that will likely end up there as well, that's probably why only the episodes from this season are available on CBS's site.
Many classic and current CBS (and Paramount) shows are available on the site in their entirety, more than I'd ever have time for — and of course originals like The Good Fight and Star Trek: Picard are worth the price of admission. But it is undeniably frustrating when you're searching for something that by all logic should be available on a streaming site only to come up incomplete or empty.
Question: Does NCIS: Los Angeles end this season? Seems like it has exhausted every type of plot possible. Plus, I want to see Eric and Nell do something different. — Bill G
Matt Roush: Welcome to the syndrome I like to call "franchise fatigue." I keep my distance from most formula procedurals so as to avoid this problem, but they're the backbone of CBS's schedule, and while you can nit-pick them to death (I've seen and read it all), NCIS: LA isn't going away anytime soon. When the time comes, you'll no doubt get plenty of warning. And as far as I know, Eric and Nell are merely following orders.
Finding Problems in Sinner and Zoey
Question: I have watched all seasons of USA's The Sinner and this latest started like it was going to be one of the best. But it has gone a bit off the rails for me. Since we saw the crime, it has all turned into some convoluted psychological game between Bill Pullman and Matt Bomer (both excellent, I agree), with the Ambrose character doing some (IMO) really stupid things — like letting himself be buried alive, and then the oxygen tube removed! I've stuck it out at this point only because I know it's a short season, and this week's was the last, otherwise I would've been gone 3-4 episodes ago.
On another "note," I was very excited about Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist and have really tried to like it - but it is losing me fast. I'm a BIG fan of Jane Levy, who's very good, but if her character is in anyway related to her TV "parents," Mary Steenburgen and Peter Gallagher, I wanna see a genetic test. I'm all for casting the best actors, but a pet peeve of mine is if they're supposed to be members of the same immediate family, shouldn't they bear some semblance of shared looks? Look at the casting of This Is Us for example, and the three sets of kids playing the young, teen and grown-up versions of the three Pearson children.
Also, I get that there's little show without the musical interludes, but the songs chosen are so spot-on to what's happening with the various characters, so literal and therefore (IMO) so unnecessary, that I find myself fast-forwarding through most of the musical numbers as a time-saving device. That coupled with Gallagher's bug-eyed frozen face is a distraction. He's a very good actor and singer, so I assume he's being told to play it that way because the real father of the show's writer/producer, who suffers from this ailment, looks that way. But for the audience, most of whom have no clue about that look, it looks goofy and odd and makes it harder to be sympathetic and empathetic to the dad when it appears as if the guy's never had an acting lesson in his life. It is so much more effective in the rare moments when he relaxes his face for a minute so we can read the pain and hardship and feeling trapped in his (non-bugged-out) eyes. — Michael
Matt Roush: I'm with you on The Sinner. Excellent performances by the two leads — and also by Chris Messina as the malign influence who pushed Bomer's character over the edge, and Jessica Hecht as that oddball obsessive artist. And while I'm on board for any good psychological cat-and-mouse drama, there came a point when it just stopped making sense. Especially after Jamie killed the psychic and kept going back to school, etc., and then that insane buried-alive sequence. How Ambrose didn't end up being committed after all of that is beyond me. But Pullman sold it, and if they make a fourth season, I'm there.
With Zoey, we'll have to agree to disagree. If you are still choosing to watch what I consider to be one of the few truly delightful, entertaining and original shows of the midseason, it baffles me why you wouldn't be able to look past its quirks and flaws to simply enjoy. Or at the very least appreciate the show's reason for being, the musical numbers. Yes, they're often on-the-nose, but delivered with such spirit that I give myself over to them. Besides, musicals have always been about people expressing their feelings in song, even when redundant to the action. (I am very eager to see this week's episode, when Zoey herself is doing the singing because of a "glitch" in her powers.) Regarding Peter Gallagher as the stricken dad: I get that it can be uncomfortable to watch, but I sense that this is a man constantly fighting against the limitations of his body and who doesn't care how it looks. Whenever he comes out of his shell to sing, I'm pretty sure it isn't only Zoey's heart that is both broken and uplifted.
Question: With all the major networks furloughing shows due to coronavirus, why don't they bring out the fabulous miniseries of the 1970s and ’80s to rebroadcast to a new generation of viewers? I would love to see Rich Man, Poor Man, the John Jakes' North and South miniseries, Holocaust, Shogun, The Thorn Birds, Chiefs, Centennial, The Winds of War and many more. — S Kremer
Matt Roush: I'd add an all-time favorite, Lonesome Dove, to that list. We're not quite to the point yet where the major networks' lineups are empty enough to accommodate these very long-form classics, but I can think of many worse ways to spend these long days and nights shut inside should it last much longer. And I'd recommend almost all of these should they be revived. (I own a copy of Shogun, and it tempts me every time I look at it, having re-read the novel not that long ago. But currently, with originals still airing and a wave of premieres on the horizon through spring, it's still pretty much all I can do just to keep up.)
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!