Ask Matt: ‘Modern Family’ Coming to an End, ‘Law & Order’ Spinoffs, ‘Good Doctor’ Echoing ‘Grey’s’ & More

Law & Order SVU
Chris Haston/NBC
Law & Order: SVU

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.

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Modern Family‘s Soft Landing

Question: Did you watch last week’s penultimate episode of Modern Family? I thought that it would have been fine, if unspectacular, for a normal episode. But it’s not a normal episode. This whole season hasn’t really felt like they were building to anything much or giving the characters really significant milestones on the way to an ending. Obviously, the arrival of a new baby for Cameron and Mitchell is the one exception to this, which is clearly designed for the family to meet him at the end like they met Lily in the pilot. But it doesn’t really seem like any of the characters have had significant growth or change this year, and most of them are where they have been for the last several years. I’m looking forward to seeing the ending next week, but as far as final seasons go, this one has felt shockingly insignificant. If they had ended the show last year with the birth of Haley’s twins, that would have felt just as effective as what they’re giving us this year. Your thoughts? — Jake

Matt Roush: I had to look back at my notes to remind myself of what happened in that episode — I’m watching a lot of TV these days (including shows premiering weeks from now) and it’s hard to keep track. Besides cringing at Mitchell’s crazy dance of separation anxiety in his former home, and eye-rolling during Jay and Manny’s wine-tasting — is there any character who grew more tiresome than Manny? — I agree it wasn’t a remarkable episode, but I’m not sure it had to be. (One of my all-time favorite sitcom finales was on Everybody Loves Raymond, where almost nothing happened. It was merely hilarious.) Modern Family falls into that camp of shows when people ask me, “Will you miss it?,” I tend to respond, “I’ve been missing it for years.” I still check in now and then, more often during this final season, but despite reliably clever writing and situations — I laughed when Claire conducted a job interview while stuck in the staircase recently — the show and its comedic beats grew stale for me years ago in a way shows like The Middle and The Big Bang Theory never did.

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That doesn’t diminish my appreciation for what Modern Family achieved in its early seasons, when it won the best comedy Emmy five years in a row — imagine a network show ever doing that again! — and how it sparked a comedy renaissance on ABC, including a welcome trend of inclusiveness and diversity. With back-to-back episodes Wednesday following an hour-long retrospective, ABC is pulling out the stops for this finale, and I imagine they’ll milk the sentiment as best they can. I’m just glad the Mitchell-Cam adoption storyline, which will create an appropriate bookend, was so briskly handled. A similar, but much more drawn-out, situation just about ruined Will & Grace‘s final season.

Are Network Comedies Broke?

Question: Regarding the “Going For Broke” TV Guide Magazine cover story on Pauley Perrette’s new comedy Broke, I see that her character is taking in unwanted family members. Will hilarity follow? It remains to be seen. No wonder the networks are struggling. I was just wondering how many sitcoms are going to continue to beat the “multigenerational families living in the same house” dead horse before somebody somewhere calls bs for what it is. Sorry! — Randy R

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Matt Roush: Why are you apologizing? CBS certainly isn’t — and with so many isolating at home, driving up ratings for original programming, the premiere of Broke broke big for the network, following a fresh episode of Mom (which didn’t hurt in boosting the new show’s numbers). I won’t argue with you that the premise of Broke is tired, with the formerly rich (and vapid) relatives moving in unexpectedly, but Pauley is a star — and so far the best thing about the show — and it’s impossible to underestimate the importance of comfort-food TV, however uninspired, these days.

The Future for Law & Order‘s Spinoffs

Question: I saw where Law & Order: SVU was picked up for three more years. Is this the end for that show? — Debbie

Matt Roush: I love how you make a three-year pickup sound like a death notice. (What ever happened to accentuating the positive?) While it is conceivable that NBC will decide after the 24th season to end the show’s long run — although why not stretch it out to a full quarter-century for the record books? — the network did not indicate that this is the intention. The purpose was to lock in Dick Wolf‘s series (including the Chicago trio) for the long haul.

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Question: With SVU‘s three-season renewal and the recently announced Stabler-led spinoff with Christopher Meloni, where does this leave Law & Order: Hate Crimes? Is a series order still a possibility, or is it dead in the water? — Alex

Matt Roush: It’s obviously not a priority right now, having been put on the back burner a year ago with no new news since then. With the announcement of the spinoff for Elliot Stabler, focusing on the NYPD’s organized crime department, planned sometime in the next year, that would suggest Hate Crimes remains in development-hell limbo for now. But because the appetite for Dick Wolf’s series is insatiable, I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s revived again when the time is right.

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Did The Good Doctor Copy Grey’s? And Deputy Angst

Question: I must say that I did enjoy Sean and Lea getting together on the finale of The Good Doctor, but since I know that you also follow Grey’s Anatomy, did you notice any similarity in two other developments on this show with past Grey’s plotlines? That would be the two featured deaths: namely Dr. Park’s dealing with the death of the young man trapped and who would die if what was pinning him down was moved. Now think of Lexie Grey, Meredith’s sister, being pinned similarly under the airplane, and McSteamy assisting with the fallen victims as was Dr. Melendez on Good Doctor before both succumbed to injuries themselves, although they both seemed to be fine initially. Now substitute an airplane crash with an earthquake disaster and voila they appear to be the same. Just saying.

Secondly, I am very disappointed with Fox’s early decision to cancel Deputy. I felt that this was an above-average procedural that deserved better and the fact that they did it so quickly was surprising. Finally, I know that you too are a fan of Jeopardy! and was just wondering if you had any idea of when the new episodes will halt due to the virus as I know that several episode are taped together weeks in advance, and since I play along I have no desire to see repeat questions. — JV

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Matt Roush: When we’ve all watched TV for as long as we have, it’s rare when any storyline doesn’t contain echoes from the past. I didn’t make the connection between the deaths of Dr. Melendez and Grey’s Mark Sloan, but you have a point. Both were similarly traumatic to be sure. The episode I flashed on during Good Doctor‘s Park subplot, in which he provided comfort for the fatally pinned earthquake victim, was a classic Homicide: Life on the Street episode from 1997 — yes, I’ve been doing this a while — in which guest star Vincent D’Onofrio was crushed and pinned by a Baltimore subway car, and Detective Pembleton (Andre Braugher) stayed with him until the poignant end.

To your other points: I share your surprise that Deputy wasn’t given more of a chance, and this one seems entirely ratings-driven, since the show never really popped against tough competition on Thursdays. As for Jeopardy! to my knowledge, the show hasn’t announced when it will run out of original episodes — the College Championship will air the next two weeks‑but they’re usually at least a month ahead in production, possibly more, taping a week’s worth of shows at a time. When Jeopardy! (and its partner show Wheel of Fortune) announced they were suspending production, they expressed hope that they would return as soon as it was safe to continue the current season. Recent events given the spread of the virus make that seem rather optimistic, but it’s impossible to predict how long, or short, any hiatus will be.

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Spoiling for a Fight

Question: Last summer in June, CBS aired episodes of The Good Fight. I enjoyed it very much. Since I don’t stream channels, I am wondering if CBS plans to air more of this show this summer. — Paula

Matt Roush: The network hasn’t announced anything, but with a new season of The Good Fight beginning on CBS All Access this week, this is a good time to remind everyone that like many streaming and premium cable outlets during this stay-at-home period, CBS All Access is offering a 30-day free trial, so you could catch up that way. Especially with the disruption in TV production affecting so many shows, presumably including some intended for summer, it’s possible CBS could air the second season of The Good Fight (edited for content) if only to fill a hole on the schedule. But until they announce something, expect this terrific and politically charged series to remain exclusive to the streaming service, which is why it exists in the first place.

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And Finally …

Question: Are the Big Brother shows returning? — Edward

Matt Roush: Of all the shows in limbo during this time, Big Brother would seem to be among the most endangered. Casting calls for the new season have been suspended for now, understandably, leading to speculation that there may not be a summer season, although online submissions are apparently continuing. (And past cast members, who obviously know no shame, are crowing for an all-star season.) I’ve long felt this was one of the most socially irresponsible shows anywhere on TV, and to gather a bunch of strangers in close proximity to each other in a house for our voyeuristic amusement sounds like a worse idea than ever, even if the threat of the infection’s spread lessens in weeks and months to come. But with everything on hold for now and for the foreseeable immediate future, stay tuned. No one knows where any of this is heading.

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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!