Ask Matt: More Life for 'After Life'? Plus 'Belgravia,' Pandemic Storylines, 'Fargo' & 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.
Let There Be Life After Season 2
Question: I just binge-watched the second season of After Life, which incidentally is the best series on television. My concern is that this second season ended very much like a series finale. Please tell me there will be more of After Life. Ricky Gervais has created a masterpiece. Please reassure me there will be more to come. – Carolyn
Matt Roush: I wish I could, because my fondness for this poignant dramedy is nearly as enthusiastic as yours (see my full review), but as of now, Netflix hasn't renewed the series. And the history of Ricky Gervais comedies (which generally last only two seasons) might suggest this could be it — although in a recent Q&A on Twitter, he expressed a desire to continue with a third season, so let's hope that happens. Even should After Life not have a longer shelf life, I agree with your reaction that the end of the current season ended on a hopeful enough note that I feel good where we left these characters. Would I welcome them back for more? Absolutely.
Belgravia feels like a Masterpiece
Question: Considering the enormous popularity of Downton Abbey on PBS, why is the equally enticing new series Belgravia being telecast on Epix instead of PBS which reaches a much larger audience? The production values are certainly in line with Masterpiece Theatre. — Larry N
Matt Roush: While I'm sure Masterpiece would love to have an exclusive relationship with Julian Fellowes, who wrote both Downton Abbey and Belgravia, that's not how the business works. Downton made the Oscar- (for Gosford Park) and Emmy-winning writer a hot commodity, and Epix signed on to co-produce Belgravia with Britain's ITV. (Another Masterpiece-evoking project, The Gilded Age, is being developed for HBO after having originally been set up at NBC.) Which isn't to say that Masterpiece might not someday be able to license this six-part series, because Belgravia really is thematically perfect for PBS’s premiere anthology. (See my full review.) And there is precedent. Recently, Masterpiece became the broadcast home of a Howard's End adaptation that had previously aired on Starz in 2017.
Will DIY Be Totally DOA?
Question: I heard that the new Magnolia Network is going to replace DIY. If this is true, what will happen to the shows (like Maine Cabin Masters) currently running on DIY? — Janet R
Matt Roush: Remains to be seen. It's possible some of the current DIY lineup will migrate to HGTV or another of the multiple Discovery brands (originally Scripps in their case). This shift is expected to be a pretty total rebranding — a four-hour preview event is scheduled to air on DIY this Sunday — so it's inevitable that some DIY shows will no longer air or produce originals. But it looks like judgement day has been put off for a while, as Magnolia's original launch date of Oct. 4 has been postponed, like so much else in the industry, because of COVID-19 production delays.
Will the Pandemic Take Over Prime Time?
Question: Do you expect that scripted shows (comedies, procedurals and especially 9-1-1 and hospital-set dramas) will be overrun with pandemic-related stories beginning whenever writers come back to work? I can see all the hospital shows having medical ethics issues with dying virus patients, and procedurals dealing with infected people not quarantined. Comedies will riff jokes off of sheltering and working and schooling from home, having meals delivered, teenagers can't date, little kids can't have a ball-pit or bounce-house for their birthday party. I think it's going to get very repetitive. You? — Tom F
Matt Roush: It's hard to imagine that the new broadcast season, whenever that day comes, won't find many ways to grapple with an event of this magnitude. Medical procedurals, especially, given the profound issues the pandemic has stirred up regarding the health-care system and its dedicated workers. Though it also wouldn't surprise me to see the SVU and other teams wearing masks on the job for a while to reflect the new reality, especially in hard-hit urban areas. Will it get repetitive? What on TV doesn’t? But TV is also an escapist medium, and I would expect a number of series, especially the lighter family comedies, to want to move on fairly quickly — although that also depends on how things play out over the next few months. If the new normal continues to feel as abnormal as it does now, all bets are off.
Leading Ladies in Jeopardy
Question: I'm delighted to see some outstanding new shows with strong female leads this season (Stumptown, Tommy, Emergence, Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist and Briarpatch). It sounds like they are all on the bubble, which is disappointing if they don't have a chance to develop. Any chance a limited series like Briarpatch will come back so Rosario Dawson can interact with a new set of characters? — Cathy
Question: Briarpatch was a great series that seems to have gotten lost on USA Network and its shifting schedule. Will there be another season (maybe on another network)? — Cal
Matt Roush: Cathy's observation is a good one, because it really was a memorable season for fully developed female lead characters, and these were among my favorite freshman series. I wouldn't necessarily consider it a negative trend that these shows are on the bubble for renewal. Bona fide breakout hits are hard to come by in this fragmented industry, and few are slam-dunks anymore. Shows like Zoey and Emergence in particular are genres (offbeat musical dramedy and sci-fi/fantasy) that can be tough sells in the mainstream. I was surprised that Stumptown, with Cobie Smulders' sensational lead performance embodying the show's raucous tone, didn't achieve a higher profile. I'm hoping a few of these make it back for a sophomore run — but of all of the above, Briarpatch seems the longest shot. When USA moved it out of prime time, that seemed to be an early death knell. Rosario Dawson was terrific, and the show was refreshingly original with its infusion of surreal humor into the crime genre. If it isn’t renewed, hard to imagine it landing elsewhere, with only one underwatched season to commend it.
Question: I understood that Fargo was scheduled to start on FX April 19. I can't find it. Did something pre-empt it? — John T
Matt Roush: That "something" would be the pandemic, which as with so much else in the entertainment sector shut down production on the fourth season before the final episodes could be filmed. Instead of premiering on the original timetable with no guarantee of when the series could be completed, thus leaving viewers hanging unnecessarily, FX decided to postpone Fargo until business could resume. I'm expecting the long wait to be worth it, though it's obviously a disappointment not to have it back as a spring treat.
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!