Ask Matt: ‘Zoey’s Extraordinary’ Finale, the New ‘Penny Dreadful,’ Pandemic in TV Shows & More

Skylar Astin as Max and Jane Levy as Zoey Clarke in Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist - Season 1
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.

Zoey‘s Finale, and Its Future

Question: [Mild Spoiler Alert] Well, Sunday’s finale of Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist was beautiful. I don’t think I’ve cried that much at a TV show since The Good Place ended (which wasn’t all that long ago, but still). Although I’ll miss seeing Mitch (Peter Gallagher) next season, I really appreciate the authenticity of playing out his story this season, as opposed to other TV shows where characters who are ill never seem to actually decline because the show doesn’t want to lose the actor. Everything in this episode worked for me and I think it is the best thing they’ve done all season. When I realized that they were going to do all of “American Pie” in one shot, my jaw dropped. That was really ambitious and I thought they pulled it off beautifully. Creatively speaking, this is a strong argument for why the show needs to continue, and I hope NBC can make the financials work from a business perspective for Season 2 to happen. What did you think, and how likely do you think a renewal is? — Jake

Matt Roush: I thought it was a lovely and very moving episode — most weeks found me choking back tears at least once per hour (usually involving scenes of Zoey and her dad, or her dad and mom together) — and I was impressed during that fluid “American Pie” sequence just how full Zoey’s world had become, with so many memorable characters coming in and out of frame. I wish I had a better read on Zoey‘s prospects for a second season, but there’s so much uncertainty in the industry at the moment I can’t even predict what or when we’ll be hearing definitive news about renewals and cancellations. I surely hope a series as distinctive as this doesn’t get lost in the chaos.

Question: Back in January, before the world changed dramatically, I wrote to Ask Matt about how much I loved the pilot of Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist. Five months later, I can say I loved the entire season. There were so many poignant episodes, including Sunday night’s finale, that brightened the dismal past few months. I hope the show gets a Season 2, but if NBC doesn’t renew the show, does that signify that musical shows aren’t commercially viable on network TV (or maybe even cable) anymore? — Brian

Matt Roush: I’d hate to generalize anything from the fate of a show so unusual and personal. If Zoey isn’t renewed, I’ll choose to look at it as a limited series telling this specific story about Zoey at a time of family and romantic (and to a lesser extent, workplace) upheaval. This couldn’t have been an inexpensive series to produce, so that may be more of a factor than the musical genre itself, but given that few series of this sort have had the breakout success of Glee, it’s quite possible that if Zoey doesn’t get a second shot, any future projects incorporating music this ambitiously will be considered a risk that few networks (broadcast, cable or streaming) would be willing to take.

That said, Netflix is launching a very different sort of musical drama on Friday: The Eddy, threading a rich jazz soundtrack into the story of a struggling Paris club. It’s more comparable to HBO’s Treme in its authenticity of place and culture, and not particularly strong on story. But if that show were to be one and done as well, then maybe it would be time to generalize about the state of musical TV shows. I hope they keep coming, though. Just like the debacle of Cats shouldn’t put the kibosh on all movie musicals.

Two Sides of a Very Different Coin

Question: I recently watched the pilot episode of Showtime’s Penny Dreadful: City of Angels, and I really enjoyed it. I thought the performances were good, especially Natalie Dormer, who I’ve been a fan of since Game of Thrones. However, I tried watching a few episodes of the original Penny Dreadful series, and this one seems very different, not just in terms of characters, but also with regards to tone and premise. I’m concerned the nature of the new show might be too different to draw in fans of the original series, but new potential fans may be hesitant to watch due to the name association. What do you think about the title association and how this could affect opinions on the new series? — Marissa

Matt Roush: These two Pennys could hardly be more different, and your question is a good one. While Natalie Dormer is terrific in her various guises as the evil shape-shifting demon stirring up mayhem in 1930s Los Angeles, I’m finding the supernatural elements of City of Angels more distracting than compelling, whereas the Gothic horrors of the original series, mashing up various iconic monsters of literature and legend, was pure intoxication to me. I am curious how fans of the original series will react to the new version. City of Angels works best for me as a crime drama wrapped in a social commentary, and I’m not sure that’s what I or anyone else expected from the anthology’s second act.

Homeland‘s Russian Scene Stealer

Question: I can’t stop rewatching the series finale of Homeland, it’s one of the best endings I’ve ever seen. Whoever is responsible for casting Costa Ronin as the Russian spy and Carrie’s equal should receive a huge bonus! I loved him in The Americans. Please tell me Costa Ronin will be appearing in something new soon. — DAS

Matt Roush: I discussed my thoughts about the finale in an earlier column — loved the final twist, but the way they got there was a bit problematic — but absolutely agree that Costa Ronin brought so much charisma to the role of Vevgeny Gromov, I almost forgave him for stealing the black box from Carrie and precipitating the final showdown. Given the global production shutdown, there’s not a lot of activity out there, but it looks like the actor can next be seen in the film Brighton Beach, playing a sinister mob boss from the Brooklyn neighborhood. And yes, let’s hope he’s on TV producers’ radar as well. He’ll always be welcome.

Should TV Series Avoid the Pandemic?

Question: I see that some shows are planning to include the current pandemic crisis into their storylines. My question is: Why? People are watching more TV to escape what’s happening in the world, so why bring it into their living rooms, too? I for one will not watch any episodes of shows that focus on this subject. There are enough reminders on the news programs. I don’t need it included in the shows I watch. — JC

Matt Roush: That is your right, and I’m sure many will agree with you, but TV also has a responsibility to reflect our reality, not just escape from it. And within reason, some TV shows will want to stay relevant — and it doesn’t always need to be as heavy as what we see on the news. Last week’s Parks and Recreation special was a wonderful example of how to create warm character-driven comedy from our current situation, and I’m curious about this week’s All Rise on CBS, using Zoom-like technology to dramatize a bench trial done virtually — the same week, by coincidence, that the Supreme Court is conducting business remotely and sharing the live audio feed with broadcasters.

God‘s Afterlife

Question: Do you know how long God Friended Me will stay on the CBS app? I loved Season One, but got behind with all the available shows out now and would love to be able to catch up and still watch Season Two, but I didn’t know if CBS will pull it off now that it’s been canceled. — Jamie

Matt Roush: Now that many shows are wrapping their seasons, I’d make catching up on God Friended Me a priority. It doesn’t look as if CBS has announced an expiration date for this, and the app has plenty of shows from the CBS library that stay on the service long after airing their final episodes. (As opposed to the On Demand service, which appears to only make the last few episodes of God available.) But co-producing studio Warner Bros., not CBS, is the distributor of the series, and I see that the first season is not streaming, so I wouldn’t count on this staying on the network app indefinitely.

Episodes in Limbo

Question: It was reported that there were 19 MacGyver episodes filmed before the coronavirus precautions made production shut down. I noticed the season’s “finale” was only episode 13. Are we going to ever see the other six episodes that were filmed? — Cecelia G

Matt Roush: There seems to be some conflicting information on this, and when I consulted our reporter who covers MacGyver and wrote about this week’s episode for the current issue of TV Guide Magazine, he was told by the show-runner that the episode that’s airing wasn’t intended to be the season finale, though it works well as one. My understanding is that, as has happened on quite a few other series, some episodes may have been filmed but not completed, and that could be why only 13 are airing for now. I’d expect all of these unaired episodes to be part of next season, if and when that happens, but as with so much of TV right now, it’s impossible to say how things will play out with any certainty.

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!