Ask Matt: ‘All Rise’ for Virtual Episode, a Canceled ‘Man,’ ‘American Idol,’ Themed Soaps Weeks & More

American Idol Cast
ABC/Gavin Bond
American Idol

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.

The Virtual Courtroom Was a Hit

Question: What did you think of the virtual episode of All Rise? I thought it was extremely well done and one of the few shows that actually dealt with this pandemic head-on. Do you think the show will be picked up for Season 2? I sure hope so. — Mike S

Matt Roush: You’re in luck. All Rise was one of many CBS shows whose renewal was confirmed this week. (Naturally, my mailbag will be more focused on lamenting the handful of canceled shows.) And All Rise certainly went out on a high note with Lola (Simone Missick) presiding over a virtual bench trial. It was cleverly and ambitiously put together, and the tone was just right in depicting the challenges of conducting business in this environment and the vicarious joy of reconnecting with colleagues and friends through video chats. Kudos to everyone involved for turning this around so quickly and effectively.

An unsigned fan also weighed in: “You should recognize All Rise. [We did.] Their program addressing the coronavirus pandemic using social separation was terrific. They showed the difficulty of trying to carry on with court cases without being in court. Using the separate shots of all the actors really carried out the reality of the social distancing. I’m not aware of any other show that addressed the issue as they did.”

If you liked this, check out NBC’s wonderful Parks and Recreation reunion special from the week before, which used many of the same elements to bring that beloved cast back together. Also significant, in light of some of my readers wishing prime-time shows would ignore the pandemic altogether, is that both of these episodes ended on upbeat notes, reminding us that even in these dark times it doesn’t have to be doom and gloom 24/7. The group dance on All Rise was a great way to say goodbye to those characters until next season (whenever that may be).

No Plan B for This Sitcom

Question: My question involves the announcement of the cancellation of Man with a Plan on CBS. Now I’m not saying that this show reinvented the sitcom, but I enjoyed it, and by some articles’ own admission, the cancellation was a bit of an eye-opener as it’s a good performer for CBS with about 6 million per week. It also speculated that it must be too expensive to produce, therefore that’s the reason. Which makes me get to my question: What makes Man with a Plan any more expensive than, say, Mom, The Goldbergs or Brooklyn Nine-Nine? All half-hour comedies? — Jeffrey

Matt Roush: I’ve seen that floated as an explanation for this particular cancellation as well — and while nothing about the show’s very ordinary production values suggests they’re breaking the bank on it, it’s probably more about the talent deals, and Matt LeBlanc is a highly sought-after (and no doubt costly) star. I wasn’t all that surprised about this cancellation. Despite its likable star, the show has zero critical buzz, and its marginal status had already been amplified by how long it sat on the shelf this season. This could also be a casualty of the corporate belt-tightening in the wake of the CBS-Viacom merger, and the company may not have seen much back-end potential for a sitcom that to many already felt like a rerun from another time.

Idol‘s Gender Equity Raises Eyebrows

Question: How did American Idol‘s Top 10 work out to be exactly five women and five men? Did I miss them saying that they were taking America’s vote for the top five women and the top five men? It just makes it look rigged. — Unsigned

Matt Roush: I’m sure they’ll say it wasn’t. And just to clarify the math, the official Top 10 was six men and four women. Only the judges’ save put Makayla into what’s now a Top 11 going into Sunday’s round, which balances it out a bit more. Maybe that’s just how the votes fell.

Put the Vintage Soaps Online

Question: I love that CBS is doing the themed weeks of The Young and the Restless, but I’m frustrated that outside of the previews, they’re not showing up on CBS All Access. It stops Y&R with the last original episode. Since the on-air broadcasts are constantly being interrupted by updates, it would be nice to see them whole. — AS

Matt Roush: I like this programming stopgap as well, to fill the void nostalgically until the shows can get up and running again. This seems a fair point, although there may be rights issues involved with streaming episodes produced and written before streaming was a thing. Still, during this quarantine every little bit helps.

All About the Playlist

Question: Can you take one more comment on Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist? The finale was one of the best things I’ve seen on TV. I was bawling halfway through and really lost it at the end. Talk about touching emotions! I’ve liked the show throughout the season, too. One of the reasons is the music. They pick music from different time periods and genres, so this 71-year-old can relate. I’m not really up on current music, so to hear songs from the ’60s and ’70s is great. I actually saved one of the episodes, so I can play it and hear one of the songs (“500 Miles”) over and over. My husband doesn’t watch the show, but I told him he MUST watch the finale. Bravo to the producers for some fine TV. Please, God, RENEW ZOEY!” — Barbara

Matt Roush: I’m with you — and my mailbag is still filling up with reactions to that emotional finale. It’s good to hear that the show is appealing to all demographics, and I agree that the variety of music — not just sampling from yesterday’s Spotify — is one of its greatest assets. FYI: Many of the songs from Zoey’s extraordinary soundtrack are available for download on iTunes, and I see that “500 Miles” is high on the list for popularity. You’re in good company.

And Finally …

Question: What’s the status of ABC’s midseason sitcom United We Fall? Did the Will Sasso/Jane Curtin comedy vehicle ever complete a string of episodes that ABC could air as Fall 2020 “stopgap” programming? — Jonell

Matt Roush: Delaying this sitcom from its original midseason premiere plan to a fall launch is very much a possibility. This is happening with a handful of shows — and the latest season of The Amazing Race on CBS — to ensure there will be some original content in fall should the pandemic keep production shut down even longer than currently projected. It’s possible that other shows still in limbo, including several intended as summer programming, could be delayed until fall as well. As with so much during this period of uncertainty, time will tell.

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!