Ask Matt: The New Perry Mason, a 'Baker' Fan, Late Night Gets Serious, 'Supernatural' & 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.
The Perry We Never Knew (and Some Don't Want to Know)
Question: I read the article on the new Perry Mason show. Why in the world do they call it Perry Mason??? It has NO semblance to the old show, none whatsoever. Those of us that remember watching Perry Mason will be expecting something familiar from the past, but it sounds like we will be very disappointed. Just give this show a new name and it might stand a chance. It's just not right that they are trying to capitalize off a well-known staple of yesteryear. They shouldn't even be allowed to use the name of Perry Mason. — Mary Ann
Matt Roush: I've learned over the years that there are two types of pop-culture fans: those who'd prefer nothing about their favorite shows and characters to ever change, and those who embrace the idea of revising and revisiting icons to find new ways to tell their story — in this case, an origin story, and doesn't every hero deserve one? Besides, what are the odds HBO of all places would take a character like Perry Mason and simply remake the original formula? At least HBO isn't pretending it's presenting "something familiar from the past." In fact, this has been promoted from the time it was announced as a new take on the character, who in print and on TV was something of a cipher outside the courtroom. (And I say that as a fan of the original as a product of its time.)
I've seen the full season (hopefully not the only one) of the new Perry Mason, and besides the fact that Matthew Rhys is predictably terrific in the role, I appreciate how the tone of this 1930s version echoes the pulp-fiction leanings of the prolific Erle Stanley Gardner. Purists will undoubtedly chafe at some of the new aspects of Mason's much more flawed character, among other significant changes involving Della Street and Paul Drake and other figures from the canon, but anyone who loves a good underdog fable with film noir shadings (and the R-rated elements common to HBO series) will likely have a ball.
A Second Batch of Baker, Please
Question: I just finished watching the last show of the season of The Baker and the Beauty and I want to know if it will be renewed. I really became hooked on it and was happy with the lovely ending. Please make ABC renew it. — Judy W
Matt Roush: If I could make the networks do anything, it would be a whole different ball game. The best I can do is pass on sentiments like yours. I don't have an answer, or even a gut feeling, about renewal on this one. ABC's track record isn't all that strong when it comes to shows that premiere this late in the season (though lately, scripted summer shows have fared even worse). The good news is that ABC let Baker run without interruption, so let's stay positive until we have reason not to.
TV Could Use a Friend Like This
Question: In light of everything that's going on right now with Black Lives Matter, it feels even more of a loss that CBS canceled God Friended Me, which highlighted a black middle-class religious family and a diverse cast. Yet CBS has an excess of increasingly violent police/cop shows. The NCIS shows really glorify the violence and in my opinion NCIS: LA in particular so often has shoot-outs that I have stopped watching it. A little counterprogramming isn't such a bad thing. — Unsigned
Matt Roush: This time of year, I get messages of disappointment from fans of just about any show that gets canceled, but there's always one that stands out for the passion of its fan base, and this year that distinction belongs to God Friended Me. I doubt anything will budge CBS at this point, especially since the producers were able to contrive an ending of sorts to the series. But this makes an excellent point that in the season to come, whenever that may be, the occasional program promoting diversity and uplift will be even more appreciated. Especially as an alternative to the interchangeable crime dramas that continue to proliferate — although I'd like to think there will be some soul-searching in writers' rooms during this period of unrest when it comes to depicting behaviors and procedures in law enforcement (they call these shows procedurals for a reason).
A Grand Finale for Homeland
Question: Talk about wrapping up a series! The final episode of Homeland was so fulfilling and tied everything up beautifully taking us into Carrie's future. I've been surprised to note the lack of praise for how a long-time, very complex, extremely character-rich story told across so many seasons truly did complete it so adeptly, showing so much talent from the actors, the writers, and indeed the entire production ensemble. Your thought? — Zee
Matt Roush: I weighed in on this more than a month ago in an earlier column, and as more time has passed, I can look beyond some of the improbabilities of how they achieved that final twist to better appreciate the notion that Carrie and Saul are still a team, though playing a very different long game. That is satisfying, and in keeping with what the show was always about. But if you expected more critical fireworks and hosannas, it's likely the case that because Homeland lost its way several times before recapturing its mojo in the final seasons that it had shed many of its earlier champions in the media and thus may not have received the appreciations it ultimately deserved.
Laughter in Late Night
Question: What is happening with Fallon, Colbert and Kimmel these days? All three are so political now, and they are just not funny anymore! Before I go to bed, I just want to be entertained with some light comedy as in the days of Carson, Leno and Letterman. We already get more than enough daily politics from CNN, Fox, MSNBC and CBS. I have tuned out of late night and I am sure many other TV viewers have, too. — Alfred B
Matt Roush: To put this in context, I received this late last week, when the city I live in was under an 8 pm curfew and streets across the nation were overrun with protests. So while this speaks to a bigger issue generally, and one I've heard often, especially with someone like Stephen Colbert whose monologues since the last election have been almost entirely political in nature, let's be honest: This isn't a funny time. Even Carson and Leno, and certainly Letterman in his prime, would have stepped back during a period of this much turmoil to get serious, and even Fallon stopped being cute last week. In the bigger picture, I know from my mailbag that many people wish the late-night hosts would lighten up and move off politics more often, but to ignore the times we're in would render them irrelevant, and for as many who are turned off, others are drawn to these shows for their ability to inject some wit and humanity amid the polarized outrage even in quieter weeks. There's no going back.
Question: I missed the Season 15 episodes of Supernatural that have already aired. When the show comes back in the fall, will they start the final season over from the beginning of the season or just air the episodes they didn't get to air due to the pandemic? — Stacie
Matt Roush: Nothing's set yet, and it really depends on when those final episodes can be finished and the show returns to the schedule. But it's unlikely that The CW would do anything to delay those episodes once they're ready, and that includes repeating the ones that have already aired. So because The CW isn't currently repeating the show, and only a handful of Season 15 episodes are available on the network's website and app, Netflix is your best bet for streaming the 13 episodes that have aired to date.
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!