Ask Matt: 'Dancing' in the Fall, Emmys Expanding Categories, 'General Hospital' Reruns, 'Perry Mason' & 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.
Dancing in a Pandemic
Question: So ABC is still pretending they'll have a scripted fall schedule. Putting that aside, how can they possibly schedule Dancing with the Stars for "fall?" Dancing is not a socially distanced activity. – JL
Matt Roush: ABC was the last of the major networks to publish a projected fall schedule, and I understand why they're all trying to put on their best face despite the challenges of actually being able to launch some if not most of these announced shows in the months ahead. (A primary reason: lining up advance ad dollars.) In many of these cases, I'm looking at it as wishful thinking, especially when it comes to ambitiously produced live programming involving physical activity, case in point Dancing. While it's not that hard to imagine dancers using masks as part of their costumes, the exertion of these routines in close holding positions (for classic ballroom) would seem to contradict most current safety protocols. As with everything else involving the current situation, we'll have to wait to see how this all plays out. But I was even more surprised to see a season of The Bachelorette on the fall schedule. Social distancing would kill that franchise.
More Nominees the Merrier for Networks?
Question: What do you think of the rule change expanding the number of Best Comedy and Drama nominees to eight each, and what is your opinion of their reasoning for doing this? I assume the networks would like it if some of their programs were actually nominated again, but there doesn't seem to be a guarantee that those extra slots won't just go to more streaming shows.
That being said, The Good Place just has to get one of those comedy slots, right? Obviously, you watch way more TV than I do, but I can't think of eight comedies that were all better than its terrific final season. I would have put it in at five nominees, but then I would have put it in for the three previous seasons as well, and that didn't happen. Maybe the extra slots will give their chances a boost. I'd love to see that show get some long-overdue awards appreciation. The only problem I can see is that the show is so heavily serialized that voters might not be able to appreciate just how satisfying this conclusion was if they haven't already been invested in the previous seasons. — Jake
Matt Roush: The problem, as it has been all along, is that many Emmy voters probably consume less TV than you do, or at least not as wide a sample of the sort of non-premium/streaming content that used to get noticed in a pre-"peak" era. My take on the expanding number of categories is the same as that of the TV Academy, that they're responding to a 15% increase in the number of submissions, and even eight nominees barely scratches the surface in most categories. While you're probably right that most broadcast network shows are going to remain on the outside looking in, there will be exceptions. And regarding The Good Place, which according to my files made the cut for best comedy series last year (but should always have been a contender), I'd think it has an excellent chance of making the cut, especially in an expanded category. [I'd like to make a plea for Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist, but that's a very long shot.]
Yearning for Golden Oldies
Question: Why is ABC not showing real classic episodes of General Hospital from the '60s-'90s, and only showing reruns from this past recent decade (the 2010s)? The oldest episode that will air of GH so far is from 2007 during their upcoming Sonny and Carly theme week. How come the network can show clips of vintage episodes of GH in their The Story of Soaps special, but not air them? At least CBS is airing real classic episodes of their daytime soaps The Young and the Restless and The Bold and the Beautiful! — Chris B
Matt Roush: Different strokes for different shows, I guess. Maybe ABC thinks replaying stories of more recent vintage will be more relevant to current viewers, but I also heard from Linda, who wrote: "I'd love to see the beginning of the show and find out the history of some of the characters that are still in the show. I have watched it for 42 years but never saw the beginning of the show."
I'm not sure GH has to reach that far back, but my friend and colleague Ed Martin of Media Village recently wrote a well-regarded column suggesting GH should be rerunning the storylines from the summer of 1980 in particular, in sequence (when Luke and Laura first went on the run), and then if needed the following summer of 1981 (the Cassadines freezing Port Charles, the escalation of Luke and Laura's romance, their wedding, the arrival of Elizabeth Taylor as Helena Cassadine, etc.). As Ed points out, GH pretty much started the summer-story trend that heightened the shows' popularity when kids were home from school. This was a high point in GH's history — even I'm aware of it, and that's saying something — and it is curious that they're not using this forced hiatus to relive more robust times.
Not Laughing with House Hunters
Question: HGTV has found a way to ruin one of my favorite shows, House Hunters. Do they truly not understand the dynamic the show has with the fans? We like to critique the houses, choose our favorite, guess which one the buyers will choose, and discuss it with our friends and families. The whole experience is spoiled by the intrusive, loud and asinine comments offered up by these so-called comedians. HGTV, please bring back classic House Hunters ASAP. We need it to get through this pandemic! — Paula
Matt Roush: Relax. And dare I add, lighten up? Not that it's so easy these days, I get it, but in airing House Hunters: Comedians on Couches as a several-night stunt, it seems to me they're reflecting exactly the experience that most people associate with House Hunters, while having fun with it. And since no new episodes of the actual series are currently being produced for obvious reasons, this was another way to provide fresh content during difficult times. On the other hand, if you don't find these particular people funny — although anyone who doesn't laugh with John Mulaney in particular worries me a bit — that would obviously be a deal-breaker. But it's not like House Hunters itself is going away.
Perry Mason and the Courtroom
Question: In HBO's new Perry Mason, is there at least some foreshadowing that he's got ambition to become a lawyer? I agree that the books are far edgier than the show (they even had pretty lurid paperback covers) though for the '50s, the topics were about as far as TV could go at the time. I'm willing to go with this, but hoping if it's a hit that they don't just stick with him as a private eye — otherwise, what's the point, other than cashing in on the name? — David
Matt Roush: I just love this topic and how protective so many people seem to be of this iconic character. Without giving too much away here or in my review, it's fair to say that by the end of the eight-episode first season, you'll have a much better sense of how the new (as in younger) Perry Mason played by Matthew Rhys will be operating in the courtroom. I hope we get many more opportunities to see him in action.
Can't Get Enough of Those Magnolias
Question: Since we have been sheltered for 13 weeks, I have watched much more TV than usual and was totally taken with Sweet Magnolias on Netflix. Needless to say, I have blown through the 10 episodes of Season 1 and would like to know where to send my request that they put some resources into continuing this charming series!! Thank you for your insightful column. — Julie T, San Luis Obispo, CA
Matt Roush: Thank you for helping me end this column on an upbeat note, which is harder than usual these days. Believe me, you've already done your bit for the show by watching and finishing it, which is the metric Netflix cares about most. You can send Netflix some positive feedback here with a request for more seasons, and spreading the word on social media could also help its chances. If it eases your mind, Netflix rarely shuts down a show like this after just one season, so the odds are in Magnolia's favor.
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!