Ask Matt: Lost in ‘Yellowstone,’ ‘Barkskins,’ ‘Penny Dreadful,’ Netflix Renewals & 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.
A Lost Opportunity on Yellowstone?
Question: Just watched the season premiere of Yellowstone. This is the second show I have seen with Josh Holloway first shown out in the middle of nowhere (can’t remember the name of the first show). I think the writers missed a great opportunity both times. I think the first words spoken to him should have been, “Excuse me, are you lost?” Unless referencing a show from a different network isn’t allowed, this would have great! Was this missed, or is there a rule between networks where you can’t do something like this? —Michael, Colorado Springs
Matt Roush: You’re probably referring to either the Canadian series Intelligence or USA’s Colony. Can’t say I remember how he was introduced in either of those shows. But you have a point that especially when someone as instantly recognizable to TV viewers as Josh Holloway joins a show (as opposed to being the star, as he was in the aforementioned series), there could be some fun to be had, and maybe that’s a (so to speak) lost opportunity. On the other hand, a show like Yellowstone aims for more realism than the genre shows he has been previously associated with, so calling out something like this to purposely break the fourth wall wouldn’t really be in character for either the show or for Beth (Kelly Reilly), who made the first acquaintance with his character. Regardless, I look forward to seeing more of him in future episodes, with or without Sawyer references.
Barking for More Historical Drama
Question: I just finished watching the show Barkskins on National Geographic Channel. It left off on a bit of a cliffhanger. I understand this show is based somewhat on actual history that is left open to interpretation as to what actually happened, but will there be a season 2 of this show? It was very entertaining once you got into it and was great for binge-watching. — Bob in Portland
Matt Roush: This was always billed as a limited series, but it covers only a very small slice of the sprawling Annie Proulx novel it was based on, so I suppose there’s potential for a Barkskins 2. At the very least, it could give a sense of who survived the mayhem in the final chapter before moving on to future generations in what is essentially an environmental/historical saga. But as of now, there’s no word about a continuation, and given the state of the industry right now, we’d be in for a long wait should it even come to pass.
Question: I really enjoyed National Geographic’s Barkskins. I’m curious about the actor who played Hamish Gomes. Was he Richard III in Starz’s The White Queen? — Carol
Matt Roush: Good catch. The Welsh actor Aneurin Barnard was Richard in that historical drama, and he can also be seen in the 2016 miniseries version of War and Peace, and for something more contemporary, he appeared opposite a pre-Killing EveJodie Comer in the five-part BBC mystery Thirteen.
Why Is Smoke Still Getting in Our Eyes?
Question: With Penny Dreadful: City of Angels, the new Perry Mason, and various period dramas from the BBC all taking place before the 1970s, they are showing the use of tobacco products as part of everyday life and social activity. Has there been a push by tobacco growers to increase onscreen use of cigarettes and pipes or are the shows being true to the era? — Unsigned
Matt Roush: Let’s go with the latter. I’ve been on a classic-movie binge during these months of self-quarantine and am often reminded how smoking was all the rage and seen as quite sophisticated in the films of the 1930s and 1940s. (City of Angels and Perry Mason are both set in the ’30s.) This isn’t about product placement as much as it is to set an authentic and period-appropriate film noir tone, presumably doing it in such a way as not to glamorize the habit.
Of Angels and Demons
Question: Do you still feel the supernatural is overwhelming on Penny Dreadful: City of Angels? I think this show is amazing and the cast is great. — Unsigned
Matt Roush: In my initial review and occasional comments thereafter, I suggested I wasn’t so much overwhelmed by the supernatural elements but felt they weren’t as organic a fit as the classic monsters referenced in the original Penny Dreadful set in Victorian London. I still feel that way, that the story of corruption and ethnic tension in 1930s Los Angeles, exacerbated by the Nazi German interlopers, would be compelling enough without the overlay of the shape-shifting demon goddess played (to the campy hilt) by Natalie Dormer in various guises and dialects. The religious elements represented by the Mexican icon Santa Muerte and the temple led by Sister Molly (Kerry Bishé) add enough provocative spiritual context that I’m still not convinced we need Dormer’s various characters magically stirring the pot. (Although no one on TV is currently creepier than the terrifying child demon, Frank, played by Santino Barnard.) I’m not as hooked on this series as I was with the original format, but after watching this Sunday’s very eventful season finale, I’d definitely come back for a second.
Emmys and the Magic Eight Ball
Question: A quick comment on your recent discussion of the expansion of Emmy categories to eight each for comedy and drama categories. Like the old TV show, in this day and age of so many networks and scripted series, and so many of high quality and deserving, eight is not enough. As Matt commented to Jake, I’m NOT an EMMY voter (but I know a bunch) and I can guarantee I watch a whole lot more TV than they do. During the regular season, I probably average close to 40 hours of network and cable series a week. My DVR gets time-and-a-half for overtime. As to The Good Place, I might disagree with Matt that with the expansion to eight nominees it has an “excellent” chance of making the cut. I say that not because it isn’t deserving — and I know a lot of people, some of them voters, who thought the series finale was brilliant — but because even with digital screeners sent to the voters, the mindset of many voters is why “waste” the award or a nomination on a canceled show or a show that ended when there are so many in contention and still on. which is where Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist might get some play since it WAS renewed for a second season. But good luck to the Good Place lovers. — Michael
Matt Roush: Even if the Emmys expanded the categories to 10, like the Oscars some years, it would barely scratch the surface of how many contenders there are nowadays. The nomination process is imperfect, to put it mildly, and many a worthy show will be left out once again (which will give this column fodder for weeks and weeks if history is any guide). That at least is something we can guarantee, and while I get Michael’s point about The Good Place, and that conventional wisdom argues against shows getting Emmy attention once they’ve signed off, this again begs the question of what the Emmys are meant to be: a promotional boost for new and emerging series, or an actual representation of the best work (including series finales) produced over the last year. In either regard, I’d put Zoey on my dream ballot as worthy by any measure. But it’s harder than ever to break into these categories (unless you’re lucky enough to launch on Netflix or HBO), so I’m not counting on it.
Point of Order
Question: I have just completed all 10 episodes of the second season of Netflix’s The Order. What do you think its prospects for a third season are given how little publicity they seem to give it? — Shay
Matt Roush: Gotta say, like so much else in Netflix’s bottomless pit of content, this wasn’t even on my radar after two seasons. Which doesn’t mean anything (plus, doesn’t look much like my kind of show). The good news is that the last time I checked, The Order ranked in the Netflix Top 10, suggesting there is a fan base, and if enough are watching — and even more important, finishing the season — then the likelihood of a third season is very good. Although given Netflix’s track record, after a third season is when fans might start worrying about longevity.
And Finally …
Question: Are all the TV networks done picking up their shows for next season? — Mike
Matt Roush: Not hardly. Most of the press releases announcing the tentative new fall lineups from the networks included a line about how more series pickups will be announced later. More than with nearly any other season in memory, everything should be looked at as a best-case scenario in case production can actually resume on most shows this summer, and that’s a pretty big if. With pilot season also disrupted by the pandemic, there are almost certainly going to be more shows announced along the way, once the development process is allowed to continue. (Looking at the current lineup, not counting acquisitions from streaming and other sources, fewer than 10 new series have been announced for the initial fall schedule across all five broadcast networks, though more are expected at midseason.) And so far, all of the shows that have been announced as canceled are staying that way, though in this environment, who knows how things are going to play out?
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!