Ask Matt: Cancellation Woes ('Council of Dads,' 'Tommy' etc.), USA's Reality Check, 'Genetic Detective' & 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 (@TVGMMattRoush). Look for Ask Matt columns on many Tuesdays and Fridays.
Give New Shows More Time!
Question: I read the list of TV shows that are being canceled in a recent issue of TV Guide Magazine and your comment regarding Tommy. I just wanted to say how much I really like Tommy, Deputy, God Friended Me and Bless This Mess. I was wondering if there will be any reconsideration of these shows, if enough people write in and say how much they really like them and will miss them? I really don't think it's fair that they rate regular TV shows with sports, game shows and reality shows. What about trying a different timeslot or air them over the summer instead of taking them off altogether? — Margo M, Florence, NJ
Question: I just heard Council of Dads has been canceled. Does such a wonderful, well-written show have any chance of being saved? I feel as thought I've lost members of my family. Though the last episode tied up a few loose ends, we are left wondering what is going to happen to the Crab Shack and Larry, who was last seen contemplating a shot of vodka! Such a shame that great shows like this are not given time to garner an audience. — Babs
Matt Roush: As inevitable as a late-afternoon thunderstorm on a humid summer day (yes, I live in New York), networks cancel shows at the end of a season — this year a process stretching into the summer — prompting howls of despair from loyal fans. While the outcry in my mailbag has been considerable — God Friended Me leads the way in volume, followed closely by Tommy — I was intrigued to read a statistic, from peerless ratings/trends analyst Rick Porter of The Hollywood Reporter, that this year's cancellation rate was lower than the norm, at just below 50%, although NBC didn't help matters by canceling all but one (the wonderful Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist) of its freshman series.
Still sounds like a lot, but that's par for the course, and given viewing trends, the metrics involving delayed online viewing and other factors make it harder than ever to predict which shows on the margins the networks will stick with. Given the current state of the industry, it's unlikely many if any of these decisions will be reversed — and it's rare for a first-year show to be picked up by another outlet. So while it can't hurt to write to networks (many have online feedback links) or turn to social media and fan campaigns, it's an uphill battle for sure.
Margo's suggestion of giving some of these neglected series a second shot through summer repeats rang a bell, though, reminding me of how in earlier times shows sometimes found their audience this way; reading interviews with the late Carl Reiner, he credited this with helping The Dick Van Dyke Show stay on the air back in the 1960s. The industry has obviously changed greatly since then, and the networks have steered away from repeats in the off-season because the ratings tend to crater. But at a time when we're stuck inside more than in most summers, this might have been a good opportunity to repeat and promote a marginally rated show to see if it could build a following. Instead, we get Ultimate Tag. Sigh.
If It's Broke, Don't Renew It
Question: Any idea why CBS would waste the talent of Pauley Perrette on such a terrible show as Broke? We were extremely pleased to see it was not renewed. The casting/acting was so bad it practically stunk up the TV room. CBS can and should do better. This was so bad we couldn't even finish one episode. — Han
Matt Roush: And then there are those who dance on a show's early grave. I agree that Broke left a lot to be desired, but this is the show Pauley Perrette chose to bring to CBS, which very much wanted (and probably still wants) to be in the Pauley business. She was looking for something light and harmless after years on a procedural drama, and there is a proven appetite for mainstream sitcoms that critics may deplore or ignore but audiences might embrace. So while this failed, I'm not really surprised that CBS gave it a shot — and for what it's worth, I've even received some unhappy fan mail on Broke's behalf.
Cable's Move Away from Scripted Entertainment
Question: I would like to address the recent decision by USA to promote more reality series and competitions rather than scripted series, except for event programming such as Dirty John: The Betty Broderick Story — which by the way is excellent, and the husband should have been shot more than once for the scumbag that he was. In my estimation, this is just another decision meant to save money. Is this going to continue to be the trend for the rest of basic cable which has been going on for some time now a la A&E and MTV? If so, I will switch to strictly Netflix rather than watch this crap.
By the way, am I to assume that we probably will not get to see some good programs this year such as Animal Kingdom or my beloved Queen of the South because of the pandemic and they may be held off now until next summer? Finally, what about that new Michael Chiklis series that was to begin on the Paramount Network? If Yellowstone is ready to go, shouldn't this one be ready also? — JV
Matt Roush: As you noted, the trend away from scripted dramas (and to a lesser extent comedies) on some major cable networks has been going on for some time — a reaction to falling ratings, amplified by the drift to streamers like Netflix, and obvious economic factors, like the fact that Cannonball (a new USA competition series) would be considerably less costly than an hour-long drama. Still, The Sinner is coming back next year (COVID gods willing), so all is not lost. And shows like Snowpiercer on TNT (which got much better through its first season) and a hit like Paramount's Yellowstone remind us of the value of this sort of programming, so there will likely remain a balance of scripted to unscripted, though right now the pendulum is swinging more toward inexpensive reality on many of the more mainstream outlets.
And yes, quite a few shows that would likely have aired this summer, including Animal Kingdom and Queen of the South, weren't able to complete their seasons before the pandemic shut down production. When they get back to work, they may end up airing off-cycle or may wait until next summer in their regular slots, that hasn't been decided. And while Michael Chiklis's Coyote drama was promoted as a summer series, Paramount has been mum up to now about its premiere date (and we're already halfway through July), so I'd bet this is being held, like a number of other completed series, for fall, when all of the networks will need fresh material if regular production is held up for safety concerns.
A Real Detective Story
Question: I just want to say I LOVE ABC's The Genetic Detective — it's unique and real! I notice it's not scheduled (per TV Guide Magazine) for the next few weeks. Will it return? I hope this show will also prove how important DNA is in catching offenders and that all courtrooms will allow the evidence! — Susan
Matt Roush: This series has concluded its first-season run, and it's probably a bit early to know if it will be renewed. ABC could certainly do worse than an unscripted docuseries that plays into our longtime fascination with forensic crime-solving, so the chances are probably decent if CeCe Moore has more stories to tell.
Doing Double Duty
Question: Given her attachment to The Mighty Ducks series on Disney+, is Lauren Graham expected to return full-time to Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist for Season 2? Or are their filming schedules not expected to overlap? — Michael
Matt Roush: The idea is for her to be able to do both, since both series produce a limited number of episodes. Lauren Graham started work on The Mighty Ducks this winter after Zoey wrapped, but I'm not sure how far they got before everything shut down. Regardless, both series should be able to fit into her schedule, and there's no intent as far as I'm aware to limit her involvement in Zoey. Nor should there be.
And Finally …
Question: There is a series that I assume will be back some time in the summer. It involved a blond homicide detective and a guy from the FBI who was quite intellectual and gay. I can't remember the name or actors or network. Do you know the series? — Ken
Matt Roush: Not the strongest endorsement that the show remains such a vague memory for you. But what you're referring to is Instinct, which aired for two seasons on CBS, the first year in late spring to early summer and the second year in summer only. Unfortunately, it was not renewed for a third.
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.