Ask Matt: Emmy Snubs Round One, Plus ‘Perry Mason,’ ‘Alienist,’ ‘Blindspot’ Finale
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.
No Love for Anne at the Emmys
Question: What do you think of Anne Hathaway not being nominated for guest actress in a comedy for her performance in Modern Love on Prime Video? I’m not a big awards show fan and this is a great example as to why. — Mike, N.J.
Matt Roush: There are so many regrettable oversights, and it gets worse each year, it seems, as the number of submissions grows — this year by a full 15% — while the amount of content continues to swell. (I imagine this is the first of many such complaints I’ll field in the next few weeks.)
So many performers from that wonderful Modern Love anthology series could have been recognized (only Dev Patel made the cut) — besides Anne Hathaway, who definitely deserved attention as a bipolar romantic, I could make an argument for Jane Alexander, Julia Garner, Andrew Scott, John Slattery and Tina Fey (imagine the Emmys giving up a chance to honor her!) and especially Cristin Milioti in my favorite vignette about the single city dweller and the doorman (Laurentiu Possa) who kept watch over her.
But then you look at who got nominated in this very competitive category, which favors sketch acts and Saturday Night Live guest performers/hosts, and also this year included Bette Midler in The Politician, Wanda Sykes‘ terrific cameo as Mobs Mabley in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and Maya Rudolph (one of two nominations) as the Judge in The Good Place, and what seems like a snub turns out to be an embarrassment of riches. That said, some of the performances in Modern Love felt more like they qualified for lead acting than guest acting, and it’s weird to see them not get more attention.
Who Wants to Be an Emmy Nominee?
Question: As someone who never seems to get his favorite shows nominated for Emmys anymore (I feel a greater connection to the Creative Emmys), I was saddened to see that Quiz was shut out of Tuesday’s nominations. My family and I thought it was delightfully funny and enjoyable with great performances. I know Emmy people can only watch so much, but then there’s an easy solution: if it’s not on TV (Quiz was AMC) it’s not a TV show. If it’s essentially, an app — Hulu, Quibi, Peacock, Prime, Disney+, etc. — it’s a web show. — Justin G
Matt Roush: To your bigger point, that’s the same argument initially made about cable shows, which is why there used to be a thing called the CableACE Awards, until the Emmys woke up and realized they could no longer stay relevant without rewarding the best of cable alongside broadcast. (Now there are more cries than ever for broadcast shows to be segregated with their own awards, since they’re so under-represented in the Emmy nominations, but as I’ve said before, that would be like sitting at a kids’ table, and the best of broadcast deserves to be in the race, which every so often it is, though admittedly not frequently enough.) Like it or not, TV is TV, whether it’s airing on Netflix or Peacock or ABC, and even Quibi has found its place in the short-form categories.
That said, Quiz was great, and with such terrific actors — either current or past Emmy nominees including Matthew Macfadyen, Sian Clifford and Michael Sheen (who should have been nominated as well for Prodigal Son!) — playing out this fascinating story of a scandal on the original UK version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, it’s more than worthy of nominations. But once again, the limited series category is one of the strongest fields in all of the Emmys, and with contenders like HBO’s Watchmen (the most nominated show of all with 26) and FX’s Mrs. America (10), some strong work was inevitably going to get left out. And that includes HBO’s provocative and timely The Plot Against America, which I was even more surprised didn’t make the cut.
Will Villanelle Kill Again at the Emmys?
Question: Although Killing Eve‘s Sandra Oh is a terrific actress, Jodie Comer steals the show. She is funny, crazy and dangerous. While this past season Sandra Oh has been good, Jodie has been great. Any chance of Jodie getting an Emmy this year? She definitely deserves one. — Rosemary, Phoenix, AZ
Matt Roush: I’m not sure from this whether you’re aware that Jodie Comer won the Emmy for lead drama actress a year ago. (You may be confusing this with the Golden Globes, where Comer has been nominated but has yet to win, unlike Sandra Oh, who won her Globe in 2019.) The Emmys are known for rewarding performers multiple times, and while both Eve stars are again nominated, they seem like long shots to me this year. This wasn’t Eve‘s greatest season, though I agree Comer had stronger material as Villanelle and made the most of it. For me, the lead actress race feels like a toss-up between The Crown‘s Olivia Colman (a Globe winner in the role), who magnificently handled the show’s transition of actresses playing Queen Elizabeth, and the even showier comeback performance of Jennifer Aniston in The Morning Show. And don’t count out Ozark‘s Laura Linney. This is one tough race.
Was It Easier Becoming a Lawyer in the 1930s?
Question: I’m only passingly familiar with the classic Perry Mason series, knowing Raymond Burr more from Ironside — and even then, mostly from my dad watching it (and Kojak and Adam-12 and Emergency). So I don’t really have any stake in the purity or lack thereof in HBO’s reinvention, yet even so, the short shrift given the scene(s) of Mason’s actual legal transformation into a certified lawyer surprised me. I’m aware that what led up to it and what has yet to transpire as he finds his footing are all part of this “origin story” — there’s more to it than just the single moment of his passing the bar exam — but I certainly expected more than a (barely) glorified montage. Am I alone in that? For the record, I’m otherwise enjoying the show and glad it’s been picked up for another season. — Rafael
Matt Roush: If I have any significant criticism of the inaugural Perry Mason season, it’s this, that his process of becoming a lawyer went about as quickly as passing a driving test. (I’m happy to say this didn’t translate into him becoming an instant powerhouse in the courtroom.) I do love how the show introduced his future nemesis Hamilton Burger — if literary and TV history is a guide — as his legal mentor during this sequence, and how good is Justin Kirk in that role?
I’m also glad to see that as the series has progressed, I’m getting less “how could they do this to the Perry Mason I know and love” mail, and more like this from Jody this week: “Personally, I love the new show. He’s not the infallible lawyer who never lost a case as in the ’60s. I hope they have many more seasons of this crisp, new Perry!”
Alienist Going Down the Same Dark Road as Perry
Question: I stopped watching the Perry Mason reboot on HBO because it was just gross. I was looking forward to the new season of The Alienist, because that was original programming on TNT. I was shocked that Alienist was delayed several times and then when it premiered, it has a similar theme of child murder as Perry Mason that premiered a few weeks before. How could the writers not have noticed this? As I said, I looked forward to the new Alienist because of the originality. Now in COVID times I need escape from horrible stuff. The gruesome baby murder on the July 19th episode was more than I could stomach. A really disappointed viewer. — Jamie H
Matt Roush: I get the desire to use TV as an escape from grim times, but the first season of The Alienist dealt with a serial killer preying on street children, so why would anyone be shocked at the grisly content of the sequel? As for its similarities to Perry Mason — which had even more bizarre overlaps with Showtime’s Penny Dreadful: City of Angels — it’s worth remembering that The Alienist: Angel of Darkness, like its predecessor, is based on novels by Caleb Carr, so it’s not like anyone’s copying anyone, it’s just one of those coincidences that happen every so often on TV. The circumstances and settings are very different, but I agree that it would be nice to take a break from infant murders for a while.
A Finale with Its Own Blind Spots
Question: I loved Blindspot and was sad to see it go, but I didn’t understand the end and am very confused. Did Jane die and hallucinate the ending? What did you get out of it if you even saw it? — Charlene S
Matt Roush: I won’t pretend that this series held my fascination to the end, but I will steer you toward our post-mortem interview with the executive producer, who answers this question with a non-answer, ultimately concluding that however you choose to see it is the correct interpretation. Seems like a cop-out to me, but it’s traditionally hard for shows built on a pyramid of questions to stick the landing and provide answers and endings that satisfy everyone.
Question: Having watched Blindspot from its beginning on Sept. 21, 2015, I was anticipating the answer to one question. During the dinner scenes — which I enjoyed very much — I thought someone would ask Patterson to reveal her first name. I remember when Bill Nye, The Science Guy, was on an episode as her dad, he made reference to her not using her name. I definitely thought it would be told near the end of the show. Why was it not told to the viewers? To me, this was a little disappointing. — Patty
Matt Roush: In this case, I side with the writers, leaving her first name as a mystery in the classic tradition of TV characters whose full names are rarely (or only obliquely) known to us, like Peter Falk’s Lt. Columbo, Barbara Feldon’s Agent 99 of Get Smart, Seinfeld‘s Newman and so on. Put it this way: Would knowing Gilligan’s last name endear him to us even more? I don’t think so.
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.