Ask Matt: Worries About ‘Mom,’ More Emmy Snubs (‘Saul,’ Russell Crowe), Defending ‘Perry Mason’

Better Call Saul
Greg Lewis/AMC/Sony Pictures Television
Better Call Saul

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.

Doing Sitcom Double Duty

Question: Now that Will Sasso has his own show (ABC’s United We Fall), will he still be Jill’s boyfriend, Andy, on Mom in the fall? I was really rooting for him to give her the baby she wants so much. — Debbie P, Bloomington, IL

Matt Roush: There’s no reason he can’t do both, because he’s only recurring on Mom — no way of knowing yet just how often he would appear — and besides, there’s no guarantee his ABC sitcom will extend beyond what feels like a summer burn-off. (If my mail is any indication of the disregard many viewers have for United We Fall — see below — it’s a long shot at best.) Pragmatically speaking, from the actor’s point of view, it’s more beneficial to be the star of even a mediocre sitcom than a recurring player on a terrific show like Mom, but in this case, even should Fall get a second season — most likely midseason at earliest — he’ll be back on Mom at some point. And I agree. He’s perfect for Jill.

Will Mom Get a Happy Ending?

Question: CBS’s Mom has consistently been one of the strongest sitcoms for the past seven years, centering humor with real-life issues of addiction and its impact on family and sometimes tragic aftereffects. Going into its eighth season, most of the characters seem to be finally transitioning into relatively more stable lives. Any inside scoop on whether the show will end after this upcoming season on a relatively high note and/or is tragedy on the horizon for any of the main characters? — Mark

Matt Roush: First off, I should note that seemingly out of nowhere, I received a flurry of pertinent questions about Mom, which happens to be one of my favorite current sitcoms as well. Sometimes this just happens. I didn’t plan it. But that’s why the first half of this column is so Mom-centric. Secondly, while the eighth season is the second year of a two-season renewal, this is not necessarily going to be the final season, and I hope it isn’t. Mom is hardly running out of gas, and if the stars are willing and the economics make sense, there’s no reason it won’t go on for at least a few more years (hopefully with an end game announced well ahead of time).

Even if this is the beginning of the end, I have no information on what’s on the horizon for these characters. As noted at the top of the column each week, this isn’t a place for spoilers. But I will say that while the show has always juggled pathos and tragedy among its jokes and comedy, I hope Mom eventually leaves all of its gang of survivors in a good place. Even or maybe especially poor Wendy. I expect they’ll all still endure hard knocks along the way, because that’s the show, but I’d rather look back at it with fondness rather than sadness.

And About That Missing Son…

Question: I’m sure this question has been asked previously, but as a long-time viewer and fan of CBS’s Mom, will the series ever address the existence of Christy’s long-forgotten son Roscoe? It’s like he disappeared during Season 4 by being shipped off to live with Christy’s ex-husband Baxter and his rich girlfriend Candace. While I applaud the writers for addressing the relationship between Christy and her daughter Violet in Season 6 (Violet no longer wanting to have a relationship with Christy), I believe fans of this hilariously dark show would want to see Roscoe once again and get some closure with this character. I’m not asking for too much, am I?? — Bart

Matt Roush: Not at all. This issue has come up from time to time, as Mom evolved from a more family-focused multigenerational sitcom to a show about a group of adult women in recovery. It is an odd blind spot that even when Christy’s ex, Baxter, re-enters the picture, often at his car-dealership workplace, the subject of how Roscoe is doing rarely comes up. If Christy thought her own mom was neglectful, this seems downright unthinkable. Even holiday episodes rarely focus on the fact that Christy is an absentee mom who barely survived her own childhood, which could be a rich source of dark-edged humor. I hope that as Mom nears its finish line, whenever that should be, that this loose end gets addressed more fully. I agree that it was a powerful moment when Christy and Violet came to terms with their estrangement. At some point, it needs to be Roscoe’s turn.

Better Call the Emmy Police!

Question: My biggest complaints this week have to do with the deplorable Emmy nominations and their snubs, or continually snubbing great performances once again as seems to be par for the course. First off, we have no Bob Odenkirk or especially Rhea Seehorn for Better Call Saul in the acting categories, which is a travesty. But especially galling to me is no Russell Crowe or The Loudest Voice in the acting and limited series categories, which I had pegged for a two-way race between Crowe and Mark Ruffalo. (Oh, by the way, didn’t Crowe just win the Golden Globe for this performance and he does not even get nominated here?) I fully believe that this is because of the charged political climate we are currently in, and the Emmys wanting to stay out of it, which is too bad since Crowe did indeed nail down one of the most despicable people that ever lived — just so you know which side I am on. — JV

Matt Roush: I would agree that two of the most startling oversights this year were Bob Odenkirk, who has come into his own as Saul, and Russell Crowe, who did get a Globe for his transformation into the obviously polarizing Roger Ailes. Many critics and fans were rooting for Rhea Seehorn as well, so that’s upsetting, too. But when have you ever known awards shows to shrink from political controversy? The Loudest Voice not making the cut in the limited-series category is more about the fact that this has become one of the most competitive and high-quality fields in recent years, and not one of the current nominees is undeserving. (It’s a race between Watchmen and Mrs. America, speaking of politically charged projects.) But I can’t explain how Crowe got passed over, although if you check out Paul Mescal (an industry newcomer) in Hulu’s Normal People, you’ll see that his somewhat surprise inclusion is something to celebrate. No one was going to beat Ruffalo in this category anyway, but still, a definite shocker.

Not Falling for United

Question: Make sense of this. They cancel Man with a Plan and bring out United We Fall, which is a crappy version of the canceled show. You have to have a strong cast of characters which Man had and United doesn’t. This is why Broke went so fast, no great characters. — Dick F, Plymouth, Michigan

Matt Roush: What’s to make sense of? We’re talking about two different networks here: CBS with Man, ABC with United, so it’s not like one replaced the other. And both networks are known for developing mainstream family-oriented formula sitcoms (especially ABC), some obviously more appealing than others. Yes, it helps to have well-defined and original characters, but it all boils down to funny. Which I’ve learned is in the eye and ear of the beholder, and none of these felt like a comedy classic to me. (Now The Middle, on the other hand …)

Defending Perry Mason‘s Law Education

Question: Regarding Perry Mason’s rather quick enrollment to the bar, as criticized in the most recent Ask Matt column, I think it was perfect. It underscores that what will make him such a good lawyer in the future is his passion for doing what’s right by his clients, and not a piece of paper hanging on his wall. Remember his quote from this season, “There’s what’s legal, and there’s what’s right.” Passing the bar is literally a bump in the road to becoming a lawyer who will fight for his clients to do what is right for them and that scene got as much time as needed to demonstrate that. — Tony M

Question: Like several of your other readers, I am thoroughly enjoying HBO’s Perry Mason. But I have to take issue with the “short shrift” argument on his legal education/transformation. In each of the early episodes, there were scenes with Perry demonstrating knowledge of legal issues and courtroom tactics, usually during arguments with Della or E.B. (quick aside and Spoiler Alert: if I have any issue with Perry Mason, it is that any show that kills off John Lithgow after only four episodes is wasting a great resource). Because of that, the relatively short transformation didn’t bother me since we’ve seen it coming from the first episode. And I, too, loved that Hamilton Burger helped him through the bar exam. — Rick C

Matt Roush: OK, you’ve convinced me. I love that Perry evolved from private eye to lawyer within the first season, and my negative response to the brisk presentation of his legal education may have something to do with the reviewing process, in which I watched all eight episodes over a roughly two-day period (to meet my early deadline) as opposed to watching the story play out over two months. Binge-watching doesn’t benefit every series, and in this case, I might have been thrown from adjusting so quickly to the tragedy of E.B. to the sudden christening of Perry as his successor.

And About That Music…

Question: I am thoroughly enjoying HBO’s Perry Mason. Re: the guy who wrote in and wondered why they didn’t use the original theme song, he must have written before Episode 5. At the end, when Perry Mason struggling detective turned into Perry Mason attorney (which was pretty darned cool!), when it rolled to credits, I’m pretty sure I heard hints of the song. Did you hear it  Not fully formed, which mirrored Perry’s transformation, but it was there. If I’m right, that was a very clever thing to do. I remember thinking, “We just witnessed the birth of Perry Mason.”

As far as the purists who are unhappy we aren’t seeing a younger version of Raymond Burr: how boring! I like that the writers got creative and came up with something completely unexpected. I like that they’re making Della so smart and gutsy and such an important part of the story. I like that they cast a black actor as Paul Drake and are incorporating the discrimination issues. I like that Perry struggled during his first court appearance but had a brilliant moment when the husband was on the stand (shades of things to come). I like that Hamilton Burger made an appearance. The original series is way on the fringe of my memory, so I’ve probably missed a few other connections, but these are fun. I’m looking forward to the last episodes and to future seasons (I hope). – Debbie

Matt Roush: You mirror my reactions fairly exactly, but I missed that musical cue, so I went back to the end of that episode (I may have skipped the credits for that hour entirely while previewing the series). And while it seems a bit of a stretch, I like the idea that composer Terence Blanchard’s jazzy-bluesy score — which reminds me a lot of Jerry Goldsmith’s work on Chinatown — may have been paying homage to Fred Steiner there. I’ll be curious how the music evolves as the series moves forward.

And Finally…

Thanks to Carol and others who wrote in to point out that, when addressing the issue of Patterson’s first name on Blindspot in the most recent column, it actually was revealed in the episode when her father (played by science guy Bill Nye) appeared. For the record, it was William. The correspondent for that question obviously missed it, and I took her word for it instead of going one Google step further in research. (I never pretended that I was still watching the show at that point.) That said, if they had kept her first name a mystery, that still would have been OK with me.

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.