Ask Matt: More ‘Yellowstone,’ Please; Plus ‘Mulan,’ a ‘Siren’ Song, Emmy Equity & 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].com (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.
Yellowstone Leaves Them Wanting More
Question: I know I am not the only one who feels this way but Yellowstone is clearly the best show on TV. I do have concerns, though, and other people have expressed the same. I understand that the Paramount Network needs to build revenue and I get that, but there is entirely too many commercials. It feels like 5 minutes of viewing and then 6 minutes of commercials if not longer. I haven’t taped it yet as I watch live, but other 60-minute shows, you can fast forward to only 45 minutes of true TV viewing. Also, for such a good show, why only 10 episodes and then we have to wait another year? They should do a split season like The Walking Dead and have 2 shots within a year – maybe a total of 18 with 9 in each season. — Shirley S, Georgia
Matt Roush: I’m a firm believer that it’s not a bad thing for a show to leave you wanting more, and in the case of Yellowstone, it’s probably an inevitability. A season of 10, maybe 13 episodes, is the cable norm, and it’s the same for most streaming series as well — where the wait can feel even longer if you binge-watch a season over a weekend and then are left waiting until an entire new season is in the can and ready to be dropped. (Who knows how long that wait will now be under the current circumstances?) I also get that it’s frustrating when it feels like a season is ending at what would be the midpoint for many broadcast network series — although some of those runs are getting shorter as well — but the economics are not in favor of shows like this magically expanding, especially now.
For the record, The Walking Dead has never had a split season longer than 16 episodes, and while Yellowstone is a hit for Paramount, it’s not likely to spawn a cottage industry the way Dead did, which explains how a cultural phenomenon, even one that’s cooled a bit, can get away with much longer seasons.
As for commercials, it’s the price you pay for “free” TV, and if the load on Yellowstone bothers you that much, consider recording it and starting to watch or playing it back later to spare you the aggravation.
The Cost of Watching Mulan
Question: What the h-e-double-hockey-sticks is Disney thinking when they decided to release the movie Mulan on Disney+ for 30 bucks? Come on, I know that theaters are closed and whatnot, but 30 bucks on top of the 7 dollars we pay for the privilege to watch Disney+. Maybe the bigwigs at Disney don’t know that the people are a little cash strapped right now. Whatever their reason, it seems to me that this would be a great time to throw their costumers a bone and give us a break. What do you think? – Justin
Matt Roush: My initial thoughts when this was announced were: That’s a big ask, and you’d probably have to really want to see it NOW — now being the new launch date of Sept. 4 — to shell out for it. On the other hand, if a family were to go to a theater to see the movie in first-run, as was obviously originally the plan, the outlay from tickets, concessions, maybe parking and other charges (depending on location) would likely have surpassed the $29.99 cost to stream it. I also remember Disney rushing releases like Frozen 2 and Onward to streaming, bypassing or narrowing the pay-per-view window, in the early days of the pandemic, and they gave us Hamilton a year ahead of time, so on balance, I’d still consider Disney+ a value in this streaming world.
It’s no surprise that given these economically stressful times, a $30 surcharge to watch a single movie would spark this kind of reaction, but looking at the big picture, the movie studios and industry at large are struggling with how to proceed with big-ticket investments like these and how to get them to consumers without permanently damaging relations with distributors among other factors. The bottom line is that for those who see the release of Mulan in any medium as an event, they may feel it’s worth it. For others, wait long enough and you’ll almost certainly be able to access it at a more manageable price point.
That Sinking Feeling
Question: I am SO upset about the Mermaid (Siren) cancellation!! What is The CW thinking??!! I have loved watching series on The CW because they cover such a wide spectrum of genre to please so many different audiences. After 3 seasons, with better ratings than some of their other shows, it makes NO sense!! I read about the cancellation and it showed actual ratings of the top 6 CW shows & Mermaid (Siren) was higher than most others. So WHY would the CW kill the show?? It makes no sense as it had a huge social media following. The CW is known for keeping shows running at least five seasons on average. I’ve grown weary of several of their superhero shows so Mermaid (Siren) was a refreshing change. Also, it was a good summer show. Netflix picked up Lucifer after three seasons and gave it a good ending (that we have not seen as yet). My point is: Fans should protest The CW and request Netflix pick up the series like with Lucifer. So, Mermaid (Siren) fans: START SHOUTING OUT on social media, SAVE OUR SHOW!!! LET YOUR VOICE BE HEARD!!! — Steve
Matt Roush: I appreciate the passion, although find myself wondering why someone so devoted to a show wouldn’t know its actual title or where it aired. That said, I decided to run this particular rant unedited as a valuable reminder of a TV truism: Most people watch shows, not networks, and especially in a digital age it can almost seem irrelevant where and when something airs. Still, to be precise, the culprit here is not The CW, it’s Disney’s Freeform, which maybe should have called the show Mermaid. And Steve is right, that with enough social-media push, Siren is the kind of show (young-adult fantasy) that could find new life on streaming. It’s right in Netflix’s wheelhouse —or more likely, Disney-owned Hulu, which currently streams all three seasons.
But while doing a little research on this subject, I discovered something I had somehow missed when it was reported in April (I must have been asleep, or distracted by the pandemic): Freeform also canceled its timely and touching reboot of Party of Five after only one season. That was my favorite Freeform show since Switched at Birth, and I’m much more upset about that. Yet another lost opportunity to tell a relevant family story.
The Little Network That Could (but How Much Longer?)
Question: I’m worried about the continued existence of The CW as a broadcast network. When you look at expanded broadcast ratings that include all over-the-air networks, The CW regularly finishes below ION TV, UniMas and Telemundo, and sometimes even PBS in the 18-49 daily prime-time ratings. How long can affiliate stations continue airing The CW when airing reruns of low-cost syndicated shows will bring higher ratings? Historically, The CW shows as a network have been largely subsidized by its deal with Netflix for international distribution that resulted in nearly an extra billion of dollars for development, but that deal was recently canceled. Regardless, network affiliates don’t get that extra money from either Netflix or the CW app to subsidize the incredibly low ratings. At what point do affiliates just bail out and air cheaper syndication shows that have higher ratings than The CW shows? — Mike
Matt Roush: I’ve always looked at The CW as less of a network than a distribution system for niche programming from CBS (now ViacomCBS) and Warner Bros. (now WarnerMedia), with the latter doubling down on superhero/comic-book DC properties as a brand identity. The value to these companies is seemingly considerable, and The CW’s aggressive emphasis on digital strategies underscores that network performance in terms of live-TV viewing isn’t their top priority, but I’d need a degree in economics to be able to comment on their relationship with affiliates and what that means to the network’s future. All I can say is that The CW doesn’t act like a network in final-days mode. They’ve actually been airing more original programming this summer (ratings be damned) than many of the big guns. It’s almost refreshing to see a network keep renewing shows that seem almost invisible to Nielsen. But do I understand their business model? No. Never have.
Not an Even Playing Field at the Emmys
Question: I know they all present on “TV,” but why do network television and cable television and streaming television all compete against each other for one Emmy award? It just doesn’t seem fair that ALL are considered for just one award. There used to be the CableACE Awards, which seemed a lot fairer than all these programs competing for the one Emmy. The production standards for network and cable and streaming are different. Networks have language and subject limitations. Even if they wanted to be more daring, they must contain their speech and topics because of station standards and censorship. What are your thoughts, Matt? — Betty
Matt Roush: As inevitable as a summer heat wave, this question resurfaces during Emmy season, and my answer is always the same. To segregate any of these players is to devalue the worth of an Emmy, and the real flaw of the system to my mind is in the nomination process, because there are so many shows now vying for attention that it’s almost impossible for some of the best work on traditional broadcast network TV — I’m thinking of you, Freddie (The Good Doctor) Highmore, and more recently, Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist — to get noticed amid the glut of heavily promoted shows on streaming and premium/high-end cable TV. A number of my readers disagree, but to separate network TV from cable/streaming would seem to put them in a lower-class tier, much the way the CableACE Awards felt like the kids’ table during the period when cable shows weren’t even invited to the Emmy party.
While it’s true that network shows nowadays lack some of the creative freedoms, and often the budget, of cable and streaming front-runners, the industry has matured to the point where I would argue back: Raise your game if you want Emmys. (It worked to an extent for This Is Us.) For the most part, the networks are content to be in the mass-market business, and don’t seem to be that concerned that their mainstream procedurals and sitcoms just aren’t going to make the cut anymore.
And Finally …
Question: I love McLeod’s Daughters on Acorn TV. Do you know if Season 4 will be shown soon? I binge-watched Season 3. I know there are 8 seasons but don’t know if all will be shown. — Unsigned
Matt Roush: I’m assured more seasons of the Australian fan favorite will eventually be released to Acorn. No dates yet, though. (All eight seasons are also currently available for streaming on Hulu.)
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.