Ask Matt: ‘Yellowstone,’ Pandemic TV (COVID or Not), ‘Corporate,’ ‘Outsider’ & More

HBO The Outsider
Bob Mahoney/HBO
The Outsider

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.

Yellowstone‘s Too-Little-Seen Interloper

Question: Why was such a big deal made of Josh Holloway joining the cast of Yellowstone, when he only seems to appear for a limited 3-to-5-minute segment each week while letting his subordinates do most of the work, and a few weeks ago he was not on at all. Frankly, this whole season has been a big disappointment after last year’s dynamite season, as I prefer more action and conflict which was far more abundant last year. Here’s hoping for a much better finale.

Also: I want to ask about AMC ending its late-night Saturday-night after four of what I noticed was six seasons of Line of Fire when first shown on Acorn TV. Was this just a ploy to get us to sample Acorn in order to subscribe to yet another pay service or what? If so, that figures. — JV

Matt Roush: Yellowstone does seem to generate strong opinions, positive and negative. This is a fair point, that while the looming corporate takeover of the Dutton ranch has been a dominant storyline all season, Josh Holloway’s character has too often been on the sidelines — and except for the scene in which Beth (Kelly Reilly) taunted him with the memorable line, “You are the trailer park, I am the tornado,” there haven’t been as many fireworks as I expected. (Some of Beth’s best moments lately have been with the big boss, played by Karen Pittman.) Holloway is well cast as Roarke, but it’s an underwritten character. That could change in Sunday’s finale, when he has his long-awaited showdown with John Dutton (Kevin Costner).

Overall, though, I enjoyed the season’s more contemplative tone. The action has picked up lately, and with only 10 episodes I expected a bit more momentum throughout, but I like how through the first part of the season it felt like the family was enjoying a summer respite, a calm before the storm. It can’t all be melodrama.

Regarding Line of Duty, one of the greatest British crime dramas of recent vintage, I’m not aware if AMC will run the fourth and fifth seasons. (A sixth is forthcoming, once production resumes from the coronavirus shutdown.) When the show made its AMC debut, the announcement covered only the first three seasons. I guess you could look at it as an elaborate advertisement for Acorn TV — which is one of the better deals in streaming — but you could also look at it as an opportunity to expose this great series to a wider audience starved for quality TV during the pandemic.

Big Bang in Hard Times

Comment: This is not a question, just a comment/suggestion. I really wish when production starts again, they could arrange for a Big Bang Theory special. It would be interesting to see how our favorite scientists, especially Sheldon Cooper, are handling the Covid era. — Mary Kay

Matt Roush: What a fun idea, but also a very expensive proposition to get that cast together again for a one-shot. I doubt this could ever happen, though quarantine would have made for a great arc for these characters.

Not everyone, however, is keen on seeing the pandemic reflected in their TV shows. Read on.

A Vote for Escapism

Question: Why are all of these shows doing Covid episodes? After watching it on the news for months, why would I watch it again? — Maggie

Matt Roush: Watching it? Many, or most, of us are living it in one form or another. I can’t tell with this question if you’re referring to the recent spate of shows filmed during quarantine, often self-shot in the participants’ homes, or if you’re responding to recent reports of how returning series will be dealing with the pandemic when they go back into production. While I respect the desire for escapism, many shows, especially dramas, would risk looking completely irrelevant or even irresponsible if they didn’t reflect the difficult times we’re living through.

This is particularly true for TV’s medical shows like Grey’s Anatomy — and in the case of TV’s longest-running hospital drama, I like that they’re planning a time jump between seasons to bring viewers right into the crisis. As showrunner Krista Vernoff put it: “There’s no way to be a long-running medical show and not do the medical story of our lifetimes.” She sees the challenge as “How do we keep alive humor and romance while we tell these really painful stories.” And as 9-1-1 showrunner Tim Minear told TV Insider recently, “What I don’t want to do is ignore it, but I also don’t want the show to become about that.” Striking a balance between being timely and entertaining will be tricky, but the world has changed since March, and few if any TV producers will choose to ignore that reality altogether.

It’s Over Before You Know It

Question: Was this season of Corporate always intended to be shorter, or was it cut short by the pandemic? Past seasons of Corporate were each 10 episodes in length, but this final season is only six episodes. I am happy to be getting a third season at all, but I was still a little disappointed to only get six episodes. — Kevin

Matt Roush: That was always the plan, perhaps to leave you wanting more. Which would have been the case with 10 episodes as well, but the final season finished filming before the pandemic, so whether the shorter season was part of a dastardly corporate plot remains a mystery. (Joke.) The season finale airs next Wednesday, Aug. 26.

An Outsider Sequel?

Question: I really enjoyed Stephen King‘s The Outsider on HBO. As I understand, it was to be a one-and-done season. But perhaps we might see a Season 2? The character of Holly Gibney has been in other Stephen King novels, so there is potential there to continue the show. So any chance at all that we might see a Season 2 or maybe a spinoff of the character Holly Gibney? — Justin

Matt Roush: I’m betting this isn’t the last you’ve seen of Holly. (How cool, by the way, for her to be the protagonist of the title novella in Stephen King’s latest collection, If It Bleeds.) The Outsider was originally optioned as a miniseries, but by the time it aired, HBO was treating it as an ongoing series, and that’s how it was submitted for Emmy nominations (only Jason Bateman made the cut, as guest actor). HBO hasn’t officially renewed this yet, but I’ll be surprised if it doesn’t eventually return in some form. This was one of the better King adaptations in recent years, and Holly is a great character — although Cynthia Erivo‘s career is so on fire these days it might be tough to pin her down again anytime soon.

Too Many Newsy Days Without Lives

Question: I’ve been enjoying watching new episodes of Days of Our Lives this summer. However, in my market (Los Angeles), there are days the show gets pre-empted for news coverage on the pandemic. I understand that and typically have to resort to watching the new episode on the Internet. With that said, have the networks considered repurposing the soaps that are airing new episodes and show them during the day and regardless if they get pre-empted or not, offer a second showing during primetime? They are only airing repeats that I know of and I’m not bothering to check what is on, but I wouldn’t mind seeing Days of Our Lives at 8 pm from Monday through Friday. It allows the network to air original programming and possibly draw more viewers to the show with another viewing. And it keeps the network with shows for the audience to see. I think it’s a good way to showcase original and new programming during a time when it is scarce. Just a thought. — Luke

Matt Roush: I’m hearing a lot of ideas these days on how the networks could fill their lineups, given the delay in production of so many current series. Beyond the issue of getting advertisers to sign on to repurposed daytime TV, or vintage programs from the past (as others have suggested), I just don’t see them going this route. (I do, however, think that you may see more migration of shows from the networks’ associated streaming partners in the short term if they get more desperate.) Regarding the Days‘ pre-emptions, as you note, episodes are available online and, on a next-day basis, on the free tier of Peacock.

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.