Ask Matt: ‘Mom’ Losing a Mom, Another ‘black-ish’ Spinoff, Netflix’s Away, the Return of ‘Wheel’ & More

Mom - Allison Janney and Anna Faris
Robert Voets/2019 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved

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. Look for Ask Matt columns on many Tuesdays and Fridays.

How Will Mom Get On Without Christy?

Question: I saw the news that Anna Faris is leaving Mom, one of my favorite comedies. I’ll be curious to see how this affects the show, seeing as how she was one of the main characters. What are your thoughts on her exit and the show’s fate? — Nikki L, Rockford, Ill.

Matt Roush: As a fan of the show, and of her character Christy, I’m sorry she’s leaving in advance of Mom‘s eighth season — which could be the last (though that’s not yet been decided). Whatever prompted her decision, it leaves a big hole in the ensemble — but the fact that the show has built such a tremendous ensemble of terrific female characters has me thinking Mom can survive this setback the way the characters have always dealt with life’s ups and downs so memorably. I have no information on how the show will explain her absence, but I can imagine Bonnie (the great Allison Janney) addressing the group at a meeting and telling us how her daughter Christy has moved on, perhaps to pursue her law career, and making it all about Bonnie as usual.

Mom has evolved and expanded over the years from a show about a mother-and-daughter tag team of damaged single moms into a series about their support group of recovering addicts. While Christy and Bonnie have always been the primary focus, I can see how Anna Faris might feel like her character has become something of a third wheel after Bonnie married Adam (the terrific William Fichtner), and since her own kids were pretty much written off the show long ago. Supporting characters like Jill (Jaime Pressly), Marjorie (Mimi Kennedy), Wendy (Beth Hall) and most recently Tammy (Kristen Johnston) are all more than capable of taking up the slack. But I hope Mom gives Christy’s departure the attention it deserves, and before the show ends, I hope they can get Anna back at least once. She’ll be missed.

Is old-ish Too Much of an –ish thing?

Question: What do you think of the news that ABC is developing another spinoff of black-ish focusing on Dre’s parents? I like the show a lot, although I’ve drifted away from it in recent seasons. It hasn’t been quite the same since creator Kenya Barris left. Apparently he would be involved in the new show, so that’s good. But I wonder if this is really a good idea. Earl (Laurence Fishburne) and Ruby (Jenifer Lewis) are a great part of the ensemble on the original, and I’m not sure spinning them off is the right move because their presence adds a lot where they are. Also, this would be the third spinoff, after grown-ish (which I love) and mixed-ish (which I haven’t been terribly interested in). Of course it is important to continue to tell stories about the Black experience, which the show has always done well. But are four shows too much at once for one franchise? What do you think? — Jake

Matt Roush: There’s always a danger of a franchise spreading itself too thin, but I’d like to see them try this idea, especially because TV could use more shows focusing on colorful characters of a certain age. (The Golden Girls shouldn’t be a fluke, just saying.) Pops and Ruby are great characters, played wonderfully, and if old-ish can develop a new community of co-stars with something to say, it could be a worthy addition to the black-ish family. Of course, I was around in the days when The Mary Tyler Moore Show led to Rhoda, Phyllis and Lou Grant, and All in the Family gave us The Jeffersons, Maude and by extension Good Times. So spinoffs can be a boon, but like everything on TV, they’re not foolproof. Maybe the best way to go with a show like this is to limit its footprint as a midseason replacement, giving Pops and Ruby plentiful opportunities to return to the mothership when needed.

Up, Up and Away

Question: My husband and I watched the entire first season of Away on Netflix this past weekend and thought it was terrific (the first time we’ve ever “binge-watched” anything). It’s probably too soon to know, but are there plans for Season 2? If so, when might that become available? Thanks for all that you do to point us to worthwhile television. — Gwen

Matt Roush: My pleasure, especially when it comes to a show like this. While I agreed in my review with some critics that the soapy earthbound subplots grew a bit tiresome, the events on the way to Mars were almost always gripping, and the cast (from Hilary Swank on down) sold it. So I’m hopeful we’ll see more. No word from Netflix yet, and if it does get picked up, it could be a long wait — they’d have to finish the entire season before it could premiere, and the pandemic has delayed many production starts, so hard to be definitive on either of your questions, but it’s hard to imagine Netflix investing this much into the show not to give the crew a chance to return to Earth in a sequel.

How to Spin That Wheel Safely

Question: I see that both Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune are back on the air starting next week, with the Wheel being redesigned to provide for social distancing, and the contestants moved farther apart. Of course, I’ll be happy to have them back, but I’m confused. If they all have to touch the Wheel in order to spin it, how is that going to work? It feels like the Wheel is a high-touch surface. Are they going to disinfect it between spins? The only way I can think of would be if Pat Sajak spins it for them, but that takes some of the agency out of it for the contestants. Jeopardy! is easier to imagine working socially distanced because the contestants don’t have to touch anything except the buzzers and to write down the Final. I’m very curious to see how this will all work. — JL

Matt Roush: I’m sure the curiosity level is high to see how so many shows will operate going forward, and I’m delighted that TV’s two top game/quiz shows are back starting Monday. In the case of Wheel of Fortune, here’s how it was explained: “Each contestant is given their own spinning cap, which Sajak has dubbed, ‘The White Thing.’ The cap fits over each spoke on the Wheel so contestants can spin without personally touching the Wheel.” Both shows are following testing protocols and other procedures to make it safe for everyone involved. It will be good to have them back.

When TV Makes Way for Politics

Question: I always look forward to reading your column. I know that a lot of us are longing for our favorite shows and new programs to return to broadcast TV. For me, I do see the delay of the fall season as having a bit of a silver lining given that this is an election year, and I’ve always hated how much politics tends to take over the networks. I’m thinking back to four years ago and how Tuesday nights were especially affected. As an avid NCIS fan, and I’m sure this is true for other fan favorites like This Is Us, The Conners, etc., it was never fun dancing around the pre-emptions for debates and of course Election Night coverage. So it seems to me that not having my Tuesday night favorites premiering until after the election might be a good thing. What’s your take on how the impending election will affect our fall viewing — not asking you to take a side, but just how it will impact what airs this fall? Not to mention how wonderful is it to have a DVR and be able to skip all the political ads! — Claudia

Matt Roush: One of the benefits of technology is the ability (and danger) of being able to avoid what you don’t want to see — and while I don’t recommend a steady diet of wall-to-wall political news for anyone, I’ve always believed that an informed electorate and an energized voting public — EVERYONE VOTE! — is essential for democracy. That said, the fact that the debates and Election Night itself are taking place in a prime-time landscape still mostly devoid of our returning favorites will mean less disruption to the schedule, which could alleviate some of the impatience TV fans are feeling. The other upside to a delayed fall season for so many shows is the likelihood that there will be fewer repeats and pre-emptions this season, and more shows may be able to run straight through to the end of the traditional season in spring—depending on how many episodes they’re able to produce. Keep in mind, though, that this is all still a work in progress, and it’s unclear if the safety protocols will be enough to keep production going smoothly on soundstages and location shooting. Let’s hope so.

And Finally…

Question: Has New Amsterdam been canceled? I really hope not. I love all the characters and the story lines and will really miss it—although my disappointment has received a boost with the new medical drama Transplant. — Linda H

Matt Roush: It’s the opposite of canceled. New Amsterdam has been renewed for three more seasons. But like many shows this year, its premiere has been delayed by the coronavirus until early 2021. Which explains why NBC transplanted the Canadian medical drama Transplant into New Amsterdam‘s time period for the time being. Just seeing any new scripted show on a major broadcast network is a bit of a shock these days.

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. Everyone stay safe and healthy!