Ask Matt: Death on ‘The 100,’ ‘Transplant,’ ‘Hot Bench’ and Syndication Shuffles & 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] (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.
Does Killing a Favorite Character Punish Fan Loyalty?
Question: [SPOILER ALERT] How much pressure does a long-standing show like The 100 have to “shock” its fans? It seems to me that Jason Rothenberg just plain killed Bellamy for shock value. Bellamy was a core character that in NO way would have been killed by Clarke. It made way more sense when she killed Finn (killing him to save him from pain). But now she goes for the kill shot on Bellamy? There were so many ways out of that situation. The show just made its fans feel — and the only way I can say it is — stupid for following this show for so long. I have survived a lot of beloved characters’ deaths and the show was better for it (the controversial Veronica Mars, for example), but this one was senseless and cruel to its fans. And just made me feel stupid for watching it. Is this show that out of touch? And do they do it just for the publicity? — Nancy
Matt Roush: I often sense a feeling of betrayal from fans when this sort of event happens, and I get it. But we’re talking about The 100 here, which has never shied away from doing dreadful things to beloved characters (i.e., Finn), and with only a few episodes to go in this final season, I’d have been even more shocked if they hadn’t pulled a big and terrible twist like this so close to the finish line. There aren’t many happier-ever-afters on The 100, just saying. Even so, having one core character take out another is gutsy, and risks alienating the audience.
But to look at outside forces like some undefined “pressure” or a desire for “publicity” doesn’t give the show’s creators enough credit. This is their show and their choice, and it’s not like this is a Game of Thrones-size hit, so even though this was epic within the world of The 100, it’s not like this was contrived for the potential of boosting ratings or anything. I’d take Jason Rothenberg at his word when he tweeted that the death of Bellamy “had to go to the heart of what the show is all about: Survival. Who you’re willing to protect. And who you’re willing to sacrifice.” Whether you agree or can accept this reasoning is up to you. But there are still a few episodes to go for Clarke and the other survivors to deal with this tragedy, so maybe there’s a way for this to be redeemed in the eyes of the fans.
Two Scalpels Up for Transplant
Question: I would like to give a big endorsement to the medical drama Transplant from CTV, now airing on NBC, as I am a big supporter of any medical dramas and this certainly fills the void. I especially like the fact that it publicizes being made in Canada and not try to seem like it is in the U.S. Being as the transplant is actually a Syrian asylum seeker looking to work in Canada, he realistically stands a better chance of being accepted there than here. But could NBC actually pick up future seasons of this, perhaps as a summer replacement, or is this just something to get us through the pandemic?
I would also like to ask this question of all the shows starting in October on the CW network, in particular Swamp Thing, which is getting a big promo there, but did I not read somewhere that production on this has stopped and had little chance of returning? I would hate to get interested, only for it to suddenly stop. — JV
Matt Roush: These are two very different situations regarding the patchwork of shows filling the void during a delayed new season. With Transplant (currently filling in for New Amsterdam on Tuesdays before it can return in 2021), this is the sort of show NBC and other broadcast networks have frequently turned to as summer, or possibly midseason, replacements. The series is co-produced by NBCUniversal’s International Studios division, so is almost an in-house production. Given that it’s a hit in Canada, I’m fairly confident you’ll continue seeing Transplant either in future summers or elsewhere on NBC’s schedule. As for Swamp Thing, that was canceled after its first season and I can’t imagine this would have migrated to The CW if the regular season had been able to start on time. Shows like Tell Me a Story, which The CW picked up from CBS All Access, are self-contained seasons — but with Swamp Thing, you’ll have to gauge for yourself if you’re curious enough to check it out, knowing in advance that it won’t come to a proper conclusion.
Follow the Bouncing-Around Syndicated Shows
Matt Roush: Yes, Hot Bench is back, but mid-September is traditionally the time when syndicated shows move around to new stations and/or time slots. (In the case of Hot Bench in New York City, it’s both.) This shuffle is often done to make room for new shows to get exposure, like the high-profile The Drew Barrymore Show. But Hot Bench isn’t going away. For the last 12 weeks, it has been the #2 syndicated show in daytime (including ties) only behind Judge Judy. To find out where Hot Bench is airing in your market, go here. And rule of thumb: If your favorite syndicated show all of a sudden isn’t where it used to be, go to its website, and there is usually a similar listing for you to find where it’s airing — if it’s still airing — in your market.
Why Not Just Show Busted Pilots?
Question: I’ve been thinking with the pandemic having shut down production and networks trying to fill their schedules, why don’t they dip into their vault of unaired TV pilots? We are talking about what’s got to be millions upon millions of dollars of content just sitting there waiting to be seen. Who knows, maybe they have a few hit TV shows locked up in the vault. Can’t hurt to show them, and even if they are all duds, I’m sure they would still be entertaining to watch, don’t you think? — Justin
Matt Roush: There was a time when the networks would show some of these rejected pilots, usually during the summer. (When I was writing for USA Today years ago, I remember reviewing or at least assessing a few of them, under the umbrella title “Pilot Error.”) It’s not the worst idea — although sometimes they really are just the worst shows, and some pilots I’ve seen off the record really don’t deserve the light of prime time, even as a one-off. I know it’s going to be a long September and October, possibly even November and December, as we wait for many shows to return, but I doubt the networks are going to admit to being this desperate to fill the hours.
Still Missing Face Off (So Do I)
Question: Is there any chance Face Off, the competition TV series about special-effects make-up artists, will be back? That was must-watch TV for me. The creativity of the contestants was amazing. — Claudia K
Matt Roush: I loved Face Off as well, and was unhappy when the 13th season, an all-star edition, was announced as the last in 2018. There have been petitions to bring the show back, but for now, that hasn’t happened. This wouldn’t be the hardest show to put back into production, but there’s no sign of a revival. And even if there were, a show in which contestants have to get right in the face (hence the title) of the models they’re transforming would be almost impossible to produce until we’re on the other side of COVID-19.
Question: I just finished watching Biography: The Nine Lives of Ozzy Osbourne and my ears still hurt from all the bleeping! Is there a specific reason the makers of TV shows use the obnoxiously painful “bleep” noise instead of simply dropping out the sound when offensive words are spoken but can’t be aired? I have previously seen other shows that do this and it’s a LOT less irritating! — Laura
Matt Roush: That’s the producer’s choice, and just like the ongoing epidemic of loud background music (which I get mail about just about daily), they don’t seem to mind these aural intrusions. In the case of Ozzy Osbourne, I imagine they figured his fans were used to loud noise so might not mind so much. Besides, going silent isn’t really their thing.
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.