Ask Matt: ‘Fargo,’ ‘Creek’s Emmy Sweep, Whither ‘Orville,’ ‘DWTS’ & ‘AGT’
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.
It’s OK to Jump Into Fargo
Question: I have never seen the show Fargo, but I have seen previews for the new season on FX with Chris Rock. It looks interesting to me. Do I need to watch the previous seasons to know what is going on or does it start with a new storyline each season? — Michele
Matt Roush: First off, follow your instincts and do not miss the new season of Fargo premiering on Sunday. (Check out my rave review of the new season.) Next, this is an anthology series, meaning every season starts fresh, with a new set of actors and (usually) characters in new time settings. Even though the show occasionally makes a nod to other seasons, each stands alone and can be watched without knowing anything about what aired previously. What connects the seasons of Fargo is tone: an irresistible blend of appealingly quirky characters, very dark humor, shocking twists and escalating suspense. Because each season is self-contained, there’s no way to predict the fate of anyone, regardless of how big the star is playing the part. Fargo is one of my all-time favorite series, and if you like what you see this season, you can’t go wrong catching up on the earlier years (like most everything on FX, available on Hulu).
Thanks for the Lovely Parting Gifts!
Question: Holy Schitt’s Creek, Batman! I know the show set a record for sweeping all the comedy categories, but did they set a record for Emmys given out to a show that has been canceled/concluded? Mostly, shows that have already bowed out are lucky to even get nominated. — Woody
Matt Roush: Another reason why it’s so hard to predict how the Emmy winds will blow any particular year. Many suspected Schitt’s Creek would defy tradition by doing well and probably capturing the top prize of Best Comedy for its final season — something that hasn’t been done since 2005, when Everybody Loves Raymond won for its ninth and last year, and before that, Barney Miller all the way back in 1982 for its eighth season. (I suppose you could argue that Fleabag won last year for what was known to be its second and final mini-season, but that felt like more of a one-off salute to a singular talent.) But even though many thought Creek would have a good night at the Emmys, no one likely saw a sweep of this magnitude. Not only did it set a record for a show in its final season, the nine wins for a single season set an all-time TV comedy record. And winning all four major acting awards is also unheard of. I sense these are records that will take a long time to match. (For those who came late to this party, it’s worth noting that the much-lauded sixth season of Schitt’s Creek will be available for streaming on Netflix starting Oct. 7.)
Is The Orville Lost in Space?
Question: Has there been any news regarding the future of The Orville? While it took some time, it slowly grew into a show worthy of comparison to Star Trek: TNG. But between Fox dumping it to Hulu and the extended COVID hiatus, it has been nearly two years since the last season premiered, and it seems doubtful that Season 3 would be ready before fall 2021. Given those things and its relatively high production costs, is there a chance that Hulu takes the loss and cancels Season 3 altogether? — Mike
Matt Roush: Not a chance. The Orville was already well underway in production on the third season when the pandemic shut everything down, and while a show this elaborate will likely take a while to get finished once the wheels start turning again, there’s no indication that Hulu or the studio (all part of the Disney empire now) have given up on it. On the contrary, I expect when the time comes to launch the next season, they’ll market it heavily. I get asked about the show quite frequently, suggesting the fans haven’t lost their desire to see more.
Stumping for a New Home on Netflix
Question: Please notify Netflix that there is enough of a fan base for Stumptown as was the case with Lucifer that fans want a conclusion to the story. Is there a way to contact Netflix and ask for this? Your input to Netflix could really help as well. — Steve
Matt Roush: I hate to disabuse you of your belief in my influence, but Netflix isn’t in the habit of consulting me about their programming decisions. However, Netflix does have a feedback area where you can suggest shows you’d like to see them acquire, or in this case, continue. Anything’s possible, and I’d love to see Stumptown get new life — and it has been reported the studio is shopping it around, and you know Netflix would be one of the stops — but Lucifer had the benefit of having three seasons already in the tank (as opposed to Stumptown‘s one and only) and having the supernatural cult vibe that seems to be one of Netflix’s trademarks. Still, Netflix did come to the rescue of an offbeat procedural like Longmire, so who knows?
Will Shorter Seasons Become the Norm?
Question: I think your analysis of the future of network TV in a recent column is spot on. If they want to compete with streaming services and premium cable outlets like HBO, they have to up their game. Here’s my question: In light of the pandemic and its effect on TV shows’ production schedules, do you think the networks will finally realize that a “TV season” doesn’t have to be 22 episodes long? Most streaming and premium cable shows have much shorter seasons. They are able to tell their stories concisely, and do it very well, e.g., Watchmen. I do see the networks taking steps in this direction, but do you think they will ever consider this move for most of their fare? — Tony M
Matt Roush: This year, the networks will probably be forced to shorten the seasons of even their biggest hits because of a late start of production and the cost and logistical factors of doing business under the new restrictions and protocols. But when normalcy returns, I’d expect certain types of shows — formula crime and medical procedurals, most half-hour comedies — to continue producing as many episodes per season as makes sense. These are shows that tend to repeat relatively well, and remember that broadcast network TV is not about minimizing what works. Most of those shows don’t have an eye on the Emmy platform, anyway. But your point is a good one, that a number of shows have already figured out — some from the start — that a limited number of episodes is the best strategy for creative purposes.
I’d also like to see the networks get back in the limited-series game, what we used to call miniseries. As we’ve seen in the cable, premium and streaming worlds, you can attract a high caliber of talent if they only have to commit to a finite amount of time. The challenge will be to convince a certain strata of producers and actors that it’s OK to come back to “regular” TV. (Which has already mostly lost the likes of David E. Kelley, Shonda Rhimes, Ryan Murphy, Kenya Barris, to name a few.) And while I’m glad Tony backs me up in how I look at the ever-expanding TV landscape, not everyone agrees.
Comment: You have chastened me in the past — and here you are again arguing that ALL the platforms are TV. I’ll give in that cable is TV, but just as movies are not TV, I’ll argue that streaming is not TV. If you need a computer to watch it, even if that receiver is built into a box that once was solely TV but now does both, there is still a clear difference in media. Just like movies. There are movies, TV and streaming. — Mary
Matt Roush: I will concede that Netflix muddies the issue a bit by designating its movies as something other than TV. (With very rare and strategic exceptions, they don’t make their stand-alone movies available in advance to TV critics, and most aren’t submitted in the movie categories for Emmy consideration.) But much as people once resisted accepting cable shows as part of TV — remember the CableACE Awards? — and resented when pay services like HBO and Showtime entered the picture as well, you can’t deny the cultural impact of the streamers, which people are for the most part watching on their TVs, however they access it (via smart TVs or Roku-style extensions — or in the case of Netflix on some cable systems, as part of the grid). To think otherwise is to be in denial — and believe me, there are weeks (like the week I spent watching Ratched) when I wish we could go back to simpler times.
Weighing In on Dancing and Talent Shows
Question: How come they replaced Tom and Erin with Tyra Banks? I gave her a second week but she just doesn’t get it. The show is about the dancers, not her and her wardrobe changes. If it was to get the younger viewers, they might consider someone younger than her and less absorbed with themselves. Sorry Tyra, but I miss Tom and Erin. — Jan
Question: Why do the judges and the public continue to encourage this group of singers on America’s Got Talent. They can’t be understood. When they have finished, it’s “What a nice voice. I wonder what their song was about.” — Walter K, Bridgewater, VA
Matt Roush: We watch, we judge. And while Dancing‘s numbers are up from last season, and this week’s special Tuesday episode had to compete with the performance finale of Talent (and early results showed Dancing with an edge in the prized demographic though not in total viewers), I can’t imagine this change at the top won’t damage the show in the long run. But if ABC was looking for publicity by shaking things up, they got it. As for Talent‘s singers, that’s probably a matter of taste, and the emphasis on vocalists drove me away from that show a long time ago. That said, how refreshing for a spoken-word poet to win the big prize this year. At least when Brandon Leake speaks, you can understand what he’s saying.
Question: What happened to Sunnyside, NBC’s new show early this year? It ran only two episodes. The cast was a broad ethnic mix, but the show wasn’t as good as it could have been. I grew up in Sunnyside, Queens. It was a great neighborhood and it’s a terrific blend of nationalities now! Any chance it will come back? It could be a real winner if done right!— Diana
Matt Roush: Now there’s a blast from the past, and a nice way to put a pin in discussion of the 2019-20 season. Sunnyside was the first cancellation of last season, and after the first few aired on NBC, the rest of the completed episodes went online. The chances of it coming back in any form is about as slim as it gets. Even with 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.