Ask Matt: ‘This Is Us’ and Covid, ‘Queen’s Gambit,’ Streaming Charlie Brown, ‘Euphoria’ & 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.
How Did This Is Us Pull Off That Season Opener?
Question: I am curious how This Is Us pulled off such seamless episodes considering all the Covid-19 protocols? Yes, they showed masks being worn and safe distances, but most of the times the characters were next to each other and even affectionate. It was wonderful! Unlike the soap operas, who have couples always standing so far apart and sitting on opposite sides of the room and sometimes not even in the same scene together! I get it, they are following protocols! But how did This Is Us do it? Did they all quarantine so they could shoot what “looks” like a normal show? I believe Tyler Perry is doing that in Atlanta. More of this, please! I am tired of hearing about Covid-19, let’s enjoy TV again! — Samantha J.
Matt Roush: From all I’ve seen in interviews with the showrunner and actors on this and other prime-time shows, the safety protocols of rigorous testing and responsible social distancing and behaviors to keep the set a safe workplace allowed them to preserve the illusion of normal life, albeit one lived in a time of Covid. These are closed sets scrupulously monitored, though not to my knowledge produced in an isolated bubble like the Tyler Perry shows, and a lot more time and money goes into making shows like This Is Us compared to daytime dramas, which have to churn those episodes out at a relentless rate. This may be why the daytime soaps can’t disguise their procedures as well. (By the way, kudos to This Is Us for getting on air earlier than most — I know they wanted this to be shown before the election for a number of pertinent reasons — and with an ambitious and relevant two-hour episode to boot.)
Regarding your being “tired” of hearing about Covid, gird your loins. The medical dramas are coming, and they couldn’t ignore the subject even if they wanted to.
What Comes After Checkmate?
Question: Just finished The Queen’s Gambit on Netflix. What a gem of a show it is. Great acting and an interesting storyline. I’m not a fan of chess, but even I felt like the fans watching Beth to see her next move. Even though it is a limited series, is there a chance for a brief second season? Would love to see more of Beth and the gang. — Cathi
Matt Roush: It’s risky to predict any moves Netflix is likely to make, but they were pretty clear in labeling this a “limited” series, which suggests that Queen’s Gambit, which was an adaptation of a novel, is one and done. Of course, we believed the same thing about HBO’s Big Little Lies, also based on a book, after its first season, so anything’s possible. When a show is this satisfying, it’s understandable to be left wanting more, but sometimes it might be even better to quit while you’re ahead.
Bloodthirsty After That Finale
Matt Roush: I enjoyed this four-episode treat as well, and would have been satisfied with its macabre Alfred Hitchcock Presents-style finale (mild spoiler) if they just hadn’t included that last shot. Such a twist begs for a continuation, if only to follow through on the mysteries of just what was going on with the new husband (Stephen Rae) who caused his wife’s family such angst. At present, there has been no announcement about a second season, although the show’s creator and some of the actors have expressed a willingness to keep going. Keep in mind that Flesh and Blood comes from the newly notorious ITV network, which canned former Masterpiece series Sanditon and Beecham House after just one season. But if there were to be a second season, Masterpiece almost certainly would air it.
Question: I just so enjoyed the short TV series Almost Paradise on WGN America this past season. I haven’t read anything about it returning and am hoping it will have a second season. With its wit, thrilling action, beautiful island scenery and terrific performances by Christian Kane as Alex Walker, the hunky gift shop owner, trying to escape his past as an ex-DEA agent, the show had a terrific supporting cast and action-packed episodes. It was so much more entertaining that much of what is shown on network TV. Do you have any information on any future episodes for this fun show? I hope WGNA will rerun the first set of episodes — I would love to see it again!! — Betty K
Matt Roush: Once again, WGN America proved to be an unreliable home to first-run entertainment programming. (Why did they even pretend?) Having pivoted again to a news-oriented prime-time lineup, the channel opted not to renew Almost Paradise, leaving it in limbo. But more than in many cases, I’d be optimistic that an independent production like this could find a new home on cable or streaming. There’s a big appetite for breezy escapism these days, so stay tuned. (Although filming in the Philippines may be easier said than done these days, so also be patient.)
Allergic to Peanuts Going to Streaming
Comment: I think the company licensing Peanuts and Charlie Brown specials exclusively to Apple TV+ is risking doing damage to the brand. It’s a shame that they couldn’t have given Apple exclusive streaming rights, which I don’t see a problem with, and carved out a separate window for ABC or CBS or whomever to air it as a linear broadcast only, which wouldn’t be so bad. It also seems like they should understand the difference between Apple having exclusivity on new series and specials, which is fine, and taking the old classic ones away from broadcast. — Jake
Comment: Within 15 minutes of hearing that Apple TV+ now owns the rights to the Peanuts specials, I ordered the Blu-ray versions of It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and A Charlie Brown Christmas. I am just not interested in playing these streaming games. — Sara Anne
Matt Roush: Will it surprise you that some of these titles were out of stock on Amazon the last time I looked? While Apple TV+ has made It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown free for non-subscribers through Sunday, that’s still obviously one hurdle too many for those lacking the will or ability to stream. I’m hearing from a lot of Peanuts fans dismayed by the specials disappearing from their broadcast homes, and it feels like a flashpoint in the digital revolution. To Jake’s point, I agree that for the sake of corporate goodwill, Apple should try to work out a deal where a broadcaster gets a one-time window for linear airing of the classics, which could then be used to promote the streaming service as the go-to place for all things Peanuts, including the new Snoopy series and more to come.
Question: How come the HBO drama series Euphoria hasn’t come out on DVD/Blu-Ray yet? Is it because they are going to air two new episodes, including one in December, to bridge the gap until Season 2, and those will possibly be added to the Season 1 DVD/Blu Ray (if there ever will be one)? And how come the first three seasons of the Grey’s Anatomy spin-off Station 19 hasn’t been released on DVD/Blu-Ray yet either? — Chris B
Matt Roush: I don’t follow the whys and wherefores of DVD marketing, but this reasoning makes sense to me why HBO would delay a release of Euphoria on disc if more episodes are coming in advance of a Season 2. I’d probably hear shrieks if HBO tried to release a Season 1 box set without the extra episodes. HBO is still fairly aggressive about releasing their series on disc, so I’d be surprised if something isn’t forthcoming at some point. In the case of a network show like Station 19, I’d surmise that this again is a result of the digital revolution, that the DVD marketplace isn’t what it used to be, and the studio may feel it’s more economically feasible to make these seasons available for streaming.
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.