Ask Matt: Pandemic TV, ABC’s Games Mania (But Where’s ‘Password?’), ‘Walker’ Remake, ‘Filthy’ Not So ‘Rich’ & 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.
Give Me a COVID Break!
Question: There are so many returning shows, especially the medical shows, adding COVID in the mix. I get that! But we’re living the drama, do we have to watch it unfold on TV? I watch TV to regroup, not to stress! Just my thought! We’re all so sick of it! Can we not escape, at least for an hour? — Robin
Matt Roush: The fact that we’ve living through this challenging time in history is exactly why many shows on TV are reflecting the crisis. If it’s escape you seek, there are countless outlets and shows that will give you that option. But to expect producers to ignore what’s happening, especially on medical dramas, is disingenuous. They see their shows as honoring the frontline workers while telling their fictional stories, and when contemporary comedies like The Conners and black-ish reflect how the pandemic has affected their very different families’ lives, that’s what makes them relevant. Ditto with police dramas and other procedurals that are facing the social unrest of 2020. To do otherwise would be irresponsible, and it doesn’t have to be or feel exploitative. When people look back on this season of This Is Us, and see characters wearing masks and children learning from home, it will act as a snapshot of a specific point in time, and that’s important, without having to wallow in it.
The Games People Play (on TV)
Question: I just saw ABC’s scheduling announcement including Celebrity Wheel of Fortune and The Chase (and The Hustler) on Thursdays starting in January. So the Thursday dramas are premiering this week with fanfare and then almost immediately going on hiatus? I know COVID makes things harder and there will be fewer episodes this season, and I don’t want to sound in any way ungrateful. But…why not just push the season to spring 2021 then and have everything air consecutively? Also, an 8pm/7c slot for Celebrity Wheel will mean it airs for a full hour directly after the syndicated version in many markets. I love me some Wheel, but that seems like a lot of Wheel at once, especially since the celebrity version isn’t actually changing gameplay at all. — Jake
Matt Roush: As our first question suggests, many will relish an extra hour of comfort food with Wheel in prime time, I’m sure, even if it may seem like overkill to others. I’m curious to see the other game shows that night will play, especially The Chase. As for ABC bringing its scripted hits back for such a short period, then resting them again, it’s obviously not an ideal situation, but I expect that might allow the shows to return in late winter or spring uninterrupted, pandemic willing, after this brief winter pause. I understand why the network would return these high-profile shows as early as possible to keep them front and center in viewers’ minds, even if just for a taste. Millions have been hungry for these shows.
Question: Do you think Password will come back since old game shows seem to be quite popular? — Ann
Matt Roush: I’d like to think so, because this was always one of my favorites. My fear is that they would try to soup it up again for prime time, the way CBS did with Million Dollar Password more than a decade ago. (RIP, Regis.) I’m not sure the classic version would fit in terms of tone with what they’re reviving these days, which tend to be louder and more gimmicky. But if they gave it a try, I’d be there.
Chuck Norris Is No Joke
Question: I have heard that there is going to be a reboot of Walker, Texas Ranger. Is Chuck Norris going to be involved in any way? Last time I saw him it was on Hawaii Five-O, so I know the man is up for at the least a cameo, and as a fan of both Chuck and the original show it would be great to see him pop up. Plus, I thought he owned the rights to the show, so he must have given his stamp of approval for this reboot to happen. — Justin
Matt Roush: Everything I’ve seen indicates that Chuck Norris is on board with the reimagined Walker — not, pointedly, a remake — and has by all accounts given the show his blessing. But otherwise, he’s not listed in the production credits as being involved in the project, which stars Supernatural‘s Jared Padalecki and is scheduled to start airing on The CW on Thursdays in January. Which isn’t to say he wouldn’t pop up at some point as an homage to the original, and who could stop him if he so chooses?
Not as Rich as the Original
Question: I was initially sorry to hear that Filthy Rich was canceled by Fox. While I originally liked the premise (we need a good prime-time soap), it seemed like the show’s religious undertone hamstrung it from being as enjoyable without insulting their religion. That being said, I came across the original version of the series from New Zealand on Hulu and was amazed by how much better it was. Its version is instead set at a large family-controlled corporation. And while most of the main characters’ back stories are similar, it’s written and produced in more of the throwback style of Melrose Place or Dallas. It has true amoral villains you instantly love to hate as well as characters that are good and do bad things for the wrong reasons or are manipulated into doing so. And while the brief nudity, drug use and violence (sexual and physical) is definitely stronger than would be allowed on U.S. network TV, it’s not anything worse than what’s been shown on TNT’s Animal Kingdom or FX’s Sons of Anarchy. My question would be: Have you seen the original version of Filthy Rich on Hulu and how could Fox do such a poor remake of it? It would have been a much better suited show for FX or Hulu. — Mike
Matt Roush: I have not checked out the New Zealand original — if the Fox version had been a hit, I might have tried to find the time — but I’m not surprised. Things often get lost in translation when U.S. networks adapt formats from other lands, and in this case, it felt from the start that this version of Filthy Rich was never going to be filthy enough to make much of an impression, despite Kim Cattrall‘s juicy central performance. It’s possible that grounding the soap opera within a family of TV evangelists riddled with hypocrisy was too touchy a third rail for even a broadcast network like Fox, which may have pulled its punches, but it was also hobbled by poor casting (especially among the offspring) and uninspired execution across the board.
More Thoughts on Young Sheldon
Comment: You are exactly right on Young Sheldon. The whole POINT is that Sheldon is an unreliable narrator. I’m not sure why this is a mystery to anyone. He spends most of The Big Bang Theory exaggerating his friends’ faults or even making things up. For instance, insisting that MIT engineer Howard, who NASA chose for a space mission, isn’t very smart, and that Leonard, who Cal Tech apparently has leading their laser research, is mediocre on the intelligence scale. Young Sheldon would have been a horrible show if his family life had actually been true to his relating of it. Instead, it’s got a nice King of the Hill take on Texas and religious life that pokes fun from a place of respect. Perhaps the best example of this is the tornado episode where young Sheldon takes comfort in his mother’s prayers to save them (demands them, in fact), but adult Sheldon throws in the jab from the safe place of the future about her actually believing her prayer mattered. Atheists, foxholes, and all that. — David
Matt Roush: All good points, with the result being that Young Sheldon has more layers than the usual nostalgic period-piece prequel because we are seeing all of this from the perspectives of the young and the older Sheldon we knew and learned to endure on the original series.
Comment: I agree with the recent comments about Lance Barber as George on Young Sheldon, but they made me chuckle because the actor actually played a bully on The Big Bang Theory! He was Leonard’s childhood bully, who reached out to him as an adult. I’m not sure why they decided to reuse the actor in Young Sheldon in this way — but I am glad they did. — Robin
Matt Roush: Another good catch — and the person who wrote in with those original observations about Lance Barber wrote back to say that very episode with Lance as the bully just repeated! Small world.
Bucket List TV
Question: As I get closer and closer to my demise, I tend to ponder what TV shows I’d like to revisit before I expire. What shows would you want to watch if for only one whole series, one season, and one episode? My whole series would probably be Farscape or Star Trek. My one season would either be Firefly or Wonderfalls. And my one episode would have to be “The City on The Edge of Forever” which started my love affair with the boob tube. — John W
Matt Roush: Existentially, we’re all a step closer to our demise each time we wake, but I try not to dwell on that. And keep in mind that this question was written to someone who’s working his way, slowly, through the entire run of Dark Shadows with a nightly nostalgic nightcap of “My Name is Victoria Winters” somewhere around midnight. There are so many shows I hope someday to be reacquainted with I hardly know where to start. What comes first to mind are those shows I adored (and covered) which went away far too soon and which brought me great joy during their runs. Head of that class would be ABC’s Homefront (which introduced Kyle Chandler) and the fantastical Pushing Daisies. If I had to go out watching a single episode, it would have to be “Once More with Feeling” from Buffy — or maybe, for an appropriate laugh, “Chuckles Bites the Dust” from The Mary Tyler Moore Show.
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.