Ask Matt: ‘Outsider,’ ‘Conners,’ Tom Bergeron and ‘Jeopardy!,’ ‘Chicago Med’ and Pandemic TV & 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 theform at the end of the column) and follow me on Twitter (@TVGMMattRoush). Look for Ask Matt columns on many Tuesdays and Fridays.
Is There Even an Outside Chance for More Outsider?
Question: Well, HBO has gone and canceled The Outsider, so my question is: What are the odds of this great show being picked up by another network or streaming service, and have you heard any news regarding it? — Justin
Matt Roush: No recent updates that I’m aware of, but the chances of The Outsider turning up somewhere else appear to be more promising than in most cases. (Usually, when I’m asked this question, the answer is a qualified “probably not.”) For one, there’s the Stephen King factor. He’s still a popular draw; I’m among those looking forward to the new version of The Stand on CBS All Access later this month. But more to the point, there were reports that the writers and producers had made progress breaking stories and even scripts for a second season, and when HBO decided not to proceed with a second round of what had appeared initially to be a limited series, the network gave its blessing to the studio and producers, including Jason Bateman, who already has a good working relationship with Netflix as Ozark prepares to head into the sunset next year. I won’t be surprised if this turns up there or elsewhere.
Sisters at War on The Conners
Question: On The Conners, why are we supposed to sympathize with Becky against Darlene in their Wellmans Plastics family feud? With millions of Americans out of work and millions of working mothers having to balance work and family responsibilities with more difficulty then ever before, why would Becky ever think it was okay to waste an hour of her shift every day Facetiming her baby (while living for free in her Dad’s basement-and I assume that same Dad has to spend an hour now holding the phone up to the baby)? I’m sure there are millions who would take her job in a heartbeat and be more responsible in this COVID economy, as Darlene was trying to be by trying for a promotion. — Justin G
Matt Roush: I’ve been keeping up with this show, because it seems to be the comedy series most intent on reflecting life during this challenging time — although even they have the frustrating habit of wearing masks in public until it’s time to talk, when they tend to remove them (in effect invalidating the very reason for wearing them). That said, I’m not sure we’re meant to pick sides in this sisterly conflict. The Conners, as Roseanne did before, has a track record of depicting a family struggling to make it through hard times, and Becky is as aware as anyone that she’s hardly a model employee, and unfairly expected Darlene to cut her some slack as she tried to impress management. Darlene took no pleasure in docking Becky, while sparing her harsher penalties, and I was glad to see this week that they haven’t magically smoothed things over, which felt realistic. But one has to wonder where Darlene was during the whole uprising over drug testing, which made Becky look more like a hero.
From Dancing to Answering?
Matt Roush: Wasn’t that a great interview? He is so missed, and you’re hardly alone in lobbying for him to take over this coveted job. Whether he’s on a short or long list is anyone’s guess, because Jeopardy! is understandably not commenting on who will be serving as interim hosts beyond Ken Jennings in January, and it would be unseemly to look at this as a contest. Still, Tom Bergeron has been top of my mind as well in recent weeks, and this interview reinforced that, reminding us that he is essentially a gifted broadcaster with the right personality and tone to host a distinguished program like this without upstaging the game or the contestants. He was so poorly treated by Dancing with the Stars that this would be a fitting next chapter for him, and he is a member of the extended Jeopardy! family, having appeared in a 2009 episode of Celebrity Jeopardy. (He didn’t win, but not everyone can.) I’ll be interested to see how Jeopardy! progresses in 2021, but I don’t envy anyone stepping into Alex Trebek’s revered shoes.
Med, Heal Thyself!
Question: I’ve noticed some shows are keeping up with the COVID and wearing masks, but Chicago Med. One of my favorite shows, are they in la la land? None of them wear masks and it’s a medical show, which makes it even worse. Why are they not wearing masks and pretend like COVID never happened? — Marijo M
Matt Roush: I checked out the first few episodes, and you’re partially right. It’s like Chicago Med has a split personality living in two worlds, with some storylines set in a COVID wing, tackling the pandemic head-on, with other stories set in a magically non-infectious unit where everyone conveniently works without masks and PPE. The inconsistency, which is evident on other shows as well, can be maddening, and while I understand that producers don’t want COVID to take over every aspect of their shows, it’s weird to see a show trying to have it both ways. At least The Good Doctor made it clear they were jumping headlong into a post-pandemic future, while Grey’s Anatomy is all in on the pandemic for now.
My mailbag is pretty evenly split between those who wish TV would tackle the issue more responsibly, and others like Paula, who wrote in to wonder: “Is anyone else disappointed that the return of our favorite shows had to incorporate the pandemic and civil unrest in our nation? We are all informed. It’s all we hear in the real world. So personally, I was hoping to escape into my shows and just pick up where they left off.”
Matt again: If you have to ask, you probably already know you’re not alone in feeling this way.
A Filthy Plea
Question: Please tell me there is interest in Filthy Rich from another network? I can’t believe how involved I’ve gotten in this crazy escapist show, and I’m sad that it’s ending. It is just plain fun — remember those shows? —Debbie
Matt Roush: Having been around for the glory year of those prime-time soaps that dominated the 1980s and ’90s, I do remember those days. Sadly, with only a short season’s worth of episodes and no momentum during a tough time for the industry, the likelihood of someone coming to this show’s rescue is slim to none. (See the Outsider question above; this is one of those “probably not” instances.)
Comment: I think the Deutschland franchise (83, 86 and 89) is even better than The Americans at combining both the absurdity and the horror of Communism. However, this incredibly well-written show is ill served by the worst subtitles on current television. Not only are they tiny and white, in 86 they were superimposed over the sun-bleached sands of the Sahara, and this year, an early set piece was a totally white room! — David F
Matt Roush: I had the same reaction screening the final season of Deutschland 89 and wondered if it would be as annoying on air (I’m not always sure if what I’m seeing in advance will be the same as the final product). Apparently it was! I’d like to think this could be fixed when Deutschland 89 begins its streaming life as of today on Hulu, joining the previous seasons, but it sounds like a chronic problem.
That’s all for now. We 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.)