Ask Matt: Peanuts on PBS, Debating ‘Undoing,’ Holiday Movie Burnout, Alex’s Last ‘Jeopardy’ Episodes & 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.
Could More Peanuts End Up on PBS?
Question: I’ve actually found myself rather enjoying watching A Charlie Brown Christmas and A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving on PBS this past holiday season. Sure it’s not CBS or ABC, but it’s better than nothing and at least it isn’t chopped up or sped up for commercials. What would you say are the chances we could see Apple not only maintain the deal for the specials with PBS, but perhaps strike a similar deal to the one HBO signed with PBS for Sesame Street for some of the new content? I for one would love to see the Snoopy in Space series show up as a “special event.” And could Apple even strike a deal to at least get Coca-Cola and Dolly Madison cakes (do they still make those cakes) to co-sponsor an airing for posterity sake? – Jonathon
Matt Roush: Isn’t it amazing how we still associate these specials with their longtime or original sponsors? The power of linear broadcast TV back in the day! I agree that watching these shows without commercial breaks is unusually satisfying — especially A Charlie Brown Christmas, which is in part a lament about the commercialization of the season — and while I don’t know all of the details of Apple’s and the Peanuts brand’s arrangement with PBS, I’d hope they’ll continue this sharing of the legacy specials for the foreseeable future. As for the new Peanuts projects, I’d be more surprised to see Apple easing their exclusive rights, because this strategic partnership is all about adding value to the Apple TV+ streaming service. It’s the way so much of the industry is heading. It’s an interesting comparison with Sesame Street, but the educational aspects of that series and its association from the start with PBS make a stronger case for that arrangement.
Nicole in The Undoing, and More Comments
Question: I have been following your column for years now and I usually agree with your reviews and comments. Therefore, first of all, thank you for all the reviews and recommendations over the years; truly appreciate your effort and hard work. After reading your latest column, I was a bit shocked about the comments criticizing Nicole Kidman‘s performance in The Undoing. With respect, I think she was terrific, even better than Big Little Lies and that is saying something! Nicole transmitted every emotion flawlessly. The scenes in the courtroom were thrilling and I couldn’t keep my eyes off Grace. I am terribly disappointed to read that because of her outfit or her physical appearance, her performance might have suffered! Well, that was certainly not my opinion. The fact that this high-society woman is seeing her world collapsing through her hands and still needs to put up a front and just convey her feelings with her eyes and facial expression is a testament that Kidman is a master of her craft. In fact, I can go as far to say that she deserves another Emmy and SAG nomination come awards season. To say that someone’s appearance is capable of interfering with their acting might be true in some cases, but when Kidman is on screen, she owns every scene without any doubt. Hugh Grant was great, but Kidman was the true star of The Undoing. — David
Matt Roush: The way I see it, everyone’s entitled to their opinion, and The Undoing surely generated more than its share. In my own positive review, written without benefit of seeing the final episode with that courtroom twist, I described Nicole Kidman as “radiant,” while also pointing out that the credits listed three hairstylists managing her luxurious mane. So in responding to the criticism in that column, I was trying to see what this viewer didn’t see in Kidman’s very controlled and delicate performance. And from what I read (sparingly) of other less enthusiastic reviews, the extreme glamour and gloss of the main characters’ lifestyles (homes, clothing, helicopters at the ready and yes, hair) distracted others from the main drama, so it’s a fair point. But when nominations for Emmys (and Golden Globes and others) come out, I’m fairly sure Kidman and The Undoing will get their due, as well as Hugh Grant.
Ask Matt: Canadian Transplants, Undone by Hugh Grant, Artistic License on 'Big Sky,' 'Grey's' Ghosts & More
Following are more comments about The Undoing, which clearly struck a nerve.
Question: I think Nicole Kidman’s acting in The Undoing was impinged upon by the styling. Nobody looks that good all the time, especially when they’re going through terrible things the way Grace was in that story. Donald Sutherland was great, though. I think that the luxury of Kidman’s styling and clothes, the latter of which I thought were rather unattractive actually, and the beautiful apartment, is meant to be something like the luxurious images of the 1930s shown in films to people who were still practically starving. Are we there now? What are your thoughts? — Isabella
Matt Roush: To David’s point above, it was obviously a creative choice to present their world and her look in such an over-the-top 1% of the 1% manner, even at the risk of distracting viewers from their dire situation by stirring up so much real-estate and fashion envy. (And I agree about Donald Sutherland. He’ll likely be noticed at awards time as well.) The Undoing lacked the satirical tone of Big Little Lies with its depiction of privileged private-school parents, but this was clearly making points about the class divisions and prejudices among the elite and “scholarship” families, the extreme wealth of these characters and their sense of entitlement. The fact that this aired during a pandemic and resulting economic crisis was not intentional‑The Undoing was originally scheduled for May until everything went sideways last spring — but it surely made this depiction of a pre-COVID New York City of the elites more noticeable.
Question: I thought the standout performance was the actress who played Haley, the lawyer. Yet I haven’t seen any comments about her. Why is that? — Unsigned
Matt Roush: Not sure what all reviews you saw, but I singled out Noma Dumezweni (Haley) in my review — as well as Douglas Hodge as the scruffier public attorney she first meets — but I’ll tell you as a longtime reviewer that it’s not always possible to single out everyone when you’re dealing with what essentially is a star vehicle for Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant. They’re going to take up most of the oxygen and hype, but there were plentiful scene stealers in this series, and I’m glad you called her out.
Comment: In The Undoing, I was bothered by the fact that blue-eyed Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant had a son with dark brown eyes. Not possible. — Podell
Matt Roush: Didn’t bother me. The kid was great.
Must Christmas Start So Early on TV?
Question: Why do we begin the Christmas shows/movies around Labor Day? Are they cheaper to produce? Some of us would appreciate enjoying the Fall holidays prior to beginning the Christmas season. — Becky (Bored)
Matt Roush: Fall? Try summer. While Hallmark doesn’t ignore other seasons, and even programs a “Fall Harvest” series of romantic movies, Christmas seems to sell year-round, and they wouldn’t overload the marketplace if it didn’t work for them (and for Lifetime). The appetite for Christmas movies appears to be bottomless, and it seems you can find them year-round, if maybe not in quite so much volume as now. Be patient. Come January, we’re bound to get a respite, and Hallmark has already announced several titles in its “New Year New Movies” series, which have nothing to do with Christmas.
Missing in Action
Question: I noticed that when Chicago P.D. returned that Officer Rojas was not there. Is she not coming back, or will she be back later on? I really liked her and Officer Atwater together. — Terri
Matt Roush: She’s out, because the actress who played her (Lisseth Chavez) has moved to another show, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow on The CW, for the upcoming season. There, she’ll be pursuing aliens across the universe rather than perps in Chicago.
Jeopardy‘s Delay Tactics
Question: This may seem a little picky, but what do you think of the decision by Jeopardy! to run two weeks of Alex Trebek‘s best episodes beginning on Dec. 21 and delaying his final 5 current episodes until the week of Jan.4? One of the things I truly liked about Alex is that he was up to date on when the individual episodes would air, thus now he’ll be wishing us all a merry Christmas two weeks after the holiday has passed. or will this be taken out and possibly be replaced with a final tribute to him? — JV
Matt Roush: I’m OK with this, because the reasoning had everything to do with respecting these precious final episodes and not subjecting them to the possibility of pre-emptions on many affiliates during the holiday weeks because of special sports events and other programming. I don’t know if the producers can or would edit Alex’s comments (I doubt it) to avoid the post-Christmas awkwardness, but even if not, fans can understand why this happened and be glad and proud of this man for doing what he loved for as long as he could. I’m actually looking forward to the two weeks of repeats, if they’re curated as well as they were earlier this year, which could act as the best tribute to Alex Trebek we could hope for. And then the final week in January will be even more of a bonus. We’re sure going to miss him. We do already.
Question: I have gotten complete DVD sets of series from the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s such as One Step Beyond, The Outer Limits and The Twilight Zone. So why has only the first season of St. Elsewhere been released, but nothing after? — John S
Matt Roush: I’m afraid I’m not the best resource for information about the afterlife of shows on DVD or syndication, etc., but sci-fi/fantasy anthologies such as you own likely had a stronger cult base of collectors to market boxed sets to, and more serialized dramas like St. Elsewhere were likely harder sells, even in the days when the DVD market was more robust. Back then, if a show didn’t sell well when a first season was issued, they often wouldn’t produce more. It’s possible someday someone will look into releasing a collector’s edition set (they did with China Beach many years later), but as with most things, the emphasis is now on streaming, and all of St. Elsewhere is currently available on Hulu and on Amazon through its IMDB channel.
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.)