Ask Matt: Too Much ‘Millionaire?’ A Crowded ‘Light’ Show, ‘Coyote’s Move, ‘Race’ Debate & More
Happy New Year, and 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.
Who Wants to Watch Three Millionaires in a Row?
Question: I did a double take when I realized that on Wednesday, ABC is running three episodes of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire back-to-back-to back, and they’re all listed as new. What gives? Are they trying to burn off episodes for some reason? I know they have fewer episodes of their scripted shows than usual this season due to the virus, which means those could be returning later than they normally would. But airing three new episodes of Millionaire in a row on a night when it isn’t even normally on the schedule seems unusual. I like the show, but three hours at once feels like a lot. Why do you think this is happening? — Jake
Matt Roush: ABC hasn’t explained this stunt to my knowledge, but it’s a one-time thing, and episodes of Millionaire will continue airing regularly on Sundays until the Jan. 24 season finale — after which ABC airs the NFL Pro Bowl, sits out the Super Bowl and launches American Idol on Feb. 14. Can’t say if they were sitting on a surplus of episodes, but it keeps the lights on this week on a Wednesday when most of the competition is new, including the launch of another prime-time game show, Fox’s Name That Tune reboot, and another installment of CBS’s The Price Is Right at Night. (ABC’s Wednesday comedies return next week.) As you may have noticed, prime-time quiz and game shows are all the rage this week. ABC has a full night of premieres (Celebrity Wheel of Fortune, The Chase, The Hustler) on Thursday. With Alex Trebek‘s final episodes of Jeopardy! also airing this week, that’s a lot of trivia and game play to keep up with.
This Light Show Was Too Crowded
Question: It was so inappropriate for ABC to feature its annual The Great Christmas Light Fight show/contest this year. Not only were hundreds of people squashed together, but not one mask was worn. What are your thoughts on this? — Marilyn
Matt Roush: The network made it known that these episodes were filmed last year, well before the pandemic. (They would have had to be.) While it can be jarring, some viewers take comfort in seeing things as they used to be, and I get that, but ABC might have provided more of a public service by reminding the audience that large gatherings like these are no longer a good idea. Personally, I’m more put off by the waste of energy in those elaborate displays, but that’s just my inner Grinch talking.
The Blurring Lines Between Movies and TV
Question: I believe both TV and movie industries offer Academy Awards: one is called Oscar, the other Emmy. Is it old-fashioned snobbery calling the Oscars the Academy Awards and Emmy just plain Emmy? Also, you have chastised me in the past for not accepting all the cyber offerings in the same family as TV or movies. Can you please explain how, for example, Netflix differentiates a TV movie from a movie? I see that sometimes they go for the Emmy, other times for the Oscar. How is that determined? — Mary
Matt Roush: There are separate motion picture and television academies that administer their respective awards, but I’ve never heard the Emmys referred to as the “Academy Awards,” which has always been the highbrow way (not sure it’s “snobbery”) to refer to the Oscars. It’s a fair question, though, about the difference between TV movies and theatrical releases, a line that admittedly has become much more blurred during the pandemic with studios releasing more titles to streaming services or On Demand while many movie theaters remain dark. Netflix had been muddying that distinction even earlier, with its short window between theatrical release and streaming debut.
I see it from a different perspective, because Netflix generally doesn’t make their “movies” (including recent films like Mank, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and The Midnight Sky) available for review to TV critics the way they do long-form programming, series and some documentaries. The exceptions are those that are pretty much indistinguishable from TV movies, like Dolly Parton‘s Christmas movie, lighter rom-coms or stand-alones within anthologies like Black Mirror. I’ve served (and am serving) on several nominating committees, and nearly everyone’s confused by this distinction. I figure that if Netflix didn’t offer it to me for preview, they see it as a “movie.” Which applies to most of them.
Howling About Coyote‘s Move to Streaming
Question: I thought that the upcoming Coyote with Michael Chiklis was supposed to be on the Paramount Network, but it’s now going to CBS All Access. What’s up with that??? Isn’t the Paramount Network also more affiliated with NBC and not CBS? Case in point: All three seasons of Yellowstone are now streaming on Peacock, and as a Comcast subscriber at least I could have seen it at no additional charge. In finality, if I now want to see this, it will cost me an additional $6 a month charge — how totally disgusting!!! — JV
Matt Roush: It’s all so confusing, but this is the direction the industry is headed. It’s really already there; witness how National Geographic’s remake of The Right Stuff was co-opted by Disney+ once those brands merged. In terms of affiliations, though, don’t be confused by who snaps up rights to individual shows, because it doesn’t always make sense. Yellowstone was licensed to Peacock, but Paramount is Viacom is CBS, and the move of Coyote to streaming was at least as much about the transition of the Paramount Network into an all-movie network, though Yellowstone will remain as its sole weekly series. (Complicating things further: Sometime in 2021, CBS All Access will be rebranded as Paramount+, got that?)
Wouldn’t It Be Fine?
Question: I’ve been watching L.A.’s Finest on Fox, and while not the best show, it was something to watch. Is there any word on whether Fox will air Season 2 or be available on a streaming platform? I’d at least like to see how it plays out, even though it’s been canceled for a season 3. —Dawn
Matt Roush: Hard to say. This acquisition, like many this fall, was a result of Fox not being able to get its regular series, like 9-1-1, back on the air because of pandemic production delays. It’s entirely possible we’ll see more disruption to the schedule later this year, maybe into the summer, so this would be a cost-effective way to program something new-ish into the lineup. The ratings weren’t great for Finest, but all things considered, Fox might need it. For now, though, no word on its return on Fox or its future on streaming.
The Great Race Debate
Comment: I agree with Larry’s recent comments regarding The Amazing Race and “alliances.” The proper reading and interpretation of clues is an integral part of the program and sorts the players out. As a whole, that part of the test was a failure for most of the players. (Must have been written in cursive!) Problem sharing and free answers should be rewarded with 20- to 60-minute penalties just like getting to the next challenge via the wrong means used to be. — Dave
Matt Roush: It really did feel like cheating on a test, didn’t it? I like that idea, of monitoring and penalizing those who didn’t complete a challenge on their own steam. Most of my mail has been against the way the alliances played out this season. But as always, there’s an alternate view, expressed by Judy, who writes: “In regards to this season’s Amazing Race, I enjoyed the alliance this season. They were amazing. I do not think it is unfair, it is smart play. I have been a steady viewer for many years. There is gloating every season, as well as arguing and cattiness. But we also see plenty of support, trust, confidence and just plain fun. It is a game. Let them play the game!”
I’m OK with strategizing (even when I don’t agree) on who to U-Turn and so on, but I can’t help wondering if the members of the alliance who didn’t win the $1 million might not now regret being so helpful to their competitors. If it had been each team for itself, who can say who might have won?
That’s all for now. Remember that 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.)