Ask Matt: ‘Survivor’’s Emmys Snub, Plus ‘Designated Survivor’, ‘Suits’, ‘American Horror Story’ and More
Welcome back to the weekly Q&A with TV critic (also known to some TV fans as their “TV therapist”) Matt Roush, who’ll address whatever you love, loathe, are confused or frustrated or thrilled by in today’s vast TV landscape. 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. Note: Ask Matt will now be posting on Fridays most weeks.
Question: Has Survivor ever won an Emmy for best reality show? I couldn’t believe it wasn’t even nominated in this year’s Emmy category. The competitions are so creative and clever, and the strategizing among castaways is so interesting that it really deserves to win! — Kathy H.
Matt Roush: I tend to agree that this pioneering reality-competition show, without whom all of the others might not exist, has been sorely taken for granted by the Emmys in recent years. After its breakthrough first season, Survivor received a Special Class Emmy for non-fiction programming, but once the reality-competition category began in 2003 (again, in large part due to Survivor’s success), the show lived largely in the shadow of The Amazing Race, and it hasn’t even been nominated for the top prize since 2006—though Jeff Probst won four times in a row as host from 2007-2010. In terms of production values, and conceiving exciting challenges, and pulling off a series of explosive tribal councils in recent seasons, Survivor deserves at the very least to be in the running most years.
Can Designated Survivor Survive These Questions?
Question: TV Guide Magazine devoted a lot of space to Designated Survivor in its Fall Preview issue. Why didn’t it state the obvious: The premise was taken from a Tom Clancy novel? — Bill
Matt Roush: While a similar incident involving an attack on the State of the Union did occur in the Tom Clancy universe, what sets Designated Survivor apart is that Tom Kirkman (Kiefer Sutherland’s character) couldn’t be further removed from the Jack Ryan hero model—or 24’s Jack Bauer, for that matter. That’s what I most like about this show.
Questions: Who do the writers think is their audience for Designated Survivor? Granted, we’ve seen only one episode so far, but where’s the mystery? Where’s the plot development? I’m beginning to think that ABC may not be the best network for this kind of program and that they’d be better off sticking to their nighttime soaps. — Hal
Matt Roush: As I noted in my review, I found plenty of avenues of interest in the way the pilot was set up. If it was just a disaster scenario about the terrorist attack and its aftermath, I might agree with this skepticism. But we also have the potential for political intrigue as an outsider (who no one knows and who hasn’t even been elected to anything) takes the reins of the government, and while the writing isn’t on the level of The West Wing—what could be?—there is an idealism to Kirkman that is appealing.
And the mystery of who’s behind the attacks is just starting, so I don’t even get that part of your question. I also like the family aspect (within reason). Sutherland convinces me of Kirkman’s dedication to his wife and kids, and their period of adjustment during this time of crisis could make interesting drama as well. My main worry is that Designated Survivor will go the way of Quantico or How to Get Away With Murder, squandering a high-concept and enjoyable pilot with needlessly convoluted and over-the-top storytelling. We’ll have a better handle on that after the next few episodes, but for now, I still see this as one of the fall’s most promising new network series.
How’s the New Fall Season Shaping Up?
Question: I won’t start a new series unless it has the Matt Roush seal of approval—there’s just too much on TV to try it all. Did I miss a fall preview or other review that you did for the upcoming fall season? Shows are starting up and I need to know what to program on my DVR — Suzanne
Matt Roush: We took a new approach this year regarding my critical take on the new season in TV Guide Magazine’s Fall Preview issue. I wrote an essay in my Review column space putting the new shows in context (you can read it here), instead of writing individual “Matt’s Take” blurbs for each show. Some readers wrote me to say they missed the old format, but I like the idea of putting it all together in a unified piece, and I don’t think there’s anything I wanted to say that I was unable to. (I’m writing fuller reviews on each show online as they premiere—here’s an index of my reviews and columns—and as I see more episodes, I’ll be weighing in again, I’m sure.)
Question: OK, now having completed my summer viewing and laying to rest a really unworthy American Gothic (two terrible episodes to end its run) and a surprisingly fun BrainDead (any chance of renewal—I mean at all?), I have now seen two of the most heavily promoted new fall shows. Designated Survivor was an engrossing hour, but I do fear (considering some of the foreshadowing) that we may be getting more soap opera than political thriller. I hope that is not the case. This Is Us was an interesting pilot and I really liked the “twist.” Have you seen any additional episodes of either and do they positively build on their pilots or not? Finally, I know it’s a little early, but the other new show I am considering sampling is Timeless on NBC. Do you have any early preview or thoughts on that one? — Kickoff
Matt Roush: I’ve discussed Designated Survivor at length already, but given that this is an ABC show, there’s bound to be some suds amid the suspense. Comes with the territory, but I wouldn’t give up hope yet. My second-favorite network pilot for fall was This Is Us (here’s my review), and in both cases, episodes beyond the pilot haven’t been made available for review yet. This is not uncommon with network shows in the fall, most of which begin weekly production in midsummer—cable and streaming series generally have multiple episodes finished ahead of premiere. The one exception is NBC’s clever fantasy-comedy The Good Place, which began production of its limited 13-episode run early, and I was able to see five episodes before filing my initial review.
As for Timeless, which I’ll review in full when it premieres Oct. 3, I’d give that a look if you’re so inclined. I have described it as “rollicking nonsense,” but rollicking can be a good thing, and the producers say Quantum Leap (an old favorite) was an inspiration and model for this time-tripping adventure, which to its credit doesn’t take itself terribly seriously. So that’s a conditional yes. For now.
Question: So I have to ask, had you already read Rock Reuben quoting Les Moonves in your Fall Preview issue, saying of their proposed sitcom for Kevin James, “I want it! I don’t even know what it is, I want it!” when you wrote about Kevin Can Wait in the same issue, “It’s as if CBS made talent deals first and only came up with the shows when they had to.” Because if you had, kudos on a trenchant insight into the often impoverished nature of television development. But if you hadn’t, TV critic genius, and my hats off to you. — Dudley, Faithful TV Guide Reader Since 1960
Matt Roush: No, I had not read the producer’s comments before writing my analysis. I try to keep such things separate. But I can’t imagine it takes a genius to look at something as lazy as Kevin Can Wait and think it came into being any other way.
RELATED: Full Coverage of the Fall TV Season
Suits Being Retailored
Question: Was Suits on the bubble this season? Because that sure as hell looked like a series finale last week. When they wrote that episode, they were either anticipating not being renewed, or they are completely rebooting the show come winter. I look forward to see what they’ll do. — Rick
Matt Roush: That will be music to their ears, I’m sure. I don’t think the suits behind Suits thought their show was in any danger. This was the season when everyone had to face the consequences of the fraud they had been perpetrating since the very first episode, and with (spoiler alert) Jessica now taking her leave, the show is basically rebooting for the future. I just hope it can get some of the fun back, now that Mike will be acting more as consultant than lawyer. (Lorri also wrote in to wonder if the summer finale might have been an actual series finale, so Rick isn’t alone in his reaction to those last scenes.)
Is Roanoke Less of a Horror Than Past Seasons?
Question: I know that you always made it very loud and clear that you’re not a fan of American Horror Story, but if you haven’t broken up with the show yet, did you watch the sixth-season premiere of American Horror Story: Roanoke? If so, what did you think of the new theme and its storyline this season? So far, I thought that the theme for this season is miles away better than last season’s Hotel storyline. I like the fact that there is a unique take on this season, with a satire on the true-horror-story docudrama shows on TV, with some of the actors being interviewed telling their horrific experiences living on Roanoke Island, NC, and their encounter with the Lost Colony of Roanoke on the show-within-a-show My Roanoke Nightmare. Do you think this season is actually way better than last season, or have you really completely given up on this show for good? – Chris
Matt Roush: The jury’s still out as far as I’m concerned (twice or at least four times burned, after all), though after watching the premiere, I felt for the first time in years I was watching something with an appreciation for true horror, ascribing to the sense that what you don’t see can be scarier than what’s rubbed in your face, and that it hadn’t immediately succumbed to style-over-substance graphic overkill. The framework is also intriguing, though could wear thin before long. I’m still more likely to gravitate to The Walking Dead (original), The Strain or even maybe Fox’s new The Exorcist when I want a good scare, but for now, keeping an open (if wary) mind.
Is This Curtains for Rizzoli & Isles?
Question: Will there be a spin-off to Rizzoli & Isles following Jane Rizzoli and her FBI buddies at Quantico? They did a big episode with her there, and the instructor came to visit and they slept together. Is it possible? – Deirdre
Matt Roush: Anything is possible, but it’s unlikely. TNT is moving away from this sort of light procedural in its drama development, and if there were to be a Major Crimes-type offshoot forthcoming (as happened when The Closer went off air), we’d probably already be aware of it.
Question: Was Rizzoli & Isles canceled, or did Angie Harmon and Sasha Alexander decide to call it quits? I really, really enjoyed that show. — Jettybo
Matt Roush: You should look at it as TNT deciding not to continue, but giving the cast and producers a chance to finish the show with some actual closure. Many shows aren’t that lucky.
Where’s The Amazing Race?
Question: My partner and I are huge loyal fans of The Amazing Race. We haven’t missed any leg of the race since Season 1. Why is it not showing in the fall lineup? As the winner of the most Emmy awards for reality competition, it gets little build-up or press. We won’t even go into the snub for the 2016 Emmy!! Is viewership low? What gives? — Cecil & Franklin
Matt Roush: CBS has a new season ready to go at midseason. (I had a chance to talk briefly with executive producer Bertram van Munster at a producers’ party hosted by TV Guide Magazine a few nights before the Emmys, and he’s still bullish about the show’s future, though there’s no word yet if a second cycle will be produced for the coming year.) Why it’s MIA in the fall has less to do about The Amazing Race’s quality or ratings than CBS’s priority with scripted series, as the network tries to add more comedies to the schedule while seeing if MacGyver will be a good fit with another classic remake, Hawaii Five-0, on Fridays. (My guess is that will be one remake too many, although you never know when it comes to comfort food like this, however poorly prepared.) I agree that it looks as if CBS isn’t supporting this first rate reality-adventure series the way it deserves, but I’d be very surprised if Phil Keoghan & crew aren’t traversing the world for years to come.
That’s all for now. Thanks as always for reading. 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). Or submit your question via the handy form below: