Ask Matt: ‘Is There Any Chance That ‘Mom’ Will Get a Last-Minute Reprieve?’

Mom - Allison Janney and Kristen Johnston
Robert Voets/WBTV ©2021 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved

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.

Mom, Please Don’t Go!

Question: I’m not ready to say goodbye to those fabulous funny ladies on CBS’s Mom! Even with Anna Faris no longer around, the show has remained relevant and funny. Allison Janney and William Fichtner make such a great couple, and bringing on Kristen Johnston as Tammy just made one of TV’s great ensemble casts even better. Is there any chance that Mom will get a last-minute reprieve? — Brenda

Matt Roush: I’m going to miss this show, too, and while I appreciate the bittersweet irony that Mom will sign off in May just before Mother’s Day, this feels like an inevitable conclusion to a successful run. Eight seasons and roughly 170 episodes is a lot for any series anymore, and Mom was coming to the end of a two-season renewal, so there were economic hurdles for continuing as well as creative, since losing the character of Christy (Faris) at the core of the show was no doubt another significant factor. I’ve been pleased with how Mom didn’t miss a beat in being able to create meaningful comedy even without Christy, and sending her off to law school was the perfect solution. Mom evolved more than most shows, and not without comment, as it shifted from a domestic comedy about two damaged moms into an adult ensemble about women in recovery. Giving the great Allison Janney someone like William Fichtner as a love interest, and eventually husband, was another inspired move, and I’m hoping between now and the end of the season the others in the group will also find some bliss. At least Mom gets to prepare for a proper sendoff. Not every show is so lucky.

What Time Is It on NCIS?

Question: Please tell me if I missed something. I’ve watched every episode of NCIS from the beginning, but the Feb. 9 episode dealt with the death of Jimmy’s wife Breena as if we knew about it from an earlier episode. Was there a previous episode that detailed her death? If so, then I must be getting really forgetful in my old age. Please clarify if you can. — John L

Matt Roush: Your memory is fine. (Mine maybe not so much, because I meant to include this question in last Friday’s column.) What happened is that NCIS took a time jump at midseason. The first episodes of Season 18 were meant to conclude the story arc of last season, including Gibbs’ (Mark Harmon) adventures with Fornell (Joe Spano). Without much warning, the show jumped into more of a real-time COVID-19 scenario, and in the interim, Jimmy Palmer’s (Brian Dietzen) beloved Breena (Michelle Pierce) succumbed to the virus.

Still Waiting for That Final Battle

Question: Were the final episodes of Vikings shown exclusively on Hulu? We had watched all the previous episodes on the History Channel, but missed the final ones that appear to have been shown on a single day: Dec. 30. I’m not interested in subscribing to Hulu just to catch those few episodes. — Susan

Matt Roush: Be patient. When it was announced that Hulu would get early streaming rights to those final episodes, which dropped all at once for binge-watching right before New Year’s, it was also noted that the series’ original home would eventually be showing those final episodes. History has yet to announce an air date for this, but I’m assured it will happen — probably after whatever window of exclusivity expires. However, if you want to see the forthcoming sequel series Vikings: Valhalla, you’ll have to subscribe to Netflix. Such is the way of the world these days.

Loving That Alien — But Did It Cross a Line?

Comment: I’m watching Syfy’s Resident Alien and it is one of the funniest shows that I’ve seen in quite some time! It is hilarious, both the characters and the story line. I think a show like this is just what we need at this particular time of our lives and I hope that it isn’t going to be just limited episodes. Please keep it on the air! — Jackie

Matt Roush: Everything I’ve seen in Syfy’s marketing of this terrific new series suggests it’s meant to be open-ended, so not a “limited series” (what used to be known as a close-ended miniseries). I have no power when it comes to keeping anything on the air, but if my mailbag is any indication of the audience’s engagement and enjoyment, then this one’s definitely a keeper. Although …

Comment: I agreed with your spot-on review of Resident AlienAlan Tudyk is amazing in this role! But then, a few minutes into episode 2, the pelvic exam scene…Seriously?!? I can’t believe that a network TV show and all of the people who work on it can be so oblivious to the fact that this scene is tasteless and completely devoid of humor. The alien gets between the woman’s legs, drapes her exam privacy cloth over his head, and pulls on her ‘earring’? That’s when I turned this show off — permanently! Not even my admiration for Tudyk and my love of Linda Hamilton in a sci-fi show can win me back! — Jessica

Matt Roush: We all have our taste thresholds, and maybe Alien crossed the line in that scene, which was obviously meant to be an outrageous early example of the complications and difficulties that Alien Dr. Harry will experience on the job, for which he’s particularly ill-suited when it comes to bedside manner. Like Sheldon on The Big Bang Theory or even Dr. Shaun Murphy on The Good Doctor, this character has no filter and is going to make us squirm — and, hopefully, laugh — in uncomfortable moments like this. Generally, though, this show isn’t overly graphic or raunchy and I hope you give it a second chance.

Now You See It, Now You Don’t

Question: One of the things that drives me crazy is the way that broadcast networks will show an original episode and then skip a couple of weeks showing reruns, then come back to the original. There is absolutely no continuity and makes it very difficult to follow story lines. Why in the world do they do that? CBS is very bad about that with NCIS and others. NBC with the Wednesday night lineup of Chicago Med, Fire and PD does it a lot also and SEAL Team, I never know when new episodes are going to show. The story line about Ray’s capture and rescue were so cut up and spotty I almost decided to give up on it. So why do they do that? It is maddening. — Greg H

Question: Is it due to COVID that the networks don’t have a consistent schedule? It seems a show airs one week, then skips a week or two, then returns for a week or two, etc. Fox seems to be the exception. I remember when the fall shows returned and you could count on seeing your favorite program every week (in general) for the season. — James

Matt Roush: This perennial complaint about network TV has come up more than usual this season, which makes sense because this is hardly a usual season, with its late start and further disruptions while the industry and world at large cope with the COVID crisis. (To James’ point, one reason most Fox shows have been airing uninterrupted lately is because many of them– 9-1-1, my favorite Prodigal Son, the Thursday night comedies — all waited until the new year to even begin airing episodes. And don’t think there weren’t complaints while they sat out the fall and early winter.) COVID has made production more difficult and costly, and even some shows on premium cable, including Showtime’s final season of Shameless, have had to go dark a few weeks because of pandemic protocols and work stoppage.

But to complain about repeats within a long network season is to ignore the fact that it has been a fact of TV life for as long as I’ve been covering TV (and that’s a long time). During a typical season, which this most certainly is not, you could expect a run of original episodes from late September through November (usually somewhere around 10 episodes in a row). Then after the new year, depending on the show, there would be a mix of repeats and originals — usually all new in February, a so-called sweeps month — unless the show was already scheduled to wrap in early spring. Networks try to keep their most popular shows going through May, and with only 20-24 episodes for most in a season, that requires them to either take a brief hiatus to make room for a midseason replacement tryout or scatter repeats through the back half of the season. Nothing new about that, although we’ve become so spoiled lately by streaming platforms dropping entire seasons at once — and of course we complain about the long wait between seasons for those — that interrupting the flow with repeats seems more aggravating than it used to. While it would obviously be more enjoyable for everyone if network shows aired consecutively without a break from fall to spring, it’s economically and logistically impossible, this year more than most.

And Finally …

Comment: After watching the prime-time Celebrity Wheel of Fortune, I’ve come to the conclusion that celebrities are not the brightest bulbs in the brunch. — Terri G, Simi Valley, CA

Matt Roush: I imagine most of them would agree with you. But thanks for helping me end this column with a smile.

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.)