Ask Matt: Will the Future of ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ Be Decided Sooner Rather Than Later?

Grey's Anatomy Ellen Pompeo
Grey's Anatomy

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.

When Will Grey’s Make Up Its Mind About Returning?

Question: On CBS Sunday Morning this weekend, Ellen Pompeo said they’re still trying to “figure it out” regarding how, when and whether to end Grey’s Anatomy and if Meredith will even survive her bout with COVID. Obviously ABC would want another season, but it seems to me that the writers/producers would require notice to conclude the show properly, and they must be bumping up against the time when they’d have to decide. We’re clearly not going to get a regular 22-episode season this year, and my preference would be that ABC announce a final season whenever Ellen is ready to hang up her scrubs so they’d have time to craft an ending. What do you think? — Jake

Matt Roush: If they truly haven’t made up their minds yet, my bet is that they’re not going anywhere just yet. Given the late start and long winter hiatus — which ends next week, when episodes return March 11 — this is going to be a truncated season, which is unsatisfying enough, and I can’t imagine a show with the long and fruitful history of Grey’s Anatomy wants to go out under the cloud of COVID-19. They will have to chart their course fairly soon, because if you remember a year ago at this time when everything shut down, Grey’s was something like four episodes short of its goal for last season. So with all of the protocols and other complications that are slowing down production this year, they’ll need to pull the metaphorical trigger soon. I agree that announcing a “final” season in advance, whenever that may be, is the best way to honor TV’s longest-running prime-time medical drama, let alone its loyal fans.

Give This Doc His Own Show!

Question: I’m generally not a fan of spinoffs, reboots, etc., and CBS in general seems to be overly fond of them. That said, I thought last week’s Mom was stellar in fleshing out character arcs for Jill and Bonnie but was also a great showcase for Rainn Wilson as Bonnie’s therapist, including a scene in which we saw him in therapy himself — with the great Tyne Daly as his therapist. I don’t recall a guest star ever getting their own storyline like this, but I’d be very interested in watching a show built around his character of Trevor Wells. He’s a universe away from Dwight Schrute, but also quite adorable, flawed, insecure, super-compassionate and very human. The scenes where he acknowledged Jill’s pain and his commitment to Bonnie moved me to tears. How great would it be to see a series built around a therapist that goes beyond his therapy sessions. He already feels like a fully formed character.

Chuck Lorre has proven very adept at writing about women of a certain age dealing with sobriety, and on his wonderful Bob Hearts Abishola he has created a great love story that brings two different worlds and families together, showcasing a culture rarely seen on TV. I could see him creating a show around Trevor that could also examine the personal life of a kind and insecure therapist with tenderness, and in Rainn Wilson he already has a lead character that’s a winner. What do you think? — Marc

Matt Roush: I love this idea. It’s probably a long shot, even with Chuck Lorre’s clout at CBS, but I’d be on board with anything that even tangentially keeps the world of Mom alive. Rainn Wilson has never been better — that includes Dwight — and playing a therapist worked pretty well for Bob Newhart back in the day, so why not?

Sci-Fi Scene Stealers

Question: Do you believe Richard Dormer (BBC America’s The Watch) and Alan Tudyk (Syfy’s Resident Alien) have given Emmy-worthy performances in their respective shows? I have never laughed so much as I have watching both of these new shows. I would have a hard time picking just one for an Emmy because I think they both deserve one! I have been following your recommendations on new shows for a lot of years and you haven’t steered me wrong yet. — Marci

Matt Roush: That’s gratifying (and rare) to hear, so thanks! It would be a huge and pleasant surprise if talents like these could get some Emmy notice, but given the genre they’re operating in, complicated by the fact that their offbeat shows are as comical as they are fantastical, this is probably a tough sell. Richard Dormer is doing such colorful character acting as The Watch‘s tormented Capt. Vimes that I wish he could qualify as a supporting player — it’s more of an ensemble show, anyway — whereas Alan Tudyk has got so much going on as the alien in disguise that in another less competitive time he might be a shoo-in as an unconventional lead comedy actor. It might also help if they could park their cult shows on a trendy platform like Netflix even temporarily, so the industry would take notice. But are they deserving? Absolutely.

Will Nurses Get a Second Shift on NBC?

Question: NBC just finished airing Season 1 of the Canadian production Nurses on Tuesday nights. How were the ratings, and is there any chance for a Season 2 being produced and picked up by NBC? The writing and cast of fresh faces were both first rate and deserve to be renewed. — Ken

Matt Roush: Nurses has been renewed for a second season in Canada, but that’s not a guarantee that NBC will pick it up. The network has already committed to airing a second season of Transplant, another Canadian medical drama that earlier filled the time period left vacant by New Amsterdam‘s late start. Transplant performed solidly, while Nurses faced stiffer competition against ABC’s new hit Big Sky. So while it can be cost-effective for U.S. networks to poach shows from their Northern neighbor — cheaper, anyway, than producing everything themselves — it may come down to whether NBC needs another filler now that New Amsterdam and the rest of the lineup are getting back to normal.

More Talk, Less Action?

Question: Is it my imagination, or are the CBS police shows spending more time on the characters’ backstories than on action since the 2020 season premieres? My husband keeps complaining that these shows are all talk and no action. We were especially disappointed with Walker and agree with a recent letter in your column that the CW version is nothing like the Chuck Norris version. I told my husband that the writers may be trying to hook viewers by endearing them to series characters to keep them coming back to learn more or, because of COVID, the writers may be trying to tone down the violence. — Susan

Matt Roush: There are several factors at play here. I can’t quantify it show by show, but in general because of COVID safety restrictions there was a shift to more character-based storytelling when production resumed after the shutdown, avoiding large group scenes when possible and grueling action except when necessary. After the events of last summer and the social-protest and reform movements, there was also an effort not to glorify violence while turning a more critical eye on law enforcement in some cases. It may be a while before TV begins to feel like business as usual again, and to some extent that may not be such a bad thing.

The DVR Cutoff Dilemma

Question: When we record TV shows on the DVR through our cable company, it cuts off the end of most shows. When we watch a comedy, we miss the punchline. If it’s a news show, and they’re telling a story, we miss the ending.  The shows sometimes appear to record, for example, 9pm-10pm as an hour show, but sometimes they also indicate, for example, 29.57 minutes for a half hour show. We often lose between 3 seconds or 3 minutes. Is this a problem with the cable company or with the TV stations? The cable company suggests extending all of our recorded shows an extra five minutes, but that takes up an entire stream per show for the next time slot, so that doesn’t work. If it’s a way for the TV stations to discourage recording and encourage watching live TV, then that’s just plain inconsiderate. Please advise. I don’t know who else to ask. — Karen

Matt Roush: This is a continuation of the annoying old trick where networks let a show go a minute or so past its half-hour or hour window as a ploy to get viewers to sample the show that follows, or at least to discourage channel-surfing. This caused such havoc during the VCR days, but it’s not much better in the DVR era, even for those whose devices allow them to record multiple programs at once. The fault lies with the networks who provide cable systems operators with each show’s running time, even when they go a minute into the next time period. (Though now the shows tend to go even past that mark, what with ads and promos.) The best solution, especially if your DVR allows for multiple recordings at once, is to manually set your device for a few minutes past the end of a show that you find always runs long. (You don’t have to record the entire following show if you set it manually. A pain, but it works.) This is another reason why people are moving to streaming, and you’d think cable companies would push back to make it easier for customers to see the entire show they just recorded.

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.)