Ask Matt: Is ‘Clarice’ Star Rebecca Breeds Taking a Page From Jodie Foster’s Book?
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.
Does the New Clarice Mean to Sound like the Old One?
Matt Roush: Definitely intentional, because it may surprise you to know that the actress taking over this iconic role, Rebecca Breeds, hails from Australia, so this is in no way her regular speaking voice. The show and its star are threading a fine needle, paying homage to the character from The Silence of the Lambs and Jodie Foster’s unforgettable Oscar-winning performance while trying not to be an all-out impersonation. Breeds hits many of the same beats with a soft West Virginia accent, but also in her low-key professionalism, simmering ambition and determination to be heard. Clarice is in a different place in her life and career as this impressive series develops, and I should note that next week’s episode (March 11) puts her in as intense and suspenseful a situation as she has ever experienced.
The Rules of the Game
Question: The CBS show Tough as Nails has an individual competition each week. However, on the episode that aired on March 3, the challenge was actually in pairs, so I believe this was not fair. Do you know why they made the change for this episode? — Kimberly
Matt Roush: This isn’t the first time Tough as Nails has done this. In the first season, also in the fourth episode (so it seems to be built into the format), the winner of the previous challenge was asked to assign teams of two for the individual competition, in that instance having to do with connecting irrigation pipes. I much preferred this season’s exercise in herding sheep into pens, because they eventually realized they’d all have to work together for any of them to succeed. (Tough as Nails excels in this sort of on-the-job life lesson.) This round is closer to the reality-competition norm by requiring at least one player (the one choosing teams) to exercise some strategy in choosing who pairs with whom, and it still resulted in a one-on-one “Overtime” challenge, so this didn’t play to me as unfair.
Question: Can you make sense of this for me? At the end of Wednesday’s (March 3) Double Jeopardy round on Jeopardy!, the two leaders were tied with $14,600 each. They both bet everything and lost it all by getting it wrong in Final Jeopardy. That left the third contestant, who entered Final with only $2,000, as the winner. As far as I can tell, this should have resulted in $2,000 being distributed to all three players because the other two finished in a tie at $0. So shouldn’t they both have received $2,000 for finishing in second place? Instead, when the final dollar amounts were displayed, we saw that the 2-day returning champion received $2,000 and his competitor $1,000 for finishing in third place. So how was it determined which of the two losers got $2,000 and which got $1,000? Because they were tied at the end of the Double Jeopardy round and both went to zero, you couldn’t really even base it on who had the higher score going into Final. I just feel like this sort of gypped the other guy. — Jake
Matt Roush: The rules are arcane to be sure, but my understanding of the tiebreaker order is that whoever has the higher score at the end of Double Jeopardy typically gets the higher cash reward in a tie. In this case, because they were both tied going into Final Jeopardy, they calculated second and third place based on who was ahead at the end of the first Jeopardy round. Nutty? Absolutely, but this show is very averse to letting anything end in a tie anymore.
Another Parent Trap on black-ish
Comment: Once again, black-ish got me to delete the series this week. After last week’s episode involved Junior’s weird relationship with his mother Bow, this week Bow was being weird with her younger son Jack, who had to “break up with her,” and Junior observed that Jack is growing up because he had “his first breakup with Mom.” I mean…really? I actually let black-ish go once before last season, but then came back to see how the show would handle COVID. Those early episodes where they were addressing it this year actually reinvigorated the show. But now it seems like they’re really scraping the bottom of the barrel for ideas if you have to do two episodes in a row about different sons having creepy relationships with the mother. – JL
Matt Roush: I don’t know if this storyline is leading to anything, but what your observation demonstrates to me is the difficulty almost every long-running family sitcom has when the kids get older and they’re just not as funny — or as cute at being funny. One of the few shows that avoided this trap was The Middle, where the kids remained hilarious even as Sue and Axl went off to college, which could have something to do with how specific and real these characters felt. That was such an exceptional, and underrated, series, and I still miss it.
Promotional Pet Peeve
Question: Is it just me or is everyone annoyed with the banners promoting other network shows constantly running on the bottom of the screen? Exceptionally annoying (and somewhat creepy) was the promo for the Puppy Bowl running across the screen on a cooking show almost appearing like vermin crawling around on the featured dish. There are enough commercials for the other shows without disturbing the show you’re watching. — Joe
Matt Roush: I’ve addressed this complaint before, but the example is so vivid it’s worth sharing. Joe, of course you’re not alone in being bothered when an intrusive show promo invades your screen, but the proliferation of these ads within a show is a direct consequence of how adept most of us have become at avoiding watching commercials of any sort: through time-shifting with DVRs, watching On Demand or streaming rather than watching live, whatever it takes. The networks figure that one of the few ways to make sure you’re aware of another of their shows is to wave the banner in front of a captive audience.
Share and Share Alike in Prime Time
Question: With shorter seasons of 13-18 episodes becoming more of the norm than the exception, how common do you think “timeslot sharing” will become across the Big Five broadcast networks? By this, I’m referring to shows that air their entire season uninterrupted during one section of the year, and then as early as the next month after a season finale has aired, another show slides into that exact same time slot for its own uninterrupted run. Lather, rinse, repeat, all year long. This seems to be the model for many original series on cable, or even split seasons where half of a season will air in one “pod,” and then the second half returns for its own “pod” maybe 4-6 months later? Even once the pandemic is over, could this become the “new normal” on broadcast? — Ezra
Matt Roush: This is absolutely a trend that will continue to play out all across linear TV, and it’s already happening, though not so much this year, because the scheduling of so many series has been affected and disrupted by the pandemic. There will still be some traditional series (of the NCIS variety) that will likely stay put year-round, even when running repeats. But shorter episode orders are becoming the norm, and the networks understand the benefit of airing a show consecutively with as few breaks as possible — when possible (not this year). To your point, an excellent (if forced by circumstance) example is NBC’s success in importing Canadian medical dramas (Transplant and Nurses) to fill the void left by New Amsterdam‘s late start. One or both could return on Tuesdays in the future to avoid airing a full off-season of New Amsterdam repeats.
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.)