Ask Matt: Will the Emmys Fall Under ‘WandaVision’s Spell?
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 theform at the end of the column) and follow me on Twitter (@TVGMMattRoush). Look for Ask Matt columns on many Tuesdays and Fridays.
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Will WandaVision’s Leading Ladies Get Their Due?
Question: I thoroughly enjoyed the Marvel series WandaVision on Disney+ with its throwback to the old sitcoms and through to its heartbreaking ending. I thought the acting was top notch, especially by Elizabeth Olsen and Kathryn Hahn. I know superhero shows are typically shunned from any awards, but do you think there is a chance that either of these talented women could be nominated for an Emmy? — Tony
Matt Roush: A good chance, I’m hoping. I’m encouraged by how a similar breakthrough fantasy series, The Mandalorian from the Star Wars universe, performed well at the Emmys last year, winning seven technical awards and scoring a best-series nomination (plus one for Giancarlo Esposito as guest actor). I enjoyed WandaVision thoroughly, especially with the spot-on homages to classic sitcoms in the first half of the season, but it remained mostly clever and true to its emotional core throughout. Elizabeth Olsen was faultless, whether channeling Mary Tyler Moore through Elizabeth Montgomery, expertly mimicking Modern Family’s Julie Bowen or revealing Wanda’s own inner grief and resolve. As for Kathryn Hahn, what a blast either as nosy neighbor Agnes or the wicked witch Agatha, a true tour-de-force. For me, WandaVision at its best transcended genre, so I’m hoping the industry will take appropriate notice — especially the TV industry, whose traditions the series so honored. (I also expect nominations for production design, music and much more.)
Blowing Taps (Too Often?) on NCIS
Question: Maybe more of a rant than a question, but why so much death on NCIS lately? First Jimmy’s wife offscreen. Then we have Sloane leave, which we knew was coming. Now this week out of nowhere, Emily Fornell overdosing. I get that these things are “real life,” but oof! Real real life is enough for me right now! And did they need to have these events happen all in a row? NCIS is usually my light, easy-to-watch show. Thanks for letting me unload. — Cyndi
Comment: I know the death of secondary characters played by women in NCIS’s world has reached Star Trek “redshirt” status, but the recent off-screen demise of Emily Fornell (Juliette Angelo) to an overdose just felt like drama for drama’s sake. I get the point — addiction is never truly over — but it seemed so gratuitous in a season that already killed off Palmer’s wife to COVID. Despite Rocky Carroll‘s heartfelt reading of the poem at the end, this just seemed like drama for drama’s sake, and not something in the flow of storytelling. — RJ
Matt Roush: If ever there were a year for formula procedural/action series like NCIS to acknowledge mortality, it was probably 2020-2021. It may seem like piling on, and I agree the optics aren’t the greatest when they repeatedly sacrifice marginal female characters, but I support producer/writers any time they try to introduce a reality check into these worlds where invulnerability is the norm. Emily’s tragic overdose, however upsetting, was a plot point at least earned by the gravity of her addiction, but it’s fair to criticize the show for dropping this bombshell so soon after the offscreen while-we-weren’t-watching demise of Jimmy’s wife during the time jump. That was even more jarring for most viewers (at least according to my mailbag) because there was no buildup. Still, in the bigger picture, how many thousands of COVID deaths blindsided their loved ones? It’s all fair game for storytellers, even on a supposedly “escapist” crime drama like NCIS.
And because several have asked, the poem read by Vance (Rocky Carroll) in memory of Emily was “Epitaph,” by Merrit Malloy.
Liz MIA for How Long?
Matt Roush: This is one of the most frequently asked questions in my mailbag in recent weeks. When I asked our writer who reports on the show to check on it, Ileane Rudolph reports back that Liz will be returning soon. All the network will say about her absence is that it’s dictated by story, that she’s on the run working to take down Red (James Spader) and their war is building to a head. She’ll be back on screen soon, but saying when would be a spoiler. And as I have noted many times and will do so again here: This column doesn’t do spoilers (if I can help it).
Facing Reality in Chicago
Question: I know shows like Chicago P.D. don’t typically get awards consideration, but the way the show is examining racial tensions between the Black community and the police is commendable. This has been an underlying theme the entire season, but this week’s episode (“Protect and Serve”) was phenomenal. It was honest and thought-provoking, showing the complexity of the issue as Atwater and Ruzek are responsible for transporting and protecting an obviously guilty officer who shot a Black college student after a traffic violation. Atwater was forced to deal with his dueling identities as a Black officer while as a white officer, Ruzek was avoiding confronting the embedded racism in the job he loves. The writing and acting were superb, and I found myself questioning my beliefs throughout the episode. I wonder if critics are paying attention. — Joe from Georgia
Matt Roush: To its credit, NBC did flag this episode to critics and reporters, and we made note of it, both in TV Guide Magazine and on this site with a news-feature preview and in my daily “Worth Watching” column on a typically busy night. Whether the industry will take much notice is another question, and the answer is: probably not. Whatever the bias might be against sci-fi/fantasy programming come awards time, it’s nothing compared to how invisible virtually every crime/medical network drama is anymore.
Question: On Superman & Lois, since Lois and their twins Jordan and Jonathan all now know that Clark is Superman, why does Clark still wear his glasses while on the farm? He can just keep them in his pocket in case they have visitors. — Chris
Matt Roush: Oh, those glasses. You have a fair point, I suppose, but never has the myth that Superman (especially when played by a striking head-turner like Tyler Hoechlin) can disguise himself with a mere pair of Clark Kent spectacles seemed so silly as it does on this mopey domestic drama. One logical answer would be that you never know when someone’s going to drop by and catch even someone with super-hearing off-guard. Honestly, though, why sweat the small stuff?
Matt Roush: The explanation is pretty basic: proximity. The Good Doctor films in Vancouver, and the majority of Hallmark movies are also shot across the border, and they’re always in the market for telegenic actors so you could just say it’s a benefit of the local talent pool. Hallmark movies typically don’t take that long to film, so they’re good and easy gigs for moonlighting actors. And when someone suddenly becomes freelance like Nicholas Gonzalez (RIP Dr. Melendez), these movies provide a particularly good fallback for a handsome leading man.
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.)