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. 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. Look for Ask Matt columns on most Tuesdays and Fridays.
Is Speechless Planning an Endgame?
Question: If JJ (Micah Fowler) actually moves to New York on Speechless, wouldn’t that blow up the show as we currently know it? Do you know if they have a plan to significantly reinvent the show in Season 4, or is this more of a final-season show-ending arc? Obviously, I don’t want specific spoilers, but I know the Friday ratings haven’t been great. Despite the lack of buzz on Fridays, the show has been fantastic this season. I would certainly like to see it keep going as long as the people involved feel they still have the creative runway to keep making it. What do you think its future looks like? — Jake
Matt Roush: I can only attempt an educated guess here, because I don’t know what this wonderful and seriously underrated family comedy is planning should it be lucky enough to graduate (so to speak) to a fourth season. There’s no sign that they’re looking to wrap things up, although J.J.’s high-school graduation would be a fitting conclusion should ABC force their hand. Similarly, any family comedy faces this kind of turning point when the kids get old enough to graduate — and since JJ is the focal point of so much of the Speechless storytelling, what he decides to do next would logically affect the show’s direction. And while NYU is clearly his dream, it’s not necessarily his destiny. This week’s episode (March 8) smartly deals with JJ’s relationship with his aide, Kenneth (Cedric Yarbrough), and some premature separation anxiety as they ponder carrying on without the other. The good thing about the DiMeo family is that they are infinitely adaptable, and if there is a future for Speechless beyond this season (let’s hope), an undergrad JJ will be worth following wherever he goes.
Will Hate Crimes Ever Happen?
Question: What’s the latest with Law & Order: Hate Crimes Unit? Besides passing mentions in articles pertaining to other Dick Wolf-related productions, I haven’t read or seen any new information about the potential NBC show, specifically in the area of casting. Could L&O: HCU be the latest in a long line of past potential new NBC programs that received a lot of buzz and seemed destined to be green-lit to series, but for whatever reason never made it to air? — Alex
Matt Roush: Earlier this week, it was reported that the SVU spinoff has been indefinitely delayed. A “backdoor” pilot had been planned to air within an episode of SVU this season to launch a spinoff about a Hate Crimes unit, but that’s no longer happening during the current season. I wouldn’t count it out from happening eventually, and it may even be encouraging that they didn’t rush it to air, giving more time for the development — and casting — process. It’s a very topical but loaded subject, and I’d like to see them get it right. (But with Dick Wolf’s company already looking to expand the CBS FBI franchise while maintaining so many other productions in New York and Chicago, they clearly have a full plate.)
Wishing Netflix Would Keep The CW’s Shows
Question: Is it true that WarnerMedia wants to remove all of The CW shows off of Netflix? All of The CW shows benefited from being on Netflix by growing their buzz and giving them a ratings boost in the L+7 ratings Shows like Riverdale and Black Lightning benefited greatly from streaming on Netflix! Why would WarnerMedia want to destroy that partnership that The CW has with Netflix? Just to help launch their streaming service later this year? They have thousands of Warner Bros. titles to stream on their upcoming streaming service, why not depend on those titles instead of The CW shows? Some of The CW shows aren’t even owned fully by WB; Dynasty and Charmed are fully owned by CBS Studios, while Riverdale, Jane The Virgin and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend are co-productions of CBS Studios and WB. How will WarnerMedia even be allowed to stream any of these shows that they don’t fully own? The CW can’t depend only on its online app (which streams only five episodes of each show at a time after they air on TV), linear and DVR ratings to determine a show’s fate! Why can’t WarnerMedia, Netflix and The CW work out a deal to keep The CW’s shows streaming on Netflix? If WarnerMedia and Netflix can keep a deal for WB-owned Friends to stream on Netflix until 2020, why can’t all parties work out a deal to still have The CW shows stream on Netflix as long as they can? — Chris B
Matt Roush: WarnerMedia is obviously still a work in progress, considering that the AT&T-owned conglomerate is still shuffling its executive ranks, bringing aboard former NBC/Showtime chief Bob Greenblatt amid the resignations of the corporate leaders of HBO and Turner. All of the studio’s assets are in play, and while it has been reported that The CW’s contract with Netflix is up this spring, making its titles — especially those with total Warner Bros. ownership — fair game, I’d advise patience before getting too bent out of shape about this.
It could still be decided that exposure on Netflix is too important to The CW’s bottom line to move all of those shows to WarnerMedia’s new streaming service, which hasn’t even announced a start date (late 2019, most likely). But it’s also quite possible that because exclusivity of content is what gives these platforms value, WarnerMedia could move the CW shows behind this new wall for the time being to see how it plays out. Could they share? Possibly, although as a new service, WarnerMedia’s will be looking for hot properties to help establish the brand. Unfortunately, as is so often the case, the consumer gets caught in the middle. And as we’ve discussed in this space many times, the real question is just how many of these sites any of us are willing to pay the entrance fee.
No One-Stop Shopping in Streaming Anymore
Question: I have a gripe about streaming. We subscribed to Netflix a couple of years ago and have watched a lot of really good series. About a year ago we subscribed to Amazon Prime and also enjoy a lot of shows there. Some of the shows we were watching on Netflix — such as Doc Martin — had additional seasons available, but you had to subscribe to Acorn TV to get those. We’ve been enjoying the Doctor Blake series on Netflix, but now there are two more seasons available, but they are on Amazon and want to charge extra for them. We also watched Shetland on Netflix and now there are additional seasons, but they are only available on Brit-Box. I think this is an unfair racket! Wondering if anyone else has complained about this, and what if anything could be done about it? — Betty
Matt Roush: I hear these complaints all the time, but the reality is that even in the somewhat rarefied world of British, Australian and Scottish TV such as you appear to be hooked on, there are fierce battles for streaming rights and exclusivity. Even with the deep pockets of Netflix, they can’t secure rights to everything (or every season). Acorn TV and Britbox are in the business of developing their own libraries of exclusive curated content, with even some original commissions — Acorn’s Agatha Raisin is a particular standout — and there is no end run around this beyond making the tough call about which and how many of these services to subscribe to.
Put Gags on the Masked Judges!
Question: I wanted to ask you about your opinions on The Masked Singer. While I thought the show was an enjoyable, light-hearted show, the one thing that bothered me was how out of touch/dumb some of the judges were, especially Jenny McCarthy and Nicole Scherzinger. Jenny’s guesses were always very offbase; I get that she’s trying to be interesting, but she was constantly guessing the contestants were Lady Gaga or Meghan Markle, as if either of them would be on a Fox reality show. Nicole seemed to take every chance to mention her own accomplishments, and neither seemed to contribute much. Maybe I’m taking this too seriously, but I think Fox needs to replace these two vapid idiots with real singers who might be able to guess more accurately, even if the guesses are beside the point. I’d suggest people like Debbie Gibson, Carnie Wilson, Paula Abdul or Jewel as potential judges for this show. I thought Robin Thicke did a fantastic job as judge. He was charming, funny and thoughtful in his responses. So was Ken Jeong. – Matt C
Matt Roush: My take on The Masked Singer isn’t nearly as generous, especially considering the rather forlorn identities of so many of those within the costumes. I get it as a harmless guilty-pleasure time-waster, but the “judges” were beyond the pale, trying so hard to be clever and/or funny and failing on all counts, so I agree with you on that point. (I will say that in my limited exposure to Singer, I did appreciate that Robin Thicke was at least attempting to assess the “quality” of the performers.) The guesses were by and large preposterous, because the real question lurking over the entire enterprise was who was desperate or underemployed enough to be caught up in this masquerade.
Reeling From Neverland
Question: I wasn’t going to watch HBO’s Leaving Neverland. Didn’t want to watch it, but watched all four hours and the Oprah wrap-up. I’m still reeling from the impact. Has anyone explored the possibility that Michael Jackson was sexually abused as a youth? It could explain, but not forgive, the cunning, seductive monster that Jacko became. — Suzanne
Matt Roush: Anyone I know who watched agrees it was a shattering experience. And while I’m far from a Michael Jackson expert, it has been fairly well documented that Michael and his siblings allegedly experienced some physical and mental abuse (though not apparently sexual) as children from their demanding father, Joseph. And the conventional wisdom regarding Michael is that some of the more eccentric aspects of his adult demeanor (now seen by many as sinister) can be attributed to his yearning for the childhood he never got to truly enjoy. However you choose to view this case, it’s a very sad story.
And Finally, Aloha!
Question: Why are all of the Hawaii Five-0 episode titles in Hawaiian languages? Speaking true Hawaiian is not common. — Don S
Matt Roush: Isn’t that reason enough to do it? Looking past the two white male leads who were built into the formula, Hawaii Five-0 has tried from the start to honor and reflect Hawaiian culture, and the episode titles are part of that. I dig it.
But Fay wrote in to note: “Hawaii Five-0 titles every show in the Hawaiian language. They once translated the titles, too. They no longer do that. Tell them to do it again. It was always interesting.”
Matt Roush: In the programming releases I get from CBS, the translations are still included after each episode title. I’m not sure why they stopped showing them on screen, but if that’s still the case, I absolutely agree with you that they’re essential and should be continued.
That’s all for now. Thanks as always for reading, and remember that 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), and you can also submit questions via the handy form below. Please include a first name with your question.