Ask Matt: Can Network TV’s Best New Comedies Break Into

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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.

A Ghost of a Chance for Emmy Nominations?

Question: Two of the biggest breakout network comedies of the year are Ghosts on CBS and Abbott Elementary on ABC. Network TV shows, especially comedies, are unfortunately rarely ever nominated for Emmy awards anymore. With these two critically lauded hit comedies, what do you think the chances are that they will be nominated for best comedy series at this year‘s Emmys? These two shows are brilliantly written and hilarious! — Paul

Matt Roush: There’s nothing I’d like more than to see these two wonderful new shows breakthrough, but the bias toward streaming and premium cable series is hard to overcome, so I’m prepared to be let down. In recent years, only black-ish and The Good Place made the cut from the broadcast networks, but depending on how many nominees they let in, and if they come to their senses about nominating something as insipid as Emily in Paris, there’s hope. I’d think Abbott Elementary, being so relevant and diverse and smart, would stand a decent chance, and as silly as Ghosts is in its premise, the execution and ensemble work is so strong it would be a travesty if both of these shows are ignored altogether. And while it’s hard to play favorites, in another time more hospitable to mainstream network TV, Ghosts’ Brandon Scott Jones (who plays Isaac) and, from Abbott, Janelle James (principal Ava), Sheryl Lee Ralph (Barbara) and star/creator Quinta Brunson (Janine) would have been slam dunks. Staying hopeful, but when it comes to the Emmys and many other awards groups (SAGs, etc.), you should always prepare for the worst.

Doing the Fox Trot to Streaming

Comment: I’m disappointed that one of my family’s favorite shows is shifting over to streaming on the Disney+ platform. We have watched Dancing With the Stars live on ABC since 2005 (for the most part), and now after this shocking move to streaming, the immediacy factor is missing. This shift is surprising because I’ve read that DWTS is ABC’s highest-rated show in total viewers and #3 in the all-important 18-49 demographic. If ABC won’t be airing a dedicated Monday Night Football game during the NFL season, I don’t see the point. I’m sure Disney just wants to lure more viewers (all ages) to its streaming service. Right now they mostly appeal to youngsters and young adults. — Fred

Matt Roush: After hearing about this, I was almost afraid to go into my mailbag — and I fear many fans haven’t quite digested this news yet, so still awaiting the onslaught. But watching these giant companies juggle their assets this way, it’s obviously going to be a blow for those who won’t or can’t jump on the streaming bandwagon. Not that Dancing is what it used to be since they dumped Tom Bergeron, so I can’t really pretend to care what happens to it. But I do care about the fans who will feel disenfranchised by this sudden and unexpected move.

I’ve read some analysis suggesting that the shift to streaming may have been prompted by ABC possibly simulcasting more Monday Night Football games this fall and by Disney+ launching a lower-cost ad-supported tier later this year, and this would be one of the tentpoles of that strategy. But regardless of the fallout, the format isn’t changing, so it will still be a live show, and it will be interesting to see how it fares when everyone in all time zones can stream episodes at once. Mostly, though, this is a sign of the times, and it’s going to make many fans unhappy.

Honoring the Dead at Awards Shows

Question: I recently watched the In Memoriam segments on the Oscars and the Grammys. I was disappointed for a few reasons. First of all, instead of a time of silence during the presentation of the names, their photos and their occupations (as they have done in the past), musicians and singers were performing (appropriate songs), but I prefer the silence. Secondly, the cameras panned out, sometimes exclusively showing the singers, and those at home watching missed out on whatever names were displayed at that time. Lastly, it was difficult for me to see the names and associated information when the cameras panned out because, in my opinion, the cameras panned out too far. Even though I wore glasses, I could not make out the pictures or information. What are your thoughts? Do you agree with my assessment? — Elizabeth E

Matt Roush: You’re not alone in your frustration: not so much with there being musical accompaniment, because that’s a tradition for Oscars and Grammys (and the Tonys among others), but with the practice of putting the names and faces in the background, which should never happen. In most instances when the camera is in close-up on the performers, they’re not running new names and faces behind them, but it’s very bad form when you can barely see who’s on the screen because the performers are in the foreground. It was especially noticeable during the Oscars because of all the dancing and movement going on, and the Grammys producers were at least smart enough to use a medley of songs from the late Stephen Sondheim, even if continually bringing new singers up and putting them in the foreground missed the point of why we watch this segment. Hopefully, they’ll stop doing this and once again give the dearly departed their due. It’s one of many aggravations with these awards shows.

A Streaming Path Not (Yet) Taken

Question: Why do the networks continue to give us brilliant shows (in my opinion) only to cancel them without reason? NBC’s Ordinary Joe is/was a BRILLIANT show, one in which we can only imagine WHAT IF we’d have taken that path, that turn. Any chance of Peacock taking over? I don’t subscribe to any streaming service, but I would for Ordinary Joe! – Kirby

Matt Roush: Joe had a clever and ambitious premise, though not everyone bought into it, and it was canceled for the usual reason: Not enough people got hooked, and the network couldn’t see an upside in continuing with it. It’s very rare for a show canceled after just one season of 13 episodes to get an afterlife anywhere, and that includes on streaming. Peacock would be the logical place for a struggling NBC show to find a safer harbor, but I doubt that will happen here. I wonder, though, if Ordinary Joe had started its life on a streamer like Peacock if they’d have given it more of a chance. (But then many of those who found it on NBC probably would never have seen it.) Unfortunately, the way things are going, more creative shows like Joe are less likely to be exposed in the unforgiving broadcast world, with more distinctive series saved for their streaming partners.

How Flighty Is This Attendant?

Question: I just started watching a couple of episodes of The Flight Attendant that were shown on TBS. Is it just me or what, but I find Cassie’s (Kaley Cuoco) drinking habits a bit much as well as her over-the-top antics in certain situations! Example: Her crazy behavior at the memorial service! Just saying. — Barb

Matt Roush: It’s hardly just you. While I admired Kaley Cuoco’s commitment to this role, I grew weary of Cassie’s sloppy shenanigans well before the first season was over and worried more about the unfortunate people who got caught up in her wake. I haven’t cracked the second season yet (which begins April 21 on HBO Max), but if it’s just more of the same and manages to get another Emmy nomination over shows like Abbott Elementary or Ghosts (as referenced in the earlier question), that will not be a happy situation.

And Finally …

Comment: In response to Janis L.’s recent question about OA and Maggie not being partners on FBI right now, it’s because Missy Peregrym is pregnant in real life. The last time she was pregnant, they did the same thing. — Unsigned

Matt Roush: Thanks for the update. I was responding to comments made by the producers to various media outlets when noting the creative reasons for switching up the partners, but this would also explain why Maggie may not be as involved in some of the more strenuous cases for the time being.

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.)

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