Ask Matt: Dick Wolf’s Multi-Network Empire

Ask Matt: Dick Wolf’s Multi-Network Empire

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 some Fridays.

Why Didn’t the FBI Shows Go to NBC?

Question: With the hit FBI shows now filling an entire night on CBS, I’m wondering why Dick Wolf picked up his dolls and dishes and moved from NBC to CBS? And is there any chance for a reboot of Law & Order: Criminal Intent? Of course, it must be with the brilliant casting of Vincent D’Onofrio and deadpan Katherine Erbe! — Donna F

Matt Roush: Dolls and dishes, that’s quite an image to apply to a mogul like Dick Wolf. When he brought the first FBI series to CBS, many of us had the same question: Why not stick with the partner with whom you’ve had such great success? The answer was simple and reveals Wolf’s deep understanding of the network business. He went to CBS because it had more prime-time real estate available at the time. No doubt Wolf envisioned spinning off FBI the way he had done with Law & Order and his Chicago shows, and because those franchises were already filling two nights of NBC’s weekly lineup, he took FBI to a network where procedurals were even more part of the programming DNA. Guess what, it worked. As for rebooting Criminal Intent, I’m not aware that’s in the works, but nothing would surprise me. And I agree if you’re going to go that route, the original stars would be essential.

Memo: More Medicine in Our Medical Dramas

Comment: Concerning the uncertain fate of Transplant returning to NBC: The show is outstanding. It always works when the initial cast melds together as it does here. What also works is that it is a medical drama with medical drama. What little non-medical personal drama that is featured is in short-lived segments and does not divert or overtake the purpose of the series. 9-1-1 and 9-1-1: Lone Star need to pay attention to Transplant and get rid of the “drama fat” which allows me to fast-forward through each show in about 11 minutes. If I wanted to watch kitchen scenes, family group hugs, and the like, I’d go over to Hallmark. I have yet to FF through any of Transplant as it holds my interest throughout. Simply put, there needs to be more 9-1-1 in 9-1-1. – Deon

Matt Roush: Without fail, my favorite episodes of any medical/rescue dramas are ones where the primary narrative involves their actual jobs, and if that ties into the larger personal stories — because face it, these shows are basically soaps set in hospitals and fire trucks — so much the better. I choose to watch the 9-1-1 shows with my brain on pause — genius for them to air on Mondays, when I’ve just started to tackle the work week and need the early break — because they really can be painful to endure between emergency calls.

Evil’s Raucous Romper Room

Question: I really like the show Evil on Paramount+ but the screaming kids drive me nuts. I know kids can act up, but these kids just scream. Someone needs to please shut them up. — Gail

Matt Roush: I’ve fielded this complaint before, and to some degree I agree, although I find it a funny device, and it greatly amuses me that Kristen comes home from witnessing any number of ungodly horrors and this cacophony is what greets her? (Her husband’s obviously no help. First, he’s off climbing mountains, and now he’s SPOILER. And their grandma is bananas.) However, this season I have enjoyed the girls as they conspire to drive the truly evil Leland Townsend to distraction by getting the best of him when he trolled their kiddy website. The kids may be annoying, but they’re not stupid. And what’s to become of Lexis? Now that we know why Leland is trying to groom her, it’s all so sinister.

Yearning for the Days of Repeats

Question: Will there be a second showing of the finale of This Is Us on NBC? I’m sure there are others like me who unavoidably missed it and it is a letdown after many years of watching it to not see the conclusion. I have tried to contact NBC for the information, but no luck. — Mary

Matt Roush: NBC would probably direct you to its website (nbc.com) where all of the episodes are still currently playing. Shows like This Is Us repeat so poorly that NBC is unlikely to ever show it again on its regular broadcast schedule, and as we’ve come to expect during summer, only the most formulaic procedural dramas and sitcoms tend to get second plays during the off-season. Besides the website, This Is Us is still playing on NBC On Demand if you have cable, and if you’re streaming, it’s also available on Hulu and Peacock. The finale is definitely worth checking out if you’re a fan.

The Million-Dollar Question

Question: Why bother watching series if they keep getting canceled with no resolution or story end? — Shera

Matt Roush: Variations of this complaint arise just about any time any show is canceled — which means frequently. It’s a popular question, and my standard response is probably just as unpopular, but here goes. You bother to watch because a TV series is a ride, sometimes brought to a sudden and rudely premature halt but that doesn’t negate having had the experience in the first place. I don’t regret a minute of a great show I watched and enjoyed, even if it didn’t ultimately succeed. True, I’d like to take back those unresolved cliffhangers — most recently thinking of you, Prodigal Son (damn you, Fox) — but a lot of good and hard work goes into shows that get cut short, and they can be every bit as much worth watching as shows that go on forever.

A Critic’s Life

Question: I read your column each week, along with your reviews. So I was wondering: What is a typical week like for you? About how many hours per day are you watching TV? Are you watching seven days per week? Do you tend to watch most of the shows from DVR recordings or advance screeners? Do you watch much TV live? Do you watch a lot on an actual TV or is a significant chunk on a laptop? How much time do you set aside per day for writing about the shows you watch? Do you set aside a certain amount of time a day to not watch TV and do other things? I imagine from the outside looking in, this looks like an easy job to watch TV and write about it! I realize there is a lot more to it than that. I appreciate your passion and dedication to the medium. — Todd

Matt Roush: I don’t often address questions like this, but it’s the dog days of summer, and I appreciate Todd’s curiosity and loyalty. One of the great things about covering TV is there is no such thing as a typical week, and that’s become even more the case in this era of “peak TV” and streaming glut. My greatest challenge is to choose what show or shows to dive into during a given week, because there’s so much out there, and if you devote umpteen hours to binge-previewing a new streaming show, you know there’s a bunch of stuff you’re not able to look at. There’s only so much time.

To address the more granular details: Almost all previewing of new shows is done now through digital links, and I watch most of it on laptop or desktop, sometimes on the TV screen, depending on whether I’m at home or (increasingly lately) in the office. But I find my concentration is best when I work on the computer. We still watch regular TV on the TV many nights, especially during the traditional season, though usually on DVR time delay to avoid sitting through commercials (or on the associated streaming platform a day later). Most mornings are spent producing the daily “Worth Watching” column for the website, and on days when I’m compiling an Ask Matt column or closing pages for TV Guide Magazine or tackling other assignments, that leaves little time for screening, which is an ongoing process daily, nightly and often during the weekend. Keep in mind that I’m watching several weeks in advance for anything I’m covering for the magazine while keeping up with the current day-to-day flow of shows for TV Insider. During the regular season, that’s more of a challenge, because, with few exceptions, weekly network series don’t make most of their episodes available for preview. So in a “normal” week, that usually entails 30-plus hours of screening on top of the demands of writing. I look at all of this as a privilege, sometimes a duty, and the good news is that with all of the new platforms, there’s almost always something to pique my interest. And I’m always curious to know what my readers think, so keep those questions coming!

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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