Matthew Gilbert’s TV Chat

Mourning network shows’ mediocrity, gimmickry

TV critic Matthew Gilbert says of “The Michael J. Fox Show,” “So conventional. . . . I was hoping for something crazier.”
TV critic Matthew Gilbert says of “The Michael J. Fox Show,” “So conventional. . . . I was hoping for something crazier.”

Globe TV critic Matthew Gilbert chatted with readers Thursday on Here are excerpts:

Q. Seriously, what’s up with “The Michael J. Fox Show”? It stinks.

A. It’s not very good, is it? It’s sad. So conventional. Another mediocre domestic sitcom. I was hoping for something crazier, like “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” on which Fox did a great guest turn. Oh well.

Q. “We Are Me” got canceled. What other new shows are likely to be gone soon?


A. I’m waiting for Fox’s “Dads” to bite the dust. Also, “Betrayal” on ABC and “Welcome to the Family” on NBC. Both are lousy, and both have not done well in the ratings. Sadly, I think “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” isn’t going to make it. I like the show. The upside: It will free up the stellar cast for more successful work. It was a remarkably unremarkable fall season for the networks. Almost nothing has really stood out, ratings wise and quality wise. “The Blacklist” seems to be one of the few definite hits.

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Q. Do you think the traditional networks will ever get back to investing in solid shows?

A. This is the moment when they ought to be investing in solid shows, to assure their future against the cable channels. But instead, they’re coming up with lots of mediocre and gimmicky concepts — reality shows, reboots of old series, spinoff series — to capture viewers quickly, now. I don’t think the traditional networks are going to ever return to their former dominance.

Q. I see the broadcast networks moving to “disposable” shows (like “CSI” and “NCIS”) and the serials going to cable.

A. Yes, that seems to be in the cards. The networks keep trying for serial glory with the likes of “Revolution” and “Hostages,” but failing. The writing isn’t there.


Q. Are you still a fan of “The Big Bang Theory”?

A. Yes and no. I still like it, but I’m over it. Does that make sense? It’s still what it always was. I don’t think the quality has dropped significantly. But I feel as though I’ve had enough of it.

Q. I still cannot decide if “The Mindy Project” is good. It does make me laugh but it somehow seems off.

A. I feel exactly the same way. I like it. I watch it. And yet, there’s something off about it, something missing. It’s still finding itself, this far along. The promise is there, and occasionally it is realized.

Q. I like “The Blacklist” so far but wish James Spader had joined “The Good Wife.” What a great foil he would be to Eli or Diane.


A. Interesting. You’re probably right. Although the “Good Wife” cast is already sprawling. It’s amazing that the writers have not spoiled the show with too many guest stars. Well done.

Q. I liked “Magic City” on Starz, but I’ve heard it’s gone. Good show. Great characters.

A. Yeah, that cancellation was too bad. Such a nicely done, elegant-looking soap opera. Makes crap like “Revenge” seem like . . . well . . . double crap. But I think sometimes soap lovers don’t want class, if you know what I mean. They want dish. Of course that doesn’t account for “Downton Abbey.”

Q. “How I Met Your Mother” is limping to the finish. I thought focusing on the weekend of the wedding would help, but the show is a shell of its former self.

A. I hear you. The season has not been as interesting as I’d hoped, yet. I thought the writers would really rise to the occasion of setting an entire season in one weekend. It’s a cool experimental idea. Instead, they just seem to be conducting business as usual.

Q. I rewatched the “Breaking Bad” ending the other day and I love it. But one thing bothered me. The whole machine gun in trunk thing — why not a bomb? A co-worker pointed out maybe he had a bomb on a timer as a backup just in case the machine gun didn’t work.

A. The finale doesn’t quite hold up upon the kind of intense scrutiny that “Breaking Bad” fans love. It was not a great single episode. But still, it tied most things up, it showed Walt owning his mistakes, and it was not awful like most finales. And that last scene and song: perfect.

Matthew Gilbert can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @Matthew