Welcome back to Stay Tuned, Vulture’s TV advice column. Each Wednesday, Margaret Lyons will answer your questions about what to watch, when to watch it, whom to watch it with, and how to feel about the whole thing. To submit your own questions, you can email email@example.com, leave a comment, or tweet @margeincharge with the hashtag #staytuned.
I loved Friday Night Lights. LOVED. Tammi and Coach Taylor taught me about loving relationships, Tim Riggins made me swoon, and while each show had dramatic tension, it never felt like a soap opera. What other shows can I watch that would give me similar viewing pleasure? —Joy
What wouldn’t I give to have a good answer to this question? Unfortunately, there aren’t other shows like Friday Night Lights. That’s why everyone who loves that show keeps telling other people about it! It’s a really good show, and there’s nothing else that’s quite like it. Sorry, Joy.
The best I can do is tell you to watch Parenthood, which shares executive producer Jason Katims and several cast members with FNL. It’s much bougier than FNL, and I find a much higher percentage of the characters to be annoying, but I also love it and treasure it deeply. It has the same relaxed-dialogue style and teens-want-to-be-themselves ideas, some solid marriages, and a tsunami of poignance on, oh, three-quarters of the episodes. Bring tissues.
I recently canceled cable, and I miss having my cache of Chopped and Golden Girls in my DVR for those times when I just need mindless, happy TV to unwind me from my day. I have a Roku with Amazon Prime, Netflix, and HBO Go, and usually watch serials and heavy dramas on those, but I’m not always in the mood for TV to be such an event. What’s light and easy (but not Housewives-level trashy) that I can stream to fill that void? —Sharyn
When I was in high school, my friend Dan’s family had a pet chinchilla named Paco. Paco was really cute, what with his dust baths and all, but he’d get really lonely when his humans weren’t around, so Dan’s family took to leaving the TV on for him. “Just to keep Paco company,” they’d say. I like to think of these go-to fill-the-void shows as quieting our inner anxious chinchillas, and nothing keeps my personal Paco company more than Cheers. Except maybe Frasier. There are like 900 episodes of each of those shows, too, so it’ll be a real long time before you run out. When you do, you still have Wings.
Mythbusters might scratch the Chopped itch, given that it also includes demonstrations of expertise in a framework of unpredictable outcomes. (Plus both shows constantly restate the premise of every episode.) Mind of a Chef is a documentary series that’s more involved and substantial than Chopped, but it’s not heavy-duty or upsetting in any way. The French Chef is on Amazon Prime, too. A treat and a half! In a slightly different vein, I also love My Cat From Hell. It has this satisfying problem-solving mission that I find very rewarding, plus cats.
How do I convince someone to watch Six Feet Under when they refuse to let die the notion that it is “too dated”? This is a fellow writer/producer/director and best friend of mine who has exceptional TV and pop-culture taste (except when it comes to this). I think it’s in the top three dramas ever, but she won’t even try it. —Brandi
I don’t know how one can call something dated without having seen it, either, so maybe your friend is just terrible? We’ve covered this in Stay Tuned before, but seriously, guys: Watch the shows your friends recommend to you! More charitably, though, is it possible your friend has a crummy history with grief and she’s not interested in exploring that emotion through television? If so, she is not terrible, she’s just not good at coming up with deflecting excuses. If she thinks grief stories will be triggering for her, go ahead and drop this subject.
But suppose she really does think the show is dated. I … have not heard that criticism of Six Feet Under ever before. It has cell phones and vigorous intercourse and all the markers of modern television and everything. In fact, four other people wrote in questions this week about how much they love the show and how often they still watch it. (I’m saving those for another column. Fear not, friends.) I specifically went back and rewatched the pilot just to make extra sure, and it didn’t seem dated at all. It seemed different and refreshing, and all I could think was how badly I wished more pilots were this good. Does she think The Sopranos is dated, too? Maybe it’s just that Six Feet Under seems slightly out of sync with other “second golden age of television” shows because it’s not about an antihero, it’s not primarily about men, and it’s comparatively less violent than, say, The Shield. That to me is an argument in favor of watching it, but I’m biased because I really love SFU.
Let’s even grant the premise that it is dated, which I do not actually grant, but I like to win arguments, so here we go: Just because it’s dated doesn’t mean you won’t like it. I rewatched Ally McBeal not too long ago, and, uh, call that show medjool, cause holy shit, is it ever dated. (Is sexual harassment even real???? Uh, yes.) But I still enjoyed it! There were still things that made me happy, still parts of myself I recognized in the characters, still identifiable human behavior that’s not always present in contemporary television.
Anyway, you’re right, and your friend is wrong. SFU forever.