Welcome back to Stay Tuned, Vulture’s TV advice column. Each Wednesday, Margaret Lyons answers your questions about your various TV triumphs and woes. Need help? Have a theory? Want a recommendation? Submit a question! You can email email@example.com, leave a comment, or tweet @margeincharge with the hashtag #staytuned.
Which TV shows right now are worth it? —Meg
Oooh, a lot of shows! Although not as many as one would hope. For our purposes here, I’m going to include only prime-time network and cable shows that are currently airing as of this week, otherwise we’re going to be here till nuclear winter comes. Let’s look at the schedule day by day.
Mondays: ABC has The Bachelor and Castle. No and no. CBS’s lineup is infinity no: 2 Broke Girls might be the most toxically awful show currently on television, Mike and Molly is a lot of nothing, Scorpion remains stupid, and NCIS: Los Angeles … come on, America. The Apprentice?State of Affairs? No. Gotham is still a little too boring for me, and while season one of Sleepy Hollow was my jam, season two has been sort of blah by comparison. The Originals is skippable. So the only show that’s worth it on networks on Mondays is Jane the Virgin, which is super worth it. That show continues to impress and delight me every week.
Cable-wise, things are a little sunnier: The Fosters is worth it, particularly if you miss ’90s-style family dramas, and Better Call Saul is also a knockout. That’s only three shows! Monday is dire.
Tuesdays: Fresh Off the Boat, yes, but Marvel’s Agent Carter and Forever are both skips. NCIS and NCIS: New Orleans: no and no. Person of Interest has its moments but is not a crucial show by any stretch. Parks and Recreation: obviously worth it in its farewell season. Marry Me is so sour, it makes me sad for the rest of the day; and About a Boy is still somehow a show. Don’t watch Chicago Fire. MasterChef Junior is a lot of fun — though Fox is harming us all by airing too much of it too quickly. New Girl does not feel urgent the way it used to, but luckily The Mindy Project is still going strong. If you’re into The Flash and Supernatural, then you’re into The Flash and Supernatural, and that is fine, but you already know if you’re the kind of person who is or will be. Pretty Little Liars … eh. I love Switched at Birth, but if you’re not into teen shows, it’s not going to make you a convert. Being Mary Jane is rad, as are the last gasps of Kroll Show and Justified. Intervention — now back, on LMN! — has never let me down. Face Off is the show I recommend most often, yet I still encounter people who are somehow not watching it. Watch Face Off, you guys! Framework, a furniture-building contest show, is pretty poorly done but I have a soft spot for it, and I still like Cougar Town every now and then, too. Neither is an urgent matter, but we find joy where we find joy.
Wednesdays: Yeesh. Of The Middle, The Goldbergs, Modern Family, blackish, and Nashville … maybe blackish? But not quite. Avoid at all costs The Mentalist, Criminal Minds, Stalker, The Mysteries of Laura, and Chicago PD. SVU still has occasional bright spots but it is not the reliable workhorse it once was. Idol is a shuddering husk of what used to be America’s favorite show, but Fox at least has Empire, which is a blast. Empire is definitely worth it. Arrow gets the job done, but I prefer The 100, which is like a go-go-go Battlestar Galactica Jr. with more kissing.
On cable, Top Chef still has plenty going for it. Broad City is required viewing. The Americans amazes me every week. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia has somehow gone ten seasons without selling out its creative nihilism, and while it’s a little too bleak for me personally, it’s still an excellent show. I love Hindsight, but I know whimsy isn’t for everybody. Crisp lawyer shows are, though! Everyone should at least give Suits a try.
Thursdays: This gets a little tougher. Is Grey’s Anatomy worth it? Only if you’re already onboard. Same for Scandal and How to Get Away With Murder. The Big Bang Theory is super popular and yet somehow irrelevant, and Two and a Half Men is gross. Mom, however, is worth it. Elementary is not. The Blacklist is fine if you love torture and the sound of James Spader’s little non-word vocalizations, neither of which does it for me. Allegiance premieres tomorrow, but I can’t think of a good reason to watch. (We’ll find you a good show someday, Hope Davis!) Idol, still no. Backstrom is exhaustingly stupid. Vampire Diaries, Reign — fine if that’s what you’re looking for, but not part of this balanced breakfast.
Archer, Portlandia, and Project Runway: All Stars are all borderline. They’re worth it for me, but I hesitate to put them in the same class as Broad City in terms of how vital they feel. Fortitude, a Stanley Tucci murder show, and Babylon, a British cop dramedy, are both good, too, depending on where the gaps are in your DVR life.
Fridays: Cristela and Shark Tank will both do in a pinch, but Last Man Standing will not. 20/20 is still on. You do you, 20/20. Undercover Boss, Hawaii Five-0, Blue Bloods, Constantine, Grimm, Dateline NBC, World’s Funniest Fails, Glee, Hart of Dixie, and Masters of Illusion — is this what the networks think we want? Maybe we’re to blame. The only show truly worth watching on Fridays is The Soup.
Saturdays: Hahaha. Nada!
Sundays: America’s Funniest Home Videos will always be there for you, like a lighthouse in the storm calling you home to safety. I am stunned to learn people still watch Once Upon a Time and Revenge, neither of which is much good. 60 Minutes is still an important show, but Dateline NBC is not. Madame Secretary and CSI: not worth it. The Good Wife, however, might be the most worth-it show on this list, except for maybe Bob’s Burgers. Mulaney is a no-go. The Simpsons is The Simpsons, and Brooklyn Nine-Nine has its charms, but you’re not missing that much by skipping them.
I still have no idea why people watch The Walking Dead, but they continue to do so. Girls is worth it; Togetherness is worth it (though DVR all of the episodes and watch them in a chunk instead of week-to-week); Looking is not. Shameless is worth it. House of Lies and Episodes are not worth it at all.
I know I said just shows that are currently airing, but it feels wrong to leave these returning shows unmentioned. As for shows not currently airing but returning at some point in 2015, the most worth it are: Call the Midwife, Drunk History, Game of Thrones, Hannibal, Inside Amy Schumer, Key & Peele, Louie, Mad Men, Masters of Sex, Nathan for You, Orphan Black, Outlander, Rectify, and Veep. And for streaming, Transparent, Bojack Horseman, and Orange Is the New Black are all wonderful and essential. And that’s it! That’s every current show that’s worth it. Happy watching.