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 firstname.lastname@example.org, leave a comment, or tweet @margeincharge with the hashtag #staytuned.
My mom just got through a horrid divorce, and I can tell she feels lost and aimless. I think that if she got into a really good show on her own, it would give her something to do and think about, and maybe even give her a small sense of accomplishment and purpose in this transitional phase of her life. But, I don’t know what show or even what genre to recommend to her. Any suggestions? —Brooke
Owww, my heart. Brooke! Way to be thoughtful about your madre. Without knowing more about your mom’s TV taste in general, I’m gonna stick with most of the recommendations for television that cures a broken heart: Phase one is comfort shows, phase two is gripping shows, phase three is weird and off-the-beaten-path shows.
I have a few additional suggestions, too. Does your mom like historical dramas or mysteries? The Australian series Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries might suit her needs. The show, set in Melbourne in the 1920s, is snappy and luxe and addictive in a fun way, but it’s more Murder, She Wrote than Hannibal in terms of its violence. (In times of emotional transition, I’m usually too sensitive for ultra iolence, but that’s not true for everyone.) Miss Fisher herself is pretty rad, and the show does not hold marriage in particularly high regard. It might inspire your mom to get a bob haircut, just FYI.
If she’s into project-oriented watching, she might like making her way through the Frontline documentary catalogue. It can be pretty bleak, but they tend to be super-well-done and are not at all about the importance of romantic love.
Most important, ask your mom what she’s in the mood for and recommend a show you can watch together (or together-apart, if you’re far away from each other), or a show you’ve loved and then she can talk with you about it. She might actually be in the mood for something not very taxing, like Next Food Network Star or Ink Master, as long as it came with a scheduled call every week for you guys to mutually ridicule the ineptitude constantly on display on both shows.
So, I know I shouldn’t be trying to force anyone to watch anything, but I KNOW my friends will LOVE Bob’s Burgers, but they won’t even give it a try because it’s animated! It’s a hard sell, but like I said, the humor is totally up their alley. How would you go about convincing someone to watch it? They’re missing out! —Freyan
Your friends won’t watch anything animated? No Simpsons? South Park? Archer? Adventure Time? Futurama? Rick and Morty? Daria? SeaLab 2021? Aqua Teen Hunger Force? King of the Hill? Your friends might be monsters. Those shows are terrific.
Do your friends read your blog or Tumblr or tweets or anything? If so, this is a very easy fix: Start posting more Bob’s Burgers GIFs and picspams, especially of Tina. Like so:
Post other things, too, I suppose, but this is a very low-impact way to familiarize people with a show and its style, to poke holes in that barrier of “I don’t watch that show.” I feel like once people see the earnestness and joy the show crams into just a few frames, they will be easier to convince.
The first time I watched Six Feet Under, it was at the beginning of my First Serious Relationship. Now, rewatching episodes post–that relationship, the show has a million parts that are painful in ways that I didn’t feel the first time. What other shows do you think change on rewatch as you get older and are more experienced at being alive? —Jamie
My So-Called Life, particularly if you’re old enough to have watched it as a teenager. The emotional Doppler effect is extremely pronounced then, but even if you didn’t see it in your youth, it’s a show whose meaning changes as you mature. At least it should. Most coming-of-age stories will seem different as the years go on: Felicity seems different to me now than it did when I was much younger; Freaks and Geeks, Undeclared, Everwood. And it’s not just that these shows are shows I watched back in the day: I watched NYPD Blue as a kid, too, and while it’s a show I still love, it’s not a show that I perceive all that differently now than I did 20 years ago.
SFU is up there, as you suggest, partially because it’s a coming-of-age story for all the Fishers. But I think the effect you’re experiencing has less to do with the show-qua-show and more to do with the show-qua-memento. I’ve seen The Sopranos several times through, but I don’t feel like its eyes are always watching me or something; my experience of it has changed mostly in that I’m more familiar with other mafia stories now than when it premiered. That said, in my rewatches, I have not rewatched the pilot, and I don’t think I’m going to. The last time I watched the pilot of The Sopranos was March 2004, and the friend I watched it with died a few months later; I know if I ever watched that episode again, it would just make me sad. It’s not new insight on The Sopranos that I’ve gained, though.
Sometimes shows wind up being this bridge back to the time when you first — or if not first, then most significantly — watched something. It’s like catching a whiff of tempera paint and old coffee and suddenly feeling like your back in the art-room hallway of elementary school. Memories get all tied together. That’s why Lost will always have a certain hold on my heart: I like visiting Past Margaret, the Summer 2005 Margaret who watched the first season of Lost in three days. You’re not just noticing things about Six Feet Under, friend. You’re also experiencing this gap between who you are now and who you were then, and that can be an unsettling sensation. Not bad, necessarily, but a little bit hard.