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.
I’ve never really seen Seinfeld. I was born in the ’90s, so I kind of missed its peak moment in culture, and while I’ve caught bits of reruns, it’s never been enough to totally get the show or the characters. Is it the kind of show that I should watch start to finish, or is it best to watch some all-time-favorite episodes and go from there? Any recommendations? —Michelle
Usually I’d say start at the beginning, but Seinfeld is so episodic, you don’t really need to. I think these are the 15 you should start with. Note: I’m not saying these are the 15 best or funniest, but I think they’re the most culturally relevant and most likely to cause you to want to watch more Seinfeld. I don’t think you need to be a completist about it, but its enduring relevance in culture means it’s worth being Seinfeld-conversant, at least. Again, this is not a best-of ranking.
- “The Contest” is among the show’s most-beloved episodes, and it’s also one of the most tightly written sitcom eps of all time. In addition to being just plain old funny, it’s also a good example of how strong a voice each of Seinfeld’s characters had, how clear a worldview.
- “The Marine Biologist” is a classic, and it’s one of the better-plotted episodes, with that quintessential Seinfeldian third act.
- “The Deal” is the episode where the show ostensibly establishes why Jerry and Elaine can’t and shouldn’t be a couple. I disagree! They can and should. Oh, well!
- “The Mango” is a good example of the show’s ability to talk about sex the way grown-ups talk about sex — sometimes frankly, but not too frankly, lest someone say something embarrassing.
- “The Hamptons” is the episode we can thank for introducing shrinkage into the popular lexicon.
- “The Strike” gave us Festivus.
- “The Bizarro Jerry” gave us “man hands.”
- “The Opposite” is another perfectly constructed episode that follows its premise so far past the point of sanity, it loops back around and starts making sense again. P.S.: If you’ve had a bad few days, go ahead and Costanza things for a few hours, doing the opposite of what you think is correct. It secretly works.
- “The Soup Nazi” is not the best episode! But it’s part of the fabric of our society, so.
- “The Yada Yada” is the same.
- “The Puffy Shirt,” too.
- “The Fusilli Jerry” might be the scientific distillation of all Seinfelds. It plays with social anxiety, the catastrophizing of minor transgressions, a rigid sense of right and wrong, and guest characters demonstrating why our central four pals really only have each other.
- “The Parking Garage” comes to mind 100 percent of the times I am in a parking garage.
- “The Invitations” gets pretty dark, given that Susan dies, but it’s also the one with Janeane Garofalo as the female Jerry.
- “The Junior Mint.” Who’s gonna turn down a Junior Mint?
If after these episodes, you’re still not feeling it, go ahead and move on.
I have a friend who likes to watch shows with her fiancé. They watch Nashville and enjoy it. Since she’s already been exposed to the charms of Connie Britton, I suggested she give Friday Night Lights a try, as it is one of my all-time-favorite shows, and I think she would absolutely love it. She said she discussed with her fiancé and he isn’t interested because he hates football. I tried to explain that the show transcends football and that it’s about so much more … and really should be required viewing for anyone who is contemplating marriage, since Coach and Tami had one of TV’s finest unions. I told her all I ask is that they just watch the first episode because I know that they would be hooked after that. She seems to want to, but is having trouble convincing him to give it a shot. I mean, Friday Night Lights blows Nashville out of the water as far as I’m concerned, and if he watches that every week, I think he would enjoy FNL. What else do you suggest I tell them about FNL to try to get them to give it a chance? —Shannon
Usually I’d suggest minding your own business about what your friend’s fiancé wants to watch, but real talk: Your friend shouldn’t marry someone who won’t watch Friday Night Lights. None of us should be marrying people who won’t even give FNL a try. This is insanity! Before you get married, you need to talk about money (including debt), about kids (do you want them, yes or no), about your parents, and about how America has failed Matt Saracen.
I worship at the altar of Connie Britton, but I am not sure Nashville is still the CB vehicle it once was. She doesn’t even sing anymore. She just answers distressing phone calls and gives gentle advice to the flock of younger women who seek her out in moments of desperation. Connie Britton love might make an FNL fan try Nashville, but I’m not sure Nashville is capable of engendering the same kind of devotion in the other direction. You should take the “it’s a family drama” angle, perhaps.
There is no one on earth who cares less about football than I do, and I’m including people who’ve never heard of American football. I have never watched an entire football game, and I can’t imagine that changing. I’m more likely to rewatch Varsity Blues than I am to rewatch the FNL movie. You’d be hard-pressed to come up with something farther outside my areas of interest than Texas high-school football. And yet: Friday Night Lights is without a doubt one of the best, most meaningful shows of the modern era, and it’s a show I treasure and admire, one that continues to bring joy to my life, and one I have returned to often.
If your friends can’t be convinced to even try the pilot, get new friends. People are always like, “It’s hard to make friends after 30,” but it’s not that hard.
I’ve watched a few episodes of Grey’s Anatomy here and there, but I’ve been wanting to get into it recently. Do you think I’d be fine if I started directly with the latest season? Would I be lost? —Florian
Oh, wow. How big a commitment are you looking to make? Grey’s has had a major creative resurgence this year, but enough of the characters are new (or at least new-ish) that you can probably use your context clues to follow along just fine, especially if you’ve watched other ensemble dramas. The characters are pretty easy to read, and there’s been a lot of turnover. (Though maybe not as much as people think: Meredith, Alex, Bailey, and Webber are all original cast, and Callie joined in season two.)
But. Early Grey’s Anatomy is so good. Season one starts a little slow, but season two — my God, that is some good TV. Three, too. Four also. Five, less good. Six, not good. But the season finale of season six is astonishing (also very sad), and it’s so good I got sucked right back in. Season seven, medium. Season eight, medium, until the finale. Season nine, no thank you. Season ten, actually pretty good. Season 11, okay. And season 12, pretty good again!
My solution for you is to start watching now, but also to go back and start with season one. Shows are grinding to a halt right now as we approach the holidays, so your TV schedule has some room in it. I encourage you to skip episodes that irritate you. I’ll warn you that many, many people die, but some people do just leave the show without dying, so be aware that just because someone isn’t currently on the show doesn’t mean the character is dead. (They are probably dead, though.) Luckily, Grey’s isn’t glib about death; the characters grieve and acknowledge the role grief plays in their lives. Plus, the show is also funny and sexy, and has some of the best melodrama in living memory. Ah! There are so many great Grey’s episodes ahead of you! I am jealous. There are many lousy ones, too, but you know where you’re gonna land.