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.
I’ve been hearing great things about Jessica Jones. Female-led and -created show, great aesthetics, cool point of view. Plus, Krysten Ritter slayed me in Don’t Trust the B in Apartment 23. If it were that, I’m in. But I’m not really a superhero TV/movie fan. Sure, I like The Dark Knight and enjoyed Guardians of the Galaxy, but otherwise have simply checked out for the genre. I know enough about MCU from being into pop culture, but have zero investment in it. Will I like Jessica Jones anyway? How many episodes should I give it? —Leslie
Jessica Jones is the least superhero-y superhero show ever. I have almost zero interest in the comic-movie genre (except for the early-2000s X-Men movies, which I enjoyed tremendously), but I got a lot out of JJ just the same. Not so for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. or Agent Carter. Not caring about comics, superheroes, or Marvel will not in any way affect your ability to enjoy (or not) Jessica Jones.
The superpowers on JJ operate more like the supernatural aspects of Buffy: They’re also metaphors for who our characters are and what they’re dealing with. Jessica has super-strength! But she wonders how strong she really is, in here [points to heart]. Luke has unbreakable skin. But is he perhaps already broken by his wife’s death? Our villain Kilgrave can make people do whatever he says. But is that more of a symptom of his general abusive nature? A few characters acknowledge the existence of the Avengers, but only obliquely, and it’s nothing that requires special information to understand.
All that said, I’m in the minority for not loving Jessica Jones. There’s a lot of torture and violence, which I feel like I’ve seen plenty of in the last few years, and the dialogue is clunky at best. (And fatphobic for no reason.) There are plot contrivances that drove me crazy. Her jeans seem very light to me for the character, and every time you see a manila envelope … drink. But lots and lots of people whose taste I respect and usually agree with were really into it.
The pilot is pretty representative of the series, though things get much more intense as the season goes on; if you positively hate the first ep, jump ship; if you’re into it but with a few reservations, give it another two episodes. (For those of you who’ve finished the season, we talk about it at length on this week’s “Vulture TV Podcast.”)
Why doesn’t Northern Exposure get the love it deserves? I never see or hear the show referenced anywhere, and it’s not available anywhere to digitally stream or purchase (that I’ve seen). I know the DVDs are a bit of a bust for true fans, because they replaced much of the copyrighted music, but that’s not a good enough reason to ignore the show. —Tracey
Well … that’s the reason, Tracey: Not being obviously or widely available will certainly reduce a show’s chances of being part of the conversation. But that’s not the only reason. Northern Exposure doesn’t have any clear descendants and never really did — it’s a fantastic show, but it’s not clear which present-day shows owe their vibe in part to Northern Exposure. Compare that to how many shows can and should tip their hats to, say, ER in terms of visual style or The X-Files, in terms of ongoing complicated mythology. I wish there were more shows aspiring to be the next Northern Exposure, because I love that style, but quirky fish-out-of-water dramedies are not currently a mainstay. (RIP, Hart of Dixie.) The show’s creators didn’t go on to create other similar shows — like, say, David E. Kelley — and its leads didn’t go on to other major shows. (No, Numb3rs is not a major show.) John Corbett, not a lead on Northern, is probably the most present alum, and that’s because of his role as Aidan on Sex and the City, not because of Chris in the Morning. The most famous writer alum is David Chase — and he’ll always be cited as “the creator of The Sopranos,” not as “a producer of Northern Exposure.”
But I feel you, Tracey. I love Northern Exposure, and I wish it were more widely beloved. At least Sisters is finally on DVD? There is not enough love for those early-’90s shows. Come to me, Picket Fences devotees. Let’s talk about I’ll Fly Away and The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd, or Dream On. Where are my fellow Life Goes On people? Brooklyn Bridge? Homefront? I have enough British cop shows, Netflix. How about a subsection of “surprisingly excellent early-’90s television.”
I’ve been binge-watching Scrubs and I heard that season nine is way different from the rest of the series. Is it worth watching, or will I appreciate Scrubs more if I treat the season-eight finale as the series finale? —LW
I love Scrubs, but that last zombie season is not true Scrubs. It’s fine, I guess, but it’s really not the same, and watching it made me feel like part of the problem, not part of the solution. Eight seasons is a lot of seasons! That ninth one is just too much.
When you finish Scrubs, do everything in your power to seek out Enlisted (not streaming, but it is on DVD). It has some of that show’s style and pacing (and writers), and it’s just a delight. If you miss hospital comedy, try the British series Green Wing.