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Can I Watch Amazon Shows If I Loathe Amazon? Your Pressing TV Questions, Answered

Photo: BBC America, Amazon, CBS
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Photo: BBC America, Amazon, CBS

Welcome back to Stay Tuned, Vulture’s TV advice column. Each Wednesday, Margaret Lyons answers your questions about what to watch, how to watch it, and how to feel about the whole thing. To submit your own questions, you can email, leave a comment, or tweet @margeincharge with the hashtag #staytuned.

How do I reconcile Amazon producing shows I want to watch with Amazon being a terrible, no-good, very bad company? —AK

You can’t. Just like you can’t reconcile wanting to buy fancy computer products while knowing they’re made by slaves, or wanting to buy fast-fashion clothing when you know it’s made in deplorable conditions, or wanting to buy produce you know is harvested by people who are being exploited, or wanting to use web services you know collect, store, and sell information about you. Or maybe for you it’s not so direct, and it’s more akin to how you can’t pirate a TV show. You can’t do any of these things.

Or maybe you can? Because people definitely do, and maybe you’re those people. People listen to R. Kelly. People watch the NFL. I don’t know what to tell you. Sometimes I feel like the world is crappy enough without me adding to it. Other times I feel like the world’s so crappy, my personal contribution of crappiness won’t move the needle. Sometimes I think about that small group of dedicated people changing the world, and sometimes I think that group involves Dick Cheney.

I’d say do what’s right for you, but that’s not really a good practice for general society — people generally do do what’s right for them, and that perpetuates horrible things, because maybe most people are monsters. I’d say skip it completely, avoid Amazon at all costs, but I genuinely think Transparent is helping set the pop agenda when it comes to stories about trans and queer people, and if that’s part of what you care about or are in a position to influence, then missing it would be a real loss. (Not so with other Amazon shows just yet.) So … make a donation to a charity. Recycle things you’d otherwise just chuck because ehhhh, it’s one bottle, everyone’s gonna die anyway. Call your grandma. Leave a 100 percent tip. Watch Transparent. Buy books from a local bookseller. And if that doesn’t feel like enough, consider baking a cake.

Everyone says The Good Wife is so good. Is it? And do I need to start from the beginning, or can I just jump in? —John

Yes, The Good Wife is that good. It’s fantastic. Ugh, just thinking about how good that show is makes me want to cancel half my life and watch Good Wifes until I’m basically a lawyer. Bring me my skirtsuit! I have people to defend! No, I specialize in criminal and civil and corporate law, there are no clients I can’t represent! [Marches to court] This is my future, and lo, it is bright.

For most shows, my suggestion is to just jump in, but for TGW, you actually do need to start at the beginning. That’s a commitment. There are 113 episodes so far, and there’s a lot of interwoven story lines and overall character development — and season to season, who’s on whose side, and who’s in whose bed, changes a tremendous amount. My concession suggestion, if you really just want to watch current episodes for water-cooler purposes, is to watch all of season one, then jump to season five, episode 15 (fans, embrace newbies in their times of need); watch that and episode 16 and then move to season six. This is a bad plan, and your Good Wife love will be poorer for following it, but I get that 113 episodes is a lot to most people.

I’m not a fan of any of the Emmy bait everyone else is obsessed with. I get that House of Cards is well made, but I find it boring. Same goes for True Detective and Breaking Bad. I want my TV to have people throwing drinks and slapping each other in the face and insane plot twists. Like Dynasty! Or the Real Housewives. When TV comes up in conversation, how can I sound like a grown-up with a job and a degree while maintaining that I’d rather watch Pretty Little Liars or Nashville than Orange Is the New Black? —Russ
The recommender in me really wants to encourage you to try OITNB, which absolutely does have perhaps some of the drama you crave. It sounds like what you really like, though, is soaps and camp. If you want to sound snobby, say you prefer an aesthetic of post-realism? That’s not really a thing, but if you just want to sound smart, I bet it will work. Otherwise, though, as always, the advice you get here at Stay Tuned is: any energy you’d devote to making other people think something about you? Devote that energy instead to not caring what people think. Be you! You’re a funky wildflower growin’ free or whatever, so don’t let those snobs and suits stick you in a mind prison! Also I know plenty of dumbasses with degrees and jobs, so don’t fall back on that for your defense. Cultivate and pursue your own interests so you can be an interesting person, and therefore whatever you’re interested in will seem interesting to those around you.

Can I watch new Doctor Who if I’ve never seen old Doctor Who? I’ve heard this is a good show, but will I understand it without the history? Or does the new show stand on its own? —Rachel

You don’t need to watch really old Doctor Who — like from 1960s — to get it. You might discover a love that is very powerful, and then go back and enjoy a bunch of it, but honestly, you’re probably fine just jumping in. Part of the way the show works, and this is the way lots and lots of shows work, is that the Doctor is constantly explaining things to his companion. “You mean, [some explanation of the alien battle]?” the companion will ask. “Yes, but [further clearly articulated complication],” the Doctor will say. “Is this related to [additional plot]?” Only sort of, the Doctor replies. And so on. The show explains itself not constantly, but often enough that newbies and those who only pay marginal attention will be able to figure things out. IF you are looking to embark on a Doctor Who project, as in planning on loving this show and devoting a lot of time and enthusiasm toward it, by all means, start with the Christopher Eccleston season, which is the first in the Doctor Who modern era. If you’re just looking for a little side show to fill in an hour here and there, just go ahead and start wherever. If you like it, you’ll figure it out.

I’ve recently gotten an HBO Go account, and I have gotten sucked in to Carnivale. I’m a few episodes in, and I love it, but I have mixed feelings — I have read that the show was cancelled abruptly and the season finale is a disappointment. Should I watch the whole series, even with its non-ending? Or should I shield myself from such disappointment and just enjoy what I’ve seen? —Leigh
Just watch it. Every show gets canceled eventually, and Carnivale’s abrupt end, while frustrating, doesn’t negate the delights its run provided. Depending on how quickly you watch, you might finish just around the time that the new season of American Horror Story begins. Season four’s set at a side show, so it might provide a creepy carnie stuff kind of methadone.

Can I Watch Amazon Shows If I Loathe Amazon?