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’m looking for some good shows with interesting, multifaceted, well-developed LGBT characters. So often the characters are great, but the show is ridiculous (Queer as Folk, The L Word, Glee); the show is great, but the character doesn’t have much to do (Mad Men); or the show and the characters are all just crap (The New Normal, uggghhh). As a hopeless romantic, I would also love a show where the LGBT character gets a good romance (unlike poor loveless Thomas on Downton Abbey). I’ve seen Orange Is the New Black and loved it, seen Looking and liked it. What else would you recommend? —Inge
No. 1: Oprhan Black. It hits all your criteria. It’s a terrific show with interesting and well-developed queer characters, two of whom have a romance. If you have any resistance to sci-fi, I urge you to put that aside and still give the show a chance; the first season especially is totally bewitching. Transparent, one of the best shows I’ve seen in years, includes a wide range of bi, lesbian, and trans characters (plus romance and seductions galore), and The Fosters, a magical blend of earnestness and organic drama, prominently features an interracial lesbian mom couple, and has supporting characters who are trans and characters who are questioning. These are three of my favorite shows on TV right now.
If you like slightly trashy teen shows, Pretty Little Liars has a decent amount of teen lesbian romance, and though the series overall is not always a dazzlement opportunity, it certainly holds it together better than Glee. Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, Once Upon a Time, The Good Wife, How to Get Away With Murder, Teen Wolf, Empire, Shameless, Penny Dreadful, and The Bridge all include important, if not star, queer characters.
I’d also encourage you to watch two Australian series: Please Like Me, which airs here on Pivot, and Wentworth, which doesn’t air here but maybe your friends in Australia can send you on DVD. (Or … you can come up with other ways to watch.) Please Like Me is awkward and hilarious and moving and about mental health, sort of like a gay Australian Louie, and Wentworth is a bleak and brutal drama set within a women’s prison. Autostraddle called it “your next favorite lesbian prison show,” and that’s pretty accurate.
I finally gave in to my friend’s nagging and watched Dexter seasons 1–4. Season one was amazing, and season four was phenomenal. But after that crazy-thing-I-won’t-mention-here-cause-spoilers happened at the end of season four, I have completely lost all motivation to continue. I even tried a few episodes of season five, but my heart will not go on. Am I missing out if I just stop here? I kind of want to know how it ends, but at the same time, I just … don’t. —Nina
NINA. SAVE YOURSELF. Stop right now. There is nothing left to enjoy in Dexter. Trust me. Dexter fills me with a certain sour kind of regret, the feeling one gets when one eats leftovers that should have just been thrown out. Not food poisoning exactly, nothing so specific or violent, just that sensation of “you know what, that was not wise, and a better me would not have done that.” Why did I watch Dexter all the way to the end? Please, learn from my mistakes. Run free, Nina. You have enjoyed all there is to enjoy about Dexter. Go forth and live a special life.
I don’t “get” the phenomenon of reality TV, nor do I feel compelled to explore it, despite my friends’ insistence. I have never seen an episode of Kardashians or Real Housewives or any similarly minded show. But these shows are incredibly pervasive in modern pop “culture,” and people must have some halfway-decent reason to follow them. The question is, am I missing out on something I’ll really enjoy? Are there gateway Kardashians episodes or RH cities/episodes I might watch that will convince me they’re worth watching? Or am I right — are these shows so God-awful and mind-melting that it’s worth it for me to be in the dark about this “cultural” moment? —LL
If you’re looking for my permission to avoid these shows without another thought, permission granted. But I don’t know that the scare-quotes around “culture” are doing you an favors. I mean, how do you fit such a high horse into your glass house?
I am not a fan of either reality franchise you mention, though I find Keeping Up With the Kardashians relatively harmless compared to the frequently vile Real Housewives. That said, in terms of actual “cultural” ills, I don’t think these shows are so bad. Remember Man vs. Beast? That’s bad. I Wanna Marry Harry? That’s bad. Some wretched winos want to pretend to sit around and scream at each other? Ehhh … doesn’t seem so bad to me in comparison. Keeping Up With the Kardashians doesn’t seem worse to me than keeping up with the Mets. Does watching two human hair extensions hash it out have less value than gardening? People make Pinterest boards for children’s birthday parties. They play fantasy sports. They leave comments on news articles. They “like” IMDb on Facebook. People spend their time how they spend their time, and short of it causing actual harm, I just can’t get worked up about it.
There are shows that reinforce negative stereotypes, or include degrading and humiliating caricatures, or have heroic characters espouse unchallenged hateful beliefs. (Hey, 2 Broke Girls made its way into this column, after all!) I think that’s god-awful. I do not think any of the Kardashian or Real Housewives shows are anywhere near that bad. Are they vapid and consumer-driven? Sure. But you live in America, so … if that’s what makes you mad, you’re going to spend a lot of time being mad.
How am I supposed to feel about Fitz? I know how I do feel — that he is the effing worst — but is that by design? — @katedailey
Ugh, Fitz is a garbage monster who gives the State of the Union address in the summer for some unmentioned reason. Feel bad about him.