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Do I Watch Too Much TV? Your Pressing TV Questions, Answered

Photo: NBC, Warner Bros and Netflix

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, leave a comment, or tweet @margeincharge with the hashtag #staytuned.

I’d like to think of myself as a TV enthusiast, but my boyfriend says I simply watch too much TV. As someone who works long and late hours, it’s hard to always keep up with the 20 to 30 shows that are new each week. Also, sometimes after I watch something, I don’t always remember what happens the next day. Am I flooding my brain with too much? Is my boyfriend right? —Kristina D

Tell your boyfriend to mind his own business. If he wants to spend more time with you, or he feels neglected or ignored or whatever, or he thinks you’re not maintaining your fair share of the household, that’s a different conversation. But there’s no one allowable amount of TV to watch, and if watching shows is how you want to spend your time, that’s up to you. You’re a TV enthusiast — why wouldn’t you want to watch TV? Is that braindead half-hour of semi-sleep better spent, what, listening to sports talk radio or something? Back off, Kristina’s boyfriend.

Now, sure, at first glance, 30 shows a week sounds like a lot. But it’s really not: Let’s assume that’s 15 hour-long shows and 15 half-hour shows. But those shows are really more like 44 and 22 minutes each, assuming you fast-forward through commercials on a DVR, which leaves us with about 16 and a half real hours of TV a week. Around two hours a day, on average, of TV. To many people, that’s a tremendous amount. I’m guessing for most Stay Tuned readers, that’s not much at all. For me, that is basically Amish.

So what’s too much TV? The same as too much of anything else, I guess: Is it hurting your relationships? Have you tried to cut back, but never can? Do you back out of other commitments because they interfere with TV time? Then sure, you’re watching too much TV. Everything else is a matter of taste and lifestyle. You sound maybe a little worn out, working “long and late hours,” so forgetting things that happened on shows seems like such small potatoes to me. There’s no test at the end of the season. Nothing bad is going to happen if you conflate two dudes on Nashville. I’ve watched whole seasons of shows that just sort of never take hold, and a week later I’ll forget every detail. Who cares? There are so many things that genuinely do need focus and diligence and energy, and times when our inability to provide those things — accidental or purposeful — hurts someone’s feelings, or damages a relationship, or God forbid causes actual physical harm. Skimping out on the attention you give a TV show is not itself a cause for alarm. But if you’re worried that you don’t have enough time or energy or emotional resources to engage with the world — be it your TV shows or your boyfriend — the way you want to, then okay, something’s gotta give. So make it Pretty Little Liars. That show has gone round the bend, and it doesn’t deserve you anymore.

Will Seinfeld ever be back on the TV? I just get frustrated by the futility of life some times. —SC
Are we all okay out there in Stay Tuned land this week? No, Seinfeld will never be back on “the TV,” but there are plenty of other good things out there. Winter is almost over, everyone. Mad Men’s almost back. The Americans is so good right now, and Kimmy Schmidt is great, and it’s so light out even at 6 p.m. We can all get a head start on rosé season. Transparent exists. Comfortable shoes are fashionable. You can make someone some cookies for Katie Fisher Day. Life is a tautology: The point of being alive is to be alive! Watch some TV while you’re at it.

I started thinking about the rarity of true female friendship on TV and if there are any left now that Ann and Leslie (and hell, even Robin and Lily, who at least tackled some real issues like “what happens when one of us has a baby”) exist only in syndication.

Are there any other shows out there that can I can watch to start filling that void? Are there any other Paris and Rory friendship arcs out there for me to invest in and appreciate more and more with each viewing? Where my ladies at? —JG
Orange Is the New Black
portrays a range of female relationships, some so true you could navigate a ship by looking toward them, and others so fraught and dangerous that people wind up beating the shit out of each other. There are many things to love and treasure about OITNB, and its devotion to exploring the kinds of bonds women form with one another is high on the list. Broad City focuses on one particular friendship, and in its own hilarious and original ways makes it clear that when these people look back on their 20s, this will have been the defining love. Jobs come and go, dildos melt in dishwashers, dogs get married and divorced. Get yourself a best friend and then hang on for dear life.

Hindsight, which finishes its first season tonight, depicts an intense female friendship — I’d categorize it more as Angela and Rayanne than anything else, with the “good” one and the “wild” one, though of course it’s not that simple. That show is charming as hell: Our heroine Becca finds herself somehow back in 1995, and she gets to make all of her choices over again. Her biggest regret about her current (well, future) life is the end of her friendship with Lolly, and that looming crisis is the central drama of the show. Pssst, Becca, buy some stocks.

Call the Midwife focuses on female friendships, too, though with fewer heart-to-hearts and more hands-to-vaginas because everyone’s delivering babies and all. Switched at Birth’s switched-at-birth characters have a very intense sisterhood, though it’s not always the center of the series. MTV’s Awkward hits occasional Gilmore Girls notes — fast talking, lots of references, a former teen mom,  though it’s far less earnest — and includes a passionate BFF relationship. Playing House is mainly about friendship, maybe less loopy than Ann and Leslie, but no less committed. I know I mention that show here a lot, but that’s only because I don’t think enough people have watched it. Playing House, you guys! Watch Playing House.

In a very different vein, I think Orphan Black fits the bill, too. Our heroine discovers that she’s a clone, and she winds up forming a kind of girl squad with her sister clones. It’s not a drinking wine and getting pedicures kind of friendship, but they are each other’s first phone calls when anything important or bad happens, which is constantly.

But holding things to a Paris-and-Rory standard is going to be tough, less because of the vitality of their friendship and more because of the sheer wonderfulness of Paris. You might just need a Gilmore Girls fix, and if so, allow me to direct you to the deeply delightful “Gilmore Guys” podcast, which I am currently obsessed with.

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