Why Do People Like The Bachelorette? Your Pressing TV Questions, Answered

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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 staytuned@nymag.com, or tweet @margeincharge with the hashtag #staytuned.

I’ve never seen Friday Night Lights. When I’ve told friends that I plan to binge it this summer, some have suggested that I outright skip season two. The idea of skipping anything seems to me to be antithetical to the idea of bingeing a show — thinking back on great shows I’ve watched from start to finish, it’s hard to imagine skipping some of those episodes. But season two is the “bad season,” correct? Should I just skip it? —Neil

No, you should not skip season two of Friday Night Lights. I agree that it is in some ways “the bad season,” but its badness gets radically overestimated and overstated by people who’ve only watched the series once through. When I was watching FNL during its actual run, I remember season two feeling like a real letdown. But upon rewatchings, the season’s shortcomings bothered me less and less. In fact, it is not even my least favorite story line of the series: That dubious achievement goes to how the show wrapped up Jason Street’s story in season three. I never found it credible, and I do not care for it!

Season two’s transgressions are over faster than I think your friends remember. FNL has very short seasons for a network show: Only season one is the traditional 22 episodes. Season two is 15, and seasons three through five are 13 each. So, sure, there’s an arc that takes up about half a season, but that’s only eight episodes. It’s not that big a deal. Truly.

Now that I think about it, there are actually plenty of story lines I don’t like on FNL. I never really got it with Lyla Garrity — I mean, I get why she was on the show, I just don’t get why she was on for so long — and Jess deserved much better stories. I felt like Coach and the Panther Boosters were often far more at odds than I could possibly care about. Julie was not a character I ever felt bonded to. But the path to love is not perfection. I can love Friday Night Lights without loving every single molecule of the show. If you’re anything like me and many of the people I know, this is a show that will bring you joy and happiness, an ambitiousness for your own sense of empathy, and something to aspire to in romantic relationships. Many of us reading your question feel very jealous that you get to experience the show for the first time. Perhaps you won’t like all of it, but I’m pretty sure you’ll love it anyway.

Now that we’ve seen the emancipation of Caitlyn Jenner this week, I think it’s a good time to bring up the fact that I cannot get my parents to watch Transparent on Amazon. This is not saying that my parents are super conservative about the television they watch — they like everything from Broad City to Orange Is the New Black to Jane the Virgin. It does not take much to get them to watch a show, but my dad in particular gets squeamish when we mention the premise of Transparent, as if trans stories are where he draws the line. I was just wondering, are there any strategies you use to convince people to watch shows that have a provocative premise? This is probably the only show where my dad has needed a lot of convincing to watch. —Marcus

It doesn’t sound like your dad is actually bothered by provocative premises. Jane the Virgin has a pretty provocative premise, even if the show itself is very tender and gentle. And if your folks like OITNB, they have at least some familiarity with trans characters and trans performers. So just call out the behavior in particular: “Wow, Dad, that’s pretty transphobic.” “Jeez, Dad, you’re a progressive guy, do you get how transphobic that sounds?” Or, “It’s a really good show. If the only reason you’re not watching it is because you don’t want to watch a show about someone transitioning, that’s pretty messed up.” And then move on to something else before anyone has time to get too riled up and defensive.

Will your dad actually like Transparent? If so, casually mention that it’s one of the best new shows in years and years — special and smart and original, and something that stands up to repeated viewing. Say it reminds you of Six Feet Under. If there’s anyone on the show that is reminiscent of someone in your life, drop that in, too: “There’s a rabbi character who really reminds me of [whomever],” or “there’s a whole scene at a college class that was a little too close for comfort.” I’d also focus on getting him to watch the pilot in particular, not to agree to the whole series; “You could at least give it a try” often wins people over. “Devote yourself to a whole endeavor!” is a tougher sell than “You have half an hour, and I’ll watch it with you!”

Finally, resort to bribery. Once, when I was a kid, I really didn’t want to go see Godspell, and I was being a super whiner about it. So my mom told me that we were definitely going, but if I genuinely hated it, we could leave at intermission and she’d give me a dollar. I in fact loved it, and love it to this day. Can you offer to give your dad a dollar? He might go for it.

I’m not a big Bachelor/Bachelorette person. But the show has clearly moved well past the premise, no? Like no one can possibly still view this as an exercise in attempting to make genuine romantic connections. Now they just cast buffoons and set them in motion. What is the appeal? —Ned

Look, People has to write about something. I find the whole Bachelor/Bachelorette franchise too weird and gross, and even more criminal than those things, unbelievably boring, so, no, I will not accept this rose, thank you very much. It’s not for me. But there are a few aspects of it that I get.

I think some of the appeal has to do with how weird contemporary courtship rituals are, how confusing it is to live in a society that has such conflicting ideas about sex and sexuality. When we watch this caricature of dating, it’s a lot easier to see what’s “wrong” with people, even as we know all of it is deeply contrived. See, she is too desperate, so of course she won’t win. He is so intense, and thus of course unattractive. That sure seems like a lot of teeth for one mouth! Etc. I’d be surprised if anyone expected to learn actual mating habits from these shows, but it adds to the data set.

Plus, these shows provide some decent people-watching. The show is more sanitary than The Real World, more respectable than Big Brother, less villainous than Survivor. (Let us never speak of Bachelor Pad or Bachelor in Paradise.) All the male contestants are hunky and helpful. All the female contestants are perky and expressive. Everyone is named Ryan or Kristin. No one is too fat or too sad, or even a little fat or a little sad, really; no one is poor. And yet overwhelmingly they are dull, unsexy, indistinguishable. They’re just dumb, worthless crapbags like the rest of us! At least we get to be dumb and worthless from the privacy of our own homes. There’s a perverse joy in that somehow.

P.S., watch UnREAL.

Big question here: I’m a 19-year-old gay boy who loves shows with women in the main cast. I tend not to like more boyish shows. Given that fact, do you think I could enjoy Entourage? I watched like four episodes and I still don’t feel like I gotta watch the next ones. Will I ever feel this way? Or is Entourage just for boys? —Bruno

Bruno, I really encourage you to stop thinking about shows as “boyish” or “girlish.” I’ve touched on that here before, but let’s revisit it: Rigid gender roles are contrived and bad for everyone. Lots of people like Entourage. Lots of people hate it. Some people in both those camps identify as male, some as female, and some perhaps as neither, both, or another category. Entourage is not inherently boyish or girlish but merely Piven-ish, and not very good. You identified yourself as a boy, but said yourself that you don’t like “boyish” shows. Why, it’s almost as if those are socially imposed categories that fail to acknowledge or accommodate tons and tons and tons of us.

So it sounds like you don’t like Entourage. Me either! It’s a show about douchelords. Over its run, it became repetitive and unimaginative, and the characters are loathsome and gallingly stupid. It’s not a show I care for. If you’ve seen four episodes and don’t like it, my God, dude, move on. Blegh, Entourage, easily the least essential show of our time.

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Why Do People Like The Bachelorette?