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 email@example.com, leave a comment, or tweet @margeincharge with the hashtag #staytuned.
Why are people hate-watching True Detective when amazing summer shows like UnREAL and Mr. Robot exist? Why don’t people love themselves? —Samantha
Why do people drink wine when tequila exists? Why do people wear bracelets when rings exist? Why do people eat sushi when burritos exist? Because variety is the spice of whatever. (My colleagues Matt and Gazelle and I talked about this on “The Vulture TV Podcast” a few weeks ago. Synergy!)
It’s possible to watch and enjoy good shows earnestly, and also to like watching shows drown in their own hubris. For example, I do both of those things. Hate-watching True Detective is fun! It’s also an interesting part of the TV-scape right now because of its pedigree, reputation, and all the HBO-so-fancy ephemera, but it’s also so far up its own ass there’s a pancreatic duct asking Vince Vaughn for directions. I find this irony inherently interesting. A show that’s seems like schlock actually being schlock isn’t a compelling idea — sorry, NCIS: Los Angeles. A show that’s seems like schlock but turns out to be amazing is always a welcome surprise, a special thrill. And a show that’s seems like it’ll be amazing but turns out to be schlock? That’s where the hate-watch lives. Maybe some of those people stayed at the emperor’s-new-clothes parade because it’s secretly funny to watch someone proudly parade around with his dick out.
Some of us hate-watching a show does not diminish how much other people can love-watch it, and we all get to spend our TV hours and TV energies however we chose.
When, one by one, my friends and family finally make it through Six Feet Under, I travel to where they are to watch the last five episodes with them because I think no one should have to go through that alone. (Someone did this for me my first viewing, and it only seems right to pass it on.) What single episode or string of episodes do you think are best watched with loved ones, or, conversely, best watched totally alone? —J
Five episodes?! You are a way better TV friend than I am. Sometimes watching TV with other people is like watching someone else try to use the internet — they don’t use key commands and they type too slowly and they have God knows how many random-ass windows open. It’s a mess. I don’t understand how people live.
I am an outlier, but I think just about every show is better watched alone. It’s a lot easier to call someone for support than it is to kick someone out so you can have private collect-your-thoughts time. Even lousier shows, like American Idol, say, are easier to watch alone because then you can fast-forward whichever parts you find dull or upsetting. I like watching Top Chef, but I go through an episode in 25 minutes. I’d feel guilty if someone else missed a part they liked because we were watching at my pace, but I’d feel annoyed having to watch it at theirs. I need to rewind Game of Thrones now and then because I mix up all the old white guys with beards who are cold, but I’d feel bad subjecting others to my own lack of commitment. I like group activities in general, but oh, man, watching shows as a squad always feels like forced fun to me. Eeesh.
You sound a lot nicer and more companionable than I am, but even I agree there are some episodes that could require some emotional support. (I prefer to opt in for that support, but perhaps others prefer to opt out.) The finale of SFU, sure, but I’d say “That’s My Dog” is a more intense episode. I thought my life would never go back to normal. If you have a friend who’s watching Southland, first off, congratulate him or her on their excellent taste, but also offer a kind ear after that show’s penultimate episode, “Chaos.” Gaaah, it’s been two years, and it still haunts me. Mad Men’s “Commissions and Fees” upset me a lot, and I was relieved to have friends who wanted to talk about the episode in compassionate ways.
Plenty of episodes about violence, death, or both might require some valiant moments of friendship. But so will episodes with big transitional love stories. I want to have a hotline people can call after they watch Veronica Mars’ “Weapons of Class Destruction,” or Gilmore Girls’ “Raincoats and Recipes.” I’d say worry less about what specific episodes people need companionship for, and more about what kind of companionship your specific people need.
I’ve been on a TV binge, currently powering through Gilmore Girls, Twin Peaks, High Maintenance, and Catastrophe. I love all of these shows (and worship the temple of Gilmore Girls). However, now I’m looking for something a little more zany and laugh-out-loud funny to watch, maybe something in the Portlandia vein, as in light comedy that’s so weird yet hilarious. I already watch Broad City, Inside Amy Schumer, and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, so I have those bases covered. —Hayley
As a fellow Gilmore worshipper, I encourage you to listen to “Gilmore Guys,” a truly delightful podcast about the show.
To answer your actual question, the comedy you seek is Another Period. It’s a faux reality show set in a Downton-esque environment, and it features basically everyone you’ve ever seen on Drunk History. Also, have you watched Drunk History? I’d put that in the category of Jackass-style “I don’t care who you are or what else you like, this will make you laugh at some point.” Kroll Show? Key & Peele? Maybe not Portlandia-esque, but certainly very funny. Both The Spoils of Babylon and The Spoils Before Dying are pretty weird, if you want that style in particular. I think I am just too old to appreciate Big Time in Hollywood, FL, but that might do it for you. Coming up in August is Documentary Now!, which is co-created by Fred Armisen, so if you’re craving Portlandia it will probably satisfy those needs.
Finally, don’t count out animated shows. Bob’s Burgers, Archer, and BoJack Horseman all make me laugh. I wouldn’t call any of them light comedy per se, but because they’re cartoons, I find it easier to compartmentalize whatever anguish they depict.
If you really want laugh-out-loud funny, though, try season two of True Detective.