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 or tweet @margeincharge with the hashtag #staytuned.
What is the likelihood of a TGIT crossover episode? Would it even be any good? —T
It would be great. But there’s way too much cast crossover between Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, and How to Get Away With Murder for the crossover to ever really happen. Liza Weil alone throws the world into chaos. Some people thought McDreamy’s work for “the president” last season was a prelude to a Shondaland double episode, but those people were wrong: Surely Derek would recognize his dead in-laws.
Still, there’s plenty of room on ABC for other crossovers. Any of the TGIT shows could overlap with Nashville, certainly. My preference would be for Scandal, just because everyone on Nashville would really benefit from a good scolding, and Olivia Pope et al. are more likely to deliver that than the doctors of Sloane Grey. (You’ll always be Seattle Grace to me.) Annalise Keating could easily represent someone on Quantico. Or maybe someone from Blood & Oil? I suppose someone from Castle could bump into someone from Grey’s.
But if you wanted to keep it in-house, the shows could do a thematic crossover night without actually blurring the shows’ respective realities. They’ve already all used the off-putting phrase “bitch baby,” so there’s a silver thread weaving the worlds together already even though the characters don’t exist in the same worlds as one another. A blackout night, à la ‘90s NBC? I’d watch that. Messed-up Christmases? I’d watch that, too. What if all three series directly addressed gun violence in one night? (More than just “people get shot on these shows.”) Oh, or even better: All three shows featured a wedding on the same night. I guess Grey’s would be Alex and Jo’s wedding? Jo is as interesting as a pile of socks, so I’d way rather it be Maggie’s wedding to basically anyone, but as long as it’s not Amelia’s wedding, I’ll be okay. Amelia is the worst, and I wish she’d be assumed into heaven — or wherever — and never heard from or about again. On Scandal, maybe Abby and Leo Bergen? Abby and David Rosen? Quinn and Charlie? And on HTGAWM, Connor and Oliver, duh. That would probably be the best TV night of the year.
I want to watch Lady Gaga on American Horror Story, but I have never watched the show. Will I be lost? —Tony
You will be fine. AHS resets itself every season, and even though the conspiracy-minded among us know that the seasons are all secretly connected, you won’t be missing anything significant by just jumping in. That said, you might feel lost because AHS can go to baloney town pretty quickly. When that happens, just remind yourself that it’s the show, not you.
I have been making my way through The X-Files on Netflix for the past year, and I adore it. I’m now beginning season seven, and I’ve heard rumblings that the series takes a nosedive in quality around this point, especially after Mulder leaves the show. As much as I love Scully (and I really, truly love her), I’m dreading a post-Mulder X-Files. Which episodes do you recommend I watch after Mulder departs? Which are skippable? —Julie
This summer my goal was to watch all 202 episodes of The X-Files, but after a season and a half, the show wasn’t really doing it for me. Recently, though, I gave it another shot by sampling some of the best monster-of-the-week episodes and found I really enjoyed the show as the really weird procedural that it often is. Is it worth it to get caught up on the mythology arc before it comes back in January? If so, are there seasons I can skip? (I’ve heard seasons eight and nine don’t make any sense …) —Eli
I say this as a huge devotee of the series, but: You can skip lots of episodes of The X-Files. Luckily, there are a lot of episodes, so even if you skipped, oh, half of them, that would still leave you with more episodes of The X-Files than of Breaking Bad, True Detective, and Rectify combined. There’s plenty of X-Files. So, so much X-Files. Truly, we are blessed to be among its fans.
You can absolutely skip seasons eight and nine. When I do rewatches, I skip them except for the series finale. Remember, as a little kid, being at the grocery store or someplace, running up to your mom, and either hugging her leg or reaching up for her hand — only to realize it was someone else? Even when that lady was friendly and understanding about it, that was still the worst. That’s how I feel watching Annabeth Gish and Robert Patrick on The X-Files. I’m sure you do a lovely job of being someone else’s mom. But accidentally hugging you legit traumatized me.
As for catching up on mythology episodes, I do think there are three you should commit to: “Anasazi,” “The Blessing Way,” and “Paper Clip,” from the end of season two and the start of season three. Those are three fabulous episodes no matter what, but they’re also the most essential in terms of figuring out the show’s mythology. (Which gets convoluted!) If you like those, you might like “Nisei” and “731,” also from season three. “Two Fathers” and “One Son” in season six are also good, but only if you’ve decided to commit yourself to the mythology harder than you already have.
My wish for the X-Files revival was that it would be six thrilling monster-of-the-week episodes. Based on the presence of cigarettes in the promo, it appears there will be at least some mythology. Presumably, you’ll be less confused if you do some brushing up, but the secret reason The X-Files works as well as it does is that it’s in a constant state of gently explaining itself. Scully never buys Mulder’s theories, so he has to list his evidence piece by piece. Skinner would never be onboard for this — which is why Scully has to remind him of all the times Mulder’s hunches worked out. (Sorta rarely? But once in a while.) Cigarette-Smoking Man’s motives are often vague, so Mulder or Krycek often have to ask, “Why now?” and then CSM explains the mechanics of his plan. Other shows do this, but few, if any, do it better or more seamlessly.
I love HBO’s comedy series Getting On. I’m surprised it hasn’t gotten more mainstream attention, it seems to be flying under the radar. I’m thrilled it’s getting a third and final season — but I’m looking for a companion piece. I like the 30-minute format, it’s not a huge commitment, but I also feel like the episodes have real emotional depth and laugh-out-loud moments. Also the short seasons make it easy to watch on weeknights. What can you recommend? —A
Niecy Nash earned an Emmy nomination for her work on Getting On, so it’s not quite as under-the-radar as other shows, but I get your gist. If you like Getting On, you’ll probably like the British original of the same name. And if you like female-driven, somewhat-sad HBO comedies, and it appears you do, I can’t say enough good things about Enlightened. It’s been so long since I mentioned it here! But I didn’t forget. Enlightened is only 18 episodes, so it’s low-commitment. I discourage you from marathoning it, though; don’t watch more than two at a time. The Comeback fits that bill, too, though it is sadder and harsher than Enlightened.
Less sad, but no less emotional: Try Men of a Certain Age. At only 44 minutes per episode, it’s not that much more of a commitment, and there are only 22 installments (sniff), so it’s still very manageable. Amazon’s ten-episode Transparent has that same real-people-with-real-shortcomings vibe, though it’s a bit dreamier and far less cynical.