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 or tweet @margeincharge with the hashtag #staytuned.
This fall I decided to quit Sleepy Hollow and Arrow for having terrible or not-great seasons last year in order to make room for other things (like Crazy Ex-Girlfriend!). Additionally, I have Good Wife episodes piling up on my DVR, despite my love for Alan Cumming, because I’m still wounded by the misuse of Matthew Goode last year. That said, I’m quite often a completist when it comes to shows, and I’ve heard noises about improvements on all three this year. Is this true? Should I give any of these another shot? —Jessica
Go back to The Good Wife, absolutely. While I’m with you on the misuse of Matthew Goode, TGW is one of the best-cast shows on TV. And when TGW looked around for a hunky love interest, they hit the damn jackpot and picked Jeffrey Dean Morgan, a.k.a. Denny from Grey’s Anatomy. (Did you know that Denny died almost ten years ago? It’ll be ten years in May. Holy smokes.) I am super onboard for his eyebrow-waggling, but I’m going to need him and Alicia to make their way to the bone zone sooner rather than later.
I’m off Sleepy Hollow this season, too, and even the Bones crossover held no appeal to me — I’m off Bones, too, but famous last words — so I hereby absolve you of getting back in to Sleepy Hollow. We had it good there for a while, though! As for Arrow, I turned to Vulture’s resident Arrow expert, recapper Jenny Raftery. Jenny says yes, definitely come back to Arrow, but start with either this season’s premiere or episode three. “Season four has course-corrected to the extent that it’s had a lot more action/momentum and there’s more unity within Team Arrow. It’s a stronger, more fun season that should get even better once they can get past all the setup [for the CW’s upcoming companion series DC’s Legends of Tomorrow].” Thank you, Jenny.
Why is it sooooo much more delicious to come across a favorite episode on the DVR guide than if I had had just grabbed the DVDs off the shelf? —Nicole
Oh man, I concur completely. I think that kind of DVR serendipity hits the simple-joys sweet spot in a couple of ways. First, it’s a moment of small grace. Someone cooking you an elaborate dinner is great — like, really great, and Stay Tuned is now accepting all dinner invites. But there’s another kind of pleasure from a companion just refilling your coffee mug when he or she gets up to refill theirs. That is also the best. Obviating the need for tiny chores while also creating delight? A thousand yeses, let this be the purpose of all robots. “Hey, I was gonna record an old 90210 today no matter what, but it just so happens that today’s is the one where Scott shoots himself. You are welcome.” So says the DVR.
There’s also a sliver of apophenia afoot, too. That’s our tendency to see patterns where there aren’t any — like seeing faces in wall hooks, or being convinced that “shuffle” brings up songs in a certain order even though it doesn’t. Patterns and meaning go hand in hand, and while this doesn’t quite rise to a Jungian synchronicity level, it’s pretty common to derive meaning from meaningless events because we all crave purpose and causality. A beloved episode popping up on the DVR is lovely teleserendipity.
I recently started doing my duty as a consumer of television and finally started watching Cheers. I just started season three, and I love it; I can absolutely see how it influenced so many of my favorite modern shows. While I’m happy to have a long-running show to meet my binge-watching needs, 11 seasons is a little daunting. After being burned by many later seasons of sitcoms, should I worry that Cheers will be the same? Are there any seasons/episodes that I should skip, or is it worth it to watch it all the way through? —Elana
Cheers stays good. It’s sort of hard to believe, especially given how long some of its seasons were — several were 25, 26 episodes — and the fact that it was on the air for 11 years, but this is why the show is so revered. Cheers actually does stay good.
It doesn’t stay exactly the same, though. There are significant cast changes, which substantially alter what feels like the “formula” for an episode — and while you probably wouldn’t wish for cast changes, this winds up being a blessing in disguise for the show. This gave Cheers a chance to cover some new territory in ways that didn’t feel desperate or artificial, and the new characters fit the show so seamlessly that their particular arcs felt just as important and relevant as the OG characters. There are some people who prefer one era over another, and that is their right, but you can keep watching without having to adopt a defensive crouch. And after you run out of Cheers, you still have Frasier.
Should I recommend shows to my friends if I hate the way they end? I loved the first half of Battlestar Galactica, and the first four seasons of West Wing, but I also feel like I’m setting my friends up to feel the same disappointment I felt watching those shows. —Chris
Yes, absolutely. Feel free to warn them, and depending on how well you know their taste, tell them when to stop. Lots and lots of shows get bad or run out of juice. If you were only going to watch perfect specimens, you’d have very little to chose from, and most of them would be one-season, gone-too-soon series whose perfection exists only because they never had the chance to start sucking, not because they’re inherently superior. It’s possible for a show’s endgame to be subpar and yet not ruin the series as a whole.
I dug BSG all the way through, and while I didn’t love-love the finale, I didn’t hate it the way other people did. Definitely tell people to watch BSG. The run-out on Felicity is awful, but that show is still a precious treasure to me. Season five of The West Wing is the pits, but season seven has its moments — not moments that recapture any of the joy and dazzle of seasons one through four, but its own kinds of (slightly inferior) good moments.
Rare is the show whose ending was so disastrous I wished I’d never watched it. (Lookin’ at you, How I Met Your Mother!) Even Lost! Even ER, even though I watched like 100 people I love die over the course of that series. It got good again toward the end, and I will honor it always. Sparing your friends ostensible disappointment is a noble goal, but introducing them to sources of delight is a nobler one.