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, leave a comment, or tweet @margeincharge with the hashtag #staytuned.
My boyfriend doesn’t take quickly to new dramas. So I’m slightly nervous to show him my eternal television love, The X-Files. I showed one of the later episodes to a previous boyfriend back in the day and he wasn’t super impressed, and even dissed Scully for being too dowdy! My current boyfriend, who is much better, has shown some interest in the show, but I’m wondering if it’s even worth it to try (and risk being rejected)?! If so, which episodes should I start him on? How do I prevent him from being intimidated by my love for Mulder? —Sara
If The X-Files is your eternal love, don’t you want your meat-sack love to at least give it a try? Our companions don’t have to like the things we like, but they should at least like that we like them. Do you have a favorite monster-of-the-week episode? Show him that, and if seeing your happiness during that episode doesn’t move him in any way … that guy is too stingy with delight. If he disses Scully for being dowdy, this is a great opportunity for a discussion about the conflicting pressures women face in male-dominated professional environments: On the one hand, we’re constantly penalized for not performing enough femininity, but on the other hand, we’re marginalized and ignored when we’re considered “too girly.” Alternately, break up. It’s not your job to rescue someone.
But, okay, your current squeeze is better. If he takes to comedy, why not show him the funniest episodes of The X-Files? That’s probably “Bad Blood” (the Rashomon vampire episode), a treat from start to finish. “Arcadia” is another good one, where our dynamic duo pose as “Rob and Laura Petrie” in a gated community. Honestly, this episodes sticks with me for the very deliberate way Gillian Anderson says “caduceus,” so much so that it is still the very first thing I think of when I see the symbol. “Ah, yes, that episode of The X-Files where Jerry from ER wears a notable necklace.”
“Small Potatoes” is up there among my favorite episodes of any show ever, but I probably wouldn’t lead with it for your purposes. It’s funnier and more lovable when you actually know the show (even just a little bit). Same for “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose” — it works better as part of the series as a whole and less well as a stand-alone. “Jose Chung’s ‘From Outer Space’” is a knockout, but it lands best if you’re already devoted to the series. Your mileage may and probably will vary. “Humbug,” while not super ha-ha funny, is probably closer to what you need. I love “Rain King,” but not everyone does.
This is going against muscle memory, but: I’d resist the urge to show him “Post-Modern Prometheus,” even though it is a precious treasure. (It’s my favorite favorite.) It’s too different from the other episodes of the show, and if you’re trying to convince someone to watch if not the whole series, then a lot of it, “PMP” will be doing both of you a disservice. Save it for when he’s either been fully converted into a fan, or for when you need a pristine episode that hasn’t been sullied by his ill-informed eyeballs. Or for your honeymoon or something.
Why do I love The West Wing and Sports Night and hate The Newsroom? —Chris
Because The Newsroom is basically “Old Man Yells at Cloud,” and West Wing and Sports Night are good. Congratulations, your taste-o-meter is working correctly.
My wife and I debate every year Derek Hough on Dancing With the Stars. She says he’s great and thus wins the most because of his talent. I say he always gets the best dancer (when has he been stuck with a Cloris Leachman?). Which brings me to my solution: a dancer draft. The dancers pick their celebrity partners in reverse order from how they were eliminated the previous year (new dancers would always pick last). That way, Derek Hough would get stuck with a hopeless case at least once every other year (or could prove his brilliance by taking Paula Deen to the finals).
Wouldn’t a draft like that be a ratings bonanza for DWTS? And would other shows benefit from stealing sports ideas like drafts? —C.B.
Oh, I love this idea, but I think it might make the show a little harder to book in terms of “stars”: Who would want to get picked last? Even if you know you’re the long-shot weirdo of the season, no one wants to be humiliated based merely on perception. Participants in DWTS want to be humiliated based on their own genuine dance shortcomings.
I still think most reality shows would be improved by adopting a sports-season model of non-elimination until the very end. I wish everyone on The Bachelor had to line up and say “good game” to each other at the end of every episode. The big thing, though, is that I wish more contestants were clearly students of the game. Why do people go on Top Chef without studying up on Top Chef? You need to know the big moves to make, the clear blunders to avoid, the things Tom hammers every season. (Use fresh ingredients, you ding-dongs.) Once in a while people on The Amazing Race have studied up, and those are the people I root for.
I’ve been a loyal viewer of Scandal since its inception, but the fall finale had me saying for the first time ever watching a show, “Well, I’m done watching this from now on.” Not to say that I will, because I love the performances of everyone on this show, but the stories aren’t there. Can a show live on great performances alone? —Emily
It sure can, and that’s probably a good way to watch Scandal. (Though … I don’t love every performance on that show.) Strong performances can elevate so-so material in lots of interesting ways, and whatever else we can say about the acting on Scandal, at least it’s never boring.