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.
I’ve just started watching Nurse Jackie on Netflix. I’m about five episodes into season one, and while I’m enjoying it, I’m not totally hooked yet. Should I take the plunge? With seven seasons ahead of me, is it worth my time, or will it lead to heartbreak and regret? Still recovering from Lost, Dexter, Weeds, etc. —Claire
My favorite season of Nurse Jackie is season six, and I like season seven a lot, so I encourage you to see it through. But I’ll also tell you the show changes a lot over its lifespan — and depending on which aspects you like, your mileage will vary. I disliked the attempts at slapstick/goofiness but really dug how unsentimental the show could be about addiction and recovery. I wanted less Akalitus (though I love Anna Deavere Smith) and way less O’Hara, and I wanted a clearer take on Coop. My wishes all came true. Nurse Jackie eventually becomes the drama it was always meant to be, abandoning all its strained humor in favor of more grounded instances where funny things might naturally arise. It’s definitely possible that people who unabashedly loved the first few seasons would be put off by the show’s later years, but I was thrilled. Go forth!
We’ve reached the stage where we’d like to start being more careful with what we put on TV while our 1-year-old daughter is in the room. We’re not ready for programs for toddlers yet, but we need some more ideas for programs that aren’t not for toddlers. So far we’re just doing documentaries, sports, and cooking reality shows. Any ideas for good current dramas and comedies without sex and/or violence? —Annie
This is a tough one, particularly for dramas: Lots of shows I consider very genial and sweet still have occasional instances of violent imagery (Jane the Virgin, for example) that would probably not fit the bill for you.
How much sex is a deal-breaker for this? Obviously nothing that goes to … uh … pound town, but what about pre- or postcoital in-bed scenes on network comedies? Is that too far? Is it language? This isn’t me throwing my hands up and saying, “Let your toddler watch Game of Thrones, the whole world is ass garbage, anyway!” I just don’t know what the guidelines actually are for kiddie viewing. So: Start with Bob’s Burgers and Fresh Off the Boat. I think ABC’s family comedies in general are safe bets, though I think the amount of stress present on The Goldbergs could freak a baby out, just from vibes. Brooklyn Nine-Nine doesn’t have realistic violence, but once in a while it has cartoonish violence, and 1-year-olds are probably not drawing a distinction there. I think it’s mostly safe, though.
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt includes dark ideas but no actual depictions of sex or violence; Playing House has some sex … ish scenes, but nothing actually racy. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend trafficks in adult themes, certainly, but I don’t know that any particular images are necessarily objectionable. Call the Midwife has occasional scenes of labor and delivery crisis, though the show is not graphic. Downton Abbey has stuff like car crashes, but nothing gory.
I want to be more up on the Zeitgeist. Good or bad, what TV should I be watching if I want to have my finger on the pulse? For watercooler/cocktail-party chitchat and such … —Chad
Without regard to how good these shows actually are, or how much I think they’re worth watching, here are the shows that people have asked me about in recent weeks, not just for this column but in meatspace, and the shows that feel “buzzy,” for lack of a better term:
Making a Murderer: You don’t even have to watch all of it (though you should — it’s excellent). If you just watch the first few, you’ll get the gist.
Jessica Jones: Even if you don’t otherwise care about comic-book stuff. That can be your talking point for the cocktail party!
Game of Thrones: If you want to talk about the show with people, be very, very clear about how far in you are. And it seems to me that while book fans love talking about it with other book fans, they relish the chance to explain subtle differences and discrepancies to show-only watchers. You can make some exciting friends this way.
The Bachelor: People want to talk shit, mostly; you can absolutely get away with just reading recaps.
Transparent: I’m not sure how Amazon’s release schedule works, but season two felt ill timed to me for a full chitchat cycle, which might be why there are fits and starts. Some days no one wants to talk about it; other days there are two Eileen Myles stories in the New York Times.
Saturday Night Live: It’s an election year. Plus, in a lot of ways, SNL is more visible than ever, with the occasional sketch blowing up, Jimmy Fallon and Seth Meyers on TV every night, Will Forte having a network show, Fred Armisen being omnipresent, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler just concluding a press tour — Will Ferrell, too. Maya Rudolph went viral yesterday. Adam McKay was just nominated for an Oscar. Leslie Jones was just profiled in The New Yorker. Ghostbusters is on the horizon. Someone’s constantly claiming to be “over” SNL, but even that’s good conversation fodder.
Downton Abbey: People used to want to talk about Downton all the time, and then they stopped wanting to, but it seems they want to again. Maybe because it’s the final season? Just brush up a little. For example, is Edith still sad? Yes. Edith is still sad.
Master of None: Feel free to skip around a bit.
Jane the Virgin: It seemed like a lot of people slept on season one and just caught up on Netflix recently. Team Rafael.
iZombie: I’m assuming this is a skewed effect because my friends know how much I liked Veronica Mars, but my secret wish is that everyone is actually starting to talk more about iZombie. Is this how I make that wish come true? Perhaps!