This week for our TV Team roundtable we decided to take that tweet that’s been going around about “name the four movies you love more than anyone else” because we love TV and we do what we want. (We also love movies! We just all collectively know, well, everything about TV.) These answers could not be more on brand if they’d been written by bots impersonating us. We want to hear your answers in the comments!
The Bisexual, High Maintenance, I Love Dick, Looking
These roundtables are fun, because sometimes I’m answering and I’m like GOD I’M SO MYSELF and I feel that here. Not just because I feel anxious about whether I really can claim to like these more than anyone I know, but also because my answers are just so aggressively me. These four shows are slice-of-life dramedies with sharp dialogue, big hearts, and messy queers. They aren’t perfect, but they don’t strive for perfection. They’re just trying to capture something real and in the process they captured me.
I watched Looking because I loved Andrew Haigh’s indie hit Weekend and from 2014 to 2016 this show was one of my few connections to queerness of any kind. I was just this straight boy running around my college campus telling other definitely totally absolutely straight people they should watch it.
I Love Dick was what I was watching when I officially came out to myself. Half a bottle of wine in my system, sitting next to my girlfriend, watching something so female and so queer — I just knew.
The Bisexual was released on Hulu around the time I was starting to doubt my relationship with that same girlfriend. This messy, self-destructive queer journey on-screen was everything I wanted and what I’d eventually create a few months later.
And High Maintenance. Oh High Maintenance. Co-creator Katja Blichfeld came out between seasons one and two — so did I. This web series I casually enjoyed as a confused college student, became something deeper, not just on-screen, but in my life. I feel like I came out alongside the show. It’s gotten queerer and more trans and more vulnerable and I just love it so much. It feels a part of me the way our favorite works of art always do.
The Secret Circle, Sharp Objects, The Haunting Of Hill House, UnREAL
The Secret Circle should not have been canceled after only one season!!!!!!!! I am convinced to this day that if this CW series about teen witches had been allowed to stick around, its queer subtext might have become main text. According to my own Twitter, I apparently have a lot of thoughts about this. I wish the Charmed reboot had filled the Secret Circle shaped hole in my heart, but alas it did not.
Sure, plenty of people liked the Amy Adams-starring TV adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects, but did any other people do so many repeat viewings of the entire series in such a short amount of time that their THERAPIST said “hey Kayla, maybe stop watching this show over and over again?” If so, let’s be friends.
Again, pretty sure there are plenty of people who loved Hill House, but you know how some people like to put on nice little comedies that they’ve seen a million times as a comfort thing? THAT IS ME WITH HILL HOUSE. I could simply watch this series over and over, especially the stunty episode “Two Storms.” Also, when my sister wouldn’t watch the show with me, I turned it into a stupid Instagram bit.
I almost gave this spot to The Hotwives, the absurdist and spot-on parody of the Real Housewives reality empire, but thinking about the way that series skewers reality television got me thinking about another series that digs its knife all the way into the horrors of the genre. UnREAL offers a scripted story about unscripted television, and its first season is SO FUCKING GOOD and underrated. Also, this one goes out to my mommy issues hive, because the dynamic between Quinn (Constance Zimmer) and Rachel (Shiri Appleby)……….yes.
Also, I want to add that I almost included The Morning Show, but it is simply a fact that I will never love The Morning Show as much as our very own Christina.
The Golden Girls, Grace and Frankie, Derry Girls, Original She-Ra
It says something about me that three of these four shows are set in the ’80s and ’90s, and all of them are about women living together and being the loves of each other’s lives. I’m a child of the ’80s, and I have an almost James Halliday-level of pop culture nostalgia about it, not because I think it was better than this golden age of TV and video gaming we’re living in right now, but because I have a perpetual longing to impart my 40-year-old wisdom and self-compassion onto my childhood self, to tell her that being such a weird little kid will be the thing people resonate with the most about her as an adult, to blow her mind with the knowledge that Dungeons and Dragons and Wonder Woman will become mainstream popular, to let her know she’ll find love and safety and the happiest home, and mostly to explain to her that the reason she’s relating to all these stories the way she is — in a way that’s so different than everyone else — is because she’s G A Y, and that’s going to be okay too, it’s going to be her favorite thing when she’s a grown-up.
I think, in some ways, all queer people engage with stories as their current selves and as their past selves, through the eyes of who they are and what they need and know in this moment, and through the eyes of the little kid who experiences the insecurity and pain and trauma that still informs so much of how they relate to the world. These four shows comfort and challenge me on both of those levels at the same time, and they never fail to make me cackle-laugh, out loud, no matter how many times I’ve heard the jokes. They also infuse my spirit with hope, which is not an easy thing to come by these days, and it wasn’t an easy thing for any of these characters to come by either. The Golden Girls in the middle of the Cold War, Grace and Frankie with their entire lives flipped and rewritten in their last chapters, the Derry Girls navigating the end of a decades long ethno-nationalist conflict, and She-Ra fighting fascism.
As they say in St. Olaf: hergenbargenflergenflurfennerfen.
Dracula, The Playboy Club, Dickinson, Elite
Long before I met the maltreated Morgana or the illustrious Lena Luthor, long before I knew she wasn’t always blonde or that you didn’t pronounce the “th” in her last name, I “met” the ethereal Katie McGrath by away of Lucy Westenra in the 2013 NBC adaptation of Dracula. I remain obsessed with her character, and with Lucy’s relatable passion for her best friend Mina (played by the queer-in-real-life Jessica De Gouw) and I just feel like not nearly enough people shouted about this show when it was on, or joined me in my funeral dirge when it was cancelled after just one season.
I can’t really put my finger on exactly why Dickinson spoke to me so deeply, but I felt appropriately dramatic about it when it ended. I simultaneously wanted to force everyone I knew to watch it and also not talk to anyone about it because I don’t want their opinions muddling my love of it. I don’t want to risk them not GETTING it, ya know? (How could you know, I barely know.) I am on the verge of a rewatch at any given moment but I’m afraid to mess with the magic of that first binge…but I have a feeling I won’t be able to resist much longer.
I was obsessed with Elite, the Spanish show that I would call Riverdale meets Big Little Lies? Mas o menos? But so few people I knew were even watching it, let alone as obsessed with me, that I started giving my friend updates as if it was drama happening in my actual social circle and not just a truly wild TV show I was watching with bated breath.
The 2011 Fall TV season was an absolute massacre of shows that were ahead of their time and didn’t even get through the first verse of their song before they were shepherd’s-crooked off the stage. Most notably, for me anyway, was The Playboy Club, which had an all-star cast with the likes of Amber Heard and Laura Benanti, a murder-by-stilletto, and a peek into the gay underground scene of the 60s. And that was all in the first three episodes! The only three that aired of the seven they filmed. The rest of the season is apparently lost to time with only me to mourn it.
The West Wing, Psych, Leverage and Friday Night Lights
Breaking Bad. The Wire. The Sopranos. How to Get Away With Murder. Great shows, all of them…each of them among my favorites…but the process of revisiting them with any regularity is daunting. They’re all imbedded with so much trauma that no matter how incisive the writing is or how compelling the drama, they’re never going to be my “go-to binge.” That’s how I think of this prompt…which shows are my go-to shows…which shows can I just put on — no matter what kind of day I’ve had — and just sit, relax and enjoy. These are shows I have watched over and over again and, somehow, never tire of.
I was a latecomer to The West Wing but once a friend sat me down and made me watch “18th and Potomac” and “Two Cathedrals,” I was hooked. I was just starting to get into politics at the time and I wondered if there was a place for me in the arena. I didn’t know if I could succeed in a place that seemed to prize the accumulation of power above all things. West Wing showed me a version of politics where I belonged…where people worked out of a sincere belief in government’s ability to make people’s lives better. Admittedly, there are moments in the show that have not aged well but now, perhaps more than ever, I need the reminder that it’s possible to have civil servants dedicated to the general welfare and to remember what it’s like to have a flawed, but fundamentally decent, man as president.
[And, yes, I like any West Wing purist only begrudgingly acknowledge the non-Sorkin years…aside from “The Supremes” in Season 5 which is incredible. Also? Josh should’ve ended up with Amy…and, yes, I will die on this hill.]
Soon after Dulé Hill ended his run as Charlie Young on West Wing, he stepped into the role of Burton “Gus” Guster on Psych…and because I’m nothing if not a loyalist, I followed him there. It was a dramatic departure, from playing the body man of the president to playing the straight man to a fake psychic detective, but I loved it so much. By the time Psych premiered, I was a full-on pop culture junkie and the show fed that addiction like crazy. Every episode is just teeming with great pop culture references — including entire episodes dedicated to classics like Twin Peaks (“Dual Spires”) and Sixteen Candles (“Murder?… Anyone?… Anyone?… Bueller?”) — and, even after having watched the series an embarrassing number of times, there are still easter eggs I know I’ve missed.
Leverage might feel like a bit of a departure but as someone who grew up watching A-Team reruns as a kid, this show feels right in my wheelhouse. It’s a smarter, less violent version of that childhood classic, though, but essentially the same premise: a group of bad guys team up and become the good guys, dedicated to righting the wrongs committed by the rich and powerful. The stories of how the team manages to con the cons are always compelling but what makes the show worth watching is the chemistry between the cast. Are Hardison, Parker and Eliot the only throuple I’ve ever shipped? Possibly.
And, finally, Friday Night Lights…the ultimate of the “good guy” stories that have found their way into my TV comfort food diet. I love this show with the heat of a thousand suns. I love that it’s a show about the perennial good guys, Coach and Tami Taylor, and those aspiring to be the good guys.
“I said you need to strive to better than everyone else,” Coach Taylor tells aspiring good guy, Vince Howard, in one of my favorite moments in the series. “I didn’t say you needed to be better than everyone else. But you gotta try. That’s what character is. It’s in the try.”
In that moment with Vince, in so many other moments that make this show special, FNL tugs at your heartstrings but never feels overwrought. Unless it’s a storyline involving Julie…in which case it definitely feels overwrought because she is the absolute worst.
[Also? It’s amazing how Friday Night Lights just miraculously jumped from Season 1 to Season 3? Season two? I don’t know her.]