The Era of Comfort TV

You’ve earned extra TV time


Sarah Villa, Staff Writer

Here’s the real reason I’ve rewatched Friends three times:
I breathe a sigh of relief. I have worn a mask for ten hours today. Between school and my job, I have to fit in time to exercise, and I have just now finished my homework. I have never been more excited to open Netflix and choose a show to binge for the night.
The number of options overwhelms me–do I want romance, fiction, action and adventure, horror, reality, drama, or crime? After scrolling through a plethora of options, I find myself settling upon Friends, yet again. That show really didn’t lie with its theme song when it said, “I’ll be there for you.” Here I am again, watching a show that I have seen three times already instead of finding a new series to watch. What is it that brings me back? What compels me to commit to watching ten seasons of this momentous show yet again? After exploring the comfort shows of other people I know and analyzing several individuals’ inner thoughts, I think I have found what I believe to be an answer.
Luckily, I’m not the only one who rewatches my favorite shows as a coping mechanism. After gathering information and analyzing results from a survey, several other comfort TV enthusiasts have come forward. A few common themes have emerged among 28 responses.
Seemingly enough, the TV genre most prominent for being people’s preferred choice of TV comfort were sitcoms. When asked to list their preferred comfort shows, nine people listed New Girl, six people listed Gilmore Girls, four people listed Friends, two people listed Parks and Rec, and two people listed The Office. So what is it about sitcoms that keeps us coming back for more? These shows share relatable characters, idealized lifestyles, comedic relief, and especially the sense of consolation in knowing that happy endings and loving relationships are always achieved. The familiarity of knowing a character down to their core and having a good sense of what events might unfold in each episode makes these sitcoms unique to viewers seeking comfort and a homey feeling.
A more intense yet popular genre for comfort TV named in the survey involved shows like Grey’s Anatomy and Criminal Minds. While this may be a questionable choice relating to the supposed comfort it brings, behind the goriness and the suspense, it makes a lot of sense. At the core, these shows revolve around a sense of renewal, with Greys on its 17th season and Criminal Minds on its 15th. As shown from the survey, people find comfort in viewing their favorite characters for years on end. Furthermore, it is relatively easy to watch these shows even when you have not seen previous seasons or have little understanding of the show. Because Grey’s Anatomy is a medical drama, and each episode presents an entirely new medical plot, picking up on it isn’t too difficult. And as a first-time viewer of Criminal Minds recently, I was easily able to adapt to the characters and understand each episode’s plotline and its presentation of a new criminal case.
Some people prefer a more mouth-watering form of entertainment by watching baking shows, such as the Great British Baking Show, Cake Boss, and Zumbo’s Just Desserts. Baking shows tend to provide a more cozy, low-key vibe that is very much needed in our hectic lives. They remind us of the good in the world by featuring generally good people, friendly competition, and the aesthetically pleasing creations and methodical approaches offered by the bakers.
Reverting back to childhood is also an effective form of achieving comfort in one’s life. In fact, five people from the survey listed old Disney and Nickolodeon shows as their preferred comfort TV. Taking the plunge back into our early childhood provides a bittersweet sense of nostalgia that cannot be achieved elsewhere. We are reminded of our love for characters and plotlines that brought us great joy during better and simpler times in which our mental health was….well, healthy.
If there’s anything to be learned, it’s that comfort TV is no joke. I’m pretty sure it’s therapist-recommended. But don’t quote me on that. On a real note, it is vitally important for humans to find comfort and bliss in the day and age that is 2021–especially amid the chaos and the noise of the outside world. So, this is your official excuse to grab your favorite snack, your pet, your blanket, and sit down on the couch to watch your all-time favorite comfort show. After the obstacles you’ve overcome this past year, you deserve it.