During times of stress, such as exam season, there are certain shows that we seemingly turn to time and time again, seeking comfort in their familiar episodes. In between long hours of writing essays or solving problems, these shows can act almost like a comforting blanket to help you relax and bring a smile to your face. The popularity of shows like Friends, How I Met Your Mother, and The Office on streaming services attest to their re-watchability, as all of these shows have a similar light, easy and uplifting quality to them.
Friends in particular (the recent reunion episode of which was viewed by millions) has been watched so many times that many can likely recite whole episodes. The familiar friendships and predictable outcomes, where problems are resolved by the end of a thirty-minute episode, mean you always know what to expect when putting these shows on. The voices of their characters become comforting and nostalgic, often acting as a reassuring background noise to destress and calm you.
In the same way that many of us might have been living on a diet of pesto pasta and biscuits during exams rather than trying to cook something new, a favourite episode of an old reliable tv show often appeals more than something new and popular. For me, sit-coms like New Girl and Modern Family are great comfort watches, or low-risk reality shows like The Great British Bake Off, Queer Eye, or Gogglebox.
Over the last year, favourite TV shows have brought comfort and reassurance in an abnormally stressful time. In a world surrounded by Covid-19, you are unlikely to want to watch a film about a zombie apocalypse, or a deadly virus (I’m looking at you, Songbird), but instead wish to escape to a different reality through the media you watch. Many comfort-watch shows are often set in the past, allowing you to reminisce as you are reminded of what you enjoyed watching throughout childhood. Even shows from the recent past are comforting as they act as a reminder of when things were “normal” and the Friends group’s daily trips to Central Perk didn’t require social distancing.
Although elderly people are usually thought to spend countless hours in front of the TV, none more so than in this year of isolation, the rest of us have likely consumed media in the exact same way – as a form of companionship. Whether it provides a voice to fill the silence, blocks out thoughts for a short while, or just uplifts and entertains, our favourite shows are always there. Whereas grandparents might seek solace in reruns of Escape to the Country or The Chase, I find a similar comfort in the repetitive cycle of watching Grey’s Anatomy from start to end. Although dramatic and often sad, the familiar episode arcs and recognisable characters are oddly reassuring.
Comfort-watching TV shows is unlikely to change anytime soon as the accessibility of streaming services has made re-watching even easier. What once would have required a real commitment to a bulky box set of DVDs that would set you back likely £40 minimum, can now be accessed, alongside endless boxsets of all your favourite comfort shows, at just the press of a button. Now free from exams and with a whole summer full of choices stretched ahead of me, mindlessly sticking on another episode of my favourite comfort show will be all too easy (and just as enjoyable the hundredth time).
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