The Comfort of rewatching tv shows

Article by: Anusha

Visual by: Allison

Edited by: Joaquin

If there is one routine I have religiously maintained during lockdown, it is watching my favorite TV shows, over and over again. What gives me the most comfort is watching shows from the 90s or early 2000s. Over the last 6 months, I have spent countless hours with friends from Central Perk, doctors from Grey-Sloan Memorial and vampires in Mystic Falls. I cried as ‘MerDer’, ‘Roschel’ and ‘Delena’ fell out of love (again). I smiled at Meredith “dancing it out”, Ross screaming “pivot!”, and Damon smirking as he charms his way out of trouble. I have fallen in love with these characters, time and time again. 

But what makes rewatching a show so entertaining, when we already know what’s going to happen? For many, rewatching shows brings back warm, nostalgic memories and as stated in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), ”Rewatchers slip back into reliable shows to summon certain moods and… use words like ‘self-care’ and ‘comfort’ to describe what it’s like to anticipate plot twists and romantic pairings.” Shows that stay popular tackle timeless issues such as friendship, love and death that are relatable to all, while still creating an experience of delving into a different world. Fans can fully immerse themselves in TV shows and have the comfort of knowing exactly what is going to happen. 

The advent of streaming websites is another reason rewatching has surged in the last few years. Old favourites are easily available, anytime, unlike in the past, when you had to consult TV channel schedules. There is also an incentive from the streamer’s perspective to keep us watching our favourite shows; it translates to higher profitability for producers and assured returns for the streaming website.  According to WSJ, “Rewatching is one of the forces driving a spate of blockbuster TV deals, as rival streamers lay claim to classic shows that can help keep subscribers locked in.” Furthermore, according to Vulture, ‘ABC execs have been vocal in expressing their belief that the existence of Grey’s Anatomy on Netflix the last few years has helped bring new viewers to the show’s linear broadcast on Thursdays. Even after 16 seasons of the show being on air, Netflix subscribers have allowed Grey’s Anatomy to become one of the longest running drama TV shows. Older shows have a huge part of their daily viewers come from streaming websites. Streaming services like Netflix allow accessibility to younger audiences, giving them the ability to watch shows that were created even before they were born. 

 Nevertheless, with the resurgence of old favourites, there have also been numerous controversies regarding shows that ‘haven’t aged well’. Legendary shows such as Seinfield have come under fire for their homophobic, sexist and racist jokes, which didn’t even raise an eyebrow when they were first aired. Recently, Tina Fey publicly apologized for characters being in blackface on her popular comedy ‘30 Rock’. She also requested websites to take the offending episodes off air permanently. While the representation of LGBTQIA+ characters in Friends were great for its time, certain jokes and plotlines just would not have passed today. It takes Ross years to recover from his wife leaving him for another woman. Similarly, Chandler and Joey are horrified when their friendship is mistaken for a relationship. Over time, society has prioritized bringing awareness to injustices that were brushed aside by homophobic jokes, and racial slurs. But are these jokes just a reflection of the time period? Watching these shows helps us understand previous generations better by giving us a chance to appreciate some of the good old values that we may have forgotten (like chatting with friends at coffee shops instead of staring at our phones).

Taking all things into consideration, cuddling up with a blanket, a bowl of popcorn and a 90s sitcom can be one of the most comforting activities, especially in these times. Although it is important to be mindful of jokes that may promote stereotyping, don’t let it deter your trip on the nostalgia train! As Joey Tribbiani from Friends says, “You don’t own a TV? Then what’s all your furniture pointed at?”

Jurgensen, John. “Déjà View: The Psychology Behind the ‘Rewatch’.” The Wall Street Journal, Dow Jones & Company, 8 Oct. 2019, http://www.wsj.com/articles/deja-view-the-psychology-behind-the-rewatch-11570549278.

Mercado, Mia. “These Movies and Shows from the Early 2000s Make Us Nostalgic. But They Haven’t Aged Well.” Https://Www.thelily.com, The Lily, 31 Dec. 2019, http://www.thelily.com/these-movies-and-shows-from-the-early-2000s-make-us-nostalgic-but-they-havent-aged-well/.

Wallenstein, Andrew. “Netflix Lures Shonda Rhimes Away From ABC Studios.” Variety, Variety, 14 Aug. 2017, variety.com/2017/digital/news/netflix-lures-shonda-rhimes-away-from-abc-studios-report-1202526464/.