So What Are You Binge Watching Now?

I've been watching reruns of The Rookie. It makes me feel normal, and I've always liked Nathan Fillion.

The Atlantic just did an article on the different kinds of comfort TV:

For the past month I’ve been existing mostly on /Broadchurch/, /Frasier/, and the earliest seasons of /The Great British Baking Show/, to the dismay of the needy, precipitous pile of unwatched screeners in my various digital libraries. Apologies, new shows, but bleak times call for comfort television: familiar, pacifying, predictable episodes of 1990s sitcoms, crime procedurals, and cooking contests. I don’t want active emotional engagement, or intricate plotting, or even particularly well-crafted performances. I want David Tennant frowning ominously and slurring several extra syllables into the word /Miller/. I want grandmotherly math teachers constructing full dollhouses out of /pâté sucrée/ and fondant. Most of all, if I’m going to be inside for several months, I want regular access to Frasier’s apartment.

Comfort TV, at this point, is such a well-worn idea that it’s spawned countless lists over the past few weeks, all guiding viewers toward low-investment, high-reward shows such as /Schitt’s Creek/, /Parks and Recreation/, and /Bones/. On Twitter, people have posted their own lists, heavy on decades-old sitcoms (/Seinfeld/, /Cheers/, /The Golden Girls/), teen-oriented dramas (/Buffy the Vampire Slayer/,/Veronica Mars/), and gloomy network staples (/Law and Order: SVU/, /The Twilight Zone/). Apart from the fact that almost all of these shows are old and reassuringly familiar, they don’t have much in common. This isn’t as strange as it might seem: People cope with trauma and anxiety in very different ways, which makes the shows they turn to for comfort equally incongruous and dependent on the emotional response they’re hoping to
provoke. In any given moment, one woman’s palliative might be another’s saccharine TV toothache.

For Elizabeth Cohen, an associate professor specializing in media psychology at the University of West Virginia, her favorite rewatch is /Black Mirror/, while her husband prefers to relax with episodes of /The Great British Baking Show/. “It’s fun, it’s light, he knows when he watches it he won’t be stressed,” she told me over the phone. Series
like that one—low-stakes, light, uplifting fare—make up the first category of what people watch when they’re feeling depleted or anxious.

The most obvious balm for troubled souls is television where nothing bad really happens and everything will almost certainly be okay, a model Amy Sherman-Palladino has mastered with /Gilmore Girls/ and /The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. On an awful day, you can visit Schitt’s Creek or Pawnee, Indiana, safe in the knowledge that no crisis greater than a gay-penguin scandal or a bed-wetting incident will occur.

A different kind of comfort comes from watching reruns of shows that you’ve already seen over and over: /The Office/, /Friends/, /Cheers/.

It’s “definitely nostalgia,” Cohen said—watching to try to return, momentarily, to a different time, or a moment when everything seemed easier. But also: “There’s a lot of comfort in knowing when something’s going to happen. You don’t have to exert a lot of cognitive energy, so it doesn’t feel taxing.” The familiarity of, say, Frasier’s ego leading to some kind of misunderstanding, or Carla hurling rapid-fire insults at Cliff, is part of the process. Watching this kind of television, Cohen said, that doesn’t require you to invest too much attention or brainpower, can be very effective for relaxing. “It can make you feel replenished,” she noted, with one important caveat: “If you feel guilty about your pleasures, this study shows that you can’t reap the benefits from them. But if you’re able to give yourself the opportunity to indulge, it can actually be really beneficial.”

Counterintuitively, people can also derive psychological comfort from dystopian or bleak entertainment: /The Handmaid’s Tale/, /The Twilight Zone/, true-crime series, murder mysteries. One 1992 study found that some viewers who felt lonely or unhappy enjoyed watching shows about people in similar situations, because they found comfort in seeing others facing experiences akin to (or worse than) their own. For these people, series about happy, thriving characters can actually cause emotional distress, due to something called social comparison

This particular theory explains why so many viewers over the past month have streamed /Contagion/, /Outbreak/, and other grim-but-topical movies: They’re hoping to be reminded of all the ways in which their own lives could actually be worse. Not to mention that there’s cheer in the idea of efficient, selfless people solving crises in time for a happy ending.
No add'l cost to move my Verizon phones to unlimited data and with that came a free year of Disney+. Binged Mandalorian this past weekend.
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