Rewatch that show

Revisiting TV series that bring you comfort is a good thing

Ashley Pelletier, Arts & Life Editor

Amanda Riha

Growing up, I would rewatch the same DVD copy of four episodes of “NCIS.” Mainly because I lost the other DVDs from the box set, but I enjoyed them nonetheless. 

As I got older, I grew away from the series and chose to binge watch other shows like “Supernatural,” “Doctor Who” and “Bones.” However, when COVID-19 sent us home in March 2020, I came back to “NCIS” and spent months rewatching over 300 episodes. 

Rewatching these shows over and over again is a comforting thing, particularly with procedural shows like “NCIS” and “Bones.” The formulaic episodes are predictable, so you know that you don’t have to be anxious about whether or not the main characters are going to die. Even if they are going to die, you know it’s going to happen, so it isn’t as emotionally impactful. I’ve probably watched the episode of “NCIS” where Kate Todd dies at least 10 times. 

The predictability of most TV shows can be soothing to those with anxiety and trauma, according to an article in The Atlantic. When I’m feeling anxious, watching my favorite shows grounds me by forcing my brain to focus on the narrative. 

While I may prefer more gritty shows, shows such as “Friends, “The Office” and “Parks and Recreation” are generally known for being comfort television shows. It is often easy to make fun of those watching these shows for their “basic” popularity, but they are clearly popular for a reason. High rewatchability factors are just as important to a show as good writing and acting. 

Accessibility is also a significant factor in how soothing comfort TV shows can be. I knew someone in high school who would carry a flash drive with episodes of “Friends” on it so he could watch them whenever he wanted. The idea of having an object of comfort at our fingertips is soothing, and shows are even more accessible with streaming. 

We go through a wide range of emotions when we watch TV. When we are watching a new show, we feel suspense on top of the emotions presented by the narrative. We come to associate nostalgia and comfort with our favorite shows regardless of the emotions presented in the show, which allows shows like “NCIS” and “Supernatural” to be a comfort show just as much as feel-good shows like “Friends” or “Parks and Recreation.”

We feel good watching our favorite TV shows, and it’s backed up by science too. A 2014 study showed that watching non-interactive media such as television is a great way to reduce stress. However, our own minds get in the way of this recovery through ego depletion. 

Ego depletion is when we lack our usual willpower after completing difficult tasks, like how I watched all those episodes of “NCIS” after struggling through online classes. When this happens, we feel guilty about how we enjoy ourselves and it can be hard to work through. In fact, I often struggle to sit still and watch television because I feel like there is other work I should be doing. Once you realize the importance of recovery and self help, it becomes easier to enjoy the occasional binge watch. 

This isn’t to say that you should drop what you’re doing and watch Netflix all the time. On the contrary, you should be using your comfort TV shows as a reward for yourself. I let myself watch an episode or two after I finish my homework on weeknights or during the day and as much as I want at night on the weekends. Obviously, this system is what I have found works best for me. A balance between my reward system and hard work prevents too much focus on one or the other. 

The next time you crack open your laptop or hit the on switch on your TV, don’t feel bad for enjoying the shows that make you feel good. Not only do they make your heart happy, but they also make your brain feel good, too.