Desperately Seeking the Consistent Comfort of Reruns

3 years ago

I'm home after two weeks of high-stakes deadlines, difficult news from a family member, and work and conference travel plus all that goes with that. I landed feeling tired, stressed and daunted by the piles of work, laundry, bills and untended emails waiting for me. I needed comfort. Serenity now!

So I did what any sane person in need of a comforting buffer would do: I watched three episodes of Will & Grace and went to sleep.

I love the amazing media options available to us, and I have queues of quality television waiting for my attention on several devices. But that's for another day, when my mind is ready to be engaged. I also have a list of crap or reality television shows that are fun for killing time. (Hey there Project Runway Season 13, I know you're back, and I'll get around to seeing you when I'm ready.)

Image: NBC Studios

In times of exhaustion or stress, though, nothing will do except sitcom reruns. I've seen every Will & Grace at least a dozen times, and that's the point. Nothing can surprise me. If I zone out, I won't miss anything or become confused. I know exactly what to expect from Will, Grace, Jack and my bestie Karen.  I know I love the Woody Harrelson , Minnie Driver and Jeff Goldblum ones and hate the Harry Connick Jr. ones but that's okay, I'll still watch, because I know them. Truly, the only thought I have to have when watching an episode is "I love this one" or "Ugh, I hate this one" and then after that thought all brain function flatlines and I get in return pure relaxation.

Reruns are a multi-use social service.  You can have them on as background noise against loneliness or as a homey comfort in a foreign hotel room. They are like your spouse telling you the same story again or the friend making that habitual movement with her hands. They are consistent and true, offering safety in their repetitive sameness. Sitcoms in particular are comforting because of the familiarity of the sets and timing. Even a bad rerun from a show you don't care for (for me that would be Everyone Loves Raymond, because I really don't) can provide the soothing qualities one sometimes needs. 

The shows I can always count on as beta blockers, in addition to my beloved Will & Grace, are The Golden Girls, The Cosby Show , Friends and Seinfeld, and I prefer them as calming tools in that order.

I also love a good Law and Order binge for similar reasons, but while the format is familiar and the stories predictable, I end up paying attention because I don't know the episodes in the same way as I know sitcom episodes and characters. I love some movies as stress therapy too, including Best in Show and I Heart Huckabees, but while I have them memorized they don't soothe in the same ways as sitcoms do. When really at an empty-headed place, only old sitcom television will do for me.

Where is your comfort television zone? What do you dial-in when your brain has checked-out, or when you really need to go where everybody knows your name?

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