Psychologists have said that watching certain TV shows can help us to feel calm in an increasingly anxious world.
Updated on 25 February: It seems as if there’s an end in sight (roll on 21 June!) to the coronavirus pandemic, thanks to Boris Johnson revealing his tentative (and subject to change) four-step ‘roadmap’ earlier this week.
It should be a positive thing, with everyone looking forward to easing lockdown restrictions across the UK. Still, though, people are feeling anxious, and understandably so. Some are worried about leaving the comfort and safety of lockdown, while others (understandably) don’t trust what the government is saying, with a lot of scepticism over lifting lockdown too early. And some have said that they’re feeling under pressure to celebrate 21 June 2021 in a big way.
It makes sense, then, that Netflix and Amazon Prime have reported a surge in viewing figures – especially when you consider the fact that we’re all binge-watching TV classics, such as Friends and Gilmore Girls.
Indeed, Krystine Batcho, a licensed psychologist and a professor at Le Moyne College in Syracuse, New York who researches nostalgia, has pointed out that watching our favourite old TV shows satisfies our “nostalgic need” and packs real emotional benefits.
“When people are stressed, or anxious, or feeling out of control, nostalgia helps calm them down. It’s comforting. It’s analogous to a hug from your mom or dad or being cuddled,” Batcho told TODAY.
“It’s harkening back to what we might, even erroneously, perceive as a simpler time in our life with fewer responsibilities and obligations and fewer worries.”
With that thought in mind, then, we decided to share our ultimate comfort TV picks, in order to help steer you towards a soul-soothing watch.
You can thank us later.
Meriam Ahari says: “I used to watch New Girl with my two best friends when we all lived in New York years ago. Recently during lockdown, I found myself feeling really blue and unable to concentrate on anything. I didn’t feel like reading or watching some heavy drama, so I did something I rarely do – I rewatched an old series that used to make me laugh.
“The light storyline and quirky humour was exactly the fun distraction that I needed. I ended up bingeing on the series the entire weekend and even kept it playing in the background while I was cleaning my apt and cooking. The familiar voices of the characters was comforting to me and it somehow made me feel closer to my best friends who all live abroad. And for the first time in a long while during lockdown, I was laughing out loud again.”
Parks And Recreation
Chloe Gray says: “I first watched Parks And Rec while I was snuggled under my duvet with my uni housemate, usually surrounded by a whole host of chocolate, wine or both. It gives me such nostalgic vibes for better times, but I re-watched it recently because I just needed to see nice people on my screen, and you don’t get nicer than Leslie Knope. It’s a very silly, very gentle and very soothing show filled with one liners you can shout back at the TV – perfect.”
The Proud Family
Meeka McKenzie says: “The Proud Family is an absolutely amazing show! I started rewatching the series when I got Disney+ a few months back and it’s one of those feel-good nostalgic TV show’s that I can’t help but laugh along with. And in my opinion is one of the most iconic cartoons of the early 00s!”
Pride & Prejudice
Katy Harrington says: “I must have seen the BBC adaptation of Austen’s Pride And Prejudice a dozen times. I used to have it on video tape (if you kids remember what those were) and it was always a go-to when I wanted something that brings joy. Like Austen’s books, I get something new out of the TV version every time. Some adaptations lose the nuance, rye humour and the mischief of Austen’s writing but this one is full out it.
“Jennifer Ehle is an incredible Elizabeth Bennet and there are a few star performances including onr from a very young Julia Sawalha as Lydia, aka the worst little sister ever and national treasure Alison Steadman as the shrieking Mrs Bennett. And of course there are all those smouldering looks between our Lizzy and Mr Darcy. I am undone!”
Moya Crockett says: “I hadn’t watched Modern Family for years until it arrived on UK Netflix in May. Now, I find myself turning to it whenever I’ve had a long or stressful day. It’s not a perfect show: despite its progressive gloss, the early seasons are peppered with uncomfortable jokes about Asian and Hispanic people, and the relationship between gay couple Cam and Mitch is kept oddly and deliberately sexless. But my god, is it comforting.
“The relationships between the various members of the Pritchett-Dunphy clan are sharply relatable, except everyone’s richer and more attractive than people in the real world – and the storylines are both low-stakes and ludicrous (meaning it’s both relaxing and entertaining). It’s got that reassuring American TV sheen that tells you every loose end will be tied up in a bow by the end of the episode, which is exactly what I want at a time of international crisis and collapse. I wouldn’t want to live in the sunshiny world of Modern Family, but it’s very nice to visit.”
The Vicar of Dibley
As reported on 10 April, Hollie Richardson says: “I remember watching The Vicar of Dibley as a kid with my mum and brothers on a Sunday night with our sandwiches, crisps, cake and cups of tea. I barely knew what was going on but we would all be laughing. So now it brings me that nostalgic comfort that I need and it is SO, SO, SO FUNNY.”
Helen Bownass says: “Whenever I need to distract myself from the impending doom I keep feeling, I put on an episode of Gilmore Girls. I’ve been working through the show – which I have never watched before – over the last few weeks. It’s about a mother and a daughter who live in a lovely town, and drink lovely coffee and have lovely chats and just really enjoy each other’s company. I also didn’t realise when I started it that there are hours and hours of this show, which is handy. I’m very happy with past me’s decision not to watch it.”
The Fresh Prince Of Bel Air
Jazmin Kopotsha says: “I’m a sucker for a 20-minute TV show because it means I can power through seasons more efficiently when I’m in one of those all-or-nothing moods. But Fresh Prince has long been a safety net of mine because why wouldn’t it be? Young Will Smith in his prime, excellent outfit inspo from all of the Banks women and the warm embrace of a nostalgia that doesn’t feel that long ago is the perfect pick-me-up recipe.”
Location Location Location
Caroline Carpenter says: “I don’t know if it’s the gentle banter between Kirsty and Phil, or the aspirational nature of being able to consider buying property I could never afford IRL, but old episodes of Location Location Location are proper comfort-watching material for me.”
Alyss Bowen says: “I’ve seen it a million times like the rest of the world, and I’m sure I’ll see it a million times more (also like the rest of the world), but nothing brings me more joy than sitting down with a blanket and an episode of Friends. I laugh, cry, recite all the lines and it’s great all round.”
Lara Faye says: “The cartoon that ruled my childhood, I’m still as obsessed with The Simpsons now as when I was seven years old. Whenever I need to get out of a funk, four episodes and a pizza (arguably, optional) is my instant good-mood tonic. Not only does binge watching the first few seasons serve some seriously comforting childhood nostalgia, but if you haven’t revisited since the 90s you’ll finally get the references that went over your head the first time around.”
Kayleigh Dray says: “From the jazz intro, to Kelsey Grammer’s melodic voice, everything about Frasier screams ‘comfort food TV’. Every single one of the show’s core characters is perfect, their relationships feel incredibly real, and I’ve fallen in love with them all over again. During this Covid-19 situation, I’ve been steadily working my way through the entire series and I have genuinely laughed out loud so many times. I’ve cried, too, but the good kind of crying: the happy kind, you know? It’s just… watch it. Rewatch it. You will not regret it.”
The Office US
Sarah Biddlecombe says: “My ultimate comfort watch is, without a doubt, The Office. I’ve watched the entire series so many times I can literally quote it word for word, and there is something immensely soothing in always knowing exactly what will happen next… especially when things in the real world are so uncertain.”
Ru Paul’s Drag Race
Hanna Ibraheem says: “I can always rely on RuPaul’s Drag Race to perk me up. The challenges are comedic gold, the runways are STUN-NING, the Queens are all hilarious in their own unique way and the lip sync battles are always epic. Just google ‘Sasha Velour So Emotional’ and thank me later.”
Sex & The City
Felicity Thistlethwaite says: “I love Sex & The City. I watched all of season three on my lockdown birthday!”
Gavin & Stacey
Tom Gormer says: “When life is generally rubbish, I always ALWAYS watch Gavin and Stacey. It might not be a full episode, often it can be a compilation on ‘The YouTube’ of Pamela’s best bits or Sheridan Smith and James Corden rapping to Estelle’s American Boy in a supermarket car park, but right now, I seem to be watching LOTS of THE greatest comedy ever made. And that’s no bad thing: if we can’t hug, laugh or eat a curry with our friends and families in real life, at least I can do it via the medium of telly.”
Lauren Geall says: “When I’m feeling a little bit mopey and need a quick pick-me-up, I will immediately turn to Schitt’s Creek. The first five seasons are currently on Netflix (the sixth and final series is set to drop later this year) and it’s the most cheerful thing ever. If you were to look up feel-good in the dictionary, you’d probably see a picture of Schitt’s Creek. The characters are hilarious, the plot is incredibly wholesome, and every episode offers numerous laugh-out-loud moments. It’s escapism at its very best.”
Megan Murray says: “Scrubs has always been one of my favourite shows for one simple reason: its silliness. The scenes are endlessly creative and bonkers, the characters are hilarious and the fact that the setting always remains the same seems to calm me. It’s an absolute go-to if I don’t know what I feel like watching.”
Parks And Recreation
Anna Brech says: “Starring Amy Poehler as Leslie Knope, an irrepressible small-town bureaucrat, Parks and Recreation is comfort-viewing on tap. With an eccentric and loveable crew of characters at its heart, it’s bursting with wit, warmth and laugh-out-loud observations that just get better as each season progresses. Seriously, if you haven’t watched this yet, get stuck in. Sweet and smooth, it’s the TV equivalent of a vanilla ice-cream shake; you just won’t be able to resist reaching for more.”
Main image: Chris Cuffaio/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty
Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.