7 comforting TV shows to watch when you need your soul soothed

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Sarah Shaffi
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Sometimes you just need a break from high-stakes drama and tension.

We are currently living in a golden age of television, evidenced by the fact that there are more bingeable shows than ever (and more platforms to watch them on).

The lull between Christmas and New Year will be filled for many people by season two of You, the extremely addictive drama about Joe (Penn Badgley), a bookshop owner whose idea of romance includes stalking, lying and, oh yes, murder.

If fantasy is more your game, then perhaps you’re watching The Witcher, the new Henry Cavill show based on books by Andrzej Sapkowski, which is a good old-fashioned story of oppression and darkness.

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But sometimes, regardless of how good the latest water-cooler show is, you just want to watch something soothing. Something that feels like being wrapped in a fleecy blanket. Something that won’t make your pulse race from fear or your blood pressure rise through stress. Something which maybe has a little tension, but nothing that could be described as more serious that “mild peril”.

Well, if that’s what you’re after, we’ve got you covered. Here are seven TV shows that will entertain and calm, all at the same time.

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  • Schitt’s Creek

    This Canadian drama-comedy is arguably the best show on TV at the moment. The Rose family – businessman Johnny, actor Moira, and their spoilt children David and Alexis – are forced to move to a motel in the town of Schitt’s Creek after losing all their money. There, in among the surreal residents, they learn what it really means to be a family and open their hearts to love. The show’s sixth and final season airs in 2020, but that’s enough time to watch to watch the first five seasons at least once, and bask in the pure joy and perfection of the show. Every episode is gold, but the series is elevated mid-season three, when the sweet but sarcastic Patrick is introduced, and proceeds to turn David’s world upside down.

    Where to watch: Seasons one to five of Schitt’s Creek are available to watch on Netflix. 

  • The Great British Bake Off

    Baked goods are the ultimate in comfort food, so is there a show that feels more perfect for busy times than The Great British Bake Off? The contestants are there to create beautiful looking, great tasting breads, cakes, pastries and more, and sure, that’s one reason we like it. But really, we watch for the banter between the hosts (Mel and Sue in the first seven seasons, and Sandi and Noel in the newer episodes), and the friendships between the competitors. Who can forget Nadiya and Tamal’s friendship from season six? Or Benjamina and Selasi from season seven? Sure, there’s stressful moments in the show (like Baked Alaska-gate, or dough that lands on the floor), but they’re brief and often resolved quickly. This is low-stakes drama, perfect for watching while indulging in your favourite sweet (or savoury) treat.

    Where to watch: Seasons one to seven of The Great British Bake Off are available on Netflix. Seasons eight to 10 of The Great British Bake Off are available on Channel 4.

  • Queer Eye

    Here’s a show that’s both high on emotions (make sure you have tissues, you will cry) but also calming at the same time because it’s a show all about resolutions and happy endings. Watching Jonathan, Antoni, Tan, Bobby and Karamo help people of all ages and backgrounds find their best selves is, to sum it up inadequately, wonderful. The first episode of the reboot, about a divorced man named Tom, will always be a classic. We also recommend watching season one, episode four with AJ, who uses his time with the team to help him come out to his stepmother, and season two, episode one, with Tammye, the first woman the Fab 5 make over.

    Where to watch: All seasons of Queer Eye are available on Netflix.

  • Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries

    A show with “murder” in the title doesn’t exactly sound soothing, but trust us on this one. The Australian series is about Phryne Fisher, a private detective in 1920s Melbourne. Phryne is independently wealthy, single by choice, and whip-smart. Each episode revolves around a different murder (or two; the show is like an Australian Midsomer Murders, there are so many dead people each week), but the fear factor never goes above about a six. The real joy of the series is in the relationships; Phryne’s maid Dot, a budding private detective herself, has a very cute burgeoning romance with constable Hugh Collins, while Phryne’s ongoing flirtation with detective Jack Robinson will give you life.

    Where to watch: All seasons of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries are available on Netflix

  • Pride and Prejudice

    The sight of Colin Firth getting out of a lake dressed in a billowing white shirt might get some hearts racing, but overall the BBC adaptation of Jane Austen’s classic novel is pretty calming. The story of the Bennet sisters and their quest to find love is the perfect box set to binge; it’s funny, has enough light drama to keep things interesting, and is about a group of independent-minded young women who couldn’t care less what society expects of them.

    Where to watch: Pride and Prejudice is available to watch on BBC iPlayer.

  • Tidying Up With Marie Kondo

    There’s something satisfying about things being clean and in their place, but when you don’t feel like hanging up your clothes properly then you can watch tidying guru Marie Kondo helping other people do it on TV. In her show Tidying Up With Marie Kondo, Kondo helps different people each episode tidy up not just their homes, but also their lives. Add in that Kondo has a very soothing manner, and you’ll find yourself relaxing just moments into viewing the show. A tip: skip the first episode, because watching the couple who are the subject of it increasingly weaponise the word “babe” is not soothing, but from episode two onwards you’ll be fine.

    Where to watch: Tidying Up is available to watch on Netflix.

  • Call the Midwife

    Adapted from the memoirs of Jennifer Worth, Call the Midwife is a look at midwifery and family in the East End of London in the 1950s. There are definitely some sad moments, but overall this is a show about hope and sisterhood, and it’ll warm your heart. The best thing is that with eight seasons, there are plenty of episodes to watch.

    Where to watch: Call the Midwife seasons one to eight are available to watch on BBC iPlayer.

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Sarah Shaffi

Sarah Shaffi is a freelance journalist and editor. She reads more books a week than is healthy, and balances this out with copious amounts of TV. She writes regularly about popular culture, particularly how it reflects and represents society.

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