We watch television for many different reasons. Sometimes to escape the day to day mundanity of life, sometimes to feel, and sometimes so we know what the hell people are talking about at work the next day. And then there are shows that we watch when we need a pick me up. They might not even be your favorite shows. They’re the shows that welcome you home like a friend when you need to unburden yourself from the frustrations of work, family, and life, man. They are comfort food in televised form, like homemade bread and butter that also entertains. Whether they’re classic sitcoms, British whodunnits, or something brand new, the comfort show is a critical part of your watching patterns. We asked a few of our writers to share some of their favorites and we want to know which shows welcome you home as well, so spill in the comment section.
I estimate, loosely and without fret of accuracy, that I have seen every episode of Seinfeld 15 times. It’s not an obsession, it’s just so ubiquitous on syndication. And now that it’s on Hulu, in terms of it being a comfort, it’s akin to a great soup place moving into your living room. I’m not going to make a lazy Soup Nazi callout here, for the record.
Part of what makes the show so appealing to me, beyond the quality and hyper-relatability, is my personal familiarity. There is no episode of this show that I don’t have partially memorized. Remember that scene in Groundhog Day when Bill Murray sits on a bench and calls out events before they transpire like some kind of God? That’s me watching Seinfeld, and me feeling like a God is a great comfort. For me and for you, I should think. — Jason Tabrys
Even though Futurama ended its second (third?) life on television in 2013, it’s still a regular fixture in my viewing schedule. Sometimes when I’m writing, I just let that sucker run in the background. Other times if I’m stressed out, that’s the first series I hit on my Netflix queue. To say I’m a devotee of the show is an understatement, given that I’ve named three cats after characters on the show, with plans to name more as I come to acquire them. (Dr. Zoidberg is currently planned for the next fuzzy friend that enters my life.) To me, the show is superior to The Simpsons in every way, and I can’t for the life of me understand how it didn’t get an FXX revival or marathon along the lines of its sister show.
What makes Futurama excellent as comfort TV is the fact that you can watch the show a thousand times and still discover something new going on in the background. If you’re mathematically inclined, the show has this entire secret side to it that only reveals itself to people who put in the time and effort. But even if that’s not the case, the jokes are just as funny as they were when the episode originally aired. It’s reliable. That’s the key, and I know every time I turn on the show and plow through a whole mess of episodes, I’m going to laugh every time. — BJ Mendelson
Murder, She Wrote
There can be no better show to ease you out of a rough day than Murder, She Wrote. Angela Lansbury as Jessica Fletcher is a strong, female island in a sea of huge ’80s hair, shoulder pads, comb-overs, and toupees. You can count on at least one dead person per episode, at least one character actor you forgot about or actor that actually made it big (I see you with your mullet, Bill Maher), at least one bumbling law enforcement representative, and a clean wrap-up. By the time the closing credits freeze frame Jessica in the middle of an awkward laugh, it’s like you have been given chamomile tea and had your pillows fluffed. Bonus comfort for any of the episodes explicitly about sex or ones where Jessica pretends to be drunk. — Alia Stearns
Are You Being Served?
Ever since I was a kid, I’ve hated Are You Being Served?, which I didn’t understand and therefore never found funny. Then, I married a dude who owns the entire series, all the spin-offs, the behind-the-scenes books and even a novelization of several episodes he picked up on Amazon and spent several evenings audibly guffawing over and reading out loud in the worst English accent any of us could imagine (yes, worse than Madonna’s).
I’ve fought the show forever, but after hearing episode after episode every night for the past six years (to the point where I can now tell what season an episode is from and even recite a few lines), I’ve secretly begun to enjoy it. It’s my go-to when I have nothing else to watch (and when I miss my husband, awwwww) and I even find myself unconsciously choosing to watch it when I have a bad day. I even watch it when I’m sick! I don’t know if I’ve been brainwashed (probably not, because I still don’t think it’s funny), but there’s just something incredibly soothing about watching a motley crew of characters putter around a ’70s department store. I don’t know why I love it. I just do. — Mark Shrayber
Something about the oddball residents of fictional Cicely, Alaska still seems welcoming and familiar 20 years after the show went off the air. Some of the pop culture references and fashion trends seem dated, but the show’s highly imaginative and often hilarious storytelling still holds up. Now, if only Netflix would put the series on streaming so I could binge-watch it. — Joel Stice
Sure, it may have only been out on Netflix for a couple of weeks, but as soon as I started that first episode, I felt immediately at home. It was so specifically familiar, despite the fact I was hanging on the edge of my seat not knowing what was about to unfold. It’s not a surprise, given that the show’s creators, The Duffer Brothers, have gone out of their way to pay homage to Stephen King and Stephen Spielberg, with just the right amount of John Carpenter thrown in. As we noted in our review, its surgically precise nostalgia hits all the right notes for people like me who grew up submerged in the genre films that Stranger Things pays such careful homage to, and it is the perfect show to lose yourself in, be it the wee hours of the night or on a lazy Sunday afternoon.
There are some shows that are just pleasantly familiar, where turning on an episode feels like wrapping yourself up in a cozy blanket and pouring a nice cuppa tea. Gilmore Girls is one of those shows. If you’re ever feeling awful or overwhelmed, taking a quick trip to Stars Hollow is one of the best ways to take the edge off. These are good people being mostly nice to each other while talking very, very fast, and sometimes that’s all you really need. Whether this show carried you through high school or you discovered it when it hit Netflix, there is something so uniquely wonderful about this world and the characters that inhabit it. If you need a laugh or even a cathartic cry, Gilmore Girls is always there to make you feel a little better. — Alyssa Fikse
The Office is my comfort show. I can’t go a year without watching it all the way through, and I would say it’s been a security blanket for me for the last decade. When my dog died unexpectedly earlier this year, all I could do was marathon The Office and swallow mashed potatoes. But beyond soothing grief, The Office, to me, is a way I measure my life and the passage of time. The first episode I ever watched was on my newly-purchased video iPod (the episode about the video iPod). I remember where I was and what I was doing during season three’s Jim & Pam will they or won’t they. I remember it all, and it has always been comforting. Even the weird, later years. — Jason Nawara
The answer is almost always 30 Rock. Sometimes it might be Cheers, and I’d mix in some Wings if I could find it anywhere, but even more than Seinfeld and hate-watch sessions of Friends, 30 Rock is the show that always makes me smile and laugh, regardless of my mood. I’ve probably watched this series in its entirety over 100 times now, and it doesn’t get old. Even Parks and Rec, which is probably fourth for me behind 30 Rock, Cheers, and Seinfeld, has episodes that I can’t watch anymore (looking at you, all of season one), but 30 Rock reveals something new to me every time I watch it. Just the other day, I cried laughing when Jenna Maroney says, “We’ll take a pube count, but it doesn’t feel worth it.” Made me forget all about my crippling self-loathing for several minutes. — Ashley Burns
Also 30 Rock
Vince Mancini seconds the 30 Rock nomination and bolsters the case with a series of well-curated GIFS.
So, what’s your favorite comfort show?