Television has been a staple of modern entertainment for decades, providing audiences with endless hours of drama, comedy, and everything in between. Yet despite the constant influx of new content, many people find themselves drawn back to old TV shows. From Friends to The Office, Seinfeld to The Sopranos, there are countless TV shows that people love to re-watch time and time again. But why is this? Why do we find ourselves returning to the same shows over and over again? Joseph Child explores why.
The scientific term for this phenomenon is ‘Volitional re-consumption’ and it refers to experiences that we actively and consciously seek to experience again. The reasoning behind this common trait is still greatly disputed and varies in most cases, but it is understood that this can be a way of seeking comfort and familiarity, reliving pleasant memories or simply enjoying something that you find entertaining.
It can also be a way for us to gain new perspectives on our once loved shows, as our experiences and knowledge will have most likely have changed since the initial watch. So you may think that this desire to go back and rewatch all 7 seasons of Gilmore Girls is simply a kind of yearning for the past, however in a series if papers published by Professor Christel Russell at the Graziadio Business School at Pepperdine University, she states that this act or re-watching instead “allowed people to appreciate how much they had grown”.
By consciously re-watching shows like this most people will question their own past principles and values as we learn more about ourselves as a society and recognise our own growth
The suggestion here being that to re-watch is not a yearning for the past but instead arguably an appreciation of the present. And this is something that most of us can recognise when we rewatch dated shows such as Friends; shows that at one time or another made us giggle for their use of comedy when we were younger but upon rewatching the show as an adult, you may realize that some of the jokes and storylines perpetuate harmful stereotypes or promote problematic ideas. One example being the portrayal of Chandler’s father as a transgender woman. The show frequently made jokes about Chandler’s father’s gender identity and used it as a source of comedy. This portrayal perpetuated harmful stereotypes about the LGBTQ+ community and contributed to a culture of transphobia. But by consciously re-watching shows like this most people will question their own past principles and values as we learn more about ourselves as a society and recognise our own growth.
This sense of comfort and familiarity can help us alleviate stress and provide a feeling of security hence why we saw a resurgence of 90’s and early 00’s sitcoms during lockdown with The Office taking the title of most streamed show in 2020
In today’s fast-paced and stressful world, finding comfort in the past is understandable. The nostalgic experience of re-watching old TV shows plays a significant role in why we do it. This sense of comfort and familiarity can help us alleviate stress and provide a feeling of security, hence why we saw a resurgence of 90’s and early 00’s sitcoms during lockdown with The Office taking the title of most streamed show in 2020. With the stagnation of new film productions during lockdown due to restrictions, it was understandable that people sought solace in their favourite TV shows as they binged watched whole seasons one after another just waiting for freedom day.
A government survey conducted in April by the Office of National Statistics revealed that 47% of respondents reported high levels of stress due to the coronavirus outbreak. Additionally, 53% of people claimed that lockdown had an impact on their wellbeing. Many turned to activities like meditation and yoga, but television emerged as the most popular choice. Mental health charity SANE’s spokesperson, Richard Colwill, stated that re-watching shows could positively contribute to alleviating our worries and woes in uncertain times: “watching something comforting and familiar on television can be helpful during this period of uncertainty and anxiety,” he also stated that “Nostalgia is a powerful thing and it can help to connect us to more normal, happier times. In short, if it works for you then great.”. So, the next time you turn on your favourite show, you can do so knowing it’s a great way to practise self-care.
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