No dystopian narratives found here.
TV has long been my vice in hard times.
Whenever I'm sad or sick or lonely, it’s always there for me. When I've had a stressful day in work, when I'm suffering from a particularly nasty hangover or just want to hide away from the world, TV is my answer. Whether it's watching a 90s sitcom or a documentary on serial killers, TV offers a simple escape.
Yet, I've never quite needed TV as much as I do now. Between 2020 being a nightmare of a year and quarantine's uncertain end, finding ways to relax and unwind has become more crucial than ever. While some are turning to stress-baking and others are working out their anxiousness on solitary jogs. Personally, I’m dealing with all this by swaddling myself in blankets until I resemble an expertly wrapped burrito and watching hours upon hours of Netflix, Disney+, Amazon Prime, YouTube and just plain old television.
It's important to point out that I'm not the kind of girl who finds watching TV shows with dystopian narratives comforting. I'm more into the ones you've watched over and over, so when you return, it's like hanging out with old friends. The shows below may not share a genre, subject matter, or much of anything besides a place on my favourite TV shows list, but they all help create a sense of calm in these uncertain times; you can curl up on the couch under a warm blanket, steep some tea, and drop into any of the following comforting TV shows.
Just how I rely on TV to get me through tough times, I also rely heavily on the women in my life. Whether it's calling my mam to have a big cry, ranting about life to my work wives or chatting nonsense with my best friend - I can always count on the women in my life to be there for me. There are two women in particular that I always go to when life gets too much: Lorelai and Rory Gilmore. Although Rory is the worst person I've ever known and there are some pretty unbelievable storylines (seriously, I so much have to look at a Pop-Tart and I've gained ten pounds), Gilmore Girls manages to make everyday dramas that we can actually relate to feel equal parts calming and exciting. From Rory and Lorelai's witty mother-daughter banter to the fact that almost every character (read: everyone but Christopher) is pretty likeable, this is one series that's definitely stood the test of time (questionable reboot aside). The best part? It only gets better the more times you watch it.
rupaul's drag race
I class myself as somewhat of a RuPaul's Drag Race superfan. I've been there since season one with the vaseline filters and each Friday night I stay awake into the early hours of the morning so I can watch the latest episode soon as it's uploaded to Netflix. I've watched each and every spin-off series including the current RuPaul's Celebrity Drag Race series and even the rather questionable Christmas edition, Holi-Slay. Whether it's the cutthroat wit of one Bianca Del Rio or the sheer length of Naomi Smalls' legs, I can always rely on RuPaul’s Drag Race to bring me joy. 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.
It might seem strange to class a TV show which consists mainly of murder, drug use and infidelity comforting but I do. Granted, a lot of that comfort I find mainly in one Tony Soprano and his countless silk shirts but there's also comfort in that there are hours and hours of this show to binge. I first watched The Sopranos when I was a kid with my Dad (PEGI ratings were ignored in my house) and although I can remember the final scene vividly, there's a lot about this show I had forgotten. It's taken me back to the days of being allowed to stay up late to watch The Sopranos, only this time around I'm not sent out of the room when a sex scene comes on screen.
I tune into Gogglebox every single week without fail. Now, seven years and 15 series into the show, the cast are as familiar to me as my own loved ones. When I’m watching TV in the week, I usually take note of any standout moment and hug myself thinking about the candid, funny and telling reactions the Goggleboxers will have later in the week. Thankfully, unlike so many other TV shows, Gogglebox has continued to film during the coronavirus lockdown: rather than welcoming a camera crew into their home for the foreseeable future, the cast have had cameras rigged up so their reactions can be captured as usual. I don't know what it is about this show but I can always rely on Gogglebox to perk me up.
GRACE AND FRANKIE
Vibrators for the elderly, home-brewed yam lube, more than a little septuagenarian shagging – Grace and Frankie is a relatively new Netflix show but one I return to time and time again. Putting (the often invisible) post-menopausal women squarely in the spotlight, it tackles some pretty chewy issues with characteristic grace and, er, frankness. Season six is back on Netflix now, with more of the same plus a Mary Steenburgen cameo. Enjoy.
Cooking is one of those things I wished I did more of – and with times being so uncertain, I've taken it upon myself to learn about the fine art of culinary design from the comfort of my own home...sort of. I've essentially just been watching old seasons of MasterChef US. This is easily the best version of MasterChef simply because it's judged by my favourite angry Scot (and along with Graham Elliot and Joe Bastianich in its earliest iterations). Season 5 should have won awards for its dramatic plots and variety of characters.
BEAT THE CHASERS
The Chase is easily the best quiz show on TV right now (I say this as someone who spends the majority of her time watching quiz shows) but the latest spin-off series of the show, Beat The Chasers is - dare I say it - better than The Chase. The premise is simple: members of the audience are selected at random to test their knowledge against all five of the shows expert quizzers –Mark Labbett (The Beast), Anne Hegerty (The Governess), Shaun Wallace (The Dark Destroyer), Paul Sinha (The Sinnerman) and Jenny Ryan (The Vixen), with increasing prize money depending on how many they choose to take on. Five charismatic master quizzers working together to hunt down fresh meat, what more do you want?
THE OFFICE (UK)
Go ahead and try to prevent your brain from firing off loads of oxytocin as soon as those opening piano notes hit your eardrums. As scenes from Slough and the Wernham Hogg office play across the screen, I fall into a wormhole of nostalgia. 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.
The Office (Us)
I know what you're thinking, how can you watch The Office (UK) and also watch The Office (US). You're supposed to be either team Dawn and Tim or team Pam and Jim. Well, I'm both. I love both versions of this show. The Office (UK) is short and sweet while The Office (US) has over 200 episodes and Dwight. Much like I've dared you to not feel calm soon as the theme song plays over The Office (UK), I set the same challenge to you except this time, try not to laugh at the CPR scene in season five.
I'm not entirely sure whether I can call TV that has you squirming so hard you might pull a muscle 'comforting', but there is no better show to be under a duvet with right now. Despite the oddly timeless, placeless setting (it’s filmed in Wales but the American lockers and letterman jackets are a deliberate homage to '80s John Hughes movies), Sex Education pinpoints a universal feeling of yearning, hormone-addled adolescence. And unlike the films it throws back to, the cast is beautifully diverse and so is their wide range of sexual adventures. Grab a notebook, we’re not too old to learn.
Look, we all know by now that Friends is problematic. That’s established. It’s agreed. With two decades' hindsight, I see the casual homophobia, the fat-shaming, the disturbingly whitewashed vision of New York. But I also know that, like the rest of the world, I'm still watching it 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, I cry, I still scream at Rachel to get off the plane.
OLD seasons OF LOVE ISLAND
A few weeks ago, I made fun of my boyfriend who decided to watch old football matches just to – and I quote – "feel something." Well, he's feeling pretty smug right now as I've resorted to watching old seasons of Love Island. Last week it was announced that there would be no Love Island this year and the heartache I felt then is what I imagine my boyfriend felt when football got cancelled. There's something quite lovely about watching your favourite couples fall in love all over again...you've just got to ignore the fact that they've since had vicious breakups. Still, Kem + Amber forever.
I have been watching Peep Show since 2003. In the seventeen years between then and now, there have been very few weeks in which I have not watched at least one of its 54 episodes, and few months in which I have not rewatched the entire series. I do not decide to rewatch Peep Show. I am in a permanent state of rewatching. It is a process. Like forgiveness. Or sobriety. Or religion.
It's been one week since I started the Fox sitcom that popularised (and then killed) the term "adorkable," and I've already run through almost 100 episodes. I've become so immersed in the world of New Girl that I practically feel like I live in that loft, which is maybe exactly what I need since I'd absolutely trade my current sequestered living situation for being stuck in that unrealistic-sized apartment with those five lovable weirdos. Hell, it also doesn't hurt that they have their own quarantine experience.
GORDON RAMSAY'S KITCHEN NIGHTMARES
No matter how I'm feeling, it's always playing on my TV. For background noise, for laughs, to cheer me up, to get me to sleep; seriously, for any reason. It always completes my day.
Now, I’m not talking about Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmare’s – I’m speaking about Gordon Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmare’s the American version of the British series. The British series was a lot more, well, British. It looked at the issues of alcoholism within the restaurant industry and running a restaurant in a country where most people cook at home. That’s all well and good, but honestly, I find it' boring – the only thing that stood out was that Gordon Ramsay is excellent at shouting at people and gave everyone a really useful clip on YouTube on how to carve a chicken correctly (seriously, it’s so good). The American series is honestly the worst best TV show in the history of the world. There, I said it.
Main image by @sopranostyle on Instagram