What’s Your TV ‘Comfort Food’?

Is there a TV show you regularly watch when you’re stressed, tired or in need of comfort? Why do you think it soothes you?

Last month, the research firm Nielsen released a report about the streaming habits of Americans, including a list of the top-10 most-watched shows in 2023. Among them: “Suits,” “NCIS,” “The Big Bang Theory,” “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Friends.” Have you watched any of those shows recently?

In a related article, The Times looked at another of those shows, “The Gilmore Girls,” and asked why the characters and the setting — the fictional town of Stars Hollow, Conn. — remain popular, though the series ended in 2007.

In “‘Gilmore Girls’ Is an Endless Buffet of TV Comfort Food,” Melina Delkic writes:

Netflix recorded 500 million viewing hours for the show from January to June of last year, surpassing hits like “Seinfeld” and “Stranger Things,” and data released on Monday by the research firm Nielsen showed that “Gilmore Girls” was among the Top 10 most-watched shows across the major streaming platforms in 2023.

The show, which concluded the month before the iPhone was introduced, is even finding a younger audience on TikTok, where users post scenes they love and argue about their favorite romantic partners for every character.

Yanic Truesdale, who played the grumpy inn concierge Michel, lovingly called it “the show that will never die.”

“I’ve had hundreds, if not thousands, over the years, of people saying, ‘I got a surgery, and your show kept me going,’” he said. “Or, ‘I lost my dad,’ or ‘I lost this person, and I would watch the show and I would feel better.’”

He added that he still meets fans who offer testaments to its popularity: “I’m always amazed that 10-year-olds, 15-year-olds — kids — are watching it as if it just came out.”

What is it about this show that makes it so comforting to rewatch?

“It has that heart that touches people,” said Brenda Maben, the show’s costume designer.

“There’s no violence,” she added. “It’s just small-town love, basically, and that’s why I think people like it. It makes them feel safe and warm and cozy. It just brings up good feelings.”

For Truesdale, the appeal “probably more so now than ever is that it’s not a cynical show; it’s a show about a bunch of different people that come together and find ways to like each other and get along.”

Students, read the entire article and then tell us:

  • Do you love “The Gilmore Girls”? If so, why? If not, did this article help you understand the appeal?

  • What show is your “comfort food” — the one you’d describe as “an emotional support show,” or a show that gives you the “same feeling of remembering that you have a pint of your favorite ice cream in the freezer”?

  • Why? What is it about this show that makes it so rewarding to rewatch? Are there episodes that you especially love?

  • The article mentions that watching “comfort shows” can be a way of coping, and that the cold and gloomy seasons can amplify the need for self-care. Is this true for you? Do you tend to watch more TV in the winter?

  • The article also describes how rewatching favorite shows can reduce loneliness, help with our moods and reduce stress. For example, a clinical psychologist is quoted saying, “If predictability or certainty is missing from your life, or if we’re reflecting on the larger political landscape, or environmental uncertainty, even something like a TV show can definitely act as a certainty anchor.” Do you agree with this? What psychological effects do rewatching favorite shows have for you? How aware are you of these effects when you choose to watch?

Students 13 and older in the United States and Britain, and 16 and older elsewhere, are invited to comment. All comments are moderated by the Learning Network staff, but please keep in mind that once your comment is accepted, it will be made public and may appear in print.

Find more Student Opinion questions here. Teachers, check out this guide to learn how you can incorporate these prompts into your classroom.

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