I admit it — I watch a lot of TV. I’ll try anything someone suggests, even caving to “Game of Thrones” after fighting my husband for several years because I don’t like things with dragons.
I see television as not only an escape but an art form. I admire the amount of work it takes to make a great show and truly believe we are living in the Golden Age of television and are beyond lucky to have streaming platforms and access to more shows than we can probably ever watch.
While I’ll give anything a chance, however, I do find myself repeating more shows than starting new ones. I do it simply because I want to, but now science has confirmed what I already knew — it’s good for us, too. According to a 2012 study from the University of Chicago Press published in the Journal of Consumer Research, rereading a book, sitting in your favorite booth at your favorite restaurant and, of course, rewatching your favorite TV show is, simply put, comforting.
While we probably didn’t need a study to tell us that, it’s a pretty tough one to argue with. I don’t know anyone who would say rewatching their favorite episode of “Friends” doesn’t bring them joy and nostalgia or that they don’t still laugh the sixth time they watch Jim puts Dwight’s stapler in Jell-O on “The Office”.
Personally, the show that most lines up with the study and makes me feel comforted and full of joy is AMC’s Emmy-award-winning series “Mad Men”, which ran from 2007-2015. It revolves around one of New York’s most prestigious ad agencies in the 1960s, specifically the mysterious, not-so-great-of-a-person and yet somehow charming Donald Draper. It is full of drama, humor, nostalgia, smart writing and my personal favorite, the best the ’60s had to offer when it comes to style, music and culture.
As a product of the late ’80s (but mostly ’90s), it would not be surprising if my childhood included chunky sneakers on my feet and Lip Smackers on my lips. Instead, I wore tie-dye, grew my hair to my waist, had a fascination with ’60s music, drew smiley faces on everything and would have been protesting in the streets if I wasn’t 8 years old. The film that defined my childhood was “Now and Then,” which was set in 1970, I’ll forever argue that the Beatles are the best and I am indeed still growing my hair.
So, when a friend suggested I watch a show set in the decade I’ve always felt like I should have been a part of, I started it immediately. I’ve been through the series’ 92 episodes three times so far and am currently fighting back the urge to start it for a fourth time by listening to the music used in the show instead. Each time I watch it, I see or hear something I didn’t catch before, which makes it feel new, but still familiar like a friend you don’t see as often as you’d like.
If you’ve seen “Mad Men” or plan on watching it, I must point out that while the costumes and set design are basically brilliant, it also shows the worst parts of the past — racism, sexism, drinking (a lot) and a whole lot of other things most people probably wish hadn’t happened. But as the saying goes, “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” So, as hard as it is to see what most now would consider inappropriate behavior, it’s important to know it did (and sometimes still does) exist.
This part of the show is why while I may now be basically addicted to it, it took me a few times to get through the first few episodes. “These men are pigs, why would I want to watch this?” was my first (and second, third, fourth) thought. I stuck it out though and found that not only is it important to get a glimpse (even a fictional one) of the past, but — mini spoiler alert — the women aren’t always secretaries, and there’s some serious smashing of the patriarchy in the later seasons (though there could, of course, always be more).
Not only does this rise of female power in a decade when it was even more difficult bring me joy and confidence, but one scene in particular actually gave me strength to quit my former job and do what I am doing now — writing this from my midcentury modern (aka “Mad Men” style) home office.
I find I even tend to turn to the show in upsetting times of my life or when I am overly stressed — again, just like the study says, for comfort. Aside from all the girl power and the fact that Jon Hamm is on my list of all-time favorite people to ever exist (the one and only reason my husband thinks I watch it), “Mad Men” is like stepping into a time capsule of a decade I wish I had lived through. It takes me back to times spent at my grandparent’s house, which I wish I would have cherished more, making me feel at home and comforting me when I need it. (And don’t even get me started on the holiday episodes — Christmas in the ’50s and ’60s was something of pure magic.)
Mostly, though, venturing into a world without the internet, social media, cell phones and crazy hectic lives we all lead helps instill a sense of calm when I’m feeling overstimulated.
I could go on and on about “Mad Men,” and why you should rewatch your favorite show, but instead, I’m going to suggest you just go ahead and do it instead.
Do you agree with the study that rewatching our favorite shows is healthy? What show could you watch over and over again?