In this time and age, there is a long list of TV shows premiering every season, adding seasons to their history, or coming back to our screens. You will hear people commenting on their favorite moments, tweeting their favorite quotes, and sharing snippets on their Instagram stories. But although the titles continue to grow as more stories become available, people go back to their comfort shows more than once. Then, we find ourselves wondering why today’s society tends to rewatch TV shows.
The science behind it
If you take a look around at your social groups, you will come to realize you have found yourselves on more than one occasion discussing TV shows. Talking about your favorite characters. Avoiding spoilers when you fall a couple of episodes behind. Recommending new shows to those who have no idea what to watch next. But as you do this, you begin to see a pattern. Most of your friends find themselves rewatching shows they have seen many times before. Do you ever wonder why? Yes, there is a reason for that.
According to Symptoms of Living, we tend to go back to the same TV shows over and over again for five reasons. Energy consumption. Commitment. Control. Nostalgia. The mere exposure effect. What do they mean?
Energy consumption: “To avoid the energy-consuming task of looking through possible shows and deciding which to watch, we prefer to repeat a previous decision and rewatch something. That choice doesn’t feel like a choice at all, but rather a continuation of when we first watched it. We rewatch shows to avoid unnecessary energy being dedicated to choosing what to watch instead.”
Commitment: “One of the primary perks of rewatching a show is that you’re not committing; you’re not guaranteeing what you’ll watch for weeks or even months to come. Instead, it is just now, just one or two episodes. You can pick it up and drop it as you please. You know the story, so any point you join at allows you to visit and leave as you please.”
Control: “We clutch at the small things in our control, one of which is what we choose to watch. Streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime serve only to inundate us with choices. For once, we’re spoiled, with countless thrillers, comedies, dramas, and more at our fingertips. We get to choose what we’ll watch; we’re in control of that. And so we may exercise this control with a safe choice, given how new a sensation it is. If we were to choose a wildcard and not enjoy it, we would blame ourselves, considering precious time wasted. We use this control wisely and choose something familiar to us if only to pretend it was a matter of control in the first place.”
Nostalgia: “You may rewatch the same shows that bring you to a more favourable time in your life, one you want to reminisce over. Additionally, you may rewatch shows because of when you first watched them. The point is that nostalgia goes further than the content of the TV show but instead refers to everything that surrounds it. Rewatching a show isn’t merely about that show but includes everything surrounding it. Who you were when you first watched it, who you watched it with, even why you were watching it can have an effect.”
The mere exposure effect: “By rewatching shows, you feel closer to the characters portrayed. If you’re feeling low or static, you want to turn to people you know well, as you feel that you can trust them more. You don’t want to be encountered by strangers, characters who could do anything or have some secret revealed that will change how you see them. You want your friends, even if those are behind a screen.”
No matter what your reason might be, rewatching a TV show certainly brings you a sense of comfort.
The reality of it
I type these words as I paused an episode of my Ted Lasso rewatch between my Law & Order: Special Victims Unit rewatch. To that, you can add my Schitt’s Creek rewatch from the end of last year. I find myself always coming back to the shows that brought me comfort, the characters who feel like family, and the towns that feel like home. In times of need or sadness, they are always there to make it better.
Since I was a little girl, I found refuge in several shows that helped me feel happier. Shows that I watched with my mom and my brothers. Shows that I began watching during a rough patch and made me feel like I could get through it. Shows that were written to show us there always is a chance at a happy ending. I believe that is why we watch them over and over again. To believe that whatever happens, we can always be as happy as our favorite characters get to be in their world.
There are different studies and reasons why today’s society tends to rewatch TV shows, and more than one may apply to you. The truth is those shows were created to make them our own and find joy in them. So, what better way to do that than by coming back to their minutes on screen?