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Discussion: Comfort Watching

I watched Dexter. I watched House of Cards. I watched The Walking Dead. I watched Game of Thrones. I enjoyed all these shows (for a time, didn’t finish any of them). I’ve never been into horror or overly fond of gore but there was a time I was really into dark, premium cable television. Always counterbalanced with lighter fare, but there was a time when a new episode of True Blood was the highlight of my week.

I think it really started with Trump’s election in 2016. I know we keep Doux a politics-free zone, but I’m keeping it 100 here... do the kids still say that? Life got a little dark. And by a little, I mean a lot. I lost my beloved dog two years after that and then in March 2020... well, you all know that story.

It was a gradual process for me. First I started avoiding watching dark stuff at night, then I would keep all the shows I intended to watch on a list and just never seemed to break through to the “more grown-up” things. I had to stop watching Archer because the line separating Sterling Archer from Bob Belcher started getting fuzzy and if I have to choose between those two, I mean... it’s no choice at all. Disney+ launched, giving me easy access to nearly every show and movie from my childhood. True crime lifted right out of my watching rotation. And then, before I knew it I just wasn’t watching anything particularly dark anymore. And you know what’s weird? I’m kind of fine with that.

I skipped Severance completely. I refused to watch Succession and have Matthew Macfadyen’s Darcy corrupted. For similar reasons, I did not watch Colin Firth’s The Staircase. I kept stalling returning to Outlander. I never finished Black Sails. I still intend to finish Orphan Black (no spoilers, please). Peaky Blinders? Dropped. Harley Quinn? Grossed me out. As soon as The Crown started dealing with Diana’s eating disorder, that got backburnered too.

Don’t call it a rut. It’s not that. It’s a choice to not watch things that upset or trigger me. I watch Bob’s Burgers and Disney Afternoon shows from the 90s and a lot of cozy murder mysteries. The only thing I really wish I had the capacity to watch right now is The Great because it looks fantastic. I did try there, but the chaotic tone of the show was just not working for me.

I watch nice things now. Mostly old stuff, but I have enjoyed The Equalizer, and am looking forward to new Doctor Who. I keep up with the late night shows (just Stephen and Seth, sometimes Trevor, and the occasionally weekly shows of Jon Stewart and John Oliver). I listen to more adult-y podcasts while I pin pictures of the Eiffel Tower on Pinterest. I just started Rachel Maddow presents Ultra and it’s so interesting. The way that woman tells a story...

I really don’t feel like I’m missing out on stuff. Social media keeps me mostly informed about the shows that I’m choosing not to watch so, for instance, I know how Peaky Blinders ended. I’ve kept up on House of the Dragon via Wikipedia episode summaries. I don’t want to watch my beloved Eleventh Doctor being that murdery and incesty.

On rare occasions I’ll watch a darker movie. I did get to The Suicide Squad eventually. For Harley. I started (but have notably stalled in) a Daredevil rewatch. I tried to return to The Alienist. It did not go well. I did manage to watch all of Moon Knight. It helped that it was short and I had my valiant best friend to warn me when an episode was going to be intense.

What about you guys? Do you ever feel like you just can’t handle what the internet thinks you’re supposed to be watching? Are you a cartoon watcher like me? What shows do you turn to in dark times? Does anyone have any nice and light recommendations for me?

- sunbunny

12 comments:

  1. Personally, I'm still a huge sucker for dark stuff. I'm watching The Leftovers right now and absolutely loving it, though I totally get the feeling that something is too much for you. For example, I remember skipping past any pandemic-related episodes (Person Of Interest's Reassortment) or even shows (12 Monkeys) for pretty much all of 2020 and 2021, and it's still a bit of a sore spot now. I guess it's more of a case by case basis for me, sometimes I try out a show and drop it because I just can't handle it at that point in time.

    Usually, when I want something light-hearted, I turn to a sitcom like Community or a slice of life anime like Nichijou or K-On, but I'd also recommend looking into USA Network's Blue Sky TV lineup. From the late 2000s to the early 2010s, USA focused on releasing optimistic, light-hearted, and fun (if procedural) shows like Monk, Burn Notice, and my personal favorite of the bunch, Psych. They don't do this kind of stuff anymore, but I think there's a lot of merits in these reliably entertaining and fluffy series.

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  2. Yeah, I couldn't handle The Handmaid's Tale this season. I hope I'll be able to go back to it.

    The ultimate in comfort for me is Star Trek. Right now, my daughter and I are nearing the end of the original series, her for the first time whereas I have absolutely no idea how to even estimate how many times I've seen it. (It ran five nights a week at six pm for YEARS in my youth, and we almost always watched it.)

    I rewatched Buffy and Lucifer during the pandemic so that was about my speed. I used to feel that sort of love for Veronica Mars until Rob Thomas' final reboot ruined it. Curse you, Rob Thomas.

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  3. Bottom line: are YOU being entertained by what you watch? And after the last couple of years (and the next two coming) there's a real need for some comfort.... anything.

    I try to keep a mix of challenging & comfort, so I have 3 tiers of being entertained:
    1 - watch the previous ep right before the next one. Big shows; Outlander, Handmaids, Trek, Rings Of Power, Severance, Westworld, Mr. Robot, etc. I need to just figure shit out, which is entertaining.
    2 - watch it once and fugittaboutit till next week, my "comfort category". Right now that's Quantum Leap and Big Sky. Entertaining and comfortable. Looking forward to next week.
    3 - hate watch & yell at the screen. Hi, Manifest! That's entertaining too. Can even be aerobic. Can't help it. I'm just too good at snark to pass it up.

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  4. @CelStudios loved Burn Notice, loved Psych, LOVED (and recently rewatched) Monk. I wish they were making more cute and quirky procedurals like that today.

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  5. I have two go-to comfort shows: Agatha Christie's Poirot (The David Suchet series, not the more recent adaptations), and Frasier. They never fail to lift the spirits, no matter how many times I watch them.

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  6. LOVE Poirot! I watch it regularly too. And there's so many of them! 😊

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  7. Watching the Sandman, but I stopped at the dream of a thousand cats, won't be watching Calliope. I didn't like this story in the comics, won't watch it on TV. Too painfull. Confort shows: anything marvel, star wars or star trek. Or old anime I used to watch (saint seiya, captain tsubasa...)

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  8. I remember when I was a young kid. I thought that the only good movies or TV shows were horror. Then later as a teenager it was action movies. Then it was thrillers.
    The older I get, the more bored I am with these genres. They do nothing for me anymore. I think gore in horror, and action is just boring and takes away from the real storytelling.
    These last few years I have noticed that I have been desperately searching for good things to watch. As we all kind of live in a bad B movie right now (imo), that's understandable. But it's hard, everything seems grim, violent, gory.

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  9. Sunbunny, I understand.

    I definitely still watch some darker stuff. Peaky Blinders would be the obvious choice!

    So it's not darkness or grit that's turning me off these days. I think it's "realism," if by realism we mean the misery of life in the current moment. Or anything that even evokes the misery of life in the current moment.

    The Great British Baking Show is not, by that definition, realism. It's a fantasy land filled with baked goods. (And puddings. I still don't understand what they mean by that word.)

    The Expanse is realism by that definition: I still haven't finished the...fifth season, I think? Because some of the stuff happening on Earth just felt too rough to watch during lockdowns, and now I've lost my momentum.

    I'm stuck mid-season on Outlander because there's some tension there about people not liking Claire, which I suppose is always true, but it just felt a little too rough for me right now.

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  10. I'm enjoying a lot of either light hearted things or ones that i know turn out good... the first few seasons of castle, some psych, haven't rewatched Monk yet I'll have to put it on my list! The Good Place. My 15yo son convinced me to buy him popcorn in exchange for watching a non-action movie from the 80s or 90s but I'm awful at remembering movies I like until they're in front of me. It's Halloween costume making time though (we go all out) so I have time to think.

    The mention of Darkwing Duck in the title - man, I loved that show. And Talespin! Will have to look and see if those are available.

    For quick comfort viewing I watch pop medical youtube videos, Dr Mike and Mama Dr Jones. Love to watch their reaction videos to TV shows and memes.

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  11. Nonei, most of Disney Afternoon is available on Disney+! I don't know what country you're in, i know availability is different from country to country, but in the US they have everything except the animated Aladdin series for some reason.

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    1. Thanks! We do have Disney+ for Star Trek but I haven't been on it much. Will have to look! I am in the US.

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