Whether it's a drama like The Sopranos or Breaking Bad, a happy-go-lucky comfort show like Gilmore Girls, or a hilariously irreverent comedy like It‘s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, our favorite shows don't need to be a one-and-done deal. There's utility in the obligatory rewatch of your favorite TV series — for your mental health, creativity, growth, and entertainment. Today, I'm giving you 24 excuses to rewatch that familiar old show for the fifth time.
1. It Can Fulfill Our Social Desire for Belonging
Television series that revolve around relationships, be they platonic, familial, or romantic, can fulfill the natural human desire to belong to a group. Social interaction cannot be divorced from the human condition; we evolved to form close bonds with others for the sake of our survival. Despite being social creatures by design, we aren't always at liberty to form said relationships: maybe our friends have moved away, or we're spiraling into an episode of social isolation or grieving.
While TV characters are by no means substitutes for meaningful relationships with real people, they can be a useful stand-in when the going gets tough, and we feel like we have no one to lean on. Because the characters are fictional and written for entertainment, you may identify with them more easily than people you're surrounded by. Parasocial relationships can be therapeutic in moderation, acting as surrogate friends during times of intense loneliness or social anxiety.
Let's say you just moved to a big city and know absolutely nobody. Putting on an episode of Friends, a story that follows a group of friends living in the Big Apple, doing what city people do (lounging around in coffee shops and having existential crises) can be the jolt of social relatability you need to cope with the big change and prepare for putting yourself out there.
2. The Familiar Is Reliable
Quite frankly, I don't know that I trust your recommendations. If your favorite series consists of 13 Reasons Why, You, and Pretty Little Liars, then all power to you, but we have nothing in common. I've been burned too many times before. I can't take another disappointment, and I know that Seinfeld isn't going to betray me. What's successfully provoked the right emotions for my mood in the past is bound to work a second, third, fourth, and even fifth time. So, no, thank you. I will not be watching your recommendation of an obscure Serbian TV show shot in black and white that requires subtitles to understand it and is about god-knows-what.
I know what my soul needs right now, and it's terrible people humorously barging into each other's apartments. Plus, I've already formed a bond with these characters; I'm not sure I'm ready for a new relationship. It takes less psychological effort to wade through the emotional recesses of a familiar series than it does to invest in a brand-new one, whose twists, turns, and upsets can be emotionally and energetically exhausting.
3. Nostalgia Is Good for You
Nostalgia isn't just a useless pastime used to cope with being unhappy with the present; it promotes feelings of hope and enables people to think more positively about the future. Actively thinking about the future can cause future-oriented anxiety, whereas looking back at the past fondly can nurture feelings of social connectedness, inspiration, optimism, and creativity and foster motivation for significant life goals. Overall, people were more likely to be more nostalgic due to a traumatic or negative event. The nostalgia, in turn, increased positive emotions, increasing openness to change. Paradoxically, looking back to the past enables us to embrace the future.
Media consumption is an intuitive way to engage with nostalgia. Art and storytelling are among the best ways to capture the people and attitudes that were products of a specific point in time. When I want to reminisce about the early 2000s, before social media eclipsed our worlds, I'll put on something that revolves around slow living, like Gilmore Girls. No one is tweeting or sitting on their iPad at Luke's Diner. There is not a phone in sight, just people living in the moment.
Memes aside, witnessing the presence or absence of technology in a piece of art can be cathartic. It reminds us that there was a time when this wasn't the norm and that a different existence was possible. Things were simpler and over-romanticized, but there's nothing wrong with craving a return to simplicity. The real world will always be there.
4. Rewatching Eliminates Decision Fatigue
As much as we wish it weren't true, humans have a finite capacity to make decisions. In our modern world, we are inundated with decisions, from the brand of cereal we want to the type of phone we use, where we shop, what car we drive, and even the types of water bottles we drink from (a huge deal for teenage girls). When we find ourselves suffering from decision fatigue — the idea that after making many decisions, our ability to continue to produce quality decisions decreases or just flat-out overwhelms us. This means the more we can reduce decision-making with the trivial aspects of daily life, the greater our defenses against decision fatigue.
This is part of why people develop brand loyalty. If it's worked so far, it's a safe bet to stick with what you know rather than gamble and have to make another big decision. The same goes for laying out your clothes the night before going out. You don't want to waste precious brainpower on deciding what to wear. Plan ahead of time!
Similarly, choosing what to watch can seem like an unnecessarily Sisyphean task. There are endless options. Within those options are long lists of critically acclaimed series, recommendations from family and friends, and lists that fall within the niche you're searching for. Your friends keep adding to your must-watch list until it feels like a chore to start a new series you aren't sure will pan out. At that point, you feel relieved to absolve yourself of the serious undertaking of selecting your evening's entertainment. You turn on your old trusty episodes of The Sopranos; everything is well, and you have left-over brainpower to think about how you will advocate for yourself at work tomorrow.
5. You Become Part of a Fandom's Community
One of my favorite consequences of completing a TV series or being an avid re-watcher is joining online discussions, meme groups, and roleplay accounts that keep the story alive. The older the show, the more niche the group will be, often parroting amusing quotes from the show, if not communicating almost exclusively through them.
Here, you can connect with people with like-minded tastes, share fan theories, updates about the show's lore or expanded universe, and, most importantly, memes. Shows like 12 Monkeys had me running to Reddit to dive down a rabbit hole about the consequences of time traveling on physics. I know, I should've been at the club! Shows like The Sopranos, on the other hand, produce really funny meme groups and a near-unstoppable quoting force. It's the best waste of time I've ever spent.
6. It Increases Creativity
Studies have shown that nostalgia generally boosts creative thinking, but combined with innovative storytelling, you have a recipe for ingenuity and inspiration. Rewatching a favorite T.V. series is helpful for creativity in two different ways. As a writer, the quality of the show's writing, direction, and the moving portrayal by the actors inspires me to create my own stories. Extrapolate this to any profession or passion. If you're a comedian, you may be drawn to shows about stand-up comedy and use that as an avenue to sharpen your craft.
I feel envious when encounterintg something exceptional, like Breaking Bad or The Sopranos. Then, I'm reminded that those who created these masterpieces drew inspiration from art that came before them and whirled into a fit of creative inspiration and experimentation. Nostalgia increases openness to experience, which is a necessary component of creativity. One hypothesis is that when primed to think of a nostalgic experience, we activate episodic memories, which are used to generate more novel ideas.
7. It's an Antidote to a Crisis of Meaning
Why are we so hung up on deriving meaning from our lives? Humans are suspected to be the only living creatures with the misfortunate existential awareness of our mortality. While we have observed some animals within the animal kingdom who display some understanding of death, it is not clear that they understand that we will all one day perish. Humans, then, are uniquely burdened with an existential meaning crisis. If our time here is finite and short, what is it all for, and what should I do with my blip of consciousness? Nostalgia is one such way that humans engage in meaning-making.
By reflecting on memories and attributing significance, we are coping with the knowledge that our lives do not last forever. Nostalgia is a self-protection mechanism against mortality. Research has found that the more positive thoughts one had about the past, the more meaningful they perceived their life to be and that this mediated thoughts about death. This makes sense intuitively.
If I'm feeling anxious or distressed about something, especially death, I want distraction (passive entertainment), and I want instant positive emotion (appreciating things from the past). So next time someone tells you that you need to move on from that show that ended 25 years ago, tell them you're busy defeating thanatophobia (fear of death). Don't actually do that; they'll make fun of you.
8. You'll Have More Opportunities for Deeper Analysis
Put simply, there's zero chance you're getting as much out of a passive viewing of Twin Peaks at thirteen years old as you could upon rewatching it with a fully developed brain. Once that prefrontal cortex develops, you'll be amazed — amazed at what went over your head, why you thought certain shows were profound when they kind of sucked, and just how much you thought you knew but didn't. Shows with easter eggs and hidden symbolism benefit from repeated viewings, revealing something you never saw before each time. Once you finish Mr. Robot, having the context of where it's going completely transforms your viewing experience the second time, arguably for the better.
9. As Time Goes By, You Identify With Different Characters
Much like I didn't have the cognitive capacity to understand what certain scenes meant when I was just a kid, as you get older and gain more life experience, you may find that you identify with entirely different characters now. Watching Malcolm in the Middle as a child is a different experience from watching it as an adult. Where before, you always identified with the kids' perspectives, you might start identifying with the parents, especially once you become one yourself.
This subtle perspective change can allow you to derive new meaning from the familiar. When I first watched Gilmore Girls as a young girl, I couldn't stand Lorelai's mother, Rory's grandmother, Emily Gilmore. Now I realize she was the only one with common sense, the most iconic lines, and looked out for their best interests. Yes, she was snobbish, uptight, and too stringent, but if anyone needed guidance and structure, it was Lorelai and, evidently, Rory.
10. Your Comfort Show Can Make You Happier
For many reasons, a rewatch can be more psychologically pleasing than binge-watching a new show. Rewatching our favorite series restores feelings of self-control when we feel like we're spiraling out of it. Today, we have a much higher cognitive load (the amount of stress placed on our working memory). During the pandemic, our cognitive load was increased due to the constant influx of information, misinformation, new safety procedures, and changes to our lives and work environments that were constantly evolving. No wonder people were finding solace with older beloved favorites during the pandemic (except a few short juicy series like Tiger King).
Even though we live in a post-pandemic world, the cognitive load remains high in evolving ways. If you're constantly keeping up on trends, fluent in the latest meme formats, or following the election cycle, your brain needs to compensate somewhere, and entertainment is the obvious choice. Investing in new characters, stressful plot lines, and emotionally taxing stories can be a burden when you're already maxed out cognitively. Enter: that show you've watched twice already, which has never disappointed you, won't surprise you, and is comforting to watch.
11. Escapism Can Be a Useful Coping Mechanism for Stress, Anxiety, and Depression
Escapism is the psychological tendency to distract yourself from an unpleasant reality by seeking entertainment or engaging in fantasies. It's simple — when you want to escape your own life, you enter into the fictional worlds of characters you want to inhabit. It's no wonder this particular brand of escapism (binge-watching our old favorite T.V. shows) was especially popular during the pandemic when we were barricaded in our homes, estranged from loved ones and the outside world.
Immersing yourself in fictional worlds and revisiting characters you feel a strong kinship with can be a way of seeking simulated companionship and comfort, just as you would seek it from friends. When negative thoughts become burdensome, some prefer to lean into this mood, tuning into sullen characters and morbid series that generate catharsis. Others seek distraction through polar opposite tones, like a happy-go-lucky sitcom with a laugh track.
12. You Can Make It a Shared Experience With Loved Ones
Are you a sharer at heart? One of life's great joys is sharing cherished experiences with your loved ones, including media consumption. If I know you intimately, I know what you like — what stories you're drawn to, characters you sympathize with, interests you possess. As such, I can make recommendations that perfectly align with your preferences, and there's nothing more satisfying than hearing something you put someone on to change their life for the better. That's how I felt when I was put on Breaking Bad and The Sopranos. What was my life like before I went along for the emotional or grandiose rides of Walter White and Tony Soprano?
In retrospect, I feel like I was a less developed person. Art touches our souls, reveals things we never knew existed, and discovers desires we've long suppressed. In that way, art is a valuable tool for self-actualization, a precious gift to bestow on your loved ones. Even better is when you go on that cinematic hero's journey together and witness the light return to their eyes as you go deeper down the rabbit hole—top ten worthwhile life experiences. The slower the burn, the bigger the payoff. I remember Better Call Saul being a bit of a slog, but by the end, I felt transformed, and there's nothing more beautiful than going on that journey together.
Studies have shown that couples who share media reported feeling closer due to the perception that they shared close social connections (even if they were fictional) — a useful strategy for people in long-distance relationships who may not share the same social circles in real life.
13. Familiar Storylines Help Us Cope With Our Own Experiences
Art is a powerful vehicle for catharsis. Just because we know something isn't serving us doesn't mean we feel empowered or in control enough to do something about it. We can stay tangled in toxic cycles and bad habits and stay emotionally immature until this cycle is pointed out to us in an inescapably moving medium.
Maybe it's Christopher Moltisanti's drug addiction arc in The Sopranos that helps someone realize they have a problem, or it's Saul Goodman finally taking responsibility for all his wrongs in Better Call Saul for you to realize you should be taking ownership of your mistakes and stop playing the victim. The truth is we're enamored by characters who remind us of ourselves, whether for the good or the bad. If we're experiencing joy, we tend to seek that out through fiction to amplify our own happiness. We need a good cry played out through a narrative tragedy if we're burdened by sorrow. It's all a reflection of our own lives.
14. Viewing the Show After Many Years Allows You To Appreciate Its Culture and Historical Context
Some shows can be immediately clocked as products of their time. They elicit certain aesthetics, cultural attitudes, beliefs, and tropes of a specific era. The Sopranos had free reign to say whatever it wanted, with frequently offensive dialogue that pushed the boundaries of TV. It also distinguished it as a period in television where there was no outrage machine about politically incorrect dialogue. You could hardly imagine the same dialogue getting made today. Although a modern series, Stranger Things utilizes a distinctly 80s aesthetic and enjoys a fanbase of varying ages thanks to curiosity about a bygone era and nostalgic Gen Xers who want to find comfort in signifiers of the heyday.
Older series look visibly worn in the footage, with less sharp imagery and more noticeable practical or CGI effects, and the music and clothing say a lot about what was popular then. Series from the past can feel like a time machine, making them feel like an accessible portal to the past you weren't supposed to have and allowing you to remain there indefinitely. Maybe you yearn for a pre-9/11 optimism, the neon disco fever dream of the 80s, the minimalism of the 90s, or the eccentricity of the early 2000s. Through our television screens, we can instantly transport ourselves back into our comfort era, where we feel we were supposed to be.
15. Your Favorite TV Show Can Be an Outlet for Your Emotions
We've already established that television can be a therapeutic escape by providing a comforting outlet for various emotions. When you regress into familiar narratives and characters, you might be seeking refuge to navigate complex feelings you don't yet know how to process. Especially as the world outside continues to change, disappoint us, or hurt us, we may retreat in a ritualistic sanctuary where laughter, tears, and rage are revisited like old friends.
They can offer stability in a rapidly changing world. A 1988 study found that preference for the familiar is a practical way of safeguarding ourselves from discontent. When feeling incredibly finicky, controlling your environment to create a predictable outcome is a valuable emotional regulation tool. Knowing how it ends makes for a safe emotional experience, where you can tune into certain episodes that make you feel a specific way, possessing ultimate control over the story and your emotional state.
16. Your Favorite Actor Fell Off, so Now You're Reliving Their Golden Days
Some guilty pleasures come down to one thing and one thing only — our favorite actors. James Gandolfini died shortly after his iconic run on the legendary series The Sopranos, and it, without a doubt, remains the most recognizable and significant acting role of his career. Now that he's gone, it's a way to pay homage to the actor, revisiting a special piece of art that he significantly contributed to and which will never continue with his presence. We rewatch earlier seasons of a series before a certain actor left the show, got killed off, or significantly changed their appearance.
We might be huge fans of an actor later in their career and decide to revisit their earlier work to understand how they've grown as an actor. Some actors simply get the axe due to repeated personal issues conflicting with their work, which earns them a spot on a Hollywood blacklist. In these scenarios, actors have a short blip of success, rarely replicated later in their careers. I got to know Bryan Cranston as Walter White before I knew him as the dad in Malcolm in the Middle. Revisiting Malcolm in the Middle after completing Breaking Bad, a seriously emotionally devastating series, was quite jarring.
17. You've Seen Everything Else; It's Time To Go Back to the Drawing Board
There are only so many genuinely great series that are worth watching. Once you've watched most of the iconic series everyone recommends, a significant portion in various genres that interest you, check out shows nominated for awards. Those you just took a gamble on, you're bound to get burnt out.
We all have our limits, and as much as I pride myself on having patience, I'm not Gandhi; it becomes a depleted resource over time. If you've spent the past year in a near-constant state of binge-watching new shows, you should take a break. Think of it as a dopamine detox. By resorting to a chill period of nothing but your old comfort shows for a little while, you'll replenish your tank so you can fully dive into a new series with excitement and eagerness.
18. Other Shows Don't Hit Quite the Same Way
Look, I know you think I'm going to fall in love with your show recommendations, but not everything is a diamond in the rough. Let's gain some perspective before we put a poor-quality Netflix T.V. series made for teenagers in the same conversation as Twin Peaks or The X-Files. Other shows may still be enjoyable and have their own thing going for them, but very few T.V. series have an exceptional quality that cannot be imitated. That's something special and to be savored — rewatched, even.
19. Its Setting and Atmosphere Can't Be Replicated
Lost is such a great example of this attribute because even though it really lost the plot after season 4 and went completely off the rails in its final season, what it has going for it is its central plot and setting. Lost is, at its core, a show about survivors of a plane crash that landed on an uninhabited island. While the show contained some inventive premises like time travel, biblical allegories, and an exploration of the hero's journey, what made it so addicting for much of its run was the allure of being stranded on an island which a bunch of cool people, becoming entangled in their lives, and encountering strange, mystical phenomena in the jungle.
That's an original selling point. The X-Files had its supernatural, extraterrestrial plot set in the 90s with spooky meme music—boom, a selling point. The beauty of Seinfeld was that it was about nothing at all and portrayed comedy in a way that hadn't yet been done before on T.V. Hannibal took a sophisticated approach to cannibalism — portraying Hannibal Lecter as a meticulous elitist foodie, displaying his preparation of human flesh with artistry and passion. These are all unique concepts with particular atmospheres rarely seen elsewhere.
20. If You've Changed, You Can See the Show Through New Eyes
Much like you can find a particular character resonating with you at this point in your life that never resonated before, thanks to age and life experience, the same can happen with your interpretation of the show's social commentary, symbolism, and its ultimate point. Themes and nuances that went unnoticed before become apparent, and the cultural context surrounding the series may have evolved.
After finishing the Breaking Bad series, when I revisited early scenes like the pink teddy bear that landed in Walter's pool and the missing eye that rolls under his bed, takes on much greater significance with the full context of the story and Walt's character development. The teddy bear first serves as a haunting reminder of the deaths Walt is single-handedly responsible for, and the eye represents the omnipresent seeing eye of God, who Walt feels is watching and judging him. It's interesting to note this sort of symbolism surrounding guilt and remorse is lacking later in the series when Walt becomes consumed by his shadow, Heisenberg.
21. TV Shows Are Like Fine Wine; They Get Better With Age
The events in the show may remain the same, but they're different every time you watch it. Nothing has ever perfectly encapsulated this sentiment more than this exchange between Jesse and Jane in Breaking Bad. Jesse can't understand why a painter whose work they saw in an art gallery would paint the same door repeatedly, supposedly dozens of times.
Jane gives this beautiful monologue as a rebuttal, insisting it wasn't the same — the lighting or her mood would change, allowing her to see something new within the same subject each time. To make her point, she asks why we bother doing anything more than once if it's the same thing — like smoking a cigarette, watching a sunset, or living through the day. Much like these life experiences and the painter who hyper-fixates on a door, each time you engage in a beloved pastime that is familiar and comforting to you, it is a worthwhile new experience.
22. You're Avoiding the Disappointment of Embarking on a New TV Series
You may have the time, energy, and passion to funnel into a new binge-watch, but you can't find a suitable candidate for your obsession. This is the dreaded result of spending a lot of time watching masterpieces at the top of the IMDb ranked list. It's all downhill from here. Even though it may feel like nothing will ever live up to your coveted favorites, I promise you something clever, exceptionally acted, and unique will come along one day and shake up all your preconceived notions. Always be open to a pleasant surprise, but for now, I completely understand if you feel like “they don't make 'em like they used to anymore.”
23. A Character or Plotline Is Deeply Resonating With You Right Now
Distinct from the experience of changing your perspective on a character is the experience of feeling called to something artistically for a specific reason. Maybe you've gone through a traumatic event, you're going through an identity crisis, or you've had an epiphany. This particular character or plot line has great significance and meaning to you where before it did not. You should explore that and search for what that is.
Our minds have funny ways of telling us things through stories, just like dreaming about something in our subconscious. Only when we're fully awake can we process what we see. I find it incredibly interesting that Elisabeth Moss, who plays June in The Handmaid's Tale, is a real-life Scientologist. One wonders if her choice to play this role was her way of working out her cognitive dissonance or if she's trying to signal a cry for help.
24. So You Can Memorize the Funniest Lines & Become That Annoying Show-Quoter
I can't help it; something overcomes me when I watch The Sopranos. I start speaking like a New Jersey Italian mafioso at the dinner table. To be fair, I am Italian and spent a significant amount of my childhood summers at the Jersey shore, but I did not have any mafia connections. I'm not the only one; entire Facebook groups dedicated to the show consist of people as equally committed to the bit as I am, with their particular favorite being the classic, “he never had the makings of a varsity athlete.” One of my favorite recent shows is The White Lotus, one of the most quotable miniseries I have ever seen.