No matter how many times I rewatch The Office, or Parks and Recreation, or any of the shows I've binged on a loop for years, that isn't going to magically bring them back. I know this. I know that I'll never get closure about what was written on that note Jim gave to Pam, or what actually happened between Donna and Lavondrius during the microwave incident. But there's something in the nostalgia of rewatching old favorites that is just so much more satisfying than starting anything on my never-ending list of new Netflix recommendations — and that's not about to change any time soon.
As far as entertainment goes, I'll probably watch any show at least once. When it comes down to it, though, I'm a creature of habit and I like to be able to go home and click a button that will instantly transport me to Dunder Mifflin's Scranton branch. For me, every single episode of The Office (with the exception of "Scott's Tots") is like hot, George Foreman Grill bacon for the soul. The same rings true for all of my favorite shows in one way or another. Even if it's just an episode of Arrested Development or The Mindy Project playing in the background while I'm making dinner or cleaning my apartment, I'm soothed by the presence of familiar voices, familiar faces, and a storyline that I know by heart.
It might seem boring or repetitive to some to watch shows like Gilmore Girls, Breaking Bad, and Friends over and over again when you already know what's going to happen in the end. And I get it — episodes or season arcs that suddenly introduce a shocking twist are a thrilling, usually heart-pounding watch. I agree that watching a new show is exciting in its own right because you don't know whether a new character will be introduced or if a certain plot line will ever be resolved; it's fun to see if you can predict what will happen next.
But there's an entirely more soothing and comforting satisfaction in watching a show you've seen before and potentially catching a detail you missed the first time around. You might even develop a whole new outlook on a character you used to hate after processing the story one more time.
In fact, according to a study published by The University of Chicago, there are quite a few reasons we take such great comfort in rewatching our favorite shows so often — the main reason being, simply, that we like them. Exposing our minds to the same content repeatedly makes it easier for our brains to process what's going on within the series, and eventually results in almost no mental effort needed on our part to actually enjoy it.
There's also a kind of sentimentality and nostalgia attached to our favorite shows, especially depending on when we first watched them and what was going on in our lives during that time. For example, The Office is a particularly nostalgic show for me because it's the show my best friend and I binge-watch every single time we're together. So, even though the memory of Jim and Pam's engagement isn't mine, it's therapeutic to see it play out on screen for the 10th time, and never be disappointed by some unexpected twist.
"Nostalgia can lend us much-needed context, perspective and direction, reminding and reassuring us that our life is not as banal as it may seem," psychologist Neel Burton, author of Heaven and Hell: The Psychology of the Emotions, said in an interview. "It also tells us that there have been — and will once again be — meaningful moments and experiences."
"Nostalgia can lend us much-needed context, perspective and direction, reminding and reassuring us that our life is not as banal as it may seem."
The nostalgia of watching my favorite shows over and over again gives me a whole cast of characters to relate to and ultimately gives me hope that my life might be more interesting than it seems if they can make nine seasons about a bunch of people working at a paper company. But the coolest part? I find that rewatching shows is a marker of how much I've grown over time. Some characters' decisions make more sense while other characters become more or less likeable until eventually the idea of the show is never completely the same in my mind.
I especially noticed this when I used to join The Office's Michael Scott in thinking that Toby Flenderson was just the worst person on the face of the Earth. But, over time, I realized that Toby is actually a pretty good dude, apart from being a little boring and a lot in love with Pam. I also used to think Ted on How I Met Your Mother was sweet and charming, until I got older and realized that he is just as self-centered and dramatic as Ross from Friends.
With every new personal experience comes a new perspective on one of my favorite lines or my least favorite episodes. This changes the way I see certain characters and specific scenes, but the shows as a whole remain a part of me like all memories do.
So, sure — maybe it is boring to watch the same show on loop. But you can bet I'll always have a smile on my face when I hear that familiar tune.