Why Do We Prefer Re-Watching Nostalgic Favorites Over New, Exciting Shows?

Friends David Schwimmer, Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Matthew Perry, Lisa Kudrow, Matt Le Blanc, 2001-02 season, series running 1994-current
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If you clicked on this article, chances are that you’re a lot like me. After work, chores, and whatever else needs to get done throughout the day, it is so nice to finally sit down and watch something on television. It is that time to turn your brain off a bit and just relax. Before your brain gets some rest though, you need to choose what you want to watch. We live in a day and age where there are just so many options for television shows and movies to watch. Everyone has their own recommendations. There are shows and movies that I’d like to watch. Yet something always pulls me back to my favorites, the shows or movies that I can pretty much quote at this point but still want to watch.

I know that I’m not alone. If you ask anyone, most people have their nostalgic favorites that they re-watch year after year. Why do we do this? With so much content to potentially watch, why do we go back to the same thing over and over? Nostalgia is a powerful thing and streaming charts are filled with older shows that appeal to a wide audience like Friends, The Office, and Gilmore Girls. If you visit the Reddit page for any of these shows, people are still talking about them daily, even though many of these shows haven’t aired new episodes in decades. Perhaps you rewatch even older shows like Happy Days, Little House on the Prairie, or Dallas.

Little House on the Prairie (1974-1983) Karen Grassle, Michael Landon, Melissa Sue Anderson, Melissa Gilbert & Lindsay Greenbush, Season 1

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One reason nostalgic television could be so popular now is due to the aftermath of the pandemic. At a time when panic was at an all-time high, what better to do than re-watch your most comforting show? There will be no surprises and no anxiety while you watch and you could reminisce about a time when things weren’t so awful. Science also shows that nostalgia can create a chemical reaction in your body, triggering the release of “happy hormones” called dopamine and serotonin. Although dopamine detoxes have been in the news in recent years, at its core, dopamine is not bad for you, nor is watching content that triggers it.

The Office Steve Carell, 'Gay Witch Hunt', (Season 3, aired Sept. 21, 2006), 2005-

Justin Lubin/NBC/Everett Collection

It also requires less energy and brain power to watch something we have already seen. If you’re watching a new show, it can be exciting and fun to guess what will happen next, but if your brain is already overloaded, this can be draining or even nerve-wracking. For those with specific triggers, it can be uneasy to stay alert in case those triggers come up (Hint, there’s a great website called DoesTheDogDie.com that warns of many different types of triggers in movies and TV). There’s something peaceful about watching a show that will never catch us off guard and watching something that doesn’t require much focus. Re-watching your favorite show can also help you feel less lonely because you feel so connected to the characters and storylines.

Gilmore Girls Lauren Graham, Alexis Bledel, 2000-2007

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If you’re hooked on a nostalgic show and watch it on a streaming service, let me give you some advice. If you still own a DVD player or Blu-Ray player, try to purchase the seasons on DVD or Blu-Ray of your favorite show. Unfortunately, the big streamers have been known to delete episodes or even seasons entirely at a moment’s notice or a show or film could switch to a different streaming service or go away forever. It is best to have your own copy that cannot be altered out of your control, leading to a recent uptick in DVD sales.

Tell us, what’s your go-to show or movie to re-watch?

Classic TV Shows of the ’50s & ’60s
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Classic TV Shows of the ’50s & ’60s

September 2020

Test your knowledge, from Bonanza and Gunsmoke to I Love Lucy, I Dream of Jeannie, Star Trek and more fun TV of the 1950s and 1960s.

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