No matter how many times you watch this scene, the couch doesn’t make it up the stairs! So why do we watch it again anyway? Why were we livid when Netflix contemplated removing Friends from their platform, even though we’ve seen all the episodes a gazillion times? We’ve discovered their secret sauce. No, it’s not something specific to this popular sitcom. It has to do with life itself.
Life is uncertain. Sometimes unbearably so. Not knowing what’s going to happen next is a source of anxiety for many of us. So, we often turn to our favourite shows, movies or books. Why? Well, because we already know what happens there at least! The certainty of scripted content gives us comfort. We don’t have to deal with the suspense of watching something new or put in more effort to process the information thrown at us. All we have to do is press play and relax. The same principle applies to music. Have you ever listened to a song on loop? Well, I know obviously right? Not only do we replay songs that we like, but after a certain point, the more we listen to them the more we like them. The scientific term for this is “mere exposure effect,”, which means that we like something more merely because we’ve been exposed to it before.
But, there’s more to it than familiarity. How do we get hooked to these shows for years on end? Nostalgia, that’s why. Rewatching our favorite shows and movies triggers our nostalgia. We find ourselves reminiscing about the fun times we had with our friends- the fall-off-your-chair kind funny conversations, or that carefree Goa trip we took ages ago. They hark back to times when things and life seemed easier. This nostalgia acts as a source of consolation, especially on those hellish days when you can’t seem to catch a break. “It’s analogous to a hug from your mom or dad or being cuddled’, says psychologist Krystine Batcho. In fact, research has shown that they make us feel more optimistic about the future and counteract loneliness.
Psychologists like Marc Hekster also claim that the structure of these sitcoms, in which the leading characters deal with and solve their pressing problems in 30 minutes or less, soothes the viewer. Further, most of them have adopted a lighthearted tone while dealing with real problems, making them more watchable.
They also help navigate identity crises. Yes, that’s right. We’re not joking! Watching old favorites makes us feel more secure about ourselves. By helping us revisit the past, they remind us that no matter which turn life takes, we're still essentially the same person we’ve always been —or, in some cases, make us appreciate how much we’ve evolved. Sometimes, that escape from lived reality, even for an hour or two, is all we need to piece ourselves back together.
So don’t hesitate to kick back, make some popcorn and watch whatever makes you happy. Luckily, with OTT platforms vying for your loyalty, finding these old favourites shouldn’t be too tough. We bet you already know where to watch them. Let them remind you that life’s not as bland as it may seem, and that you will get through whatever is making you feel otherwise.