I don’t know if you’ve heard, but it’s been a rough week for a lot of people. I’ve spoken with friends who haven’t eaten or slept, which seems like the wrong approach. When the soul is anxious, it’s right and good to treat yourself to a foot massage and a whiskey-infused sweet tea slush. And a comforting show can be a balm to the soul. Here are seven shows to calm you and take your mind off our inevitable deaths:
You’re a young, bookish person reading an essay about comforting TV, so I won’t insult your intelligence by pretending you haven’t already watched this. But let’s take a moment to appreciate its excellence. From the beginning, Gilmore Girls had a couple of things going for it: the relationship between its two leads, the sassy, weird-dancing, bad-at-relationships Lorelai and her teenage daughter, Rory; and a masterful sense of place. Stars Hollow is just about the coziest place on TV, maybe the coziest place there ever was, with its townhall meetings and its coffee and its jobless troubadour wandering the streets singing songs that are oddly relevant to the characters’ lives. You want to go back there, don’t you? Luckily you can, on Thanksgiving. (available on Netflix).
Friday Night Lights
Yeah, it’s a show about football, or whatever, and yeah, there’s some drama, but it’s the kind of drama you want in your life: the kind that involves Coach Eric Taylor looking at you gruffly with a twinkle of unspoken love, and Tami Taylor reaching for your hand over a cup of tea in her kitchen during a late-night heart-to-heart. (Why are kids always knocking on their door in the middle of the night? Do they not know that they have jobs?). Plus, it’s got some of the best depictions of beautiful west Texas and the working-class you’ll ever see on TV. (available on Hulu and Netflix).
The Crown is wonderfully dull. It moves at a snail’s pace. Whole scenes are taken up by fancy men and women in fancy clothes reciting their long titles to each other. No one (except the Queen Mum) comes out and says what they’re thinking; instead they stand there staring at each other for minutes at a time, and eventually one of them (usually Elizabeth) will twitch her mouth slightly to express anger. Have I convinced you to watch it yet? Good, because you should. (available on Netflix).
Imagine a show about a police detective living in idyllic rural Britain during the war. He uncovers evidence of corruption in the police force or at a local restaurant or wherever. He punishes the culprits by glowering at them with his sad eyes, a sadness that somehow conveys Righteousness and Justice and the Infinite Sorrows of Our Lord. It is a fate worse than prison. Also he has a spunky driver who chauffers him around and helps him crack the case. It is better than The Wire. Could such a show exist in this vale of tears? It exists. (recently taken off Netflix).
I love this show. Love everything about it: the one contestant in each episode who obviously has no idea how to cook but somehow hangs on until the third round. The judge with his gently menacing smile and glasses that seem to change color between episodes. “Chopped” delivers the illusion of drama while never threatening you in any way. It’s a remarkably soothing experience, like watching Michael Kitchen play guitar for an hour. (select episodes are available on Netflix and the Food Network’s website).
Agatha Christie’s Poirot
If I haven’t already sold you on this show, there’s no hope for you, my friend. This is the reason television was invented, so we could marvel at David Suchet’s ridiculous mustache and Arthur Hasting’s inept bumblings that accidentally solve the mystery for sixty shining episodes. I even made a ranking of every episode for you! I watched most of them twice because I care about you and want you to experience humanity’s supreme achievement. (available on Netflix).
Slow TV: Train Ride Bergen to Oslo
Recently Netflix seems to have gathered that our tired, sad nation just needs something pleasant and soothing to put our hearts at rest, so they’ve imported a series of (weirdly popular) Norwegian shows loosely grouped under the title “Slow TV,” for those nights when you need to watch a sweater being knitted for seven hours. My personal favorite is the eight-hour train ride to Oslo (which my family refuses to watch with me), though an episode about a boat voyage around the Norwegian coast, which took three days to air in its native country, was criminally trimmed to a couple of hours when it came to Netflix.