TV became an art form to me as I watched Lost for the first time in my late teens. I obviously loved the medium beforehand, but I know that now because I’ve seen how much the heavily literary message of late ’90s and early 2000s PBS Kids programming influenced who I became. Lost taught me how television adapts ancient narrative devices, philosophies, and instincts into a masterful story, but in between crying about Desmond and Penny’s love and biting nails during Ben and Locke’s confrontations, it is not the show to utilize when you need to turn off your brain and seek healing from TV.
Blame the rom-com revival seemingly surging in response to the state of the world, but I appreciate a TV show that doubles as a gentle salve now more than ever. When it comes to my televisual education, I’ve yet to see Mad Men, Breaking Bad, and probably many other dramas known for their brooding leading men and dark realities. Maybe one day I’ll feel like cracking into those, but for now, I want the stories that simultaneously make you laugh and consider life’s cyclical pattern of generosity and good people getting one through a mess.
Luckily, I’ve found my classic, go-to balms and discovered shows that particularly brought me delight in recent months.
Friends, for being my sitcom standard, the show I can play in the background for an instinctive dose of familiarity if I’m feeling sick, stressed, or upset.
Dinner Date, for confirming that nothing is more captivating than watching a man cook for a date, whether or not he is doing it competently.
The Mindy Project, for presenting a workplace comedy I finally gelled with and an accomplished, creative force I admire.
The Great British Baking Show, for reducing the world to a marquee in the English countryside that revolves around baking desserts with warmhearted people.
Younger, for witty, modern dialogue that doesn’t seem to try too hard and the odd satisfaction that Mariska Hargitay is one of the luckiest women alive to call the gorgeous Peter Hermann her husband.
Call the Midwife, for showing that anything is possible when women come together and that Vanessa Redgrave’s musings about life and rebirth will always urge on a therapeutic cry.
Gavin and Stacey, for creating an eccentric, blended family whose love for two people dominates and eventually eradicates their differences.
Pushing Daisies, for developing a whimsical, technicolored world in which the bad guy always gets what he deserves.
Miranda, for teaching that gaining self-confidence is a hard-fought but essential journey.
The Middle, for mirroring my family and being the ultimate TV comfort food, as demonstrated when I watched reruns on an international flight and nearly cried, both from laughter and the jet-lagged joy of returning Stateside.
Four Weddings and a Funeral, for broadcasting a more diverse view of London, the hilarity and unpredictability of love and friendship, and that classic Kaling sensibility.
What is your TV salve?