Monday, May 19, 2014

Jenn's Pick: My Top 10 "Comfort Food" TV Shows

When you’ve had a bad day or a bad week or are just plain exhausted by the prospect of doing anything, you usually turn to something common and familiar and soothing. You usually turn to comfort food. Everyone has a different type of comfort food. For some people, it’s macaroni and cheese. It’s a food that makes you feel warm and happy and content. For others, it’s pizza or pasta or a certain type of dessert. The element that sets comfort food apart from normal food is this: security. It’s a food that fills you with some sort of nostalgia because it triggers fond memories or comforting reminders. It’s usually a food associated with your childhood, perhaps one that your mom or dad prepared for you. It is a normal food that makes you feel like everything will be okay, even when it isn’t.

There are certain foods that people associate with comfort and certain television shows, too. When you’re having a bad day, perhaps you go home, settle onto the couch with your macaroni and cheese, and select that ONE episode from that ONE show that you always know makes you feel better. There are certain “comfort food” television shows out there and – like actual comfort food – these vary from person to person. But I thought I would share ten of my “comfort food” television shows with you and the episodes that can almost immediately cure whatever bad day I am having.

Cuddle up with that blanket and click below the cut, because here we go!


Comfort food selections: “The Pineapple Incident,” “Game Night,” and “Slapsgiving”

I know, I know.

But before How I Met Your Mother was ruined by its series finale, it was a show that I constantly looked to for a good laugh. The episodes noted above are some of my favorites and also the ones that never fail to amuse me. They’re shenanigan-filled episodes, which is what this series always did best (I’d also add “Subway Wars” to the list of episodes that never fails to delight me). I consider this comedy series to be “comfort food” television because its comedy is zany and delightful and never fails to make me laugh, even when I know which jokes or scenes are coming up next.

And thus, How I Met Your Mother kicks off my “comfort food” television list!


Comfort food selections: “Tooth and Claw,” “Blink,” and “A Good Man Goes to War”

Doctor Who may not seem like the very definition of comfort, given how often its characters die or are in mortal peril, but I still consider this sci-fi series to be comfort food to me. The show’s episodes that I noted above are some of my go-to ones whenever I need something to entertain me. Doctor Who is an engaging and engrossing series. It’s the kind of show that removes you – quite literally – from your own universe and places you into a fantasy world or planet. You find comfort in the fact that The Doctor will save the day. You curl up further into your blanket whenever those Weeping Angels make their appearance. And you feel a sense of excitement and anxiousness within you whenever “I Am the Doctor” begins to swell.

Good television removes you from your daily life and problems and transports you into a realm where you can become engrossed in someone else’s problems and life. That, quite frankly, is the comfort that I find whenever I watch Doctor Who.

Plus, Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant, and Matt Smith are all pretty easy on the eyes. I’m just saying.


Comfort food selections: “Scarlett Lary,” “Clue-Less,” and “Xtreme Xmas”

I have seen every single episode of Lizzie McGuire and it still makes me smile and fills me with childhood nostalgia. This is a show that is just a feel-good series. It’s one where you can reminisce on your childhood problems and how big they seemed at the time. Remember when your greatest dilemma was what outfit you would wear on picture day? Or who you would get paired up with for a class assignment? Sometimes it’s great to go back and watch shows like this as an adult, because it gives you comfort to know that your problems – whatever you are facing – seem as big as those aforementioned ones did. And someday, you, too, will look back on whatever you’re facing at the present and think about how trivial it was.

Lizzie McGuire, the person, was a role model for me growing up. She was clumsy and not popular, but she had a great set of friends and a family who loved her. Watching some of those episodes above reminds me of how delightful this show was and how important it was to have someone like Lizzie around while I was growing up.


Comfort food selections: “Flu Season,” “Pawnee Rangers,” and “Leslie and Ben”

Kim has literally referred to Parks and Recreation as the “bacon-topped macaroni and cheese comfort food of television.” I could not agree more. Parks and Rec is a series that just makes you FEEL good. It makes you laugh and smile and it’s full of characters who genuinely care about the people around them. It is the comedy of optimism, as Sage once explained. It’s a good and happy comedy, only interjected by slight angst when it is necessary. It doesn’t create soapy drama. It doesn’t assassinate its characters in an attempt to mold them into conventional television tropes. It portrays functional, loving marriages and relationships. It is a delightful show that has always been and will continue to be focused on the good in the world and seeking out how to multiply that good.

Pawnee is a special place because it’s a fictional town that I would love to exist in. If you could live in the town run by Leslie Knope, wouldn’t you? Wouldn’t you want to exist in a place that has a ‘Treat Yo Self’ day? Or one where characters care so much about it each other that they say ‘I love you and I like you’? That is why, when I need a pick-me-up, I retreat to Pawnee. It’s a special place that is full of special people. And I can’t think of anything more comforting than that.


Comfort food selections: “Lucy Does a TV Commercial,” “Job Switching,” and “Lucy Is Enceinte”

Sometimes you just need to watch old black and white television shows. If we’re talking about my “comfort food” of television, I Love Lucy is something that is comforting to me for a variety of reasons. First of all, I grew up with boxed sets of this series. I watched Lucy and Ethel shove chocolate candies into their mouths and hats and I laughed along with the audience because it was silly. I love shenanigans and Lucy was the queen of them. The episodes I noted above always make me laugh and fill me with a sense of nostalgia (I keep using this word, but it’s true) for the classic comedies that I was introduced to as a child. My family – especially my extended family – loved I Love Lucy and used to have the show on whenever I would visit. I grew up on the black and white sitcom and I learned to fall in love with the slapstick, silly comedy that the show often introduced. This series is good and fun and though it’s dated, it’s amusing no less. It always fills me with a sense of joy and slight longing to know what it was like to live back in the 50s. And for that, it makes my list of “comfort food.”


Comfort food selections: “Football, Feminism and You,” “Remedial Chaos Theory,” and “Regional Holiday Music”

Community just makes you feel good sometimes, doesn’t it?

If I need a pick-me-up, I’ll turn to the episodes above (especially “Remedial Chaos Theory”) for a good laugh. This show, in spite of its flaws, will always be something special to me and when something is special to you and you have so many positive memories associated with it, you feel comforted by its presence. I feel comforted by random re-runs that occasionally grace my television. I feel comforted by the music in “Regional Holiday Music,” because it triggers positive memories for me. It’s a good series, grounded on the idea of family and friendship and friendship-turned-family, so it’s no wonder that certain episodes are go-to ones. These episodes noted above (and I’m sure others that you can pinpoint in your own life) are ones that have solid messages and hilarious jokes and great character development and growth. They exemplify everything about this series that was wonderful and special about the show.

And you FEEL special when you watch Community, because you feel like you’re being let in on an inside joke or slipped a secret note with a password that only you can decode. That’s what makes it a great little bubble show. That’s what made it have a cult-like following. That’s why people chanted “six seasons and a movie.” Because when you’re let in on an inside joke, you never want it to end. And in spite of the fact that the show now has ended, I have a feeling I will be returning to the episodes above and many others in years to come whenever I need a good laugh.


Comfort food selections: “My Best Friend’s Wedding,” “My Life in Four Cameras,” and “My Musical”

I watched Scrubs nearly every night in college when I was getting ready for bed. It aired in syndication at weird times, and one of those times just so happened to be between ten and eleven in the evening. It was a sitcom that became beloved to me over the course of a few years, not just because it was hilarious (it was) or because it was often so heartfelt that it made me cry (it did) but because its presence was something of a comfort to me. I can’t quite explain it, but ironically in “My Life in Four Cameras,” J.D. experiences the same “comfort food” quality of television that I did. He found that he could escape the heartache of his normal life by flipping on a sitcom in which everything was resolved in twenty minutes. It was such beautifully meta commentary that it is partially why I devised this list.

Scrubs was always a show that was random and weird and silly, but that was chock full of fantastically uninque characters. We connected with each person at the hospital and cared about their journeys. And I found comfort in J.D. as a character because he often retreated to his imagination. I can relate to that, quite honestly, and I think that having a character like J.D. reminded me that it was okay to be a daydreamer. I won’t speak of Scrubs 2.0, but the original sitcom was one of the absolute best on television. Those re-runs still make me laugh and cry and give me the sort of warm nostalgic feeling that every good comfort food should.


Comfort food selections: “See Ya,” “Parking Spot,” and “Cooler”

Recently, I felt pretty terrible (thank you, horrible drink that I had to digest before my CT scan) and was holed up on the couch in my apartment with Netflix and a blanket. That is when I decided to re-watch nearly all of the episodes noted above. Season two of New Girl was such an astounding season that nearly every episode is perfect “comfort food” viewing. But I forgot – until recently – how much I really loved the freshman season of the sitcom, too. New Girl re-runs just make me feel happy and content for some reason. I’ve seen the episodes above numerous times. I’ve watched “Parking Spot” so much that I can pretty much quote half of the episode to you. And yet, I will STILL choose to watch it if I am having a particularly blah-feeling or bad day. Why? Because it still makes me laugh. I still suck in my breath whenever Nick says “It was me, Jess. I couldn’t help it.” Great television doesn’t fade over time. Great television is the kind that you can watch over and over until you’ve memorized all the jokes and one-liners and STILL want to watch it.

That is how I feel about New Girl. If I’m sick on the couch, I’ll binge-watch half of the season and I won’t get tired of it. I’ll always select it, whenever I’m feeling upset or bored. It’ll be one of my first choices, usually, for a pick-me-up in the television realm. And it never fails me. Why? Because it has only grown better with time and I’m consistently comforted by its presence and its episodes. And I consistently laugh at the jokes. That, my friends, is great television.


Comfort food selections: “Our Very First Telethon,” “The House Meets the Mouse (Parts 1 and 2),” and “The Bicycle Thief”

Before I go to bed each night, I flip on Nickelodeon where re-runs of Full House are playing. It doesn’t matter that I grew up on this sitcom and have, therefore, seen every single episode of the series multiple times. It doesn’t matter that I know how the series ends and that the girls grow up and Becky and Jesse eventually get married. None of this matters, because what truly matters is the fact that Full House still makes me feel good. It still cheers me up when I’m sick in bed and it still makes me chuckle and it still reminds me of my childhood. It’s exactly what comfort food embodies: warm, hearty, and full of good feelings.

I won’t pretend that Full House is quality television. It’s cheesy, if we’re all being honest, and I know it. I know that the music is campy and the stories are sometimes silly. But… this was what childhood WAS to me. It was eating dinner and sitting down and watching episodes of this show with my family. And the show embodies the idea of family and it celebrates it. Why do I keep watching this show when I could easily turn on a movie or something on the E! network before I go to bed? Because, Full House reminds me of family and what it used to be like when we all watched television together – when it was a part of a family ritual, rather than something done privately or separately. And in spite of how absurd this show now seems in my adulthood, I’ll never stop watching it until it’s permanently taken off the air. It was such a large part of my life for such a long time that I just can’t let go of that comfort food, no matter how silly it seems now.


Comfort food selections: “The One Where No One’s Ready,” “The One with the Embryos,” and “The One Where Ross Got High”

No television show on the air (or one off the air, for that matter) is as big of a comfort food to me as Friends is. The show is constantly on syndication and though I have seen every episode and certain episodes likely fifty or more times, this is a sitcom that always fails to make my day better. And that’s how you know when you have a GREAT sitcom. (I’d also like to point out that Friends is a multi-cam comedy, so just keep that in mind whenever you decide to bash multi-cam comedies.) I don’t know what it is about Friends that made it so timeless, so beloved, and so hilarious ten years after it finished airing. But, quite frankly, this IS a show that is so timeless, so beloved, and so hilarious now to me. If I’m sick, I’ll watch re-runs of Friends. If I need to be cheered up, I’ll put on clips or full episodes of the sitcom and laugh until I’ve forgotten what I’m upset about. I quote the show on a near-daily basis to my friends and – of course – they quote it right back at me.

Friends is a show that has never failed to cheer me up. All of the other sitcoms and series on this list have, at some point, faded out of my life and back in, but I feel like Friends has ALWAYS been a part of my life (well, as far back as I can remember watching the series anyway) and I’ve always been able to go to it for a pick-me-up. I still laugh at the game in “The One with the Embryos.” I STILL quote the exchange between Ross and Monica in “The One Where Ross Got High.” I still know how Ross counts, thanks to “The One with Ross’s Tan.” And I know how to imitate his velociraptor noise and his “I’m fine” voice. I laugh every time I see Joey on Pyramid. I crack up when Phoebe tries to teach Joey how to speak French. And I still cry when Chandler and Monica propose to each other. This is a show of “still” if you haven’t yet gathered that – I STILL love this show and I STILL laugh at it and it STILL makes me cry ten years after it has been off the air. It is a show that has been my faithful companion for so many years in this regard and, I suspect, will continue to be for many more to come.

So now it's your turn, readers! What are some of your favorite television shows to watch whenever you're having a bad day or are sick in bed? Do you have a "comfort food" television series? If so, hit up the comments and let me know what yours are! Until then, folks. :)


  1. You hit the nail on the head with New Girl and how it's great television!
    My go to's are : Community, New Girl, It's Always Sunny, That 70's Show, and maybe Archer and The Office. These are shows I've seen every episode of wayyy more than once and will watch till the end of time!

  2. With the television DVD market, it is now possible to follow the storylines of television shows that are on at exactly the same time. This is something that wasn't possible even ten years ago.