Stuck In A TV Universe


Jeanelle Wu

An endless number of shows we can watch, yet there is something about our familiar favorites that we can’t seem to let go of.

Jeanelle Wu, Photojournalist

Streaming platforms, ranging from Netflix to Disney Plus, give us, the viewers, thousands of TV show options. From heart-wrenching dramas that will make you cry to scream-worthy horror shows that will give you nightmares, it is all there in a click of a remote or tap of a screen for you to try. So why is it that when we are looking for a show to watch, we find ourselves back in the watch it again section, watching a show that we have watched for who knows how many times?

Now I would be a hypocrite to tell you to spend the time you use rewatching your comfort shows to try a new show, considering rewatching my familiar favorites is all I do. However, there is actually more reasoning that your brain wants to rewatch the same shows multiple times, other than simply liking the show. For starters, rewatching a show that you already know you love gives you a sense of familiarity, which relates to something known as the mere exposure effect—liking something more, merely because you have been previously exposed to it (The Atlantic). This seems to be one of the more common reasons for rewatching shows. Mia Robertson (10) shares how she “rewatch[es] TV shows because [she] already knows what is going to happen, so [she] knows [she will] enjoy it.”

Rewatching shows I know for sure I like and will enjoy, brings me comfort”

— Jessica Li

Believe it or not, the concept of stress actually has a lot to do with choosing shows to watch. Sometimes it is less stressful to rewatch a show than it is to start a new one, which is a perfect example of not wanting things to change. Since you already know what is going to happen, you don’t have the suspense and anticipation of waiting to see what’s next. With that being said, research has shown that rewatching a show can be very therapeutic when stressed because it reaffirms a sense of order, safety, and comfort ( This follows the proven pattern that humans prefer predictability. In agreement with this concept, Jessica Li (10) explains that she “could potentially discover something new [she’d] like, but rewatching shows [she] knows for sure [she] likes and will enjoy, brings [her] comfort.”

Jessica adds how she “finds [herself] watching certain shows at least 4 times because of the relatable characters and good storyline. It makes [her] feel as if [she] is not alone in problems [she is] going through, since [she] gets to see the characters go through and deal with similar problems as [she] is.” Speaking of characters, when you are deeply invested in a show, you start to form emotional connections with the characters. This is known as a parasocial relationship—a one-sided relationship with celebrities or fictional characters ( This emotional relationship formed with the characters in the show can be so strong that you rewatch the show multiple times or continue to watch the show even when it gets worse.

Not only does rewatching a show give you the nostalgic feeling of what you are watching, but it also gives the nostalgia of your experience the last time you watched it, which includes your surroundings ( The show might remind you of someone that you watched it with or something that happened when you were watching it previous times, which may subconsciously be the reason your brain wants to rewatch it. 

Another reason could be related to the fear of commitment. Your brain probably thought of relationships when you read “fear of commitment”, but just like relationships, it is hard for some people to commit to a new show, whether it is 1, 8, or 16 seasons. If that’s the case, rewatching a show eliminates this fear. You can pick and choose the episodes you want to watch without having to commit.

Despite what some people might say, rewatching TV shows is a completely normal thing to do and is something many people find comfort in. Sure, new shows can be fun and exciting, but familiar shows will always have a special place in people’s hearts.