Some TV shows are like old friends. You can count on them to make you laugh when you need it most, brighten up any bad day or just be the right amount of distraction to take your mind off of whatever's stressing you out.
These aren't just classics, they're comfort TV shows.
Before streaming took over the internet and drastically changed the way we watch television, we used to have to wait until late-night TV came on to catch our favorite reruns. With streaming networks, many of those shows have re-emerged — and now they're just waiting for you to call on them for a marathon catch-up.
Saturday Night Live is one of those shows. Although the cast and content has changed in the 40 years it's been on the air, the format is tried and true. The mix of familiarity with the unpredictability of topical satire has made it a beacon of sanity and, yes, comfort for generations of American television viewers.
JL Pomeroy, co-creator and producer of Live From New York!, a documentary about SNL, said she thinks this unique formula is what makes the show a nostalgic comfort.
"They somehow manage to balance the tradition and nostalgia factor, and history and legacy of the show, while at the same time always infusing fresh new content and current topics," Pomeroy told Mic. "It feels very familiar, like putting on an old college sweatshirt, yet while you're watching it, they're talking about something that happened yesterday."
Even shows that ended their runs long ago can still evoke that mixture of familiarity and freshness when you rediscover them later in life. They can make all of your troubles disappear — at least until you've watched them all.
Here's a tasting menu of our favorite binge-ready comfort TV shows, complete with food and beverage pairings.
Pair with: Waffles from J.J.'s with a side of steak.
Nothing has that warm, hometown feel like Pawnee, Indiana. Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) and her motley crew of local county government workers give us the right dose of a little offbeat, hilarious and sweet that we wish we could all have in our own workplaces. The Parks and Rec staff is the best kind of TV family — in spite of all the irritating quirks, they can't help but love each other. The show also has an A+ cast where you can watch many of your favorite actors before their stars rose even higher, including Nick Offerman, Rashida Jones, Aziz Ansari and Retta, to name a few.
Pair with: Cereal, soup and a black and white cookie.
What more do you need to help you think about nothing than the original show about nothing? Sometimes nine seasons of nothing just isn't enough, and it's time to watch your favorite foursome all over again. Personally, Seinfeld brings back the nostalgia of watching reruns with my dad, a middle-aged Jew who definitely appreciated the humor of the show's Jewish creators. This show is still great for background noise, mind-numbing distraction or, for me, homesickness.
Pair with: Scooby Snacks.
When the world is too much to handle, take solace in the fact that you don't live over a Hellmouth. And if you did, Buffy would have your back. This one has the 90s-nostalgia factor, complete with the bad outfits we love to hate, and the sci-fi/fantasy twist on an average teenager's life that makes it just far enough from reality to be a respite for our mortal souls. Watching Sarah Michelle Gellar kicking some serious ass every other episode can be very satisfying. If you can't beat down your human enemies, at least she can kill your fake vampy ones. And who can resist a shirtless David Boreanaz?
Pair with: PANCAKES.
If all of our doctors are as checked out as the ones on Scrubs, I'm concerned for our lives — but this show's portrayal of both the absurdity and banality of working in a hospital does give us some good, healthy laughter. Turn to this one for some enduring life lessons, such as: You're probably smarter than some of your doctors; JD and Turk will always be the best friends two bros could ever ask for; and maybe you will find love in a hospital someday — just watch out for the angry janitors.
Pair with: A light salad.
If you're love life is screwed up, forget about it. Spend your time reminding yourself that at least it's not as bad as working with your married ex-boyfriend who you're still in love with, like our dear friend and lawyer Ally McBeal. (Unless that's exactly your situation, in which case — sorry, boo, that sucks!) This show dresses up its soap operatics with upmarket wardrobes and clever plot parallels, but we all know why we're here: love triangles, romantic drama, broken hearts and lots of it.
Pair with: Burgers and fries from any Peach Pit-type diner.
High school drama with rich teenagers on the beach? Count me in! Twenty-five years later, we're still lusting after Luke Perry, hate-watching Shannen Doherty and wishing we were as well-dressed as these clearly-older-than-high-school-student characters.
"Audiences love to get a peek into how the other half lives — evident in the popularity of later and contemporary shows like Gossip Girl," Lizzie Leader, co-host of 90210 podcast The Blaze with Lizzie & Kat!, told Mic. "At the end of the day, however, viewers found self-identification in the triumphs and tribulations of the show's central cast, and this resonance was truly the series' touchstone."
Pair with: Cake. A lot of cake.
If only we had magic powers to help us solve our problems like Melissa Joan Hart. Since we don't, we can just watch Sabrina try to use them to solve her own. While her magic usually causes more trouble than it may be worth, we can't stop wishing we had Sabrina's powers, her cute boyfriend and her badass witch aunts who teach her about magic and, you know, life. And wouldn't it be nice to have a talking cat who provided nuggets of wisdom when we're going through some stuff?
Pair with: Pinot Grigio.
From The O.C. to Washington D.C. and everywhere in between, any self-respecting locale needs a Real Housewives franchise. Watching the "real" drama of rich women with too much money and too much time on their hands who act like children is a great way to feel better about your own sorry situation and will remind you that your friends actually did come here to make friends.
Pair with: Pizza.
If you love paranormal activity mixed with a little bit of romance, this is your winner. The show follows two FBI agents — Fox Mulder and Dana Scully — as they take on cases that have some paranormal or supernatural element. The romantic storyline that develops between the two main characters provides the right balance between sci-fi adventure-thriller and rom-com that every nerd fan is looking for. Didn't like FOX's recent reboot? The classic original's still there for you.