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The very best of comfort television

Living in the golden age of television means constant access to a massive variety of action packed, dramatic, and comedic series’, many of which are intricately well written and sport phenomenal casts of actors. Throughout all the intense character studies’ and dry, sarcastic meta commentaries however, sometimes we find ourselves longing for a different kind of series; the kind of show that you can curl up under a blanket with on a chilly autumn night and enjoy simply because it is there with you. In the race to make television more engaging and experimental for viewers, there is a genre which has been all but lost to the past: the comfort show. We don’t watch comfort TV because it thrills us or because it defies all previous conventions. It may not always be the funniest or the most interesting in terms of plot and characters. We watch comfort TV simply because it comforts us.

In an increasingly dark world, there is sometimes nothing more pleasant than sitting down with a series you know will make you feel happy and safe. Autumn is the perfect time for such a show, as the leaves fall and the weather gets cold. If you are looking for such a show to keep you company, here are three classic suggestions.

It is clear from the opening notes of Frasier’s theme song, ‘Tossed Salads and Scrambled Eggs’, exactly what kind of show you are watching. The mellow, upbeat tune accompanied by Kelsey Grammer’s jaunty singing brings you right back to the age of classic 90s sitcoms. Frasier was the sort of show that many people would catch snippets of as reruns ran in the early mornings alongside episodes of Everybody Loves Raymond and Friends. It was the sort of show where you could catch a scene as you were getting ready for school or work, enjoy a laugh, and then go about your day.

Sitting down and watching Frasier properly is a similarly nostalgic experience. The humour shoots back and forth from high brow to low brow topics, each episode leaving a little something for everybody in the process. The character relationships feel genuine and warm and the stakes are always wonderfully low. In times of strife, there can sometimes be nothing more pleasant than watching Frasier and his brother Niles argue about psychology and opera as though they are the most important things in the world.

Futurama may seem an odd choice to include in a list of comfort shows. The brightly coloured sci-fi successor of The Simpsons is, in classic Matt Groening style, deeply satirical with its social and political commentary, scientific references, and general wit. Among the classic comedy episodes are littered a number of deeply moving and at times heartbreaking dramas which deviate from the classic form. Despite the sharp humour and occasional melancholy that Futurama is known for however, it is a source of comfort and serenity for many. The subreddit ‘Futurama Sleepers’ is devoted entirely to, as the name implies, people who fall asleep to episodes of Futurama. Some combination of nostalgia and charm makes Futurama such a comforting presence that many people use it to slip from reality and enter slumberland.

Gilmore Girls is perhaps the most autumnal show ever to grace the small screen. Created by Amy Sherman-Paladino, the series focuses on a mother daughter duo whose relationship is based more on a close friendship than a parent/child dynamic. The storylines are (with a few exceptions) rarely exciting or flashy; instead focusing on the small but important events that give life its flavour such as first kisses, getting bad grades in school, and disagreements with friends.

Aside from Lorelai and Rory; the titular Gilmore girls themselves, a large part of what makes the series work is the phenomenal supporting cast. The town of Stars Hollow where Lorelai and Rory reside is positively bursting with small town charm, from its plethora of annual events and celebrations to its kooky yet warm inhabitants. Luke, the owner of the local diner, is grouchy and solitary, yet he routinely comes through to support Lorelai, Rory, and the other townsfolk when they need it. Town oddball Kirk works a different job or has a different money making scheme each episode, which the rest of the town unfailingly support time and time again despite how strange they may find them. Even local busybody Taylor Doose (who is disliked by many for his interference in other people’s lives) plays a vital role as without his civic pride, many of the town’s most iconic events would never take place.

When curled up on a chilly November night, it is next to impossible to watch an episode of Gilmore Girls without wishing you could teleport yourself into the world of Stars Hollow where the complexities and harsh realities of life are virtually non-existent. We need that sort of sensation more than ever before at the moment, and comfort television is a wonderful source of it.

Image: AJeed via Pixfuel

By Duncan Brown

Science and tech editor and teen heartthrob