Watching that TV show again

There is even research to suggest that re-watching television shows is good for you.

good-wife-the-second-season-dvd-coverOne of the joyous experiences I have had recently is periodically watching episodes of the Dick Van Dyke Show (1961-1966) with The Daughter. I bought the complete five seasons a couple of years and we’re down to the last half dozen of 158 episodes. It’s interesting watching what she finds funny, or mystifying. I’m also fascinated by what programs I remember very well (the Christmas show early on, the ventriloquist Paul Winchell near the end), and others not so much. Mark Evanier has been revisiting the classic show too.

In some ways, I’m like this columnist who sometimes would rather re-watch a program she enjoyed, rather than venture out and try new stuff, even though there is a lot of quality stuff out there (The Wire, Mad Men, Breaking Bad) I’ve never seen. Especially, as she does (and I don’t) when she binge-watched it in the first place. Of The Good Wife, one of the few shows I now watch regularly, she notes:

I’d binged… on some excellent series… But by the time I was finished with “The Good Wife,” I was spent. No more new characters, please. No more new cliffhangers. I needed some consistency and predictability in my life.

A better person than I would have seen my exhaustion as a sign that it was time to finally read “Middlemarch.” Instead, I re-watched all of “The Good Wife” and made a discovery: It was better the second time around. No need to gobble up an episode just to get on to the next. One episode, maybe two, in an evening, and then sleep.

I already knew what Peter Florrick was up to, how things would play out with Alicia and Will. Free from the suspense, I could savor the subtleties of dialogue and acting, marvel at how much I’d missed in my initial mad dash from episode to episode.

In exchange for the adrenaline of the first watching, I got the comfort of the re-watching. It was like hanging out with old friends: predictable, but not without pleasure and surprise…

My survey of friends suggests that a lot more people are re-watching shows rather than hopping from series to series without a breather.

There is even research to suggest that re-watching shows is good for you. A couple of years ago, a researcher at the University at Buffalo’s Research Institute on Addictions published a paper claiming that watching a rerun of a favorite show – not just any show, but one you like – gives you a mental boost. Human beings seek novelty, but we also crave familiarity.

Yes, she points out something I feel may be true, but since I don’t do myself, I cannot verify: you miss out on the subtleties when you binge-watch.

This clip of the congregation in The Simpsons singing an I. Ron Butterfly hymn still makes me chuckle, more than 20 years later.

One of the shows I used to watch religiously was MASH. Indeed, I liked it so much, I’d often watch the summer reruns. But somewhere about season 8, I stopped watching the reruns. This article by Ken Levine, who wrote for the show in the later years, touches on why; they started, generally inadvertently, recycling plotlines. Why would I need to watch the rerun when the story itself was being replicated?

Also, the chronology of the stories was too incredible; Trapper in a story referencing 1952, a Winchester story mentioning Christmas 1951. I’ve long thought the show should have ended when Radar went home early in season 8, though there were some great episodes after that, such as Dreams.

So, I’ll catch an occasional random MASH episode, but there’s no compulsion on my part to watch it in order.
Lost Cartoon Pilot: “Black, Kloke & Dagga” (1967) from Morey Amsterdam’s cartoon studio.

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

3 thoughts on “Watching that TV show again”

  1. Oh, I also liked the Dick van Dyke shows and “Diagnosis Murder”,which was frequently to be seen on Dutch TV.

    Have a great and happy week.
    Wil, ABCW Team.

  2. That Morey Amsterdam cartoon pilot wasn’t bad, some innovative tech gags there. But in 1967 it came in the middle of the run of the popular spy-spoof TV series Get Smart (1965-1970) so it probably seemed tiresomely derivative of that TV series at the time.

  3. There are certain shows that simply must be re-watched…often! MASH is one of those shows. I always pick up on so many nuances I missed the first/second time around! I loved Cheers too. Dick Van Dyke, like I Love Lucy, will always be classic comedy…the like of which have not been seen since.

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