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In honor of the end of the semester, here is a selection of the Arts board's favorite comfort shows.
By Arielle C. Frommer, Staff writer
Fewer shows have remained such an important part of pop culture more so than “The Office.” The Emmy-winning sitcom has remained one of television’s most popular comedies since it first aired in 2005, and its scenes, characters, and jokes have been memed, referenced, parodied, and more across the Internet. The show follows the Scranton branch of a paper company and features a unique style of comedy with cleverly timed camera shots, hilarious talking heads, and a meta mockumentary style that breaks the fourth wall.
I immediately fell in love with “The Office” when I discovered it in middle school. Not only were the jokes hilarious, but I loved every character, from the abrasive, clueless Dwight, straight man Jim, girl-next-door Pam, and their slow-burn office romance, and of course the bumbling yet endearing boss Michael Scott. I can always rely on “The Office” whenever I want to have a laugh, with quotable, classic episodes like “Dinner Party” and “Stress Relief.” But really, any episode, although especially those between seasons two and five — undoubtedly the best seasons — can be counted on for an entertaining watch from the cold open right down to end credits.
“Parks and Recreation”
By Julia J. Hynek, Staff Writer
Yeah, “The Office” is great. But what if you had a similar show, except this one had a woman lead and fostered a sense of purpose in the workplace? I raise you “Parks and Recreation.”
“Parks” satirizes not only the politics of government, but also Pawnee City Hall and the Parks office itself. Combining the banality of these circumstances with sharp, witty writing is bound to turn any frown upside-down. One need only turn to stellar episodes like “Hunting Trip,” “Flu Season,” or “Li’l Sebastian” (or really any episode) to make your bad day better.
Perhaps most compelling, however, is “Parks”’s ability to keep alive a sense of pragmatic hope. Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) leads the charge through red tape and bureaucratic nightmares with the biggest heart, and though she can be obnoxious and meddling at times, her irrational persistence is actually quite effective. And it’s also infectious. Viewers watch as the lovable cast of characters develop individually but also as a group, bonded by a sense of purpose, joy, and friendship. From the pilot to the absolutely wonderful, perfect series finale, “Parks and Recreation” will have you laughing, yes, but also feeling a sense of general optimism about the world. And what can be better than that?
“The Vampire Diaries”
By Allison S. Park, Staff Writer
With a grand total of eight spellbinding seasons and 171 episodes revolving around two vampire brothers (Damon and Stefan Salvatore) chasing Elena Gilbert, a dead ringer for the past love of their lives, I can’t imagine anyone who wouldn’t find “The Vampire Diaries” a comfort TV show. Mysteries of the supernatural combined with romance and drama create for a captivating viewing experience that never gets old. Furthermore, the show’s myriad storylines explore the heart-wrenching backstories of various characters, which causes viewers to experience an internal struggle of either loving or hating the main cast, such as Elena, or villains like Katherine. From my personal experience, this emotional complexity can lead to hours of contemplation and discussion outside of watching the show. The character development throughout the series is also impressive, as we see each character — especially Damon — go through an impressive arc. In addition, if the eight seasons of “The Vampire Diaries” simply weren’t enough, there are also two other spin-offs — “The Originals” and “Legacies” — to binge, which speaks volumes about the baseline widespread popularity of the show. Overall, “The Vampire Diaries” is a timeless classic that I highly recommend to anyone looking for a binge-worthy show to indulge in.
“Never Have I Ever”
By Monique I. Vobecky, Staff Writer
Never have I ever loved a highschool romantic series so much. Mindy Kaling and Lang Fisher’s television series “Never Have I Ever” is centered around a first-generation Indian-American teenager, Devi Vishwakumar (Maitreyi Ramakrishnan), dealing with both the recent death of her father, and fitting in at highschool. Despite having the foundations of a bland Netflix highschool original series, the synopsis transcends the typical template; “Never Have I Ever” brilliantly explores childhood grief and loss, highlighting the complexities of a mother daughter relationship in an immigrant household.
These heavier themes do not weigh the series down, but instead, the series actively compliments these darker scenes with the exploration of young romance and hilariously enjoyable humor. An ever-changing love triangle, zany high-school tropes, and conversations about heritage all make the series light but irrevocably dynamic. Above all, the series’s emphasis on highlighting high-achieving and motivated young women of color is what makes it stand above the rest. For these reasons and many more, I will be excitedly waiting for the fourth and final season of the series to release this summer and will proudly stand by my favorite comfort show, “Never Have I Ever.”
By Alessandro M. Drake, Staff Writer
Whether it’s after a long day of work, a tiring journey, or simply a tough couple of hours, sometimes you just need aliens. And spaceships. And a reincarnating, dual-hearted, British icon, complete with all the shenanigans they pull in tow, is the perfect choice.
Given “Doctor Who”’s run from 1963 to 1989 and later 2005 reboot, it serves as a perfect bridge between multiple generations, and works as an ode to those who enjoy fantastical journeys through space and time — both now and 50 years ago. There’s something heartwarming about people decades apart recognizing that sometimes, you just need to see a man and his friends save the world from evil robots, go visit the French aristocracy, or free a giant space whale.
On the surface, “Doctor Who” is a perfect way to wind down after a hard day: The often theatrical storylines don’t quite take a lot of brain power to follow. But, as viewers quickly learn, it’s a trap! Either you find yourself falling in love with the slow burn, season-long story arcs, or a cast of lovable and quirky characters. “Doctor Who” definitely is an easy comfort show, but on another level, it connects you to the very heart of why we love science fiction in the first place.
“How I Met Your Mother”
By Hannah E. Gadway, Staff Writer
“How I Met Your Mother” is a show that’s always been there for me. I fell in love with this early-2000s sitcom at a strangely young age and would play episodes on repeat while I slept. As a result, the plot of every episode is permanently ingrained in my consciousness. Want to know the plot of Season 5, Episode 9? No worries; “Slapsgiving 2: Revenge of the Slap” is my favorite episode, anyways, and I can give you a rundown at the drop of a hat.
Weird celebrity cameos (why were Katy Perry and Britney Spears in the show?) and toxic Ted Mosby behavior (he’s the literal definition of a “pick me” man) aside, the show is nearly perfect. Watching Neil Patrick Harris play the straightest man alive? Hysterical. Cobie Smulders playing a badass Canadian? Inspiring. The show truly has everything you could want from a sitcom — hilarious situations, a reliable main cast, and tear-jerking moments. Nothing is better than sitting down with somebody that you love to relax with an iconic HIMYM episode.
This show is truly a neverending comfort — as long as you pretend that the last episode doesn’t exist!
“Buffy the Vampire Slayer”
By Margo A. Silliman, Staff Writer
This show is the epitome of balance. It is a coming-of-age witty teen drama that is the perfect mix of relatability and escapism, humor and drama, and community and individuality. The original premise of the show was to take all of the challenges and angst of high school and depict what would happen if they actually manifested as demons. However, since it spans seven seasons, four of which occur after the main characters graduate from high school, the show also explores the difficulties of college and the dreaded adulthood that follows. Sad that boy won’t call you back? Buffy’s been there. College feeling lonely? Done that. Depression, addiction, identity crisis? All covered. Whenever I feel overwhelmed, an episode pops into my head in which Buffy faces something similar. I go to “Buffy” to feel understood, but stay to feel empowered and distracted from real life. Just when Buffy’s drama feels too real, the actual demons she faces take precedence over her personal demons, transporting the audience into a fantasy world and offering a distraction from the real one for a moment.
Another original theme of the show is to portray the dumb blonde stock character from a horror movie, who normally runs helplessly down an alley from a monster, and instead make her the hero of the story. Though Buffy’s “Scooby Gang” of friends are comforting, there are many plots that involve them doubting her or unable to help her. Even though this can be lonely, this forces her to realize how to defeat antagonists on her own, which often feels more encouraging to me because of the many challenges in life we end up having to face individually. Buffy was created to be a relatable hero, just like the other girls, which makes her all the more inspiring.
By Brady M. Connolly, Staff Writer
I’m not typically the kind of person who enjoys a rewatch. I’ve seen most of my favorite movies and television shows only two or three times. And yet, my reluctance seems to magically fall away in the face of “Arrested Development.” To call this quasi-cult classic of the early 2000s a comfort show would be doing it a disservice. It — and by “it,” I am, of course, only referring to the first three seasons and not the abominable Netflix reboots — is a comedic masterpiece, with each episode boasting a script so full of running gags and subtle punchlines that it is impossible to comprehend them all in one viewing. Every actor and guest star brilliantly elevates the show’s absurdist energy, embodying a strand of Southern California affluenza that generates more comedy than viewers will be able to handle. The late Jessica Walter’s Lucille Bluth is responsible for forming much of my own comedic sensibilities and her unapologetically snobby matriarch ought to be included on every list of television’s greatest performances. And while it would take too long to enumerate the many bits from “Arrested Development” that dominate my consciousness (see Gob’s “BEES!” for the foremost example), in times of trouble, I simply remember one thing: There’s always money in the banana stand.
“The Midnight Gospel”
By Daniel P. Pinckney, Staff Writer
Comfort shows often evoke a sense of childlike nostalgia, shying away from mature content. Yet, Netflix’s “The Midnight Gospel” manages to balance adult concerns with a life-affirming message that all troubles are temporary. Unfortunately canceled after one season, this stellar animated show transported viewers to a new world with each of its eight episodes. The show is built off of interviews between Clancy (Duncan Trussell), and various guests discussing various life-changing experiences. These interviews are brought alive with the unique style it’s co-creator Pendleton Ward used in his hit show “Adventure Time.”
This unique combination creates television that’s more akin to a visual podcast. The show leans into sometimes heavy existential and philosophical themes. Trussell’s uncontained joy as he peers into his guests’ inner worlds, however, prevents its thematic heft from ever dragging the show down. His guests provide powerful testimony about overcoming challenging times in their real lives alongside their animated counterparts — crises of faith, feelings of loneliness, and their impending mortality. Viewers can take comfort that each interviewee navigated their personal ordeal, offering reassurance to viewers that their troubles will work out. The stylistic and eye-catching animation helps to make its heavier themes even more palatable by adding some levity. This reflective show brings with it a meditative respite from the everyday busyness that occupies so much of life.
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