Every summer I inevitably find myself rewatching my favorite television shows; it’s not that nothing’s on, it’s just that there’s something about the mugginess of summer where I am that makes me crave something familiar. Last summer it was The West Wing and Babylon 5; this summer, so far, it’s apparently Mad Men and Madam Secretary. Odd shows to be in fandoms for, but Mad Men actually has quite a big one and a funny one. Summer rewatching binges aren’t for the faint of heart when your tastes run towards dramas; there are so many little, horrifying plot points you either missed or forgot over the span of years between your last viewing and this one.
Some say these summer rewatching sprees, and rewatching in general, is the product of having so many choices that you just fall back on old, familiar favorites. Even if they aren’t particularly enjoyable, or funny, they’re still the equivalent of comfort food. Part of it might also be that you know what’s coming next, episode after episode; part of it might be knowing you love the show already, so even if you forgot something, you’ll probably like it.
For me, rewatching old faves might have something to do with not a lot of new shows appealing to me—I recently watched Jupiter’s Legacy for a review, and while it is certainly not representative of all new TV, it’s representative of some of it. It’s not all bad, of course; I find myself watching new shows like Hacks in between the summer rewatching binges, and I’m reminded to watch new shows when I get a chance.
It also helps that the old shows have established fandoms, full of people who go back again and again to binge the familiar, so you’ll never lack for content. Even if a fandom lies dormant, there’s still a large backlog of fan-created content, and even if some of it is familiar, it’s nice to come back after what can be years away.
The big companies understand the lucrative business of what used to be re-runs too, with the streaming services spending a crazy amount of money to ensure that they have all of the favorite shows, ready for their customers. Some, like HBO Max, have even invested in reunion specials, like the recent Friends reunion, or The West Wing reunion last October. Nostalgia has always been a big selling point for companies looking to make a bundle off fans. Not that we, as fans, dislike the attention; if anything, a little bit of new content with all or most of our favorites can be a welcome change from the same-old, same-old.
And, of course, some of us own the analog copies of shows; the physical DVD/Blu-Ray sets. Even when old favorites disappear from the vast array of streaming services, we can return to them for a classic summer rewatching binge. Television is such a big part of so many of our lives and culture at large, and that’s not entirely a bad thing. Still, if your local library has a summer reading program, or if you can get some sunbeams, I’d encourage it, and I’ll take my own advice. When everything gets cold and gloomy again, we can continue with the binges.