Comfort Viewing

Dan Aykroyd and Eddie Murphy in a scene from Trading Places

If we’re flipping channels or clicking through the offerings of a streaming service and this movie comes up, we’re watching it. Again!

The flick in question is the comedy, Trading Places. Since its release in 1983, I’ve probably seen it a half dozen times. My husband, countless times. He’s the one who stops at the sight of this Eddie Murphy/Dan Aykroyd classic. I know how much he loves it so I don’t protest. Sometimes I watch, too. Sometimes I find something else to do!

Some people can’t imagine watching a movie more than once. Others can see the same film over and over. Even if it’s only at Christmas time when It’s A Wonderful Life or Love, Actually come around again. I’ll admit I’m a sucker for the second one.

But during the height of the pandemic, peoples’ viewing habits changed. TV and movie classics found new life in repeat viewings. And the reason is simple: comfort.

Oh sure, we were home a lot more and looking for things to do. But it’s more than that, according to psychologists. There’s a feeling of a warm embrace in knowing how something is going to end. Especially when we were all caught up in a global event that was unpredictable and at times, scary. During the first lockdown, people were streaming Golden Girls, Friends, and anything else that felt familiar.

And we’re not just nostalgic for the programs. We’re also revisiting who we were when they first came out. Friends launched when I was single in Toronto, working at MIX 999, living in a tiny apartment on the top of a house that no longer exists at Yonge and St. Clair. There were things about the personality of that ME that I no longer have. And even though I much prefer the current ME, revisiting old me can be fun. One “I’ll be there for you” sings out and I’m back in that teeny living room with a small TV, shelves crammed with books and hardcovers piled up as de facto end tables.

There’s a phenomenon called “mere exposure effect“. It means we like something simply because we already know it. It’s also why I keep the same, old, dog-eared paperback of John Irving’s The Cider House Rules. My re-readings of it are getting farther and farther apart, but I’ll pick up that novel again. It will be read number 9 or 10. There will be parts I’ve forgotten but I know the gist of the story and it’s brilliantly told. I know I won’t be disappointed.

During what we’ve recently gone through, re-watching a show we love has given us a sense of order in the world where nothing’s in order. It’s escape. It reduces anxiety about things out of our control. On Seinfeld, Frank Constanza is always going to react in an over-the-top way, Jerry will be shallow, and George will complain about everything. Predictability is found! And as long as we’re not actually living in the past, experts say a little nostalgia is good for us.

And now, as we watch helplessly while Putin destroys lives in Ukraine, some of us are heading back to familiar territory again. We recently put old Law and Order episodes into rotation. They’re mixed with Seinfeld and Mom, as well was whatever current show du jour we are streaming.

Promo shot for The Mentalist has title in white lettering on the right. On the left, Simon Baker holds his teacup and saucer while he looks into the camera.

Derek also loves to watch the 2008-2015 series, The Mentalist, on repeat. And he has since long before the virus came to be.

Simon Baker stars as a famous, tea-loving psychic who admits he was a fake. He helps investigators solve murders after his hubris gets his family killed. We came to love the characters and have watched the entire series three times, I think. If I’m out for the evening, Derek will text me that “The Mentalist marathon is about to start”! If I’d agree, we’d start with episode one again, right after viewing the finale. He has always said it’s like comfort food and it appears that’s what lots of people have been after in the last couple of years.

8 thoughts on “Comfort Viewing”

  1. I have several movies that I love that I have re-watched over and over. My top ones are Zefereli’s 1968 Romeo and Juliet (the Leonardo Decaprio version stank), The Thin Man and anything by John Sayles. I’m really hoping for Netflix or Prime to pick up The Devil Wears Prada because I’d love to see that one again. Another movie I’ve watched twice – once when I was home sick as a teenager and then again when I found it on YouTube is “The Girl Most Likely To”. It was a made for tv movies co-written by Joan Rivers and starred Stockard Channing and Ed Asner. Not high art, but highly entertaining.

    1. I loved The Devil Wears Prada, too. Fun fact – the novel was a huge inspiration for me and my fiction writing. As far as “not high art” goes, that’s some of the best stuff! 🙂

  2. I was excited to learn that Disney+ added The Amazing Race to its lineup. I LOVE TAR. I even watched YouTube videos of AR Australia and AR China one time when I needed chill out time. I’ve re-watched Seasons 1-10 so far. It still entertains me, and I get to travel the world, while I wait for the world to open up more. Happy watching!

  3. Yeah, Eddie Murphy Movies, (Most) do hold up. He was in his prime. I must have seen “The Wizard Of Oz, dozens of dozens of times since childhood, and it still gets me at the end. H.G. Wells “Time Machine,” is another so ahead of it’s time. I cannot turn it off if I come across it. Great read, Lisa.

    1. You’re right about Eddie’s older movies, for sure! I haven’t seen Wizard of Oz since I was a kid and I’ve NEVER seen Time Machine.

  4. Well, I just found another reason for a bromance between Derek and Rob – Rob’s a HUGE Mentalist fan, too! Ah, Simon Baker, where art thou? He had definite Bond material at one time….hope we see him again one day. Thanks for the stroll down memory lane (even if it’s lined with condos now, as I’m sure the street you lived on in TO is, too). xo E

    1. I had no idea Rob also liked The Mentalist! I must admit, I grew to love it, too. It’s just that I know who did it in the first few minutes and to Derek, even on repeat viewings, it’s always a surprise! We made the mistake of watching one or two films Simon made while the iron was hot and – ugh – don’t bother. Still a fan, though.

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