There's a lot of TV out there today, and much of it is worth watching. Sometimes, though, watching a new TV show can be a real workout. You've got to get invested in new characters, learn new names, and come to understand new situations or plot points. You aren't always in the mood to do all that work. Then there are those great TV shows that can be a bit of a downer — looking at you The Handmaid's Tale and 13 Reasons Why. Sometimes you just want comfort food TV.
These are the shows that are easy to consume. They're familiar, but they're also really tasty. These shows can come from a variety of genres, but what unites them all is the way they make you feel. That feeling is one of easy comfort and total relaxation. When you come home after a long day, these are the shows you'll want to turn on.
In addition to being one of the funniest shows ever created, The Office is also deeply comforting. It's a reminder that, to some extent, everyone is leading a pretty ordinary life. Crazy, stupid stuff might happen. It may even be the norm. But on The Office, everyone came in and went home just the same.
The Office had memorable characters, but they were also people we knew (and sometimes related to WAY too much). There was the guy too cool to work, the charming secretary, and the boss who lacked a remarkable degree of self-awareness. All of them feel like a family, one you want to come home to every night.
Friday Night Lights is an incredibly rare thing for TV. It's a show about decent people trying to live decent lives. Following a small town football team and their head coach, the show had more likable than you can count. It's great TV, but it's also the best show you could possibly watch to comfort yourself.
Because it's set in a high school, there's a palpable feeling of loss when characters leave or graduate. Even so, the show soldiers on, and doesn't really get any worse for those characters' absence. Taken as a whole, it's one of the most fulfilling, dramatic shows to ever grace our screens.
In an age of political turmoil, The West Wing offers a remarkable bit of salvation. Telling the story of a principled Democratic president and his administration, the show makes us feel good about political leaders for a change. The show is filled with fast-paced dialogue and clever turns of phrase.
It's a wonderfully acted show that compliments its performances with compelling stories. The thing about governing is that something is always going wrong. The West Wing is exciting for that reason, and it's comforting because of how its characters respond to the challenges they face. They're political leaders with real courage. Imagine that.
The family at the center of Arrested Development is completely despicable. Every character is privileged and ignorant, and none of them can really do anything right. On most shows, that would be an instant turn off. On Arrested Development, though, there's something strangely appealing about it. It's as if you know your choices can't be that bad when stacked up against the Bluths'.
Of course, it doesn't hurt that the show is also incredibly funny. It's hard to find a show more densely packed with jokes than Arrested Development. That's a huge reason why the show works so well as a bit of comfort food.
One of the newest entries on this list, This Is Us is the ideal wholesome family drama. It's not that bad things never happen on the show, but This Is Us is always there to remind you that family will get you through the worst of the worst. That's what they're there for, after all.
The familial love is strong with this one, and the sense of uplift you'll feel while watching it is palpable. This Is Us is not consistently great, but it's always a comfort to sit down with the family at the show's heart. They love one another, which only makes it that much easier for us to love them too.
This show is about friends, so of course it's a perfect show to watch for comfort. Following the lives of six New Yorkers who create a family out of their friendships, the show holds up well in part because there's not a ton of overarching plot. Instead, there are wonderful moments that offer warmth and laughs in a perfect balance. It's almost like it was calibrated in a lab.
If you're looking to Friends for comfort, you've got 10 seasons of material to comb through. There's plenty of gems scattered throughout, and only a few outright duds in the whole bunch.
Gilmore Girls is like a breath of fresh air. Set in a fictional New England town, the show follows the quirky trials and tribulations of a single mother and her teenage daughter. The show can be powerfully dramatic, but most of the time its tone is light and somewhat ethereal. That's part of what makes it work so well.
It's not a very plotty show, but it manages to create an intoxicating show that's hard to stop watching. Gilmore Girls is a great show because its characters are so vividly drawn. Even when you hate them, you hate them the way you hate your friends when they do something dumb.
The Great British Bake Off is delightfully small and delightfully British. It's a show about a group of bakers who basically just try as hard as they can not to mess up the baked good they're creating. It's a competition show, but not the cutthroat kind. Everyone is exceedingly polite, and somehow that doesn't detract from the tension at all.
GBBO is also a great show if you're really into looking at other people's food. It may make you want to bake some comfort food of your own, in fact. The Great British Bake Off is a perfect Saturday afternoon show to put on while you do other things. It's pure comfort.
There aren't many shows about murder on this list, and there's a reason for that. It's hard to make murder feel comforting. On Psych, though, there's a great tonal balance that allows the show to be pretty fun without treating murder lightly.
Following a hyper-observant man who pretends to be a brilliant psychic, Psych is one of the most fun things a person can watch. It's silly and totally uninterested in being self-serious or grandiose. Instead, it makes itself as light and accessible as possible, and it also manages to provide plenty of laughs along the way. It's a comfort food show about murder which is so hard to come by.
If you like soapy drama mixed with hilarity, RuPaul's Drag Race is for you. It's an easy watch in part because of the way it lets the natural personalities of its contestants do all the talking. In many ways, it's a conventional reality competition show, one that allows RuPaul to find the next drag superstar.
Each week, the contestants are given a challenge, and one is eliminated. What separates the show is its effortless diversity and its moments of incredible warmth. Of course, those moments of warmth are coupled with plenty of entertaining and hilarious moments. From top to bottom, the show is one of the most entertaining out there.
Imagine Friends if it was approximately 500% weirder. That's New Girl in a nutshell. It tells the story of a group of friends who, at various points in the show's course, share a loft in Los Angeles. Every week, they get up to something incredibly stupid, and inevitably things get strange.
New Girl is funny in a way that most sitcoms aren't because it allows its characters to do truly embarrassing things. At various points in the show's run, a character wears a hoodie as pants, and another breaks down over an attempt to deliver a cookie to a friend. Trust me, it's great.
Following a young girl who is accidentally artificially inseminated, Jane the Virgin is a delightful TV romantic comedy. It's also a story about a young Latina and the family that supports her. Jane the Virgin an incredibly smart show about an incredibly strange circumstance, and it's wonderfully comforting to watch.
The show is perfect for The CW, in part because its tone is a great mixture of melodrama and hilarity. Jane the Virgin defies easy categorization, and it's all the better for that fact. It's a comedy and a drama, often within the same scene. It's also something of a miracle.
Scrubs is, strangely enough, widely considered one of the most accurate medical TV shows ever made. It follows a team of new doctors as they gradually work up the ranks of their hospital. Along the way, they learn that most of modern medicine is taking care of the aged and infirmed.
In spite of that reality check, the show never feels harsh or dire. Instead, the show's defining tone is silliness. There are ridiculous fantasies scattered throughout, and plenty of real-world antics as well. Scrubs works because it combines these elements with the drama of many medical shows and turns it into a totally new thing.
Parks and Recreation is a hopeful, inspiring show about local government. It's also one of the funniest sitcoms of the 21st century. Although it started out as little more than a rip-off of The Office, it eventually morphed into something completely its own. Parks and Rec is a little more wholesome, and a little bit stranger.
As it evolved, it also gave us vivid depictions of each of its central characters and launched a generation of comedy stars. Ron Swanson is such a vivid, specific character. He's so strange, and so funny in that strangeness, that we may never again see anything like him on TV.
The Amazing Race is great because nothing ever really changes. There are always teams of two, and they're always traveling around the world doing somewhat insane things. It's a show that gives viewers a chance to watch other people have adventures, and it's more thrilling than it sounds.
Whereas most reality TV is fueled by drama between contestants, The Amazing Race is fueled by drama within these two-person teams. It's a great show about perseverance and will power, and it also gives you a chance to see some of the most interesting places and cultures in the world. It's a great show that never gets old.
This is another great show for all you foodies out there. Top Chef follows a group of contestants as they compete in culinary challenge after culinary challenge. They're judged by professional chefs, and each season takes place in a different city. As a result, viewers get to see a variety of different foods from across the country.
The drama in the kitchen is real and intense. This is the kind of show that gives viewers at home the feeling that they understand more about cooking than they really do. Even so, it's that feeling that keeps them coming back. Hopefully, they learn a little something along the way.
Queer Eye might be the ideal comfort food TV. It's sweet and funny and easy to understand. Each episode, five experts offer advice to ordinary men (usually) on everything from dressing themselves to styling their homes. Along the way, the men also learn a few lessons in how to open themselves up.
The 2018 version of the show is based on an earlier iteration, but smartly modernizes it. The gay men at the show's center are all incredibly charming, and their personalities are a huge part of the draw. At its best, though, the show is also tender and sweet, which only makes every episode that much more of a treat.
The Voice is a less personal version of American Idol. Each of the judges on the show builds a team of singers that eventually go head-to-head for America's votes. It's a natural extension of American Idol, one that allows judges to coach contestants and provide advice.
At the same time, it gives viewers at home a chance to judge contestants and pick their favorites. Everyone is allowed to have an opinion, and at the end of the day, no real harm is done. The Voice has yet to produce a major pop sensation in the way Idol did, but that hardly seems to matter.