The power of comfort tv

I tend to favour reading a book over sitting in front of the TV. I’m not up-to-date on any of Netflix’s recent releases, I haven’t seen a single episode of The Crown, Game of Thrones or Orange is the New Black, just to name a few. Yet this Winter I am finding solace in cold evenings huddled up with the box. Comfort TV has made its way into my life.

The Great British Bake Off has long been the sole hour a week, for the 7 to 9 weeks a year that it is aired, where I will religiously be tuning in. This year has been no different. I am once again enchanted as I watch cupcakes rise in slow motion, the drama enfold as a custard slice slides off the plate and felt my emotions almost bubble over at the ever heart-warming final update. 

Yet this year there is also a difference. For the first time since I was a teenager, I am now spending my Saturday nights cheering, scoring and oohing at sequin-clad celebrities learning to ballroom dance, I’ve been caught up again in ‘Strictly Mania’. Now, this might be for the very obvious reason that I quite literally have nowhere else to go on a Saturday night. While my own dancing shoes (tequila sticky black boots, if you’re wondering) might be in retirement since Boris has grounded us, I am now stepping into something comfier (faux-shearling lined slipper boots to be exact) and watching as celebrities take to the Elstree Studio floor. 

This isn’t the only nostalgic show I’ve reacquainted myself with this season. I now am resubscribed to watching celebs reach their hands into spider-filled boxes as Ant and Dec laugh in horror - yes, I want to find out who is going to be crowned King or Queen of the Castle. If you’re wondering what the hell I’m talking about, this year I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here is taking place in a Welsh castle instead of the Aussie Jungle due to our old friend Corona. 

So why is it this year that I am suddenly so invested in shows that have been meaningless to me in recent years? While the world feels insecure, our future is a bit rocky and we are ordered to stay inside I am seeking out some sense of stability. I can’t bare to fill myself with more unknowns, I can’t take the tensions of an unknown plot line of a new show - what if my favourite character dies or cheats on their wife or ends up being a bit racist? - instead I am subscribed to a feeling of the reliable. These shows follow a simple, tried and tested format. I know each week, or each day, people will dance, they will be scored, they will eat a bug and sing a song around a campfire, and then someone is voted off. I often am not even bothered by who leaves, I just want a sense of something established that I can grip on to. 

These two shows also hold some intense memories for me. As a child when they both aired their first episodes each season it meant my days playing out in long Summer evenings with my friends were numbered; school was back on and soon it would be too dark and cold for me to be biking around my estate like I had been for the two months previously. Instead I would grab a blanket and settle on the sofa with my Gran in the front room to watch some celebrities move yellow stars with their tongue past a snake in order to win a meal for camp. And now, I grab my blanket and watch alone. I lost my Gran earlier this year, so instead I am holding on to fond memories of our shared-viewing by going at it alone. 

I have probably attached more fondness than otherwise necessary to these shows because we used to be the only two in our house to show an interest, it was something we did together. And while my Gran and I shared other interests that none of our other family members did - sewing, jigsaw puzzles, arts and crafts - the watching of these programmes is something I can easily fall back into without much effort. And while I’m not sure I am yet ready to unpack my sewing machine again, almost all my sewing accessories are from my Gran, I am ready to just turn on the TV and think of her for the hour that it plays. 

So actually, this comfort TV feels more like a memory bank, but in a time where my future is undecided I am taking the time to hold my Gran’s, now metaphorical, hand and tune in. In the year where I’ve spent more time in elasticated waistbands than in real clothes, where some days the most exciting thing to happen is that I see a cute dog on my daily walk, I need a bit of Strictly sequin glamour, I need a bit of gunge coated humour, and as always, I need a bit of Bake off magic. 


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