Shows like The Baby-Sitters Club, Tiger King, Love Is Blind, Insecure, Avatar: The Last Airbender and Yellowstone may seem different, but they all have one thing in common: providing comfort TV escapism. "Coronavirus and political anxiety have accelerated this shift toward comfort TV," says Kathryn VanArendonk. "Who wants to be frustrated or made more sad by their entertainment when the outside world itself feels like a sufficiently brutal place? But the trend was already well under way in television, a result of several simultaneous forces: the Peak TV deluge, the dominance of Netflix, prestige-TV exhaustion, Trump-era exhaustion, a more diverse slate of TV creators, and the streaming-era ability to spend hours revisiting old standbys rather than finding the energy for something new. All those things combined have brought us to this moment, this embrace of the comforting and the undemanding. At the same time, there’s the growing awareness that comforting, undemanding TV can be worthy of critical acclaim. I am newly confident in the idea that the categories of 'favorite' and 'best' can be collapsed into each other, carrying all of the favorite-implied ideas of pleasure, subjectivity, and enchantment into the definitions of greatness. Not all comfort TV is great, by any means, but neither was all of prestige TV. The difference now is that accessibility and cheerfulness do not instantly render a show less important. The desire for TV shows that foreground delight rather than despair is not a form of weakness. TV that makes us sad is not inherently better. The pandemic was the final death knell of 'prestige' as a meaningful indicator of anything at all, and I’m glad to see it go."
TOPICS: The Baby-Sitters Club, Netflix, Avatar: The Last Airbender (2005 series), Insecure, Love Is Blind, Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness, Yellowstone, 2020 Presidential Election, Coronavirus, Peak TV, Trump Presidency