I am always busy. There have been days where I’ve resigned to that fact – I’ve justified it by explaining (to myself), that I am somebody who “thrives off of being busy”, and that I in fact, would hate to be bored. There are other days however, where the busyness becomes all-consuming. Days where I need to work, need to write, need to manage, need to eat, need to sleep, need to make money, need to save money, need to plan for the future, need to live in the moment. It’s a lot, and almost always ends with me facing the same conclusion – that there’s little I can do about it at this moment in time, that I am not alone in feeling like this, and therefore I should probably just accept and embrace this chaos.
The little we can do though? Search for stability in things that generally provide comfort. For me, that search has led me to TV, and in particular, rewatching shows that I know and love. I'm not alone in this. There’s definitely been a resurgence of show re-watching; the evidence being the multiple Twitter threads and TikTok posts that circulate weekly, featuring clips from shows like ‘This Is Us’, ‘Scandal’, ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ and more. There’s usually a pattern with the shows that resurface too - they’re big on drama and they tend to have had cult followings on initial release, so much so that a ten second clip floating about on social media can generate discourse for days amongst fans.
I’m currently re-watching ‘Scandal’ and re-revelling in the whirlwind that is Fitz and Olivia, reciting lines that are ingrained in my memory, but enjoying the twists and revelations as if I was watching them for the first time. It doesn’t feel like repetition, and there feels a marked difference between repeating a show, and re-watching a show. When I’m writing, I often have to repeat a show or film – to take notes of quotes, to learn character names. It’s a more clinical process. Rewatching a show though? Well, that’s an immersive experience.
There are modern stimulators of course – things that act as triggers, gently encouraging you to re-enter the world of a show you’ve already been in. One verbal mention of Grey’s Anatomy and TikTok will take the opportunity to greet you with not just one, two or three parts, but more likely parts one through twenty-four of a random, but harrowing scene or storyline that you kind of remember, but kind of don’t. Next thing you know, you’re in the comments, searching for the guardian angel that has thoughtfully typed out which season and which episode the clips are from. Season two, episode six. And, before you know it, you’re re-watching the rest of the season. The immersive experience has begun. As somebody that works in the film industry, a self-confessed TV fanatic (I can attest to this) and my sister, Moyo Abiona explains the thrill that comes with social media prompting you to revisit old shows. “I love reading the comments whilst I’m watching the content. Because the content isn’t new to me, I’ve seen it, I remember it, but sometimes the comments point something out to me that I didn’t even notice. They’re also so funny on TikTok. It could be the most serious, tear-jerking clip and the top comment will have you bursting out in laughter. Rewatching becomes a social activity”.
There’s also an undeniable comfort in knowing what comes next, and I think that plays another key part in the reason we’re re-watching shows. There’s something quite nice about knowing which parts make background television, which parts require intense concentration, which parts you can completely skip. It adds an autonomy to watching television that weekly episodes and new content just can’t offer.
On the flipside, there’s also a mild discomfort that can come with a re-watch. The disappointment that the show you told everyone was so great, was actually not the timeless classic you thought it to be and was great in 2010 only. The self-growth that can be both accessed and assessed when rewatching a show can also be a bit of an uncomfy realisation. The character you so boldly proclaimed as your favourite, turning out to be just as flawed as the characters you so boldly proclaimed you hated (see Toni Childs in ‘Girlfriends’). Gaz Otim, ¼ of 14HQ’s Post Credit Scene Podcast, picks “The Wire” as a show that made him reevaluate the thoughts he had when he first watched it years ago. “Our relationship with the police is a by-product of how we’ve been treated. And that distrust is both inherited and learned, but rewatching The Wire, there’s a nuance to the characters that makes you think about that whole cycle more holistically. The writing, the character development, there was something on the second watch that gave me a bit more insight towards characters like McNulty (the lead detective in the HBO show)."
The point being, rewatching shows is more than just living in the past and mindlessly basking in the delights of nostalgia. It’s a prioritisation of self, an acknowledgement of one’s need to embrace both comfort and growth, but to enjoy whilst doing so. There’s something quite beautiful in the idea of experiencing newness whilst conceptually doing acts already completed, and so to that I say, long live the era of the rewatch.