Last night, I was extremely tired. We’re finally moving, in just about the worst time in my life to do so, and I was exhausted and in pain. I am also, as I’m sure no few of you are, extremely stressed. Friends are sick; other friends, including my partner, work in “essential” jobs and are increasingly likely to get sick. Other friends are out of work. Our schools just got canceled for the rest of the year. This is a horrible, horrible time in a lot of ways. And I decided that what I needed to watch for a while was Perry Mason, because it would make me feel better.
I wonder, sometimes, what people used to do for this sense of comfort before or if it’s something new. Even my own mother couldn’t watch what she wanted as much as I did, when she was my age, but she had music and books she could retreat into. My grandmother had fewer chances still, and you go back enough generations, and I don’t know what the possible equivalent would have been. But now, when most of us are in need of comfort, we have TV shows and movies and things that just seem to be the thing to calm us down.
Now, I’m sure Perry Mason seems like an odd choice to a lot of people, and I suppose it is. But there’s a sense of familiarity to it, for one, and warm family memories. About the only thing my mom and my dad’s mom could agree on, besides how much they loved Dad and of course me and my sisters, was how much they loved Perry Mason. I have warm memories of watching it with both Mom and with Grandma. And, of course, it’s a simpler world, one where every issue will be hammered out within an hour.
I think a lot of comfort viewing has that sense to it. If there are problems, they will be solved. Another show I watch a lot for comfort is The Great British Bake-Off, and that’s the same sort of thing. It’s a pleasant world where the biggest scandal involves a baked Alaska. Or there’s The Joy of Painting, where a man quietly tells you that you, too, can be a great artist if you want to be. When my daughter was in the NICU three years ago, one of the movies I watched was Ikiru, which sounds depressing but is really about how it’s possible to do good things with even a shortened life.
In the weeks and possibly months to come, I think we’re all going to be doing quite a lot of comfort viewing. We are fortunate inasmuch as we have more sources of comfort viewing than at any other time in history—a hundred years ago, you couldn’t have gone out to the theatre to distract you from the flu epidemic, after all. And I think we should be grateful for that, honestly. I’d also note that this is a great time to have some of your comfort viewing on physical media, to ease the stress on our streaming systems.