Fangirl Thursday: TV Comfort Food

Sometimes life just sucks. Even though I try to be as positive as I can be as a writer and as a person, there’s no denying that some days are just bad days. Whether you had a bad day at work or are sick with a cold or feeling sad for no real reason, there are days when you just need comfort—comfy clothes, comfort food, and comfort TV.

We all have those episodes of certain TV shows that we watch when we need a little dose of instant happiness. They’re the episodes that act like a warm mug of tea and a soft blanket on life’s rainiest days. A good comfort TV episode makes you smile, laugh, and maybe even cry when you really need to.

When I’m having one of those days where I feel like nothing will cheer me up, I reach for my Parks and Recreation DVDs. I’ve spent many hours curled up on my couch, starting impromptu marathons of this show to get through sick days and sad days. But sometimes you just don’t have time for a marathon. Sometimes you have to choose just one episode that you know will do the trick—one episode that warms your soul and lifts your spirits. And, for me, that episode is “Leslie and Ben.”

Love makes me happy. (I’m 99.9999% positive that the verb I use most frequently both in my writing and in life in general is “love.”) So it seems fitting that the episode I turn to most frequently when I’m in need of a spark of happiness ends with this gem of a quote:

I love my husband. I love my job. I love my friends…even though they really can’t handle their booze.

“Leslie and Ben” isn’t just a wedding episode; it might be the most perfect wedding episode in TV history because of the way it celebrates not just the love between the two people getting married, but also the love all of their other friends have for them. Whether it’s Chris giving Ben literally the most thoughtful wedding gift imaginable (the letter that sent them to Pawnee) or Ron telling Leslie how much her friendship means to him, there are so many little character beats in that episode between friends that make me happy cry every time I watch them. And the way all of Leslie’s friends came together to make her wedding a beautiful, personal event was the perfect embodiment of this show’s heartwarming ethos: No one achieves anything alone.

Ultimately, “Leslie and Ben” makes me feel optimistic. I relate to Leslie Knope more strongly than I’ve ever related to another female character. We’re both passionate people, but sometimes we can be a little much for the average person to take (especially the average guy). That’s why it matters so much to me that Leslie got her happy ending; she found not just one man but a whole group of people who see her for all that she is and choose to love her anyway. And this episode celebrates that like none other.

“Leslie and Ben” reminds me to never give up hope. Even on my most downer days, I watch this episode and feel like I’ll find someone who will help me, support me, surprise me, and make me happy. I feel like I don’t talk enough about Leslie and Ben, but they’re my favorite TV couple because they’re completely devoid of overwrought angst. Even in a wedding episode where nearly everything initially goes wrong, it all ends as it should—with “I love you and I like you,” a plate of waffles, and one amazing sing-along.

No matter how many times I watch the main cast singing “5,000 Candles in the Wind,” I will never get tired of it. There’s just such warmth there, such unabashed joy and love—not just between the characters, but between the actors, too. It lifts my spirits like nothing else; no matter how long or trying a day was, I know that I can watch this scene and instantly feel better.

That’s the thing about “Leslie and Ben” (and Parks and Rec in general); it’s not shy about its purpose, and that purpose is to make people smile. On days when it feels like the world isn’t a very nice place, it’s always comforting to watch an episode of a television show devoted to the idea that good things can happen to nice people.

What’s your ultimate comfort TV episode?

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25 thoughts on “Fangirl Thursday: TV Comfort Food

  1. Whenever I need a pick me up, I watch my favorite season two episode of Alias, “Phase One” (which might also be one of my favorites of the whole series). Everyone was at their best, kicking ass and taking names while delivering the fatal blow to the Alliance, and let’s not forget that the sexual tension Sydney and Vaughn had reached a fever pitch by that point; their conversation at the beginning about their ridiculously obvious feelings for each other is still so wonderful to watch. And let’s not forget the kiss that was heard ’round the world at the end! Not to mention the reveal of “Bad Francie” (as my friend and I affectionately named her). So much Alias wonderfulness packed into one episode!

    • Megan, this choice speaks to my fangirl soul! When I got S2 of Alias on DVD, I think I watched this episode once a day for a month! That conversation between Sydney and Vaughn in the “flirting corner” is still one of the greatest displays of sexual tension of all time. And the kiss at the end will always be my favorite TV kiss. It was such a sweeping, cinematic moment, and now I’m smiling just thinking about it!

  2. I have two depending on what I want for my bad day. If I want an episode to make me happy again, then I turn to “Flu Season” because it’s such a funny episode with such great character moments that I can’t help but be happy when I watch it. You can’t see Leslie’s speech or Ben’s proud face and not smile, but in case you manage to do that, there is still Leslie eating the waffle with her hands and Ben being cute with the soup. Then if that still isn’t enough, I just love the ending with Andy. He’s so precious and I love him so much in that moment.

    If I need to be distracted, then I’ll put on BSG’s “33” because it is absolutely amazing and it sucks me in every time. The tension on screen makes me forget about my bad day and be completely focused on this episode that manages to make the viewers feel as physically exhausted as the characters.

    • I loved that you picked “Flu Season” because if would have made this a Top 5 list, that would have made my cut, too. When I had the flu over Christmas two years ago, that episode was on my TV nonstop. You’re completely right; every moment in that episode is better than the one that came before it. It’s such a special episode, and I’m so glad we both got to watch our comfort TV episodes together while you were here. 😀

  3. Great topic Katie!

    I have to admit I watched that little clip and it made me all teary eyed from the happiness 🙂

    For me, my TV comfort food episode is the “Homecoming” episode of ‘Smallville’. This episode was during the final season (10) and I consider it a love letter to the fans of the show (and fans of the comics as well). It is pretty much Smallville’s version of ‘A Christmas Carol’, where Brainiac 5 (played by James Marsters of ‘Spike’ fame) takes Clark on a little time travel journey to his past, present, and future. Clark is constantly burdened with feeling responsible for the death of his father, the pressure of being a hero, and the fear that having a relationship with Lois will endanger her if he continues to let her in. The journey to the future is my favorite, where Clark gets to see what his life is like as ‘Superman’ and how Lois is right at his side every step of the way, more in love with him than ever.

    Clark: I’ve been so buried by the mistakes of my past and so worried about the responsibilities of the future, I lost sight of the present.

    Brainiac 5: A hero is made in the moment, not from questioning the past or fearing what’s to come.

    This episode is the turning point for Clark on his journey to accepting his role as hero and also accepting Lois as his romantic partner. Its the first time Clark tells Lois that he loves her, and its just a perfect episode that always reminds me you cant dwell too much in the past or be too fearful of the future.

    Side note, I also love the wonderful time travel Once finale we got this Season. GIVE ME ALL THE TIME TRAVEL EPISODES.

    • Thanks, Shauna! I’d been having a stressful week, and just writing about “Leslie and Ben” (and watching that clip like 10 times) helped make everything feel better.

      I love reading your thoughts about Smallville because I can tell how much it means to you. And I love the lesson of that episode, which seems to be a perfect one to remember on bad days or days when you’re feeling anxious.

      Your last thought made me smile because I was just talking to a coworker today about my love of all things time travel. This season’s OUAT finale (especially certain clips from it) has become required viewing on stressful days. I’ll admit to taking more than one three-minute break at work to watch the scene with Emma and Hook outside of Granny’s. 😉

  4. Katie I love this! Also I was literally just crying about Parks and Rec WHEN I CLICKED ON THIS POST, so that’s my life.
    I’m trying to think if I have one singular comfort episode. It varies a lot depending on my mood. A few weeks ago, it was almost midnight on a Sunday night, I had work the next day, writing to do, new shows to catch up on, and cover letters to finish, but I just couldn’t do any of that. I was feeling overwhelmed and sad and I just NEEDED to watch that Doctor Who two-parter, “The Impossible Planet”/”The Satan Pit.” I mean I needed it. I got into bed and watched it until after 1:30 am and did not lose focus or feel tired or in any way regret that decision. It was exactly what I needed. So I’d put that episode on my list for its quiet reflections and gorgeous Doctor/Rose love, for sure.
    Other comfort episodes? ANYTHING Parks and Rec, but I’d say “Flu Season” most of all. It’s pure joy, that one.
    There are also MORE than a few Bones episodes, but the one that never gets old for me is “Aliens in a Spaceship.” That’s the one that made me fall for Booth (seriously, I recommend it to anyone who’s curious about the show).
    And the Alias pilot is IMMENSELY comforting to me.

    • Apparently it was a day for Parks and Rec feels. 😉

      I have had so many nights like the one you described with Doctor Who. There are times when you know you should be doing other things, but you just need that time with a favorite episode for your own sanity.

      And I will never get tired of the Alias pilot. Just thinking about “EMETIB…Got it? Now reverse it” brings me so much joy.

        • Sorry to butt into your conversation here, but “Aliens in a Spaceship” is probably the best Bones episode ever, hands down. That’s definitely a “watch it any day of the week and twice on Sunday” kind of ep!!

          And thanks for mentioning the Alias pilot…the whole premise behind the show seemed so farfetched to me, but they handled it beautifully. And I’m sorry, but if you don’t feel the devastation that Sydney feels upon finding Danny dead in their apartment, then you don’t have a heart and I can’t help you… 😉

          • ALWAYS join any conversation involving “Aliens in a Spaceship.” It’s definitely the best Bones episode in my book. And YES–Jennifer Garner is so great in that scene! In the whole pilot/ show, really. I MISS IT. And “Phase One” is definitely my favorite too (but the pilot is at such a close second).

  5. Depending on whether I am looking for relief or catharsis is where I turn on those days that I want to curl up and let TV allow me to escape being an adult for a little while.

    Relief:
    My go to here is Sports Night’s Pilot & The Six Southern Gentlemen of Tennessee. Both make me smile and give me joy because they epitomize camaraderie and knowledge that at the end of the day, no matter how lonely or discouraged there is someone, and often a group of someones who will have your back, no matter what. Both these episodes provide that in very different ways and both make me smile just thinking about them.

    Castle – Really, again when I want to shut the world away, this is my go to series and TNT has often saved me since re-runs started airing. I have more favorite episodes than I care to think about but my go to episodes are The Double Down, Tick Tick/Boom and Last Call, mostly because they are the two episodes that most reflect again the camaraderie of the cast and the family that has formed in the 12th.

    Pure Laughter:
    Friends – The One with the Embryos – There is nothing about the Jeopardy style, one upmanship bet that this episode centers around that doesn’t make me laugh. It was a moment in time when the show was at it’s best before the characters became over exaggerated and once we knew many of the nuance dynamics. It is a great 22 minutes packed with silliness and makes me forget the stupid annoyances of life.

    Moonlighting – The Murder’s in the Mall – I loved all of season 1 of Moonlighting and on a day like the one you described could marathon most of that season. But when in a pinch, this episode is the most likely to snap me out of it. For you who loves Castle, this is fundamentally where I see the connection to Castle’s first season, and Moonlighting at its very best. It is also the episodes that has fundamentally one of the best back and forth rhyming game I have ever seen.

    I Love Lucy – Hollywood Here I Come – This is the episode that sends Lucy to The Brown Derby and a fateful encounter with William Holden. If I want to simply laugh, this is the 25 minutes that will guarantee it. I laugh in anticipation of moments. It is the brilliant timing and expressions that make it funny viewing after viewing. Holden is the perfect foil for Lucille Ball and if I am ever stranded on an island this episode is a must have for sanity.

    Catharsis:
    Sometimes, I just need to cry it out and I’ve got episodes for that too.

    Sex and the City’s – La Douleur Exquise! – That final scene and monologue gets me right where I live. Every. Single. Time. I relate to that moment of self realization, pain and understanding implicitly and I can’t watch it without crying.

    Grey’s Anatomy – Speaking A Dead Language – Again, the end of this episode cut me to the very core. Knowing T.R. Knight was leaving was one thing, how he left the show was an entirely different matter. This episode slaughters me every time and lets me abandon any sense of decorum.

    LOST – Exodus – To this day I cry the moment they launch that raft. The whole episode gets to me now. Something about the randomness of life and who we meet and intersect with is very profound for me. This episode captures that sense and reality better than anything I have ever seen and it is my go to for catharsis.

    Great topic and I now want to watch all of these episodes when I go home tonight. Curled up with some chocolate and popcorn and a nice glass of wine.

    • I absolutely love all of these lists for so many reasons. First of all, I love that both of your (excellent) choices for relief feature groups of people supporting each other because sometimes you just need that reminder that the world isn’t full of negative, out-for-themselves people. I also love that we have the same favorite episode of Friends.

      Your catharsis list is incredible (I could read your thoughts on Exodus for hours), and it got me thinking about my own choices. So here’s my list:

      Kill Shot (Castle): Between Esposito telling Beckett that it’s okay that she’s damaged goods and Beckett trying to hold back her tears as she decides to be more than who she is at that moment, this episode is my reminder that we have the ability to choose to move on from pain and make ourselves better people for having gone through difficult times.

      The End (LOST): This is my go-to LOST episode for catharsis. Whenever I’ve faced times in my life when I’ve had to move on from something or let something go, I think about (and usually watch) this episode and let myself cry. And, like you feel with Exodus, I’m struck every time I watch this episode with the power of the connections we form in life and how sometimes all it takes is one person to wake us up to the beautiful reality of who we really are.

      The Telling (Alias): No matter how many years pass, the end of this episode still turns me back into the 14-year-old girl who cried so hard she couldn’t breathe after the screen faded to black. This is the episode I watch when I want to forget about my own problems and simply feel for a fictional character for an hour.

      Brave New World (Boy Meets World): Nothing in TV history gets to me like this finale. That final scene in the classroom was so perfectly cathartic for all who watched it originally, but it’s become even more so as the generation who watched it as preteens has grown up. As a soon-to-be 26-year-old, growing up and leaving things from my youth behind still feels scary and lonely at times, and that’s when I go to this episode to let all those emotions out.

      • “…she decides to be more than who she is at that moment, this episode is my reminder that we have the ability to choose to move on from pain and make ourselves better people for having gone through difficult times.”

        This sentence is everything. I’ve had one of those ‘broken’ weeks and what you wrote about Kill Shot, so true and so poignant. Thank you.

      • I love that episode of Boy Meets World so much and you are completely right that it just gets better as we age. We grew up with Mr. Feeny’s lessons and now that we’re at the point where we’re ready to move on with our lives and go try something new and different, his final lesson becomes all the more potent.

  6. Well…it depends if i’m in the mood of a good laugh or crying or if I need some laugher and romance. Anyway my top list is this:
    New Girl, Cooler. I mean, that kiss, best kiss on television ever, well at least for me! 🙂
    New Girl, The Landlord. So much fun!
    Friends,The One With Monica’s Thunder. Monica and Chandler get engaged and it’s so beautiful.
    Friends,The One Where Everybody Finds Outend. The scene where Phoebe finds out about Monica and Chandler looking outside the window at Ross’ place is epic!
    The big bang theory, The Justice League Recombination. One of my favourite episode ever! I laugh so much, everytime I watch it.
    One tree hill, Please, please, please, let me get what i want this time. This episode speaks to me on a personal level. I was exactly in the same situation as Peyton was in the episode when it aired and everytime i need a good crying…
    Lost, The Man from Tallahassee, I do, The end.
    Doctor who, The girl who waited. So beautiful and meaningful for Rory and Amy’s relationship.
    Doctor who, The Angels take Manhattan, The time of the Doctor. Much, much crying

  7. Ops, forgot! Even though I love a lot of episodes from this show, this one is unforgettable and so funny for me.
    How I met your mother, The Limo. New Year’s Eve around New York, Barney’s “Get Psyched” mix CD and Moby…epic!

  8. Hi Katie

    I’ve just finished watching all six seasons of Castle in one marathon session for a little pick me up. A single episode is hard to pick but I have a few that I’ve been back to.

    Castle:
    Still – Generally I find flashback episodes tiresome, however this episode is one of the best ever. All the clips bring a smile to my face and I chuckle at the memories they conjure. When I’m down this is my go to episode.

    Buffy:
    Into the Woods – The final scenes are the best. Buffy learns that Riley is cheating on her. He tells her he’s leaving unless she can give him a reason to stay. Xander tracks Buffy down and corners her in a warehouse and gives her a heart warming speech about what she’s losing. He then goes home and tells Anya: “I’ve gotta say something, ’cause I don’t think I’ve made it clear. I’m in love with you. Powerfully, painfully in love. The things you do, the way you think, the way you move… I get excited every time I’m about to see you. You make me feel like I’ve never felt before in my life. Like a man. I just thought you might wanna know.” I tear up whenever I watch this scene and it reminds me to tell the people I love how they make me feel.

    Firefly:
    War Stories – This episode shows the value of friendship. A bond between people that can’t be defined unless you’ve been part of the experience. There’s just the right amount of tension, humour and violence to make you cheer at the end for the underdogs who prevail.

    Serenity:
    The movie. Just a great feel good movie. Watching the Firefly crew again brings a warm tingly feeling all over. The fight scenes with Summer Glau are poetry in motion.

    Doctor Who
    Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead. This two part episode introduces one of my favourite characters, River Song, albeit at the end of her journey. On first watching she is mysterious, how does River know the Doctor, and when she whispers in his ear he changes. River’s opening greeting “Hello Sweetie” and later “Spoilers” would become the catch cry of their relationship, much like ‘Always’ in Castle. In later seasons River mentions that a day is coming for her, a day when the Doctor will not recognise her, and she thinks it will kill her. In this episode we see that day.

    • Hi Mark! Thanks for the comment, and I have to say I LOVE your Castle choice. Still is such a fantastic episode, and it always makes me happy. I also really love your Firefly choice because “War Stories” is such a great Zoe episode, and she’s my favorite.

      But as a huge Walsh fan, I don’t know if I could ever call Serenity a “feel good movie.” 😉

  9. I find that I tend to go towards reading as my form of media when I need some cheering up, but on the occasion that I DO reach for the TV remote instead, here’s a few of my favorite cheer-up episodes:

    The whole arc of “Luke Can See Her Face,” “Last Week Fights, This Week Tights,” and “Raincoats and Recipes” from the end of S4 of Gilmore Girls will always be a favorite of mine. Luke and Lorelai were the first couple I really was intensely invested in from my TV shows and these three episodes are full of so many happy things (if you pretty much ignore Rory’s arc in the last episode) that it’s always a good choice for me. Plus Gilmore Girls in general always brings lots of humor, and they talk fast, so you have to concentrate to keep up and can be distracted.

    Castle always has so many episodes to choose from that I don’t know that there’s just one episode that I watch to cheer up, but I always enjoy a rewatch of the Pilot now since I know how far they have come in the years afterwards. It’s sort of nostalgic in a way to go back and see the beginning of everything again.

    “A Land Without Magic” from Once Upon A Time will always be a cathartic and wonderful experience for me. From the devastation and worry on Emma and Regina’s face over Henry, to the Snow and Charming flashbacks, to Emma’s realization and belief in Henry, to all the reunions at the end, I will always feel so many emotions (and sob quite a bit) over this episode. It might be my favorite Once Upon A Time episode ever, simply for the fact that along with all the emotions that hit me hard this episode was what really solidified for me that yes, I love this show and it is capable of making me feel to this deeper level that TV doesn’t usually touch for me.

    Also in the vein of episodes where I watch if I need to cry, Sherlock’s “The Reichenbach Fall” gets me every time. The whole episode is entertaining and full of tension that sucks you in, and the final part of the storyarc of this episode with the confrontation on the rooftop (with amazing dialogue) and then the complete breakdown into tears that happens to me during John and Sherlock’s phone call will always be sort of like an emotional purge.

    For a final episode from off the top of my head, Sherlock’s “The Sign of Three” will always be a good cheer-up watch for me – there’s lot of humor, and lots of feelings about the relationships on this show that are part of this episode. Plus, lots of visually pretty scenes.

    I have a feeling that The Mindy Project and Brooklyn Nine Nine will make its way onto this list once I finish catching up, so I can’t wait to find my favorite episodes in these two shows!

    • I absolutely adore these choices—thanks for sharing them with us because I know they put a smile on my face!

      That Gilmore Girls arc is such a fabulous one, and it’s a string of episodes I’ve been craving to re-watch lately. I also really love your OUAT choice. That episode was so incredibly cathartic. I still can’t watch Emma at Henry’s bedside right before she kisses him without sobbing, and then that dissolves into happy crying as soon as Snow and Charming find each other.

      I can’t wait for you to finish Brooklyn Nine-Nine and The Mindy Project because this summer has solidified one episode from each of those shows as new comfort TV choices for me (“The Bet” from B99 and “Danny and Mindy” from TMP).

  10. Pingback: Fangirl Thursday: I Always Cry at Weddings | Nerdy Girl Notes

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