Much like some animals feel compelled by nature to hibernate when the temperature dips below to a certain degree, it hits about 55 and suddenly we are all compelled to wear our toastiest socks, light our kitschiest candles, and ... re-watch Gilmore Girls for the 15th time. Or Friends, or The Office, or any number of standby faves that are easy to stream. Yes, we know that nothing will change on this viewing; Rory will still go to Yale, Ross will still be the worst character ever written for television, and Michael Scott will still declare bankruptcyyyyyyy, just like they all did on your other dozen or so rewatches. But why do we feel compelled to rewatch — and in particular, why do we feel compelled to rewatch old television shows in the fall?
Unsurprisingly, the urge to rewatch your favorite shows is not uncommon — it has not only inspired entire reddit threads, but caused a small internet meltdown when 30 Rock was pulled from Netflix in 2017. One viewer even reported that Netflix checked in on him after rewatching The Office in rapid succession. But if you've noticed that same of us get a specific pang to watch oldies when the leaves start to turn, you're not alone; in fact, there are several factors that come into play that make this season prime for television nostalgia. Here's why, according to experts, you can't resist the sweet, sweet lure of the "Watch It Again" panel of your Netflix queue in the fall.
Entertainment "Cuffing Season"
Fall is a time for settling your bones — not just physically, but emotionally, as well. That same yearning for comfort that manifests itself into many Instagrams of your piping hot tea may have everything to do with your desire to watch old television. And that comfort isn't just self-focused, but a shared experience — particularly in a time when shared experiences are harder to come by.
"I think people have less going on in the fall/winter. As a result, they're inside more as the weather gets colder so they look to things that are comforting (like shows or books)," Erika Martinez, Psy.D., licensed psychologist, tells Bustle. "Humans like things that are similar to themselves or feel familiar and older shows would certainly do that. Think of it as cuffing season but for entertainment. If you are settling into a new relationship (as many people do in the Fall & Winter), a shared interest for a show might be something that two people can bond over."
The Nostalgic Pull Of Fall
The sudden nostalgia you feel in the fall is no coincidence — the memories you have of the season from your childhood might be sharper than others, since it usually signified the beginning of a school year, and new beginnings. In that sense, your desire to watch your old shows might be an easy way to lean into those old feelings, without being overwhelmed by them.
"While every season has its nostalgia factor, fall seems to have a particularly strong nostalgic pull for many people. The daylight hours are shorter, the weather in many places is getting cooler, and there is a anticipation of more time spend in doors, in closer proximity to one another with frankly less activities to engage in outside," Joshua Klapow, Ph.D., clinical psychologist and host of “The Kurre and Klapow Show," tells Bustle. "Moreover, fall is a time when kids are going back to school. For adults, even if they do not have children, the emphasis on back to school, youth, school events, that permeates our culture can cue adults to think about their youth, school years, etc. All of this comes together to prompt in many people a desire for 'the good old days'. All the external messages (less daylight, colder temps, more indoor activities, kids back in school) serve to bring back memories for many adults of their youth. Watching shows that further reinforce these feelings in many ways complete the picture. We are thinking about watching shows, we are inside, we are not missing as much outside, kids everywhere are engaged in school, and we as adults have a sense that we want to 'go back' as well."
Fall, of course, isn't just known for inducing nostalgia — through our childhoods and adulthoods, fall is indicative of a shift toward the new, or the winding down of a year. It's a time of reflection, and a time of growth. And, according to one expert, this may factor into the urge to lean into the familiar in a big way.
"Fall represents change. It is when nature is getting ready to produce for the future and our bodies are mimicking the same process. Nostalgic TV during the Fall is a way to subconsciously slow down that process and put things into a different perspective and give us comfort," explains Clarissa Silva, behavioral scientist/relationship coach and creator of Your Happiness Hypothesis Method, to Bustle. "It helps prepare us for the changes we know are coming by offering perspective on what the past meant for us."
And not only are changes happening in our lives, but they're taxing — especially when we are all so reliant on technology to navigate those changes, according to Silva. Watching something familiar to us may balance out some of that stress.
"For many of us, we’re constantly connected to our devices and disconnecting sometimes poses a challenge. We are creating a behavioral dependency on our devices which can make it harder to relax and sometimes keeps us in a multi-tasking state constantly. So, sometimes re-watching these episodes while you’re doing something else is efficient," says Silva to Bustle.
"Tech dependence is over-stimulating and can create higher levels of anxiety. Emotional reaction is occurring at the speed of our Twitter feeds, yet synthesis of emotion is happening in a vacuum if at all," says Silva to Bustle. "Watching something where you're unsure where it will take you emotionally is risky for some. Couple that with the fall being a season of change and the next stage, people will opt for re-watching old programs as their comfort food."
To Rewatch, Or Not To Rewatch?
So should we lean into the urge to watch our old favorite shows in the fall, or do our best to move on? There's no shame in following yet another round of Serena and Blair's uptown shenanigans, according to these experts.
"Sometimes you just want to get away from formulaic scripted reality or non-reality TV and that’s OK," says Silva to Bustle. "Re-watching old programs is comfort food and like comfort food it is temporary. It’s feeding a desire to return to a former moment in your life and it made you feel secure and comfortable."
"Fall is the perfect storm to prompt a desire to go back in time to our youth," says Klapow to Bustle. "While it’s not the only time that can make us feel this way — it is probably the strongest. So sit back — turn on your favorite show from your school days and bask in the nostalgia experience."
So go ahead, everyone — queue up Parks & Rec and let the good times roll. All the other television will still be there waiting for you on the other side.