We're all well-adjusted adults here who don't use TV to repress our emotions, right? If we're going by what we tell our mothers at Thanksgiving when pestered about "being social," then, yeah, totally. But if you ever find yourself randomly crying and, I don't know, feel like it would be helpful to have some kind of structured storyline to channel that crisis energy toward, I got you. Not all TV shows are going do the trick for all emotional situations (please do not watch "Six Feet Under" if you're stressed about mortality), but there are plenty of good matches than can help get you to the other side of your current turmoil. This is so emotionally healthy, you guys.
Disclaimer: These suggestions are not based on my own past experiences and I have never felt pain.
Unrequited Love: "Dawson’s Creek"
Unrequited love is full of what I’d describe as light, breezy -- honestly fun -- emotions. Just kidding! Unrequited love feels like a boulder hanging out on your heart.
When that boulder squishes itself further onto your arteries after you see your love interest gaze at his girlfriend with those glazed over movie eyes you didn’t think were real -- a mere hour after he came up behind you as you were working on your junior paper in the library café, rested his head on top of your head, and proceeded to inappropriately flirt with you until you forgot the Eureka moment you’d just had about tweaking your thesis – you're going to need a good TV series for the sequestered period you’re about to enter for survival.
Or, like, whatever the details of your particular situation might be.
While some would suggest the numbing route with a light show like “Friends,” I actually advise you to lean full into your wondering if you’ll ever be loved and watch “Dawson’s Creek.” If you have time to make the full commitment, the whole series definitely appeals to a heart suffering from want. It is, at its core, about characters yearning for other characters that desire them back to varying degrees. (Joey-Dawson, Dawson-Joey, Dawson-Jen, Jen-Dawson, Andie-Pacey, Joey-Jack, Joey-Pacey, Pacey-Joey, PACEY-JOEY, PACEY-JOEY)
But if you want to streamline your viewing, I’d focus on the Pacey-Joey (ahem) storyline in Seasons 3 and 4. The basics: He wants her, does she want him? And how much is their mutual best friend, Dawson, who may or may not consider himself to be Joey’s soulmate, going to get in the way? The more you invest in these characters as though you are actually them, the more catharsis you'll feel. (And the more normal you'll sound to others when explaining your coping mechanisms!)
Quarter Life Crisis: "Parenthood"
According to general human beings who are not me, the quarter-life crisis seems to affect mostly people who make grand plans for their very successful lives, and who by age 23-27ish, are not quite sure what actionable steps they can take to make those visions become reality. This can lead to extreme confusion, despair, and panic when said general human beings look to the future, because they’re like, should I do this thing or this thing? Or this thing or this thing? Until the choices branch off into more choices in a web that circles back to the beginning and traps your head in the middle where you can barely breathe. (Or so I’ve heard.)
If you find yourself in this situation, I suggest watching “Parenthood.” Perhaps this isn't the obvious choice (“Girls,” for example, is an excellent show that’s literally about the 20-something struggle just described). But when in the midst of this particular crisis, you need a TV show that will reach through the screen and hold your hand (and coax out your pent up tears).
“Parenthood” will! Do that! “Parenthood," despite depicting people of all different ages, revolves around characters striving to balance the day-to-day commitments of life with the pursuit of fulfillment. Crosby wants stability, but also The Luncheonette. Camille wants to be good to her husband, but not lose herself, and her art, in the process. Haddie wants to support her brother, but also maintain her right to her own childhood. Being pulled in different directions with no clear best way out of the tumble is kind of the crux of the quarter-life crisis, and the life that continues after it. In reality, you may not always have a city full of family members that can listen and push you through without crescendo-ing into their own anxiety spirals in the process. But on “Parenthood” you can watch those struggles play out with the support of an extended network, and by doing so, that extended network can become your own.
Also, it’s an hour-long NBC show with six seasons so it will last you a really long
2014 polar vortex time.
Feeling Homesick: "Buffy the Vampire Slayer"
Ikea furniture is starter-adult suitable enough. But sometimes you really just want to be lying on the couch from your childhood home with the throw blankets your two best friends wrapped themselves in that one time in middle school and started acting like space creatures. On your Ikea love seat, there are no throw blankets. There is only your open laptop showing, in one tab, an online banking statement with balance so low you’re wondering why anyone would actually decide to live in New York City, and in another tab, an Instagram feed full of pictures of your two space creature best friends now grown up and hanging out in D.C. without you.
This is a good time to resurface an old school hit from your childhood. Namely, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”
"Buffy the Vampire Slayer" is not only a show you likely watched for the first time while you were younger, but also one about a girl struggling with the changes that getting older brings. It's perfect if you're wishing for the time when you were an innocent young person, and struggling with the reality that now you're a
slayer independent woman and you have to deal with the consequences of the destiny bestowed upon you purposeful life choices you've made.
If you don't actually yearn for elements of your childhood, this can also just work for any situation where you want to feel safe?
Hating Your Job: "The Office"
Ugh, the grind. Binge-watching a show can come especially in handy when you spend your daylight hours doing something soul-sucking like, random example, SAT tutoring for the children of college-obsessed mothers (or are they stress machines?). In the unrequited romance situation, I advised leaning into the pain with your TV viewing. In this situation, I strongly suggest that you don't. It is likely essential that you work in order to live, so unless you're in a position where you can really think about leaving your job for pastures that make you feel less queasy at sight of a blue test prep book, you're going to want to spend you off-duty hours suppressing any and all employment-related thoughts. Cool!
To stave off dread, and drown out the sounds of the text messages chiming in from mothers trying to change lesson times last minute, watch "The Office."
"The Office" will suit all your different dejected-person needs: It has long will-they won't-they romance arcs to fully invest your emotion/attention into, as well as hilarious jokes that will make you forget your problems in a laugh ecstasy like this one. It also has Kelly Kapoor being perfect.
If you want to be proactive, you can send job applications out in between episodes and maybe by the time you finish the series your future will look less like pure doom. If not, just move on to "Party Down."
Happy (unhappy?) viewing!