My mom has always hated that I rewatch TV shows. After school, she would find me parked in the living room with my legs splayed comfortably over the couch or sitting on my bed with my open laptop perched on a stack of throw pillows. On any given day at any given time, I was watching a TV series I had already finished about nine times over.
Every time she found me in this position, I was faced with a disappointed response. Sometimes she would ask how many times I could possibly watch the same TV show without being bored, my answer never satisfying her. Other times, she would roll her eyes in confusion and stalk off into her bedroom. Once, she even confronted me with the existential question: “Do you ever think about all the things you could have been doing while you were rewatching that show?”
To my mom, rewatching TV may seem like a waste of time, but as someone who wants to work in television, I never regret the days I spent lazily slumped on the couch with the captivating plot of “Breaking Bad” unfolding in front of me for the third time.
No one would ever question if I wanted to be a novelist and reread my favorite books all the time. People reread books because there is always something new to catch and always something new to learn. A motif that trailed off in the wind, unnoticed because you flipped the pages too quickly, wanting to find out what happens next so badly; subplot slipping into the background because the meat of the story was so dramatic. TV is no different. There is always so much to learn.
When I first watched “Big Little Lies,” my focus was on the narrative. My eyes were fixed on the three moms and their gossip-filled, dramatic lives. I paid close attention as Madeline tried to connect with her daughter, Jane confronted her past rape, and Celeste struggled with bewitching passion and her unsafe relationship. There was no room to notice anything else.
Upon second watch, I heard the soundtrack –– a collection of hand-picked songs, carefully interluding B-roll of enviable coastal drives and haunting waves crashing into cliff sides. Upon second watch, the editing stood out. I realized how every quick montage of cuts emphasized the raw depictions of infidelity, bullying, rape and domestic violence.
I always ring in the new year by rewatching “Mad Men,” a tradition I began my junior year of high school. I’ve loved every experience I have had watching the show. Character arcs become more clear, and my initial impressions of certain characters — I’m looking at you, Pete — always end up changing. From loving Don unconditionally to recognizing his flaws as bigger problems, I always bring a new attitude to a rewatch of the bustling ‘60s glamour and business that opens across the screen.
I have rewatched “New Girl” so many times I’ve lost count. The first time, Nick was my favorite character, burly and hotheaded. His jokes were spun from the thread of irrational anger and social incompetence that struck a hilarious chord. My next rewatch made me a Schmidt fan. A character reminiscent of the classic Monica Geller, his metrosexual obsession with cleanliness and his douchebag jar jokes created a character who constantly contradicted himself. For no particular reason, my last few watches have made me a huge Winston fan.
Rewatching “New Girl,” I catch new jokes and focus on different blossoming dynamics. I can trace Cece and Winston’s friendship from start to finish. I can point at moments planted throughout season three and confidently know exactly when the writers knew they were going to break up Nick and Jess.
Rewatching TV isn’t actually rewatching because no experience is ever the same. Sometimes I am watching these shows by myself, in the dark of my room with my computer screen’s brightness turned all the way up. Other times I am watching with someone who has never seen the show before, paying attention to their reactions just as much as I am paying attention to the show. In the comfort of my bed or the stiff chair of a lecture hall, my environment and attitude impact the stories themselves.
When my mother asks me how I can watch the same show over and over without getting bored, I know she doesn’t want an answer. She just wants me to turn it off. But I still explain that, for me, rewatching TV is an education.
There is a lot to learn from rewatching TV. Familiarizing myself with shows that are acclaimed by critics and me alike, knowing what makes certain relationships work and certain conflicts appropriate, is the best experience I can get for a career in the industry.
You can’t study television in a classroom. You have to submerge yourself into the world of these shows. Television is about what makes people tick. It’s about timing. It’s about connections and it’s about magic. If rewatching TV gives me even a little insight into these wonders, how could it possibly be a waste of time?
Maisy Menzies writes the Thursday arts & entertainment column on milestone moments experienced through art. Contact her at [email protected].