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Why We Still Re-Watch Old TV When Great New Shows Are Available

Very Good TV Podcast: Even in the golden age of TV, re-watching old seasons of “The West Wing” and “30 Rock” has never been more appealing.

Photo by RIC FRANCIS/AP/REX/Shutterstock


There’s a lot of pressure to be as up to date as possible on TV, due to the modern television landscape’s imposing combination of magnitude and quality. There are so many new shows, and so many of them are great. Why, then, do we find ourselves re-watching “The West Wing” for the sixth time instead of giving a new show a chance?

READ MORE: The Anti-Binge Playlist: 10 Great Standalone Episodes You Can Stream Without Watching an Entire Season

While it may be difficult to admit, watching new TV can seem like work. Maybe not in the most obvious ways (especially if watching TV isn’t your job), but committing to a new show is still an acknowledgement that your time and attention are fully devoted to TV, for hours and hours on end. Meanwhile, when re-watching an old favorite, attention paid can be sporadic at best. You can do other work while watching episodes you’ve seen before, or fold laundry, or look after a rambunctious toddler, all while enjoying TV. After all, living in the universe of a show you care about can be a comforting reprieve from the outside world.

Still, the question remains: Is this kind of behavior healthy? Does bingeing old TV in the background of our lives train us to approach new TV in a lazy way? Is the itch to double-task always present, even when it’s the first time watching? The best of modern television is truly beautiful and worth appreciating in full, including its magnificent production design and cinematography, but binge behavior encourages speed over

And yet re-watching old episodes of TV has its merits. There’s always the chance of catching something new, with the familiarity of the show. “30 Rock” is so littered with jokes that it could be difficult to catch smaller, funny moments, in the aftermath of being caught off guard by big laughs the first time around. And most importantly, TV is at its best when it unites people in real life. Plus, there’s nothing quite like watching a show you love with someone who hasn’t seen it before. When TV, old or new, brings people together, it has a lasting effect.

Whether or not forcing yourself to watch new shows makes you a responsible TV fan, well, that’s up for debate. Listen to IndieWire TV Editor Liz Shannon Miller and TV Critic Ben Travers discuss the issue in this week’s Very Good TV Podcast (above). Don’t forget to subscribe via Soundcloud or iTunes, and follow IndieWire on Twitter and Facebook for all your pertinent TV news. Check out Liz and Ben’s Twitter feeds for more, more, more. Plus, don’t forget to listen to IndieWire’s other podcastsScreen Talk with Eric Kohn and Anne Thompson, as well as Michael Schneider’s new podcast, Turn It On, which spotlights the most important TV of each week.

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