The Psychology of Reruns (or Reruns Again?)

Why do we watch the same thing over and over? I was on a plane and watched an episode of “Chuck” that had seen twice before. We are talking about “Chuck” here. This was not a highly styled production, a nuanced presentation for which every viewing reveals new insight or previously unseen detail that further illuminates the story. This was not even a “classic” that by the force of its greatness, its reputation as a cinematic masterpiece, one’s senses are heightened or the soul inspired as if viewed for the very first time. This was Chuck. The best one could say is that the show is cute. True, I was on a plane and there was nothing else to watch on the screen. However, it is not as if there was nothing else to do. Work, write, read, or sleep were all alternatives. Even rereading a book trumps TV reruns.

And yet I believe that I am not the only human that succumbs to the lure of reruns.  DVD sales of past TV shows now rival that of movies. This demonstrates major commitment to reruns. It is one thing to watch a show or movie on TV but it is another to spend money to have the show permanently in your collection so you can rerun 24/7. 

So why rerun. It certainly is not about intellectual stimulation or growth. Comfort? Laziness? Familiarity leading to comfort? Is this like comfort food? Are reruns meat loaf and mashed potatoes for our psyches?

Reruns do take us back to different points in our past. What was your life like when Seinfeld introduced Yadda, Yadda, Yadda? When Cosby was raising those precocious kids along with his younger, too beautiful wife. Or for me when Dick Van Dyke was tripping over the ottoman? We were younger certainly. Are reruns a mental fountain of youth? Or a time machine?

We have become passive in our viewing habits. There must be some reason why we allow TV networks and cable stations to get away with so little new programming. I would love to see a static of what percentage of total viewing time are programs seen for the very first time. 

Next time I will resist the urge to watch a rerun. In fact I will cut down on TV time altogether. My focus will be on improving my mind, body and spirit.

Of course I could watch this 1,000 times.

Parenting: When More Is Not Better

 Today’s Chicago Tribune had an editorial by a psychologist on the state of parenting.  The article is worthy of a quick read and can be found here.  The key points are:

  • the approach of praising everything a child does in the name of self esteem is not only ineffective but takes away opportunities for grow
  • we as parents should not be surprised if our children seem unappreciative or selfish when we shower them with attention and objects that they did little to earn
  • our children learn from watching how we act not what we say. If we overindulge ourselves they learn from this
  • as long as you are a parent of a child it is not too late for change
  • the environment for parenting today is hard, don’t beat yourself up for being less than perfect

As an highly imperfect parent of a teenager I agree with all of these points wholeheartedly.  In trying to shelter my son from hurt and to give him things that he wants I may not have yet equipped him to be successful in the world and to appreciate what he has. Fortunately there is still a little time.

Complaining: Doctor’s Orders

NPR airs a great series titled This I Believe which is a project getting people to write, share, and discuss the core values that guide their daily lives. The essays are archived and some are selected to become 3 minute orations on NPR.

This latest one struck a cord with with me especially after reading Frank’s post last Friday, Three Cranky Frankie Moments in One Day . In this post Frank complained a bit, justifiably I might add. However later in the comments he seemed apologetic about complaining. He was working on “mood improvement”.

My view is that a little complaining, even with a modest amount of wallowing in self pity, goes a long way to help get you through certain days. Sure if you go overboard it won’t help you and definitely not the ones forced to listen to you. But in moderation…

The next thing I know my amateur psychology is legitimized. By a psychotherapist no less. Professor Barbara Hand is the author of my soon to be favorite book “Stop Smiling, Start Kvetching”.  An excerpt from her essay for This I Believe follows.

Many Americans insist that everyone have a positive attitude, even when the going gets rough… The problem is that this demand for good cheer brings with it a one-two punch for those of us who cannot cope in that way: First you feel bad about whatever’s getting you down, then you feel guilty or defective if you can’t smile and look on the bright side…

I believe that there is no one right way to cope with all of the pain of living…I know that people have different temperaments, and if we are prevented from coping in our own way, be it “positive” or “negative,” we function less well.

…sometimes a lot of what people need when faced with adversity is permission to feel crummy for a while”

This last line says it all for me. Look, if you can be perpetually happy, more power to you. For me, I am on my way to find someone who will listen to me kvetch for awhile.