The Rise of Nostalgia TV: Why We Can’t Get Enough of the Past

The Rise of Nostalgia TV: Why We Can’t Get Enough of the Past
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By Ann Jackobs

If you are looking for something to watch in 2024, you might notice a common thread among the new and returning TV shows: nostalgia. From biopics and period dramas to reboots and spin-offs, many of the upcoming shows are tapping into our collective longing for the past. But why are we so drawn to nostalgia TV, and what does it say about our present?

Nostalgia is defined as “a sentimental longing or wistful affection for a period in the past”. According to psychologists, nostalgia can have positive effects on our mood, self-esteem, and social connectedness. It can also help us cope with stress, uncertainty, and change. In other words, nostalgia can be a powerful tool for emotional regulation and resilience.

This might explain why nostalgia TV is so popular in times of crisis, such as the Covid-19 pandemic, which has disrupted our lives and routines, and caused anxiety and isolation. By watching shows that remind us of happier or simpler times, we can escape from the harsh realities of the present, and feel comforted and hopeful.

Nostalgia TV can also appeal to our sense of identity and belonging, especially for those who feel marginalized or alienated by the mainstream culture. By watching shows that reflect our own experiences, values, and preferences, we can affirm our sense of self and find validation and recognition. For example, shows like Echo and The Highwaywoman can empower and inspire viewers who identify with the protagonists, who are deaf and female respectively.

Nostalgia TV can also offer a critical perspective on the past, and challenge the dominant narratives and stereotypes that have shaped our collective memory. By revisiting historical events and figures, and presenting them in a new light, shows like Julia and The Puppet Master can provoke us to question our assumptions and biases, and learn from the mistakes and achievements of the past.

Nostalgia TV can also stimulate our creativity and imagination, by inviting us to explore alternative realities and possibilities. By reimagining and reinventing familiar stories and characters, shows like Gladiators and Doctor Who can surprise and delight us, and spark our curiosity and wonder.

Nostalgia TV, then, is not just a mindless indulgence, but a complex and multifaceted phenomenon that can enrich our lives and minds. Whether we watch it for entertainment, education, or inspiration, nostalgia TV can help us connect with ourselves, others, and the world. And in a time of crisis and change, that is something we all need.

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