Comfort food, in media form

The last few weeks have been hard. I mean, obviously the last seven months have been hard, but the last few weeks have hit another downswing.

Cases here in Ireland are going exponentially back up, the government has thus far decided another full lockdown isn’t necessary despite the strong recommendations of the Emergency Health committee (citing mental health and unemployment as a reason despite having spent the last decade being criticised for underfunding mental health services, and the last few months claiming that unemployment support payments are too high), and with the weather changing to autumn (which in Ireland is aka winter lite aka endless rain), it’s hard to find things to get excited about after work when I know it’s going to be shit weather and I won’t even be able to go out for a walk and some fresh air.

When I start feeling like this, it’s nice to have some cosy, happy things to turn to. The media equivalent of comfort food, these are the things that have been making me feel good when everything else feels bad.

Solutions & other Problems by Allie Brosh

You probably know who Allie Brosh is, even if you don’t think you do. Let’s see if this rings a bell:

Brosh is the author/illustrator of Hyperbole and a Half, a sporadically updated, darkly comedic blog that ran from 2009-2013 and mixed goofy stories about Brosh’s unintelligent dog with more serious (but still somehow humorous) accounts of depression and suicidal ideation.

Her book of the same name was published in 2013 and after that she more or less disappeared. I know I’m not alone among her fans in that I thought of her often in the last seven years, and hoped that her vanishing from the internet was just a sign of her choosing to do more offline, but worrying that it was a sign of something worse.

And then, over the summer, news of a second book emerged. This was great news because it meant she was doing okay, but also great news because second book! Solutions and Other Problems was released a few weeks ago, and I read it all in one fevered sitting this past weekend. It’s definitely not all hilarious—there are some heavy topics, and I’m not sure I’ve ever gone from laughing to crying to laughing again as fast as I did reading this book.

But even the hard parts feel comforting in that they’re a reminder we’re all just the equivalent of weird little cartoon girls with triangle ponytails trying to figure out this crazy world. And the funny parts, they really are hilarious.

Ted Lasso

A couple of years ago, when NBC Sports won the rights to show the Premier League in America, they ran a series of promos featuring Jason Sudeikis as Ted Lasso, an American football coach hired to coach “The Tot-num Hotspurs.”

I loved those promos (“How many countries are in this country?!”) and when I heard that they were inspiring a full series, I was excited, if apprehensive. Was there really enough material in this fish-out-of-water tale to make for a good show? As it turns out, not only yes, but it’s better than I could’ve imagined.

Ted Lasso is one of those shows that’s just so full of heart. The title character is obviously goofy and over-the-top in his all-around Americanness, but he’s not as clueless as he first appears. He’s earnest, genuine, caring, and very, very funny. And the side characters, all new to the show with the exception of Lasso’s assistant coach, are equally excellent.

I especially love the female characters on the show, both of whom I expected to be fairly one-dimensional (Rebecca the scheming villainess and Keeley the ditsy WAG). Instead, they’re whipsmart, complex, and also extremely funny.

I loved listening to Brené Brown interview Sudeikis and co-creator Hunt on her podcast recently, and here about how intentionally they created a character and a show that’s so fundamentally kind. The only thing I don’t like about it is that the next season won’t be out for almost a year, but I’m sure I’ll be rewatching in the meantime.

The Great British Bake Off

Another television show, but of course when discussing the things that can’t help but make you happy, I can’t not talk about GBBO. It’s quite possibly the most feel-good thing that has ever existed. There’s none of the cutthroat “I’m not here to make friends” mindsets that are often played up in other reality shows for drama—the Bake Off contestants are there to make friends (as evidenced by how many of them continue to hang out, chat on social media, attend each others’ weddings, etc. after the show) as well as bake beautiful, delicious creations.

Every single season of Bake Off is full of feel good joy, and the current series is no exception. In episode one, a contestant accidentally bumped another contestant’s bake and knocked some of it to the floor. There was no gamesmanship or sabotage, it was truly an accident. There were immediate apologies, cheering each other up, good feeling from all directions.

In the second episode, a contestant’s chocolate seized up as they were trying to pipe it onto macaroons; immediately, another contestant offered theirs. There are never any team challenges in Bake Off the way there are in some of my other favourite cooking competitions, but everyone feels like they’re on the same team anyway.

David Tennant Does a Podcast With…

These days, podcasts are no longer just the purview of journalists and amateur storytellers. They’re big business, and it seems like every day another celebrity announces their new pod. I’m always wary of these, unsure whether they’ll actually be good or if they’re just banking on their name recognition to make it a success.

The only other celeb-fronted podcasts I listen to are LeVar Burton Reads (it’s basically Reading Rainbow for adults, speaking of things that are feel-good comfort media) and Office Ladies (a The Office recap show hosted by the actors who played Pam and Angela), but they both have a conceit that isn’t just a celebrity talking, often to another celebrity.

Still, I love David Tennant, so when he put out the first season of his podcast last year, I gave it a chance. David Tennant Does a Podcast With… is an absolute delight. Bringing on guests like Catherine Tate, Neil Gaiman, and Samantha Bee, the episodes are less like interviews and more just conversations between friends. Sometimes it delves into more serious topics, and he has several interviews with politicians, but for the most part it’s a light and cheerful show that’s definitely a feel-good listen.


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