The King of Queens and the Paradox of Choice

In the decade since streaming TV technology ushered in the concept of binge viewing, the “rewatch” has evolved as a phenomenon with motivations and rituals of its own. While bingeing is associated with devouring new shows, rewatching is more about savoring old favorites.” Wall Street Journal

Who doesn’t like to just occasionally plop down in front of the TV and watch a show we’ve watched before, perhaps multiple times?

In my case, that show is probably King of Queens. When I’m in the mood to just zone out and get a few laughs, that’s my go-to show.

Of course, that’s not the only old show that I’ll stop for when scrolling through the cable guide.

Friends, The Office, Parks and Rec all meet the bill.

I have always justified such rewatching by claiming that there is something comforting in watching something I’m already familiar with.

The WSJ article points out that while such a reason may be part of it, another reason has to do with the paradox of choice.

This is a psychological concept that claims that an overabundance of options stymies consumers’ ability to choose among them. Scrolling through your remote is a classic example of this. How do you decide what to choose when faced with 500 choices? Probably something you are already familiar with; it’s the easiest way to deal with the paradox of choice.

I think this also explains my hesitancy to start watching new shows. There are already so many shows to choose from, why would I want to add to that list?

And it’s been amazing to watch how much the streaming services have been willing to pay for these old shows, simply so people can rewatch. While Seinfeld seemed to receive the highest offer, it’s not even in the top 10 most rewatched shows, according to Twitter mentions:

  • Game of Thrones
  • Friends
  • Gossip Girl
  • The Office
  • Grey’s Anatomy
  • Lost
  • Pretty Little Liars
  • The Walking Dead
  • Breaking Bad
  • Timeless

The only one on that list that would interest me is Friends. And it’s amazing how easily that show seems to transcend generations. My students are in the midst of presenting their “vision board”, and man of them talk about how important their old friends are and how much they want to make new ones. Many times the image they use to depict such a goal is a publicity photo of the cast of Friends.

It seems like rewatch has a chance to be the 2019 Word of the Year, at least based on these stats:

Twitter says there was a median 542,110 posts per month last year that included the term “rewatch,” a 60% percent increase from 2017. So far in 2019, the rate is already 23% higher than it was last year.

So that’s a wrap; it’s time for me to watch the episode where Doug buys an Ice Cream Truck…

27 thoughts on “The King of Queens and the Paradox of Choice

  1. Rewatching also has the purpose of experiencing it in a different perspective.

    Have you ever rewatched a movie where a twist was revealed in the end? It becomes a whole new experience.


  2. ooh, you are right about the number of choices turning into a challenge. my rewatches are : king of queens, the office, arrested development, parks and rec, and now Schitt’s creek to start from the beginning.


    1. we seem to have a lot in common! Except for Schitt’s Creek, which I’ve never seen, all those other shows are among my favorites as well, and would gladly rewatch. I’d be curious to hear what you think of Schitt’s Creek, besides having a classic name for a TV show.


      1. it’s a Canadian ensemble cast, the group from spinal tap, best in show, etc. (Eugene Levy…)and I find it absolutely hilarious. they were nominated for a number of Emmys this year and have just put their last season the can, ready soon for viewing.


  3. For me rewatching is definitely a combination of comforting (The Office) and paradox of choice/not wanting to have to pay too close attention to what’s on TV…

    I’ve definitely rewatched episodes of The Office more times than I can count, and the entire series of LOST more than I’d like to admit! Law & Order (the original) is great too, but aside from a brief run on Netflix I don’t think you can stream the older episodes…


  4. Yes, these rewatch shows are great to watch while you are multitasking, since you don’t have to pay very close attention. I just had a student mention today during her vision board presentation how much she likes Law and Order. Are they still making new episodes? And I’ve never really watched LOST…


  5. I love re-watching old shows I’ve seen before 😀 but not the one you mention. I tend to be more “girly” like Beverly Hills 90210, Dawson Creak but my most favorite is the Australian series H2O: Just Add Water and the very old classic Little House on the Prairie…


      1. Haha 😀 don’t think so too Jim. I’ll never watch it with my husband because I know it will be as embarrassing as the time I invited him to watch Barbie movie with me. 😂


      2. I know it will be for a man and that’s why I’m sure my husband agreed to watch it because he love seeing me shrink beside him each time he chuckled. 😭


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