You finished up the school day or the workday, you feel overwhelmed, and all you want to do is go home and veg out. Of course, there are times when you do want to watch a drama filled TV show where you connect so strongly to a character it drives you crazy, but on the days when nothing feels right, or you feel like you’re drowning under your workload, you want to watch something mindless.
If one does want to take their mind off the tribulations of life, there has been a sudden influx of TV shows made for this exact desire. They are designed to take one’s mind off their current worries by watching something utterly pointless. Shows like Tidying up with Marie Kondo and The Great British Baking Show have overtaken the airways as viewers flock to something to distract them for 45 minutes or an hour. These shows all have a few key things in common: their low stakes end goal, the lack of conflict, and the reassurance that everything will end up just fine.
Take Tidying up with Marie Kondo as an example. This new Netflix original is centered around Marie Kondo, who travels around helping families clean up their homes. The goal of this show is cleaning, and you know, no matter what, that the house will end up clean. Although it has the same premise as a show like Hoarders, it lacks the poverty porn aspect, the part that makes you feel dirty watching it. No one is suffering from a grave mental illness that forces them to consume stuff like on Hoarders. It’s just people seeking help for little things.
For a glorious 40 minutes, you disappear into the messy drawers of someone else. You stop feeling bad for neglecting your own messes because you feel that you are now armed with the way to clean up your house, or your life, if you ever get around to it.
Then there’s The Great British Baking Show, which might be the best example of meaningless TV out there. One of the reasons I love it so much is the problems are so insignificant in the grand scheme of life, and in the greater course of the world. The show follows the best amateur bakers in Britain as they compete for the title of Star Baker.
Unlike the garish awards of American TV, there’s no $100,000 prize, no trip to Barbados, and at the end of the competition all they win is some flowers and a cake plate. A cake might collapse, someone might not finish their cookies in time, but that’s the worst of it. It’s so relaxing to watch a reality TV show without the cat fighting or backstabbing that is so common in American reality TV shows like The Bachelor or Iron Chef.
Of course, shows like this have been around for a very long time. Bob Ross’s The Joy of Painting is a prime example of this. From 1983 to 1994, viewers could watch as he painted landscapes and narrated the painting with beautiful anecdotes of the ephemeral joys of life.
Now, more than ever, though, these shows are being consumed on a mass scale, and for good reason. Stuff is going wrong in the world, and things are going wrong in people’s lives. Trump’s election set the stage for disaster, and who wants to watch TV shows where things are going as wrong as they are in reality? There is nothing awful with taking a break from your life, but it is important to think about why we watch such meaningless shows, and what we are trying to escape.