The (Dis)Comfort Zone: 4 Things to Watch When Everything Falls Apart


Looking for things to watch as we spend more time distanced in our homes? Read on…


I recently got HBO Max, and there’s a category called “Comfort Zone.” It has subcategories like “When You Need to LOL” and “Familiar Favorites,” and I don’t know for sure, but I suspect these labels are new additions designed to feed a specific need for our current times.


an African American couple sitting on the couch, watching TV with a bowl of popcorn as the man points the remote at the TV


As The New York Times reported, people spent a lot more time watching shows and films after the pandemic lockdowns. In fact, the week of March 16 — just as things were really getting locked down — the average viewer logged 40 hours of TV time. Many of us are still limiting our time outside of our homes, and now the temperature is dropping, and the days are getting shorter, so we’ll probably spend even more time entertaining ourselves with these escapes.


For me, though, the offerings on the “Comfort Zone” don’t exactly fill the need that I have. I totally do turn to these entertainment options for comfort, but mine is less of an escape from the existential dread that’s creeping in around the edges of facing the real world and more of a leaning into it. I want to use my entertainment to confront that sense of doom, panic, or apathy and come out on the other side, hopeful and ready to take on the world — or at least the dishes.


So I’ve made a list of my own things to watch. They’re not quite in the “Comfort Zone,” but they are what make me feel a little better when everything is falling apart.


a close up of a hand with a remote, while a TV is blurred in the background

  1. The Good Place– If you haven’t seen this NBC sitcom, you definitely should. Like, right now. You can read this later. Just go! If you have already seen it, you should watch it again! Start from the beginning and get caught up in the hilarious one-liners. Before you know it, you’re suddenly doing much more than laughing — you’re considering what it means to be a good person and what you owe to the world around you.
  2. Russian Doll– This Netflix series packs an amazing story into eight dense episodes, making it a totally reasonable binge that still has more heft and satisfaction than a film. Starring (and created by) the immensely talented Natasha Lyonne, the show follows Nadia through her 36th birthday — over and over again. That’s right. She keeps dying and having to start the day again, growing and confronting her deepest insecurities along the way.
  3. Arrival– The 2016 film about aliens making contact with Earthlings and how much work it takes to communicate and come to an understanding is beautifully shot and deeply moving. It provides lessons about kindness, patience, and listening in ways we didn’t know we could. It’s a film for our ages.
  4. Groundhog Day– This oldie is a classic for a reason. There’s a great episode of the podcast This Movie Changed Me focused on the Bill Murray comedy that you should listen to if you want to get a deeper appreciation for the film. Basically — and in case you haven’t seen it, I won’t spoil it — it’s a film that has a pretty miserable person trapped in a circle of a single day, reliving the same life over and over again (sound familiar, fellow quarantine buddies?) By the end, he’s found purpose and growth. And we can, too.


So that’s what I would put on my own “(Dis)Comfort Zone” list. I want to be pushed to look beyond the inconvenience and grief of this moment, and into a deeper sense of reflection about what potential the future holds and the work it would take to get there. I want to feel connected to the worst of it but hopeful about the best.


What would you add to your list of things to watch?