The Art of Re-Watching a TV Series, by Sam Butler

Nothing quite lives up to the thrill of watching a TV series for the first time. After you finish, you’ll never again get to laugh at jokes you didn’t see coming, worry about characters whose stories look bleak, or be caught off-guard by surprising plot twists. But, if you know what you’re doing, you can make the second time feel just as good. And the third. And the fourth.

Truth is, any series can make for an enjoyable re-watch if you employ a few tactics I’ve learned in my experience. Shamefully, I have to admit that I am perhaps over-qualified to write this article, as I’ve seen The Office (US)—without exaggeration—at least 25 times from start to finish. Having spent a whopping 100 days of my life just watching The Office(a conservative estimate), I’ve come up with a couple of guidelines to staying entertained when re-watching a TV series.

Root for a different character every re-watch
This is my favorite strategy for making a show you’ve seen several times feel brand new. The key to spicing things up when you’ve been with one show for a long time is trying to watch it with a different perspective.

When you watch Breaking Bad, despite him being far from a good guy, as a viewer you tend to root for Walter White, right? But have you ever tried rooting for Skyler?

“Yeah, you go girl! Confront the drug dealer who you think is selling your husband weed!” “Yeah, you go girl! Keep nagging your husband about why he’s being so secretive!”
“Yeah, you go girl! Try to get a divorce but then agree to live with Walt to protect your children from the truth of what he’s doing!”
“Yeah, you go girl! You fuck Ted!”

You get it. It can make actions that you were annoyed by or that you even hated during one watch-through seem awesome and empowering.

Watch the actors in the background
This is something to use when you know the plot of each episode so well that you don’t have to look at or listen to the main characters to be able to follow what’s happening. You may wonder why you would keep watching a show once you reach this point. But here’s another little strategy I use: don’t ask.

The ‘watching background actors’ strategy works best for a show like The Office, where there are lots of characters and many of them are usually in the background. This strategy can be used for other shows, it’s just that the background actors won’t be playing recurring characters, so it may not be as interesting.

But, for instance, in The Office, when Michael is having a meeting in his windowed office, you can see all the characters working at their desks in the background. You can tune out the meeting that’s happening and simply look at the other actors on their computers, pretending to work.

“I wonder what they’re looking at?”
“How much of their jobs as actors is just pretending to be working in the background?”
“I bet Creed is looking at porn.”

All these thoughts will keep you entertained as the show’s main plot and characters themselves lose their ability to hold your attention.

Try to find continuity errors
This is something that can be done on any watch—even the first one. Nothing makes a viewer feel more superior than catching an error that the show’s editors and directors themselves didn’t see, or couldn’t fix. This is a strategy to be careful with, though.

If you find too many continuity errors, you may start to think, ‘Wow, this show is really not very good.’ This line of thinking will lead you to ask yourself ‘Why am I watching this show?’, which, again, is a question we can’t ask ourselves. The reasons why someone might continue to watch a show they’ve seen over and over are probably based in deeper psychological issues than we’re prepared to deal with. So we watch, and we push those thoughts down.

Come up with a crazy theory about one of the characters—and look for proof
This is a fun one! This strategy is reserved for after a long period of re-watches during which you didn’t actually pay attention. By this point, it’s been a while since you’ve watched the show for its content, and you can have a little renaissance wherein you pay attention to the actual storyline.

But still, you need something to keep yourself entertained, some kind of new perspective. So, come up with a theory that is 100% not true, and through your re-watch, attempt to prove it!

To give an example, re-watch your favorite show, and pretend the main character is a serial killer. Do some previously innocuous statements now become suspect?

“One day, Michael came in complaining about a speed bump on the highway. I wonder who he ran over then.” –Jim Halpert, The Office

Michael Bluth: If you’re threatening me, you’re going to be very sorry.
Kitty: Are you threatening me?
Michael: Yeah, that’s a threat. I’m threatening you! –Arrested Development

“If both people are into each other, then a big romantic gesture works, but if one person isn't into the other, the same gesture comes off serial-killer crazy.” –Ted Mosby, How I Met Your Mother

“I’m a serial killer.” –Dexter Morgan, Dexter

Do something else while you’re watching
Alright, your renaissance is over, and the show officially can no longer hold your attention. But fear not! The show is still more than acceptable as background noise.

Put it on when you’re doing homework. Put it on when you’re reading. Put it on when you’re eating dinner. Put it on when you’re watching a different show. There is no activity that isn’t made immediately better with your show playing.

Put it on when you fall asleep
The final strategy you will reach, you use this when the show has essentially become white noise to you. Making use of this strategy will let you to have the show running on a loop for the entire day, allowing you to peek at it whenever you want, and ignore it when you aren’t in the mood. By this point in your re-watching, the show is no longer a show to you. It’s another member of your family, your roommate, your best friend who never leaves you. It’s an escape from stress, it never surprises you, it’s something like solid ground in the turbulent lives we live.


Once you learn the art to re-watching a TV series, you don’t need anything else. When someone complains to you about how there aren’t any good new shows out, you say “I don’t care.” When someone complains “Can we watch something else? We always watch this,” you say “I don’t care.” By employing these strategies, you’ll be able to “I don’t care” your way through life!


  1. Maybe one day I'll watch the office. Got to research arrested development, how I met your mother, and parks and recreation first

  2. Exploring the Endless Delights of Rediscovering Favorite Shows

    By Sam Butler
    Butler Mag Contributor

    Short answer: Re-watching TV series is a joyous experience that allows us to rediscover beloved characters, unravel hidden details, and relive cherished moments, creating a nostalgic connection that transcends time. (22 words)


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