What is comfort? In English, the word takes on various connotations, traveling back and forth from active to passive: You comfort a loved one, or you're comforted by a bit of good news. How, then, does a television show become "comfort television?"
We're after something closer to the zeitgeisty Danish word, hygge, which describes an overall feeling of well-being, coziness, and comfort, all rolled into one. The shows below may not share a genre, subject matter, or much of anything besides a place on Netflix's streaming platform, but they all help create a sense of hygge; you can curl up on the couch under a warm blanket, steep some tea, and drop into any of the following comfort TV shows on Netflix.
Arrested Development (2003–2019)
There's always money in the banana stand, and there are always laughs to be found in Arrested Development, Mitchell Hurwitz's sly, self-aware family sitcom. While the recent Netflix-produced seasons occasionally devolved into discursive, indulgent meta-humor, the show's original three seasons established a freewheeling comic sensibility that many of your favorite sitcoms—Parks and Recreation, 30 Rock, Community, Archer, Kroll Show—were influenced by. Don't hold the show's obnoxious fans against it. After watching a few episodes, you'll feel right at home in the dysfunctional Bluth family, and you might find yourself quoting Tobias Fünke, too.
Atypical (2017– )
Robia Rashid's ambitious family dramedy centers on an 18-year-old on the autism spectrum named Sam (It Follows' Keir Gilchrist) who's seeking a girlfriend and independence. The writers carefully employ therapy sessions and asides to shed light on autism, moves that are always more enjoyable than didactic. The humor sprinkled throughout rarely comes at the expense of its protagonist (N.B. great fun facts about penguins and Antarctica). And the show touts a message of inclusion and compassion, no matter the circumstances, to which all viewers can relate. It's an emotional ride, one that might get off to a clunky start, but one that's ultimately worth the investment, especially considering the bite-size runtimes and the heft that sucker-punches you at the end.
Funny or Die/Lyft Entertainment
Billy on the Street (2011– )
It's a game show for people who think game shows are stupid! The frenetic Billy Eichner mixes celebrity guests, unsuspecting strangers, and wild one-off games to create a delightfully addictive and fast-paced show that doubles as a broad takedown of celebrity culture writ large. Come on, who wouldn't want to watch Rachel Dratch try to escape from Margot Robbie's Hollywood moment?
Chef's Table (2015– )
With an explosion of food television comes elevated standards; Netflix's Chef's Table forages for those standards, brings them to the restaurant for dinner service, treats them with respect, turns them into a whimsical play on a dish remembered from childhood, and earns a couple Michelin stars and the admiration of its peers in the process. The point is that Chef's Table, from creator David Gelb (Jiro Dreams of Sushi), is an exceptional food show that manages to make humans the centerpiece.
Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee (2012–2020)
Crackle, we hardly knew ye. The comedian behind his eponymous sitcom took his talents to Netflix, where he's continued to consume coffee with famous guests like Dave Chappelle and Kate McKinnon. The antiquated crassness of flaunting wealth by purchasing insanely expensive cars only slightly detracts from the fact that the show is just damn funny, and manages to talk about comedy without falling into any self-serious traps.
Sony Pictures Television
There's a reason Dan Harmon's community college ensemble comedy amassed a devoted cult following for its six-season run, despite it nearly always being on the brink of cancelation. The series focuses on a lovable study group of misfits played by both comedy veterans and those then just on the brink of breaking out—including consummate cool guy Jeff Winger (Joel McHale), lovable ditz Britta Perry (Gillian Jacobs), TV-obsessed Abed Nadir (Danny Pudi), anxious genius Annie Edison (Alison Brie), tough-but-firm mother Shirley Bennett (Yvette Nicole Brown), high school jock Troy Barnes (Donald Glover), and the baffling, bored, former CEO Pierce Hawthorne (Chevy Chase)—as they navigate their way through Greendale Community College. It’s a sitcom that’s goofy and delirious, but forever a lesson in how to become a better person.
The Crown (2016– )
The Crown is quintessential comfort viewing, designed to cloister you off from the horrors of the real world and instead reside in the petty dramas of British royalty. The costumes and sets are designed with careful attention to detail, recreating the lush extravagance of monarchical life and its freedom from all worldly troubles. As a critical work, that can be to its detriment; it's remarkably disengaged with the macro geopolitical shifts that characterize Elizabeth II's long reign as Queen of England. Ultimately, though, The Crown is confident in its soapiness, opulent in every respect, and quite possibly Netflix's best escapism (using a subject that should probably be anything but). If you love royalist porn, this will be like a long, slow massage.
Sony Pictures Television
Dawson's Creek (1998–2003)
Oh, Dawson, isn't growing up tough? This new millennium teen drama that aired over on The WB laid the blueprint for many of the coming-of-age series that followed with its earnest portrayal of adolescence. Even if the precocious teens of the fictional New England town of Capeside don't always have it easy, or you're filled with anxiety watching the will-they-won't-they unfold between Dawson (James Van Der Beek) and his best friend Joey (Katie Holmes), it always feels a little bit like coming home tuning into this late '90s/early aughts classic.
Gilmore Girls (2000–2007; 2016)
Netflix gave Gilmore Girls the reboot treatment in 2016—but before you watch the four-episode follow-up, you can catch up with the entire series that started it all. The show takes place in the quirky small town of Stars Hollow and features a dynamic supporting cast so fully fleshed, you'll feel like a local after your first hour. When Lorelai and Rory slip into their rapid-fire banter, it's like slipping on your favorite robe, familiar and exciting all at once. For extra credit, theGilmore Guys podcast dissects the series episode by episode, providing a more contemporary watercooler for your thoughts on a 17-year-old show.
CBS Television Distribution
Everyone wishes they had a crew like Joan, Lynn, Maya, and Toni. While we may not get the luxury of embracing Joan's maternal instincts or the opportunity to laugh at Maya's sassiness IRL, the warmth and the hilarity of the series and its characters (including honorary girlfriend William) from Mara Brock Akil (Moesha, Being Mary Jane) makes us feel like we're part of the bunch. The beloved comedy, which was recently added to Netflix among other classic Black series, is a riot of a sitcom and an update to the format with its multidimensional Black women characters.
The Good Place (2016–2020)
In this sneaky afterlife comedy from Mike Schur (Parks and Recreation), Kristen Bell's deceased cretin Eleanor is erroneously given a berth in a Heaven-esque afterworld. Once the high-concept show gets past establishing its characters and premise, you'll enjoy watching her do whatever she can to avoid being found out and sent to the Bad Place, where she belongs, by her friendly neighborhood architect, Michael (Ted Danson), including forcing her "soulmate," Chidi (William Jackson Harper), to teach her everything there is about being a nice and good person. Pretty soon, it becomes evident that the so-called Good Place is a lot more complex than we’re first led to believe, but throughout it's made clear that watching the series will feel like you've been sent to TV Heaven.
Grace and Frankie (2015– )
The lives of Grace and Frankie are both turned upside down when the longtime frenemies learn that their husbands are leaving them... for each other. Soon after learning of their husbands' infidelities, the two women form an unexpected bond with each other that's an absolute joy to watch on screen.
The Great British Baking Show (2010– )
Of the culinary competition shows out there, GBBS (known as The Great British Bake Off across the pond) is the least cutthroat, most low-key you will ever have the pleasure of watching. Though the hosting lineup has changed—Mel and Sue have been replaced with Noel Fielding and Matt Lucas, and Mary Berry with Prue Lieth—the banter remains spirited and goofy, including some extra ribbing of the notoriously hard-to-impress Paul Hollywood. The bakers develop such camaraderie over the season that when one of their pals leaves, everyone else cries. Imagine that!
Viacom Media Networks
Every once in a while, Twitter likes to reference iCarly as one of the main pipelines of irreverent millennial humor when people post clips of the series (that scene of Spencer in the elevator with a llama being a common favorite). It's easy to see why, considering the Nickelodeon show, about a teen who lives with her man-child brother and launches a successful web series, was one of the most ridiculous, yet actually funny, sitcoms tweens tuned into in the late aughts. With Nick being the goofier sibling to Disney Channel, the kids' show blasts off multiple oddball jokes a minute and has a whole crew of hysterical characters (Carly's loud-mouthed BFF Sam, the smoothie shop guy T-Bo, their creepy No. 1 fan Nevel, and, of course, their pal Gibby). Whenever you feel like letting nostalgia wash over you, iCarly and all of its randomness is sure to be the show you grew up with to actually bring on the laughs.
Jane the Virgin (2014–2019)
Yes, the title, the premise, the plot lines on this CW series are all ridiculous. But it's a telenovela—it's supposed to be over the top. What's truly unbelievable about Jane is how many serious, controversial issues it makes palatable without moralizing (#ImmigrationReform). Somehow, a melodrama about an accidentally artificially inseminated virgin raising a baby while flitting back and forth between the vertices of a love triangle, which takes place in a world populated by drug lords, secret twins, evil professors, and a police department conspiracy—manages to strike the simplest emotional and comic beats week after week. Jane deserves praise for its bilingual storytelling, strong female relationships, and uncommon mastery of a narrator's chryons... but ultimately, we watch it because it's just plain fun.
CBS Television Distributino
When it aired in the '90s, Moesha was a much-needed sitcom about a Black teenage girl finding her way in the world, and after all this time it's remained one of the most beloved sitcoms to ever air on TV. Much of that is owed to the star power of R&B star/actress Brandy Norwood in the titular role, bringing a relatability to the high schooler as she navigates her widower father's new marriage to her high school vice principal and the typical woes of adolescence. While many sitcoms border onto treacly when they fumble through tougher issues, Moesha handles those moments with grace and remains as necessary a watch today as it was when it first hit UPN.
Nailed It! (2018– )
If you've ever attempted to bake a Disney princess cake that ended up looking more like a blob than anything else, then this one's for you, as it's quite possibly the only television show that actually celebrates your subpar baking skills. Hosted by Girl Code's Nicole Byer, Nailed It! is about as light-hearted as The Great British Baking Show, and it sees amateur bakers facing off against each other to recreate elaborate Pinterest desserts despite the fact that they can't even properly ice a cake. It's a wild and hilarious ride, and you can probably marathon through the first six episodes in one couch session.
New Girl (2011–2018)
Zooey Deschanel goes full-on manic pixie dream girl in this 20-something buddy comedy, playing the new roommate in an apartment full of bros. With freshly dumped elementary school teacher Jess Day moving into the home of several men who would rather do the bare minimum than make their apartment/lives function, New Girl is the quintessential setup for clashing personalities, burgeoning relationships, and ridiculous "mess-arounds." The cast is hysterical, and the individual bonds between characters keeps you coming back to apartment 4D—as the show goes on, the classic will they, won't they that unfolds between Jess and her curmudgeonly bartender roommate Nick (Jake Johnson) will have you desperate to find space in Winston's galactic-sex-portrait-painted closet to move on in, too.
One Day at a Time (2017–2020)
One Day at a Time is a throwback family sitcom in a world that can be unkind to audience laughter, big comedic performances, and that stage-bound multi-camera look. But single-camera purists should get over their hang-ups. This clever remake of Norman Lear's '70s hit about a single mother raising two teenage daughters is more charming and funny than many of its seemingly "edgier" peers. Anchored by a lived-in performance from Justina Machado (Six Feet Under), the show finds familiar laughs in the way generations clash and families wage war, but it's also culturally specific, socially engaged, and leisurely paced in a way that makes it stand out from your average CBS family show—or Netflix's own dire Fuller House.
Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein's vehicle for skewering hipster preciousness had an eight season run on IFC where it mainstreamed a brand of soft alt comedy, tapping a lot of friends and famous faces—Aimee Mann, Kyle MacLachlan, Kumail Nanjiani, Chloe Sevigny, etc, etc, etc.—to help out by taking on absurdist caricatures of crunchy Portlanders. Catch up on the series that turned Portland, Oregon into a fantasy playground of twee hipsterdom, endless brunch lines, and militant feminist book stores. Crochet a bird-adorned scarf and snuggle in for a night of self-aware laughs.
Ryan M. Collerd/Netflix
Queer Eye (2018– )
Netflix's most successful reality television series just keeps on going. A reboot of the early 2000s series Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, Queer Eyefeatures experts Jonathan Van Ness, Tan France, Antoni Porowski, Bobby Berk, and Karamo Brown traveling around and helping people get their lives together. No longer limited to just fixing up clueless straight men, the Fab Five provide help with personal grooming, home renovation, style, food, and life in general while also navigating issues of politics and identity. It's not always smooth sailing, but at its core Queer Eye is well-intentioned, heartwarming, and a joy to watch. Be warned, though: Even if you're not necessarily one to cry at TV, this one is undoubtably a tearjerker. You'll love it through the tears.
Samurai Gourmet (2017)
Samurai Gourmet is a show about eating, but in no way that you might expect. Hazy around the edges, the fictional series follows the culinary adventures of the newly retired businessman Takashi Kasumi, who often falls into daydreams motivated by the premise: What Would A Great Samurai Do? Often, that boils down to drinking a beer in the middle of the day or saying yes to another serving of rice. There's tranquil food porn aplenty in this mostly solitary journey inside the head of our guy Takashi.
Schitt's Creek (2015–2020)
Any time you have the chance to watch a comedic genius flexing the full range of her abilities, you should take it, and Catherine O'Hara flexes hard as Moira Rose inSchitt's Creek. The story of the formerly wealthy Rose family's struggle to adjust to life running a motel in a small Canadian town they bought for their son back in the early '90s gives her and co-star/series co-creator Eugene Levy ample material to work with. Also living with their grown children David (Daniel Levy, the show's co-creator and Eugene's real-life son) and Alexis (Annie Murphy), who still share a room in the motel—it's the perfect vehicle for the cast's sharp comedic instincts, while doubling as a roast of the extremely wealthy.
CBS Television Distribution
Sister, Sister (1994–1999)
For many non-twins of the world, the idea of having a built-in best friend who was just like you was the ultimate fantasy. For '90s kids everywhere, the comedy Sister, Sister made that wishful thinking that much more reasonable, about a pair of identical twins played by Tia and Tamera Mowry who were separated at birth and coincidentally reunited as teenagers. As family comedies go, this one, anchored by the lovable performances by the Mowry sisters, their parents, played by Tim Reid and Jackée Harry, and even their pesky neighbor Roger (Marques Houston) ("Go home, Roger!"), is funny as it is wholesome, seeing two families come together to make one. One rewatch of an episode for nostalgia's sake and you'll be smiling ear to ear (and with the theme song stuck in your head).
'Terrace House: Opening New Doors' | Netflix
Terrace House (2012–2020)
The long-running series faced a reckoning after the suicide of Tokyo star wrestler Hana Kimura, but this Japanese reality show is, at its essence, a more polite version of MTV's Real World: Six strangers—three men and three women—live together, while going about their normal lives. No new jobs or challenges; just livin' life. The twist is that a panel of another six people watches the same cuts of their days as we do and provides commentary, predicting villains and rooting for budding couples. It's kind of like Netflix Xanax, but that's not to say there's no drama. It's just that it's usually more muted, philosophical, and existential than the senseless screaming you see elsewhere.
Ugly Delicious (2018– )
In the absence of Lucky Peach, the spirit and vision of the shuttered food magazine lives on in the Netflix-produced Ugly Delicious, where David Chang and Peter Meehan, the magazine's editor in chief, offer their take on a food-travel show. Each single-topic episode—pizza, home cooking, fried rice—divvies up exploratory duties between Chang and Meehan, whether that means running around locales from Tokyo to Coney Island with famous pals or making a fool of themselves trying their hand at a cooking skill that takes a lifetime to master, to find the heart and soul of a dish, "authenticity" be damned. Ugly Delicious is imperfect, but in a space where there are enough Bourdain knock-offs to go around, it's a fresh perspective lifted straight from the pages of a dead magazine that's come back to life.
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (2015–2019)
Tina Fey and 30 Rock producer Robert Carlock's comedy tracks the adventures of an Indiana naïf after she is freed from being held captive by a doomsday cult leader for 15 years—what a premise! Ellie Kemper plays the freed kidnapping victim, who heads to the Big Apple without a clue on how to exist in the modern world. Luckily, Titus, a penny-pinching, Broadway-belting man in desperate need of a roommate, takes her in and trains her in the art of living. Kimmy Schmidt clings to 30 Rock's goofy sense of humor and drops the cynicism. Beware: It'll take three binges just to catch all the jokes.