Nostalgia is one hell of a drug.
It’s day 11 of quarantine. You’ve had 2 bags of popcorn for breakfast and wore a bathrobe to a Zoom meeting. Nothing is real, least of all nutritional guidelines and dress codes. Time is measured by how long you’ve been holed up indoors. Nobody knows what day it is.
If there’s one grievance that I’ve heard most often during the time of The Rona, it’s that the passage of time has become entirely meaningless. Hours and days and weeks pass through on an endless loop, feeling like a perpetual series of Sundays. Everything feels frozen in this particular moment in time, but it hasn’t always been that way, and so it won’t always be that way. If you need confirmation, all you need to do is look to the past. And by past, I mean the 2000s, also known as the Golden Era of TV.
Something about TV shows that aired during the 2000s sets them apart – the TV shows of today simply cannot compare. Everything within them is dated, but in a good way – the soundtracks, the clothes, popular culture, social norms. Nostalgia is always comforting, but in these dark times, it is even more so because it reminds us that it is we who add meaning to the passage of time. There was a time when low-rise jeans were everything, and now they’re a hate crime. Only a decade ago, we were watching white people on our screens for entertainment rather than relatability, and now we are both able and willing to demand that we are represented. Progress!
Below are seven of the very best of 2000s TV – shows that only get richer with each rewatch. Use them as a reminder that times can and will always change, or just sit back and let Chad Michael Murray’s abs ensconce you in a haze of nostalgia. The choice is yours.
One Tree Hill
Before representation became a Hollywood buzzword, casting directors gave us range by offering either a blonde or a brunette male protagonist to pledge our undying love and allegiance to. And while Nathan and Lucas were hot and constantly in emotional turmoil (which only made them hotter), this show is worth watching if only to witness the immense character development of one Brooke Davis. That, and the banging soundtrack, the random celebrity cameos (Pete Wentz?) and the one episode where a dog eats Dan’s donor heart.
The absolute blueprint of ensemble-cast TV shows, colour-blind casting, and profession-based dramas, Grey’s Anatomy is a defining cultural feature of the 2000s. And while it’s still running and you could easily watch the newer episodes, the older ones with the original cast are still the best. A guaranteed tear-jerker, Grey’s also has the added educational advantage of teaching you a bunch of medically accurate techniques and terminology.
While the recent 4-episode revival was decent, it’s the first few seasons of the show that feel like a fleece blanket on a chilly evening. All of Stars Hollow’s bizarre shenanigans, the building romantic tension between Lorelai and Luke, the central mother-daughter relationship – Gilmore Girls feels, at least to me, like home.
A show that I have never watched, nor that I have ever felt the desire to watch, Gossip Girl nevertheless remains a firm favourite amongst the majority of people who were teenagers in the late-2000s, when it aired. The outfits are great, the drama is (apparently) constant and unyielding, and everyone in it is very good-looking. Seriously, the casting call probably just read ‘Pretty People Wanted’. Also, a reboot is coming out soon, so it might be a good idea to catch up on the original series before then.
The result of yet another “Pretty People’ casting call, 90210 is prime escapism. Coming home from a long day at school to watch rich American teenagers make bad decisions and run around without any parental supervision? True bliss. Also, look out for a sneaky cameo in the first and second episodes of the first season from none other than Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex.
Last year was the 10th anniversary of Glee first airing, and a number of retrospectives on the show have only brought to attention how truly chaotic it was. Mr. Schue was a mess, Rachel was a sociopath, and Sue was a bully. But I love them all from the bottom of my problematic heart, and every musical number ever performed on the show was undeniably a wild ride from start to finish.
Another one of my favourites, and for good reason: the angsty soundtrack, the complicated relationship and family dynamics, the analysis of class and economic inequality, the pop-culture references. The O.C. was teen TV at its most archetypal, and therefore at its misunderstood, heart-breaking, big-romantic-gesture-making best.
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