In my mid-20s, I fell into a major emotional slump. It wasn’t capital-D depression, but I was feeling stalled at work and overwhelmed by adulting and spent most nights sculpting imprint into my couch. The little energy I had I used to scroll through Roku to find something—anything!—to stream while playing Dots on my phone. To my rescue, oddly, came a lil franchise called The Real Housewives.
Suddenly I was watching back-to-back episodes, obsessing over blowout fights in the Hamptons and abhorrent name-calling in Beverly Hills. The over-the-top-ness of their manufactured, rich-people probs was somehow exactly what I needed to wind down and put my own angst in perspective. No matter how awful I felt—or how many hours I spent dissecting my boss’s cryptic emails—at least I wasn’t dating someone who pretended to have cancer.
Okay, sure, legit scientific studies (that were probably commissioned to personally victimize me, just sayin’) found that more than four hours of screen time a day is linked to depression. But in binge moderation (yes, it exists), I still say reality marathons are kiiind of the greatest. Actual psychotherapist Fran Walfish backs me up: “It’s an automatic distraction from whatever you’re dealing with,” she says. “It breaks the almost obsessive cycle that a depression can create in the mind.”
Obviously, Walfish and I aren’t the only ones into a great Housewives escape. “There are so many shows I’ve been told to watch that I know are narratively demanding,” says Claire Fallon, co-host of the Bachelor-dissecting podcast Here to Make Friends. “But when I’m depressed, it’s time for hours of The Great British Bake Off. These shows are not designed to be challenging.”
At least I wasn’t dating someone who pretended to have cancer.
More backup (just laying out a solid case here, okay?): “Reality TV is like Xanax mixed with a glass of rosé mixed with your childhood blanket,” says actress Casey Wilson, who has talked about how the genre helped her grieve her mother’s death on her and Danielle Schneider’s Real Housewives podcast.
So. While my personal funk is behind me, the world is more chaotic than ever. Which is why until navigating life becomes easier than predicting one of Countess Luann’s meltdowns, you can still find me most nights worshipping at the altar of Andy Cohen.