1. Will & Grace
Whenever I watch Will & Grace, I'm reminded of the last couple of years I spent in the Philippines, and my first few years in America. It was sort of like my transition object, the thing I used to pretend my life was still the same when I moved from Manila to Las Vegas. It was also my bonding tool with my mother; we'd watch it in the evening on both sides of the Pacific. Whenever I watch reruns now, 10 years later, I'm compelled to call her now that she's gone back to live in the Philippines. But I'd fail to compute the time difference properly and end up waking her at some odd hour. One time she stayed on the line for an entire episode — the one where Will's mother is in a wheelchair and he has to take care of her. It was nice. —Matt Ortile
I love Felicity. The show's first season coincided with my first year in university, and it felt very real to me at the time. Sure, it captured something of that sense of excitement and fear of leaving home and making the first steps out into the world as an adult-ish type, but in retrospect, I see now that I was attracted more to the show's sense of romance: the romance of following your desires and impulses and — I hate saying this — following your heart, come what may. That, and Scotts Speedman and Foley were hella cute and probably expedited my emerging homosexuality. Also, it made me wary of cutting my hair too short. —Declan Cashin
3. Gossip Girl
Watching Gossip Girl reminds me of being in my junior year of high school. I had read all of the books, loved that the characters were all my age, and was feeling very much like an outsider to the stuffy private school cliques that surrounded me at the time. I remember watching the first season with my mom and my sister and comparing all of the characters to the book counterparts, talking about who in our lives were Blairs or Serenas, and having vague discussions about class; I personally identified with Dan (this was early, earnest, buzz-cut Dan, not the awful creepy curly-haired Dan of later seasons). I watched the show until its finale, but that first season will always remind me of being a weird teen on the couch with her mom, wondering if she was ever going to be an "insider." —Alexis Nedd
4. Gilmore Girls
Watching Gilmore Girls while I was in high school was so amazing to me. I was living in a big city (Istanbul), and the small-town charm that Stars Hollow offered was just so beautiful and foreign to me. (It was also weirdly and charmingly "American" without being TOO in your face about it.) It was a very nice mental escape for me. I was planning on applying to schools in the U.S. and Rory was also going through her school applications, and it felt like we were kindred spirits in a way. It was just so "quaint"; the whole thing felt "quaint" (but not the backhanded way that Emily Gilmore would use it). Now when I watch it again I can't look at it as innocently as I did years ago, but it still brings a sense of nostalgia and "homeyness." It reminds me of being a teenager at my parents' house and going to high school and fantasizing about what my future would be like. —Alp Ozcelik
5. My So-Called Life
My So-Called Life was a show I grew to love my sophomore year of college, and one I wish I had seen in actual high school. I was a bit depressed during that period of my life, and at the moment there was no one in the world I could better relate to than Angela Chase. I derived a strange comfort from marathon-watching the show in my dorm room, and it made me feel like all my emotions were valid, no matter how complex or seemingly frivolous. —Julia Pugachevsky
6. Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Aside from the brilliant writing and amazing acting, my obsession with Buffy became deeply rooted in the fact that these characters were exactly my age when the show first aired in 1997. Buffy turned 16; I turned 16. Buffy graduated high school; I graduated high school. Buffy had a demon roommate her freshman year of college; I had a demon roommate my freshman year of college (well, if you consider a guitar-obsessed slob who wouldn't stop having loud sex with his girlfriend in our open double a demon).
While I'm sure I would have found a million ways to relate to the It Must Be Tuesday drama of Buffy the Vampire Slayer had I actually watched as a 30-year-old, going through the motions with Buffy and Xander and Willow made me feel like I was actually a part of the Scooby Gang. —Jarett Wieselman
I used to watch Everwood with my mom every week in high school. It started when I was a freshmen and then (UNJUSTLY AND ABRUPTLY) ended my senior year. Not only was it the world's introduction to Chris Pratt, it taught me that it was desirable to live in an Airstream, and that only cool punk kids who both skateboarded and were virtuoso pianists lived in NYC. The show itself was good, but it was the ritual of watching that was special. Then when I got to be a senior and felt too cool, I wouldn't come home in time to watch (this was pre-DVR and Netflix so I had to wait until a rerun came on to even see it), and I inadvertently missed watching the finale. It was a very sad moment that made me realize that spending time with my family was something I would be sad I didn't do more of later. —Jessica Probus
8. The Puzzle Place
The Puzzle Place defined my childhood. I became hooked at the age of 6 and identified with Kiki, a fun-loving character with pigtails. At the age of 7, I decided that I would name my first child Sky, after a bandana-rocking puppet on the show. I recently watched an old episode on YouTube and I could taste milk and grilled cheese, my chosen snack while watching as a kid. —Alison Caporimo
9. Beverly Hills, 90210
Beverly Hills, 90210 was a big part of my childhood because it meant Wednesday nights were mother-daughter bonding time. My mom loved the show as much as I did (and, let's face it, I probably had no idea what half of the references meant for a while, since it went on the air when I was about 7 or 8 years old), so every Wednesday for years we'd sit in my bed with dinner or snacks for an hour (or two, once Melrose Place started airing). It really brings back warm, fuzzy feelings of being a carefree kid and hanging out with my cool mom.
ALSO: Coming from a (not very religious) Catholic family, I was supposed to receive confirmation at age 13, but I refused because the church classes I needed to take were on Wednesday nights. I was like, I am NOT missing 90210 for a whole season, and my mom was like, "Cool, no prob." —Emmy Favilla
I binge watched Bones when I had mono. I was living on the West Coast at the time and I was diagnosed three weeks before I had to move back to France, and two weeks before my finals. The weird thing about mono, at least in my case, is that you're exhausted and cannot do anything or focus on something for more than half an hour at a time, but at the same time you cannot sleep more than two or three hours in a row. So I ended up spending days in bed not being able to do much, and used that as an excuse to watch Bones, which a friend had recommended to me. It's not a good show, but I needed something that didn't require any concentration. And the sexual chemistry between the two leads was off the charts, so I got hooked. I spent two weeks in my bed watching Bones. I didn't watch a single episode after I left the West Coast. —Marie Telling
11. The Simpsons
As a kid, the only thing "TV" meant to me was The Simpsons. Sitting down with my brother to watch at 6 p.m. every night was the constant, the touchstone, and the thing I looked forward to all day, no matter how many times we'd already seen the episodes. Partly, I think we just loved it because we saw ourselves in it: He was Bart! I was Lisa! But the show also gave us our own private joke lexicon, something we could use to reduce each other to snotty laugh-crying at the dinner table while our parents looked on, mystified. And even though I haven't watched an episode in years now, I can still sing all the musical numbers (we had a cassette tape, OK?), and occasionally I'll discover a new cultural reference from the show that I never realized was a reference — I just knew that it was funny. And I think watching the show helped make me funny. That decade of 11 episodes a week wasn't a waste of time; it was an education. —Rachel Sanders
12. Six Feet Under
I started watching Six Feet Under midway through high school, when I was an ~angsty teen~ feeling like I wasn't sure of where I wanted to go in life. I hadn't watched much stuff from premium cable before, and seeing characters who were dealing with how fucked up life (and death) can be in a way that didn't feel sanitized was truly refreshing for me. Watching the show was a cathartic experience, seeing the thoughts and feelings that I was too nervous to express laid bare on the screen in front of me. Six Feet Under will forever remain one of my favorite TV shows for how much it meant to me personally, and how much it changed my understanding of my relationship to television in general. —Adam Davis
13. The X-Files
I was a huge X-Files fan when I was in middle school. It reminds me of a time when I felt pretty lonely but was GREAT at obsessing over things and having a lot of feelings. The show had already ended by the time I got into taping the reruns, so I spent a whole summer just reading the scripts online. I finished about 100 of them. Again, I wasn't very social. It kind of gave me something to be excited about and forget that I was a rather moody teen. —Carol Tan
14. The Office
On my first date with my husband, Tim, I was so nervous and desperate to be funny that I brought up The Office at least three times, and he teased me for being obsessed. At the time I was finishing my graduate thesis, which is to say I spent a lot of time sitting around my apartment watching the U.S. version of The Office, worrying about the myriad ways my life might not pan out. Jim, Pam, Michael, Dwight, Kelly, Phyllis — these characters were a comfort to me; answering phones, scheduling parties, and office hijinks were all things I could understand a lot better than the big questions about where I would end up, and who I would love, and how I would make a decent career out of a journalism degree (lol).
A week after that first date, Tim came over to my tiny apartment and we sat in bed (there was nothing other than a bed) eating delivery burgers while watching The Office. I remember looking at him and feeling more OK than I ever had been with my shitty apartment, the soggy french fries, and the reruns I knew by heart. A few weeks ago, we had our first anniversary as married people. There was nothing to watch, so we went back to the first season of The Office. This time, he's the one getting his master's degree, so I make sure to poke him so he doesn't miss the parts he thinks are funny. When we rewatch these episodes, it's like we're remembering who we started out being in the first place. It's really comforting to know that it's not too different from who we are now. —Julia Furlan
I spent the entirety of my senior year in college alternating between writing my thesis and binge-watching TV. I visited a lot — A LOT — of series (Downton Abbey, Party Down, Doctor Who), but the one, hands down, that takes me right back to the frenzy of my final semester is Frasier.
I'd watched it with my parents growing up but never loved it — it always seemed dry, dorky, over my head. But something about being entrenched in academia, and then finding comic relief in laughing at and along with the awkward, often pedantic, but lovable nerds Niles and Frasier made the show really click. My roommate and I were notorious for our love of TV (we were the only people living in campus apartments who actually paid to get cable installed) and we watched Frasier simultaneously, but rarely together, gushing to each other from our bedrooms when something big happened— usually Daphne/Niles related. It was comforting in the way that only sitcoms from the '90s could be. —Arianna Rebolini
16. Top Chef
I was intensely lucky during my senior year of college: After three years of sleeping 10 feet away from roommates, I'd snagged a coveted single room in my dorm. (I had to take out extra student loans to afford it, which I'm still paying off, but whatever. I was a fucking grown-up and this was my own space.) I didn't own a TV, but the room came equipped with free cable — COLLEGE IS SO FANTASTIC — so my parents let me borrow their tiny TV for the year. Since I grew up without cable, I quickly got addicted, scooting out of parties and the library early so I could retreat to my shoebox of a room and stare at Bravo and E! like it was Borges' Aleph. This was the year that Top Chef premiered, and though at that point I couldn't cook anything more complicated than a grilled cheese, I fell hard into a Top Chef K-hole. Like any successful multiyear show, Top Chef had a pretty low production value for its first season, but the drama surrounding pretentious, pedantic Stephen and the villainous Tiffani instantly had me hooked. (It didn't hurt, too, that I developed a mega-crush on Harold, the eventual winner.)
Hulu Plus recently made every season of Top Chef available for streaming, and as I marathoned Season 1, eight years later in my grown-up apartment in Brooklyn, I felt transported back to my tiny, lonely dorm room in Miami, where I stretched out in my university-issued twin bed, turned off all the lights, and escaped to a world where my problems were limited to term papers and sorority mixers, and all that mattered were artfully plated amuse bouches. —Jessica Misener