Stay home and reminisce: The nostalgic box sets keeping our spirits up

Stars from Yorkshire televisions "The Darling Buds of May" during a photocall. The hit show returs for a third series. (L-R) David Jason (Pop Larkin), Abigail Rokison (Primrose), Phillip Franks (Charley) and Pam Ferris (Ma Larkin).

She’s only 34, but you’re more likely to catch Melissa Hemsley binge-watching shows like The Darling Buds Of May than the latest releases.

Speaking on Yahoo’s White Wine Question Time podcast, chef Melissa says watching old shows for hours on end is her favourite indulgence.

“I just long to get into bed [...] My boyfriend will be downstairs and I will just sit and watch for hours on end, like The Vicar of Dibley. And then The Darling Buds Of May – and I will binge them over and over again.”

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Melissa says she used to prefer darker shows such as Vera and Silent Witness, but more recently she’s felt the need for something much lighter.

Watching shows like The Vicar Of Dibley and Miranda, she says, are more likely to make her “feel perky and happy and childlike”.

Melissa Hemsley loves binge watching shows like The Darling Buds of May and Miranda

“I really realised what I needed was to laugh and giggle and feel safe,” she said. “I mean it's quite risqué humour, but silly. Silly stuff is important.”

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Melissa says she’s been feeding her habit via BritBox, a digital subscription service created by the BBC and ITV, featuring classic shows such as Doctor Who, Only Fools and Horses and The Office.

Reemah Sakaan, Group Director ITV SVOD and Chief Creative & Brand Officer of BritBox, says Melissa is not alone in craving these old classics and that the service has noticed an increase over the last few weeks in viewers streaming nostalgic shows.

“In these unusual times many of us are turning to in-home entertainment and especially TV boxsets to escape,” she says. “Over the last few weeks we have seen a marked increase in our subscribers turning to programming like The Vicar of Dibley and Only Fools and Horses: comforting choices that transport us to simpler days.”

She continued: “We already have the largest collection of British boxsets but are bringing even more series from the BBC and ITV storehouses of loved shows onto the service to ensure we keep up with demand and keep the British public suitably entertained.”

Read more: The best comedies to watch on UK streaming

Hannah Verdier, who writes about TV for The Guardian, agrees that this desire for old school favourites is an escape from the scary news that that is dominating the small screen.

“Shows like Friends might remind us of happier times and silliness is massively important right now,” she says.

“I think we're turning to shows from better times to take our minds back there. When times are tough, we're getting enough stress from watching the news and scrolling social media, so this kind of TV quietens the mind a little.”

If you need a little bit of comfort TV, check out some of these old – and new – favourites:

The Marvellous Mrs Maisel, Amazon Prime

This comedy-drama series about a 1950s housewife attempting to become a stand-up comedian is a total escape from everyday life. Hilarious jokes, touching moments and super cool retro styling – it’s got all you need to lose your in for hours.

Sex And The City, Amazon

Go back to the vacuous late ‘90s where all you had to think about was your next date and how you were going to eat after spending your wages on a pair of expensive shoes. 

Downton Abbey, Brit Box

The crumpet and melted butter of TV: the cast of Downton Abbey go through some tough times, but always in style, and always with a stiff upper lip.

The Fresh Prince Of Bel Air, Netflix

On the other end of the retro spectrum is this gem. We defy you not to smile when the first bars of the theme tune play. Then guffaw at the jokes and the awful early ‘90s styling. 

Queer Eye, Netflix

Perhaps if these five were running the world, we wouldn’t be in the state we are? We’d certainly be doing it with a lot more flair, that’s for sure. Take away the polish though and Queer Eye has some truly heart-warming stories and moments. You’ll be shouting ‘what pandemic?’ to your socially distanced neighbour in no time.

The Office, Britbox

If David Brent can’t raise a smile, then you’re doomed. Doomed, we tell you! 

The Crown, Netflix

Amazing casting, stellar performances, beautiful costumes and drama aplenty – there’s so much to keep you distracted in this royal series. And if that fails, take solace in the fact that the royal family have survived EVERYTHING, giving us hope that we’re all get through this pandemic somehow.

Hear Melissa Hemsley and her pal Dilly Carter talk more about dealing with stress, why cooking is so soothing and how to declutter when stuck at home on the latest episode of White Wine Question Time. Listen now on iTunes and Spotify