From ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ to ‘Breaking Bad’: Here’s how popular shows change our mood

NEW YORK — Check in on your friends if they’ve been binging “Grey’s Anatomy” — a poll of 2,000 U.S. adults with streaming subscriptions finds that 51 percent think what they watch has the power to change their mood for the rest of the day. Another 49 percent can’t watch movies or shows that deal with heavy or stressful topics unless they’re “in the right mood.”

Alongside “Grey’s Anatomy,” which makes them feel emotional (40%), many listed their other favorites to watch when they’re in a particular mood. “Modern Family” makes people feel happy (65%), while “Friends” makes them feel nostalgic (38%) and “Breaking Bad” makes viewers feel stressed (31%).

Overall, 81 percent say their mood influences what they watch and the average person can feel the emotional impact of what they watch for up to two hours afterwards. Men, in particular, reported feeling the impact longer than women (144 minutes compared to 96 minutes).

Commissioned by global streaming media platform Plex and conducted by OnePoll, the survey reveals that 67 percent believe the best cure for a bad day is watching a comforting show or movie. Seven in 10 can name movies and shows that turned their day from bad to good, including “Forrest Gump”, “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” and “Gilmore Girls.”

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Couple watching TV (Photo by cottonbro studio on Pexels)

Meanwhile, 39 percent were also able to name movies and shows that had the opposite effect — turning their day from good to bad — including “13 Reasons Why,” “Black Mirror,” and “Titanic.” Over a third (37%) also recalled movies and shows so impactful, they changed their life, including “My Sister’s Keeper,” “Parenthood,” “Pay It Forward,” “Remember the Titans,” “Roots,” and “Trainspotting.”

“The impact movies and shows have on our mood is unique and powerful,” says Jason Williams, Product Director at Plex, in statement. “In an era where endless, quality content is just a click away, we have the ability to easily find something to watch specifically based on our mood – and that’s pretty awesome.”

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Results also showed two-thirds of Americans like to binge-watch their favorite shows and experience feelings of satisfaction (57%), happiness (54%), and excitement (33%) after finishing a series they love watching. Yet, 49 percent admit they get into a post-watch funk — referring to not knowing what to do or what to watch next — after binge-watching an entire series. Half the poll (53%) love their shows so much, they have purposely stretched out watching episodes of certain shows so they can enjoy them longer.

The survey also found the best and worst genres of content to watch before bed: the best being comedy (52%), action (34%), and drama (33%); the worst being horror (52%), suspense (32%), and true crime (29%).

“It’s normal to have some emotional investment in what you watch,” Williams continues. “That’s why there’s so many of us that feel that post-binge funk or why we try to savor each episode in a series. In many ways, the moods we experience from watching certain shows or movies — be it a positive or negative mood — is something that we chase after.”

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Survey methodology:

This random double-opt-in survey of 2,000 Americans who subscribe to streaming services was commissioned by Plex between May 15 and May 21, 2023. It was conducted by market research company OnePoll, whose team members are members of the Market Research Society and have corporate membership to the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) and the European Society for Opinion and Marketing Research (ESOMAR).

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About the Author

Chris Melore

Chris Melore has been a writer, researcher, editor, and producer in the New York-area since 2006. He won a local Emmy award for his work in sports television in 2011.

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