This week’s question is from Senior Editor Marah Eakin:
It’s March 18, and if you’re like a lot of young Americans—or young Irish people? I don’t know—you probably spent at least part of St. Patrick’s Day drinking. But now you’re either back at work or back on the couch, so I’m wondering this: What TV show, movie, game, or whatever do you pull out when you’re hungover and just want to be a slug? For instance, I have about 15 unwatched old episodes of Law & Order on my DVR at any given time, just in case. That Lennie Briscoe works like a charm.
I have a rotating cast of what I used to call “hilarious ‘oh, no!’ films” that are my go-to lineup when I’m hungover: Films that are super-entertaining in that they require no brain functions to appreciate, but are also ridiculous spectacle. These are movies where the plot essentially revolves around someone saying, “Oh, no! Look at this unexpected threat to humanity that’s happened!” This genre includes movies like Deep Blue Sea (smart sharks!), Lake Placid (smart alligators!), and the first Mission: Impossible (smart Tom Cruise!). It’s an ill-defined genre, to be sure—one person’s awesomely dumb is another’s just plain dumb—but there’s something incredibly comforting about watching over-the-top Hollywood silliness executed with a target demographic of the brain of a 6-year-old. This is also the manner in which I consumed the Transformers films, which are objectively terrible, but which also fit the bill nicely during an extended couch sojourn with a bottle of Advil. (Especially the third one, which has the advantage of spending its final hour as a dry-land version of The Poseidon Adventure, only with giant robots.) The real test, ultimately, is the re-watchability factor; I have no desire to watch those Michael Bay films ever again, but the next time I’m hungover, there’s a very good chance I’ll be queueing up that excellent Samuel Jackson death scene from the bottom of an underwater research facility where sharks, like the Grinch’s heart, have grown three sizes. Now, that’s entertainment.
It may seem counterintuitive, but I find Road House reliably soothing when I’m hungover (or, if my dad’s reading this, “under the weather”). The setting provides a bit of hair of the dog as well as an admonishment for my overindulgence. It’s also entertaining enough to distract me from my nausea, but light enough on plot to allow me to nod off if necessary. Patrick Swayze’s Zen-like presence and effortless charm as the “cooler” Dalton are a tonic to my alcohol-ravaged insides, reminding me that pain (and dehydration) don’t hurt.
My hangovers these days are less a consequence of overconsumption than they are under sleeping. I don’t really have the leisure to drink myself blind, comfortable in the knowledge that I’ll have until well into the afternoon to let my liver toil away to undo the malicious work I performed on my body the night before. Now, whether it’s one glass of wine or 10, come 7 a.m. there’s going to be a 6-year-old girl standing at my bedside, poking my swollen, disgusting head and demanding pancakes and cartoons. So I’ve become something of a connoisseur of children’s television that is watchable through a fog of maple syrup and cabernet regret. Most kid’s shows are caustic soda cans of overstimulation; all citric acid sharpness and sugary intensity. I try to steer my child away from all that and toward Kipper, a British cartoon about a dog who brings his staid, English manner to bear on such wonderful anti-narratives as cleaning out his closet, and being unable to fall asleep at night. The show is quiet, low stakes, and pleasantly uptight. Shaun The Sheep is good too. Basically anything British will do in a pinch. French-Canadian cartoons don’t fare as well. Stay away from Caillou. Watching that show induces hangovers.
Maybe TV contributor Carrie Raisler can back me up on this: After a night of over-indulgence, I enjoy kicking back with people who would never dream of such hijinks: the solid citizens of Cedar Cove. There is something somnambulantly hypnotic about this Hallmark Channel series, as its isolated residents drink coffee and hang around in enormous galley kitchens and have yards and views I can only dream of. It’s like vacation-home porn. The cast members of Cedar Cove, led by stern town judge Andie MacDowell, are forever meddling in each other’s business, usually with no greater stakes than who might be hosting the town’s fish fry to benefit area firefighters. I know it’s an entirely fake world (although based on Port Orchard, Washington, where romance writer and author of the CC books Debbie Macomber has a summer residence; this confession is just getting worse, I realize), but if I’m sleepy and have a headache, it’s a very soothing one.
I crave comfort food when I’m feeling shitty, whether it’s my body fighting off the latest illness of the unintentional variety or the latest illness I willfully subjected myself to with one too many fine Wisconsin beers. And there’s no greater comfort for me than the Harry Potter series. I’ve read and re-read those seven books so many times I know the line that follows every line before it, meaning my brain requires so little effort to “read” the pages I can drift easily in and out of consciousness. Literally any other book would take far too much concentration. The easiest to enjoy during a haze of nausea and headaches is the first, as it’s the one I’ve re-read the most, starting in fifth grade when I stole the softcover from my elementary-school library (sorry Mrs. McGlinchey). I still have it—the front cover is dangling by a few fibers of paper—and it’s still the most comforting thing in the world.
I almost never get hangovers (not because I’m tough and awesome; excess booze just gives me a tummy ache, so I don’t often indulge). That doesn’t mean I don’t have a go-to pop culture remedy ready for when my big fat baby body rebels, though. For the last decade or so, every hard drive I’ve owned has had 3 GB dedicated to Adam Reed and Matt Thompson’s Frisky Dingo, the ultimate in viewing pleasure for a brain addled by strong drink or weak immune system. Looser and weirder than Reed’s later Archer, it has a lot to offer the under-the-weather watcher: It’s short (the entire series is only about four hours long), funny as hell, and the rhythmic, callback-heavy dialogue can produce an almost hypnotic effect, as the various “Boosh”es, “What the hell damn guys,” and references to Hooper slowly lull you into a sort of pleasant nonsense trance.
During my most recent hangover, I somehow ended up watching season 16 of Arthur (yes, the children’s program) on Netflix, so there isn’t always a method to my post-party madness. But there is one show I turn to the most often when I just want to drift in and out of sleep while hungover: The L Word. At this point, I practically have whole episodes memorized, so it doesn’t really matter if I check out to get more seltzer or rest my eyes. And plus, I get to spend my hangover surrounded by my favorite kind of people: lesbians. More specifically, I tend to rewatch season two at the peak of Dana/Alice or any Helena-centric episode. Late season five and all of season six have been scientifically proven to worsen any headache.
When I’m hungover, I have two warring impulses: to soothe my aching head, and to punish myself so I’ll never overdo it again. Fortunately, I’ve found an album that perfectly synthesizes those two states of mind: Velvet Underground & Nico. “Sunday Morning” quietly, gently, eases you into what is probably an actual Sunday morning (or early afternoon), then “Waiting For The Man” hits you with a dose of reality. Dreamy “Femme Fatale” and hypnotic “Venus In Furs” soothe, and then “Run Run Run” gives you a burst of energy that makes you think, yes, maybe you have it in you to face the day. You don’t, of course, so you lie motionless through “All Tomorrow’s Parties,” and extra-motionless through “Heroin.” “There She Goes Again” gives you yet another chance to wake up a bit, “I’ll Be Your Mirror” gets you ready for a calm, relaxed day, and then you’re forced to get out of bed to stop the album before it hits the jarring “The Black Angel’s Death Song” and the unlistenable “European Son.”
There’s a genre of movie that I like to call the plane movie. These are inherently bad movies that I would not watch if they weren’t free and I wasn’t stuck in a floating tin can high above the clouds. Think The Other Woman or He’s Just Not That Into You. These are the movies I turn to when I’m hungover. I don’t have to think about the plot, I can close my eyes for a minute (or 20) and still totally understand what’s going on. I just want to watch pretty people have pretty people problems and that’s exactly what I get with plane movies. Plus, is there any better excuse to watch something stupid than an epic hangover?
I discovered this one while recovery from a bad bout of food poisoning, but I think the principle is the same: My ideal hangover entertainment is a TNT broadcast of The Lord Of The Rings trilogy. Sure I own all three movies, but getting up to switch DVDs is far too much work on a day when I can barely lift my head. And the commercial breaks offer time to rehydrate, order a pizza, or take a quick 30-second nap between orc battles. Peter Jackson’s movies are my comfort food and it’s always soothing to revisit Middle-earth. But, importantly, they also have enough substance to distract me from my raging headache and/or hangover self-hatred. And, hey, all the crying I’m bound to do (“I would have gone with you to the end, Frodo”) is a surefire way to cleanse my body of alcohol-related toxins.
I have to admit: I don’t really drink or, as such, get hungover. But I do often feel crummy in the morning, because I have an infant daughter. She’s generally a pretty good sleeper who has been experimenting recently with staying awake, which means sometimes on the weekends we both need a morning nap. If I have the wherewithal in my grogginess to turn on the TV and there isn’t 40 minutes of some movie I want to half-rewatch on HBO, my go-to on demand selection is Broad City, because I hardly ever manage to catch it during its first run. It’s a habit that began during my paternity leave, and I’m not really sure why. I’m still not fully caught up on the show, and I haven’t watched the episodes in order at all, but there’s something comforting and soothing about sinking into the show’s surreal version of my beloved New York City as my tiny broad slumbers on my chest. No electrolytes necessary!
I can’t say I get many hangovers these days, but if I did find myself recovering from a night of overindulgence, alcohol-wise, I suspect that the perfect match for my mood would probably be the Bravo beyond-guilty-pleasure Southern Charm. I was turned onto this wonderfully worthless television program when I visited my professor sister in Charleston, South Carolina, where the show takes place. In the grand tradition of reality television, Southern Charm delves superficially into the lives of people who are as wealthy and photogenic as they are utterly devoid of worth as human beings. They’re uber-rich Southerners whose lives revolve around getting drunk, getting laid, and generally trying to maintain proper appearances despite not doing anything remotely productive with their wasted, wasted lives. It’s a silly little trifle of a show, pure escapism, and, I would imagine, the perfect accompaniment to a bleary morning of post-drinking regret.