Get Out Of Hellevision: What to Watch When You’ve Just Experienced Your Own “Girl, Interrupted” in a Mental Health Facility

Ah, my brain. It lets me do awesome things (like write about TV, you guys!) and then it does not-so-awesome things like have seizures and get all concussed. One of the repercussions of having my specific brain is that I also get to deal with weird chemical imbalances and when I decide to go off my meds – usually because I’m feeling really good and stable, which is what my meds are for – it all goes haywire.

I go into “Kat-Astrophy Mode” and will destroy everything in my way. The very few times this has happened, I’ve had to go into a treatment center to “reset,” restart my meds and set up a healthy routine again. A week later I come back as a whole new person – well, it’s still me but the most zen, well-adjusted, happy me that was there all along. I find that My Most Me™  is kind of a Hippie Old Lady. All you need is love, man. And good TV.

In this installment of Get Out of Hellevision, we’re gonna talk about what to TV binge watch after you’ve lived your own version of Don Juan DeMarco (alright, I know I’m reaching, but I already used up my Girl, Interrupted reference in the title).

Criteria I Gave Myself:

  • Nothing depressing: So, no The Leftovers (although it is a Must Watch), The Killing, Broadchurch, Intervention, Oz, or Game of Thrones. All these shows are amazing – in fact, there’s an upcoming GOoH column about the Top 5 Depressing shows to marathon– but when getting out of such a cocoon of positivity, one needs to keep that feeling going for as long as possible.
  • Nothing set in a mental institution/psychiatric hospitals: Because, duh. (Are there even shows set in mental institutions?)
  • No Pretty Little Liars: I don’t want to feel like I’m going insane trying to figure out who the fuck “A” is.




How much do I love Joss Whedon? Let me count the ways. This show’s setup is pretty awesome — it follows an organization that employs mind-wiped humans known as Dolls who are implanted with false memories and skills for various missions and tasks. When they are not “at work” they live in a real life Dollhouse, which gives the show its name. The show’s plot follows Echo, a Doll who seems to be retaining some of the memories of the lives she gets to live out for a day, and who also seems to have her very own personality emerging. She’s strong, loyal, and a fierce defender of justice. Basically, she’s a superhero. The fast pace will keep your adrenaline pumping and the relationships between the characters will get your emotions going — but in a very cathartic way. This show has all the feels!


(Season One Only)


Why only the first season? Because while a mental health treatment facility is not prison, the first time you arrive can make you feel like you’re entering the Big House. This particular experience is captured through Piper’s eyes as she navigates her first day at Litchfield Women’s Penitentiary. She begins jumpy and afraid of her own shadow until she starts to realize that, hey, the women in there aren’t “scary criminals” (or “scary crazy people”), they’re just women. Slowly, she starts to see Litchfield as a raw, more honest version of life on the outside – obviously with a lot less freedom and way more violations of privacy. (And don’t even get me started on how fucked up the prison–industrial complex is as a whole in this country.)

By the end of the first season, we all feel at home with the women of Litchfield and life in their world feels pretty normal while life outside of Litchfield seems kind of distant and trivial.

The first time I had to go into a treatment wasn’t entirely by choice and it was very scary, which made Piper’s POV resonate with me. The whole first season of OITNB holds a special place in my heart. Even the song feels super inspirational.



That’s right. Indulge me for a moment. It’s no secret that I am a Housewives Defender, even if this particular franchise has been a little touch-and-go lately. The first season of RHONY premiered on March of 2008, when reality TV was still in that weird phase when it was staged but not as obviously manufactured.

The group of ladies they picked for this first season was IMMACULATE. Shrill Jill Zarin was the perfect yenta; Bethenny was the voice of reason (before she bought her own hype and became unwatchable in her spin-off series); Countess Luann continues to be so fabulously tongue-in-cheek (or should I say tongue-in-chic? *drumroll*) that you can’t help but love her super-affected, breathy “daahlings” and tone-deaf pretentiousness (“The Countess doesn’t drink from a bottle.”); Ramona Singer is from another planet and you cannot look away from her hypnotizing, scary eyes; and then there’s Simon and Alex McCord, or Silex – yes, those two count as one Housewife – who are the two most bizarre, unaware social climbers I’ve been unable to forget, creepily in love with each other and always entertaining to watch.

Okay, so why am I including any Housewives franchise in this category? Because, after all that introspective psychological work you put in while in intense therapy, your brain needs a fucking break! What better way to kick back than watch this pseudo-manufactured, hyper-reality on-steroids drama in which everyone involved is in on the joke? It’s a fucking Brain Vacation™ . My mother had novelas, I have the Housewives.

(If you really can’t stomach this, you can substitute it with Desperate Housewives. But I still say RHONY is better.)

So, these are my suggestions on what to marathon once you’ve lived your own version of Twelve Monkeys (I’m sorry, guys, there’s only so many movies I can think of that are set in psychiatric hospitals). You may not relate in a literal sense, but I think life occasionally puts us through the wringer and we can always use a little palate cleanser in the form of TV Therapy (sometimes after receiving actual therapy).

What did you think? Did you agree with my choices? Do you have some other shows to add? Do you feel like you need some TV Therapy? Feel free to let me know by commenting or writing me directly at me to Tell me what you thought about my picks, throw me some ideas for future topics for our GOoH column and tell me about an event or issue in your life for which you may need the soothing, healing powers of TV.

Trust me — any scenario in your life, I’ve got a show for that!

Kat Pao
Kat Pao lives in South Florida with her Curmudgeon Love, Mark, their punk rock toddler, Francesca, their saintly dog, Bruce Campbell and their fatass dick of a cat, Bela Lugosi. She loves being a Pop Culture/TV Analyst and loves that writing about TV gives her yet another excuse to watch more of it. Did she mention she loves TV?
  • Blahblee

    Are people generally allowed to watch TV while they’re still in the psychiatric ward (as in the photo from Girl, Interrupted)? It seems like in movies about older psych hospitals like Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, there’s a main room with a TV that plays Jeopardy or Wheel of Fortune constantly — is that an old trope?

    • Kat Pao

      Yep, it’s pretty much the only thing to do there. Last time we just had TrueTV on the whole time and kept marathoning “Women Who Kill.” It was actually kind of awesome LOL