Question: I think you missed the boat on 7th Heaven when you called it "comfort food." Sure, there's the obligatory "feel good" message in a lot of episodes, but this show has as much soapy melodrama and misguided teen/young adult sexuality as any other Aaron Spelling production — it's just alluded to more than portrayed. Maybe it's only been since you stopped watching, but Simon went on a sexual frenzy; Martin got a girl pregnant; Mary abandoned her family; and Ruthie is throwing around words like "sexy" and "hot." I've been watching the show for about three years now, and I've always seen it as a devious vehicle for Spelling to portray the same youthful recklessness as his other shows while hiding it behind the goody-goody facade of a minister's family, with some excessively cheesy messages thrown in now and then to make it seem like family-friendly entertainment. But the subject matter is often not at all appropriate for the entire family.
Answer: Kind of like how Cecil B. deMille used to thread scenes of sensual debauchery through his Biblical epics, I suppose. I keep up with the story lines (at a distance) and watch the odd episode here and there, so I'm not completely out of the loop. But with your argument in mind, I guess I would now explain the show's success by citing its ability to pander to two audiences: those in desperate need of feel-good schmaltz and those who enjoy risqué material wrapped with a cloying candy bow. If you want the real deal, I still recommend Everwood.