Part of the purpose of this blog is to let you know about cool stuff in the entertainment world. The blog’s main purpose, of course, is it gives me something to do. But also, it’s nice to think that I might encourage someone to look into a good TV show or movie or band or book every now and then.
It’s that old notion of paying it forward. Just about every piece of entertainment I’ve ever loved has come to my attention thanks to a friend or family member, and I like to think of everyone who reads this blog as my friends (truthfully, this blog is only read by my friends, but that’s OK).
Here are my top 15 entertainments I discovered after getting a polite nudge (intentional or accidental) in the right direction.
1. Philip K. Dick books (from my friend Trevor, a school teacher in Texas) — I had liked “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” in college, but hadn’t given much thought to PKD’s catalogue. You don’t push PKD on just anyone, but Trevor realized I was weird enough to appreciate the humor of the late novelist, who just tells it like it is (only couched in bizarre sci-fi situations, although his non-sci-fi stuff is great, too). PKD is one of the few authors who can make me laugh out loud when there is no one else in the room.
2. “Chelsea Lately” (from my friend Clint, a magazine journalist in Tennessee) — Any day that ends with Chelsea and her roundtable of barely professional comedians (and Chuy, of course) is a good one. It’s a ridiculous show, as Chelsea often admits herself, but there’s a lot to be said for a bunch of people laughing and having a good time. And Chelsea is naturally witty, and a natural interviewer.
3. Camera Obscura (from my friend Matt, a music geek — and I guess he does something with computers to pay the bills — in North Dakota) — Matt’s the type of guy where I’ll say “Can you recommend a pretty-sounding, hooky pop band with a female vocalist who sounds kind of foreign and kind of depressed?” and he’ll hook me up. I certainly wouldn’t find a band like Camera Obscura if I relied on the “VH1 Top 20 Video Countdown.”
4. Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child books (my friend Josh, a post office worker in North Dakota who I haven’t talked to in a few years) — Josh was excited about seeing the film adaptation of “Relic” back in 1997, so I had to read the book he was hyping up so much. Ever since then, I’ve snapped up every Preston, Child and Preston/Child book I can get my hands on.
5. “School for Scoundrels” (my Minnesota friend Mike, who works in a bank in some capacity and formerly managed a pizza joint) — Despite liking both “Napoleon Dynamite” and “Sling Blade,” I somehow overlooked this Jon Heder/Billy Bob Thornton dark comedy until Mike made me watch it. It has a lot of funny — but accurate — observations about relationships and the “nice guys finish last” theory courtesy of Billy Bob being Billy Bob.
6. Kinda great ’80s movies, usually starring Chevy Chase or John Candy (my friend Jake, who sells electric supplies in Minnesota) — “Fletch” is an absolute masterpiece and somehow, shamefully, I had never seen it until earlier this year when Jake screened it. That scene where Chevy Chase looks at his watchless wrist and says “Look at the time”? Classic.
7. “Harry Potter” novels (my friend Cat, a college student in North Dakota) — I saw the movies first and didn’t like them (at first). But Cat lent me “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” and when you have someone else’s book in your possession, there’s a certain obligation to read it and get it back to them. That’s what forced me through the first one, which was OK; and the second one, which was a little better; and the third one, which is what hooked me. Now I can even enjoy the movies and I bought the audiobooks, too.
8. “Jurassic Park” (my sister, Jenny) — 1993 was the summer of “Jurassic Park.” It’s not likely I would’ve been immune to the hype, but it was actually my sister who read the Michael Crichton novel before I got to it. Now I’ve read pretty much his entire catalogue. I’ve seen all three movies, of course (I wasn’t crazy about the last one), and I even own “Jurassic Park” comic books.
9. “Star Wars” (Christopher Larson, a kid who lived down the street from me when I was a kid) — He got me an Emperor’s Royal Guard action figure for my birthday in — I believe — 1985. I vaguely remember my dad taking me to see “Return of the Jedi” in the theater around that time, and I think it was one of the re-releases. I would’ve discovered “Star Wars” anyway, but I still appreciate the b-day present that pushed me in the right direction.
10. “Once and Again” (my mom) — It’s my all-time favorite show now, but I might’ve overlooked it completely if my mom wasn’t a loyal viewer.
11. Bruce Springsteen (my dad) — Like everyone on the planet, my dad had a vinyl record of Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.,” which — say what you will about the marketing behind it — is a great pop introduction to the Boss. It’s the only Springsteen album in my dad’s collection — I remember “I’m on Fire” and “Dancing in the Dark” from my dad’s mix tapes before they were called mix tapes — but that’s all the push I needed to delve into the hundreds of amazing songs Springsteen has penned.
12. The Wallflowers, Collective Soul, Third Eye Blind and all my favorite bands from high school (my high school buddies Shaune, in North Dakota, and Matt, now in Arkansas) — I was a little slow to get into good music, but I had music geek friends with good taste. To this day, we still keep up with the bands we loved a decade ago. Music (along with the advent of Facebook) is why we still chat now and then.
13. “Higher Ground” and other somewhat girly — but highly entertaining — TV shows (a girl I really liked in college, who now lives in Montana, I think) — Sometimes you admire a person based on what they admire, and then you start to admire it, too. Or something like that. It’s not that your tastes are contrived, it’s just that sometimes you need to feel comfortable liking what you like. Until recently, it wasn’t cool to like Fox Family/ABC Family shows, but I still have “Higher Ground” (starring a young Hayden Christensen, A.J. Cook and Jewel Staite) on VHS, and I like the idea that I can watch it whenever I want.
14. Brian Regan (my friend Bryan, a newspaper publisher in Michigan) — Brian Regan is one of my favorite comedians, and Bryan (or should I say Bry-ON!) recommended him to me.
15. “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (Katie Holmes, the actress) — I’ve never met Katie Holmes, but I was thinking about how I discovered “Buffy,” a show I’ve loved like no other, and here’s how it goes: I saw “Disturbing Behavior” because I thought Katie Holmes was cute. Then I realized I like high school-as-hell movies, and “Buffy” was the ultimate TV show in that genre. Plus, it aired in tandem with Katie’s “Dawson’s Creek” for a while. So I was a couple seasons late to the “Buffy” party, but like everyone who finally tuned in, I was hooked right away.
Now it’s your turn. Think of the entertainment(s) you love most — I betcha a friend or family member introduced you to it. Am I right?