I loooooooove lists!!!! I have a Franklin Planner — not an electronic organizer, but a pen-and-paper binder — and I’ve been using it for years. When I keep up with my daily lists, I’m productive and sane. When I don’t — and all too often I don’t — I’m frazzled and overwhelmed.
For today’s post, however, I don’t want to write about to-do lists.
I was out with friends the other day, and we started gabbing about all the TV shows, books, and movies we had loved over the years. As we spoke, I realized many of these were the reasons I became I writer — I enjoyed the stories, the comedy, and/or the way they made me feel so much, that I wanted to create that experience for other people. So instead of a to-do list, today I want to share a list of TV shows, movies, and books that made me say I Wanna Do That!
I can’t call it a Top Ten list though… I can’t rank them in order that way, and so many works that aren’t on this list were still HUGE influences on me. So instead of a top ten list, with a nod to Happy Days (which isn’t on the list, but I did watch it an awful lot), we’ll call it:
2. Moonlighting It’s smart, suspenseful, hysterically funny, and the romance had me hooked well after it officially jumped the shark. I don’t think there are two better hours of television than the Black and White noir episode and the Taming of the Shrew episode.
4. Cheers This series was fantastic, and it managed something very tricky. Most shows, once they run long enough, turn their characters into caricatures. Sex and the City, for example — for me, Samantha went from being a complex character who happened to be sex-crazed… to simply sex-crazed for easy jokes. Cheers never fell into that trap. The characters were quirky, but they were never one-dimensional.
5. Airplane (the movie), Police Squad (the TV show) Forget the Airplane sequels, forget the Police Squad movies. The original Airplane movie and the original six episodes of Police Squad were genius. My guess is you already know and can quote most of Airplane, but if you haven’t seen the old Police Squad shows, Netflix them. Leslie Nielsen’s best work.
6. Speak and Wintergirls, by Laurie Halse Anderson I’m going to go out on a limb and say this is the only time these two books shared a list with Airplane. I’m a Laurie Halse Anderson geek, and pretty much stopped breathing when she agreed to visit us here at the Deb Ball awhile back. While I love all her books, these two reach new levels of depth and honesty. I’m too involved in the stories to think about craft when I’m reading them, but afterwards I just lay back in awe.
7. The Princess Bride, both the book and the movie And as long we we’re on this one… a moment of silence for the late Peter Falk, who was so charming in the movie. The Princess Bride is one of those rare cases where I like the movie even more than the book, though I’m crazy about the book as well. William Goldman’s screenplay is very true to his novel, but the casting is so brilliant, it puts the movie over the top. As with Moonlighting, what I covet in this is Goldman’s ability to combine laugh-out-loud comedy with an emotional arc that’s genuinely moving.
8. The Entire Harry Potter Series I loved this when it came out, and now that I’m reading it to my daughter, knowing the whole mythology, I love it even more. For me, part of the wonder of writing is creating a universe filled with characters, even the smallest of whom has their own unique story. J.K. Rowling does this beautifully — over the course of the seven books, so many of the characters flower and come into their own. Add to that the rich sense of place, and of course the magic — it’s all wonderful. Oh, and Rowling also has Ron Weasley work in one of my daughter’s and my favorite jokes. In Divination, the students are using the planets to tell the future, and there’s this exchange:
Lavender: Oh, Professor, look! I think I’ve got an unaspected planet! Oooh, which one’s that, Professor?
Trelawney: It is Uranus, my dear.
Ron: Can I have a look at Uranus too, Lavender?
9. Seinfeld and Phineas and Ferb No, seriously, I group these together! I love them for the same reasons! Both have characters that are crazy, but totally believable within the world of the show; both push their plots to truly absurd places to make fantastic comedy; and both are impeccable at taking at least three separate storylines and making them all mesh at the end. Oh, and both have a platypus. Except Seinfeld.
10. The Muppet Movie Oh come on, you should know me by now. Did you really think I’d have a top ten anything without the Muppets??? This movie in particular has it all: great jokes, brilliantly groan-worthy puns, over-the-top absurdity, break-the-fourth-wall irreverence, and a beautifully emotional story about making your dreams come true.
There we have it — ten things that make me jump up and shout, “I WANNA DO THAT!”
Already my head is spinning with all the things I left off, but ten’s a good place to stop. Now I’d love to hear from you — what are some movies, books, or TV shows that make you say “I Wanna Do That!”
Can’t wait to hear…