Monday, June 29, 2009

Wave Riding

On September 24, 1998 I did something that, to this day, I am still not proud of.

Based on national hype, great reviews, and recommendations, I tuned in and watched the season five premiere of "Friends". What's even worse is that I loved it, watched every episode until the end of the series from then on, and now own all 10 seasons on DVD.

While most people might not find anything wrong with what I did, it embarrasses me that I dabbled in a disturbing practice that I now find most heinous.

I rode the Second Wave.

When it comes to pop culture entertainment (movies, TV shows, music, etc.) Wave Riding is very real and not necessarily always negative. In fact with every new "Big Thing" there are three different waves: the First Wave, the Second Wave, and the Drift-Into-Shore-Years-Later Wave. How you feel about yourself and how others will look at you just all comes down to which one you ride in on.

Now anyone that knows me knows that I hate anything that becomes too popular.

I can't really explain it, don't really understand it myself; but for as long as I can remember, if any person, place, or thing gets to be too big, I bail on it - no matter how much I may have once loved or appreciated it - so this make wave riding a little more difficult, and even poignant for me.

I can better describe the three waves with personal examples that have happened to me in my pop culture life.

The First Wave - "Garden State"

As "Scrubs" fans (and thereby a Zach Braff fan) from day one, my buddy Gray and I had heard about Braff's directorial debut "Garden State" about a year before anyone else. We kept trying to tell people about it, but no one cared. Didn't bother us and Gray and I saw it opening night and I genuinely loved it. I was on the First Wave.

About two weeks later, everyone else finally saw it, but then a funny thing happened. Everyone started acting like they had seen it first. It was like they had discovered string cheese. This instantly turned me off and am proud to say that I haven't watched that movie since.

All of those Johnny Come Latelys were guilty of category number two:

The Second Wave - "Sideways"

I had heard about "Sideways" for a while before it was released in the theater but didn't get to see it right away. Of course, it hit big and I was conflicted. I almost didn't want to see it at all for fear of riding the Second Wave but reluctantly gave in a couple of months after it originally come out.

Privately I loved it, but after the "Friends" fiasco, I still won't admit that I liked it publicly.

I will never let myself get accused of riding the Second Wave.

The Drift-Into-Shore-Years-Later Wave - "When Harry Met Sally"

For my entire life I've had people tell me that I NEEDED TO WATCH "WHEN HARRY MET SALLY". Especially when I interned up at Letterman and especially when I was trying to be a comedy writer.

Under those kind of circumstances, I was dead set on NEVER watching that movie because it was just too big of a Second Wave to ride in."

I made it almost 10 years before I finally gave in this past fall - due to a very stern suggestion from my Fiance - and I absolutely loved it. Very few times in my life have I had something become an "instant classic" for me and this was one of those times.

At first I felt kinda guilty about riding a Second Wave, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it had been almost 20 years since the movie had come out. I wasn't riding a Second Wave; I had been left for dead and was now Drifting Into Shore Years Later.

A very reassuring wave in case you ever miss something the first time around.

You have to understand that I don't judge other Wave Riders. This is all about me. I'm sure I ride the Second Wave in other, various areas of life but when it comes to entertainment, I hold myself to another standard.

I want to be the guy telling others about new shows or upcoming movies. I feel fulfilled when I get someone to ride the Second Wave on something I've been tuned into for a while.

ALL OF THAT TO SAY I have recently been confronted with an unprecedented situation.

Back in July of 2007 I started watching a show on AMC called "Mad Men". Set in the 1960's world of advertising in New York City, it was right up my alley but no one else was watching it or talking about it.

I mentioned it to a couple of friends back then and most of them didn't even know AMC was a network, let alone know what a "Mad Men" was.

So, like so many other First Waves that I had crashed in on before ("Ed", "Boomtown", "Arrested Development", etc). I bailed on "Men" because I thought for sure it would get cancelled and I didn't want to have to go through the heartbreak again.

I first questioned my decision last fall when season one of "Men" was not only nominated for, but then won, the Emmy for Outstanding Drama. I shrugged it off because "Arrested Development" had also won its most prestigious award and still was prematurely axed.

They weren't going to hurt me again.

Within the past few weeks I have noticed a lot more buzz about the upcoming season three premiere and I KNEW I had made the wrong choice when I started seeing a lot more Tweets about the show amongst my friends.


I have never been confronted with this kind of scenario before: ride the First Wave, voluntarily get off and then subsequently try to ride the Second Wave? As crazy as it sounded, I didn't care. I genuinely loved what I had seen of the show and despite what others might think of me, I can rest with the knowledge that I was there on Day One.

Besides, only season one is available on DVD right now (season two comes out mid-July) so technically I'm still not that far behind (there is no way I could give myself a free pass on this one if season two was out on DVD and season three had already started).

I decided to test the waters a bit and told a few of my closest friends that I was purchasing season one this weekend.

All of them couldn't believe that I hadn't been on board sooner - every one of them thought it was a Josh Mahler-type series.

Hmmm... A show filled with smoking, drinking, general moral ambiguity. I don't know whether to be honored or concerned.

But it really is. I tore through all 13 episodes on Saturday and Sunday and am stoked about season two coming out in a few weeks. Maybe other than being an adult in the 1980s, the 60s are one era that I really would have enjoyed. From the suits to the style to the American angst, from everything I've read, "Men" really captures the vibe of what the world was like back then.

Basically I don't know what wave I am on with "Mad Men" at this point, but I'm enjoying the ride. Paul called dibs on a regular blog for season three (probably a good thing seeing how the season premiere is a day after my wedding and I'm not really making any new commitments until at least October) and I plan on being a regular contributor to that forum if allowed.

All in all, it's been a good lesson for me. You either like something or you don't - doesn't matter when you pick it up. I need to give myself a break and see if there are any other waves I'm missing.


The Triumphant Return of Paulie Walnuts said...

I think I just fell in love with you all over again. We have had this talk a hundred times, but I never pieced it all together.

Do realize that all of these things actually happened?

1) I loved Friends from Ep 1
2) I didn't watch Garden State in theater, because I missed it opening week. Refused to see until it came out on HBO and never talk about it in groups (will never be that guy)
3) That I DID see Sideways opening night and despised everyone who was late to the party. (And years later respected you for not being that guy)
4) Never watched When Harry Met Sally, until I got a Netflix account, and just started watching old movies I had missed. I feel totally fine with that.
5) Started watching Mad Men after Season 1 came out on DVD, because one of my brother's friends had it. As far as I knew at that point, we were the only three people who had ever seen the show.

You will always be my pop culture guru, but I had not realized how intertwined we were.

As for Mad Men, get on now, or stay away. As I stated in my blog "Season 3 starts August 16th. If you catch up now, you can be cool. If you wait any longer, you will have to choose between being a poser or a loser and you will hate yourself."

Summer said...

Wow, haha those are big shoes to fill. I cant wait to see mad men I'm just not sure if I will be all caught up by august considering all of the stuff to get done.

I'm actually pretty stoked because im pretty sure I would have rocked the 50's and 60's wife with the clothes and the cute house and the pearls like NONE OTHER. I'm pretty sure josh and I would have been a major power couple...haha :)

Lets see as far as wave riding
1st wave - I was in on Greys Anatomy from episode 1. I loved it got into it and still watch it avidly
2nd wave- I was entirely too young for Friends when it first came out. I think I watch a couple of the episodes regularly when it was in it's last season but I didnt really get into it until I started dating Josh
Drift in to shore- definately did that with When Harry Met Sally, I had been told it was a great movie and it was referenced by everyone of the romantic comedies I love so I decided to sit down and watch it and the whole time all I could think was how much Josh would LOVE this movie and how he reminded me of Billy with all of his "theories" on love life and relationships.

haha I love you babe!

Anonymous said...

I believe Mr. Joel speaks well in reference to being on board (or better yet off board) the 1st, 2nd, or even 3rd wave of a movement in his classic song "It's Still Rock and Roll to Me":

What's the matter with the clothes I'm wearing?
"Can't you tell that your tie's too wide?"
Maybe I should buy some old tab collars?
"Welcome back to the age of jive.
Where have you been hidin' out lately, honey?
You can't dress trashy till you spend a lot of money."
Everybody's talkin' 'bout the new sound
Funny, but it's still rock and roll to me

The problem with developing a stigma to riding a particular wave is that you potentially miss out on good entertainment due to a fatal flaw that personally condemns the hype of pop-culture. Essentially, your distrust in the passions of the majority prevents you from sampling that which you have not been able to preemptively and previously condone or condemn. Thus, the question becomes either – are you afraid that the hype may influence or filter your opinion in a manner outside your norm because you want to be accepted? Or are you afraid that expressing an opposing opinion in a manner outside the hyped norm because, again, you want to be accepted?

At this point in your life, you have a robust palate from which you should be able to review a second wave, entertainment source and determine the personal value devoid of the validity of opinion which brought the source to your attention. So, my friend, jump on as many second waves as possible because:

Everybody's talkin' 'bout the new sound
Funny, but it's still rock and roll to me

Also, I checked out Mad Men this weekend and found it to be not only morally inept (a step beyond ambiguity) but rather slow paced and labored. While I liked the stylization and design of the series, plot, character, and theme weren’t strong enough to hook me. And there’s my two cents!

G. Colin Castelow

Just Being Josh said...

Good thoughts all the way around... My whole point (probably lost in translation) is that I could care less what anyone else thinks about me jumping on to something late, but for some reason, I just can't forgive myself. It just makes me feel dirty and lazy.

And I TOTALLY understand that "Mad Men" isn't for everyone - especially anyone who is generally happy and have had more positive life experiences than not.

It is definitely a show for the bruised, cynical, and jaded.

Like I said, right up my alley!