I was born on July 26th, 1991. Sixteen days later, the first episode of Rugrats aired on Nickelodeon. Rugrats would become my first favorite TV show. I identified with Tommy Pickles, the adventurous protagonist, and looking back, I can see how his fearless, fictional persona helped shape my real-life character at a young age.
It is easy for me to trace my character evolution to the TV shows and movies I’ve watched growing up. Many of the characters I love reflect traits I either already see, or aspire to cultivate, within myself. I get my affinity for mischief from Bart Simpson, my romanticism from Alfalfa, of my first favorite movie Little Rascals, and my perseverance from Michael Jordan, an actor made famous by his role in Space Jam. Like most Jewish men, I see elements of my neuroticism in Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm. I respect Anchorman’s Ron Burgundy for his bravado, Tyrion Lannister of Game of Thrones for his diplomacy skills, and Don Draper of Mad Men, who has admittedly been through some rough patches over the years, but whose swagger is unmatched when he’s on his game. I identify with the aimlessness of Benjamin Braddock in The Graduate, and pray I’m lucky enough to find a cougar like Mrs. Robinson to love me when I’m jobless and drifting in the real world next year.
I say I look up to many, and not all, of the characters in my favorite films and shows because my tastes are eclectic and predicated as much on the narrative and technical aspects of film and TV as on character. I don’t, for example, strive to be more like Breaking Bad’s Walter White, who by the end of his run seemed to me pure evil. Or Dave Bowman, the human lead of 2001: A Space Odyssey, because he essentially has no character. I appreciate those two works, rather, for how they play with TV and film conventions and redefine the possibilities of their respective mediums.
The real constant in my life has been comedy. I’ve been an SNL fanatic since before I was old enough to stay up late and watch it live. I admire the intricacy and absurdity of shows like 30 Rock, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and Arrested Development. I’ve been through phases of obsession with the Monty Python gang, Peter Sellers, Mel Brooks, Wes Anderson, Bill Murray, Woody Allen, and most recently, Charlie Chaplin. While the intensity of my obsessions may fade, the love I have for each will never go away. It is my hope that there is no limit to the amount of love I can give to film and TV, and I’m always looking forward to the next obsession to add to my list.