Recently, my Elasticity co-worker Alex wrote about four books keeping him sane and sharp during our collective self-quarantine. It was a great idea, and one I wanted to put my own spin on. So here are four pieces of entertainment that are keeping my boredom at bay.
#1 30 Rock
I was originally planning on waiting to rewatch this until the new complete series DVD collection came out later this month (seriously? The show ended seven years ago. Why is this just happening now?), but then the virus hit and my social calendar kind of went up in smoke, so I just started rewatching them online now. While not my favorite NBC Thursday Night comedy — that crown forever belongs to Parks& Rec — there’s a speed and a sharpness to 30 Rock that fascinates me as a copywriter. From hyper-time-specific jokes about NBC’s Green Week, throwaway references to TV shows long since passed and continually depressing jokes about corporate greed that become less parody and more real-life with each passing day, it’s a show that never talked down to its audience and was all the better for it. And then all the kids say “Thanks Meat Cat” and then Meat Cat flies away on his, um, skateboard.
#2 Animal Crossing New Horizons
I’ll admit, before coronavirus, I wasn’t getting out much, but post-pandemic, I’m not getting out at all. And after a few weeks of successfully resisting cabin fever, I now find myself clawing at the walls to get outside into the fresh air. Nintendo’s Animal Crossing can only offer me fresh digital air, but I will take what I can get. This little village-simulation game has given me the structured social obligations I need right now, even if those include checking in with two raccoon shopkeepers each day to ask what the price of turnips are on the “stalk market.” It’s not all digital ones and zeroes though. I’ve also scheduled group calls with my friends as we all digitally travel to each other’s villages to dig up fossils, trade fruit and pick weeds (it’s more fun than it sounds, I promise.)
#3 Professional Wrestling
I’ve fallen in and out of love for wrestling many times over the years, but with all sports on hiatus for the foreseeable future, professional wrestling seems to be the only game in town, literally. WWE has shifted their programming to their Performance Center where they are taping shows without
audiences. For a “sport” that, more than most directly feeds off crowd reactions, it’s a surreal sight to see, especially as they continued to build to their biggest show of the year, Wrestlemania, which also was taped in front of zero fans.
And this led to some really incredible moments, chief among them being the “Firefly Fun House” match. If you want to read about the “match,” this article has a good breakdown, but the gist is that in one 20-minute segment, WWE dug into 18 years of one’s wrestler’s history (and referenced even more from the past 40 years of WWE) in a meticulous character study that concluded with all-American hero John Cena realizing he’s actually become the thing he fought so hard against. Of course, it’s still wrestling, so there’s a dude in a demonic clown mask choking out Cena and making him disappear, but for this violent soap opera to genuinely “wrestle” with its own history was amazing, and something they could only do because no one was in attendance. Should they keep making these shows during a pandemic? Probably not. But since they are anyway, I guess I may as well watch them.
#4 The Dog of the South
It’s not all TV and video games though. Written by Charles Portis (best known for authoring True Grit), The Dog of the South is about a very peculiar man named Ray Midge, whose wife Norma and friend Dupree steal his car and flee to Mexico. And while Ray kind of wants to get his wife back, he really wants his car back and is setting off to get it…right after he calls his wife’s mother…and figures out what to do with the good china. It’s this quirky behavior — magnified by Portis’ masterful writing of inner-monologue — that make the tale so amusing and joyful to read, and what’s made it a favorite among some of the best minds in comedy and film such as Bill Hader and the Coen brothers. Similar to my interest in 30 Rock, it’s the unexpected tangents, observations and playfulness with language that both entertain me as a person and inspire me as a writer.
Well, there you have it, four things that are keeping me occupied while I’m cooped up at home during our global crisis. I hope you’re also finding things that bring you comfort and satisfy your curiosity at this time. Or you could just watch Tiger King again. That seems to be most people’s go-to.