Five Fandoms I Happened to Catch at the Right Time (More Through Luck than Judgment)

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A little while ago, I offered up my list of shows that have an active and vocal fandom. Fandoms which I have utterly failed to become a part of.

On the other hand, through no fault of my own, I have ended up in some pretty cool groups of fans. These are their stories.

After writing the previous article, I was somewhat surprised by how therapeutic it was, and not just in the sense I was expecting, i.e. finally exposing my shameful secret to the world vis-a-vis never having watched Walking Dead.

No, the thing that really surprised and reassured me was how much of the comment section was about everyone sharing their own fandom gaps. It gets very easy to assume that everyone else is completely on board and up to speed with all the cool stuff, and that you, by virtue of not being as good a fan as everyone else, are the only one being left out. I can't tell you how nice it was to be reassured that apparently everyone out there has at least one or two big 'everybody watches this but me' shows in their archive.

I guess what I'm really saying is, it's nice to have it confirmed that you're not in some way less of a fan than anyone else just because you love Lost but have never watched Firefly, or any other combination of shows. Fandom is not an all or nothing prospect. You are not required to be up au fait with absolutely everything in order to not get your geek cred revoked. At no point will there be a quiz.

That said, here are five fandoms that I am up to speed on, and why you shouldn't be intimidated to give them a shot if you want to. Or not, your choice. I will still absolutely pass you the potato salad at the big geek picnic, regardless of whether you've ever seen an episode of Buffy or not.

Warning: Possible spoilers. Most of these are pretty old, and I don't plan on going into any significant spoilery detail, but if you've never watched Doctor Who, and don't want to be spoiled about the fact that it involves time travel, be cautious proceeding.

Speaking of:



How I ended up a fan: This one is kind of hard to explain now, in our post David Tennant world, but there was a time when being a fan of Doctor Who was not, in fact, a sign of being geek-fashionable and popular. You didn't openly advertise your love of the show, even if the technology to do a podcast about it had been around at the time. In actual fact, carrying your Target novelizations around school to read during recess was much more likely to get the crap kicked out of you. So, as a boy of about eight or so I was friends with a few other boys who shared an equal level of not-particularly-popular, and we all watched Doctor Who on public television on Friday and Saturday nights at 10pm. So, essentially, I'm a fan of Doctor Who because I happened to be the right age and level on the grade school social ladder, at the right point in history when it was airing on PBS.

As you might imagine, those of us who come to Doctor Who fandom have what might be called 'deeply mixed' feelings about the show resurgence as a symbol of social capital. If I might quote myself from an earlier article on a different site, "YOU! You with your Fez and your unbridled joy! You weren't there in 1989, man... You never lived through the JNT years... You weren't there to have your heart briefly given hope again before being brutally ripped from your body and stomped on in 1996! You don't know, man! You don't KNOW...!"

Why you should still start watching it: The main virtue of Doctor Who as a long running show is that they make a conscious effort to provide 'new fans start here' save points at least once every couple of years. We are, in point of fact, about to experience another one in a few weeks with the premiere of Jodie Whittaker's Doctor, and I can guarantee you that you won't have to have seen even a minute of previous Doctor Who in order to watch and enjoy it. And once you've started at one of those jumping in points, the constant re-booting of the show means you can jump around at any point in the shows history and be more or less just fine. Mysterious alien, travels in time in a blue box, usually has at least one friend traveling with him to ask expository questions. That's all you need to know. Go forth.


We're dreamy.  And we'll never leave you.

How I ended up a fan: Totally by accident. If I might use the style of Ms. Sophia Petrillo, Picture it. The WB network. September 2005. The Buffy spinoff Angel had aired its finale that May, and I was a huge fan of both Angel as a show, and David Boreanez as something to look at. Mr. Boreanaz had a new show premiering that September by the name of Bones, and I was super excited to watch it. And let's take a moment to appreciate the fact that David Boreanaz has not been off our screens for a single television season since Buffy began in 1997. That's actually tremendously impressive, and it ain't all just because he's pretty.

But I digress. Bones was scheduled to premiere that September, and by a strange coincidence, premiering immediately adjacent to it on a different network was this new show being described as 'Buffy, but with dudes.' The two shows seemed like a good pairing, and so I watched both of them. I actually enjoyed Bones a lot more than Supernatural, and probably would only have continued with that one, but then there was a quirk of scheduling, and after the first few weeks of Bones it was off the air for a month and a half due to one of those autumn scheduling gaps that happen for a variety of reasons. I had already gotten used to watching TV on that night of the week, and so I kept up with Supernatural basically as a way to pass the time until Bones came back. By the time Bones returned, Supernatural had aired both the 'Bloody Mary' and 'Hook Man' episodes, and I was in for the duration. So, if Bones hadn't gone on that fall hiatus, I probably wouldn't be watching Supernatural today.

Why you should still start watching it: Because honestly, it's just really, really good. The structured payoff of the first two seasons as they play out in seasons three through five is masterful, and absolutely worth experiencing without having them spoiled. After season five, just check in with Billie's reviews and watch the ones she says are good and skip the ones that she says aren't, because the way the show handles the long game changes significantly at that point and it's no longer really necessary to be pedantic about watching everything.





How I ended up a fan: In my undergrad days of college, there was a group of folks that I knew tangentially, due to the fact that I sort of knew one of the women from regional One Act competitions when I was in high school. Yes, I was that kid.  Anyway, one of them began telling me one day in very enthusiastic terms about this show that she'd been watching starring the cross dressing guy from Twin Peaks. Of course, because this group of folks was much cooler than I was and I desperately wanted to be allowed to hang out with them, I immediately pretended both that I remembered that David Duchovny had been on Twin Peaks, and that I was a fan of the show. She then lent me a VHS off air copy of the episode 'Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose,' and I was hooked ever since. Sure, the last two seasons of the original run were mostly crap – although there is some really good stuff in the final season once they figured out how to properly use Reyes and Doggett's relationship to further stories. Yes, the last two 'event seasons' would have greatly benefited from just omitting anything the Chris Carter wrote himself. But even that last event season gave us 'The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat,' and I'll fight anyone who says that 'Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster' isn't pure brilliance from beginning to end.

Why you should still start watching it: Essentially, two words. Darin Morgan. Find the episodes he wrote. Watch them. Peel the portions of your mind that are left off of the wall behind you. Watch them again. Quote them endlessly. Then watch 'Small Potatoes' to see the man himself play the lead, well, villain is too strong for this context. Let's say antagonist. Then, if you like, watch the one where he plays the fluke man as a nice nightcap. You're welcome.





How I ended up a fan: There was a span of time wherein I discovered reruns of The X-Files were being played daily, and I hadn't watched much X-Files recently. So I set the VCR to record them – this was some while ago you understand. I was somewhat irritated to discover that the TV station in question had a habit of running three to four minutes behind, and so I was continually getting the last couple minutes of some high school show on the front end of my X-Files fix. Than I started noticing odd things about that high school show. Like, I'm pretty sure that was a werewolf, wasn't it? Why's that blond girl putting that ring down in a dramatic spot of light? Oh my, why has that ring transformed into a naked, huddling man that I will one day know as David Boreanaz? And so forth. The rest is history. Now that I look back, David Boreanaz features curiously in a lot of my life choices.

Why you should still start watching it: Because the time period in question was 2003, and I started watching Buffy halfway through season seven. The DVD sets were just starting to be released about that time, and I devoured each new one as they came out, while also watching season seven as it was broadcast. The show holds up, even if you come to it late and watch it violently out of sequence, I can verify that firsthand.





How I ended up a fan: Similarly to Buffy, I came to this one late – halfway through season three to be exact. In a way this helped, because I'd heard all about how disappointing season two was, and didn't have a lot of unreasonable expectations. I watched season one on DVD, then season two came out and it wasn't as bad as I'd heard, but then that's probably a function of diminished expectations. By the time season six finished I was pretty ready to be done with the whole thing, although I'm one of the five people on the planet that does think they actually answered all the questions reasonably well in the finale. Except that pneumatic tube with the notebooks, of course. What the hell was that about?

Essentially, everybody on my online Angel fanboard community was really into Lost from the beginning, so I eventually checked it out, and it was OK.

Why you should still start watching it: Honestly, I'm not 100% sure that you should. The episodes that are brilliant are absolutely brilliant, but as high as the highs are, the lows are pretty low, and due to the nature of the show it's hard to appreciate the brilliant parts without watching everything so you understand what's going on in them. I guess, follow your heart on this issue. I don't regret the time I invested watching it, but I'm not going to revisit it anytime soon.


And so, there you have it. The fandoms that I'm proud to be a part of, while acknowledging that I deserve absolutely no credit personally for being a part of them.  In every case it was merely a confluence of where I happened to be, the people that I happened to be interacting with, and in some cases a quirk of network broadcast timekeeping.

For the record, I'm still friends with the woman who got me hooked on The X-Files, although I'm fairly certain I never got around to returning that VHS tape. Years later she recommended Firefly to me. She's good people. I wonder if she'll ever read this article and recognize herself.

How did you get involved with your favorite fandoms? Was there a faulty VCR involved? Let me know in the comments.

Mikey Heinrich is, among other things, a freelance writer, volunteer firefighter, and roughly 78% water. You can find more of his work at the 42nd Vizsla.

8 comments:

Billie Doux said...

Terrific piece, Mikey. And wow -- more luck than judgment is right.

Supernatural didn't grab me right away, but I watched from the first episode and couldn't quite make myself stop watching it... and then it was the middle of season two and it started blowing me away. I was really, really glad I got into it early. Can you imagine doing retro reviews for ten or eleven seasons? Because I would have tried the show at some point and I would have *had* to review it. Ditto Buffy, actually, including the season two thing.

Lost I was obsessed with almost immediately. Although I think I'm over it now.

Come to think of it, Doctor Who was my retro show in this group. I tried Nu Who around season four because of Paul Kelly, who wanted to review it with me. I tried bits of classic Who here and there afterward. Never caught it on PBS.

And I was never really into The X-Files like the others on this list. I watched it from the beginning and stayed with it to the end, but never obsessed about it or rewatched it. I wonder why?

Dragonfire said...

I got into Supernatural mid-season-11, and I'm very, very sad that I wasn't able to catch it from the beginning. Granted, I have an excuse (a grade schooler is going to be watching Sesame Street, not Supernatural), but I still really wish I'd been part of the fandom through the Kripke era.

televisionandotherrantings said...

I started Supernatural some time in 2013 not long after finishing Buffy /Angel and finally caught up by the time of mid-season 10. Wasn't crazy about Season 9-10 but it's a good thing I was persistent since Season 11 was pretty great. Great show and lot of fun fan stuff to interact with.

TheShadowKnows said...

"By the time season six finished I was pretty ready to be done with the whole thing, although I'm one of the five people on the planet that does think they actually answered all the questions reasonably well in the finale."

I'm another one. Most of the "unanswered questions" people bring up are on about the level of "They never told us how Hurley got his nickname."

"Except that pneumatic tube with the notebooks, of course. What the hell was that about?"

I assume you're being facetious, since this was actually answered in season two: the staff at the Pearl station believed the Swan station was a psychological experiment they were monitoring, but in fact they were themselves the subject of a psychological experiment (which is why their notebooks of useless "observations" were just being dumped in an open field).

For what it's worth, I've rewatched LOST over the course of two or three months twice since the show ended, and I think it hangs together pretty well under those conditions. There are seams (for example, different pieces of evidence suggest that the Purge took place in both 1988 and 1992) but nothing more than you would expect from a show that lasted six years.

Nonei said...

I watched Lost while it was on the air and enjoyed the first two or three seasons... but, that was a time before DVRs (for me anyway), and it was such a pain to set up the VCR that we kept accidentally recording the wrong channel and just gave up after we missed about 5 episodes and had no idea what was happening... Kids these days don't know how hard we had it!
I have enjoyed Doctor Who since I was a kid and caught it occasionally with my mom on PBS, although I never did know anyone else that enjoyed it until I was an adult. Also it was a rare treat because we never did really figure out when it was on lol, and for a long time I thought Tom Baker was the same as the guy from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
I caught one episode of the new Dr. Who in the first season, absolutely decided that Eccleston didn't look like a Doctor, and that I didn't care about it... also I had a new baby at the time so was a little distracted LOL. Rediscovered it in the fifth season, and enjoyed season 1 of New Who the second try.
That's... really about it for me as far as being there at the right time for me for sci-fi/fantasy.
If I expand to other media... I was more of a computer nerd (growing up in the 90's when it wasn't quite cool), and was on the bandwagon for most of the King's Quests and the Leisure Suit Larrys (my mom was not happy our dad let us play that one!) and others like that - not that there was much of an internet to know about fandom at that point, but I did have a friend that played them too. Also I have an amazing respect for Roberta Williams... as I got older, played practically from the beginning for Diablo, Star Wars Galaxies. I still have a grudge against Sony for the last one... just saying. lol.
Hope everyone's day is going well!

Chris said...

I only recently started watching Supernatural (I'm on Season 3 at the moment), but since it is still ongoing and apparently will continue to produce new episodes for the next ten years or so, I guess I can claim to have caught the fandom at the right time. It does feel a bit like a cheat though.

Buffy is pretty much the show that turned me into from a casual watcher into someone who can really obsess over television shows, lol. It's the one that started it all, for me, though I got into it at a bit of a weird point: I had watched a few episodes of Season 3 and Season 5 here and there (I distinctly remember watching the episode where zombies break up Buffys party and the one where Riley leaves on a helicopter) and started following the show religiously starting with Season 6. After the series finale had aired, I went back and got all DVDs, and started watching the show from the beginning. Starting so late certainly affected my views on some characters, particularly Willow. Weirdly enough, the two seasons I watched when they aired, 6 and 7, are now my least-favorite seasons of the show.

I never got into the X-Files, on the other hand. I was just too young for it when it first aired and I must admit that I'm not very interested in watching it. I just heard too many bad things about the course the show took and I get the impression that it is not really a serialized show but mostly features stand-alone episodes, which isn't usually the type of show I enjoy.

Now Lost. Lost, Lost, Lost. I love Lost. I still do. Lost was the show for me where the fandom truly played a huge part of what made the show what it is. After each single episode, I immediately checked all the forums, all the podcasts, and of course the reviews on this very site. And the fun thing is, it was not just an online thing: my friends and I would come together each week to watch the new episode together. We finished school around Season 5 and some people moved away, but we still met up from time to time to watch the show, and of course we all came together one last time to watch the series finale. The show certainly holds a special place in my heart, so I'll have to politely disagree that its lows are pretty low ;) (I'll grant you the tattoo episode and Nikki and Paolo though) I've rewatched it a couple of times now, often introducing it to friends who hadn't seen it before, and it's a great experience each time.

Sadly, I haven't really experienced something like this in such a strong way since then. I guess part of the "problem" is that there are now dozens of awesome and well-written shows out there and everybody seems to be watching them, so it's hard to keep up. I can really empathize with Mikey's feeling of being left out because it seems like you are the only one who hasn't watched every single new show. I feel like each day, somebody recommends a new show to me, while I'm still busy catching up with Supernatural or finally watching The Wire, for example. So yeah, thank you for this article and your last one, too, I definitely can relate, lol.

This post became a lot longer than I intended. I guess I got a little carried away gushing about Lost, lol.

Mikey Heinrich said...

Chris, I love a good gush! Enthusiasm is awesome.

I freely admit, the tattoo episode and Nikki and Paulo were specifically the two things I was thinking about when I said that the lows were pretty low. :)

It occurred to me today that if I hadn't limited this to tv shows, I should have included the Sandman comic. I picked up the first issue entirely because of an ad that used the same quote that an episode of Doctor Who had used. I count myself lucky for that.

It was 'I will show you terror in a handful of dust', if you're wondering.

Lamounier said...

Doctor Who I never watched. Ditto Supernatural.

The X-Files got into my radar while it was airing its eighth season. I had this new group of friends at Junior High and some of them watched the show. I would watch a random episode here and there, hear my friends complain about how the show just wasn't what it used to be, and that was pretty much it. Out of all cult shows that I didn't follow, The X-Files is the one that fascinates me the most. I like watching a random episode occasionally at Netflix, and I always chose one of the classics. So, thank you, Mike, for giving me a direction in that regard.

I was curious about Lost when it premiered, but I knew it was the type of show that could turn out to be a major disappointment. So I decided to wait for the series finale, and if the fans called it worthy, then I would watch the show. By the time the show got there, I was spoiled about so many of the main developments that I just didn't care anymore. As a bystander, I *loved* the cliffhanger at the end of season three. A terrific twist and, when I heard of it, I wished I were watching the show.

It was my sister who found Buffy on TV. Fox (in Latin America) was airing reruns of season three. She claimed that we had watched the show before (something from season one or two), but I had no memory of it. She also linked it to the movie, and that one I remembered. In any case, my obsession with BtVS grew pretty quickly. Fox aired reruns of season three, and when season five began, they started airing reruns of season four. That's how my Buffy experience started. I watched parts of season three and parts of season four, and season five was the first one that I consumed on a weekly basis.

I even remember the promos Fox aired. They would combine the promos of Buffy and Angel and end with "an exciting episode of Buffy, followed by Angel". For episodes 5x15 and 2x15, they said "an always exciting Buffy, followed by Angel". BtVS was very popular. I also remember the songs they used for the promos. Buffy's was something from Nerf Herder, Angel's was an excerpt of the main theme, a part that didn't play during the credits. I think I have a VHS with the final six episodes of Buffy's fifth season somewhere. It must be at my mom's. I watched them endlessly waiting for season six. Good times.

David Boreanaz has not been off our screens for a single television season since Buffy began in 1997. That's actually tremendously impressive, and it ain't all just because he's pretty.

Wow. That is pretty impressive.

Thank you for this article, Mike.