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Make Friends, Influence People and Get Them to Watch Your Favorites

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A few years ago, a friend asked me to drive him from our college town in Connecticut to Boston, a two-and-a-half-hour drive I usually made alone. “Sure!” I said, excited for the company on the boring stretches of I-84. But then, it happened, the dread thing that friends do when they’re stuck in a car with each other.

He began a conversation by saying, “You know what book you should read?” I spent the next two and a half hours hearing about a Green Lantern arc that I would never, ever pick up, in part because I’m not a Green Lantern fan, and in part because I had now heard the entire story from my friend in the passenger seat. We’ve all done this at one point, accidentally alienating friends and loved ones by getting a bit too excited about our favorite books and television shows. So how do you get your friends to like the things you love without getting branded as the kid who can’t stop talking about Battlestar Galactica?

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Skip to the good stuff

No matter how many times people told me that Doctor Who was good, it didn’t matter until someone handed me a cup of Earl Grey and informed me that we were going to watch the episode “Blink.” That comes from the third (modern) series, but requires almost no context or foreknowledge about the show. The Doctor and his companion barely make an appearance! So why does it work so well as an introduction? First, it’s fun to watch. The pilot of the new Doctor Who, like many pilots, is a little slow and awkward, and takes enormous amounts of time to establish relationships. “Blink,” however, sets up the idea that this is a show about slightly scary adventures in time travel. If you can, find an outstanding episode, issue or scene that stands on its own — it’s a far better hook than presenting your buddy with a DVD set and saying, “I know the first 12 hours are boring, but just wait until it gets going …”

HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER

Know your audience!

I’d been invited to play Dungeons & Dragons with friends many times over, but every time I sat down to create a character, I was intimidated and ran off to do something that involved fewer decisions (like an entire game of Axis and Allies). When I finally played for the first time, two friends made up an entire game designed to get me excited about D&D. It included cute inside jokes that I actually got, and had more zombies and unicorns than typical D&D creatures. Think of what appeals to your friend, not about what appeals to you. It’s possible that you hate Robin’s character on How I Met Your Mother, but if you know that your buddy loves ‘80s song parodies, you might want to start with an episode featuring Robin Sparkles.

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Avoid TMI

If you like a show, game or comic that requires a lot of insider information, think about a way to present it simply and without judgment. If you friend has a question, think of a way to answer it succinctly and without doing a full information dump. “Why does Worf wear that belt thingy on his chest?” “He’s a Klingon, and it symbolizes his cultural identity.” If that leaves your friend wanting to know more, so much the better! But let her figure it out on her own.

Oddly enough, I’ve found that well-placed spoilers are perfectly OK when introducing a friend to a new show. Knowing who dies in the first season of The Walking Dead didn’t diminish my enjoyment at all. In fact, learning there were going to be complex paths for each character made me want to watch the series more. Battlestar Galactica did this best with “What the Frak?” — an eight-minute video that summarizes the entire series for new viewers, spoilers and all. After watching those scenes, it’s easier to catch up, but it also makes the series look pretty darn cool.

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Let them find it on their own

My buddy at CBR, Steve, knew I would love Batwoman: Elegy. He causally pointed it out on his shelf once. I flipped through and then put it back. Months later, I vaguely remembered the cover and picked it up all on my own. I loved every page. Steve could have stood over me, waiting for me to finish each issue in turn. But finding it by myself gave me ownership over the experience. Instead of Steve winning me over, Kate Kane did. And that’s how fans are made.

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Comments

  • Rollo Tomassi

    At another forum, we’ve been harping on a friend to watch Firefly for the better part of a decade, and he refused. Partly because he felt Whedon in general was overhyped by his slavish fan base.
    Last month he finally watched the series and now he’s it’s biggest fan! Sometimes it just takes a little patience. Or a lot.

  • matt

    My wife and I had friends pushing Mad Men on us for a long time, we finally watched all 5 seasons over this past summer and needless to say we both didn’t like it. We found it really slow and YES there were sprinkled through the 60 or so episodes a hand full of really great ones but as a whole the show drags, nothing really happens, and EVERYTHING meshes together to the point where I can’t even distinguish one season from another. I guess what I’m getting at is that it’s almost better to watch certain shows week to week as apposed to snow plowing something. Its to the point now (with the current season/ we are still watching) that we have to force ourselves to watch the show and we just keep groaning throughout episodes that we both don’t understand the spell Mad Men has on people. It’s not a Breaking Bad quality TV show.

  • matt

    Im a huge Whedon fan, and for awhile I was pushing Buffy and Angel on my wife. We finally sat down and watched the show. And Both of us (me included) couldn’t get through season 4 (we stopped right after the Hush episode). You quickly realize with Buffy and Angel that 1) every Whedon directed episode is awesome/ and every Drew Goddard episode is usually weird/ quirky/ or just bad (like Xander is a hyaena episode) 2) nostalgia is a bitch (I watched Buffy and Angel when I was a Junior in HS and thought it was the best thing I had ever seen but now at the age of 30 I look back at it and think my older self was crazy for thinking it was ever anything but campy) and 3) buffy and angel (angel in particular) have some of the most SHAMELESS reuse of sets for any tv show ever made, there was reason why everything happened at The Bronze in the first season of Buffy, it’s because they only had like 3 sets.