Small Screen Crushes and Swoon-Worthy Characters

A crush on Ron Swanson goes without saying. Lots of guys have a crush on him, too. I can’t even handle this picture. I just can’t.

Ladies. I don’t know how we’ve gone a whole year without making a single mention about crushes. I’ve mentioned my boyfriend, Brian, a few times in various posts, but now that several shows are returning for their fall season premieres, I’m getting my TV boyfriends back. Yes, Hulu Plus has been a big help, but you know as well as I do how lame it is when the only thing on for the evening is that quadruple rerun of The Big Bang Theory. (But I’ll probably watch it, because, hey… still better than Honey Boo Boo.)

My very first TV crush was Billy, the Blue Ranger, from Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers. (Don’t judge me, I was probably about 5 years old.) Thinking about his character, it’s easy for me to see why I liked him best: 1) his power coin was the Triceratops, and when I was that age, I wanted to be an archaeologist; and 2) he was quite the nerd. My second TV crush was probably also one of your mom’s first crushes: Davy Jones from the Monkees. It was 1997, and Nick at Nite was hosting their “Block Party Summer,” 4 weeks of three-hour blocks of a different classic show every weeknight, and I was glued to the TV for Monkee Mondays. (Skip ahead to about 1:02.) Davy Jones was the British heartthrob of America’s answer to The Beatles, which just goes to show that girls have always preferred a guy with an accent. The very first concert I attended was a summer oldies music festival he was headlining. Much like this blogger, I was saddened to hear of the actor/singer’s passing earlier this year, since he’ll always hold a special place in my little teeny bopper heart. But, I’ve grown up a little, and although I’d like to think my tastes have matured since my first decade of life, I can’t help but notice a trend in the TV characters I like best.

Ben Wyatt from Parks and Recreation (Season 5 premiere on September 20 at 8:30pm on NBC)

Ben Wyatt, played by Adam Scott, from Parks and Recreation is a state auditor who comes in to help fix Pawnee’s budget. I only got into the show this past spring after getting over a slight aversion to Amy Poehler. (I was so wrong about her, why didn’t anyone correct me?) Ben peppers his conversations with references to Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and comic book characters. Throughout the third and fourth seasons, his relationship with Poehler’s Leslie Knope, the deputy director of the Department of Parks and Recreation, develops as she embarks on a campaign to become a city councilwoman. While I appreciate a good pop culture reference as much as the next girl, it’s Ben’s patience with the extremely driven, hyper Type-A Leslie and the support he gives her during her campaign that makes him crush-worthy for me. That, and the fact that he’s a Batman-loving Model UN alum.

Jim Halpert and Andy Bernard from The Office (Season 9 premiere on September 20 at 9pm on NBC)

Jim Halpert (played by the adorable John Krasinski) and Pam Beesly’s relationship is the standard to which I measure all other TV romances. Jim is the hero for everyone who has ever had an unrequited love, having had to simply stand by Pam’s side as her friend, even when she was engaged to another man. It takes a good deal of intelligence and creativity to pull off many of the pranks Jim has committed against Dwight, and that smirk… But anyway, I also love Krasinski in his role in Away We Go as Burt Farlander, who is kind of a beardy hipster version of Jim — madly in love with his girlfriend and wanting to do what’s best for their growing family. I can’t watch the wedding episode without getting really close to doing the ugly cry. Yeah, ok, I have cried a couple of times watching it, but it’s the best. JAM forever.

Andy Bernard, you dapper gentleman, you. What’s not to love about Ed Helm’s character? He was in an all-male a cappella called “Here Comes Treble,” and he was willing to meet all of Angela’s outrageous demands for their wedding. Now he’s with Erin, creating my second favorite Office couple. Plus, he rocks that New England seersucker-and-boat-shoe prep look, and you have to respect his confidence to wear coral pants. But, what I really like about Andy is that he’s just such a nice guy, almost a people-pleaser to a fault. You know that the Nard Dog will always have your back.

Brian Williams, anchor of NBC Nightly News (NBC)

Brian Williams is the second greatest export of New Jersey, with the first being The Boss, Bruce Springsteen, and the third probably being salt water taffy or something. In fact, I would love to see a Springsteen-Williams ticket for the 2016 presidential elections. You can’t deny it would be the most attractive executive duo ever. He’s a little different from the other gents on this list, since he isn’t a fictional character. With Brian Williams, there’s no need to despair over season finales — he’s my evergreen TV crush, since he’s on almost every weeknight, anchoring NBC Nightly News. There’s something about reporting international news out in the field that I find intriguing, and I think he has that certain… intellectual hotness? Is that a thing? It’s totally a thing, intelligence is attractive. In addition to that worldly demeanor, he has a great sense of humor. Have you ever seen him on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart? Or Saturday Night Live?

I think the overwhelming theme among all of my TV boyfriends is that they’re all lovable dorks… although Brian Williams seems pretty smooth. That, and they’re all from NBC. I’ll be sad when The Office is over, but Parks and Recreation is still there, and something else may come along next fall to fill the void. Here are a few runners-up:

Phil Dunphy from Modern Family
I probably only like Phil because he and his wife, Clare, remind me so much of Brian and myself. If you’ve seen Modern Family, you know that I’m basically Clare.

Leonard Hofstadter from The Big Bang Theory
Again, lovable nerd and he’s able to deal with Sheldon. That takes a lot of willpower.

Liz Lemon from 30 Rock
Girl crush! I’ve already spoken of my admiration for Tina Fey, and unfortunately this will be 30 Rock’s last season, too. True story: I had a dream where Tina Fey named me the next head writer of SNL. Best dream ever.

Frank Reagan from Blue Bloods
Well, obviously — he’s Magnum P.I. (And my mom has a mad crush on Tom Selleck, anyway.)

Who are your TV crushes?

“Who Do You Think You Are?” — No, Really.

Life just gets more and more hectic, doesn’t it? Between classes, thesis, worrying about PhD applications (I’m a finalist at one school – invited for an all expenses paid on-campus visit in 2 weeks!), trying to be a good Dame, and everything else I have to do, it seems there’s no time in the day. Certainly not enough time to take for yourself.

The idea of taking time for yourself, of understanding yourself, is partly where the idea for this post came from…

—————————————————————————————————————————————————

Who do you think you are?

I’m not asking this sarcastically, I’m asking this in earnest. Who are you? And why are you who you are? How did you become this person?

Now, the answers to these questions are complicated. In fact, there’s more than one answer. There are many. But, seriously, think about it. Who are you? Is who you actually are different than who you think you are?

I think so. No, scratch that.

I know so.

It’s no secret on here that I’m studying to be a historian, and that I, well, love history. So it should come as no surprise to you when I tell you that your history — your family’s history — is a big part of you and why you are the way you are.

When I was in seventh grade, I had to research my family tree for Social Studies class. At age 13, I knew nothing about my family tree. Talking to my parents and my grandparents yielded some information — enough to present on my poster for class — but not enough to satisfy my interest in my family tree.

This project started a 10+ year odyssey of family tree research that will probably never end.

My interest and, at times, obsession with genealogy (the proper name for researching one’s family history) has largely been a personal venture and not one that I publicized to my friends. I mean, I admit to being a nerd in high school, but I sort of figured that admitting that I had a subscription to Ancestry.com wouldn’t help my popularity any.

I wasn’t always dedicated to genealogy either, in spite of how much it interests me. Researching your family tree isn’t easy. It takes time, patience, hard work, perseverance, luck, and a little faith. Because of this, genealogy isn’t a constant for me. I pick it up, I put it down. I’ll work feverishly for months and then not look at it again for months or a year.

So, imagine my surprise and my envy when genealogy took America by storm.

Two years ago (in the Spring of 2010), Lisa Kudrow, the actress who played Phoebe on Friends, decided to help launch a new show on NBC called Who Do You Think You Are? — a program, already several years old and very popular in the UK, that followed celebrities as professional genealogists helped them trace their family trees.

The first season followed 8 celebrities: Sarah Jessica Parker, Matthew Broderick, Lisa Kudrow, Emmit Smith, Brooke Shields, Spike Lee, and Susan Sarandon. The second season followed: Vanessa L. Williams, Tim McGraw, Rosie O’Donnell, Kim Catrall, Lionel Richie, Gwyneth Paltrow, Ashley Judd, and Steve Buscemi.

Each celebrity discovered something about their family, and in turn something about themselves, that they previously did not know. But, the message of the series is that it isn’t important who you’re related to. It’s about how we perceive ourselves in reference to where we and our families came from, and how that knowledge changes us.

It’s about the sense of guilt Sarah Jessica Parker felt before she knew whether her ancestor was an accuser or a victim during the Salem witchcraft trials, the sense of amazement of Brooke Shields when she learned she was a direct descendant of the French royal family, Matthew Broderick’s disbelief when he helps solve the mystery of an unmarked Civil War grave, or the sadness and anger of Kim Catrall when she learns the fate of her wayward grandfather.

The third season of Who Do You Think You Are? is currently being broadcast on Fridays at 8pm on NBC. If you’re not home at this time (don’t worry, I’m not usually either), you can catch the episodes on NBC.com or on Hulu. Here’s Lisa Kudrow’s (the show’s executive producer) preview of Season 3:

Of course, everyone’s family tree will not be filled with such “extraordinary” tales. There are many celebrities whose stories don’t make it on the show because they’re not interesting enough. My family tree certainly isn’t this fascinating. But that doesn’t matter, because your family tree doesn’t have to be full of royalty or heroes or famous people to be important and interesting.

You wouldn’t be here without that family tree.

——————————————————————————————————————————————————-

So, think about it.

Who do you think you are?

I can tell you who I thought I was.

I was Joni. White girl with curly brown hair and freckles from working-class Ohio with college educated parents and working class grandparents who were all born in this country. I was Slovak and Lebanese and Croatian and something called (as my Mum puts it) “Heinz 57”. When my Gram would talk about how one of her ancestor’s married a Native American woman, my cousins and I thought you could quantify that — like we’re 2% Native American somewhere in that Heinz 57 mixture. Now I know that it doesn’t work like that.

Because your ancestry isn’t so simple.

With a lot more digging, a lot more questioning, several hundred dollars worth of subscription fees to Ancestry.com, and a whole lot of luck, I know a whole lot more.

Because who I am is about  a lot more than simply ethnicity percentages. It’s also about more than those ancestors that are long dead. It’s about those still alive.

I am 25% Slovak. I am 25% Lebanese (perhaps originally Syrian). I am 25% Croatian. But I’m not Heinz 57.

I’m English, Welsh, and Irish. My Gram’s ancestors were original Americans. From Jamestown, Virginia circa 1620.

You learn through the genealogy experience that it’s not all about the ethnicity, not all about where you’re from. It’s about how your family got to where you are.

It’s about the journey.

And you learn the strengths and hopes and dreams and character traits and struggles of these people who you wouldn’t be here without.

I learned that it took a lot of bravery for my Grandfather to survive a German POW camp, that it took a lot of bravery for his mother to cross the Atlantic Ocean by herself at 14. I learned that my Gram’s family were some of America’s first settlers, starting in Virginia and New York, moving to Maryland, then to West Virginia and Pennsylvania. I learned there are historical markers at some of the places they lived.

Your ancestors are not simply names and dates on a page. They were live people living in a present that only happens to now be the past. They passed on ideas, traditions, traits, and wisdom that, whether you realize it or not, is somewhere in you and in your family.

So.

Who do you think you are?

Who are you, really?

——————————————————————————————————————————————————-

If you’re interested in researching your family tree, the internet is your best friend and Ancestry.com is the best website to get started. Although I said that I’ve spent hundreds of dollars on their services, you can use the website for free to access basic information. My suggestion is to use the free services and search some of your grandparents or great-grandparents. If you find a lot of information and want to know more, I suggest trying out a subscription for a month or two. (There’s a 2-week free trial too!)

Happy Hunting! (And don’t forget to watch Who Do You Think You Are? on Fridays at 8pm on NBC! You won’t regret it!)