If I could be in a TV show, any TV show, I think I would have to admit to the world the not-so-secret love of mine for BBC (British Broadcasting Channel) nature documentaries. Traveling around the world to explore the last reaches of the wild places on Earth is everything that I want to do in life. Unfortunately, I lack the gentle British accent and soothing tones of David Attenborough so I think any of my viewers would be ultimately disappointed, but to stand on the African Rift Mountains and discuss the ever-changing Savannah would be worth the low ratings. At least to me; I can’t speak for the BBC and their budgetary needs.
The ultimate pinnacle of amazing nature documentaries that I would insert myself into would be BBC’s Blue Planet. I have no scuba training, no ability to hold massive, waterproof cameras steady underwater, nor the stomach for long boat trips, but to swim stretched out next to a blue whale, to look into her eye and know that she was here before I was born, and will be here long after, would change my life I think. So Blue Planet 3, hit me up if you need a relatively unskilled 21-year-old to join your crew.
However, if I were to write my own TV show and there were no limits, I would do something different than nature docs. I would cast an all minority cast. We would have scripts that used words like bisexual, feminist, and Black Lives Matter in meaningful ways that add to the larger discourse instead of being the butt of jokes. Inside the actual plot, I would have to admit that deep down I’m a romantic. I want the struggle of Captain America (because if he isn’t a closeted bisexual man in love with his best friend and punching people along the way I’m a hat), meets the surety of a Law and Order episode (because they always get the bad guys, right?), meets the queer romance of Below her Mouth (it ends happy okay) all wrapped up together and packaged into easily binge-able and funny 30-minute episodes. I want Parks and Recreation but even more liberal and queer, and with more fight scenes so maybe what I really want to write is 30-Rock meets 300?
Jokes aside, if I were ever given the opportunity to write a TV show I would want to make a character that I could have seen myself in as a younger girl. Growing up it would have changed my life to see someone who looked like me, who loved like me, and who had the aspirations of a future shaped just like mine. In today’s world getting to tell stories like this are difficult as producers refuse to pay for anything that isn’t guaranteed to make money and sell advertising space. Which is why we have the third remake of SpiderMan in my lifetime happening now, and why the Big Bang Theory spin-off, Young Sheldon, even exists. But, if one day this mishmash of shows is on a 9pm ECT on Wednesday nights, I would pay for cable to watch it every week and boosts its ratings, which is a lot of dedication okay? Cable is expensive, and Netflix exists.
The time: 11pm on a crisp fall evening in the late 00s.
The place: A quirky studio apartment on the upper east side of Manhattan.
The situation: It’s been three days and the bland but beautiful bachelorette whose name is “Jess” or “Hannah” or “Sarah” or something hasn’t heard back from Bradley, a rich hunk she met at the bar last week.
“Is it me?” bland girl asks, clutching her pillow while writhing on her couch in desperation.
“Well, he was wearing a ring…” She ponders.
Suddenly, a hand appears and smacks some sense into the generic woman.
“He’s married, dumbass! Now get showered and put on that sparkly red thing in the closet. We’re going out tonight, and both of us are going to get hit on by large men with defined jaw lines and no attachments.”
Who does this iron hand and crude tongue belong to?
I’ll give you a hint: she’s been played by legends: Zooey Deschanel, Lisa Kudrow, Christina Applegate, and, of course, Judy Greer.
She’s usually clad in some sort of ostentatious blouse, and always ready to party. She’s fiercely loyal to fashion and friendship. She has an inappropriate past which produces fitting anecdotes for the precise times when you need advice. You spilled wine on your dress? No problem. This girl’s spilled blood on her dress when she was enlisted in the IDF; she’s a stain-removal pro.
The teaser trailers are where she truly shines; her comedic timing and unrivaled wit break apart the whiny protagonist’s ramblings. Yet despite her memorability, she’s always conveniently left off of the promo poster, but, you always remember her.
You guessed it: she’s the sassy best friend.
I know enough about myself to say that I check all of the boxes: I’m quirky, stylish, judgmental, and dang iconic. It doesn’t matter what story I’m in because I’m always the one kicking ass and taking names. Some call it conceit; I call it taking care of business.
If you’re ever in need of a sassy best friend, just shout your most pressing issue into the void and I’ll be right there to give you a backhand and a ride to the club.
(Spoiler warning: Avert your ever-scrolling eyes if you haven’t seen both seasons of Stranger Things, the Netflix show about telekinesis, monsters, and kids that should be watched more closely by their parents). TV shows are like portals, sucking us in over and over again to help us escape our mundane and stressful lives. Unlike stand-alone films, television series can foster emotional attachments that keep us wanting more of our favorite characters in each episode and season. We begin hoping for good things to happen to our favorite characters, like for Hopper, the lovable chief of police from Stranger Things, to somehow come out of the upside down alive. We also hope for bad things to happen to the TV jerks, like to the not-so-subtle racist character, Billy, and for fan-pairings like Nancy and Jonathan, both older siblings of the more important (sorry but it’s true) main characters, to become official couples. These shows teach us lessons, make us think in ways we might not usually, and make us wonder what it would be like to be one of those characters.
Personally, it’s difficult for me to get sucked into TV shows other than comedies that you can understand no matter which episode you jump into. (Meaning I don’t usually save up enough brainpower at the end of the day to think about complex dramas). And yet, when I finally joined the hype and began watching Stranger Things, I fell in love. My love of horror and well-thought-out plot-lines and characters were quickly satisfied by this series. I revel in the culture that has surrounded this show, including “Justice for Barb” memes and Halloween costumes based off of the characters. While thinking about the show, I know that I would thrive in most horror situations, stemming from my lack of fear of most “creepy” things and my morbid curiosity. (Actually, you know what? That might make me die sooner. I would have to stick with one of the main characters that can never be allowed to die, like Eleven, the heroine with telekinetic powers.) So if I were a character on any TV show, it would definitely be Stranger Things.
As an actor on the series, ignoring the fact that I actually have no acting talent, it would be amazing to work with the legend, Winona Ryder. It would be wonderful to just meet her because she is an iconic and talented actor, starred in my favorite movie Heathers, and overall seems like a cool person. The other Stranger Things actors seem cool too, but I would take a bullet for my girl Winona.
With my love for Stranger Things so strong that I’ll debate theories with you if you get me started, I would be happy playing any character, even if it were only for a few episodes and I end up dying from a demodog. However, it would be even more fun to stick around for longer to support the kids’ mischievous adventures and help the other characters, you know, not die. (Except for Billy, he’s on his own.) I’d also love to be friends with my favorite characters, Hopper and Steve, the once-jerk who has now become the unfortunate babysitter of kids that constantly almost get themselves killed. I would get justice for the randomly-iconic (dead) character Barb, Nancy’s friend, and the not-so-iconic but well-meaning (also dead) character Bob, who briefly dated Joyce, the only dedicated parent in that town. From this, I would become a small hero until I ultimately die or become part of the “upside down,” because only Eleven can be the real hero in the end.
The scene is utterly innocuous—a normal picture of life on a college campus. The camera tracks smoothly through the dormitory halls, passing students going about their days—some are yawning, sporting bathrobes and rumpled hair, while others rush outside with backpacks and books in tow. The camera enters a room and the motion-sensor lights come on, illuminating the space. The room is painfully average, with its maybe-blue carpet and cinderblock walls, faux-wood paneling and colorful accents interspersed throughout in an attempt at aestheticism. A smiling voice crackles in:
“This is the group study lounge in the basement of Wayland Hall. It’s not much to look at, is it? It could be any such room in any university anywhere in the world. But it’s not just any study lounge. It’s ours.”
In a flash, the empty room is full of teenagers, talking and dancing and studying as raucous rock music blares behind the bold title screen—this is The Basement.
This mockumentary sitcom follows an eclectic group of intrepid college freshmen (and one sophomore—the RA) as they adapt to college in the curious community of Wayland Hall, a dorm offering a specially tailored experience for students in the fine and performing arts. The titular basement becomes the locus of life for this tight-knit group as they rapidly establish dominance over the large basement study lounge, occasionally venturing out to the performance or art studios down the hall, upstairs to individual dorm rooms, or out back onto the patio or railroad tracks. Follow along as these crazy kids share their story, interspersing sitcom-esque action scenes with interview-style asides in which the ensemble cast offers frank commentary on their hijinks.
One often hears that all fiction is just creative autobiography—and this story is no different, based on my freshman year experiences in Wayland Hall. When first posed the question “if you had a TV show, what would it be,” my mind flew to a dozen different things—a time-hopping period piece, a travel show, a historical docu-drama—but none seemed quite right. Then I checked my phone, catching sight of a message in the still-active group chat from my freshman dorm, and it hit me—the basement.
My entire wonderful, wild freshman year was centered around this one room in the basement of my dorm, where my friends and I spent most of our time. We did everything you can imagine in that room—studying, talking, crafting, watching movies on a TV we dragged down from someone’s room, and, for a while, even having sleepovers (though our Hall Director soon put a stop to that). We kept strange hours, often finding each other working or creating at three in the morning on a school night, or sitting in a dark performance studio playing piano into the wee hours of the morning.
It was not without its downs, of course—freshman year is, for many, about experimentation and pushing limits, after all. Some of us grappled with heartbreak, substance abuse, academic struggles, or mental health problems, but we all pulled through because we had each other. The ups far outweighed the downs as we learned to be independent and encouraged each other to grow as artists. Told through the sleep-deprived eyes of college freshmen, The Basement is a story about life—wild, rocky, beautiful, and full of surprises—and triumph—because everyone gets their happy ending.