Two three named men that are more commonly known as their most famous characters: Doogie Howser and Dawson Leary. In fact, NPH came into my restaurant the other day and my co-worker didn’t know who he was until I said Doogie Howser. I have the utmost respect and undying love for these two actors. And let me tell you why.
First off, Dawson Leary. Dawson’s Creek was a huge hit and has a very special place in my heart. I was addicted to it and constantly compared myself to Joey Potter and her struggles with loving her best man friend as I once did. The show was a teenage dream. It was full of drama, love triangles, huge vocab words, and a killer soundtrack. Dawson Leary was second to Pacey Witter in my opinion. While Dawson was the lead, he was wimpy and never seemed to get the girl or once he did, he lost her real quick. Pacey was the cool cat. I mean, he was in the Mighty Ducks so he’s already winning. One of the best episodes was where they were all in detention ala Breakfast Club and Pacey mentions how awesome the Mighty Ducks movies are. Anyway, I digress.
My love for James Van Der Beek begins at Dawson’s Creek but grows stronger with his post-Creek days. Being a semi teen heartthrob (Sorry, I’m all team Pacey over here), he could have easily faded into the background of former television stars. He could be in every Lifetime Christmas movie from here until forever where he plays a single father who is just looking for love but struggling with letting go of his dead wife when he meets the perfect woman but can’t find the way to fully commit until a Christmas miracle orchestrated by his young daughter brings them together at last. Fortunately, he is not starring in these masterpieces. He’s playing himself on a new TV series and he’s the best part of the show. He’s had other bit parts here and there and my favorite was his turn as the lovable psycho in Rules of Attraction. Fuck Dawson Leary, Sean Bateman was a BADASS. VanDer Beek took his career and made a total U-turn. He makes fun of himself while still respecting the fact that the Creek made him famous. For your viewing pleasure, see this example:
In the above video made for Funny or Die, James apologizes for being the perfect dude on the Creek and offers to be an asshole to your girlfriend to make up for it. He’s a genius. From this and the other James VanDerWeek videos Funny or Die did, he became a household name once again. He playfully mocked his teen stardom days as Joshua Jackson also did with his Pacey Con video. He’s brilliant. I can’t tell you how much I respect him for the fact that he clearly loves being a performer and he didn’t want to let it slip away. It tells me that he had a great time on Dawson’s Creek and owns being the wimpy yet perfectly romantic boy next door turned motherfuckin’ badass. He is able to laugh at himself and has made that his public image while still pursuing challenges in television and film. Please see JamesVanDerMemes.com for more details.
Doogie Howser born again as NPH. He made an even bigger leap than Dawson. NPH was a child star in the early 90’s which, following the 80’s, was a pretty stellar time to be famous. However, think of the shows that came from that same time period. Not many of the stars of that time are still a household name (aside from Will Smith) spanning several age brackets from grandmoms to tweens. NPH took his time gaining a name for himself outside Doogie. It was in 2004 in Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle that his brilliant new career path really came to light. He, like Dawson, was making fun of himself and revealing his true public image: a lady killing badass who really needs some drugs:
While Doogie was an adorable genius doctor, it turned out NPH had incredible acting chops and comedic timing. Who knew? Barney Stinson has now taken over Doogie Howser. It’s more common to know him as Barney than the kid doctor which tickles me pink. Barney Stinson was a phenomenal opportunity for NPH. He steals every episode of How I Met Your Mother. He took that charisma and charm he had as a child and brought it into a sexy, suited up bro. Who can do that? Not Rider Strong, that’s for sure. Where is Rider Strong nowadays anyway? Or JTT, mind you, another three namer that has faded into the dust of stardom past.
Neil Patrick Harris has immersed himself in Broadway as well, having hosted the Tony’s three times. I was lucky enough to see him as the Balladeer in Assassins and I was blown away. His commitment to that role and the sadness he carried within his narration was brilliant. My friend Matt and I were literally speechless watching him, I couldn’t believe he was that talented. We met him afterwards and I am entirely serious when I say he is one of the sweetest, kindness celebrities I have ever met. He stood and talked with us at the stage door for about 20 minutes as we chatted up James Barbour who was a fellow Hofstra alum. I have a picture with his arm around me and I remember after it was taken, he kept his arm around me. I dream about that night sometimes. Of course, it was the next week he came out publicly. A girl can still dream.
My favorite part of the new Neil Patrick Harris is Doctor Horrible’s Sing-a-long Blog. If you have not seen this, go to Netflix instant and do yourself a favor. If you like Buffy or The Avengers, this is for you. During the writer’s strike, Joss Whedon, NPH, and an incredibly funny team of cast and crew wrote this short musical for the web. It blew up. It showcased Neil’s skills as a musical theater performer for those who hadn’t seen him on stage. The comedy of the short is smart and sharp. It appeals to everyone from nerds to music geeks to superhero fanatics to bros. I know all the songs by heart. Any one who has seen it does, actually. I find such joy when I reference it and people I would never expect to know it quote it right back to me. It was at this point that it was clear that Doogie was dead and gone and NPH was here to stay. Somehow this man went from a kid star to a man that appeals to musical theater kids, nerds, ladies, bros, and magicians all while presenting himself in a classy and fun way where you just really want to go out to eat with him at the places he keeps posting food pictures about on Twitter and talk superheroes and Broadway. Yes. I follow him on Twitter.
NPH mocks his Doogie days like James Van Der Beek. There’s an episode of How I Met Your Mother where he ends the show writing in his blog to the music of Doogie and the same computer screen set up that ended every episode. He did the same on Saturday Night Live when he hosted where an orchestra went into a dramatic and epic rendition of the theme. He’s mocking it while respecting it as how he became a star. He has come into his own as a comedy god. Thinking about how hard that must have been makes me so proud to be a fan of his. It’s the same as with Dawson Leary: these two actors clearly love the business and love performing. They would have given up long ago if they didn’t.
I will pay good money to see anything these boys are in. They are champions of fame and stardom while still maintaining some impressive acting skills and private lives. NPH is heavily involved with gay rights and is a role model to any gay child who may be feeling outcast or rejected or bullied. He’s proved that you can be out and be known for so much more than your sexual orientation. James Van Der Beek continues to bring laughter to old and new fans, giving the Creek fans something to reminisce about and the new fans to discover. As an actor, I can only hope and pray that my career takes a similar path. I wish for their smarts, wits, and commitment. Most of all, I hope for their passion. And maybe to learn to do some magic from Doogie Howser.