TV

The 5 Best TV Tributes to D&D

Including those incredible "Stranger Things" scenes.

With Halloween coming up, I thought it was time to revisit the phenomenon that was the first season of Stranger Things.

Three years ago it took over our entire culture for two weeks, and reintroduced the world to the wonders of Dungeons and Dragons. The first season is perfectly framed by the four young friend's passionate investment in an epic tabletop quest—informing their battle with the Demagorgon, their understanding of the Upside Down, and foreshadowing the events of season two in the finale. It was charming and fun, and many of us were sucked into a love affair with the endless possibilities of D&D. But then, in season three, Stranger Things betrayed us.

Suddenly, D&D wasn't a priority anymore! Just because everyone has girlfriends now, we're not supposed to immerse ourselves in an imaginary world of magic and wonder? Bullshit! Will is the only one who gets it, and he's dressed like a moron.

Will Byers, Dressed Like a Moron in Stranger Things Season 3 What are you wearing, Will?!


Luckily, there are other TV shows that have professed their love for D&D without turning their backs. So let's take a look at the best D&D tribute episodes in TV history.

Community: Advanced Dungeons and Dragons

Troy Barnes, extolling the virtues of D&D

Community creator Dan Harmon loves Dungeons & Dragons so much that he has a show dedicated to animating D&D sessions. So when the study group gets together in the second season (the best one…) to help "Fat Neil" by playing the most epic D&D campaign in history, you can expect it to be legit. Everything from the LOTR voice-over opening, to Danny Pudi's earnest devotion to his DM duties, and Donald Glover's basic misunderstanding of the game—"Shouldn't there be a board, or pieces, or something to Jenga?"—is handled perfectly. And when Pierce's narcissism leads to the party splitting, and Neil losing his most prized magical items, the stakes suddenly become real, and the rest of the study group must use all their cunning and skill to save the day.

The episode is so good, Community actually did a follow up in season five—"Advanced Advanced Dungeons and Dragons"—with David Cross reconnecting with Mike from Breaking Bad. Also worth a watch, and notable for not including Ken Jeong in drow-blackface.

Justin Trudeau

Freaks and Geeks: Discos and Dragons

James Franco, Before it Was Too Late

It's fitting that the series finale of the highly underrated Freaks and Geeks ends with one of TVs best tributes to D&D. The titular geeks are strong advocates and the game is helmed by possibly the greatest dungeon master in history, whose low affect air of authority lends necessary gravitas to the scene.

Best. DM. Ever.

The thrust of their session is the transformation of Daniel, played by James Franco, changing his alignment from Freak (effortlessly cool idiot) to geek (enthusiastic nerd). And isn't it fun to imagine a world in which someone interceded in time to prevent James Franco from becoming pure evil?

iZombie: Twenty Sided, Die

Clive Babineaux, Getting Into It

Another entry in the category of underrated shows showing love for D&D, iZombie is the story of Liv Moore (... get it?) a medical examiner who mixes drugs with energy drinks and gains the ability to absorb dead people's personalities and memories by eating their brains. Standard stuff. In Twenty Sided, Die, the corpse in question is a devoted dungeon master, and must play through a campaign with her friends in order to unlock the dead man's memories. Liv's fellow ME, Ravi Chakrabarti, is a reliable nerd, and dives right into the role playing with some solid accent work, but the real fun comes from the stoic Detective Babineaux, who begins the session with an eyeroll, and finishes on the edge of his seat, more invested than anyone. You love to see it, and the resulting fan art is choice.

Earl

Twitter

Honorable Mention: Mazes and Monsters

Tom Hanks Beginning His Illustrious Career

While technically not a TV show, 1982's Mazes and Monsters deserves to be on this list both for giving Tom Hanks his first starring role, and for being the only TV movie to ever acknowledge the frightening power of tabletop role playing. Produced at the height of a panic over what D&D was doing to our children, M&M follows Robbie Wheeling, a stressed out student whose first exposure to role playing leads to a total psychotic break from reality. His friends must track his alter ego, Pardue the Holy Man through the bowels of New York City to save his life. The entire film is a masterpiece, available for free on YouTube, but you only need to see one scene, near the end, to know that Tom Hanks deserves at least four more Oscars.

TV

"Game of Thrones" Characters As Types of Boyfriends

Even more annoyingly, whenever you try to get anything going in the bedroom, he placidly says things like, "I don't really...want anymore..."

Game of Thrones has ended at last.

It's consumed our lives and consciousness for the last decade, and consequently, none of us have had the time or the social skills to have sex or engage in romantic relationships in any way—we were in our pajamas watching beautiful people play pretend instead!!! Now that your life has a gaping, GOT shaped void, perhaps it's time to put yourself out there and look for real life, human relationships. To make the transition easier, we've created a dating template for you and decided what type of boyfriend every Game of Thrones man would be—beware, the world is full of Jaimes.

Jon Snow—The "Brooding" Boyfriend

Jon Snow is truly the quintessential sad boy. His tendencies to furrow his brow, talk in a simulated Batman voice, and let his eyes fill with tears just enough that he looks like a romance novel cover but not so much that anyone would dare accuse him of femininity all scream sad boy boyfriend. Jon is that guy in the Warby Parker glasses you meet in an indie bookstore and agree to go on a date with because you find him handsome in a gentle, thoughtful, I-came-back-from-the-dead-once kind of way. Unfortunately, you soon find out his glasses aren't even prescription, the only book he's ever read all the way through (and constantly references) is On the Road by Jack Kerouac, and he's "just not really into" giving oral sex.


Jaime Lannister—The "Fuccboi" Boyfriend

You see him on Tinder and immediately spend 45 minutes stalking his Instagram (wow, he seems SO close with his twin sister—that's such a good sign!), hoping he matches with you. When he ultimately invites you out to a trendy cocktail bar (that he casually mentions his dad owns), you find out his jawline is somehow even better in person. Sure, he seems to be muttering someone else's name during sex (Sissy? Mercy? Lucy?), but I mean he is SO handsome. Like...SO HANDSOME.

Tormund Giantsbane—The "Rough Around the Edges" Boyfriend

He's constantly picking you up in his arms and making you feel small and dainty. His Good Will Hunting accent is so sexy, and you love a man who can pull off a beard. Sure, he tends to get drunk and throw axes at stuff, but even that is kind of hot! You get tired of how rowdy he gets with his friends and the super off-color anecdotes he sometimes tells, but, my god, he looks good in a flannel.

Tyrion Lannister—The "Life of the Party" Boyfriend

You meet him at a party and he's charming and funny. Sure, usually you're into taller guys, but you love the feeling of being with the person who has the whole room laughing. You don't even mind that on your first date he gets smashed and talks over you the whole time (that story about killing his dad with a crossbow was a joke, right?). Besides, not that you really care, but it's nice to be with a guy with resources. You never have to worry about him fulfilling your Venmo requests or splitting Ubers with you since he's constantly saying, "A Lannister always pays his debts." After a while, though, the drinking and whoring become a bit of a problem, and it's clear that he prefers talking in clever metaphors to hearing about your day at work.

Ghost—The "Loyal" Boyfriend

GOOD BOY GHOST, THAT'S A GOOD BOY, WHO'S A GOOD BOY, THAT'S A GOOD BOY! You don't need a boyfriend if you have a good boy like Ghost to cuddle up with at night and to defend you from undead ice zombies.

Bran Stark—The "Woke" Boyfriend

You're really into his whole vegan, feminist, yogi vibe. You like the way he speaks in aphorisms and constantly references The Feminine Mystique. He gets you into meditation, but you start to notice he's always criticizing the way you do it ("Babe, I can tell you aren't really leaning into your practice..."). Even more annoyingly, whenever you try to get anything going in the bedroom, he placidly says things like, "I don't really...want anymore...," but, contrastingly, he eagerly accepts the nomination to be the president of his frat.

The Night King—The "Emotionally Unavailable" Boyfriend

You fell for those blue eyes and that leadership ability, but somehow, when you curl up next to him, your bed feels colder, not warmer. It gets exhausting to have to carry every conversation and to have to constantly guess what he's thinking, but it's also...kind of hot? You'll unpack that internalized misogyny in therapy someday, but for now, you'll just enjoy the cold, cold touch of his bald, bald head.

Sam Tarly—The "Grateful" Boyfriend

Every time you take your shirt off he bursts into tears because he just can't believe he gets to see boobs. He's really a sweet guy, but you get pretty tired of having to read all the fanfiction he writes and giving him feedback on all his bizarre app ideas. You know he'll always be faithful to you, but sometimes the immense enthusiasm can be a bit of a turn-off—plus, it's a little weird that he wants to name your child after his best friend.