EW Staff
March 14, 2014 AT 04:00 AM EDT

You Are What You Watch

There’s a rite of passage every new conscript endures here at ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY, and a few weeks ago I walked the coals. What are you into? was the question posed by Jess Cagle — the former editor of EW and our newly minted editorial director — and I froze up, just a bit. (If you take this stuff seriously, you’ll understand.) What are you into?

So what would you say, with a roomful of cultural literati looking on? Would you tell them you’re a big fan of Game of Thrones? Built to Spill? The Walking Dead? True Detective? Deerhunter, Animal Collective, Archer, Broad City, Pynchon, Coover, Vonnegut, Neal Stephenson, or whatever else comes tumbling forward into your prefrontal cortex in that hot, hot minute?

Would you say that you know your father better simply because Doctor Who exists? That the one episode where the bomber pilot was brought back at Christmas helped you talk about his time in Vietnam? Or would you mention your mother, how she fought like a mama bear with the first-grade librarian to gain you access to the fifth-grade books, and that you have never taken Big Books for granted since?

My point is this: If we are what we read, watch, and listen to, then it follows we are what we recommend. Aside from Sorting Hats, the Choosing Ceremony in Divergent, and the oh-so-brutal reaping in The Hunger Games, it is this mechanism — recommendations — by which we all find a tribe, develop cultural connective tissue, dovetail our dreams. It could just make the trip to the break room a welcome diversion, or it could amount to much, much more.

Here at EW, we consume a whole lot of everything. And if you’re reading this magazine it means you take very seriously the task of cultivating those playlists and queues, of loading up that DVR, and ultimately of recommending whatever passes muster to your friends, family, and co-workers. And that’s why I’m thrilled to introduce this stellar package of Criminally Underrated picks.

Just outside the perimeter of the spotlight we’ve shone for nearly 25 years lie thousands of worthy creators, unsung heroes, and causes célèbres who desperately deserve your attention. They might not sit astride the charts this week, blow up Twitter, spawn memes, or generate box office dividends rivaling the GDP of the Federated States of Micronesia. But they’re good. Really good. The kind of good you grab someone by the collar and implore to check out — or better yet, the kind you dispatch to their doorstep via Amazon Prime, forthwith. If I could, I’d probably do just that for you. But instead, I’m hoping you’ll love our Criminally Underrated package, which starts on page 20.

One more thing: If there’s anything we’ve left out, I want to hear from you. I’m at matt.bean@ew.com, or on Twitter at @mattbean1. Here’s to the unsung heroes.

Matt Bean

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