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Off Campus: Movies and TV Paradoxically Offer Respite From Busy Media Schedule

Published on
June 3, 2022
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Paul Offit, MD

Dr. Paul Offit, takes a break from his busy schedule.

Editor's Note: Hello, summer! And welcome back to our seasonal series "Off Campus," where we share the hobbies and adventures of our Research Institute colleagues. Read along to learn what your co-workers do to de-stress and reset once they leave Osler Circle or close the door to their home office.

mccannn [at] chop.edu (By Nancy McCann)

Paul Offit, MD, director of Children's Hospital of Philadelphia Vaccine Education Center, has never been busier than during the last two years. As an internationally recognized expert in the fields of virology and immunology, his knowledge has been in demand during the COVID-19 pandemic — not only from the Food and Drug Administration, of which he is a member of the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee, but also from the media. You may have seen him on the news, answering reporters' questions, virtually from home.

"Because I'm on the FDA Vaccine Advisory Committee, I'm on the hook to the media for information about anything having to do with vaccines," Dr. Offit said. "There are times when I'm on MSNBC, CNBC, CNN, and all three nightly news programs, ABC, NBC, CBS, all on the same day."

Not to mention webinars and podcasts too. Last year, the Vaccine Education Center had 20,000 media hits. It's unrelenting, he admits.

"I've never ever been more stressed as I've been these last two years," Dr. Offit said. "There's never a break. It's seven days a week."

So how does Dr. Offit combat this media onslaught? With more media, of course. Watching movies is his escape from the stress, albeit temporary, and a hobby that began during the 1950s and 60s when he was growing up in Baltimore.

Godzilla

"Godzilla" made quite an impression on young Dr. Offit. (Jewell Enterprises Inc. Toho, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

"I remember seeing 'Old Yeller' with my mom," Dr. Offit said, "that was probably my first movie. Then, she would mostly drop me off at the movies with my friends. We saw ‘Godzilla' when I was about 8, and it scared the heck out of me. It was a dubbed Japanese film; you just had no choice but to be taken over by that screen."

As he grew, so did his taste in movies. As a teenager, films like "From Here to Eternity" and "Manchurian Candidate," the original with Frank Sinatra, kept him glued to his theater seat. Foreign films were his favorites, like "The Lacemaker," a French film with Isabelle Huppert, or "Seven Beauties," an Italian film, which he would see at two of Baltimore's cinema art houses, the 5 East and 7 West.

TV's the Ticket Today

Montana view

Montana’s “big sky” is breathtaking in the TV series "Yellowstone."

When movie theaters shuttered during the pandemic, Dr. Offit switched venues and continued his escapism hobby from the comfort of his living room. The screen may be smaller, but "the content is great," he said. "Television series are like long movies. They're made at movie production quality but instead of being a couple of hours long, they're 40 hours long."

CHOP's unofficial TV critic has many recommendations for anyone looking for a night of TV binge-watching at home: "Ozark," "Maid," "Severance," "Peaky Blinders," "Yellowstone," and "Girls5Eva," which is written by Tina Fey and is hysterical, according to Dr. Offit. Foreign shows remain among his top picks: "Anatomy of a Scandal," is British, as is "Time."

"TV is great when you don't have much time," Dr. Offit said. "‘Girls5Eva,' that's only a 30-minute show. So, you can clock in and watch that for just a moment before you have to go to your next series of things."