I have never — and I emphasize, never — in my actual real life met a person who became an accidental viral hit because they said something on the news that got autotuned or they got videotaped doing something embarrassing by a random cellphone, and yet this happens to TV characters ALL THE TIME.
In the last year, I’ve probably seen more fictional viral autotune remixes on TV shows than actual autotune remixes on the internet. I understand that things happen to our favorite fictional characters that would never actually happen to us or our friends in real life — that’s the point, of course — but the sheer deluge of this one gag in recent years has crossed over from exhausting to enraging.
The trope has become lazy shorthand for When-It-Rains-It-Pours-For-Our-Humiliated-Protagonist, but what irks me most is the inherent backpattiness of a writer on a TV show saying, Hey, that thing that I completely made up is so outrageous and hilarious that if it happened in real life, it would totally go viral.
That thing where you give someone a high five and you kind of miss and they make you do it again until you get it right. Because what are we, like training for something?
“Let’s try that high five again.” No. Why? Let’s not. We did the high five — transaction complete — I don’t care if it wasn’t “good enough” for you.
“Ohh, that sucked, we gotta do that over.” No, we don’t! We are adults! Why must we pin our worth as human beings on our ability to give a decent high five? Instead I’ll just give you the benefit of the doubt that you’re usually better. Can’t you just do the same for me and we can segue into the non-high-five portion of our conversation? Yo, guy, we failed at the high five. It’s okay, we can move on as people. We both have plenty of other good qualities I’m sure. One bad high five does not herald the crumbling of our relationship that you seemingly believe it does.
“But if we lead with a bad high five, then the whole thing starts off on a funky note.” OH, OKAY, I DIDN’T REALIZE YOU WERE GOING TO BE A FUCKING BABY ABOUT IT. So why don’t we now, instead of just, I don’t know, living life forward as humankind is meant to do, let’s take a moment to act like we’re caught in some bizarre time loop and repeatedly bang our hands together like a couple of monkeys stumbling through a game of “Say Say Oh Playmate”?
Hey. Listen. Let’s get real here. Just because you think an imperfect high five is like some kind of medieval hex doesn’t mean I have to indulge your creeping O.C.D. Maybe I have kind of bad hand-eye coordination. You know what, NOT THE END OF THE WORLD AS IT TURNS OUT. We don’t need to stop everything until we get it right, Mama Rose. There are things worth being a perfectionist about but let’s just take one moment to prioritize. If this country took all the energy we expended redoing inadequate high fives and funneled that into something productive, we could get so much shit done.
LOOK. I’M SORRY MY MOTOR SKILLS AREN’T GOOD ENOUGH FOR YOU, YOUR MAJESTY. But we can’t take back the shitty high five. It happened. It’s done. Now we have a choice. Are we going to move forward, or are we going to live lives fueled by regret, constantly scrambling backward into the past? I SAY LET’S MOVE FORWARD.
Last night HBO released a trailer for its upcoming Aaron Sorkin drama The Newsroom. It looks smart and gripping and very Aaron Sorkin. But here’s the thing: The Newsroom is already the name of a TV show, and a very good one.
It’s a Canadian bone-dry comedy I first discovered in high school, when it was rerun on PBS, and it probably did more to shape my comedic voice than any other TV show I’ve ever seen. Created by and starring the prolific (in Canada) Ken Finkleman, The Newsroom is dark and cynical and gritty — it’s basically the Larry Sanders Show about a local Canadian newscast, but even darker. One episode ends with a major character dying of a gunshot wound, all played completely straight — and it’s hilarious.
One of my biggest pet peeves is when movies and TV shows reuse the titles of lesser-known really great things. I hate having to explain to people that one of my favorite movies is “Kicking and Screaming no not the Will Ferrell one,” and I’m not looking forward to having to do that with this.
If there’s a silver lining here, it’s this opportunity for me to spread the word about this fantastic fantastic show. I recommend you check it out, before it becomes impossible to google. It looks like a lot of it’s on youtube— you can watch the first part of the first episode here, and go from there. YOU’RE WELCOME.
Outside of Phoenix, late at night, you’ll stop at a gas station with a sign in the window:
RESTROOMS ARE “CLOSED.”
And you’ll ask the gas station attendant, “Hi, what does that sign mean? Are your restrooms really closed?”
“Sign says they’re closed.”
“Yeah, but are they really closed? Or are they, you know…” — finger-quotes — “‘CLOSED’?”
“Okay, because the quotation marks in the sign make it look like maybe they’re really open for those” — finger-quotes — “‘in the know.’”
“In what know?”
“You know…” Shift your eyes conspiratorially. “In the know?” Raise your eyebrows. “The restrooms are ‘CLOSED’?”
The man will shrug. “They’re closed.”
Then, for a second, you’ll feel kind of like a dick, because really, was the sign all that confusing, and, what, did you think this conversation would be funny, the kind of funny that’s only funny to you, like you’re performing an Abbott and Costello routine for an audience of no one, and why do you always do this, making something out of nothing, and is this the life you imagined for yourself, taking your smug superiority wherever you can find it, 400 miles from home, and nobody finds this kind of thing cute anymore and you know that, don’t you, and seriously you do know that, right?
Then a woman will walk in behind you and say, “Hi, excuse me, is your restroom actually closed?”
And you will never feel so fucking validated in your whole fucking life, because, yes, damn it, the sign is confusing, that’s not how quotation marks work, and a society needs rules. And more importantly, why would you even think about changing who you are? Don’t change yourself, not for this gas station attendant, not for anybody. You’re a little fucking weirdo, and the world needs little fucking weirdos and it is in such a deep weirdo hole right now, who knows if it’ll ever climb out.
You’re going to feel like a rock star and you’re going to feel like a righteous crusader and you’re going to walk out of that gas station and you’re going to go around to the back and you’re going to pee on the side of the building like a God damn champion.
If you’re on a crowded airplane and you lean your seat back, you’re a dick.
That’s not fair. You didn’t know. Okay, now that you know, you’re a dick. If, after reading this blog post, in which I bring to your attention this very serious issue that afflicts millions, you still put your seat back on airplanes, when there’s a full grown adult sitting behind you, I think you’re a dick.
Still too harsh? Okay, maybe you’re not a dick. You’re inconsiderate. You’re selfish. You’re putting your own comfort above the comfort of a complete stranger. You’re making your life a little bit better by making someone else’s life a little bit worse, and that’s maybe not such a great thing to do, if you really stop to think about it.
I’m trying to be specific with my language and gentle with my admonishment because I really want you to consider what I’m saying. I don’t want you to reject my argument out of hand just because I’m asking you to stop doing something you really enjoy doing. I want you to really evaluate what I’m saying and if it makes sense, stop doing it. And even if it doesn’t make sense maybe stop doing it anyway just because I’m asking you nicely.
Yes, I know the seats are designed to lean back, and humans are supposed to eat meat, and hazing is a tradition for fraternities, LOOK: I think we as people can take some responsibility for ourselves and our actions.
If you’re on an airplane and there’s no one sitting behind you? By all means, lean back, go crazy, I’m not an unreasonable man! Put a feather in your cap, and bask in a chorus of congratulatory huzzahs from the neighboring passengers and flight personnel as they fan you with extravagant peacock feathers and slide peeled grapes into your slack forty-five-degree-angled mouth. But! If there’s someone sitting behind you, and he has long legs, or he’s using a laptop on his little fold-out tray table, or he’s reading a book, or he’s resting his head on the little fold-out tray table, please kindly refrain from COMPLETELY FUCKING UP THIS PERSON’S SHIT BY RECLINING ALL THE WAY BACK SO THAT YOUR HEAD IS PRACTICALLY IN THIS PERSON’S LAP ESPECIALLY IF THIS PERSON IS ME.
Hey. It’s a small space, this airplane, and we’re all of us just trying to get by, but let’s think about this rationally for a second, using math.
MATHEMATICALLY SPEAKING: The comfort you gain from putting your seat back on an airplane is QUANTIFIABLY NOT EQUIVALENT to the discomfort you cause the person sitting behind you. That is a fact; there is an overall loss of comfort in this transaction. The universe gets a little less comfortable, and that’s why leaning back in an airplane is worse than, say, not giving up your seat on the subway to someone of comparable age and ability, or, say, choosing one of your children to be killed by Nazis so your other child can live.
If you’re in front of me on an airplane and you lean back in your chair, right on to my legs, I will try not to hate you, because I don’t know you or your life or the journey you’ve taken to get here, but let’s be honest I will probably hate you. Especially if it’s a red-eye flight, and especially if it’s a middle seat, and especially if when my knees dig into your back (because that’s where my knees are), you decide to slam your back repeatedly against my knees, as if there’s a lump in your mattress that you need to bang out, as if you are a princess and my legs are a horrible pea. I will try not to hate you, but if past behavior can in any way predict future behavior, OH MY GOD I WILL HATE YOU SO MUCH.
HOWEVER!!!! If you are sitting in front of me, and you DON’T lean your seat back? Even though you are definitely legally allowed to? Well, in that case I swear to God I will love you for the rest of my life. Call the rabbi, send out the invitations, I am telling you I am ready to commit.
Oh! Awesome! Back to the Future 2 shoes! The ones from Back to the Future 2! With the power-lacing that automatically conforms the shoe to the size of your foot!
Oh, what’s that? They DON’T have the power-lacing? THEN THEY’RE NOT BACK TO THE FUTURE 2 SHOES.
Oh? You say they light up? Oh, sweet, just like L.A. Lights, from the 90s! Hey, why doesn’t anybody wear L.A. Lights anymore? Oh, yeah, I forgot, it’s because shoes that light up are fucking stupid.
Look, Nike, I applaud your efforts, but these shoes are clearly not ready for primetime. These shoes are like if Mattel said, “Hey, everybody! Guess what! We’ve got hoverboards! Oh, I’m sorry, did you actually want them to hover? No, of course they don’t do that.”
So, good job and nice try and all that, but if you want me to get excited about Back to the Future 2 shoes, you need to get back in your sweat shop and make me some Back to the Future 2 shoes that can God damn power-lace just like they’re God damn supposed to.
Oh. Proceeds from these shoes benefit the Michael J. Fox Foundation to fund research to cure Parkinson’s?
FOR THE LOVE OF CHRIST, USA Network, your billboards are fucking everywhere and they’re all exactly the same, with a person smirking in front of a plain white background, and all your shows have the exact same fucking title. Seriously, am I crazy? Or is your entire network schedule just a clusterfuck of nouns modified by adjectives:
Covert Affairs - Adjective Noun
Royal Pains- Adjective Noun
White Collar - Adjective Noun
In Plain Sight - Preposition Adjective Noun
Law & Order: Criminal Intent - Law & Order: Adjective Noun
Necessary Roughness - Adjective Noun
Psych - Are you sure this show isn’t called Psychy Psych?
Fairly Legal - Adverb Adjective — THEY REALLY THOUGHT OUTSIDE THE BOX WITH THAT ONE.
Burn Notice - Okay, I’m going to be honest, I have no idea what’s going on here. “Burn” and “Notice” are both nouns, but they’re also both verbs. Is “Burn” supposed to be modifying “Notice”? What the fuck is a Burn Notice? This title is complete gobbledygook.
Common Law - Adjective Noun
Suits - WHAT’S THE MATTER? COULDN’T THINK OF AN ADJECTIVE THAT GOES WITH SUITS? FOR CHRIST’S SAKE, GET YOUR SHIT TOGETHER, USA. Here are some suggestions for words you can use to modify Suits, SINCE CLEARLY YOU ARE IN LOVE WITH MODIFYING EVERY FUCKING THING:
USA, I HAVE SEEN YOUR ADS ALL OVER TOWN AND THEY ALL LOOK LIKE THEY’RE FOR THE EXACT SAME SHOW ABOUT SEXY SPY DOCTOR DETECTIVE LAWYERS. I AM NEVER GOING TO WATCH YOUR SHOW (SHOWS?) SO STOP ASSAULTING ME WITH GOOD LOOKING PEOPLE IN FRONT OF WHITE BACKGROUNDS WHO ARE NOUNS THAT CAN BE DESCRIBED WITH ADJECTIVES THAT ARE ALSO PUNS. EXCEPT IS BURN NOTICE A PUN? I DON’T EVEN UNDERSTAND HOW THAT TITLE WORKS ON ONE LEVEL, LET ALONE TWO.
(p.s. Good Riddance would make a great USA Network show. It’s about someone with the last name Riddance who’s good at something. I’M TAKING THE REST OF THE DAY OFF.)
My two biggest fears, as of Tuesday, May 10, 2011:
1) One day I’m going to be arrested on charges of a horrific crime I’m sure I didn’t commit. As much as I try to defend myself, my pleas will fall on deaf ears as the evidence stacks up increasingly against me, and gradually even those closest to me will lose their faith in my innocence. Eventually, I’ll realize with dawning horror that I did in fact commit the crime, that I am capable of doing horrible awful things and equally capable of forgetting them.
2) I’m going to go to a party and be stuck talking to any one of the characters in the above commercial for like five minutes.
Okay, season’s greetings, deck the halls, let’s get to work. The Will Ferrell movie Elf is a crock of shit, and I want to talk about it.
Out of all the Christmas movies and specials and songs and stories and poems and parades and Sufjan Stevens Christmas EPs (We get it! You’re Christian!), the story of Elf (2003, dir. Jon Favreau) is the one that requires the greatest suspension of disbelief on my part, and I’m afraid it’s just too much disbelief to suspend. Every man has a threshold and I hold my thresh at Elf.
For those unfamiliar, here’s the basic story, and I’ll stop it when it gets to the part that I find objectionable:
Buddy (Will Ferrell) was born a human but he was raised by elves and he acts just like an elf. SORRY, DON’T BUY IT.
The implication here is that it doesn’t matter where you come from, that anybody can be anything, why, all it takes is a little Christmas cheer, that’s all. Buddy is the complete opposite of his grinchy scroogey birth father; apparently nothing was passed down through his genes, not his father’s short temper or low tolerance for foolishness or his deep deep sadness. Talk about your Christmas miracles— can you even imagine?
We want to believe that we are the product of a) our environment and b) our own agency, but really all those things do is provide a little bit of flavor. The majority of who we are is hard-wired into our system, as I discover with horror every passing year as I slowly turn into my parents (and watch my parents turn into their parents). I find myself leaning against a wall in the same way my dad does. I’ll get distracted while others are talking and just walk away in the middle of a sentence like my mother.
Nature vs. Nurture is a farce. A farce I say! Sure, Nurture plays a part in our development, but don’t you think “vs.” is a tad generous to describe what’s going on here? Vs.? Who are we kidding? It’s like saying the Harlem Globetrotters vs. the Washington Generals. It’s a fixed match, but don’t tell the kids. Nature vs. Nurture is a lie we tell Nurture to make Nurture feel better about itself. Way to go, Nurture, you showed up! Everybody gets a trophy!
I remember stories from my A.P. psych class about twins separated at birth who end up with a surprising amount in common, including coincidentally (?) marrying men with the same first name. “I was raised by neat freaks,” one says, “and that’s why I’m so neat,” while the other claims, “I was raised by total slobs, and that’s why I’m so neat.”
But I also remember from A.P. psych class that anecdotal evidence is hardly evidence at all, and correlation does not prove causation, and literally nothing else, so I asked my friend Shary, currently earning her Ph.D. in clinical psychology, if she could drop some science on this blog post. Shary’s comments have been edited for clarity, and space, and to make me seem smarter:
Bottom line is, there is nature and nurture to almost everything, to varying proportions. So, no, it’s not bullshit, but there are VERY few things [emphasis hers] that are going to be only one or the other, and pretty extreme stuff at that. Adopted children tend to share a few traits with their adoptive families, and they certainly may long to fit in, but in every realm that’s been studied, including even things like beliefs [emphasis mine], they will ultimately share similarities with their biological PARENTS [emphasis accidental; I hit the caps lock by mistake and am too lazy to go back and correct it].
Also, Raphael, you are very smart, and handsome. [sic, I swear to God sic]
Shary also said several other things which don’t support my thesis at all, but in the interest of time I’m going to spare you the three paragraphs about how handsome she thinks I am.
Around this time of year, it’s always nice to remember that you can’t escape your family; they rest in every crevice of your being— the bones in your skeleton, the marrow in the bones, the cells in the marrow in the bones of your body— a thousand tiny ectoplasms and endoplasms climbing over each other to remind you that your future has already been mapped out for you. And it, like everything these days, isn’t written in pencil; it’s written in ink. Scratch that— it’s written in blood.
Oh man, I just remembered how funny Better Off Ted was.
Thanks for never really giving this brilliant, hilarious show a chance. You really saved me a lot of time. Maybe now instead of watching the third and fourth and fifth seasons this show will never have, I can use that time to I don’t know, plant a tree or something. Yay trees.
It probably would have gotten bad anyway. (NO, IT WOULDN’T HAVE.) But still, it would have been nice if more people had the chance to see this hilarious show.
But I guess there was nothing you could do, ABC. You did the best you could.
Oh, hey, totally unrelated: remember last fall when Hank failed, and you had this empty slot on your comedy night Wednesdays that was just kind of sitting there, and instead of trying to bring new viewers to one of the best comedies on television, you filled the slot with Modern Family reruns? Maybe you could have tried a Better Off Ted episode in there one week. Just tried it once, just to see what would happen. Well 20/20 hindsight, right? And also 20/20 EVERYONE THOUGHT SO AT THE TIME-SIGHT, right?
No. No. No no no no no. I do not want to watch the first issue of your exclusive Web Comic. Thanks, but no, thanks, but also, no thanks.
I went to your website because I wanted to watch a music video. THAT’S ALL YOU NEED TO BE. I know it’s a cliche at this point to complain that MTV doesn’t play music videos anymore. I know it’s also a cliche to complain that MTV2 — the channel created specifically to show videos to appease all the fans who complained about MTV not showing videos — MTV2 also doesn’t play music videos anymore. But you, MTVMusic.com, the website created to show the videos that can no longer be seen on MTV or MTV2, somehow I thought you would be different.
No one is asking for you to diversify. You’re not google; you don’t need to do everything. Just music videos. That’s it.
Don’t think I don’t appreciate everything you do. The way your front page highlights videos both new and old. Your powerful search capabilities. Your archive of pop up videos. But you could still be doing more. There are more videos you could get. You could compress them less, make them look better. But most of all, you could not waste my time by trying to be something you’re not.
Oh, wait, am I being punk’d? Is this Punk’d? Is someone punk’ng me right now? No? I’m not? Then stop wasting my God damn time by making me read your God damn banner ad for your dumbass webcomic. Hey, you know what? I made a webcomic once. You know where I put it? On its own God damn webpage. I didn’t put it on some website for people looking for holiday recipes, because I know that people looking for holiday recipes are NOT INTERESTED IN READING MY WEBCOMIC.
God damn it. All I want to God damn do is watch the God damn video for Miley God damn Cyrus’s Party in the U.S.A. IS THAT TOO MUCH TO ASK?
Okay, you win, I lose. I admit defeat. I tried to ignore you, but you’ve worn down all my defenses. Perhaps I’m too curious by nature, but I have to ask: What the hell are you supposed to be?
What message are you trying to convey?
At first I thought that that weird Chinese dragon thing on the left was some personification of the hunger felt by the man on the right— like “Uh-oh, his stomach is angry, but now with a Subway sandwich, he can defeat the monster!” I guess I got that because the dragon’s tail looks kind of like an intestine, and the dragon has dark hair, like the guy. But if that’s what I’m supposed to get from it, there should be some copy that reinforces that idea, right? Like “Slay the Hunger Beast” or something, right? Right?
Instead, the tagline is “Order Ahead. Skip the lunch line.” So, I guess that thing on the left is a lunch line? But why is it a dragon? Okay, I’ll go with the metaphor and say the lunch line is a dragon, but then why is it only partially a dragon? Why does it have a dude’s head? WHOSE HEAD IS THAT?
And why aren’t they in a Subway restaurant, but in some weird white space? This ad is so ugly and weird I cannot look away. I need to know how many hoops this ad had to jump through, how many executives okayed this idea (the “idea” being, as near is I can tell, “buy our food online so you don’t have to spend any time with the disgusting and terrifying riffraff that frequent our shops”). To me it looks like three different guys had ideas for ads, and the boss was just like, “Ehhhhhh, put ‘em all together.” That, or someone has a nephew who’s really into making gross papier-mache heads, and he was like, “Hey, I’ll give Little Kevin some work, why not?”
This ad looks photoshopped in all the wrong ways. It looks like that guy’s body parts were all photographed separately and then thrown together blindly, like an exquisite corpse drawing. The “NOW” part of the “Subway NOW.” logo looks like someone just put a sticker on the ad. Is that font supposed to look computer-y and high tech? Uh, because I guess it does if you haven’t seen a computer in twenty years.
And so, Subwaynow.com ad, while you have failed in many, many, oh God so many ways, you have succeeded in one very important way. You’ve gotten my attention and now I’m writing in my blog about you, you stupid stupid ad that makes no sense.
Hi. My name is Raphael and this is where I write about my feelings. I am in the comedy group Olde English and we made this movie. I currently live in Los Angeles where I spend the majority of my time trying to find a parking space.