August 02, 2005

the alan alda sensitivity project or what i learned from TV

Here are a few lessons I gleaned from television during my impressionable youth and beyond. This is the first part in what might be a continuing series. Not sure yet though as I tend to have poor follow-through and limited interest in things after I start them. Feel free to pick up my slack and tack on your own observations in the comments.

1. Alan Alda is sensitive. It's not my opinion necessarily but it was a frequent punchline trotted out on more than one show. Does anyone really have proof of this? Hawkeye wasn't particularly sensitive as I recall. Like, didn't he make a woman suffocate her baby or something in one episode? Or was that a chicken? Or am I totally making this up? Regardless, if he was responsible for causing asphyxiation in either a baby or a chicken, that's not cool. And didn't he give Frank and Hot Lips a lot of shit too? Upon further review, Alan Alda is so NOT sensitive.

2. When a character makes an emphatic statement (usually complaining about a person), the resident dumb ass on the show will try to take it a step further but will merely echo the original sentiment by rephrasing it, usually with a one-syllable synonym. Example: Someone will say: "He's the tardiest person I know," and then the Resident Dumb Ass chimes in with: "Yeah, and he's always late too!"

Screech from Saved by the Bell and Potsie from Happy Days were the biggest culprits. Alice's Vera aka "Dingy Broad" was most likely guilty of this too.

3. Every walk-in refrigerator or store room door has an automatic locking feature. Two of the main characters -- usually enemies -- will get trapped and then, with death looming, will come to some sort of understanding that will be conveniently forgotten by the next episode in order to maintain the humor and conflict.**

4. People in movies/TV always have rolling liquor carts in their homes. No one ever reaches into the cabinet or freezer for the Stoli or scotch. It's always in a crystal decanter. And the ice bucket is always full and ready to serve.**

5. Dinner on any given weeknight must consist of a salad, a glass pitcher of milk, a basket of bread/rolls, mashed potatoes, some sort of meat with gravy and cut green beans. Everyone eats at the same time. No one ever has to reheat anything in the microwave. And it's totally okay for someone to load up his/her plate and either storm off or say, "I gotta jet and meet my friends" and leave their dinner uneaten. Unlike my experience, no one will lecture them about wasting food and make them sit until they finish it.**

** (Numbers 3, 4 and 5 were lifted from comments I left on Sheila's post about things that only happen in the movies. Her readers left a lot of really good ones! Go read them!)

6. Be wary of taking in stray kids, for if you do, you'll become attached and then when you try to adopt them, the kid's alcoholic father/mother will mosey back into the picture and slap you with a lawsuit. And then you'll be all sad and the court will try to rule against you because you're not blood relatives. Things will look grim until the kid in the middle of the tug-of-war suddenly stands up and makes an impassioned plea to the judge that you're his real family and no verdict can change that. And then the judge will agree and throw out the case and there won't be any appeals or red tape or anything like that. You'll always get legal custody of the kid, of course, but you'll have to wait until the last five minutes of a very special two-part episode.

7. If you want to suggest that someone is extremely unattractive, feel free to use Ernest Borgnine, Ethel Merman and Bea Arthur as examples.

8. If you want to meet a celebrity, just have your brother or sister call the celebrity's agent and tell them you're deathly sick or something. Or you could always brag to the whole school that you have a certain singer/band lined up to play at the prom before actually securing the booking. Then, when you're REALLY desperate because the band's agent told you to fuck off, the band members themselves will overhear and take pity and show up unexpectedly thereby making you the toast of the school. Those who have fallen for the I-only-have-two-months-to-live ruse and shown remarkable restraint when the truth was revealed include Muhammad Ali (Diff'rent Strokes) and Joe Namath (The Brady Bunch). The most notable compassionate prom crasher in my memory is Davy Jones (again with The Brady Bunch).

9. Little House on the Prairie's Charles Ingalls was omniscient. If a kid ran away beyond the borders of Walnut Grove, Charles knew exactly where to find him/her. He would leisurely stride up as the child (not always his own, mind you) sat whittling wood or throwing rocks in the creek out of frustration because of his/her stuttering problem and/or uneven legs. And, without fail, the combination of Charles' flowing locks, sage advice, soothing voice and horse-like laugh always lured the child out of his/her secret hiding place and back into town.

10. Charles Ingalls was a bit of a buttinsky.

* The title of this post is the result of a very funny conversation I had with The Lovely Jess awhile back. We were driving back from the beach and got to talking about television. Somehow I managed to work in my Alan Alda observation. The discussion took several delightful twists and turns thereafter and Jess, in a moment of brilliant inspiration, dubbed the entire exercise "The Alan Alda Sensitivity Project." I thought I was going to die laughing. Seriously. I was driving on the Garden State Parkway and my howling giggle fit made my steering a bit spotty. But, no matter, the weaving in and out of lanes made me fit right in with the rest of the retards on the road.

:: alan alda sensitivity project: addendum
:: the alan alda sensitivity project: holiday edition