Friday, December 18, 2009

"Blind Spots"

I imagine every show has its Blind Spot, the thing they never mention, because if you did, the show wouldn’t work anymore. I’m not experienced in hour shows, though I imagine they have them too. I’ll stick to the stuff I know.

The Mary Tyler Moore Show

Mary Richards was a smart, funny, strikingly attractive woman. Yet through the show’s seven-year run, she never got married, or was involved in a serious relationship.

Blind Spot.

Why did it happen? Because, creatively, it was better for the series if Mary remained single. Her not being “with someone” left Mary open to a neverending onslaught of hilariously disastrous dates. So that’s the way they kept her, even though, as the series wore on, Mary’s remaining single made no reasonable sense whatsoever.

More examples of sitcom Blind Spots:

(Note: I will not offer an explanation for each show’s Blind Spot, though I suspect the answer would invariably be the same – “The show works better that way.” Or more honestly, “If we brought that up, there wouldn’t be any show at all.”)

Taxi

They drove cabs all night, and when their shift ended, they went out for pizza and beer. Pizza and beer? For breakfast?

I once wrote a Taxi episode entitled, “Nardo Loses Her Marbles.” The story involves Elaine Nardo’s having a (television style) nervous breakdown, resulting from the fact that she drove a taxi at night, worked at an art gallery in the daytime, while, at the same time, raising two young children alone. Given the twenty-four hour day, and needing some time in there to sleep, I don’t think this can physically be done. So I wrote about it. (Unlike others, especially the writers who created the show, I like doing stories about Blind Spots. It’s the secret rebel in me.)

Cheers

(This could be wrong. I was never a regular viewer.)

George and Cliff drank for hours on a daily basis, yet never seemed to get drunk or need liver transplants. They did, however, go to the Men’s Room on occasion.

Frasier

Were Frasier and Niles adopted? What made them so radically different from their father?

Everybody Loves Raymond

Given the way they consistently behaved towards each other, what exactly kept Raymond and Debra together?

Two and a Half Men

A guy brings home a different woman, or squadrons of women, on a regular basis, and there’s an underage kid living in the same house. (I don’t know, maybe this is just me, repressively mired in my fifties value system.)

Seinfeld

(I am already on record as declaring Seinfeld to be the greatest network comedy of all time. This does not, however, make it immune to Blind Spots).

Stories tell of Jerry’s working in Atlantic City, where even lounge comics are paid thousands of dollars a week. Yet Jerry continued to live in the same building as Kramer, who barely made a dime. And by the way, who pays Kramer’s rent?

A random sampling, demonstrating how even the greatest series steer clear of their conceptual “Achilles’ Heels.” Perhaps you’ve noticed other examples of your own.

Do Blind Spots matter? To varying degrees, they do. I could never get past Frasier’s “These boys do not seem to have come from this father.” It’s likely that forgiving the Blind Spots varies directly with your affection for the show. The more you like it, the more you ignore, or fail to notice, the Blind Spots.

Putting it another way, when I insisted that some show she was enjoying made very little sense, my stepdaughter, Rachel, once shot back:

“It doesn’t have to make sense. It’s funny!”

This could explain why I’m not working anymore.

Or why we don’t have a bigger house.

Or why I was never a favorite in the “Rewrite Room.”

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

My personal fave: How all the little girls on "Full House" had such perfect hairdos, given that they were living in a house run by men. Was one of the guys a secret hairdresser?
PG

MikeThe Blogger said...

"Yet Jerry continued to live in the same building as Kramer, who barely made a dime. And by the way, who pays Kramer’s rent?" .... Kramer was subletting the apartment (at a deal, we assume) from Paul Buchman who was hiding his bachelor pad from Jamie. And Kramer did have ways of making money......:H & H Bagels (strike pay), Brant-Leland (pay?) , Author of coffee table book, Actor (medical conditions), Underwear model, Made $18,000 at the OTB, Department store Santa (great episode - parody of Miracle on 34th St and High Noon), Police line up character, coffee table book is optioned for a movie, Stand-in on a soap opera, He was a lifeguard, ran his reality tour ---And in The Visa... George saya: "Kramer goes to a fantasy camp. His whole life is a fantasy camp. People should plunk down two-thousand dollars to live like him for a week. Do nothing, fall ass-backwards into money, mooch food off your neighbors and have
sex without dating; that's a fantasy camp."

JED said...

What about all of us Star Trek fans who were mostly made up of kids interested in science? We willingly ignored the fact that sound doesn't travel in space and enjoyed the Enterprise whooshing by or the explosive sound of the photon torpedoes blowing up the enemy ship.

txutxi said...

What was Major Dad's blind spot?

James said...

I love MISSION:Impossible (the tv show), but I always have to gloss over the fact that they have the most incredible intelligence gathering operation which occurs between the tape recording and the final briefing in Phelps's living room, because they always know *everything* they need to know.

Anonymous said...

I always figured that on Frasier, it was the mothers influence that made them snobs.

Keep in mind, we viewers make up the missing pieces in our minds. I drove a cab for a few years in Chicago and Northern California, NEVER once went out for pizza at the end of a shift with the others, but still, the ambience wasn't totally wrong other than that and I could imagine nY cabbies doing it.

Anonymous said...

What gets me now is the preponderance of cop shows where there is some central "command center" (always with the blue subdued lighting) where a bunch of nerds do the backup for the heros ("quick, what does Red dragon and grilled cheese sanwhiches have in common?") and are in constant contact via bluetooth or something with the heros...
Or the "Missing" department of a police department that go through all that work to find the missing person when in real life, they hardly do anything.

Max Clarke said...

My all-time favorite tv comedy is Cheers, but it's hard to believe an alcoholic would run a bar. With only a couple of exceptions, Sam ran Cheers all those years without drinking. All those dates with women who drank champagne or Manhattans, and Sam drank seltzer water. All those tv football games at Cheers, and Sam drank coffee.

Mic said...

I very much enjoyed this post. I think kinda the same way, and enjoy picking apart the holes in movies. It's not that that means I think they're "bad," it's just one way that I enjoy them.

They drove cabs all night, and when their shift ended, they went out for pizza and beer. Pizza and beer? For breakfast?

I work as a sound engineer, and I can tell you that when your "workday" is all night, then 3 or 4 or whenever in the "morning" is really kinda your afternoon/evening. I finish working and then go about the same things you normally do after work.

You're right about Elaine though.
I love your idea for a show based on that particular blind spot (though she COULD have gotten SOME sleep... I remember hearing that Einstein never slept more than 4 hours a night). I would have certainly enjoyed watching it, and don't think it would have been out-of-spirit with the show at all. It would have made a nice, deeper layer of joke for that episode, and Taxi definitely wasn't afraid to go deep and multi-layered with their humor.

(Thanks to writers like you. Taxi is my second favorite show ever, way better than Seinfeld in my opinion, and I'm glad to have found this blog.)

Mic said...

Yeah, I just realized that was kind of a silly post.

Somehow I had gotten the mistaken impression that episode didn't get done. Then I did a quick search and found that it had.

Well... I never have seen them all, which is cool. Some of them are new to me.

Brian Scully said...

How about Bonanza? Considering that the Cartwright family was supposedly one of the most upstanding families in the Virginia City area, the neighboring towns sure had a bad habit of accusing each of them of murder and almost hanging Ben, Adam, Hoss and Little Joe at least 43 times over the course of the series. If it were me, I'd have moved out of that area.

KEN LEVINE said...

On MASH we never bothered to explain that the members of the 4077th had tours of duty three and a half times the length of the Korean War. A blind spot perhaps?

Mic said...

That's brilliant.

I guess M*A*S*H was just more popular than the Korean War?

(Thanks for helping create my favorite show ever.)

benson said...

Earl, long time lurker, first time poster. Hope your recovery keeps going well.

An exceptional week of posts, especially about hockey. (There is nothing better in sports than playoff hockey) The hockey voice of my youth was Chicago's Lloyd Petit ("A shot, and a goal!") and now, thanks to DirecTv, Pat Foley.

As Anonymous pointed out, the mother on Frasier was the fancy one, and the show dealt with it late in its' run, when David Ogden Stiers played a former collegue of the mother.

Wayne said...

Here's a blind spot on working class shows like Roseanne. The premise is they are barely getting by. But every Halloween, they stage a huge party with professional costumes that would send an MGM musical overbudget.

Wayne said...

This year Curb Your Enthusiasm was funnier than ever. The hiding adultery elements with Jeff Garmin's character made it truly like a Feydeau farce.
But here's a blind spot when Larry was show running the Seinfeld reunion. I can buy people treating a retired rich guy like dirt. But when he's back producing? Wouldn't he have minions to do his biding? Would he have to run his own errand and pick up coffee for coffee guy?

Sérgio said...

I can remember an episode of Cheers where Norm and Cliff got so drunk that they had put tattoos on their body. On Norman's butt there was something like "I love the US Postal Service" and Cliff had something like "I love Vera" on his butt, and I think that Cliff asked Norm to show it to his boss. :-) Or was it to Vera??? But anyway, there are also other episodes where they were drunk. I can also remember one where Norm had been so drunk that to "overcome" - I don't know the precise expression in English - his hang-over, he teases Frasier with the "joke" that Frasier picked a fight with some tough guy the night before and that they would settle it the day after because Frasier wanted to have more spectators. And Norman says stuff like "there he is..." and Frasier runs for his life, but then Norm says something like "...oh, no, no wait". And then Frasier asks him why he does it and Norm says something like "that he loses his hang-over that way".

About Frasier: in several episodes it is explained that the two boys "resemble in every form and way" their mother. I don't see that as a blind shot, at least, it didn't bother me.

It only bothers if something is what you called "jumping the shark". I think Mr. Levine once also talked about that and yes, that's where it goes wrong for a critical viewer.

Anonymous said...

I'm noticing that on Modern Family there are times when the two "dads" seem to have misplaced Lilly altogether. There is no mention of a nanny, so who is babysitting? To give them credit, though, the episode where they locked her in the car was hysterical.
PG

Brian Phillips said...

The blind spot for Frasier and Niles, was mildly explained by the father saying that the mother was the one pushing culture, so they took after mom.

I think in radio it was in "Fibber McGee and Molly", that had one of the better blind spots. Save the fact that I don't recall ever hearing what McGee did for a living, all of the businesses mentioned were always, "down on the corner".

No one ever wrote in to complain.