I learned this from a situation comedy. I can’t remember which one; it only lasted half a season. Which may explain why most situation comedies do not bother being educational.
Okay, here it is. And after you hear it, I promise you, you will never be able to hear “The Star Spangled Banner” the same way again. That’s worth a couple of minutes of your time, isn’t it? Come on. Take a chance.
What was it I learned from that situation comedy?
“The Star Spangled Banner” is fundamentally structured in the form of a question, and an answer.
Pretty good, huh? I’m guessing you didn’t know that. I didn’t.
How does it work? It works like this.
“The Star Spangled Banner” was written during the War of 1812. America was fighting England. And there was a battle going on. A close one. Which battle was it? I have no idea. They didn’t mention that on the situation comedy. I am grateful they mentioned this.
It’s in flowery language, but the question, an important one to ask during a close battle, was this:
“How’s our flag doing?”
Only Mr. Key, who wrote the anthem, fancied it up, so it came out like this:
“Oh, say can you see
By the dawn’s early light
What so proudly we hailed
At the twilight’s last gleaming,
Whose broad stripes and bright stars
Through the perilous fight
O’er the ramparts we watched
Were so gallantly streaming.”
“How’s the flag doing?”, right? That’s all it says.
And then comes the answer. Written like the guy was being paid by the word.
“And the rockets red glare
The bombs bursting in air
Gave proof through the night
That our flag was still there.”
“It’s doing fine.”
The last part is just a repetition of the question.
“Oh, say does that star spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free, and the home of the brave?”
To which the answer – not included – is:
“We already told you. It’s fine!”
I don’t know why they asked it again, other than to get the words “star spangled banner” into the song. Mr. Key must have like it, and he didn’t want it to go to waste.
They could have done the entire thing in six words:
“How’s the flag? “
“It’s still there.”
But what kind of anthem would that be?
“Please rise for our National Anthem.”
"How's the flag?"
“It’s still there.”
Not too pompy, is it?
So they did it the fancy way.
Still, the heart of the matter?
A question, and an answer.
There’s not a lot you can learn from a situation comedy anymore. Except that sex jokes will keep you on the air. Which, if you want to write for television, is probably more valuable than that stuff about the anthem.
Though you never know. The educational sitcom could be the next Big Thing.