I’ll be honest with you: I heard the phrase “Book ’em, Danno” long before I started watching Hawaii Five-O in my early thirties. Considering the show went off the year a few months after I was born, that’s pretty impressive. This one little catchphrase (which wasn’t even designed to be a catchphrase; in fact, Steve McGarrett goes the entire third season without saying it) became a thread that had itself woven into the fabric of pop culture. So has the term “Five-O” as a way to refer to the police. That entered the lexicon before the show even went off the air.
Not bad for a police drama.
I talked a little bit about this phenomenon when I confessed that I’d never watched Seinfeld. Some shows just get into the collective consciousness. Seinfeld was one of those. Intensely popular, I may have never watched an episode, but everyone around me did. Immersed in that situation, I absorbed the show via diffusion. Because the show became so cemented into pop culture, I know all about Festivus, Elaine dancing, George’s fiancee dying, Jerry’s puffy shirt, Kramer’s…everything, yet never experienced any of these things in the context of their episodes.
Much like people recognizing and/or using the phrase “Book ’em, Danno” but have never actually seen Steve McGarrett say it in an episode.
Some shows just get absorbed into pop culture.
A sunglasses-quip combo. “I’m so excited!” A nose twitch. “Hello!” Turkey Drop. “To the moon, Alice!” A ponytail flip. “Dammit, Jim.” Tapping the sides of your fists together instead of flipping the bird. “Who loves ya, baby?” The Monkee Walk. “Marcia! Marcia! Marcia!” The Bart Dance. “Dyn-o-mite!”
There is an excellent chance you recognized more than one of these. And there’s also a chance that you might not have watched all of the shows these came from.
Who’s to say why some shows find themselves a place in pop culture and some don’t. Popularity plays into it, naturally, but not necessarily longevity. Star Trek only lasted 3 seasons, but it’s impact has lasted a lifetime. Obviously, the fans of the show play a big role, not only in making the show popular, but also identifying what bits and pieces will become meme’d and gif’d in some cases decades later.
There’s no telling what show might catch on, or what bit of it might embed itself into the conscious collective mind. Not every super popular show finds its staying power. You never know what little bit people will discover and latch onto and blow up. Or who will latch onto it.
Say “How rude” or “Did I do that?” to a Gen Xer or older Millennial who lived on TGIF and you’ll get a different response than maybe a member of Gen Z who hasn’t discovered that bit of nostalgia yet. Some of these bits of fabric are truly generational, while other bits span the scope.
If I were an educated person, I might better be able to analyze this sort of thing. Pick it a part and understand how it all comes together.
But I’m not.
Instead, I just marvel at all of the colorful bits and pieces woven into the pop culture fabric.
Holy tapestry, Batman!