Weaving the Fabric of Pop Culture

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!

Rerun Junkie Confession–I’ve Never Watched Seinfeld

Like all of my confessions, this isn’t a brag. Just a fact. I’ve never watched Seinfeld. Not during it’s heyday, not in reruns. I’ve never sat and watched an entire episode. Not even passively. Never even thought to give it a try. Not then and not now.

I know that’s hard to believe. The show was huge in the ’90s. It was in syndication before it went off the air. Even now, over twenty years later, I’d have no problem finding a local station airing it. You’d think that there was no way that I’d be able to avoid it.

And yet!

I can say the same for Friends. I’ve never seen an entire episode of that show either. And my dad went through a period in which he binge-watched it. It was always on his TV. I could probably find it on any channel right now if I was so inclined.

Lest you think I actually did occupy space in a remote cave or under a rock, I didn’t escape the pop culture saturation of the shows. I know quite a bit about them because of their popularity. I know the shows from other people talking about them, by the way the jokes and funny bits make it into conversations and become part of the fabric of culture. I know them from memes and gifs.

But I’ve never watched them.

Part of it, obviously, is because they’re sitcoms and I’ve already confessed that I’m not predisposed to liking sitcoms. Nor am I big on watching shows that are current. Hence the Rerun Junkie title.

The other part is that I seem to have a natural aversion to hugely popular shows. I don’t think it’s necessarily a conscious thing. It’s just a switch that gets flipped in my head. Everybody is hyping about a show. Mmm. Not for me.

Of course this doesn’t apply for every big show. I watched The Simpsons and Lost and the CSIs first run when they were looming on the landscape. But for every hyped show I ended up watching, there are several more from whose orbit I managed to escape, either because they weren’t my bag or because the massive popularity dissuaded me. Everybody else is watching. Why should I? Nowadays I can absorb enough from social media to keep up on all the references without watching a single minute. Time saving, really.

I know it sounds very snobbish, but I don’t mean to be. I don’t think these shows are automatically bad or anything because of their popularity. Nor do I look down on anyone who enjoys them. Do you. Get your kicks where you can. Laws knows I do. It’s just a weird quirk of my viewing habits to either be reluctant to try those shows or to not watch them at all.

And it makes me wonder how many of my beloved reruns I would have passed over if I had been around when they were first run. Obviously, not the cop shows because we all know those my favorite. But would I have still watch The Monkees when they were huge? (I’m going to say yes because of my love of music). Would I have ever watched M*A*S*H? Now there’s a question I can’t answer. An incredibly popular sitcom? But it’s set in a hospital during a war? Honestly, it’s 50/50.

But in junior high, ten years after it had gone off the air, it was a definite yes for me. So, who’s to say?

Maybe one day I’ll give Seinfeld a shot.

Maybe it just needs a few more years off the air.