The Obsolete Plot


When I am trying to relax after a day of school or study or research, I do what a lot of you do – I put on a show I have seen 12,000 times. I know, I know. I should put on a classic film or read Flaubert or even watch something new, but when I want mindless relaxation, this is what I tend to do.

When looking for this sort of entertainment, I go for old friends like Frasier, Seinfeld, and Friends. I sometimes go for The Office or 30 Rock, but only if I want to cringe and implore the gods of Michael Scott with ten minutes of genuine “Why!? Why would he say that!?”

One thing that has become clear is that today’s technology renders most of the plotlines and antics of a nineties show completely obsolete. Seinfeld’s complete shtick was a comedy of errors that flows (or clashes) together into one big serendipitous catastrophe. Whether it’s George and Art Vandelay or Elaine trying to bed JFK Jr, a series of cosmic occurrences leads it all to explode in their faces. Hilariously.

But all of that would be easily handled in seconds with a cell phone. The missed opportunities, the misunderstandings, the botched explanations and mismatched ideas. Gone. Done. Taken care of by a text message: Jer. Where R U? Cool. C U in 2.

Another is Frasier, which also often relies on the comedy of errors plotline, and which is slightly more modern, featuring cell phones. But several episodes of Frasier rely heavily on the completely obsolete answering machine or voice message. Answering machines don’t exist anymore and I don’t know one person who leaves voice messages, but rather hangs up and waits for a call back.

Half of Joey’s forgetful gimmicks would be overruled by a simple reminder offered by any cell phone. Chandler and Monika’s huge hoopla surrounding their engagement would have been ended swiftly by a thirteen letter text message. Any anonymous crush would have been easily sussed out with two minutes of Facebook stalking.

I am not telling you something new, but I guess technology makes life a bit less adventurous, doesn’t it. I mean, we know when every tram and bus is leaving. GPS tells us exactly where we need to go and if we are lost, it tells us exactly where we are. All in a matter of seconds. When was the last time you couldn’t watch everything you wanted to at the moment you wanted to? The word binge is less commonly used about food and alcohol and more commonly about our television intake. We could order Kung Pau Chicken to the Amazon if we needed to. Probably on Amazon. Ooh, the irony.

What’s the point? Who knows. Maybe we all need to remember now and then to put down the cell, don’t look at the GPS while you’re looking for the new Chinese restaurant. Maybe today I’ll try to catch a tram without finding out the exact second it will be here. Maybe I’ll turn off Netflix for a bit and watch some good old fashioned current television.

OK, I won’t. But I will think about it while binging on a Netflix show.

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