Friday, January 15, 2010

The Original F-Word

See...this is the problem...

There's a full page ad in this week's Entertainment Weekly magazine. (Yes, I subscribe to Entertainment Weekly. I follow the world of entertainment and I like to be updated weekly. So I subscribe to Entertainment Weekly.)

So, this ad.

It's for a new CW Network show, entitled Life Unexpected. I don't know what to expect of life and I don't intend to watch so I don't care about the show. This is not about the show.

Well, it is, and it isn't.

First of all, the tag line at the top of the ad is:

"Juno meets Gilmore Girls."

That's nice, I guess. But I don't care. I saw Juno and it was okay but I've never seen Gilmore Girls. So I don't care.

Then there's a photo of the three stars in their character costumes.

I don't know the three stars and their character costumes are so SELECTED and PRECISE and HIP and CALCULATED with their emblem-ed T-shirts and leather jackets and half-laced boots and faded jeans and the characters are so PERFECTLY HAIR-ED that I don't want to have anything to do with the show.

But that's not the point.

The point is the second tagline, the show's catchphrase, attached to the bottom of the ad.

You ready?

"Family is the new F-word."

I'll pause a moment here for you to let that sink in.

"Family is the new F-word."

Here's my problem:

The 20-something studio executive who came up with that line probably got a raise. When he or she brought it up at the sales meeting, there was probably a rhapsody of oohs and aahs in the room and pencils and styrofoam coffee cups were probably tossed in the air in amazement at the unbridled brilliance and cleverness of that line.

To me, it's just so damned glib and cynical that I can't stand it.

First of all, you 20-something studio exec, what do you think is the first word that comes to mind when anybody reads that tagline?

"Family?" No.

"The original F-word?" Yes!

So you don't think about family. You don't think about warmth. You don't think about caring or loving or humanity or even the perfect hair of the actors in the show. You think about the original F-word.

Is that what you set out to do?

You will say "NO!" I will say "YES!" That IS what you set out to do. You did not want the world to say, "Oh, yes, I want to watch this family show." You wanted the world to say, "Oooh! How clever to remind us of the original F-word in the context of this family show!"

What you have done, in essence, is, you have connected the word "family" to the original "F-word" so that when we think of the former, we think of the latter. Inevitably. Inexorably.

You jerk, whoever you are.

I will not watch your show, because I don't like your costumes or your hair.

But mainly I will not watch your show because I despise your smug manipulation of the language under the guise of cleverness.

The original F-word you.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Probably Best to Skip This Entry

So...public rest rooms. For guys. (Sorry, this is the only kind I'm qualified to address.)


If you're a guy, and you walk into a public rest room, and there are three empty urinals staring at you, which one do you use?

Better question, which one DON'T you use?

Why, the one in the middle, of course.

Because, by using either the one on the right or the one on the left, there is AT LEAST the possibility that the next guy into the rest room will not be standing directly next to you. Why is it a good thing to not have a guy standing directly next to you?

Well, it just is, that's all.

And if you're a guy, using the urinal, please do not sing. Or hum. Or whistle.

I've been in rest rooms where this happens.

My first question to you songbirds is this: What, really, is there to hum about? Sure, it's a relieving, pleasant thing you are doing. We who are in the rest room with you already know that. By definition, we are happy for you. We do not need you to serenade us while you are taking a leak. Because, truth be told, all your little concert is doing for us is holding up our progress, if you know what I mean. We cannot concentrate while you are warbling to your...whatever. And, look, if you do feel it's necessary to sing or hum or whistle while you're addressing the urinal, please, for the love of God, sing or hum or whistle something that is not familiar to us. I mean, if you sing or hum or whistle "Tie A Yellow Ribbon 'Round The Old Oak Tree" while you're whizzing away, even when you leave, the damn tune is gonna be in our brains, and we STILL will not be able to concentrate on the task at hand. A friend of mine once told me that when you get a tune stuck in your head, the only way to eliminate it is to replace it with "The Girl From Ipanema." He never told me how to get rid of "The Girl From Ipanema," however.

And, say you're in a rest room situation where a number of guys are waiting to use, as it were. Say you get to the urinal before your buddy, who is behind you in line. Don't, please, keep your conversation with your buddy going while you're going. "Yeah, I think they're gonna have a good infield, but they're not gonna be able to hit." "You think so?" "Oh, yeah, they got a lot of trouble in the middle of the order!" Again, it's all about concentration. For one thing, I may want to join in the conversation, because I just may think the middle of the order is okay, but how can I keep my mind on my business when I'm thinking about the Red Sox OBP? Plus, add to that the intimidation factor. With your oh, so casual conversation, here's what you're telling the rest of us mutes: "Hey, look what I can do! I can pee and talk at the same time!" It makes a guy just want to zip up and go back to the table.

One more thing for anybody still with me here...

You young dads who are instructing your kids on how to use the public rest room. I know--it's an important part of the dad-son teaching process, and I respect it. But...before you embark upon the training session, take the little tyke aside and tell him this:

"Billy, now we're going to go in here and we're going to go to the bathroom like grownups. Pretty soon, you'll be able to do this all by yourself. Now...the only thing you really need to know before you go in there, is this: Do not talk to the other fellas while they are using the rest room. Do not ask them what they are doing. Do not point to them and say, "Look, Daddy, that man didn't wash his hands like he's supposed to." And also, please, tell them not to sing. It's good to train them early for stuff like that.

Oh, yes...and for you sign-makers out there. It took me a good long time before I was able to understand precisely what "Baby Changing Station" meant when it's plastered on the outside of a men's room door. For a split second, yes, I'll admit it, I thought this might be a room where you could exchange your baby for another one. Rewrite, please.