Remember when you were in college, and you’d skip your 1pm class because you had a Chinese food hangover, and you just wanted to become one with your couch and watch Friends reruns? And remember how hilarious that show was, and you, like totally got it? Well, now things are different. So many shows you grew up watching feel totally different now that you’re out in the “real world.” Your viewpoints have changed, your living situation has changed, your responsibilities have changed, but the shows haven’t. They’re still the same. But they’re not.
I know that for me, it always felt like the characters from Friends were 10-15 years older than me, because the actors were always 10-15 years older than me. So you can imagine how crushing a blow it was to realize that the characters were all supposed to be about 25 in the first season. 25?! Those old ass people with their mom jeans and oversized button up shirts are supposed to be clever, trendy 20-somethings?! Good god, I’m an old man, and I’m going to die alone.
The jokes and situations are still funny, but whereas they were just funny because they were good jokes, they’re now funny because of familiarity. When Chandler talks about his awful data entry job that no one quite understands, it’s still funny, but also kind of heartbreaking since you probably have that job. And we all laughed at Phoebe because she was insane, and no one could possibly be that kooky in real life. Except I think my friends have tried to set me up with like six Phoebes just this year. And none of them had the comedic timing of Lisa Kudrow. Or looked like Lisa Kudrow for that matter.
2. The Office
Okay, obviously this isn’t exactly a TV show you grew up with, but like me, you probably watched it through high school and college. And sure, you worked as an assistant in a tiny office for 15 hours a week in college to give your parents the impression that you weren’t fucking around, but you had no idea, did you? I realize that what I’m about to say has been said to death since The Office began, but it’s for a reason. Every office of relative size has every single one of these characters. The out-of-touch boss. The cute, but not hot receptionist. The weird, alcoholic lady. The creepy old dude. The scummy intern. The way-too-intense nerd/beet farmer (okay, maybe not). You get the idea. And of course, you’re Jim, right? Everyone says they’re Jim. And you know what? That’s okay. Let them think that. But let me tell you, it was a very relieving day when I woke up and realized that I was actually Stanley.
Obviously, Seinfeld doesn’t quite exist in our reality. It’s almost like it’s set in a parallel universe where everything looks about the same and people dress about the same, but the people in it are somehow devoid of all empathy. And everyone’s a lot more Jewish. That too.
But that’s the genius of Seinfeld. The situations aren’t realistic in the sense of “this is what could happen to you,” but more of putting those characters under certain pressures so that they could espouse their own philosophies. And, man, have I realized how much of a genius George Costanza is in the past few years. I always enjoyed Seinfeld growing up, and I thought George was hilarious, but a pitiful mope. But he’s not! Think about it. That guy has himself completely figured out. He has total self-awareness. He knows what he looks like, what he has to offer, and what his chances are in any situation. And because of this, he gets with women that are way too hot for him, and bullshits his way into pretty much any job he wants, including with the New York Yankees. And yet he’s miserable. Why? Because he’s George Costanza! I’ve come to realize that I and George are kindred spirits. I put in the exact minimum amount of effort necessary to create the endgame that I want, I rarely have any idea what I’m doing in the moment, and I stumble into awesome things that are way too good for me. Now, I just need to find a way to get Marisa Tomei to fall in love with me.
“Marisa Tomei’s sitting at home, Elaine!”
4. Mad Men
Again, another one of those shows you didn’t quite grow up with, but in the years I’ve been watching it, I’ve gone from dorm room to cubicle, and let me tell you, nothing will make you more nostalgic for an era you were never a part of than Mad Men. You know what I wore into work every day when I still had an office job? Jeans and a polo. Because I realized that there weren’t any women there that I wanted to impress, and it wouldn’t have mattered if there were, because everyone in HR is a dick. And why wear a suit when your CEO wears Birkenstocks everyday? You’d look like a chump.
Now, sure I know some of you fancy pants out there are in law school, so you’ll get to wear a suit everyday. Congratu-fucking-lations. But you still can’t make sexual comments out loud anymore. Or in an email. Or on IM. HR has eyes everywhere, and they hate you. The only opportunity you have to talk about the intern’s ass is either whispering in the break room, or later at the bar. And sure, you can bring whiskey to work. Until you get caught, and then not only are you fired, they won’t even let you keep your whiskey!
I miss the ‘60s.
The funny thing is, there’s probably some asshole kid in high school now who’s gonna think he’s clever and write a column ten years from now to talk about how New Girl changed for him, and how he thought Nick Miller was a funny joke machine until he realized that he was actually just a grumpy, 20-something alcoholic with no direction in life. Well you know what, kid? You just described me right now. So fuck you and your stupid future column, kid.