I’ve mentioned before that FalStaff’s leadership tends to fall between two families. There are the Fallons, which founded the company, and a set of three brothers that are three of the VPs (COO, CTO, and Accounts Cheif). But even outside leadership, there are a host of family connections here. The assistent head of our sister department has a sister that’s a copychecker, for instance. And Todd Cummings, a long-time account manager here, scored a job for his sister Sally. It’s Todd and Sally I want to talk about today.

It’s interesting how sometimes our lives follow the formula of a sitcom. I don’t mean that in the sense of gosh-we’re-so-interesting-we-should-be-on-TV, but quite the opposite: we’re reduced to playing roles around one another, to the amusement of the others that may be laughing with us or at us if they’re even paying attention at all. Sometimes you find yourselves reduced to archetypes. It can be demeaning, I guess, but it makes life simpler because sometimes it’s easier to play a roll than to be who you are.

I had a very sitcom relationship with my ex-girlfriend Julie. All we needed was a teenage mischief-maker, a pre-adolescent insecure one, an oh-so-cute gradeschooler, and a quirky-and-annoying-yet-we-love-them neighbor, and we’re practically on ABC’s TGIF lineup (do they have that anymore? If not, it used to be a collection of monumentally bad shows including Full House and that Steve Urkel show). We were too young to have those things, of course, but that seemed very much like the life we were planning for. She was the condescending one that had her life together. I was the goofy-and-irresponsible dad with the big heart always getting in trouble cause I’m not quite as sharp as my know-it-all wife.

None of this was true, exactly. Her college career was floundering at the time while mine was taking off. People who met me and her independently of one another would likely peg me as the smarter one (not because I was, necessarily, but because she was so quiet). But when we were around one another, we’d be reduced to roles. I was the amiable dufus and she was the one that was always saving me from myself. A surprising number of people very close to me were very much misreading our entire relationship. Can’t blame them, though, because that was the show that she and I were putting on. But that’s a story for another time.

The thing to consider here is that all of those bad sitcoms were not written in a void. They were specifically pieced together to be familiar. While I will maintain that the idiot dad is as much a product of advertising demographics (the same reasons that wives are always the ones that have their act together in TV commercials – women have more buying power), it’s familiar enough that we don’t mentally challenge it. These shows are sort of like elevator music, existing precisely because they make us comfortable without making us have to actually think. For this reason, they have to work their way into the background of our conscious. To do this, they must remain eminently familiar.

Which brings me back to Todd and Sally. Todd is a good LDS guy, and I don’t mean that sarcastically. About my age, he’s married with at least four children. He is unmovably friendly and just reeks of stability. He is very much the kind of guy that you would love your daughter to bring home because you know that he would treat her like a queen. He’s actually got a certain slickness about him (he’s an account manager, after all), but even in that it’s still about building and maintaining trust. I’ve no doubt that he’s not as lilly white as he appears, but I’d be pretty surprised if he was too far from it.

Sally, on the other hand, is quite different. Were it not for the similar bone structure of her face, you wouldn’t even think they related. He’s Omaha while she’s LA. For starters, she’s unmarried with a kid, which is more frowned-down upon here than in other parts of the country. She dressed provocatively at work and when she gets off work, she’s often picked up by tatooed bikers or college students nearly a decade her junior. What really seems to drive him crazy is that she uses her sex appeal on married men at work to get what she wants.

Poor Todd is constantly exasperated. While they tend to keep it out of the limelight, half the days I leave I can see them arguing in her pickup. You can tell that he loves her but can’t understand her for the life of him. He sees a husbandless mother and doubtlessly thinks that she needs to look for a good stepfather for her son. She’s “damaged goods” out here, but if she plays her cars (looks) right, she can still get out of this. She, meanwhile, doesn’t see why she should want to. Right now she gets all she wants by being young and hot, and she wants it to be this way forever, and that can’t happen if she’s tied down to the kind of square that would be excited about taking of someone else’s children.

I have to confess I come down much more on the side of Todd in this dispute and more generally. But the fun is not in taking sides, but in watching him frantically try to look out for her while she constantly rolls her eyes at him. Some sitcom dynamics are much more entertaining in person than they are on TV.

Category: Theater

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2 Responses to Sitcom Dynamics

  1. Larry Ayers says:

    What a nicely-written and perceptive essay, Will! Sitcoms as tutors of life-patterns, our shared repertoire of stock situations and roles.

    Sorry I got Clancy’s name wrong in my blog; I was working from an aging memory and wrote “Casey” instead; I think it was last week in a couple of posts.

  2. Rural Rambles: Larry Ayers’ Weblog » Zombie Apocalypse says:

    […] such a dire eventuality in a Frank Lloyd Wright house. Will Truman has a very perceptive essay up at his blog Hit Coffee; it’s about how young people use memories of sitcom stock situation […]

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