Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Stealing, Referencing or Paying Homage


Cast of Seinfeld reading.












Which brings me to my point. When a sitcom steals a storyline from another sitcom, shouldn't they footnote it in some way? Case in point: HOW I MARRIED YOUR MOTHER stole a storyline from SEINFELD last night: what happnes when two ex-lovers, now friends, decide to sleep together again on a regular basis?
Now I know there are only so many story lines, and God knows some sitcoms have used all of them, but this was a classic SEINFELD episode. So why not reference it if you're going to use it. Why not say---hey, remember when this happened on SEINFELD? What do you think? Is it too post-modern to mention another sit com that used the concept or does it point up a dearth of new ideas.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm with you: if they're going to steal from a classic SEINFELD, they should at least acknowledge the theft. It seems like everything on TV is "playing it safe" and not taking any risks. That's why we're seeing a lot of "recycling" of plots.
--George Kelley

Jacob Weaver said...

I've never really seen it done on live action TV shows. There was a South Park episode a few years ago that revolved around the characters projecting the writers's frustration coming up with an original idea the Simpsons didn't already do.

Could you imagine if the CSI franchises had to do that? I can already see Abbott and Costello going around in circles.

John McFetridge said...

They may have actually missed out on some really good jokes referencing Seinfeld.

I remember someone said about Law and Order that the show's "bible" was the front page of the newspaper.

Maybe footnoting is too much, by now I guess we've just come to accept that all TV shows get their ideas from other TV shows the way most novels are based on other novels - I think it started when creative writing classes started to be taught in college, it became pretty insular.

Dana King said...

Given the ages and experience of some creative and production people in that industry, it's possible--though not likely--they didn't realize Seinfeld had done it first.

I was at a Robert B. Parker signing several years ago when he talked about pitching a Western he had written to a studio executive who had green light authority. Woman in her thirties. She let him finish, then asked with a straight face, "That's okay, but who's this Wyatt Earp guy?"

pattinase (abbott) said...

I guess I don't mind the reuse of most plots but certain plotlines are so distinctive, that is seems like a good idea to show you're aware of it. Unless of course, none of us know Seinfeld (or Wyatt Earp) episodes anymore. But with reruns into infinity, it seems unlikely now.

paul d brazill said...

the post modernist angle was done quite well, if a little broadly, in the tintin quarantino section of 4 rooms, i thougt. If your going to rip off a twilight zone episode then why not mention it? or is it just cultural back patting ?

Charles Gramlich said...

I wouldn't have caught that myself, having never watched an episode of Seinfeld.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Here we are friends, me having watched every episode of Seinfeld many times and you none.
Sounds interesting, Paul. Too much referencing can be annoying but some can be interesting. Self-referencing I can do without though.

Todd Mason said...

Did SEINFELD steal this from ONCE AND AGAIN? Did O&A from HILL STREET BLUES? Or did HOW lift reactions and all, I assume not dialog, from SEINFELD?

Doing an episode all about that is in keeping with HOW as a series even more than with SEINFELD, but I suppose they had to know they would be compared.

Todd Mason said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ARCHAVIST said...

There are no original ideas in television these days. Still it does seem foolish doing such a well remembered episode of a classic show. The new take on the theme will always be compared unfavourably.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Yes, there's just one or two episodes more remembered.

Barbara Martin said...

There is always the possibility the writers never saw that particular episode you mentioned Patti. I have never watched Seinfeld so I wouldn't know if anything was borrowed or not.

paul d brazill said...

Her's a chance for me to promote my story in the dog house at http://www.powderburnflash.com/

is it homage/pastiche?