Even though I wasn’t raised in a dysfunctional family, which doesn’t help if you’re going to be a professional artist by the way, I’ve learned a lot of social skills from watching sitcoms. Some things I saw in the Cosby Show, Family Ties and Cheers (as everyone did, growing up in the eighties) I’ve used myself, but mostly it’s helped me with understanding about peoples’ behaviour. Sitcoms are great in enlarging situations. The little bizarre things, showing how people get caught up in impossible problems and how they struggle to get out of it. And at the same time they relativate it with a laugh. All the way from I love Lucy and All in the Family to Seinfeld, Friends and beyond. From geenies (I dream of Jeannie) to extraterrestrials (Out of this world, 3rd Rock from the sun), from the very everyday (Curb your enthusiasm) to the animated (the Simpsons). Each and everyone of those shows can teach you a lot about behaviour. You just have to learn to play it all down a little.
My personal favourite series is Mad About You, starring Paul Reiser and Helen Hunt as the couple Paul and Jamie Buchman. I guess the slightly bizarre combination of that show and the album Painted from memory by Elvis Costello and Burt Bacharrach are for a great part responsible for my love of New York. Neither of both were made in New York, but -hey- it’s a feeling. I can’t explain it.
Anyway, I’ve just been up all night since I seem to be developing insomnia and I’ve watched a couple of shows on dvd. Again. Sure, I could have gone through a biography on Jackson Pollock, read an essay about the recent works by Gerhard Richter or the significance of Thomas Hirschorn, but who would have? I decided to have an injection of human behaviour, great storylines and a couple of good laughs. And the acting aint half bad either.
Where Seinfeld is typically described as ‘a show where nothing happens’, Mad About You would be a show where things go on that you could actually imagine happen to you. Perhaps not much, and not too exciting… but amazingly funny, if you know how to look at it.
Now, is there some unexpected intellectual point to me outing myself as a Mad About You fanatic? No, of course not. I’ve had some very tiring discussions about high culture versus low culture with different sorts of people. Most strenuous were those with people who informed me that they felt that there is no difference between the two. Which always turned out to be ‘bs’. Most artists are not very open and/or liberal at all. They’re actually quite conservative and arrogant. To get back to the point: personally I wouldn’t classify Mad About You as ‘high culture’ and yes: I do make a distinction between the two. But I can’t always stomach so called ‘high culture’. Sometimes I have no use for creativity that ‘challenges my outlook on existence’ or ‘my interaction with space’. But I always enjoy watching human behaviour. Especially in condensed form. I just have more use for it. Which, perhaps, makes Mad About You (again: low culture) more important than the pharmaceuticals series by Damien Hirst (high… I guess) or the light-tubes of Donald Judd. Sitcoms have earned their place in cultural history. Low culture rules man.