A Television Taboo
Going to the bathroom is a central facet of our lives, yet the toilet is largely invisible on television. Apparently, TV characters rarely have to make a pit stop. Auto road trips are common on shows and we all know that any combination of coffee and driving for more than a half hour is a recipe for finding the nearest restroom. They show people drinking coffee and other beverages on television all the time, but where does the liquid go? TV characters have a super human ability to constantly drink beverages without a panic trip to the can. I wish I had the same capability.
The First Toilet on TV
The show with the first toilet scene was Leave It to Beaver in 1957. Wally and the Beaver hadCredit: wikipedia commons public domain - ABC Television copyright expired acquired a pet alligator they wanted to keep from Ward and June. Although Ward appeared to be all knowing, Wally and the Beave stashed the little creature in the toilet tank. I guess being a TV character, Ward would not have suspected this hiding place because he never entered the bathroom. How clever of Wally and the Beaver. They found the one taboo place to hide their pet.
All in the Family was a groundbreaking sitcom on several levels. Archie went on his racist rants and was generally abusive to poor Edith, who gracefully accepted his horrible attitude. You knew he really crossed the line whenever Edith spoke up against him. Archie was also significant as the first TV character I can remember who actually spoke of the toilet. In his New York accent he mentioned the “terlet” on more than one occasion and popularized the description of our bathroom receptacle as “The Throne.” In fact, with my prepubescent sense of humor, I tend to snicker when I see any mention of the HBO series “Game of Thrones.” What kind of toilet games do they play? In college we had some paper floats shaped like battleships and I think of those.
Although Leave It to Beaver was the first to show a toilet on TV, with tight shots of the tank and no view of the business end of the fixture, the show featured a silent commode. They never actually flushed the toilet on television. All in the Family crossed the line into the operation mode of the toilet by airing the sound of the flush. We could finally hear a toilet, something a part of all our everyday lives.
Seinfeld was enlightening in many ways. The episode about “The Contest” was so clever in the way it took on the subject of self-pleasure without actually saying what was being discussed. That was American ingenuity at its finest. I busted a gut when Kramer saw the attractive woman in her window across the street, left Jerry’s apartment for a brief period and then returned to smack his lost wager on the table. That may be the funniest scene ever shot, perhaps as good as the turkeys falling from the sky in WKRP in Cincinnati. My Dad almost went into convulsions when the WKRP turkey episode aired.
Credit: wikipedia commons public domain - Alan Light http://www.flickr.com/photos/alan-light/Jerry always had his disingenuous reasons to dump his girlfriends. There was the “big hands” girl and the “low talker.” Perhaps the funniest was the woman who had the misfortune of having her toothbrush dropped in the toilet by Jerry. The character, played by Kristin Davis, was seemingly perfect in every way for Jerry except that he was rifling through her medicine cabinet and accidentally knocked her toothbrush in the commode. Jerry was left with a quandary, confess to his unauthorized search and subsequent reluctance for physical contact after she used the toothbrush, or dump her? Given that Jerry was a germophobe, the choice was clear. He had to let her go.
Common Bathroom Scenes
One of the most common bathroom scenes shown these days is almost a cliché. Two or more women retreat to a restaurant restroom to discuss something about the men. Matters are discussed in front of the mirror. We avoid the toilet stalls unless something happens and one or more women feel the need to hide in the stall. This often involves standing on the toilet and hunkering down to avoid detection. In this type of scene, the toilet is a mere prop and the confused male characters wander around looking until they give up and leave the confines of the women’s restroom.
Not surprisingly, the Duck Dynasty show on A & E has jumped into the potty relief fray. While Archie spoke of the pleasures of parking on The Throne for a spell, he never really delved intoCredit: wikipedia commons public domain - US Army SSG Rachel Copeland discussion of going “Number Two.” We know it happens, but we surely don’t want too much information. Even those less squeamish among us have their limits and Number Two is definitely an outlier. Almost any information is too much.
Duck Dynasty has figured out how to go above and beyond our “need to know.” In one episode, Godwin is fetching items out of the back of Jep Roberson’s cammo pickup truck and pulls out what looks like a semi-circular piece of black pipe. When questioning Jep about the use of the pipe like tube he was informed it was Jep’s “crapper.” The contraption has a tab that fits into the trailer hitch mount on the back of the truck so Jep can do his business in the woods while perched on the back of his truck. Clearly, a video of the device in use was entirely unnecessary. The mental imagery was way more than enough for me. This episode makes me want to find out which woods are Jep Robertson’s favorites so I can draw perhaps a 100 mile radius of avoidance around them. Maybe even 200 miles if the wind is blowing the wrong way.
With the latest salvo from the Duck Dynasty guys, we seem to have hit the outer boundaries of the toilet, or in this case portable outdoor relief device, on television. We have boldy gone where many men have gone before. Yuck.
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