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 had
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.
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 into
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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