My favorite teacher: Television!

I write for a humor blog with two friends, James Malins and Cherie Michiko, called Misusing Big Words. This post was originally published here:
Sometimes I think everything I need to know in life I can learn from TV.

One thing I'll never understand is the intricate workings of the minds of TV characters. For example, the other day I sat and enjoyed a fine episode of season 1 (the only good season) of "The O.C." The driving force behind this entire series is the abundance of secrets that the characters keep and then ultimately end up revealing, either purposefully or accidentally. In this particular episode, Kirsten and Sandy (her husband, a man, in case you hadn't figured that out from the extremely masculine name) have found out a secret about Sandy's mother, The Nana.

In the midst of their discussion, cue Seth, their son, who wanders into the kitchen and nonchalantly asks "What's going on?" Any fool and his cousin can see that there is no agenda behind this question. The tone of voice, the demeanor during delivery, and the sheer commonality of such phrasing as "What's going on" clearly indicates that Seth has no idea his parents are talking about anything deep, meaningful, or secretive. It's merely another greeting. But, since we're in the land of TV and, as I've already pointed out, TV characters minds seem to work differently than the rest of ours, Kirsten and Sandy both immediately and simultaneously utter "Nothing."

Now, let's go back and examine the mistake they made there. No, never mind, let's not, because there's nothing to examine. When someone asks you "What's going on," you should automatically respond "Not too much, yourself?" or "Oh, just the normal business of life" or "I've just killed twelve people and am planning to buy the Galapagos Islands" or any of the other 2,873,951 variations on that response that would cleverly avoid any and all suspicion. Yet time after time I see these characters make the same mistake, barking out "Nothing" in such a tone that even if nothing actually was going on, a non-English-speaking toddler would become suspicious.

Perhaps TV is like a great, free life coach. We can all learn from the mistakes of TV characters; both big (getting your wife's sister pregnant while on your honeymoon cruise) and small (blurting a suspicious "nothing" when something, clearly, is up).
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