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Monday, January 5, 2015

The Pilot

“Buttons” is the conversation topic that launched the first episode of America’s most beloved TV series, Seinfeld. Buttons, of all things.
            The scene begins with Jerry and George sitting in a coffee-shop (the first of many sits), and Jerry is tearing George apart for his fashion faux pas. “The second button literally makes or breaks the shirt,” Jerry claims. “Look at it, it’s too high! It’s in no man’s land. You look like you live with your mother.” George cowers into his seat—how could he have been so ignorant? From there, we get some laughs when George doubts the waitress’s ability to differentiate caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee and then explains to Jerry that he is merely a “B-plan, a contingency” for a girl coming into town. The scene ends when Jerry gets up to go do some laundry and begs George to be a “come-with” guy.

            Pretty funny, right? Maybe not—it’s certainly no “Marine Biologist” or “Soup Nazi.” So it may come as no surprise that the show was nearly cancelled after its pilot episode. Fortunately, NBC executive Rick Ludwin was a fan of the show and made sure it stayed around. As everyone knows, Seinfeld went on to have great success and even today is considered one of the best television programs (in 2013, TV Guide ranked it the greatest TV show of all time).
            Surely the 90s sitcom enjoyed such success for a number of reasons. The life-like writing, the spectacular performances, the “nothingness” of it all—they are each valuable components of the show. I would posit, though, that the primary factors to its success were (1) the array of topics it discussed, and (2) the piercing importance of each one of those topics. There are plenty of others who have claimed the same thing—it’s nothing new—but I want to say a little more about these two aspects. Everything that is anything tries to master these two components; they try to say a lot regarding an array of topics, and they try to say something important. Why wouldn’t they? It’s only common sense. Say a lot, and say it well.
            I want this blog to be anything (not that it is general and unidentifiable, but that it has at least a degree of worth). Being anything is going to involve saying a lot and saying it well. In this way, Religion and Story will hopefully be like Seinfeld. I want these articles to comment on media and analyze the world’s state, to be aware of culture and the monomyth of Western life, to explore narration and art—but in all things to recognize religion and exalt conviction. The topics are going to be vastly different from Seinfeld, yet the variety and value should remain.
            I’m not sure how this first post will be laid out online, but I imagine up above somewhere the title for this Blog is in big, bold letters: Religion and Story. That of course will be the subject for all the posts to come, and it is because of one basic belief: religion and story are the two most important topics for our society today. I’m sure no one is doubting that, it just needs to be said. Religion is the foundation for people’s ethics, philosophy of life, and even daily routine, while story is how people understand ethics, philosophy of life, and even daily routine. Life is built up on this scaffolding of doctrine and knowledge, but it has no flesh until we see it exemplified or it finally clicks. Let’s step forward and attempt to grasp these two pillars of life—religion and story.
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