Wednesday, 21 May 2014

The Amazing Adventures Of The Sofa Spudniks: Live long and prosper

Whether you know or not where our headline originated from, chances are you’ve said it once or twice before. Yes, the Spudniks are paying tribute to famous TV catchphrases.

Every time we have a family sleepover, we end up doing The Waltons: Everyone wishes everyone else a good night and someone ends with “Good night, John Boy”. It’s a great way of lending a kind of familiarity, and suddenly we’re all bonded by a catchphrase that originated back in the 1970s on a family show.

I never thought about it much until Indra suggested we write about it, but famous TV catchphrases have stealthily crept into my vocabulary and thoughts and made themselves very much at home there.

As a child, how often did I say “Danger, danger, Will Robinson!”, a phrase made famous by The Robot in Lost in Space, every time I found myself in a tight spot? I still say my spider sense is tingling, like Spider-Man – and I don’t even like spiders. Back in school, it was also cool to say “Nah-noo, nah-noo”, Mork's Planet Ork greeting from Mork & Mindy, or “Sit on it” like Arthur Fonzarelli in Happy Days.

When we had a faulty piece of equipment, we’d go, “Gentleman/ladies, we can rebuild it. We have the technology” (from The Six Million Dollar Man). Okay, I admit that on occasion we even ran in slowmo and made those sounds that accompanied Lee Majors’ bionic capabilities. How about the times I’ve written something top secret in an e-mail or text message and borrowed Jim Phelps’ line from Mission: Impossible, “This tape will self-destruct in five seconds”,  to cement the gravity of the message?

And that’s exactly why TV go-to phrases are so popular. They already have all the ingredients in place, and everyone everywhere knows exactly what they mean. So, even if you end up halfway across the globe and say to someone, “To the Batmobile!”, they’re probably going to know that you're no billionaire and your ride is possibly a broken down jalopy.

Cartoons – Looney Toons, in particular – have especially given us some great phrases to live by. For example, you could just go “Beep, beep!” like the Road Runner, or make your voice all Bugs Bunny-ish, chomp on a carrot and spout “Ehh, what’s up, Doc?” every time you see someone. On a good day, you could even do the whole closing credit sequence with theme music and all, and end with the classic Porky Pig line, “Bedee, bedee, bedee, that’s all, folks!”

When I’ve inadvertently made someone mad, I like using “Don’t have a cow, man!”, thanks to Bart Simpson – it even makes me feel like Bart, all mischievous and unrepentant.

And here’s a tip for boardroom meetings: When you have to take a vote, lift a page out of Jeff Probst’s book of Survivor catchphrases and say to those out of competition, “The tribe has spoken”. Say it in a deadpan fashion, and you can fire up real torches for a more dramatic effect.

When you’re interrogating someone with a large bet at stake, look no further than to our own Datuk Jalaludin Hassan from Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? and his catchphrase, “Adakah itu jawapan muktamad anda?”, translated from show's original line, "Is that your final answer?". 

Right now, it’s time for me to head off to my Batcave and get some shut-eye – but not before someone gives me something to drink something from the fountain of memory (Da Vinci’s Demons’ Tom Riley will do nicely). Or maybe just a Scooby snack – yabba dabba doo! Have I confused you enough?

Thanks to Sesame Street, today’s column is brought to you by the letters A and I (Ann Marie and Indra lah). – Ann Marie Chandy

Being a TV writer – what a gig. Imagine coming up with a phrase and watching it go viral, and having millions of people all over the world use it. How cool is that?

Apart from great story arcs, we remember TV shows for their clever catchphrases and memorable lines from the characters. Sometimes we use TV catchphrases even though we’ve never seen the shows from which they originated. Have you ever told someone or heard them asking you to “Kiss my grits”?

It's line from Alice, a comedy that aired from 1976 to 1985, about an aspiring singer who works as a waitress at a truck stop while waiting her big break. I might have watched a dozen episodes of the series, and I can’t recall much of it, but I sure use this line a lot!

TV catchphrases have become part of my lexicon, and much of the time it has seeped in subconsciously – like the many times I’ve borrowed Jerry Seinfeld’s line, “Yadda, yadda, yadda”, during an uninspiring office meeting (purely in my head, lest I lose my job).

Or the numerous times I’d have loved to tell people to “Eat my shorts”, a Bart Simpson classic, a variation of which can be “Bite my shiny a**”, Bender’s quote-worthy line from Futurama. Or when people ramble on and on and on, I’d like to go back to the 1970s classic detective show Dragnet and say, in a completely deadpan manner, “Just the facts, ma’am”.

Apparently, my ingestion and regurgitation of catchphrases may say something about the person I’ve become over the years – cynical (maybe), jaded (perhaps), and definitely no longer cutesy.

I used to quote Fred Flintstones’ “Yabba dabba doo” all the time. No more. Incidentally, the phrase was suggested by actor Alan Reed who provided Fred's voice. Reed got the phrase from his mother who, in turn, was inspired by a line from a 1960s Brylcream ad – "a little dab’ll do".

Once I used to quote Stephanie Tanner's “How ruuuuude” (from Full House back in the 1980s). Now I quote Battlestar Galactica’s “frak” – it’s a made-up but very satisfying cuss word. Try it.

My new favourite character who seems to have the best lines is Ron Swanson from Parks and Recreation. With a creative team led by ex-Saturday Night Live writer Amy Poehler, the sitcom has some fabulous one-liners that are funny, smart and relevant. One of the best lines from Swanson – though I doubt I’ll use it – is, “Fishing relaxes me. It’s like yoga, except I still get to kill something.” I don’t really want to kill anything – I’m vegetarian – but I understand the need to release all that aggression.

Ron may be inefficient on purpose as the director of a parks and recreation department in fake town Pawnee, Indiana (so don’t go looking for it), but he's wise and has things to teach us. Here’s a Swasonism to live by: “Never half-a** two things. Whole-a** one thing.”

It’s not a new precept. Actually, it’s just a better way of saying, don’t be a jack of all trades and a master of none. Okay, arguable, but I’m adopting it as one of my rules to live by. S. Indramalar

Tags / Keywords: Lifestyle , Sofa Spudniks , TV catchprases , Danger Danger Will Robinson , Sit on it , Nanoo nanoo , To the Batmobile , Kiss my grits , Eat my shorts , Just the facts ma am , Yadda yadda yadda , Yabba dabba doo , Good night John Boy , What s up Doc , That s all folks , The tribe has spoken , Is that your final answer , This tape will self destruct in five seconds , Don t have a cow , Live long and prosper


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