Random Play by Graham Reid

Suds and the City

We came home from a farewell function a bit later than expected the other night so missed the beginning of that other farewell, the one to Sex and the City. No bad thing as the bit was saw was the most self-serving, dishonest, cloying and manipulative programme I have seen in years.

Now I don’t read the women’s gossip rags that much but even this ignorant civilian knows that a couple of those actresses hated each others guts by the end of the series. But there they were all tears and huggy and being emotional. Acting in other words.

I’ve never been much taken by the sincerity of actors, they can fake it so well you’d never know when they were being serious or otherwise. These are people who can laugh or cry on demand.

But I suffered through this kiss-off to Sex and the City because of the programme being a cultural phenomenon. And that some women I know take it as seriously as I do laughing at Matthew Ridge.

Before you conclude I’m just a nay-saying male cynic about Carrie and the rest might I say in my defence that I am not ignorant about this show at all: I’ve actually seen almost every episode because when we were in the States a few months back they were having a DVD sale at some chain store so we bought every series except the last. (I guess we will buy that too when it becomes available just to complete the set.)

And I watched them through, increasingly astonished at the formulaic writing (“Then I realised …” “So I started to wonder …”) and the one-dimensional nature of the characters. Let it be said, and this is an informed opinion, that Carrie Bradshaw has to be the most disingenuous, self-centred, emotionally anorexic and obviously coquettish character ever to swish onto the small screen. She is immature and inexcusable.

Much like those script writers and fashion designer types who were trotted out in the final farewell to fake sincerity and talk up the cultural phenomenon of the show. The shoe guy saying he was surprised that he had become such an icon?

C’mon Mr Manolo, we aren’t all stupid. We’ve heard of product placement.

For my money the best character in Sex and the City was the witty, neurotic and very self-aware gay guy Stanford -- but maybe that’s because I’m a guy too.

Meanwhile across town no sooner had that final farewell finished than me, Dave, Ray and Tugger got to thinking about which character we most resemble in the show we love: was I a Sam, or a Norm, or a Cliff, or a Coach?

Yep, over brewskis we guys got together and watched the first series of Cheers, and howled with laughter at the clever scripts and snappy dialogue (“How’s life Norm?” “Not for the squeamish”).

Then I realised that Cheers, long before Sex and the City, had set the template for role model behaviour amongst healthy males.

So I got to thinking: is life a bar and we’re all in it, or are we in a bar and that’s our life?

Or something seemingly paradoxical like that.

So me, Dave, Ray and Tugger knocked the scabs off another dozen and considered the characters in Cheers. By the end of the third dozen we’d come to the conclusion that in Cheers (the first season, before Woody and Frasier Crane) there is every aspect of modern maleness.

Now I’m not one for putting my emotions out there for scrutiny as it were, but I can admit there are times I feel like Sam: confident, good-looking, smart-casual in attire, vain and utterly self-centred.

At other times I know when I am Cliff: an annoying know-all with little self-respect and even less spine.

Then sometimes, like when people start using big words or jump too quickly from one idea to another, I am Coach: confused, but diligent and harmless.

But I guess mostly I am like Norm, one of the greatest characters in American sitcoms who can wring more base cynicism and humour out of a simple enquiry than anything Sex and the City had to offer.

Yep, there are days when I feel Norm disentangles the great mysteries of life, addresses the male angst of our time, and best embodies the indomitable male spirit which says, no matter how bad the job, no matter how warm the beer, no matter what petty slights and insults you have had to endure during your working day you just have to get up and do it all over again. Because it’s going to be just as crap tomorrow.

“How’s life Norm?”
“Like it just caught me sleeping with its wife.”

And the way through this depressing metaphysical condition isn’t anything as mundane as buying shoes, moving on to another one night stand or wearing clothes no sensible person would even want to be buried in.

Nope, Norm embodies the male answer to the great conundrums of life with a simple, elegance.

“What’s the a story Norm?”
“Thirsty guy walks into a bar, you complete the rest …”