Sunday, 14 August 2011

Memories of Seinfeld

Earlier today I spouted what little scientific knowledge I mistakenly believe I have as a result of half remembered snippets of Radiolab. I was explaining that memories become stronger the more often we revisit them because every time they come up we strengthen the neural pathways that lead to them. (I think.) I likened them to working diligently on a few key friendships rather than trying to have All the friends.

Not two hours before that I had been reminiscing with one of the flatmates in the flat where I’m staying about the wonder of Seinfeld – the best and strongest episodes – and this burst of nostalgia lead me to revisit the show by watching four episodes from the seventh season.

These two seemingly unrelated events collided beautifully. I skipped ahead on the disc and decided to watch the famous “Soup Nazi” episode first. This was an episode that had been syndicated in Canada, firmly lodging itself into my cultural memory, with frequent associative reminders through “No Soup For You” having become a permanent part of the North American lexicon. The show was living up to its reputation. But then later, when evening fell and I was determined to do nothing too strenuous before the festival erupts tomorrow, I sat down and decided to tackle Season 7 in order – starting with the first three episodes.

Only one of these episodes, “The Engagement”, made it into syndication in Canada – and of course my predominant memories of Seinfeld stem from the episodes I’ve seen as a child, teenager and adult. “The Engagement” is a decent episode but not particularly strong – and certainly nowhere near “The Soup Nazi.” But moving onto the subsequent episodes, which I have probably not seen since I was a kid in the early nineties, was like reliving a series’ life – and realizing that not all of it was worth remembering. How much sweeter to just skip to the episodes that were familiar because they were series highlights then to relive every moment of the series. (Although I also began to appreciate the subtle genius of just how little happened in the episodes nestled between major series events. The conflicts were all petty and forgettable, and since the show always prided itself on being about "nothing" this was probably very deliberate and a hard won creative choice.)

Recently I wondered what would happen if, when we die, we have to rewatch our entire lives, like a film, without being able to change or influence anything. The decisions we made are set and the film would replay itself in real time. There is an aspect of this vision that is hellish, of course, freedom of choice is integral to most people’s happiness. But I think a second strange phenomenon would start to emerge. Like rewatching a series – I think I would find myself looking forward to certain events, to certain episodes in my life, the series' highlights – and both dreading and anticipating wrong turns or more dramatic events, drawn to conflict as any audience member would be. But instead we have memory – and human experience either makes it into syndication or not.

I wonder how I’ll feel about this reflection on passively watching life events after I perform in the Volcano and Wolfgang Hoffmann co-production White Rabbit Red Rabbit at Remarkable Arts Saint George West tomorrow, a show for a performer who has never read the script before. (Tomorrow, that will be me.)

But for today I’ve had one day off from Forest Fringe before the big push starting tomorrow, and I’m finding profundity in sitcoms. Welcome to Season 5 Sweeps.

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