Wednesday, December 13, 2023

Time Capsule or Poison Pill?

The English comedy duo Mitchell and Webb have a sketch in which one of their fans (played by a member of their supporting cast) accosts Mitchell and praises one of their earlier sketches, which was set in a cash-register shop (and which really is quite funny), says he craves another sketch exactly like it, and implores them to write such a sketch. He likens the prospective sketch to a sausage roll: “What’s wrong with more? If you have a sausage roll, and the next day you think you fancy a sausage roll, that’s OK isn’t it? It’s not the same sausage roll. It’s a fundamental principle of commerce: if people like something, make another one.” Mitchell politely but firmly refuses on the grounds that sketch comedy is not like food, that people will not watch or listen to the same sketch over and over again even though they will happily eat the same style of food-preparation over and over again; whereupon the fan, totally unconvinced but willing to offer Mitchell a sop to his fetishization of variety for the sake of getting his duplicate sketch, suggests the replacement of the cash registers, and only the cash registers, with doorbells. Whereupon Mitchell emits a(n) “Hmm” significative of That just might work, and the next sketch is indeed a carbon copy of the cash register sketch with doorbells instead of cash registers, and it is in fact even funnier than its original. The sitcom It’s Like, You Know… illustrates both theses implied by the preceding scenario, albeit from two entirely distinct perspectives: it was created and written by a group of ex-Seinfeld writers immediately after that sitcom’s voluntary egress from the prime-time schedule and was billed as “Seinfeld in Los Angeles instead of New York,” and it fell dead-born into the ratings and was canceled midway through its second season, in early 2000, thereby suggesting that viewers had interpellated it as Seinfeld full stop and had had quite enough of Seinfeld despite their very recent rabid enthusiasm for it. And the show has not enjoyed anything approaching a vital afterlife: it has never been released on DVD or via any streaming service and has apparently been re-broadcast only twice (or, more properly speaking, broadcast in full for the first two times, for the pilot and last six episodes never aired during the original run, as their scheduled airdates postdated the show’s cancelation), on Fox Latin America and Australia’s The Comedy Channel.  Fortunately a YouTuber formerly styled JamesCanavanWagner but mystifyingly now styled knockitoffnow89 posted air checks of all 32 of the Australian broadcasts about three years ago as of this writing (August 11, 2023), but these air checks have since garnered only an average of about 4,000 views apiece and a whopping 100,000 in total. If such underwhelming statistics bespeak a so-called cult following, even as obscure a so-called content creator as the present writer deserves to have at least a temple or two dedicated to his worship. Anyhow or -hoo, from this perspective, the perspective furnished by the verdict of its contemporary public and its near-term posterity, It’s Like, You Know… appears to bear out the Mitchellian thesis that variety is as surely the life of comedy as Spice (whether as incarnated in the girl group or in the adult cable channel) was the life of Variety in the late 1990s. Yes, beginning in ca. 1993 the American television-viewing public embraced Seinfeld with a degree-cum-near universality of gusto and affection they had perhaps only previously lavished on M.A.S.H. (for All in the Family, for all its legendary Zeitgeist-definingness, had always had a fairly large chorus of detractors), and out of loyalty to their original enthusiasm they stayed with the show in near-record numbers until the airing of its concluding episode in May of 1998. But seemingly no sooner had Seinfeld gone off the air than the public relegated it to an earlier short-1990s micro-epoch in favor of shows that had entered NBC’s “Must See TV” prime-time roster since its debut (Friends, Frasier, and Will and Grace) much as they had relegated Cheers to an earlier long-1980s micro-epoch in favor of Seinfeld roughly five years earlier. To the extent that they noticed It’s Like, You Know… at all, they must have regarded it in much the same smugly scornful attitude as that evinced by a certain character in a certain play by one or both of Shakespeare’s most illustrious junior contemporaries, occasional collaborators, and smugly triumphal successors in the hearts of Jacobean theater (naturally I would not be expressing myself in such vague terms here if I had managed to relocate the play and the passage in question), Beaumont and Fletcher, when he remarks to some other character that he or she is indulging in some sort of low form of japery that went out of fashion with Shakespeare’s plays, thereby conveying to the reader or spectator that those plays had become to be regarded by then, in ca. 1620, as as (sic on the repetition of as) naff and retardataire as parachute pants in 1990 or inline skates in 2005. But from a different—and I would argue far more enlightened and judicious—perspective, the perspective of the present writer qua recent viewer of It’s Like, You Know… in its 26-episode [or, rather, 25-episode-plus-1 pilot] entirety, ILYK would seem to bear out the thesis tendered by Mitchell and Webb’s fictitious fan—the thesis that if a comedic formula-machine ain’t broke, the worst thing in the world one can do to it is fix it, let alone replace it with an entirely different comedic formula-machine; but that by making just the right and exactly superficial changes to the machine one can improve it ever so slightly. And inasmuch as I think time hath more or less conclusively shewn that Seinfeld is the pinnacle of the sitcom quasi- or pseudo-form, the sitcom-ic exact analogue of Shakespeare’s plays in the history of drama insgesamt (note, my fellow unregenerate c*******l snobs, the presence of quasi- or pseudo qua preemptor of any ascription to me of the preposterous notion that any sitcom episode, however brilliant, could equal any more or less competently turned play, however mediocre, in point of aesthetic cogency-plus-quality [by which in particularized terms I meantersay that while I would rather watch even the worst episode of Seinfeld than the most spectacular performance of Our Town or You Can’t Take It with You, I cannot in good faith deny that even the best Seinfeld episode is beset by certain quasi-fatal flaws that inexorably flow from the sitcom format and that Our Town and You Can’t Take It with You are hermetically protected from corruption by such flaws merely in virtue of being plays rather than sitcom episodes {even if certain plays that antedate the sitcom format by several hundred years (and even at least one, The Merry Wives of Windsor, in Shakespeare’s corpus) are contaminated by such flaws in virtue of being possessed of certain qualities that anticipate those distinctively characteristic of the sitcom format}]) it follows that It’s Like, You Know is more deserving of the discerning viewer’s attention than any other sitcom that either originated or lingered on the air after Seinfeld’s disparation. This is not, admittedly, to say that ILYK is quite as good as Seinfeld at its ca. 1994-1996 peak, but it is admittedly to say nearly as provocatively that ILYK is at least slightly better than Seinfeld would likely have been in its counterfactual tenth season to the extent that one can extrapolate what that season would have been like from the tone and quality of its factual ninth one.  To sum up this tone-cum-quality as succinctly as possible (albeit at the cost of a certain amount of precision [not that I have often or perhaps even ever before allowed succinctness to impede my precisation of precision {So why allow it to do so this time? Why simply, I suppose, because giving precision its head (!) would probably transform this essay into a comprehensive reader’s guide to Seinfeld that would presumably tender many an assertion and conjecture long ago tendered by other commentators {whereas I doubt very much enough has been written about ILYK to allow any extended discussion of it, however wide of the mark or vapid, to consist much of duplicative matter}]): the ninth season’s occasional reliance on overarching formal gimmicks like the reverse chronology of “The Betrayal,” the traffic jam in “The Puerto Rican Day,” and, indeed the entire jurisprudential framework of the two-part finale, in lieu of relying on the long-established formula of simply allowing the plot of each episode to be guided by the idiosyncrasies of the four central characters (i.e., essentially, by the question “What would Jerry, George, Kramer, and Elaine do if A, B, C, and D, respectively, happened to him or her?”) imparts to it a false-ringing note wherein the characters are presented as embodying or exhibiting certain traits that do not jibe quite convincingly with their thitherto-established dramaturgical constitutions. The finale’s gimmick is a particularly unfortunate one because in addition to distorting the conduct of the comediae personae within its 53-minute span it retrospectively imposes a contentious master interpretation of the conduct of those characters over the course of the entire series and, in virtue of being a part of the series itself, obliges the viewer to regard this interpretation as authoritative. It is at least highly debatable whether each of the “Latham Four” is essentially what the jury’s guilty verdict enjoins us to regard him or her as being—viz., a dedicated engine of egoism. True, Larry David did assert that the show’s foundational “creed” was “No hugging, no learning,” but this “creed” is transparently to be regarded as a general principle of poetics and dramaturgy rather than as a specific program for Seinfeld’s comediae personae, as a salvo in favor of verisimilitude and against the lazy proclivity of even the “hippest” sitcom writers for portraying the ludicrously implausible complete yet ultimately inconsequential moral transformation of a central character within the confines of a single 23-minute episode. (An episode from Taxi, perhaps the “hippest” sitcom antedating Seinfeld, illustrates the intelligence-insulting cloyingness of this sort of scenario: the character played by Judd Hirsch somehow or other gets set up with some girl he has been led to believe is incredibly attractive only to discover on date-night that she is more than slightly, erm, big-boned, and consequently run like heck on hydrazine from her only to feel guilty and subsequently realize that he has been blind to her “inner beauty” and set up a second date wherein he apologizes for having been such a schmuck and promises her at minimum a third one [doubtless following up the promise with a hug {for I confess I haven’t seen the blessed thing in at least ten years}]. And naturally that is the last we ever see or hear of Hirsch’s prospective new girlfriend; in the very next episode he is preoccupied with some completely different problem like the resurfacing of an estranged sibling or a dormant case of sciatica.) True, at some point roughly halfway through Seinfeld’s run Julia Louis-Dreyfus famously said apropos of the show’s CP something to the effect of “They’re completely selfish and self-absorbed” (I use “famously” decidedly hesitantly here, for although not so long ago this utterance was perhaps the most easily locatable one about Seinfeld apart from “It’s a show about nothing,” I am now finding it as hard to track down as the abovementioned passage from Beaumont and/or Fletcher, whence the paraphrase in lieu of the thing itself), but since when has a character’s portrayer been a reliable source of insight into that character, let alone of characters not portrayed by her or him? Surely—as persuasively argued by Leonard Rossiter, portrayer of the eponymous protagonist of The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin, one of the greatest and most Seinfeld-like of pre-Seinfeld sitcoms, beginning at about 3:00 of this interview—the most reliable source of such insight is to be found in the writer who has supplied that character with the lines only eventually spoken by the actor (and, pace Larry David’s unconvincing [albeit only deliberately and indeed contrivedly deliberately unconvincing] performance of George Costanza’s lines for the Seinfeld reunion episode-within-the-Seinfeld reunion episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm, lines generally convincingly performable by a wide range of competent thespians). And at least one Seinfeld writer is on the record as stating, some years after the show’s disparation (and hence, then, “arguably” while in a position to speak more frankly than Louis-Dreyfus was when she proffered her own two cents of moral philosophy) that he found nothing particularly unusual or objectionable about JGK&E and that indeed he had always caused them to act and react in exactly the same manner as he would have reacted in his own real-worldial lifeworld. To be quasi-sure, this writer may, for aught I know (and after my pismere’s piss-poor luck at tracking down Louis-Dreyfus’s remark I am not going to try to know, or rather recall [for I definitely did hear this writer saying something to the effect of the statement indirectly presented in the previous sentence in an interview in which his name was mentioned {I believe it was broadcast in an installment of NPR’s Fresh Air}] a jot more than this aught about the wight) this man is scarcely representative of Seinfeld’s stable of writers; indeed, for aught I know, he may have written every bit of scriptage from which the prosecutor in the finale ultimately owed his case against the Latham Four qua supposedly criminally bad non-Samaritans. But I doubt it, else why would he of all the writerly horses be the only one whom I can recall having been interviewed specifically about Seinfeld (he or him in notable contrast to Larry Charles, Sacha Baron Cohen’s partner in comedic crime, whose affiliation with Seinfeld I learned about only in the course of some interview regarding the first Borat movie)?—and in any case, it is the validity of such pieces of scriptage qua indices of irredeemably unregenerate egoism that is in dispute here. At minimum JG&E’s recurring obsession with the minutiae of decorum suggests that they care at least a smidgen about the well-being of other people “after a fashion” (even if “paradoxically” Kramer’s utter heedlessness of even the biggest magnatia thereof, as attested by, for example, his telling Elaine’s friend [and his own future girlfriend] Audrey point-blank, “You’re a pretty girl; you just need a nose job” attests to his caring even more thereabout albeit after a completely different fashion). A pre-disparation article in Baltimore’s City Paper provoked by this obsession and certain other manifestations of scrupulousness chez the comediae personae (like most of the rest of Baltimore’s City Paper’s articles it is now unlocatable even via the Wayback Machine) described Seinfeld as “the most puritanical show on TV”—this naturally with the understanding that the show’s puritanism was a very bad thing indeed. Of course Puritanism with a capital P is one of the great veins of Protestant Christianity, such that what with Christianity being a famously loving religion one might be forgiven for at least entertaining the notion that a group of characters embodying even some lowercase thoroughly secularized version of puritanism could not be radical egoists. And in any case, it is not as though the show is devoid of evidence of the comediae personae’s espousal of a more organically altruistic sort of quasi-Christianity, a sort of secular Catholicism—one sees evidence of such an espousal in, for example, the moment at which Jerry announces that he is going to give his father a car simply because he can now afford to do so, and Kramer chimes in “You know this is about getting in good with the man upstairs [i.e. God]”; an assertion that Jerry does not contradict. Of course, here godless wags will brayingly demur that if Jerry had been a true altruist he would not have been motivated at all by a desire to improve his estimation in the eyes of the Almighty, that indeed if he had been a true altruist he would have resolved to give his father a car only in the teeth of the expectation of being eternally damned in consequence. To which demurral I shall whisperingly (i.e., mock-patiently-cum-genuinely exasperatedly) counter-demur that not even the saints ever act out of true altruism in the wag’s sense, that indeed, the only reason they sacrifice their own well-being for the sake of the well-being of other human beings is because such fellow-men-orientated self-abnegation pleases God; or, rather, I would counter-demur this if I thought I had a hope in heck of not receiving a counter-counter demurral of something to the effect of either “That’s not real Christianity” or “What but such sociopathic callousness would you expect from a religion that gave us the Crusades, the Inquisition, gunpowder, and Gunsmoke?”—in either case a manifestation of the as-yet-unreversed triumph of the cult of “empathy” (a word that is really just a linguistic fig leaf for unbridled sentimentality) over the entire Occidental moral landscape over the course of the last, say, third of the twentieth century. At bottom I think one “arguably” can view the entire arc of Seinfeld’s conception and reception, from David’s formulation of his “creed” to the digital chorus of finger-wagging that has beset its comediae personae since the show’s middle years, as an epiphenomenon of that triumph. Starting in ca. 1960 psychologists and other “thought leaders” started banging on about the need to be “empathetic”; starting in ca. 1970 the sitcom-writers started imposing “empathy”-advocating scenarios on their scripts and thereby amplifying the influence of the on-banging (this in virtue of both the pride of place of the sitcom in the c******l life of the period and the time-constraints of the genre-cum-format); by the late 1980s a substantial minority of people involved in the production of sitcoms, including their “creators” and writers, had gotten sufficiently sick of the “empathy”-centered formula to wish to try something different, and their audiences had also gotten sufficiently sick of the formula to tune into that selfsame different something—but by no means sufficiently sick of the cult of “empathy” eo ipso to take a full-fledged and enduring shine to characters who did not at least make an occasional spectacle of their prostration before the cult’s idol. And one suspects, in point of fact, that even David was only ever exasperated with the empathy-cult to the extent that it had vitiated the sitcom genre-cum-format, that he never had much if any of a bone to pick with the cult itself; one suspects this first if perhaps ultimately not more convincingly on the evidence of the near-pride of place given to David’s whiny sentimental wife in the comediae personae of Curb Your Enthusiasm, to a character who invariably comes across as presenting “empatheticness” as the normative habitus-cum-ethos of the show, as the habitus-cum-ethos that it believes to be the morally correct one, however it may allow Larry to embody and advocate a habitus-cum-ethos stridently at odds with it. One also suspects this (i.e., that David had no beef to air about the empathy-cult eo ipso) on the evidence of something David said near the end of the 2011 gathering of the Curb Your Enthusiasm cast at the 92nd-street Y (a gathering emceed by the now-notorious Brian Williams): he said that if he were to lose the notepad on or in which he wrote more than  figuratively everything he wrote, the loss would be for him “like someone dying.” To lose the sole repository of the objective fruits of one’s lifelong métier and vocation is by any sane and decent measure a “traumatic” event; an event that could only even be equaled, let alone exceeded, in point of devastatingness by the death of a spouse, a parent, or a child. The death of a mere “someone”—meaning by default anyone, down to some celebrity one has never heard of in some country halfway across the world—can be likened to the loss of such a repository only by a mawkish milksop who takes it for granted that every human life both can and should be precious to everyone everywhere at all times, and indeed more precious thereto than any non-human entity. And when one considers that David returned to Seinfeld after a two-year absence for the express purpose of writing the finale, the very episode in which the nouvelle idée reçue of the comediae personae as egoists was solidified, one cannot but conclude that by then he had been converted, or re-converted, to the “empathy” cult, that if he had been obliged to state his creed then, he would have formulated it as “Hugging galore, learning galore.” But anyway, as I have already effectively said, and been meaning to elaborate on for several pages now, the imposition of the empathy-cultish interpretation of the comediae personae was but one of the distortions of characterization that crept into the later seasons of Seinfeld. What I have not already even effectively said and what I am now going to say verbatim is that many and perhaps even most of those distortions (that perhaps-even-most naturally excluding the empathy-cultish interpretation itself) were more or less beyond the control of Jerry and his writers. Take that episode in which Jerry considers getting married and ends up briefly engaged to that woman played by Janeane Garofalo. The engagement is highly out of character for the Jerry of the show, and at the time it would have been highly out of character for the Jerry of real life—at least qua Jerry. And when the Jerry of real life got married only two or three years after Seinfeld’s disparation, it was still out of character for him qua real-life Jerry, but one might have persuasively argued that the marriage was long, long overdue for real-life Jerry qua real-life adult human male. And now that real-life Jerry has been married for more than twenty years or nearly half of his adult life and more than three times as long as Seinfeld was originally on the air, one might persuasively argue that being married is as much in character for Seinfeld (whether real-worldial or “fictional”), is as authentically Seinfeldian, as a query of “Who are these people?” So if Seinfeld had stayed on the air much longer, it is quite likely that the Jerry of the show would have had to enter into an engagement that, unlike one of George’s showers (or his own sole engagement), “took,” simply so that he could retain his plausibility as a more or less normal man in his late forties and beyond; it is highly unlikely that the two Jerrys could have pulled off a Jack Benny, with the show Jerry living as an aged (and not merely aging) bachelor who only went on occasional dates with a woman portrayed by the wife of real-life Jerry. And while such a move to matrimony would have been quasi-inevitable, it would also have been inimical to the show’s Schaugeist. For make no mistake: for all the offbeatness of most of the métiers pursued (or deliberately not pursued) by its comedia personae and its claim to be a show “about nothing,” there is no denying that Seinfeld was originally at its core as much of a show about “yuppies” as its much-ridiculed contemporary, the insufferably po-faced ABC drama series Thirtysomething. The high jinks-suffused scenario-components that formed the building-blocks of the plots of the episodes of the first few seasons—the endless string of dates with potential girlfriends or (in Elaine’s case) beaux, the endless string of Jerry’s club gigs, Elaine’s and George’s office jobs, and Kramer’s bricolage-centered moneymaking schemes, and the like—worked because they were, if not always exactly plausible (for of course from the beginning the show thrived on implausibility at least in certain registers [e.g., Kramer qua across-the-hall neighbor who had taken Jerry’s  moving-in salutation of “What’s mine is yours” {retroactively inserted into the chronologically ancient conclusion of “The Betrayal”} far too literally and a version of prewar Eastern Europe in which every little girl had a pony]) at least always eminently seemly for youngish single childless non-working class people living in a big city. The second half of the show’s run tended to exploit not exactly the unseemliness but the decaying seemliness and incipient general seediness of the same sorts of high jinks in the lives of oldish childless people of any class living anywhere. (Elaine’s fifty-something coworker Peggy’s pithily withering pronouncement on and to her—“You’re with a lot of men”—in the Season-Nine episode “The Apology” encapsulates the effect of this aura of decaying seemliness on the normative viewer.) Had the show remained on the air and insisted on sticking to its original dramaturgical constitution in lieu of availing itself of age-appropriate scenario-components like “taking” engagements, the high jinks would have devolved into full-blown seediness and thence into preposterousness, but not the preposterousness of mere farce that salutarily imbues, for example, Season Nine’s “The Blood” with its multi-generational crepe-making dynasty employing Kramer-conscripted Cuban cigar rollers in its kitchen; the preposterousness, rather, of the cartoon, in which there is not even a pretense that the events could occur by any concatenation of events, however improbable. What “third way” then remained to the show’s show-runners (or those of whom who continued to want to run it, a set of persons that excluded both of its “creators”) but that of continuing to work with the original genres of scenario-components in connection with a new comediae personae consisting of people young enough and attachment-free enough to inhabit them seemly-ly? Whence the timeliness—and, after a certain fashion, the indispensability—of It’s Like, You Know… qua cash-register sketch analogue. Pace the show’s original billing, its cash-register analogue is its younger cast-cum-less attached characters, not its Los Angelenan setting (its title being a presumably supposedly quintessentially Los Angelenan verbal hedge that is uttered exactly once in each episode). And now that I have established this fact about It’s Like, You Know…, the reader who has had his hand importunately raised in Horshak-esque fashion since the lower-first page of the essay and been straining with anticipation for the moment when I allow him to tender his assertion that the reason It’s Like, You Know… has never developed even a cult following is that it was rendered instantly redundant by the premiere of Curb Your Enthusiasm in October of 2000, less than a year after It’s Like, You Know,,,’s cancelation—now, I say, is the moment for that reader to lower his hand, but not so that he may tender his assertion but rather so that he may hold his peace and hang his head in utterly crestfallen dejection. For while Curb does indeed like ILYK feature a Los Angelinan setting it most certainly does not feature a re-Seinfelded comediae personae. The star, Larry David, playing himself, is a quinquagenarian at its very start. He is also married to Cheryl Hines’s semi-namesake Cheryl David at the very start. This couple are complemented by another married couple—Larry’s agent, Jeff Greene, and his wife Susie, played by their semi-namesakes Jeff Garlin and Susie Essman. It’s true that Garlin and Hines, being 38 in and 34, respectively, in 2000, were and are both younger than Seinfeld’s youngest cast member, and that Essman, being only 44 then, was and is yonger than both Jerry Seinfeld and Michael Richards. But en revanche, all but Hines were and (a fortiori) are grotesquely untelegenic. It is extremely unpleasant even to imagine Garlin and Essman involved in any remotely “romantic” scenario, either with each other or with other parties. So from the outset in Curb we are presented with a comediae personae that more closely resembles that of I Love Lucy than that of Seinfeld. And indeed, perhaps the best way of thinking about Curb Your Enthusiasm is as a latter-day I Love Lucy with the husband rather than the wife of the more telegenic couple in Lucy’s spot (i.e., the spot of the principal unwitting fomenter of chaos) and a far less telegenic (and altogether more disagreeable) couple in Fred and Ethel’s dramaturgical spot. In any case, in virtue of the just-mentioned in-built qualities of its cast and comediae personae, Curb is most certainly not merely a sort of R-rated version of Seinfeld, however strongly its tone may often recall Seinfeld’s merely in virtue of its authoring by Larry David (even if, en revanche, a goodly portion of Curb’s R-ratedness is doubtless owing to the absence from it of any contribution by real-world Jerry Seinfeld, who has never been the biggest fan of “blue” material, such that even had Seinfeld been afforded the greater license for profanity, nudity, and the like permitted by HBO it would doubtless still have been much thinner in R-rated material than Curb). It’s Like, You Know…, on the other hand, more than serviceably takes up the komödiesgeistig thread deliberately dropped by Seinfeld, and it manages to do this simply in virtue of centering on a comediae personae composed entirely of single people under the age of 40, including one person well shy of the age of 30. This is not to say that ILYK’s comediae personae merely replicates that of Seinfeld. For one foundationally non-replicating thing, it consists of five characters rather than four, and for another, it contains two women rather than merely one woman. The first of these un-Seinfeldemes perforce both facilitates and begets more complicated plots than Seinfeld’s; the second perforce facilitates and at least per-pressure begets intrasex team intrigues, which were impossible in Seinfeld except in one-episode increments, via the in-roping of a female member of the guest cast. (Not that I can even think of a single such intrigue in Seinfeld, what with Kramer’s appraisal of Elaine as “a man’s woman” whom other women avoid like the plague being [like so many of Cosmo’s other pronouncements, including the above-cited one about the big nose] basically, on the, erm, nose, although I assume there were a few such rule-proving exceptions.) Both un-Seinfeldemes simultaneously invite (invite, mind you, not beg [“invite, mind you, not beg” seems to have become my corpus’s equivalent of “other brands available” qua boilerplate disclaimer {but how can it cease to be so, as long as the misusers of as indispensable an idiom as “beg the question” continue to outnumber the responsible users of it by an enormous and ever-increasing number}]) and frustrate the question of the mappability of ILYK’s comediae personae onto the comediae personae of Seinfeld; the question of who is ILYK’s Jerry, who its George, etc./et al. Obviously the principle of parsimony that is the guiding principle of this entire essay (i.e., inasmuch as I have postulated that ILYK differs from Seinfeld no more than it absolutely has to, such that the notion of a comediae personae with no significant characterological overlap with Seinfeld is precluded from the outset) dictates that the answer to this question is either that one and only one of ILYK’s five characters is not more or less precisely mappable onto a Seinfeld character or that the characteristics of the four Seinfeld characters have been apportioned among the five ILYK characters such that each ILYK character is a mixture of two Seinfeld characters, that ILYK character A is a mixture of Jerry and George; ILYK character B is a mixture of George and Kramer, etc./et al. When I embarked on this essay, I was more or less firmly convinced that the second possible answer was the correct one; now I am at least slightly tentatively convinced that the first answer is—i.e., that the character played by A. J. Langer, Lauren Woods, has no counterpart whatsoever in Seinfeld’s comediae personae but that the other ones have at least vague counterparts therein. Robbie Graham, the character played by Steven Eckholdt, is basically ILYK’s Jerry. Like Jerry he is eminently datable (and indeed even more datable than Jerry, verging as his features do on the cloyingly handsome), hard-working at his métier (in his case software development), and more or less sane. Admittedly, his big professional project, a subscription cable-TV synagogue service called Pay Per Jew, is decidedly wacky (or was decidedly wacky until COVID mainstreamed religious worship via Zoom), but from the start he has only been involved in it from the back end, as they say, the idea and the name having been concocted by an old college chum of his. So like Jerry, Robbie tends to become wacky or less than fully sane only by association and light contamination. Shrug, the character played by Evan Handler, is basically the show’s Kramer, and indeed the “creators” seem to have signaled that he is a sort of bizzaro Kramer-plus by never divulging his last name rather than (as in Kramer’s case) refraining from devising and divulging his first name as long as possible (although of course it must be remembered that if Seinfeld had also only run for a season-and-a-half, Kramer, too, would have remained one-named in perpetuity, as his first name only surfaced in Season Six). Like Kramer, he is the immediate neighbor of the Jerry figure, although what with this being Los Angeles rather than New York, the abodes of the two dudes are freestanding houses rather than apartments and are sited cheek by jowl rather than face-to-face. Like Kramer, he has a distinctively eccentric hairstyle—although in his case it is a non-hairstyle because he is completely—i.e., Kojak-esquely—bald (here again, a bizzaro-ish quality seems to have been aimed for). Like Kramer, he has no regular occupation, although in his case, unlike Kramer’s, the métier-lessness has been given a verisimilitudinous alibi in the form of rentierism: he is a trust-fund kid with an incredibly large trust fund. (The abovementioned house next door in which Robbie resides is Shrug’s guest house, and from the outside both men’s houses seem to be semi-palatial.) Like Kramer, he is always coming up with wacky or harebrained schemes, although in his case, owing partly to his superabundant wealth, the schemes tend to be self-indulgent or philanthropic rather than entrepreneurial in conception. He hires the movie star Elliott Gould to record his (Shrug’s) autobiography, a narrative which, what with his being an incredibly well-endowed trust-fund kid, is completely without incident. (Gould eventually storms out of the recording session in exasperation with Shrug’s implacable punctiliousness about his enunciation of Shrug’s prose in the teeth of its manifest vacuity.) He starts up a one-man detective agency at which he sits around all day waiting for people to come to him not to ask him to tail their cheating spouses like your average private dick but to track down the answers to questions of no personal interest to them that have been irking them simply because they don’t know the answers. Having dreamt up the idea of a “smell bar” serving up cocktails of odors, he gives a friend enough money to open and begin running the joint. When that friend is subsequently (or perhaps precedingly [it is exceedingly hard to track down and situate individual moments of even a short-lived twentieth-century American network sitcom like ILYK with no episode guide!]) jailed for violating the city’s then-universally-thought-to-be-draconian prohibition of smoking in bars and restaurants, he spends a night in the slammer with him just to keep him company. I just said that the less-entrepreneurial-than-Kramer’s conception of Shrug’s schemes is or was partly owing to his great wealth, and I said that because this conception is also owing to Shrug’s non-entirely-Kramerian cast of mind. Kramer’s mind is or was like Falstaff’s (for despite his lack of corpulence and non-bibulousness Kramer is “in a certain very real sense,” like his contemporary, Jeffrey “The Dude” Lebowski, a latter-day Falstaff) “apprehensive, quick, forgetive,” always on the qui-vive for “nimble, fiery, and delectable shapes”; Shrug’s, on the other hand, is quiescent, naïve, and whimsical, like that of a clever-but-lazy very small child, or indeed, like a person heavily intoxicated by a(n) hallucinogen, although he seems never to touch any drugs of that type. He finds himself bemused or baffled rather than captivated by an idea and then ambles or wanders rather than runs with it as Kramer would do like a dog with a bone in its mouth (it is of course not for nothing that Kramer is closely paired with a dog in at least one Seinfeld episode). Lastly, in point of Shrugian divergence from Kramer, Shrug’s wardrobe is utterly lacking in any stylistic flair; his dress does not set him apart from the other characters in any manner that really sticks in the mind; indeed, if I remember aright, it differs from Robbie’s only in its more frequently featuring a buttoned-up shirt than an unbuttoned one and Dockers-style twill slacks than jeans. I shall have occasion to discuss both this sartorial habitus and Shrug’s trippy-hippy mental bearing a bit later, in connection with an appraisal of ILYK’s overall Schaugeist. For the moment I shall continue my adumbration of its comediae personae by discussing its analogue to George Costanza, Arthur Garment, played by Chris Eigeman. “Right up front” (to the extent that we are at the front of anything now), I cannot forbear from mentioning that it greatly pains me to designate this character a George Costanza analogue because George is the least telegenic and most morally objectionable of Seinfeld’s comediae personae and Eigeman has been an object of my intense admiration since at least slightly before ILYK could possibly have been a twinkle in anybody’s eye. I certainly won’t go so far (or so low) as to say that he has ever been a so-called role model for me, but I can (and will) say (because it is true) that when, within two years of its 1995 release, in other words, at the age of 25 at the latest, and hence an age at which one is still (if only just still) permitted to pattern one’s outward behavior on that of other people, I first saw Noah Baumbach’s debut film Kicking and Screaming, I was impressed enough by Eigeman’s performance to want to be a bit more like him around my friends, to be more a bit more blasé, pernickety, and witty around them in exactly the same way as Eigeman’s character was blasé, pernickety, and witty around his fellow recent college graduates at the bar they frequented together; and that when, in the early-to-mid oughties, I finally got around to seeing the three Whit Stillman-directed films featuring Eigeman, I was impressed enough with the continuity of his performances in those films with the one in Kicking in Screaming (even if I could not help finding him a bit off-putting in the against-type role of a cocaine-sniffing club-bouncer in the final one of these films, The Last Days of Disco) to wish that I had seen them alongside K&S and hence had had a chance to incorporate their Eigemanisms into my bearing at a seemly age. I realize that my simply saying that I have found Eigeman thus charismatic in these roles does not suffice to make it plain to the reader that he is more charismatic than Jason Alexander in the role of George Costanza.  But I think any reader who does not have some sort of fetish for “short, stocky, bald men” will, on watching even a half a minute of an Eigeman-featuring scene from Kicking and Screaming, Metropolitan, Barcelona, or (even) The Last Days of Disco, agree with me that he is a less off-putting presence—which is to say, handsomer, better dressed, and wittier—than Jason Alexander at his very most charming in Seinfeld. And I can confirm from my viewing of the entirety of ILYK that he is just as less off-putting than JA as GC in ILYK (even if the slightly [but only slightly] poorer average quality of the writing of the ex-Seinfeldians of ILYK than that of Stillman and Baumbach makes Eigeman as Arthur Garment slightly less witty than Eigeman as Nick Smith [his character in Metropolitan] et al.). Why, then, do I declare without hesitation that he is the George Constanza of ILYK? Why, simply because unlike the other characters he is a near-constant and unabashed worrywart, a type who a decade or two earlier would have been reflexively described as a neurotic. And really it could not have been otherwise, even if Eigeman had been as cloyingly handsome as Steven Eckholdt rather than merely as uncannily handsome as the young Ludwig Wittgenstein (to whom he bore an uncannily close resemblance between the ages of about 25 and 40, such that the failure of any biopic of Wittgenstein to be made between ca. 1990 and ca. 2005 is an incalculably great loss both to the corpus of world cinema and Eigeman’s own career [for I believe it sadly must be conceded that he has really done nothing truly noteworthy, at least as an actor {for I have not seen the single film he has directed} since ILYK {for I certainly don’t consider his featherweight supporting role in that featherweight instance of televisual chick-lit, Gilmore Girls, noteworthy}] since ILYK) because the show is at least initially presented as a comedy of the encounter of Arthur Garment qua New Yorker with Los Angeles, and in the commedia dell’arte of late-twentieth century America neuroticism is as tightly conjoined to New Yorkers as Pierrot’s (or “Crazy” Joe Davola’s) pompom-buttons to his domino and Pantaloon’s pantaloons to his backside in the original commedia dell’arte. Of course, by the same token, the fact that Arthur Garment is presented as a New Yorker among Los Angelenos rather than a New Yorker among other New Yorkers like George Costanza imparts to his neuroticism an entirely different valence from George’s even when it is implicated in aspects of his character profile (e.g., his lack of amorous success), that are likewise imported directly from his Seinfeldian counterpart, but I shall “park” this valence alongside Shrug’s mental bearing and sartorial habitus as matters to be considered in my consideration of ILYK’s Schaugeist and thereby impel myself to consider the very last member of its comediae personae with a Seinfeldian antecedent, namely Jennifer Grey, who by a process of deduction the reader will have correctly inferred must be regarded as ILYK’s Elaine according to this schema. But in what respects does she resemble Elaine closely enough to have made this schema compelling to me in the first place? Why, simply in being a woman and “being with a lot of men” and indeed in making no bones about her non-monogamy, in constantly referencing recent and distant rendezvous of hers that terminated in coition. Admittedly, to the best of my recollection, a far smaller proportion of Jennifer’s lot of men than of Elaine’s lot thereof are seen onscreen (and indeed, I can recall only one of these [even if I am sure there were at least two more adult-male accompanists of Jennifer not counting Robbie {see immediately below}]), but “in a certain very real sense” this comparative dearth only underscores Jennifer’s promiscuity. Even a beau-appearance fully spanning her plot-strand of a single episode à la that of Elaine’s Mr. Spongeworthy and Crypto-Wiz, let alone one spanning nearly a dozen episodes à la that of her David Puddy would have implied that Jennifer was at least flirting with “commitment,” that she was going on successive dates with her coition-partners; instead, given that she almost exclusively talks about isolated coition-sessions we are led to suppose that her so-called sex life consists almost exclusively of one-night stands. This aura of flooziehood or sluttishness is allowed to spread even to the prominent Seinfeld-echo of Jennifer’s previous amorous involvement with Robbie in the show’s so-called back story. While Jerry and Elaine’s mutual ex-hood rarely imparted the merest soupçon of sexual tension to their rapport—the single exception I can think of is “that one time” when a sudden effulgence of such tension was made to serve as the central dramaturgical engine of an episode only to be broken off at the end of that episode without leaving a trace in any subsequent ones—it did provide a rich fund of shared biographical particularity to which they frequently made reference, and upon which Seinfeld’s writers could and did often draw for dramaturgical fodder. Robbie and Jennifer’s pre-ILYK-timeline involvement, by contrast, in being yet another one-night stand, can only ever be gestured towards ostensively, in the perfect aspect, as it were—as a single isolated event that happened exactly once. On the plus side, as they used to say, the super-brevity of the Robbie-Jennifer conjugation allows it to be dramatized in its entirety (within the constraints and conventions of fin-de-millénaire network television, of course), in a flashback-dominated episode depicting what each of the comedia personae—or each of them except Arthur, who had not yet arrived in LA then—was doing when an earthquake hit. Now is perhaps no worse a time than any other for mentioning something that must be mentioned at some point in this essay—namely, that although dramaturgically speaking Jennifer Grey corresponds to Elaine, she also provides formal continuity with Seinfeld (and Curb Your Enthusiasm) in playing or, rather, (because I have so far talked of her only as a character) being played by herself.  (Not that she, Jerry, and Larry are the only people played by themselves in any of the three shows, for Seinfeld featured occasional cameos from the likes of Jon Voight, Bryant Gumbel, and Keith Hernandez; as mentioned before, Elliott Gould appeared as Elliott Gould on ILYK [and he was followed a couple of dozen episodes later by Estelle Getty]; and on Curb… well, obviously self-portrayed celebrities are so profusely present on Curb that there is little point in simply mentioning one to three of them [although this profusion itself is worth descanting on qua yet another aspect of Curb in point of which it is inferior to both Seinfeld and ILYK {and as I don’t know where else I am going to have an opportunity to descant on it, I shall do so right cheer}. I suppose there’s nothing intrinsically objectionable to having virtually every episode of a sitcom, center, as virtually every episode of Curb does, on the comediae personae’s interactions with real-world celebrities, although at least the present writer finds such a modus comediae intensely irritating, and IYLK’s essential bereftness of such episodes {for even in the abovementioned episode with a plot strand about the recording of Shrug’s memoirs, Elliott Gould receives at most a minute of screen-time} gives the lie to the notion that any show with a Los Angelinan setting and an actor in its comediae personae cannot escape such a modus comediae]. But at least accidentally, any sitcom that succeeds at effecting such centering will perforce run roughshod over the discerning viewer’s ability to suspend disbelief. For a sitcom that consisted exclusively of interactions between the comediae personae and real-world celebrities would not be a sitcom at all but a successsion of chamber dramas, or perhaps rather a “reality-TV” version of a talk show; in order to survive as a sitcom, which is to say, to generate and sustain plot-strands and other units of dramaturgy, it must draw on and involve a roster or stable or pool of supporting characters understood to be mere diagesis-sustaining non-celebrities, which means it must draw on a roster or stable or pool of actors to play the barmen, barmaids, quantity surveyors, bum bailiffs, and other sets of people with whom the comediae personae are to interact when they cease to be preoccupied exclusively with one another. Chez the production of any new or merely moderately successful sitcom, the casting-call for these actors will as a matter of course attract absolute or relative obscurities whose average-Joe or Jane-dom the viewer will reflexively accept. But chez the production of a sitcom, like Curb, that has been a darling of the critics since it was a twinkle in its creator’s eye bright enough to attract the attention of one of their number at [insert name of 2023’s rough equivalent of the Brown Derby here, if such an establishment exists], actors who are often every bit as famous as the self-portraying guest stars stampede over one another to get the minor parts, such that when an actor playing such a part first appears onscreen, the viewer tends reflexively to interpellate him as the actor himself rather than as the character he is playing. And in Curb itself, wherein the foreground parts are already monopolized by self-portraying celebrities, this monopolization of the mid-ground parts by biggish-to-big name actors generates a bizarre semblance of a two-tiered caste system wherein Larry and the other first-class characters address each other by their real-world names but appear to be blind to [or knowingly to overlook] the real-world identities of their second-class screen-sharers à la the posh couple in Luis Buñuel’s Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie who toss the local bishop out the front door when he shows up at their house in the gardener’s clothes.) Here a reader possessed of a certain sort of personal history will be unable refrain from interjecting that the must I just emitted was an overstatement-eme, that I could have more economically signaled that JG was played by or played herself by simply typing “(yes, the Jennifer Grey)” after my first registration of her name, a couple of hundred words ago. But the truth is that I could not have typed that parenthesis, at least in good faith, because I do not share with such a reader the possession of such a personal history, which is to say I did not know who Jennifer Grey was before I first saw It’s Like You Know…. For I can remember the very first occasion on which I  saw It’s Like You Know…—it was at or near the very beginning of its first season and in the living room of the apartment I then shared with a longtime Seinfeld fan who was at least willing to give ILYK a try (a try that seems not to have lasted much if at all beyond Episode 5, “The Valley,” for my most recent original-run-of-ILYK-derived memory consists of a fragment of invective against the Pay Per Jew channel’s presiding rabbi, and from my YouTubic viewing of the series I recall no other episode in which such invective occurs), and on this occasion, somebody onscreen asked Jennifer Grey (or asked somebody else about Jennifer Grey), “Jennifer Grey, the actress?”; whereupon I inwardly (or perhaps outwardly—i.e., to my roommate) interjected “Who she?” or perhaps, rather, “Is that the name of an actual actress?” In other words, I hadn’t heard of Jennifer Grey, and I wasn’t sure whether the referent of the mentioned Jennifer Grey was an actress in the real world or an actress only within the diagesis of the show, whether she was an actress in the sense in which Elvis Presley was a rock star or in the sense in which Conrad Birdy was a rock star, in the sense in which Johnny Cochrane was a lawyer or the sense in which Jackie Chiles was a lawyer. This isn’t to say I had never seen Jennifer Grey in a TV show or movie, because I had seen Ferris Bueller’s Day Off several times, but the only actor from that film whose name I had retained in my memory was its star, Matthew Broderick. To be sure, I had not—I am more or less proud to say, for reasons semi-obscure to me [for I’m not sure exactly what genre of film this film is supposed to be, whether, for example, it is properly speaking a chick-flick, such that I should be more or less proud qua man for not having seen it]—seen Dirty Dancing, although I certainly had heard plenty about the movie when it was at the cinema, but I subsequently remembered it solely as a Patrick Swayze movie, and whenever—whenever, that is, right up until I revisited ILYK at the Chewb only a few months ago—I was prompted to recall the name of its female lead, I alighted on Jennifer Beals, and quickly found myself obliged to remind myself, “No: that’s the woman from Flashdance,” another movie I was more or less proud never to have seen and that I tended to confuse with Dirty Dancing in the other direction (i.e., by alighting on “Dirty Dancing” when prompted to recall the name of the movie for which Jennifer Beals was best known). I dwell at such length and in such detail on my personal non-history of acquaintance with the career of Jennifer Grey qua Jennifer Grey both because the fact that it is a non-history and because it would seem quasi-inevitably either (if it is typical of the general cinema-going and television-viewing public of today [sic on “today” in place of “the very late 90s,” for what with today’s generally agreed to be a decadent period in—if not the posthumous period of—both television and cinema, today’s typical viewer of television and cinema is “in a certain very real sense” better acquainted with the peaks and troughs of both media than the typical viewer thereof of their respective or shared heydays {think, for example, in this connection, of the popularity of television game shows of the 1970s among people not even yet born during their original run}]) to vitiate my appraisal of ILYK’s failure to become a runaway hit or (if it is atypical) to suggest both that that failure was an instance of dog-bites-man rather than man-bites-dog and that Grey’s specific gravity in the comediae personae is slightly different than I am imagining it to be by default. Certainly until I discovered that the female lead of Dirty Dancing was (or had been) Jennifer Grey I had assumed that that lead had been—not to put too fine a point on it—incredibly hot; so hot, indeed, that even after seeing a full episode or two of ILYK on the Chewb and thereby discovering that Grey bore no resemblance whatsoever to Ferris Bueller’s manifestly hot girlfriend I was faintly shocked on looking up the credits of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off to learn that Grey had played not that girlfriend but Bueller’s manifestly unhot, and indeed borderline downright plain, sister. Of course, there are and always have been such things as former ugly ducklings turned into swans, and there are and always have been actors and actresses talented enough to make themselves seem less attractive than they really are (not to mention couturiers, cosmeticians, and directors talented enough to help them realize the imposture), but until the fairly unlikely event that I see Dirty Dancing I shall never know if Jennifer Grey at her mid-to-late-eighties moment of peak photogenicity was a member of either such entity-class. (As Grey’s nose job, whose radically transformative effect on her appearance is made much of throughout IYLK from the pilot onwards [having seen her only in Dirty Dancing, Arthur Garment, on being introduced to her cannot believe that she is the Jennifer Grey until he is apprised of the rhinoplasty operation], was effected only after Dirty Dancing, it is entirely irrelevant to the question.) I assume, though, that most of my late-90s contemporaries, including IYLK’s so-called creators had seen Dirty Dancing and had therefore formed fixed notions of Grey’s degree of hotness. If, then, the so-called creators had come to regard Grey as an if not necessarily the epitome of late-80s feminine hotness, they needs must have regarded her acceptance of her inclusion in the comediae personae as something of a coup-cum-harbinger of the show’s success in the ratings and consequently regarded the show as being first and foremost her vehicle “in a certain very real sense.” If on the other hand they thought of her mainly as Ferris Bueller’s borderline plain-Jane-ish sister and Patrick Swayze’s DD character’s borderline plain-Jane-ish dancing partner, then they most likely regarded her as a sort of figure proleptic of (or exactly contemporaneous with) John Malkovich in the ca. 2000-released film Being John Malkovich, wherein much of the humor arises from the fact that in real life its central personage, the actor John Malkovich, was a relatively obscure character actor known well and widely by face but ill and narrowly by name. It is true that she does not terribly often encounter random Los Angelinos who recognize her, but this infrequency is partly explicable by the parenthetically abovementioned nose job, but by the same token, if she had still been an A-list celebrity in the late 90s, the average Los Angelino (and indeed the average Anglophone anywhere in the world) should have been familiar with her post-nose job features. Against this, and in favor of her relatively timeless “iconicity” one must consider her occasional encounters with people (perhaps most notably the Serbian dictator Slobodan Milosevic) who bestow on her a degree of idolatry historically vouchsafed only to the likes of Elizabeth Taylor. In any case, however plausibly reflective of Jennifer Grey’s real-world trajectory this inter-episodic thread is meant to be, in ILYK she is shown to be constantly on the lookout for acting work and consequently engaged in a mode of living that is at least metonymically associated with sexual promiscuity, such that her “being with a lot of men” seems much more organic (if the word organic be not too skunked by this meta-90s-Los Angelenan context for a less-time-and-place-bound use) than Elaine’s. I suppose I ought to say something about ILYK’s Grey’s temperament, cast of mind, and the like (as opposed to about her lifestyle alone) before wrapping up my discussion of her contribution to the comediae personae, but in all frankness and candor, I have a great deal of difficulty (in) thinking about such aspects of her character except in negative terms, except in contrast with those aspects in the character of another member of the comediae personae, Lauren Wood, a personage who serendipitously happens to be the only member of the comediae personae whom I have not yet discussed at length. And so on to Lauren Wood. Ah Lauren Wood! How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. On second thought, as there are only two or three of them, let me not. In any case, what these ways lack in quantity they certainly more than make up for in quality, or perhaps rather, in salience, in constituting the most fitting and meritorious ways of loving. First and foremore or (if I end up finding that there are more than two ways in point) foremost, I love her out of bedazzledness by her sheer well-nigh-insuperable prettiness, which soundly eclipses or trounces the prettiness of late 1990s, post-nose job Jennifer Grey and even that of Julia Louis-Dreyfus/Elaine Benes at her early-1990s peak. Of course, I suppose many a reader who, being as unfamiliar as I was with A. J. Langer’s filmography when I embarked on my survey of IYLK (i.e., not familiar at all) has just looked up a production or video still of her (and any reader who is still as unfamiliar therewith had better look up such a picture, because I am not going to describe Lauren’s features in any detail) will now exclaim “Get out of here!” à la Elaine Benes and yearn to be in my presence solely for the purpose of following the exclamation up with the obligatory two-palmed shove to my thorax. But I think if such a person reflects on his comparative appraisal of Grey, Louis-Dreyfus, and Langer’s features he will have to admit that the superior prettiness that he is ascribing to the two older ladies is actually a superiority in point of handsomeness as it was recognized in George’s Jerry-lookalike girlfriend when Elaine said of her, “She’s certainly a very handsome woman.” This is not to say that either early-90s Louis-Dreyfus or late-90s Grey is not very pretty indeed but that the photogeneticity (or, in old-timey aestheticians’ lingo, beauty) of both of these women is composed not only of prettiness but also of an additional quality, handsomeness, that is utterly absent from late-90s Langer’s photogenticity, which is utterly exhausted by prettiness, such that Langer must axiomatically be regarded as prettier than the two older ladies. Second(ly), I love Lauren out of admiration of her sheer inexhaustible (and seldom even flagging) ebullience-cum-exuberance. This is a quality that is never evinced by Grey and was seldom evinced by Louis-Dreyfus except in Elaine’s very occasional moments of drunkenness. From the fact(s) that I have just associated ebullience-cum-exuberance with inebriation and that I have slightly less recently described Lauren as exceedingly pretty, the reader may very well readily infer that Lauren is at least something of a ditz or even an airhead or a bimbo, but few things could be further from the truth. For Lauren is also possessed of a certain irresistible combination of aplomb, competence, and versatility (here it appears that I do love her in at least three ways and possibly as many as six) that is radically incompatible with mental vacuity. This combination is hinted at at the very beginning of the pilot when, in her first chinwag with Arthur, whom she has just met as her seat-neighbor on his first-ever NY-to-LA flight, she informs him that she is both a process server and a masseuse. Being one of Los Angeles’s most sought-after practitioners of both occupations, she is constantly oscillating between the one and the other and indeed on one occasion even practicing them simultaneously, thrusting divorce papers before a massage client’s eyes with one hand as she kneads his neck with the other. Apart from the abovementioned proto-Zoom-style religious services, ILYK’s inclusion of a character possessed of such superhero-like mastery of two radically mutually dissimilar métiers probably constitutes its sole moment of genuine prescience, its sole-plus-one aspect in which it anticipates a genuinely new phenomenon of the twenty-first century—in this case, the so-called gig economy about which so much eulogizing and polemizing has been generated over the past decade or so. The negative implication of the immediately preceding sentence is of course that ILYK is by and large and for better or for worse “very much a product of its time” or perhaps even something of a throwback, something that would have been more congruously placed in an earlier time. And the fine-tuned truth behind that implication is of course that ILYK is both very much a product of its time and something of a throwback. And the more finely tuned truth behind that truth is by no means of course (at least for the reader familiar with the generally reactionary cast of my mind) that in those respects in which ILYK is of its time it is so for the better and in those respects in which it is something of a throwback it is so for the worse. It is of its time for the better in simply (and seemingly without even trying to do so, in manner of a time capsule that bears no marks of having been deliberately constructed as a time capsule, in the manner of a particularly felicitous objet trouvé) reflecting certain attributes of that time that contributed to its superiority (in almost every conceivable respect: intellectual, moral, aesthetic, etc.) to the present; it is something of a throwback for the worse inasmuch as its throwbackishness does not take the form of, say, a revival of some virtuous dramaturgical technique of yesteryear that had unfortunately fallen into desuetude, but rather the form of the dramaturgical propounding of assertions about the world that were no longer true in its time and that to the extent that they ever were true probably need never have been asserted. Unhappily for the viewer who would have the mellow of his enjoyment of the show’s gemütlich of-its-time-ness unharshed by any obtrusively or persistently harshing matter, the just-mentioned naff throwbackishness is part and parcel of IYLK’s overarching and governing dramaturgical backdrop—viz., the supposedly innumerable differences between New York City and Los Angeles qua supposedly radically incommensurable Lebenswelten. We may gauge the degree of naffness of the notion of NYC and L.A. qua such Lebenswelten in 1999 by a remark made in a 1983 Playboy magazine interview with “TV’s zany David Letterman” (for so was the then host of NBC’s Late Night dubbed on the front cover of the interview-containing issue), a remark to the effect that he had no interest in guests who showcased material on the differences between New York and L.A. To be sure, Chewbularly available air checks of Late Night prove that at least as late as 1982 Letterman was humoring and even slightly egging on the L.A.-bashing pronouncements of one of his New York-residing guests, the curmudgeonly raconteuse Fran Lebowitz, but a lot can happen in a year, and in any case, one can hardly blame Dave for not complaining to a guest’s face—and certainly not the face of a guest as notoriously prickly as Fran Lebowitz—about her flouting of what he himself doubtless would have belittled as a mere personal pet peeve. Not, to be sure, that we should reflexively genuflect to Dave regarding each and every thing he said but that because from its 1981 debut until Dave’s departure for CBS in 1992, Late Night, in virtue of its domination by Dave’s licensed “zaniness,” functioned as a sort of Zeitgeist-spanning naffness-filter or canary in the coalmine of anti-naffness, such that when the Dave of the Late Night years was jaded about something, we should be inclined to believe that he was onto something in his jadedness. Perhaps here I should explain, for the benefit of both non-Anglophile readers and UK-residing readers who have already assumed that in virtue of my Yankitude I am using “naff” and its derivatives incorrectly (and who by the time I get to the end of this explanation may very well believe that their assumption has only been confirmed thereby {not that that belief need shake their confidence, for by then they will at least know what I mean by “naff” etc.}), by “the naff” and “naffness” I mean (and mean specifically in the realm of utterances or gestures readily turned into utterances [for there are naffnesses of many other realms—for instance, and perhaps notably, that of sartorial fashion]) not the flagrantly false or immoral but that which, while it may be true is not worth saying, or that while true and formerly worth saying is no longer worth saying because it has already been said enough times, or true but only with certain qualifications that the sayer omits (whether deliberately or inadvertently) to say. In connection specifically with Los Angeles, probably the most salient sub-sort of naffness of the first sort is remarkage on its weather-cum-climate, specifically on how miraculously if not quasi-obscenely wonderful this weather-cum-climate is by comparison with the weather-cum-climate in most other parts of the U.S., very much including New York. It is undoubtedly true that the weather-cum-climate in Southern California is much better than the weather-cum-climate in almost the entirety of the rest of the U.S. for it is one of the very few parts of the U.S. that features a climate that the boffins call a Mediterranean climate—a climate signalized by lots of sun, low humidity, warm but not hot temperatures, and very little rain. To be sure, this climate is “not for everyone” and indeed probably not even for the present writer specifically, but I think that anyone (including the present writer) who affirms that he could “never live” in a climate like Los Angeles’(s) will find on querying himself about what he would miss in being obliged to live therein that he alights on certain admittedly inalienable concomitants or epiphenomena of the typical weather of other climates—e.g., the sight of falling snow or the crunch of autumn leaves underfoot—rather than attributes of that weather thereof itself, inasmuch as “in a certain very real sense” good weather is about immediate somatic comfort, and no kind of weather is more immediately somatically comfortable than mild, dry, sunny weather. “That said,” the superiority of Los Angelenan weather is not exactly a new discovery; presumably it was noticed by the first settlers from “back East” who arrived in the 1870s, and doubtless it was first noticed at least a full century before that, by Junipero Serra, when he founded the mission from which the town soon sprouted, for although Padre Junipero was born and raised in Mallorca, an island with perhaps an even more notoriously perfect Mediterranean climate than Los Angeles’s, his long journey to the Californian coast took him through the full breadth of Mexico, a land rich with all sorts of inhospitable geographies from stiflingly muggy rain forests to scorchingly hot deserts. So one, or at least a sane one, would have expected the mania for singing the praises of Los Angelenan weather to have subsided into a yawning habit by the beginning of the twentieth century and certainly not to have persisted at a rolling boil into the 1980s. But persist it did thitherto and beyond and indeed up to the present day (September 15, 2023); and indeed, by now naff remarkage about the spectacularity of Los Angelenan climate-cum-weather has even spawned entire sub-strains of climate-cum-weather orientated naff remarkage: for example, the topos of the “Floridian bad hair day” that every Southern Californian supposedly haplessly stumbles into upon setting foot in the Sunshine State for the first time owing to the sudden exposure of his or her coif to unprecedented high humidity levels, which supposedly causes each and every lock and tress either to lie as limp(ly) against one’s skull as a wet lasagna noodle or to “poof up” as explosively as a bag of jiffy pop–I can’t remember which, because I am after all a non-Southern Californian man. All I know is that over the past, say, five years, I’ve heard at least a hundred visiting or ex-Californians kvetch about this phenomenon as if they were the first ever to observe it and consequently been irritated by every one of these kvetchers but the first (and been irritated by the n+1th of these subsequent kvetchers more than by the nth one). Of course, “arguably,” any pronouncement about any place’s climate or weather in a dramaturgical setting such as a sitcom is naff in the sense of being even un-worth remarking on to begin with, inasmuch as all dramaturgical modes deal first and foremost with social interactions between people, and as Dr. Johnson famously queried when the abovementioned LA-seeding mission, although already standing, was perhaps still missing its steeple, “What is climate to happiness?” And as he elaborated on this rhetorical question: “Place me in the heart of Asia, should I not be exiled? What proportion does climate bear to the complex system of human life? You may advise me to go live at Bologna to eat sausages. The sausages there are the best in the world; they lose much by being carried.” On the praiseworthy naff-debiting side, ILYK does not explicitly present any of its comediae personae as prizing the Los Angelenan climate as highly as Johnson’s counterfactual Bologna-booster fetishizes sausages; at no point, to the best of my recollection, does any one of those five characters assert or even imply that he moved to Los Angeles exclusively for its climate. En revanche, though, ILYK does not shrink from peppering itself with references to this climate as liberally as I believe its most prominent auxiliary cast member, the overly officious waiter at the café that serves as ILYK’s analogue to Seinfeld’s Monk’s, at one point peppers a customer’s plate with pepper from a grinder; and it does not even shrink from centering an entire episode on this climate, albeit only negatively, via the southern portion of the city’s supposedly antithetical contrast with the San Fernando Valley, which the episode presents not only, à la Frank Zappa or Martha Coolidge, as a sociocultural abyss, but also as a climatic dystopia on account of its apparently unbearably high humidity: when a member of the comediae personae (Robbie, I believe) is obliged to visit to the Valley on an errand whose purpose now escapes me, the minuscule jaunt is treated by the remaining members thereof (barring, of course, Arthur, who is even less schooled on the Valley than on the rest of the area) as a sort of Marlovian journey into the unknown center of a more than figurative jungle in connection with which no mention is made of the threat of bad hair probably only because it is swamped or little-personed by the threat of death by heat exhaustion. Of course at this point the discerning reader will want to interject that the centering of this episode on the supposed unbearability of the weather in the San Fernando Valley was doubtless intended to satirize Los Angelenos’ excessive preoccupation with the weather, their jealous sense of entitlement to sunny, rainless bone-dry days, that the writer’s (or, more likely, writers’) sympathies were doubtless with Dr. Johnson on this point; that that writer (or a controlling proportion of those writers) doubtless hailed from some part of the 97% of the United States without near-perfect weather and wished it to be understood that the appropriate attitude to take towards a brief sojourn in an uncomfortably humid place was one of stoical detachment. And the discerning reader may very well be right about this, but to the extent that he is right, he only points up the naffness of ILYK in another register, the register of trueness-only-with-certain-qualifications-omitted-by-the-propounder. For while the impetus to L.A.’s explosion from a sleepy mid-sized burg into a mighty metropolis was indeed delivered by the settlement of the earliest film studios there, such that a televisual depiction of life in early-to-mid 20th century L.A. might have reasonably centered on a comediae personae bristling with the peccadillos of the set set ([sic] on the reduplication of set), and that even in the late 1990s vampire-from-a-crucifix-like revulsion from less than perfect weather may very well still have been characteristic of certain Angelenos, Angelenos who like three-fifths of the comediae personae of ILYK were fabulously wealthy or established in the film industry, by then the Angeleno was far better typified by the typical inhabitant of the Valley: lower-middle class, involved in a non-meta-cinematic trade or profession, and perfectly willing to take the vicissitudes of the weather in his stride. At times, ILYK itself acknowledges this (dead) sea change in L.A.’s Volksgeist, and indeed half-acknowledges it in its very first scene, wherein Robbie and Shrug are seated in a luxury convertible parked perpendicularly to the luxury shop fronts of a particularly upmarket street (perchance, Rodeo Drive?) and debating whether one of them owes the other $50,000 as a paunchy middle-aged white male construction worker noisily pulverizes the sidewalk in front of them with a jackhammer (a.k.a. pneumatic drill). “People like that,” Shrug says to Robbie, “make America great,” and Robbie, after concurring, ruefully concurs, “People like us don’t make America great.” Fortunately for the self-regard of both of them, Shrug is resourceful enough to rejoin, “People like us make America pleasant,” but by then the damage to the old Angelenan Volksgeist has been done: Los Angeles has been shewn to be inhabited by certain people essential to maintaining the general top-shelf American system of life, these people have been shewn to be different in social habitus from at least two-fifths of the comediae personae, and the upshot of a mid-run episode in which Robbie and Shrug journey to a motel dozens of miles from L.A. in search of “real American women” is gainsaid many months in advance. This register of naffness also permeates the show from the opposite direction, so to speak, in that social phenomena that had long since gone nationwide by the late 90s are recurrently presented as quintessentially Angelenan. In one episode the live televised pursuit of a private vehicle by the police brings all other activity in the city to a standstill as every non-immediately involved Angeleno tunes in and keeps his eyes glued to the tube for the duration of the chase. If one didn’t know better, as they say, one might well assume this episode dated from early 1994 at the latest, for in June of that year a genuinely overwhelming minority of Americans (i.e., 95 million persons or well over a third of the country’s then-current population), the genuinely overwhelming majority of them perforce based outside L.A., watched such a broadcast of such a pursuit, the pursuit of the sport-utility vehicle of O.J. Simpson-qua-murder suspect by an assortment of vehicles driven by officers of the Los Angeles Police Department. After that moment, any attempt to point out the absurdity of Angelenos’ car-chase spectatorship on behalf of the average American could not but seem far more absurd than Angelenan car spectatorship itself. But the Angelenification of American life had supervened much earlier in much more prosaic aspects thereof, and ILYK is (or was) no less keen to pretend that this supervention had never taken place, as is instanced by an episode centering on Robbie’s shamefacedness at dating a woman who is a full-time pedestrian. Of course, “in a certain very real sense” there is “much nature” (as our old friend Dr. Johnson would [have] put it) in this scenario: statistically speaking, the Missing Persons were quite right in asserting way back in 1982, “Nobody walks in L.A.,” and despite the development of a rudimentary subway system in the intervening years, by 1999 the full-time pedestrian population of L.A. was doubtless still effectively nil. But would the MPs not have been no less right (statistically speaking) in asserting, even as far back as 1982, “Nobody walks in Houston” or “Nobody walks in Phoenix” or perhaps even “Nobody walks in Chicago” or “Nobody walks in Poughkeepsie,” such that a counterfactual Robbie residing in one of these cities in 1999 would have been just as embarrassed as his actual L.A.-residing counterpart (to the extent that any fictional character can in any sense be actual [there is doubtless an entire career in academic philosophy embedded in the question of this extent]) to admit to dating a full-time pedestrian? Nay, in the mid-to-late 1980s, was not Margaret Thatcher, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, the country whose capital was (and had been and is) the birthplace of the first subway system in the world, the London Underground, and remained among the most mass transit-intensive cities in the world, reported to have said something to the effect of, “If you’re thirty and still taking the bus to work, you’re a loser”? Of course here nit-pickerly fact checkers-for-fact checking’s sake will lunge in to demur that it was most likely not Margaret Thatcher but some duchess or other who said something to this effect, but whether Maggie herself actually said this is quite beside the point: the fact that she was widely believed to have said it in ca. 1986 and yet managed to hold onto the premiership until 1990 shews that the sentiment was at least broadly expressive of the attitude of the Great British and Northern Irish people (very probably including those Northern Irish who tried to blow her up several times) towards pedestrians (or, if one insists on word-mincing for word-mincing’s sake [as after all even the present writer has insisted on doing on more than umpteen-million occasions], towards non-drivers [for a person who is moving by the aid of a vehicle is technically not a pedestrian even if he happens not to be driving that vehicle]).  The latish (d. 2019) journalist and television personality Clive James once said something to the effect of “Before you start making fun of Los Angeles, you should realize you’re already living in it.” (I’d like to be able, if only to avoid using the phrase “something to the effect of” twice on the same page, to quote this quip verbatim, but it does not turn up in any of the half-dozen “Clive James Quotes” lists in which I have just searched for it and in one of which I almost certainly originally [and, as of now, and only and finally] encountered it, about a decade ago. Perhaps it has since been “scrubbed” for one of the usual sinister reasons.) In saying this, James most likely meant something of the sort that pundits have historically always meant about Los Angeles whenever they have said something about it that they fancy is pithy. He most likely meant, namely, that inasmuch as Los Angeles was the site of Hollywood, and inasmuch as Hollywood was a “dream factory,” and inasmuch as every last swinging or jiggling appendage of a person in the Anglosphere was addicted to that factory’s products (namely, movies and TV shows) and indeed spent the preponderance of his or her time fantasizing about inhabiting the worlds conjured up in and by those products, that selfsame every last swinging or jiggling appendage of a person could be said to be living in those products, and hence, synecdochically in L.A. itself, “in a certain very real sense.” But what I would like to believe he meant was that the “lifestyle” (itself a quintessentially southern-Californian word, nicht?) classically associated with L.A.—a “lifestyle” dominated on the one hand by long commutes along multi-lane, dual-carriageway, limited-access roads while seated behind the wheel of one’s own car; and on the other by shopping binges in spacious air-conditioned indoor environments surrounded by acres of parking space—had become so pervasive in the Anglosphere that the average non-Angelenan would have been hard-pressed to distinguish the manner in or extent to which his mode of existence essentially differed from that of his typical Angelenan contemporary. I would like to believe he meant this because it is far less naff than the usual dollop of pundit’s pseudo-pith and also quite true. Of course to assert that it is true is not to deny that to this day there are millions of people in the Anglosphere who are not living the classic L.A. “lifestyle”—who spend little or no time driving on U.S.-Interstate-type roads or shopping in gigantic shopping malls. Indeed for a quarter-century that ended only three years ago, the quarter-century when he resided in Baltimore, the present writer lived a “lifestyle” that could have been made less L.A.-like only if he had joined the Amish. Throughout that quarter-century the present writer walked or took public transportation to virtually every destination and purchased almost everything for his everyday use from small independent retail establishments sited within a few miles of his abode. But at no point in that quarter-century could the present writer escape the sense of being a failure in the abovementioned Thatcherian sense—or, perhaps, not so much a failure as a fish out of water or dinosaur (or, yes, an extinct fish out of water), because although he was all the while making ends meet (and meat) he was all the while surrounded by evidences that almost everyone else even in his immediate propinquity was living the L.A.-like lifestyle, by privately owned-and-driven cars whizzing past him en route to the outermost suburbs, by office and barroom chit-chat on the latest bargains at so-called big-box stores that they could get to within minutes. And even though my neighborhood of residence was a densely built-up area that made full-time pedestrian living quite convenient, I could not have said the same of Baltimore as a whole (and by “Baltimore as a whole” I do not mean the massive five or six-county Baltimore metropolitan area but the tiny eighty-square-mile land-patch constituted by Baltimore City itself); for I had only to wander a quarter of a mile outside that neighborhood’s confines to find myself in much more lightly developed precincts. And within a mile-and-a-half of those precincts there was a dual-carriageway street or road called the Alameda. Whether the Baltimorean Alameda was named after Alameda street in Los Angeles is unknown to me; certainly, according to the online reference source of first resort, that Angelenan street is old enough to have served as a not merely coincidental namesake of the Baltimorean one, for it dates from the 1820s, when all the land eventually traversed by the Baltimorean Alameda lay well beyond the city limits and presumably consisted of a mixture of farmsteads and woodlands. And in any case—and perhaps of much more material significance here than any appeal to chronology or nomenclatural genealogy—the first time I watched an episode of ILYK from beginning to end and found myself being speedily guided along a tree-lined dual-carriageway street in its opening credits, I immediately suspected I was watching the wrong show, or that ILYK was, contrary to my recollection, set in Baltimore as well as in Los Angeles, for that street so closely resembled the Baltimorean Alameda that I knew quite well from several (if only several) bus trips to the shopping mall in suburban Towson and numerous cab rides to the houses of friends residing in less centrally situated neighborhoods of the city than my own, that I could not help mistaking it for the genuine article.  But why should that stretch of street or roadage or any other randomly selected bit of Los Angeles not have put me in mind of Baltimore given that for all its reputation “as one big suburb,” according to the online reference source of first resort, in the year 2000 Los Angeles had a population density of about 7,800 people per square mile or only a few hundred fewer people per square mile than Baltimore in that year (and a few hundred more people per square mile than Baltimore when I left it, in 2020)? Basically, the entire tableau reçu of Los Angeles as “one big suburb,” at least by the standards of American urban geography, is and always has been a crock. To be sure, if one defines ease of survival within a given delimited area according to the ability to get from any given point A to any given point B within that area, it is harder to survive as a pedestrian in Los Angeles than in most other American cities, but that is because Los Angeles occupies a much larger geographical footprint than those cities, not because it is less urban in geographical consistency. In point of fact, given that Los Angeles is appreciably more densely built up than the average American city, caeteris paribus it is appreciably easier to survive as a pedestrian there, given that greater population density tends to correlate, as they say, with closer proximity to commercial real estate—to places at or in which one may sell one’s labor and purchase essential provisions. Of course there is one—and really only one—American city that is so much more densely built up and populated than Los Angeles that in its most densely built-up neighborhoods it is rather more convenient than inconvenient to a be a more-or-less full-time pedestrian (although of course even in these neighborhoods anyone who can afford to do so will keep a car for vacations and occasional day-trips to the suburbs), namely, New York; and such being the case, ILYK’s episode centering on the full-time pedestrian might have been redeemed had it been recast as an episode satirizing her as an anomaly not vis-à-vis Los Angeles but vis-à-vis the United States en bloc  (perchance, further, as such an anomaly whom Arthur managed to lure away from Robbie by dint of his greater ability to “bond” with her merely in virtue of his greater experience as a full-time pedestrian in consequence of his longtime residence in NYC). And indeed, the New York of the late 1990s differed from the rest of the United States materially enough that (although even here, what with the vein in question’s having been heavily mined for decades, the naffness quotient is very high) a fair proportion of ILYK’s Arthur-mediated digs at L.A. and tributes to New York hit the mark. But as the historically situated character of the immediately preceding sentence intimates, these digs and tributes are best considered in the context of a discussion of the abovementioned virtuous ways in which ILYK is “very much a product of its time,” to which discussion I now proceed. First and very probably most, one notes (or at least I have noted or noticed) the clothes worn by the male three-fifths of the comediae personae. Robbie favors sporty-preppy long-sleeved button-down shirts of subdued solid dark hue (or one of the subdued tartan patterns associated with flannel) worn unbuttoned and untucked over tucked-in white undershirts and straight-legged lightly stonewashed jeans held up with leather rope-belts. Shrug’s wardrobe is a striking but ultimately subtle variation on Robbie’s: solid bright-hued (electric blue seems to be his preferred color) long-sleeved non-button-collar Continental-cut shirts worn buttoned up and untucked over khaki chino slacks. I own I have no recollection of either man’s shoes. Perhaps they were not seen often enough in the frame to stick in my mind. I find myself reflexively inclined to paste Timberlane-type hiking boots onto Robbie and low-key Nike-type running shoes onto Shrug, but if this impulse arises from memory, that memory is an “unconscious” one. The style comprised by these two wardrobes is quite familiar to me in an almost cloyingly gemütlich sort of way, and how could it not be, given that barring the rope belts and the imaginary shoes it is virtually indistinguishable from my own sartorial habitus in my leisure hours of the 90s and indeed only slightly distinguishable from my leisure-hour sartorial habitus today—distinguishable therefrom, that is, inasmuch as I never wear jeans now and always tuck my shirt in before leaving my abode? And yet these men are presented to us as leading lights of Los Angeles’s beau monde such as it was—multi-millionaires if not semi-billionaires who live in palatial mansions and rub elbows and shoulders with movie stars, whereas I have always been a social and financial nonentity. Does it not “say something,” as they say, about the very late 1990s that a television sitcom produced and set in that micro-epoch could present the masculine sartorial habitus of its ruling elite as one attainable by a man of far less than modest means and station?  Arthur’s wardrobe is unsurprisingly set off from Robbie and Shrug’s: as the wardrobe of a New Yorker it is obviously meant to seem more formal than theirs and to exude an aura of greater sophistication. And yet it is not all that different, the only garment (apologies for the lowercase echo of the character’s surname [whose symbolic significance continues to elude me, for if à la Joseph Surface’s surname it were meant to signify that he is shallow and superficial, that he is all “trappings and suits” and has nothing “within that passes show,” would not this signification undermine the show’s critique of Los Angeles as the world capital of depthlessness?] but it really can’t be helped) that is manifestly absent from that of the two other men is his sport coat or blazer, which is indeed conspicuous by its ubiquity irrespective of social setting, at least in the early episodes. But it is not an insufferably super-preppy navy-blue blazer with brass buttons but rather a comparatively egalitarian one with a subdued hound’s tooth pattern, a blazer that a Midwestern public high-school math teacher of the time would not have found too snooty for the classroom; and he never wears this blazer with a tie but rather always over an open-collared shirt, and the shirt in each case is impossible to distinguish from one of Robbie’s sedater ones. And while he always tucks this shirt in, he tucks it into jeans that are likewise indistinguishable from Robbie’s. And to be sure, while his shoes are always black lace-up dress brogues (is it merely accidental that I remember his shoes and not the other men’s, or did the “creators” or directors go out of their way to give them prominence?), they are shoes of a make and style that I have been wearing for thirty years despite having not had more than a minuscule shoe budget at my disposal at any point in the past three-tenths of a century. To specify what exactly three men of the same age and circumstances would wear in the actual world of 2023 is difficult for the present writer for reasons that he in turn has difficulty specifying. He conjectures that one of these reasons is the fuzziness or patchiness of his acquaintance with the couture of his slightly younger male contemporaries owing partly in turn to his tenacious adherence (to the admittedly woefully inadequate extent made possible by today’s clothing retailers) to the sartorial habitus of his youth; and that another of them is his suspicion that men who are now both as old as Robbie, Shrug, and Arthur were then (or still are now in the timeless world of “fiction”) and are actually living in circumstances even roughly analogous to the ones in which they were (or still are) living do not now exist in statistically significant numbers. In any case, whether on any reliable empirical foundation or not, he can at least say that he at least initially imagines one such man wearing a narrow-lapeled two-button solid-gray two-piece business suit at least three sizes too small for him over an open-collared white dress shirt with its top three buttons unbuttoned (and no undershirt underneath) and another such man in a short-sleeved untucked button-up shirt that is at least three sizes two large for him, a shirt that is indistinguishable in cut from the type called Hawaiian but patterned in an entirely different but no less loud or off-putting way, over a pair of taper-legged jeans so tight-fitting that one can almost see the gooseflesh of the wearer’s scrotum through them. But on further exertion of his imaginative faculty, he finds himself picturing—and picturing with a degree of conviction that meets but does not exceed that of the previous pair of images—any such man as togged out in a dark gray so-called hoodie (more specifically one discolored by stains of uncertain provenance, stains that may as likely have been caused by a fresh outpouring of sweat as by an ancient outpouring of pasta sauce) and a pair of knee-length so-called gym shorts so close and yet so distant in hue to and from that of the hoodie that one can be certain that no thought has been given to the coordination of the two garments (apologies again for the lowercase namesake), that each of them was selected entirely at hazard from a jumble of identically genred garments, most likely directly from the laundry basket (or even moster likely, dirty-clothes hamper). In short, whereas the outfits of all the men of ILYK were and are signalized by a combination of grace and comfort, I picture these latter-day quasi-analogous outfits as ensembles that at their very best, as in the case of the business suit, have their smattering of grace nearly fatally undermined by their manifest uncomfortableness and at their worst, as in the case of the hoodie-and-shorts pairing, have utterly sacrificed grace to comfort. The attentive reader will have noticed that unlike in my description of the outfits of the men of ILYK, I have not differentiated any of these conjectural outfits by locale, that I have not assigned any one or two of them to Los Angeles and the other one or two to New York, and this is because I cannot conceive of any of them as more characteristic of either city than of the other. I suppose one might be more inclined to think of the business suit as a smidge more new-yorkais than the others simply in virtue of its genre’s intrinsic heightened formality, but if one does, I do not share one’s inclination inasmuch as I associate such a business suit most closely with musclebound sportscasters and tend to think of sportscasters as provincial louts, and while the shirt of the middle outfit certainly seems more L.A.-ish in virtue of its quasi-Hawaiian-ness, the tight jeans thereof are decidedly reminiscent of the original New York punk milieu of the mid-to-late 1970s. And of course, the gym-going or jogging outfit is specifically evocative of neither city simply because gym-going and jogging are equally common and popular in both of them. Assuming that these three outfit-images have arisen out of and atop at least some reliable-ish empirical foundation, one might draw some valid and potentially non-naff inferences from them, and I intend to draw just such inferences –but only once I have begun binding together sheaves of inferences of parallel purport from certain entities that have yet to enter the scene of my argument. At the moment I am obliged to invite onto that selfsame scene a pair of those certain entities—viz., the sartorial habituses of the female two-fifths of the comediae personae of ILYK. For after all, merely in asserting as I have done that the clothes worn by the  male three-fifths of the comediae personae number among the virtuous ways in which ILYK is “very much a product of its time” I have ungallantly and therefore provocatively implied that the sartorial habituses of the female two-fifths thereof do not number among those virtuous ways (or, indeed any other virtuous ways, for I have already made plain that I think that in the ways in which ILYK is throwbackish it is not virtuous, thus precluding the possibility of Jennifer and Lauren’s being togged out in Empire dresses or shirtwaists and shoe-length skirts). But the provoked gentlemen (for I scorn to think that my male empirical readers would be so ungallant as to let the female ones defend the honor of their sex themselves!) may find themselves thinking twice about slapping me about the face with their gloves and sending for their seconds once I have explicated my implication, for the truth is that while I do not regard Jennifer and Lauren’s ways of dressing as downright virtuous I am far from thinking these ways downright vicious, and indeed, I would go so far as to say that I at least regard them as comparatively virtuous, as better ways of dressing than one would see in the leading ladies of a sitcom made today (if, that is, one qua nom de guerre for “I” had ever clapped eyes on a sitcom made in 2023, for I am not sure if I have seen a sitcom more recently produced than the first season of Miranda, which must date from the late twenty-oughties at the earliest).  It’s just that these habitus habituum mulierum don’t prompt one (or at least [not] me) to shout aloud at the screen, “You just don’t see women dressing that way any more!” in aghast admiration as did, for instance, Geena Davis’s outfits in David Cronenberg’s version of The Fly when I saw that film for the very first time in about 2019. Jennifer Grey’s outfits always simply seem natural in a relatively timeless way for the relatively timeless type she embodies—viz., the woman of easy virtue who takes especial pains to preserve her “girlish figure” and generally look as immediately appealing to men as possible. And lest anyone find this characterization especially harshly “sexist” or “misogynistic,” I must point out that it is repeatedly seconded by Jennifer herself at scads of points throughout the series (and lest one demur that here Jennifer is merely ventriloquizing the “sexism” or “misogyny” of the show’s writers, I must point out that ILYK’s most prominent writer  was Seinfeld’s Carol Leifer). She is always going out of her way to mention how frequently or recently she has slept with this or that dude. In this respect, as mentioned above, she is very much like Seinfeld’s Elaine, but she is not exactly like her therein, for Elaine was always at least nominally “dating” her coition-partners and therefore not averse at least to shacking up with them with them at least in principle (and indeed perhaps even in practice in at least one case, that of David Putty), whereas Jennifer makes no bones whatsoever about regarding coition as a contact sport played in a succession of pickup games with first-time partners-cum-opponents. (To some extent this unapologetic promiscuity can be chalked up to her métier as an actress with its institution of the so-called casting couch, but only to a very limited extent, as a significantly high proportion of these partners-cum-opponents, including Robbie, hail from outside “the industry.”) Accordingly, she is on the whole much more flashily and skimpily attired than Elaine, favoring bright-hued short-sleeved shirts or blouses worn above skirts short enough barely to skirt the top of an entirely bare kneecap-to-ankle stretch terminating at the groundward end in less-than-entirely sensible shoes (i.e., pumps or heels). It isn’t a look that I find particularly appealing, but I certainly wouldn’t kick it (let alone the woman displaying it) out of bed for eating crackers, as they say. As for Lauren, she is almost perpetually clad in a slightly more formal and ocularly ingratiating version of the abovementioned gym-cum-jogging outfit—viz., a light-hued hoodie and full-length light-hued sweatpants that unlike those of the abovementioned gym-cum-jogging outfit do always seem to be well matched with their upper body-covering complement. Perhaps not quite needless to say, despite its aesthetic superiority to its masculine counterpart of 2023, I don’t care for this outfit at all, but I appreciate its diagetic plausibility and utility: I understand that it is more or less exactly the sort of outfit one would expect a combination masseuse-and-process server of the micro-epoch to wear. And in truth, Laurel-stroke-A.J. is so insuperably pretty, so indisputably one of those women who would look good in more-than-figuratively anything (gallantry precludes my interjection of the boilerplate masculine follow-up to the immediately preceding clause) that one can’t in good faith complain about the outfit; it certainly would have been nice to see her togged out in a more elegant and more emphatically feminine ensemble, but one never finds oneself thinking of her two-piece tracksuit along lines even remotely comparable to those along which Kramer thought of Audrey’s nose. And of course it must be said in favor of an outfit so unrevealing, so baggy and comprehensive, that it at least gives the viewer no cause to impugn Laurel’s modesty, a virtue that she is dramaturgically compelled to preserve in being the incessant object of the amorous yearnings of Arthur. (At this point I should perhaps apologize for not having mentioned earlier that ILYK departs quite drastically from Seinfeld’s “no hugs” policy in thus making the prospect of a sustained liaison between two of its central characters a central plot-thread. I suppose it is mildly tempting to flag this as yet another instance of retardataire naffness, but I ultimately prefer to think of it as a harmless concession to the enormous popularity this thread-genre had enjoyed in NBC’s sitcom roster since the premiere of Seinfeld, specifically in the Ross and Rachel-centered will they?/won’t they? subplot in Friends and [even more proto-ILYKishly] Niles’s long-undeclared enamorment with Daphne in Frasier.  In any case, ILYK’s larger [i.e., than Seinfeld’s] comediae personae still left plenty of room for non-meta-amorously-laden intra-cast banter, and the short lifespan of ILYK mercifully spared its writers the ever-embarrassing problem of what to do with prospective amours when they congeal into “relationships,” and its viewers the pain of sitting through its version of the ever-unsatisfactory attempt to resolve this problem.)  And in connection with this modesty, even in the midst of our deprecation of the athleisureliness of Laurel’s wardrobe as a wardrobe-in-itself—as a wardrobe presented for wearing not by insuperably pretty women alone but by women of all degrees of attractiveness—we must be thankful that a certain garment of present-day feminine atheleisurewear was not yet available to her, or if materially available to her, then decidedly forbidden to her by the late 90s’ standards of decency, as categorically forbidden thereby, indeed, as any garment more revealing than the birthday suit itself.  I am referring, of course, to so-called yoga pants (or, in grammatically strict terms, the pair of yoga pants); otherwise known as leggings (or, in grammatically strict terms, the pair of leggings). For in virtue of their super-tight form-fitting properties, and their consequent revelation of the minutest and most intimate contours of the feminine form, together with their (at least to the present writer’s mind) incomprehensible embracement by women of all walks of life and social strata, Yoga pants have obliterated the distinction between modesty and immodesty in feminine couture by rendering flagrant immodesty universal and ubiquitous. Not that there are not still Occidental women who do not at least occasionally “dress up” in a way that is recognizably continuous with the formal modes of earlier epochs (although such women almost certainly constitute a smaller proportion of the female Occidental population than they did a quarter-century ago and, as with the abovementioned ill-fitting present-day men’s business suit, the present modes are markedly aesthetically inferior to their predecessors) but that even the up-dressing of these women is nullified qua index of modesty by their unselfconscious self-presentation in Yoga pants in almost every informal public setting. Nobody who has seen a woman repeatedly in Yoga pants at the supermarket or shopping mall is likely to be intimidated by the sight of her in an evening dress or skirt suit. (To be sure, the bikini had long since greatly undermined the semiotic efficacy of more female formal jib-cuts, but the confinement of beach vacations to a tiny fraction of the calendar year and to places far from the vacationers’ regular abodes had imparted a mitigating aura of the carnivalesque to bikini-wearing.) And the longer Yoga pants enjoy universal acceptance as feminine casualwear, the lesser the likelihood that any empirical viewer of IYLK apart from the present writer (perhaps along with the former JamesCanavanWagner, if he has not already forgotten that he ever uploaded his IYLK air checks to the Chewb) will be able to appreciate the semiotic valences of Lauren’s wardrobe vis-à-vis Jennifer’s, to understand that Lauren by dressing the way she dresses is presenting herself as a nice and relatively chaste girl and Jennifer by dressing the way she dresses is presenting herself as more than something of a good-time girl and floozy. After all, we have probably already outlived the last person capable of appreciating the semiotic valences of the outfits worn by characters in movies and TV shows produced on the far side of the previous meta-sartorial divide, the one separating the “square” 50s from the “swinging” 60s. In the eyes of everyone younger than these characters’ exact contemporaries (or, to be more ontologically precise, the exact contemporaries of the actors who played them) the outfits favored by them in their most casual hours have always seemed semi-formal at casualest because they are far more formal than any casual outfit worn anywhere but on the set of a(n) historical drama since ca. 1964, and I strongly suspect that any present-day viewer of ILYK under the age of 40 [and indeed many a present-day viewer thereof over that age {for rare is the oldster who retains his youthful understanding about what is fitting and natural uncorrupted by the degenerate habits and attitudes of his younger contemporaries}] will find the outfits favored by its comediae personae (the male and female components thereof alike) far too formal for present-day relaxed-fitted comfort. And now that I have opened the worm-can—or, to recast the metaphor in positivity-accenting terms, monkey-barrel—of disparagement of the 2020s on the sartorial plane, I might as well plough straight ahead into my itemization of all the points at which ILYK points up the increasing barbarization of the world since the dawn of the century-cum-millennium. These points occur so early and often in the show that I fear this essay is doomed to meet a Tristram Shandy-esque fate—in other words, abandonment by the author when its subject is still in its childhood (or, in this case, by strict arithmetical analogy, its fifth or sixth episode), simply because hundreds of pages of material will have been produced by then and proceeding any further would wear out the author’s patience along with the reader’s. Indeed, we have already encountered the very first of these points in the abovementioned moment in the pilot’s opening scene when Shrugg flags a white male middle-aged construction worker as an example of the people who “make America great.” It goes without saying that such a moment would never be written, let alone filmed, now for fear—nay, for certainty—that it would be universally regarded as a so-called dog whistle to Trump supporters, a veritable hypersonic clarion call to white-supremacist insurrection. In 1999, the moment worked—at least for the roughly double-dozen people involved in its production—because in 1999 any white-male construction worker at work would have been interpellated—and this by any American regardless of his race, sex, etc.—first and foremost not as a white male but as a construction worker, and because “making America great” would have been understood to mean making America universally admired for universally admirable attributes (including well-maintained sidewalks and their subterranean infrastructure kept in good repair with the indispensable aid of capably wielded jackhammers), not purging it of the entire non-white portion of its population. The very next scene featuring Shrugg and Robbie (this being the third scene of the show, the intervening one being the airplane interior-set one that introduces Arthur and Lauren) lobs another now-unfilmable moment at the viewer: Robbie asks Shrugg, “If you could go back in time, would you rather go back to the invasion of Normandy or Normandy Street and [some intersecting street whose name escapes me] during the 1992 Rodney King riots?” (The framing of the question is throwbackish to exactly the same short but noticeable temporal extent as the abovementioned car-chase centered episode, recalling as it does the improvised mini-quizzes in such mid-90s oh-so-Gen-X media productions as Reality Bites, Kicking and Screaming, and the “Ginger-or Maryanne?” Budweiser commercial.) Shrugg unhesitatingly replies, “The invasion of Normandy.” When Robbie understandably evinces skepticism, what with Normandy Beach during the allied invasion having been a literal war zone and Normandy & Whatever Streets during the 1992 riots having been a merely figurative one, Shrugg explains: “Black people just don’t like me.”  Here is another moment in which there is “much nature” in the Johnsonian sense: would it not be entirely reasonable for a white person in 1999 or 1992, or indeed in any other year of American history to date, to assume that black people generally dislike him? And such being the case, would it not be entirely rational in that white person to avoid the scene of a riot motivated by resentment of certain white people’s treatment of a certain black person? But of course received opinion of 2023 paradoxically cries “Amen!” to the first of these rhetorical  questions while interjecting “Whoa, whoa, whoa!” with both palms raised against the second. Of course, the bienpensant of the present anno domini concedes, black people dislike white people, and have every legitim—, erm, or rather just, reason to dislike them, what with the United States’ having been an essentially and exhaustively white supremacist polity ab initio, but (so this bienpensant continues) that dislike ought by no means to be adduced by a white person as grounds for his declining to visit the scene of the Rodney King riots: first, because those riots were the most notable precursor to the George Floyd Riots of 2020, the most important event in American history, and King a sort of King David to Floyd’s Christ, such that any threat to the perdurance of one’s biological existence posed by one’s presence at that scene perforce must cut a very miserable figure indeed alongside the privilege of being present on such sacred ground at such a holy moment; second, because precisely because ([sic] on the repetition of because) the United States has always been a white supremacist polity, any white person should positively welcome any opportunity to sacrifice the perdurance of his biological existence to righteous black anger. Then no sooner has Grey made her first appearance than she is announcing her intention to write a “relationship”-help book for gay men entitled Men Are from Mars, Men Are from Mars (i.e., in pointed contrast to the 1992 bestselling “relationship”-help book for heterosexual couples, Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus). Here again we have a “nature”-oozing moment, for the title of the counterfactual book points up an (even then) all-too-infrequently acknowledged attribute of homosexual couples that makes them qualitatively different from heterosexual couples–viz., their constitution by persons of identical sex. Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus argued banally but not untruthfully that both the conflict and mystery of heterosexual coupledom arise from the fact that men and women think differently. Accordingly, the title Men Are from Mars, Men Are from Mars ineluctably implies, no more untruthfully and much less banally, that homosexual couples are perforce defective in both conflict and mystery—and hence perforce less interesting than heterosexual couples—because people of the same sex think alike. Such an implication is of course anathema today because bienpensant received opinion now holds that conventional heterosexuality is the least interesting form of eroticism and that the less like conventional heterosexuality a given erotic proclivity is the more interesting it is.  But the implication works in the “universe” of ILYK because that “universe” is unabashedly “heteronormative.” “Not that,” in Seinfeldian parlance, it holds “that there’s anything wrong with” homosexuality, but that like Seinfeld it makes no bones about centering on a group of people who are exclusively interested in coiting with members (in two or more senses!) of the opposite sex and feel no pressure to make any bones about the exclusivity of this interest. Indeed, as near as I can recall it overshoots (!) the Seinfeldian “heteronormative” remit in not even featuring an episode with a single openly gay character (for Seinfeld does after all feature that one episode in which Jerry is frowardly offended at not being taken for an openly gay man’s paramour). In almost every episode of ILYK, homosexuality, to say nothing of even more niche sexual proclivities, is as little in evidence as in an episode of Leave It to Beaver or The Dick Van Dyke Show. The sole exception that I can think of apart from the pilot is some episode about halfway through the second season (so much for treating of the barbarization up-pointing moments in sequential order) when Robbie and Arthur briefly debate whether the degree of flirtatious attention they have received from gay men correlates positively or negatively with their chances of “scoring” with women. And at about the same late point in the series homosexuality is obliquely glanced at in a certain jocular fashion, but so obliquely and jocularly that I would not even have glanced at this at-glancing at all, however obliquely or jocularly, if it did not point up the barbarization of 21st-century life in relation to a different (if related) phenomenon—viz., so-called sexual harassment. At this moment Arthur, having reluctantly accepted a position as a book critic at a newspaper (I believe it is even mentioned by name as The Los Angeles Times [ILYK’s prevailingly Angelophobic Schaugeist virtually enjoined it to bid defiance to anyone who would have sensibly demurred that the LAT was a serious organ of journalism and “arguably” even superior to the NYT in certain departments]), is required to purchase “sexual harassment insurance” against the possibility of his making unwanted amorous overtures toward his secretary, and in order to assess his risk for the behavior for the purpose of setting his premium, the insurance company sends a conspicuously attractive female agent (played by Mimi Rogers) to his house (or, rather, Robbie’s house, where he is still residing) to comport herself towards him in a calculatedly arousing manner. When he reacts by unambiguously making a pass at her, the company concludes that he is too high a risk to be insured at all. And so instead of assigning to Arthur the attractive young woman who had been tentatively selected for him, the paper saddles him with a weedy, dweeby, skittish young male assistant. Predictably if amusingly enough, within a few days of starting to work for him, the young man successfully accuses Arthur of sexual harassment on the basis of the briefest of instants of involuntary physical contact. Of course this episode is a veritable flowchart of a currently impracticable dramaturgical entity, not one of whose essential components would have been mooted let alone approved in a writing room of 2023. Merely in centering on sexual harassment the episode unpardonably makes light of an experience now generally understood to be only slightly less traumatic than fully penetrative rape; in presenting the young man’s accusation as well-nigh more than figuratively preposterous it both anticipatively travesties the commandment to believe all women and (i.e., because to imply that it is absurd corollarily implies that same-sex attraction is rare) reaffirms the show’s heteronormative orientation; and in presenting the accuser as sniveling and cowardly it champions “toxic masculinity” by implying that men should be able to stand up for themselves in handling their points of contention with other men. An episode featuring a cop show starring Siamese twins, one of whom charms Lauren into going on a date with him and consequently renders his brother a third wheel in a materially more-nearly-literal-than usual sense, would of course now receive an instant and un-overridable-veto from the disability-cum-accessibility lobby (even if the envelope pushed by this conceit is ultimately withdrawn back into with imperturbable snugness when it turns out that the twins are actually two fully freestanding and two-armed fellows under their shared shirt). An episode in which Jennifer (with a typically hyper-bemused Shrug in tow) zealously attends a candlelight vigil for a death-row inmate only to snuff out her taper when her fancy is caught by a hunky clean-cut man (today he would be called a “chad”) participating in a sympatric pro-death penalty demonstration naturally reminds one that ILYK hails from the by-now-proverbially less divided pre-blue states-versus-red states America, when people of even the most stridently divergent political outlooks could still be not only friends but even “friends with benefits” [not that that phrase was yet current then]. But no sooner had I been reminded of the ante-rubracerulean provenance of this episode and begun to look forward to immersing myself in a long warm bath of nostalgia for the deuxième fin de siècle (a bath whose aromatic salts naturally would have been heavily sourced from other moments in ILYK that I have approvingly remarked on in the preceding pages of this essay) than I realized that for all its preferability to anything still makeable, ILYK fairly bristled with moments that pointed up certain unwholesome continuities between the America of the very-late late 1990s and America of the very-late early 2020s; of moments at which it became evident that in many ways and registers, America of the very-late 1990s was already shaping up to become the America of, let us say, the early-late 20-teens-and-since (and I must emphasize that by the America of ca.-2016 onwards I mean an America that was [and is] bad in a way that is specifically characteristic of America of ca.-2016 onwards; for, for all my comparative nostalgia for it as evinced in the immediately preceding pages, by my ultra-reactionary standards very-late-1990s America was or were [even as I was living in it] a fly-blown cesspit even in the most specific and characteristic of its aspects in which it had least steeply declined from the America of earlier micro-epochs).  For example, in the abovementioned episode featuring the Siamese twins-starring cop show, on taking in the opening credits of the program, Arthur exasperatedly remarks, “Great: you [i.e., you people who make television-drama programs] can’t manage to show blacks, Hispanics, or Asians, but you’ve got room for Siamese twins.” This is a decidedly bemusing line because taken at face value it cannot but quite erroneously imply that blacks, Hispanics, and Asians were completely absent from American  television screens in the very late 1990s and least debatably imply that this absence in itself and on its own constituted a lack of something absolutely indispensable to good television—or perhaps, rather, and what comes to the same thing (i.e., inasmuch as Arthur’s point of view is implicitly presented as normative here), a lack of something indispensable to the idea of good television harbored by Arthur Garment qua upper-middle-class Jewish New Yorker whose favorite author was John Updike (for in a certain episode Arthur mentions that Mr. Updike is his favorite author). In reality, of course, such a person as Arthur Garment’s idea of good television would have been Seinfeld (which Arthur Garment himself could have watched, at least in reruns, for in a certain episode of ILYK Larry David is mentioned by name as the co-creator of Seinfeld), a show with no “people of color” in its comediae personae. Of course Seinfeld had scads of “people of color” in its supporting cast, and even a few (e.g., the lawyer Jackie Chiles, George’s immediate superior in the Yankees hierarchy, Mr. Morgan [did he even have a first name?] and the Pakistani restaurateur whose entire name escapes me [at this moment I hear in my mind’s ear the “Soup Nazi” saying “You’re pushing your luck little man!”]) in its cast of returning supporting characters, but this peripheral presence presumably retrospectively smacked of “tokenism” in the eyes (or against the bottom) of ILYK’s ex-Seinfeldian writers, who by then (but only then) probably felt guilty about working on yet another show with an all-white comediae personae. So in Arthur’s complaint we see an early affichage of one of the cardinal articles (if not the cardinal article) of the early twenty-first-century Hollywood producer’s credo—viz., that the realistic (sic on the absence of inverted commas) depiction of white people hanging out mainly with other white people in any setting is in itself “racist” however amply nonwhites may be represented in other tableaux, an article whose effectuation has resulted in the manifestly unrealistic (sic again on the absence of quotation marks) depiction of every non-“legacy” amorous couple (i.e., any such couple old enough to have been already in existence before the dawn of the millennium [say, Ross and Rachel from Friends as reunited in some counterfactual proper diagesis-resuscitating reunion show as against the mere cast-reuniting Friends reunion show that was actually produced back in ’21 or ’22]) in every movie, TV show, and commercial as either all-BIPOC or interracial. (In this complaint, incidentally, we also see an early manifestation of another lamentable trend in twenty-first-century cinema and television—viz., galloping amnesia-cum-obtuseness-cum-po-facedness in relation to phenomena addressed earlier with the exactly appropriate proportions of perceptiveness and humor. For Seinfeld had already adequately dealt with white guilt about mere whiteness qua whiteness in that episode in which Elaine continues dating a man just because she thinks he is black while he continues dating her just because he thinks she is Hispanic, and in which when they simultaneously discover they are both “just white,” Elaine gamely proposes a visit to the then-excellent  [for I have an all-leather belt that I purchased thereat in 1996 and that continues to do me yeoman’s {if not yo man’s}] service] if admittedly undeniably “soul”-less clothier The Gap.) Moreover, the stilted, census-box-ticking wording of Arthur’s plaint “blacks, Hispanics, or Asians” anticipates a complementary (and even more bizarre) article of the credo—viz., that the mere fact of not being white constitutes a kind of social crazy-glue uniting all “BIPOC”s in more-than-figurative indissoluble commensality; although this article had probably already been more graphically presaged by a scene from the sitcom News Radio (I say probably not because I am in any doubt as to the greater graphicity of News Radio’s presaging but because News Radio’s original run overlapped with that of ILYK by five-and-three-sevenths weeks—the period comprising March 24, 1999 [the airdate of the last episode of News Radio] and May 4, 1999 [the airdate of the first episode of ILYK]—and as I have only seen the presaging scene in a now-unlocatable Cheewbial montage of NR scenes, I don’t know at which point in NR’s run it aired (although the gimmicky character of the about-to-be-mentioned governing conceit certainly suggests a post “shark-jumping” date).  News Radio, as its name suggests but does not necessarily promise, was set in or at a radio station, and the presaging scene occurs in an episode whose governing conceit consists in affording the reader a glimpse of each of the disaffected station employees’ fantasies of the station as they would like to see it constituted, and the fantasy of the station’s only black employee, its female secretary, centers on the break room, in which at lunchtime she is joined by another black person, an east-Asian person, a Muslim man (we know he’s a Muslim because she addresses him as “Mohammed” [whence my specification of his sex {for I have semi-forgotten that of the other three}]), and an Hispanic person, who all commiserate with her on finally being able to get away from the white folks if only for a few blissful minutes. To be sure, I find it easy enough to believe that a black woman in that secretary’s position would have felt alienated in being surrounded entirely by white people during her work day and yearn for at least a few of them to be replaced with black people (even if I find it extremely hard to believe that I would ever feel particularly un-alienated in being surrounded entirely by other white people during mine, seeing as how I worked for more than twenty years in an extremely “diverse” office environment and the coworkers I found most off-putting were certain fellow-whiteys who would perversely congregate near my cubicle for water-cooler chinwags about the latest installment of Game of Thrones even though an actual water cooler stood a mere twenty paces from me). But I find the notion that a congeries of representatives of non-black non-white ethnicities would have pleased such a woman as much as an equal number of members of her own “community” downright laughable—and so will anyone who has spent a week in any part of America more ethnically heterogeneous than mid-twentieth-century Omaha. But perhaps, improbable as it might seem, for all the impeccability of the Seinfeldian credentials of the most illustrious among them, ILYK’s writing team did not come to the series with such a minimum quantum of time spent in such an America-part under their collective belt. Such, at any rate, is the impression imparted by the treatment accorded to Jesse Jackson in an episode wherein he, or rather, presumably some actor impersonating him (for, at the instar of Seinfeld’s presentation of one of its most celebrated recurring characters, George Steinbrenner, Jackson is only ever seen face-down on Lauren’s massage table [the device is recycled on at least one other occasion, and quite a delightfully “edgy” one, the above glanced-at one in which Jennifer is stalked by Slobodan Milosevic {whose portraying actor is therein concealed by way of strategically placed shadows}]) figures as one of Lauren’s massage clients. To be sure, Jackson is not accorded wall-to-wall po-faced reverence à la the real Stacey Abrams appearing in the role of the president of the galactic federation in that episode of Star Trek from a year or two ago: we learn that the entire reason he is in Los Angeles is to close the deal on a movie about a prospective all-black space mission called Do the Right Stuff; this is a flourish that obviously makes light of Jackson’s “civil rights activism” and unflatteringly affiliates it with Spike Lee’s incendiary cinematic race-hustling. Still, the tone of the satire directed against Jackson is jovially Horatian throughout: he good-naturedly exchanges small talk with Lauren as she kneads his neck, eventually evincing enough “empathy” with her entire circle to offer kindly “relationship” advice to another member of the comediae personae (Arthur, if I’m not mistaken) who happens to stop by. And when this by-stopper happens to receive a telephone call from a third member of the comediae personae while he’s there, he jocularly but by no means scornfully explains his presence there by saying something to the effect of, “I’m doing my bit for civil rights.” In short, the episode gives the viewer every reason to suppose that the makers of ILYK have swallowed, or would like to make him believe they have swallowed, Jackson’s self-presentation as a selfless, disinterested campaigner for the dispossessed H, L, and S; that they are ignorant or willfully heedless of any part of his multi-decade long history of sh*t-talking, blarnifying, charlatanry, and chicanery, of the shameless exploitation of “civil rights” as the flimsiest of screens for gluttonous self-enrichment and the wanton propagation of barbarity.  I cannot but suppose that such naïve JJ-fellation would not have been in evidence in any sitcom made ten years or even five years earlier. True, Lorne Michaels let JJ host Saturday Night Live in 1984, but SNL- hosting spots have always been double-edged swords both in conception and in execution; to be offered one is to be offered an opportunity not only to strut one’s untested stuff as a thespian but also to make a thoroughpaced ass of oneself.  True, Michaels himself doubtless supported Jackson’s presidential candidacy in ’84, but the hosting gig, in postdating the Democrats’ National Convention in which Walter Mondale was chosen as the party’s nominee, could at best have served as a consolation prize for his failure to secure the nomination, and Michaels doubtless would not have dreamt of offering JJ the spot before the convention—both because his behavior would have been as likely to reduce as to increase his minuscule chances of receiving the Democratic nomination, and because the majority of SNL’s viewers, for all their presumable “liberalness,” could not have shared his enthusiasm for Jackson and hence would have been bound to resent the exploitation of SNL as a platform for the Jackson campaign. After all, JJ’s brazenly anti-Semitic disparagement of New York City as “Hymietown” at the beginning of the year could not but have been fresh in their minds, and many of them would not have forgotten his not yet-ancient tall tale-telling about his whereabouts and actions on the day of Martin Luther King’s assassination. And JJ certainly did not trick anyone into regarding him as a conciliatory civil-rights activist à la MLK (or at least, which comes to the same thing public opinion-wise, MLK as imagined by the mass of Americans thanks to judicious posthumous sound-biting) as the 80s progressed, what with his full-throated bellowing of “Hey Ho, Hey Ho, Western Civ has got to go!” through a bullhorn on the campus of Stanford University in 1987.  In short, by the dawn of the 90s, Jesse Jackson had enjoyed a long and distinguished career of failing to fool anyone outside his so-called base (and probably even a goodly proportion of people within that so-called base), a sufficiently long and distinguished one, indeed, to lead one to take for granted that he would never be vouchsafed the hearty dose of credulous good will he was destined to receive from and on ILYK. But when I “fast forward” from pseudo-JJ’s appearance on ILYK to the early 2020s, I find JJ’s feting therein a relatively mild anticipation of the reflexively unqualified adulation and credence accorded to the coarsest race-hustlers today. After all, JJ did at least emerge from the original civil rights movement, a movement that had enjoyed a reasonably well-founded fund of credibility; whereas today’s most celebrated ethnically correct denouncers of “whiteness” are people who were traffickers in manifest untruths ab initio; for example, the “Reverend” Al Sharpton, a man who divides his schedule more or less evenly between peremptorily holding forth as a pundit on the flagship shows of the mainstream news networks and delivering eulogies at the funerals of persons officially deemed to have been killed by “racism,” first arose to national prominence as the perpetrator of a racial-rape hoax that made him an object of universal scorn and ridicule, a byword for shameless race-baiting that bade fair to outlive Samuel Mudd, Pearl Harbor, and Pee-Wee Herman in point of infamy. That that byword has instead become as unintelligibly obsolete as “prenzie” is of course owing to the obliteration of any conceptual distinction between a race-baiter and the airer of a genuine racial grievance, to the development of the racial equivalent of “believe all women” from a slogan into a presupposition. Pseudo-Jesse Jackson’s appearance on ILYK would therefore seem to mark a turning point in the Weltgeist or the moment of the Weltgeist’s first consumption of a sort of gateway drug leading to the “stronger stuff” that would eventually result in complete blindness to race-baiting. “True,” ILYK’s writers may have collectively concluded at the end of lengthily “workshopping” the inclusion of pseudo-JJ in one of their scripts, “JJ has lied a lot and is more than a bit of a dick, but his heart must have originally been in the right place, what with his having been pals with MLK, so let’s not make him look too silly in this episode.” Twenty-something years later, the show-runners of any sort of network program would make it their first order of show-running business to hop on the blower to get in touch with Al Sharpton’s “people” in the ardent hope of recruiting him as an all-purpose “expert” on the assumption that because he was a black man decrying racism he must be absolutely right about absolutely everything. And one sees other evidences of creeping “don’t kick-me-ism” on the meta-racial front in IYLK, evidences that even in the course of the minuscule life-span of the show white people became appreciably less comfortable about their relations with black people, and that by the end of that life-span they had walked a great distance along the eggshell-paved meta-racial path, that by then they “were in eggshells stepped in so far that returning were as tedious as to o’er.” The reader will recall Shrug’s admission in the pilot that black people don’t like him. Towards the end of the second season the “creators” or show-runners evidently determined that that admission could not be allowed to risk standing as an implied synecdoche for an inference both common to white people and not entirely unworthy of sympathy, for in an episode at this late moment Shrug tenders the admission again to two or three of his fellow comediae personae apropos of his having been coldly received by a youngish black man with whom he has briefly rubbed shoulders, and on asking these other white people for an explanation of this cold-shoulderdom, he is immediately proffered the usual catalogue of  white atrocities qua open-and-shut case for unapologetic black snubbery—i.e., one of these characters blandly says something to effect of ,“I would think four hundred years of slavery plus a century of segregation would be enough to justify it.” So by now Shrug has been condignly reproved for his “white fragility,” and yet, bizarrely enough, the matter is neither allowed to drop there nor work its way into the meta-racial comportment of the balance of the comediae personae as a “teachable moment,” for by some plot device that now escapes me, Lauren is soon dating Shrug’s old shoulder-rubber, apparently without the slightest meta racially-occasioned consciousness on either side of the couple or on the part of Jennifer, Arthur, or Robbie, and yet Shrug still struggles to ingratiate himself with the dude in vain. The two of them find that they even share a peculiar passion that Lauren positively holds in abhorrence—namely, reading books aloud, and so they come to meet à deux, for long reading-aloud sessions, but at the end of one of these sessions (an end that, I believe, coincides with the end of the episode, after which the black fellow never appears in the show again [yes, yes, yes: just like the big-boned woman in Taxi {at this point, the reversions to older sitcom formulas in ILYK are stacking up so deep that it is perhaps time to entertain the notion that some sort of theory might account for them en bloc }]), the younker, after admitting to Shrug that he’s been having a heckuva time, shakes his head with a puzzled frown and says, “The funny thing is, I still don’t like you.” So what the heck is going on here? Why is Shrug being allowed to serve as the show’s sole scapegoat for “white guilt”? Why, seemingly, because he is the comediae personae’s resident weirdo. But is weirdness somehow paradoxically whiter than the white-breadishness (or, perhaps, rather, white-and rye-breadishness) embodied by the other characters? No, not in itself, but weirdness is nerdiness-adjacent, and nerd-dom was the subculture most strongly marked as white in the 1990s, as is attested by 90s-TV’s rule-proving sole exceptional black nerd, Erkel from Family Matters. But by the same token (!) in the 1990s, nerdiness had not yet completely “colonized” all forms of literary erudition or “book learning,” as is evident from the outset in ILYK’s presentation of Arthur, who, as we have seen, is held forth above all else (apart from as a neurotic, a Jew, and a New Yorker) as a literary man, a man who reads and aspires to write serious prose. (When, my fellow miserable inhabitant of the 2020s, was the last time you heard anybody articulate a disinterested but intense interest in any body or system of knowledge, very much including the works of a literary author or the fashioning of a literary prose style, without preliminarily either flagellating himself or submitting to flagellation by others for “being a total nerd”?) Whence, presumably, the plausibility, according to ILYK’s apparent lights, of making Lauren’s new black beau a bookworm, and further of making him intensely averse to that most “iconically” black of all team sports, basketball.  Such people, while already vanishingly rare by the very end of the century, are not and never have been analytical chimeras, for in my sophomore year in high school (i.e. in portions of the years 1987 and 1988), I took a creative writing class alongside a black fellow whose personal motto, which he repeated with Wimpyesque frequency, was, “If it were not for baseball, my life would have no meaning.” (Note that the motto itself bespeaks another stereotype-annihilating trait—an impeccable command of a subjunctive form chez a member of an “underclass.”) As a general policy, I both shun and eschew “informatics”-driven metaphors and conceits even when they are intrinsically fitting—not merely because they are overused but because their overuse seems only to increase in inverse proportion to the degree that “informatics” exerts (sic on the singular form) an influence on the world, at least at the level or “resolution” of the electronic nuts and bolts that serve as the (driverless!) vehicles of such tr*pes. (Tr*pe [and I don’t mean tripe] has been “the other T-word” for me ever since the present micro-epoch’s Wallis Simpson said it in an interview about two years ago as of this writing [October 29, 2023].) But I shall and will contravene this policy now because the “informatics”-driven conceit that I have in mind is not only intrinsically fitting but also “sourced” from a micro-micro-epoch in “informatics” so distant and superannuated that its terminology is bound to seem refreshingly quaint even to those old enough and intensively enough involved in “informatics” at the time to remember it, and a micro-micro-epoch thereof, withal, that at its later end appositely abuts against the micro-micro-epoch of ILYN. The micro-micro-epoch in question is the early-mid-mid-1990s, which commenced the only period in my life-history in which I have been the owner-operator of an Apple-branded computer, a period that was still in progress when ILYK debuted and that ended only about six months before ILYK’s disparation when I chucked aside my Mac Quadra 605 in favor of a laptop-style so-called PC only because the latter, being a few years newer, was more powerful in raw processing-cum-storing power and had been “gifted” to me as a hand-me-down. Not long before this micro-micro-epoch there had supervened the supposedly biggest modification of the Mac operating system in its decade-spanning history: the transition from an operating system called System 6 to one called (surprise, surprise!) System 7.  And by the beginning of this micro-epoch, the sub-version System 7.1 was standard for all new Mac computers. But in between there had supervened yet another sub-version, System 7.01. System 7.01 had not been a so-called Beta version of System 7.1 but a full-fledged sub-version of its own, and yet for some reason it had not been granted the dignity of being itself styled System 7.1. It was as if the Woz & co. (for Mr. Jobs’s re-takeover of the company was then but a glimmer in his eye [or perchance Guy Kawasaki’s {horrifying as it might sound, in the mid-mid-1990s, Guy Kawasaki joke-mongering was a kind of subcultural Borsch belt within the Mac-using “community”}]) hadn’t been arseable to admit that they weren’t ready to introduce a new sub-version—and so for umpteen-dozen weeks umpteen-thousands of Mac users were stuck using a limbo or mezzanine of an operating system that was “neither fish nor fowl.” The episode of ILYK featuring Lauren’s Shrug-disliking black boyfriend comes across as such a transitional operating system on race relations: it contains certain modules, certain contentious or absurd assertions masquerading as doxa, that are still in place in 2023 interacting with certain other modules that have long since been discarded. By the very-late 1990s the powers that be or (be’d) had evidently already decided that white people had to hate themselves for being white and for hanging out mostly with other white people but they hadn’t yet decided that absolutely no sorts of white people could ever effectively extirpate their guilt through more extensive fraternization with black people; and while they had probably already decided that black people of a certain political persuasion did not count as really black (for after all, Clarence Thomas’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings were already nearly a decade in the past and Alan Keyes’s run for the Republican presidential nomination had been met with jeers of Uncle Tom! from all Democrats), such that a Republican-voting black sitcom character like Barney Miller’s police detective Ron Harris had probably long since been unfilmable (or unvideotape-able), they were not yet prepared to disqualify a bookish non-basketball fan from being black or to refuse to deduct hours spent with such a black person from a white person’s whiteness debit card. I conjecture that the whole Big Salad (to switch to a different metaphorical vehicle [and to do so not entirely gratuitously, for we are after all now told by our masters {!} and mistresses {!!} {not to mention mistrixes} that the Salad has permanently displaced the Melting Pot as the appropriate metaphor for how America should and does cohere at a meta-ethnic level]) managed to hold together even as awkwardly as it did only thanks to the moribund persistence of a distinction between the highbrow and lowbrow or genre-fiction-centered literary worlds, a distinction that has effectively gone extinct in the present century.  We have already seen that Arthur Garment’s Jewishness did not (sic on the past tense, for I am now referring to Arthur qua inhabitant of a bygone age not qua inhabitant of a living text under consideration) prevent his selection of John Updike, a WASP, as his favorite author, and I daresay if ILYK’s writers had had occasion to flesh out his pantheon of literary greats, they would have had him “name-checking” James Baldwin and Ralph Ellison by way of showcasing not his solidarity with black America but his familiarity with certain highlights of the canon of serious twentieth-century American literature. (Here again, as with the non-basketball-affecting black person, I can attest that embodiments of the type in point do not exist merely in counterfactual sitcoms, for in ca. 1996 at a party in Baltimore I met a young black man who averred to me that the pallid bald native Marylander John Barth was his favorite living writer.) And had Lauren’s black beau been suffered to stick around for another episode or two, he might have been heard to “name check” Updike for exactly the same reason rather than out of anything like “internalized white supremacy.” And the two men would have been united in their adamantine disdain for genre fiction—for science fiction, fantasy novels, detective novels, bodice-rippers, comic books, and the like—all of which, incidentally, were then emphatically coded (as) ultra-white. How tragic that blacks never embraced their imperviousness to genre fiction while there was still time! That would have been something to be truly proud of—as proud of, indeed, as their refusal (attested to me by yet another black non-chimera known to me personally) to join their white compatriots in swapping trousers for shorts on the very first day of the year on which the high temperature exceeded sixty degrees Fahrenheit. But “that ship has sailed,” as they (“they” being not blacks but pundits of all colors and textures) say nowadays: over the past twenty years the number of Americans (and other Occidentals) who know (!) that genre fiction is trash has dwindled to a statistical nullity, and the trashiest sorts of genre fiction of all—comic books and fantasy novels—have attained pride of place in the personal “literary” pantheons of the highest (in two or more senses!) officeholders and tastemakers in the land (and all lands). Meanwhile, even as increasingly brutalistically primitive rap “music” engrosses an ever larger share of what is officially regarded as authentically black “art,” the inundation of comic-book and fantasy-novel movie-adaptation casts with black actors and occupation of comic-book writing desk-chairs by umpteenth pressings of Stokely Carmichael like Ta-Nehisi Coates have impelled black Americans to regard trashy genre fiction as as (sic on the repetition of “as”) organically their own as so-called soul food. And the demographic catastrophe hinted at in the last sentence but one ultimately explains why the interstitial “operating system” described in the last sentences but ten and nine failed to “take.” You see, or, more likely, re-see (for the state of affairs I am about to discuss is not exactly a secret and I have none-too-obliquely already touched on it numerous times), ILYK was an odd sort of demographogenetic hybrid: officially the “creation” of a man hailing from the dead center of the Baby Boom (Peter Mehlman, b. 1955 or 1956 [so the online reference source of first resort {and how characteristic of a late-flowering Boomer to be cagey about his birth year!}]), it seems to have been written by a combination of Boomers and Gen Xers and definitely also starred a combination thereof. The Boomers, as everyone certainly knows, were the largest American generation of the twentieth century, while the Gen Xers, as probably not quite everyone knows, were the smallest, and the Millennials, as probably everyone knows, are an even larger generation than the Boomers. As their very name makes plain, at the time of ILYK’s production the Millennials had yet to make their imprint on the “culture” except as juvenile consumers (in which capacity they were of course  largely responsible for the boy-band, Pokemon, and Brittney Spears crazes) but were just about to start making that imprint. The Boomers, as everyone knows, invented the so-called counterculture, but as not everyone knows or at least hardly anyone cares to reflect, they also inherited the culture they were countering from their parents, the so-called Silent Generation, which meant that although they were quite sincere and passionate in their detestation of that culture they could not avoid at least occasionally referencing and embodying the landmarks and mores of that culture in their own cultural productions, such that as long as they remained at the vanguard of the Weltgeist (and their parents still in charge of the wellsprings of patronage), that culture could continue to enjoy a superficially robust existence. Accordingly, the counterculture could come into its civilization-annihilating own when and only when, in the second decade of the twentieth-first century, the Millennials arrived at that vanguard, and their parents, the Boomers, assumed control of the wellsprings of patronage (their parents, a mixture of the so-called Silent Generation and the so-called Greatest Generation, having meanwhile died off). For the Boomers inculcated in their children, the Millennials, that rock ‘n’ roll was truly great music and indeed the greatest of music, the Lord of the Rings great literature and indeed the greatest of literature, Marvel comics the greatest of art and literature, jeans, T-shirts, and shorts proper clothes, etc. And so, now that the Millennials are in their thirties and forties we are for the first time living under the auspices of a truly hegemonic counterculture. Consequently, the socio-geographical satire at the heart of ILYK no longer makes sense except in historical terms. Nobody today would even think of making a satire on the trashiness of contemporary Los Angeles in which New York figures as Los Angeles’s elegant, sophisticated antipode because today’s New York is far trashier than the Los Angeles of a quarter-century ago and just as trashy as today’s Los Angeles. There is a touching moment in ILYK when Robbie and Arthur commune over the ineffable and inalienable grace and allure of a quintessential young female New Yorker, dwelling with particular eloquence on what one might term the dialectical interplay between the formal and informal elements of her hairstyle-cum-headgear, the way her ponytail alone is suffered to break free of the confines of her baseball cap, itself an incongruously casual element of her wardrobe despite its materially inhibiting function. For all the drastic differences in women’s couture between the two epochs, an analogous interchange might plausibly have occurred between two American men of the very end of the nineteenth century apropos of the quintessential young female New Yorker of their time, with her hat ever-so-fetchingly topped with a stuffed bird carcass, and I daresay there is such a moment in a Henry James or Edith Wharton novel (and I shouldn’t be surprised if ILYK’s writers based Robbie and Arthur’s interchange on that moment). Such an interchange would not be possible today not because women’s fashion has changed even more drastically since the late 1990s than between the late 1890s and the late 1990s (because “in a certain very real sense” it has obviously changed much less) as because an unstudied blowsy slatternliness is now the most prized look among the women of New York as among the women of the rest of America. The ideal woman of 2020s New York is a tousle-haired morbidly obese creature in a muu-muu who hasn’t showered in at least two weeks and whose every fifth spoken or written word is “folks” (if not “folx”). And from the lack of care to one’s person exhibited by this type we can “pivot” to the forestalling of a certain perhaps otherwise unavoidable misconception about the drift of the Welt-cum-Volksgeist in point—namely, that it constitutes an L.A.-ification of the rest of the U.S., for as the habitus of IYLK’s two female central characters shews, while the L.A. lifestyle of the late 1990s paid scant regard to grace or elegance, it placed an extremely high premium on physical fitness and attractiveness. The truth is that the drift of the Welt-cum-Volksgeist has made L.A. itself and the rest of the country much worse than the L.A. of the late 90s because the trend-setters and tastemakers of today’s America know and care much less about what is worth knowing and caring about than the trend-setters and tastemakers of LA back then did. For let it not be forgotten that although Los Angeles of that time was the wellspring and seat of much in American life that was most objectionably vulgar—in other words, most of the products and activities associated with its flagship media industries—it also was not lacking in cultural and intellectual amenities of the first rank: for example, the University of California at Los Angeles and the University of Southern California were among the United States’ (and hence the world’s) best universities, the Los Angeles Philharmonic one of the United States’ (and hence the world’s) best orchestras, and the Getty Museum one of the United States’ (and hence the world’s) best art museums. Hence, although in moving to Los Angeles a cultural and intellectual super-snob like the Arthur Garment of the late 1990s would have been obliged to be confronted with much that he found laughable and contemptible, he would not have been obliged to sacrifice much that he found edifying and admirable, and the fact that Los Angeles rivaled New York and exceeded Chicago (America’s universally acknowledged “second city” until some difficult-to-specify moment in the 1980s) as a desired city of residence for young, hip Americans was no great slur on the cultural and intellectual elite of the United States. Toward the end of the second decade of the twenty-first century Los Angeles was exceeded in the affections of American hipsters by a city that lacked any cultural and intellectual amenity of the first rank—namely, Portland. The present writer supposes Portland has a symphony orchestra, but he cannot specify whether it is the Portland Philharmonic or the Portland Symphony or the Portland Music Engine, let alone the names of any of its conductors at any point in its history, and as he has been listening to serious orchestral music for more than forty years, he supposes he would be able to do this if it were a superior ensemble to, say, the Nashville and Utah Symphony Orchestras, both of which he can name and recordings of both of which he owns. Portland’s principal university, Portland State, is certainly not one of America’s great universities, and indeed it functions principally as a so-called safety school for would-be matriculators to the University of Oregon (located more than a hundred miles away in the state capital, Eugene), itself not one of the brightest stars in the American academic firmament.  And yes, I’m sure Portland’s flagship museum, whatever its s**ding name is, has got an excellent collection of some twentieth-century painter that everyone is supposed to think is Big One-scale earthshakingly important like de Kooning or Rauschenberg or (lest the reader think I am merely high modernist-bashing) Wyeth—but the Metropolitan Museum of Art or MoMA or the National Gallery of Art or the Getty it presumably ain’t. Until the dawn of the present century, if not until several years beyond that, Portland was nationally known as a sort of Omaha that happened to be located in the Pacific Northwest—not, mind you, as the Omaha of the Pacific Northwest, for such a designation would have implied that the Pacific Northwest was rich enough in biggish cities to have its own Omaha, whereas of course Seattle and Portland were and remain its sole metropolises (which is “worth pointing out” because it shews that the Pacific Northwest as a whole axiomatically cannot evince any appeal to the full-bodiedly urbane); a city that a non-Pacific Northwesterner never dreamt of relocating to unless his “career path” required it (not that I can think of a single Portland-headquartered so-called Fortune 500 company to furnish such career-path stepping stones [such that, incidentally, Portland cuts a poor showing even alongside such middling East-Coast burghs as Pittsburgh, the home of Heinz ketchup and baked beans, and Cincinnati, the home of Chiquita Bananas]), a city that East Coasters were even prone to getting mixed up with its minuscule Mainean namesake when the qualifying postpositive “Oregon” was omitted. What finally put Portland on the map of residential covetability was not its unprecedented acquisition of something of peculiar interest to genuinely would-be cultivated people but rather and merely the statistically unremarkable irruption within its precincts, towards the end of the nineties, of one of the principal “scenes” associated with one of the umpteenth pressings of the punk-rock subculture (yes, yes, yes, one of that subculture’s Ta-Nehisi Coateses, if you will [although given that we are now dealing with a subculture that fetishizes a certain kind of pressing, that of vinyl gramophone records, an analogue drawn from the annals of vinyl gramophone record-dom would be more apt]), a pressing known, I believe, as cuddlecore (an appellation that quite rightly suggests an unregenerately infantilized orientation to the world), and exemplified and dominated by Sleater Kinney, a band truly execrable even by the dubious standards of pop music and consisting of a trio or quartet of young clock-stoppingly ugly anemic white women who were easily mistaken for clock-stoppingly ugly anemic young white men and “sang” like underfed young goats (yes, yes, yes, i.e., “kids”). Presumably not coincidentally one of the members of Sleater Kinney went on to portray a so-called transman or transwoman (what difference does it make? as the Moz or Archie Bunker would say), one of the comediae personae of Portlandia, which might not inaptly be described as a counterfactually wildly successful It’s Like, You Know of the 20-teens, a show that cemented and augmented Portland’s status as the city in which to be. Of course, thanks to the increased prestige of rock music even chez the Gen-Xers (most of whom were raised by Silent Generation-ers but felt a keener anxiety of influence in relation to their generational older siblings, the Boomers), the United States had already had a sort of dry run for this phenomenon in the non-accidental trendiness of Seattle in the years following the explosion of the so-called grunge scene occasioned by Nirvana’s topping of the pop charts, but Seattle unlike Portland was not entirely lacking in old-school cultural amenities—what with the University of Washington being at least one of America’s better universities and the Seattle Symphony at least one of America’s better orchestras (and any town that had hosted the birth and upbringing of a writer as witty and wide-ranging as Mary McCarthy could not be altogether banausic at bottom); whence the facility with which it (had) served as the setting of Frasier, whose eponym had been the house snob in the bar of the 1980s’ flagship sitcom, Cheers (which of course had been set in Boston, a city that in many registers outstripped New York in point of snob appeal). Portland was the first trend-setting American city to whose trendiness culture in the traditional sense was completely extraneous, the first such city whose allure was completely exhausted by its hospitableness to social deviancy. To get the full “Portland experience” all one had to do was bind one’s breasts or tuck one’s balls, accumulate one’s chickenshit gender studies degree four credits at a time at PSU while slinging mocktails at a smootheria, and march down the street with Molotov cocktail in hand every first Saturday after some right-wing politician said something deemed offensive to BIPOCs or queer folx by Rose City Antifa. At this point the discerning yet adversarial reader will doubtless demur that however trendy Portland may have managed to become despite its lack of traditional cultural amenities, those selfsame amenities survive and indeed flourish in the metropolises in which they originated—that, for example, MoMa, both non-MLB-affiliated Mets, and the Philharmonic are all as indubitably in operation (would that opera companies alone were in point, that I might exploit the pun!) in today’s New York as the workhouses were in Scrooge’s London. And of course I am not unaware that most of the top-shelf orchestras, opera companies, museums, and the like that were in operation a quarter-century ago are still in operation now, but I would describe their operative condition as one of subsistence rather than of flourishing and maintain that it has only been by humoring the banausic mindset of this age of Portlandification that they have managed to cling to life. And so, yes, one can still tour the Museum of Modern Art, but not without strolling through a gauntlet of ethno-kitschy bric-à-brac produced by demographically appropriate daubers and tinkers; or tour the Metropolitan Museum of Art, but not without enduring a series of lectures on the “problematic” character of its European and American masters. And one can still attend an ostensible performance of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, but only to hear a version of Beethoven’s Ninth in which the choral finale has been replaced by a rap “composition,” or to watch a live Crime Scene Investigation of Beethoven’s death in which mere scraps of his music serve as pieces of “evidence,” or to endure a program in which Brahms shares billing with Radiohead or some local synth-pop group that make Depeche Mode sound like late-period Schoenberg. And one can still take in an opera at the other non-MLB-affiliated Met, but only if one is willing to sit next to an oversized slug in pajamas and so-called Crocs and behold four hours of uninterrupted metastasized Eurotrash—which is to say, a style of mise en scène in which every human figure in the scène looks like either a perpetrator or a victim of p(*)********a. (The “academic postmodernism” of the Met’s 2020 production of Alban Berg’s Wozzeck that I decried in an earlier essay certainly partook of this mise en scène, but I am hesitant to posit an absolute co-extensivity of academic postmodernism and metastasized Eurotrash, inasmuch as the 2010 Salzburg Festival production of Berg’s Lulu that I decried in an even earlier essay was pretty darned metastasized-Eurotrashy despite being not very postmodernist at all.) Of course I cannot deny that in many registers and domains of their activity these traditional cultural institutions maintain the standards associated with them in earlier epochs; indeed, I am at least prepared to entertain the notion that in certain of these registers and domains they now excel their late-1990s selves. But at the same time I am prepared to assert that this maintenance of standards is largely the effect of inertia and cannot be expected to be maintained itself.  Of course none of America’s best art museums has simply burned and smashed to pieces its entire inventory of traditionally classic art, but almost all of them have yielded to and are continuing to yield to the temptation to sell off portions of that inventory to allow themselves to purchase manifestly inferior works or to fund a series of “initiatives” that somehow or other undermine their core traditional mission of presenting that inventory to the general public; and as there is no discernable movement afoot within the ranks of their trustees or administrators to resist the temptation, it is entirely reasonable to suppose that eventually, and perhaps even “sooner rather than later,” they all will have ceased to fulfill this mission altogether and become dedicated exhibitors of vacuous trash in dedicatedly vacuous fashions. The same is true, mutatis mutandis, of symphony orchestras and opera companies: they are not going to chuck out Beethoven, Brahms, Verdi, Wagner, et al. altogether and overnight, but they are inevitably going to perform and produce them ever more ineptly and perversely, and they are going to force them to share an ever-larger share of concert programs with inferior composers and sub-composers until these composers and sub-composers—who perforce exact lower technical standards from performers—have completely displaced them. In connection with this terminal and precipitous down-dumbing I am reminded of something Paul Valéry said to Andre Gide when they were both still fairly young (and so shortly after the apogee of the Symbolist movement of which Valéry was one of the leading lights) something to the effect that nobody would ever dream of inventing poetry then, at the end of nineteenth century or beginning of the twentieth, if it did not already exist, because experience was no longer of such a nature as to impel anyone to attempt to articulate it in anything constituted like a poem. And of course as everybody (at least everybody who knows anything about Valéry [i.e., hardly anybody]) knows, Valéry decided to stop writing poetry in his early thirties and devoted the long remainder of his literary career to essays and novel-like compositions, and while the mere existence of the entire tradition of great modernist poetry may seem to invalidate both his assertion and his decision, one cannot reasonably deny that since the end of the nineteenth century poetry has been a marginal mode of expression even within the domain of “high” culture (the inverted commas around “high” are in this exceptional case not “ironizing”[like the ones just placed around “ironizing”] but self-abasing, inasmuch as while I am certain that there is such a thing as “high” culture and that it is superior to pop culture, I  am not quite sure that “high” is not the best denotator of that superiority), that even the reader desirous of encountering the most uncompromisingly precise and subtle verbal presentation of some aspect of the world seldom finds himself reaching for a volume of verses rather than for a novel and that even writers desirous of producing such a presentation seldom find themselves struggling to write a poem rather than a novel. Pace Adorno (and yet at the same time probably more or less in concurrence with him [for I cannot immediately call to mind any passage in his writings in which he praises a twentieth-century poet as highly he does Kafka or Proust in countless passages therein]), long before Auschwitz the Weltgeist had moved on from poetry, and that on-moving was a sad commentary on the Weltgeist, an attestation of its barbarousness by comparison with the last golden age of poetry, the Romantic period of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. And at about the end of the second decade of the present century the Weltgeist moved on from “high” culture en bloc and insgesamt when for the first time it fell into the hands of a generation of “elites” for whom “high” culture meant nothing, a generation of “elites” who if they had their druthers would banish listening to the “three Bs” (Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms) et al., reading Shakespeare, George Eliot, Proust, et al., and viewing the paintings of Botticelli, Rembrandt, Kandinsky, et al., in favor of listening to pop music, playing video games, reading comic books and “fantasy” novels, watching “anime,” writing and reading “fan fiction,” and “larping” as one’s favorite comic book, “fantasy,” video-game, and “anime” characters. “What’s going to happen to the children, when there aren’t any more grown-ups?” queried Noël Coward in the middle of the twentieth century. Now we know what was then going to happen because it has longish-since happened. And if in the teeth of all that I have already said in efficient preemption of such cavillage the reader should pigheadedly query what the big deal is and point out that comic books and pop music have been around for more than a century and fantasy novels and animated cartoons for more than three-quarters of a century, that even video games are nearly a half-century old, and that however inane or barbarous these popular-cultural forms and genres may be, civilization, including its high-cultural component, has somehow muddled through their slough of inanity and barbarism, I shall and will take the reader by his porcine ears and shake his porcine skull while screaming, The difference between now and the previous century is that people grew out of their infantile pop-cultural obsessions as they became acquainted with the more adult-worthy antecedents of the objects of those obsessions, and now they don’t grow out of these obsessions because they are never required to become acquainted with those antecedents! before more temperately adducing a case in point in illustration of that difference, namely my own trajectory as a consumer turned ex-consumer of infantile pop-cultural pabulum. As a pre-teenaged youngster I was as fascinated with and by The Lord of the Rings as any pre-teenaged youngster of today is by that novel-cycle and its umpteen subsequent pressings ([here the reader is of course entitled even as I berate him to interject “Again-a with the pressings!” in a sing-songy Italian accent appropriate to the vehicle of the metaphor) by the likes of J. K. R*****g, and I derived all my original knowledge of the Greek gods and heroes from that cinematic gallimaufry of Hellenic and Nordic mythology, Clash of the Titans. But as I entered and progressed through my teen years, I gradually learned from my elders and my own investigations that Tolkien had pieced together his “universe” out of his findings as a linguist learned in tongues of numerous language-trees, a scholar of medieval English literature, and a nostalgist for the same pre-industrial English countryside more “realistically” evoked by Thomas Hardy; and that Zeus, Hera, Pegasus, Perseus, et al. subsisted in written memory largely as names fleetingly mentioned in plays and epic and lyric poems dealing with less vividly colorful figures rather than as full-fledged characters in filmworthy tales of their own. And once I had learned this, I permanently found it impossible to engage with anything either answering directly to the name of “fantasy” literature or anything that while not answering to that name made use of that mode or genre’s arrogated privilege—the privilege of selecting personages and topoi from a diversity of more or less ancient historical periods and synthesizing the presentation of these personages and topoi under the auspices of the literary and cinematic techniques of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. “I am” (to quote an expression of David Hume for what must be the hundredth time [and to point out that I am quoting it for what must also be the hundredth time]) “as certain as I am that I am over five feet tall” that I have evolved beyond the capacity to appreciate such rubbish, for it invariably participates in a phenomenon that one of my professors in graduate school, a man now deceased (and whom I shall forbear from naming only because one of his sons is one of the world’s most dedicated champions and ardent propagandists of the notion that video games constitute an “art form” and so might strive to make my life difficult if he discovered me representing his father as a man categorically averse to notions of that sort) termed “the prosaification of the supernatural” in specific connection with the obtrusion of Tolkien-inspired story-submissions into the creative writing class of a colleague of his, who had responded to the submitting students with an interjection of “No fucking elves!” We must accept the personages and other entities of fairy tales, sacred scriptures, old chronicles, and the like as they have been transmitted to us by those documents and accordingly resign ourselves to finding those personages and other phenomena strange, mysterious, and more than occasionally ridiculous rather than attempting to make them more “relatable” (a Millennialism I loathe with more than my usual fund of anti-neologistic passion because it doesn’t even have the decency to encompass the concept from which it is derived [for in finding something simpatico one does not “relate” it but “relate to” it]) by putting into their mouths and minds words they—or to be more precise, the people who originally committed them to paper (for it is only through paper that we can ever know them)—never could have said and thoughts they never could have thought.  But the current custodians-cum-conduits of the Weltgeist do not acknowledge this requirement—I do not say that they refuse to acknowledge it because that would imply that they are actively rejecting it, which in turn would imply that they at least dimly understood it, whereas I get the distinct impression that they are not even aware of the requirement and would not understand it even if it bit them on the arse, as they say (or, rather, as the “they” of a generation-and-a-half ago, exemplified by Denis Leary’s military history-and-cigar gourmandizing “asshole” [a figure transparently hailing from the so-called Silent Generation], used to say). In the thirty-something-year-old eyes of even the most literate of these people, Gandalf the wizard (or some pressing [I dare employ the olive-press yet again!] of him from the Harry Potter novels [I am proud to say that in my proud ignorance of the Harry Potter novels I don’t know the proper name of that pressing, although the ubiquity of chitchat about the Harry Potter novels has prevented me from remaining ignorant of that pressing’s presence therein]) remains as he was when they were in their single digits—both more portentously wise than Solomon and more approachably down-to-earth than Bob the Builder, because they have yet to read a novel of more ancient pedigree than The Lord of the Rings (if even that ancient) or any narratively constituted book that is avowedly “non-fiction,” with the result that they tend to regard just about any pie-in-the-sky chimera as prosaically practicable in the real external world or to regard even the most immediately practicable improvement of the real external world as too prosaic for their notice, and because they wield considerable administrative power, this real external world is suffering keenly from their indulgence of these tendencies—suffering from it in the ubiquitously observable progressive deterioration in the provision of basic services (a deterioration inevitably arising from a belief that one can clear away any material obstacle by only barely figuratively “waving a magic wand”) and equally ubiquitously observable ever-increasing hideousness in all aspects of personal appearance (a hideousness inevitably arising from the belief that one’s true self is not the person as whom one presents oneself in everyday external life but the wizard or warrior princess as whom one “larps” at comic-book conventions or within the confines of a “virtual” environment). Of course at this point at the latest the least pigheaded of readers—at least even the least pigheaded of readers who is not well acquainted with my body of previous essays—is entitled to wonder how and why I, a person who has “outed” himself as a cultural paleosnob, a person who at his very downest down-to-earth is no more kindly disposed to pop culture than Arthur Garment, ever came to address himself to an essay on a television sitcom, for after all, television has been officially institutionalized as a “vast wasteland,” as a repository of the very dregs of pop culture, since Mr. Minow made his famous-cum-notorious speech more than sixty years ago. I suppose the answer to this question, or these questions, is that I find It’s Like, You Know far more enlightening about the trajectory of the Weltgeist than most high-cultural productions of the very end of the twentieth century because as is becoming clear only belatedly, some twenty years after its effective demise, television, like radio before it (and rather unlike cinema alongside it) affords the most capacious view of what one might term the ego-ideal of the nation or society, the manner in which the nation or society chooses to imagine itself. In virtue of having been adopted by all social strata more or less all at once, of its self-confinement to a schedule and to “seasons,” of its extraneously imposed confinement to a handful of transmission frequencies (at least until the effective universalization of premium cable television channels in the late 1990s [which universalization effectively put an end to television by making its products formally interchangeable with those of  cinema {whence my dating its demise back as far as twenty years}]), and of the transnational simultaneity with which its products were consumed by default (and by necessity until the popularization of home video recorders in the early 1980s), television, at least at its prime-time vital core [for weekday daytime programming was indeed aimed more or less exclusively at housewives and weekend daytime programming more or less exclusively at children], could not afford to appeal to specific subcultures to the exclusion of others. Polemical exceptions like Hee-Haw aside, there were never any substantive prime-time televisual equivalents of Blaxploitation or “women’s pictures,” let alone the Novel Targeted at Anybody but the Little Old Lady from Dubuque (the “narrowcasting” orientation of which explains its typical inadequacy as a prompt for the sort of essay I typically find myself writing, however strongly I might desire to read or aim to read or write such a novel). A prime-time television show had more than figuratively to have “something for everyone.” And one mustn’t confuse the demographic profile of a given show’s setting or comediae personae with those of its target audience: everybody regardless of race or income level watched The Andy Griffith Show and Good Times even though the one centered on a white sheriff and his son in an all-white southern small town and the other on an all-black family in the projects of Chicago. Moreover, one mustn’t confuse television’s fulfillment of its obligation to provide something for everyone with its much-decried (and in hindsight perhaps over-decried) tendency to “pander to the lowest common denominator,” for that everyone included double-domed highbrows as well as sub-philistine louts—whence, for example, the presence of the Goethe-gourmandizing Detective Dietrich in the comediae personae of Barney Miller, the figuration of the terminology of Riesman’s Lonely Crowd in the bavardage of a victim’s roommate on Columbo, allusions to Milton and Shakespeare on Star Trek, and the next-door neighbor Wilson’s regular quotation of thinkers as serious as Kant and Samuel Johnson in Home Improvement. And such appeals to the highest common denominator were not infrequently well received thereby, as witnessed by the Yale lit prof Paul de Man’s incorporation of an interchange between Archie Bunker and his wife Edith into a lecture on deconstruction, by the pianist Glenn Gould’s religious fandom of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and his colleague Charles Rosen’s equally ardent viewership of Taxi. And such being the case, it is entirely fair to use even an utterly mainstream prime-time sitcom like IYLK as a more or less comprehensive volks-cum-zeit-cum-welgeistig barometer (or, to cast the metaphor in more palpably augural terms, cultural weather forecast), to infer from the cultural hierarchy that such a program implicitly postulates a sense of the trajectory of the Volks-cum-Zeit-cum-Weltgeist as a whole. And for all its muscle memory-like retention of certain points de repère of the old cultural hierarchy, IYLK propounds what one might term a hard-Boomer cultural hierarchy, a cultural hierarchy in which the points de repère of the Boomers are the central totems. One sees this most graphically in a certain episode in which the phrase “the saddest thing I ever heard” becomes a sort of scale-model analogue of the show’s eponymous phrase, which is to say it keeps being uttered as a naturally motivated utterance by characters unaware of the previous occurrences of it. And to the best of my recollection, all roughly half-dozen of these occurrences of the  utterance barring the last one are prompted by tidings that would tend to prompt the utterance of the phrase in real life, i.e., tidings that are pathetic in the vulgar sense rather than tragic—e.g., someone’s failing to claim a jackpot-garnering lottery ticket, or missing out on a plum job for flubbing the boss’s name in the last seconds of the interview, or (to double-invert the denouement of the Seinfeld episode “The Millennium” [which denouement is itself in danger of being the saddest thing ever heard only by a rabid Seinfeld fan who thinks of Newman as the show’s hero]) showing up a year early for an end-of-the-millennium party for want of realizing that the last year of the millennium was December 31, 2000 and not December 31, 1999. But on Arthur or Robbie’s uttering the last of these all but last occurrences in a chinwag between the two of them in the very last seconds of the episode, whichever of the two didn’t utter the phrase says to the other, “No: the saddest thing you ever heard was when Paul McCartney said after Linda’s death, ‘I’ve just lost my girlfriend.’” Whereupon the utterer nods in grim unqualified acquiescence as the last credit is displayed and the scene fades to black (or commercial).  Immediately on spectating on that final scene and taking in those words about Paul McCartney the new widower, I did the scornful-cum-outraged version of a spit-take (as I was in the perfect meta-oral-cum-meta-potational condition to do, for I was watching this episode, as I had watched all its predecessors and would watch all its successors, over a “liquid breakfast” [and not a Lincoln Continental one at that]). How, I asked myself as soon as the last fleck of spit had cleared my lips, could anyone—let alone specifically a pair of men too young to have bought even Abbey Road as a new release (each of them having been in 1969 too short to see over the countertop at a record store even in the unlikely event that he had preferred the tunage of the Beatles to that of the Banana Splits)—have thought of even the worst thing that had ever happened to Paul McCartney as the saddest thing he (Arthur or Robbie, not Paul) had ever heard? But no sooner did I finish wiping my mouth dry than I came to see both Arthur or Robbie’s remark and Robbie or Arthur’s reaction to it as entirely natural and indeed well-nigh inevitable in the light of ILYK’s Boomerian provenance. For after all (I said to myself), the Fab Four were more than figuratively gods to the Boomers, for John Lennon had been neither missing the mark by a micrometer nor exaggerating in the slightest when he termed the Beatles “more popular than Jesus” in 1966 (a moment at which popularity with the Boomers was more or less coextensive with popularity tout court inasmuch as the Boomers were then perhaps at their demographically most formidable); and indeed, in virtue of their just-parenthetically-mentioned demographic formidability, the Boomers enjoyed possession of a notion of a kind about these gods that not even Christians had enjoyed possession of about Christ when “the Sea of Faith was at the full”—the notion, namely, that every other living person on earth, regardless of his age or place of origin or residence, revered these gods as abjectly as they did. And there is most certainly no other moment in ILYK in which any other “creative” figure is apotheosized as Paul McCartney is apotheosized at that episode-concluding moment; the closest approach thitherto being Arthur’s much-abovementioned interpellation of John Updike as his favorite writer, an interpellation that apart from its comparative lukewarmness, its evincing of mere veneration rather than full-blown idolatry, is robbed of any normative force by its presentation as an interpellation peculiar to him, one that is ho-humly shrugged off by the other members of the comediae personae. And such being the case, ILYK seems to mark a decisive break and a great leap downward in television qua cultural barometer-cum-weather forecaster, a moment at which high culture was decisively toppled from atop the cultural hierarchy of a would-be ego-ideal-defining program and pop culture installed in its place. For Seinfeld, despite its relentless flaunting of Jerry’s and George’s lack of serious intellectual interests, evinced quite a high regard for the canons of high culture, especially that of serious (a.k.a. “classical) music (not that literature exactly received short shrift from the show [see the episode entitled “The Cheever Diaries”]), as witnessed by the monopolization of the incidental music of one episode by the overture of Rossini’s Barber of Seville; the centering of the plot of an episode on the attending of an opera performance; the incorporation of an orchestra conductor, a concert pianist, and even the most obscure of the “Three Tenors” into its guest comediae personae; and Jerry and George’s “name-checkings” of Beethoven’s “Waldstein” sonata and Schumann’s descent into madness; while its level of esteem for pop culture (including pop music) seldom rose above the level of affectionate disdain, as witnessed by the assignment of fandom of the “yacht rocker” Christopher Cross to the rebarbative and contemptible figure of Newman the obese postman and the foregrounding of the fatuity of Star Trek’s metaphysical aspirations in Jerry’s quotation of The Wrath of Khan at George’s late fiancée’s graveside (a moment that shews that the just-mentioned flaunting of J&G’s lack of serious intellectual interests was certainly not tantamount to the postulation of that lack as a norm). Frasier, too, kept itself well to the aft of hard Boomerism, even if at first blush its placement of its eponym’s cultural snobbery at the bull’s eye of its satiric squibbery may seem to suggest otherwise, for while the show did indeed position Frasier’s down-to-earth father as a salutary foil-cum-counterweight to his elder son’s (and for that matter, his younger son’s) impossible loftiness, it would be wrong to say that it presented Martin Crane as a full-blown norm, a figure in whom the viewer might discover the show’s moral and epistemological center. Rather, the relation of father and son(s) to that center was dialectical in the most wholesome sense of that word. If Frasier’s hyperfastidiousness about clothes was pilloried as foppish, if not downright effeminate (such that he was made belatedly to realize that he had been “hit on” by another man only on recollecting that he had initiated a chinwag about men’s fashion with him), Martin’s complete indifference to them was hardly championed; for if it had been how could his complaint of having splurged in spending 15 dollars on a pair of trousers been played for laughs? If Frasier’s wine connoisseurship was pilloried as ludicrous in its ceremonial intricacies, Martin’s obdurate adherence to Ballantine beer in every possible culinary setting was shown to be equally ludicrous in its one-note unceremoniousness; if Frasier’s opera fandom, with its endless retailing of his spectation-cum-audition of performances of legendary singers such as Renata Tebaldi was seen to be absurdly hifalutin, Martin’s fandom of sixties action heroine Angie Dickinson qua supposed pinnacle of cinema thespianism was seen to be absurdly downmarket. In short, if Martin’s down-to-earthness nicely complemented such virtues as his stoicism and honesty, virtues that had stood him in good stead in his honorable and perhaps even heroic service as a police officer, it was still seen to be defective for wanting so much as a soupçon of Frasier’s elegance and sophistication.  Something too much of this—the discerning reader (and perhaps even the fairly undiscerning reader) is now doubtless inclined to interject: as you have just postulated that ILYK is situated to the fore of a chronologically situated divide between a certain kind of goodness and a certain kind of badness and that not only Seinfeld but also Frasier, a show that although certainly better than most sitcoms is manifestly inferior to Seinfeld (and that, incidentally but doubtless significantly, remained on the air many years after the disappearance therefrom of both Seinfeld and ILYK), are situated to the aft of that divide, are you not obliged to retract the very assertion with which you began this essay and which seems to have constituted its principal impetus and very raison d’être—viz., that ILYK constitutes a worthy (and indeed the worthiest conceivable) continuation of Seinfeld? No, but it does indeed require me to recalibrate, reframe, reappraise or what have you (provided it is a verb beginning with re) the ultimate intellectual and moral purport of the notion of a “worthy continuation of Seinfeld.” Fortunately, I have already done a goodly portion of the work of that  recalibration autc. in “teeing up” the postulation the discerning or even relatively undiscerning reader has just mentioned. For in stating as I did some pages above that ILYK was a show that propounded a “hard-Boomer cultural hierarchy” I was axiomatically implying that Seinfeld propounded a soft-Boomer cultural hierarchy, a cultural hierarchy in which, while the points de repère of the pre-Boomer dispensation remained the central totems, certain points de repère of the Boomer dispensation occupied a much loftier position than in the pre-Boomer dispensation. And indeed, I have already touched on certain of these Boomergenetic elements of Seinfeld, albeit not in explicitly Boomer-referencing terms—for example, the show’s dramaturgical emphasis on all four central characters’ maintenance of an active and variety-rich “sex life” and its admittedly residual and partly adscititious presentation of those characters as insufficiently “empathetic.” And in-double-deed, the second of these elements is closely related to another  Boomergenetic element of Seinfeld that I have not yet discussed—viz., its presentation of what would was once known (and still would have been known to Jerry Seinfeld, Larry David, and their older writers well into their young adulthoods) as the American WASP elite, an elite whose displacement and supersession every Boomer was conscious of participating in and most Boomers were enthusiastic about participating in even when they happened to hail from that elite themselves. While this presentation is not particularly acrimonious, it is most certainly not affectionate or respectful either, for the conspicuous smattering of elderly WASP characters are portrayed as characterologically dominated by a combination of “uptightness,” mirthless loopiness, and “passive-aggressive” spite. One sees this combination in fullest flower in Mr. Pitts, the dour, ultra-formal elderly bachelor friend of the recently deceased Jackie Kennedy Onassis as whose personal assistant Elaine works for a rather long succession of episodes—sees it in his habit of eating Snickers bars with a knife and fork and his delegation to Elaine of the task of not merely purchasing his socks but also of his helping him to try them on afterwards, a task whose demeaningness is amplified by the perversity of the interchangeability and one-size-fits-all-ness of the socks themselves, a bushel of the blindingly white “tube crews” seldom unselfconsciously worn by anyone over the age of ten (the incongruity of such socks with Pitts’s presumptively bespoke three-piece dark blue suits, like that of the Snickers bars with his presumptively bespoke china and cutlery, seems intended to suggest that the WASPs are not even to be relied on to maintain the standards of elegance they quasi-single-handedly set); or perhaps, rather, in the Rosses, the parents of George’s fiancée Susan—Mrs. Ross an uncannily tight-lipped and impeccably coiffed and made-up twenty-four-hour drunk, Mr. Ross a perpetually sullen and brooding closeted homosexual secretly pining for his youthful days as the paramour of the abovementioned John Cheever, both of them seething with a hatred for each other exceeded in intensity and tenacity only by their contempt for their traditional social inferiors—a contempt hilariously evinced by their gameness for being driven for two or three hours to the tip of Long Island by George for the sole pleasure of exposing his lie of possessing a mansion in the East Hamptons. So are you now undermining the raison d’être of the present essay even further—nay, making mincemeat of the very raison d’être of that raison d’être—by averring that Seinfeld was not even worthy of continuation? By no means, first because there is enough “nature” in Seinfeld’s portraits of elderly WASPs to redeem them qua quasi- Theophrastian character sketches despite their turpitude qua conduits of Boomerism, and second because these portraits and the other Boomerist elements of Seinfeld are now of interest to me not qua elements of Seinfeld—in which they are “low-profile” enough not to vitiate the show as a whole beyond the point of moral-cum-aesthetic defensibility, but rather in their capacity as aids to the further interpretation of the moral-cum-epistemological schema of ILYK. In this capacity, these elements shew us that “New Yorkism” in the Boomer mindset of the 1990s was not neatly consubstantial or coextensive with sophistication or elegance in an old-fashioned or “establishment” sense, such that in taking in a Boomergenetic mise en scène such as ILYK wherein “New Yorkism” is presented as a normative mindset, we should not reflexively expect to find an absence or even a comparative lack of sophistication or elegance in that sense in the entities presented as antithetical or inimical to that mindset—which entities in ILYK’s case are of course the entities that embody “Los Angelesism.” And indeed on taking a closer look at IYLK with this aid-to-interpretation ready to eye, I have discovered scadlets of moments in which “Los Angelisism” is derided precisely on account of its possession of a comparatively high degree of such sophistication and elegance. For instance, there is the moment in a fairly early episode in which the abovementioned Elliott Gould elicits murmurs of scandalization from an entire jam-packed drawing room at an L.A. society lady’s soiree when he admits that he is the driver and owner of a certain midmarket or even downmarket-model of car (perhaps a Honda Civic) just spotted parked outside. He huffily defends his drivership-cum-ownership of the car on the grounds that it is “practical”—but to no avail. And why, if one considers the matter from a certain historically relatively transcendent point of view, should the argument that the car was practical have cut ice of any weight with the people at that party? After all, they were all rich or very nearly rich people, people who were under no financial pressure to weigh “practicality” into their choice of a car or any reason to suppose that a movie star, a man as rich or richer than themselves, had weighed “practicality” into his choice. They were people who could afford to give pride of place to luxury and style in making that choice, as the show-runners of ILYK went out of their way to make clear by frequently showing Robbie behind the wheel of an exceedingly luxurious and stylish convertible sports car—presumably either a Jaguar or a Mercedes (if a Mercedes is ever a sports car). And indeed Gould’s argument from practicality puts me directly and vividly in mind of a ca. 1994 essay by the academic literary critic Stanley Fish in which he—a virtual professional pejorator of his fellow academics—tried to explain to the general reader why university professors nearly always drove Volvos despite their manifest hideousness. These profs would, he said, always say that they preferred Volvos because they were “practical,” but (he added) this fetishization of practicality was but a stalking horse for a combination of their quasi-Marxist aversion to being associated with the ruling elite (or, at any rate, to divulging their unavoidable association therewith), their lack of taste, and their lack of respect for people who did not lack it. In ca. 1994, Fish could write such an essay in full confidence that it would be met with a warm and mirthful reception, for in the America of 1994 the stylelessness of university professors was both widely known and widely derided; indeed, as I recall, in the autumn of that year one of the three or four nationally circulated newspapers (it may even have been the Los Angeles Times!) published an article on that year’s MLA convention (the annual conference of literature professors) that described the attendees as a cohort of people for whom “gravy stains are a fashion statement.” All the same, it must be admitted that while Volvos are ugly, they are not particularly cheap or light on frills; that early 1990s academics’ predilection for Volvos showed that they were not prepared to break ranks with the non-ivory tower-dwelling haute bourgeoisie to the extent of buying cars that might have typically been driven by, say, elementary school teachers. The scene of Elliott Gould’s divulgence of his ownership of such a car in ILYK shows that by 1999, the Welt-cum Volksgeist-stewards had overshot the academics of ca. 1994 in point of studied stylelessness-cum-unpretentiousness; it shows that by 1999 America’s tastemakers at least wished to believe that it was perfectly acceptable for anyone, be he ever so rich or highly placed, to drive a car that was not only ugly but cheap and unluxurious. Of course here a certain type of reader—not a stupid or even inattentive one but rather a magpie-eyed one with an allergy to dialectical thinking—will interject that the mere fact that Elliott Gould was (and is) a movie star precludes his serving as a norm within the moral landscape of ILYK, inasmuch as the entire logic of that landscape is predicated on the notion that movie stars are shallow, airheaded, morally vacuous people. But such a reader has failed to consider or recall that ILYK’s notion of a typical movie star is Jennifer Grey, an actress known exclusively for her work in inescapably trivial film genres, for her work in teen comedies like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and “chick flicks” (or, per my far-above hesitation, quasi-“chick flicks”) like Dirty Dancing and that in presenting Elliott Gould as at loggerheads with Shrug in the abovementioned recording session it perforce distances him from the Gestalt comprising the L.A.-based three-quarters of the comediae personae, a Gestalt defined by its shallowness and flakiness, and thereby “casts” him as a very different sort of movie star from Jennifer Grey, as an altogether better sort of movie star. And indeed the ILYK production team would have found and presumably did find it entirely natural to “cast” him as such a figure, for after all, despite his occasional turkeys like the Disney flick The Devil and Max Devlin (in which he starred as a latter day Faust-cum-Jabez Stone to the then utterly un-notorious and indeed universally beloved Bill Cosby’s Devil), Gould was preeminently known for his work in the films of Robert Altman, Hollywood’s most outrageous maverick, who was forever biting the hand that fed him, and in particular for his (Gould’s) “creation” of the role of Hawkeye Pierce in Altman’s M.A.S.H., perhaps the central text in the cinematic portion of Boomer Scripture (I say perhaps because that central text may be The Big Chill, but there is no seriously entertainable third contender. M.A.S.H., the namesake and basis of the far-abovementioned wildly popular sitcom, was a 1970 military sex-comedy film that presented the Korean War as a dedicated prolepsis of-cum-stand in for the Vietnam War, a film whose comediae personae was unevenly divided between guys like Hawkeye, happy-go-lucky sexually uninhibited types with a jaundiced attitude to the war, who were presented as the heroes; and po-faced sexually repressed hawks like Robert Duvall’s Major Burns, who were presented as the villains (of course there is presumably some sort of Freudian pun embedded in the antithesis between a dove with a hawk’s eye [i.e., an eye for the ladies] and an “eye”-less [and hence castrated or impotent] hawk). Such being the case, M.A.S.H. was generally interpreted not merely as an allegory of the Vietnam War but also as an allegory of the entire American system of life and an attack on the American “establishment,” very much including the establishment of Hollywood, then still seen as dominated by po-faced sexually repressed hawkish studio executives. Whence the presumptive naturalness to ILYK’s show-runners of presenting Gould as a different, better sort of movie star, with “better” being envisaged as coextensive  not only with “deep” or “substantial” but also with “subversive.” So Gould is effectively a fifth columnist in the Los Angeles of ILYK. But a fifth columnist hailing from what sort of enemy polity? He is not, as we have already established, attacking the Angelenan system of life from the point of view of a New York-style snob, and triangulation of his Altmanian CV with his automotive preferences suggests an affiliation with what would probably now be called (and may already have been beginning to be called by then) Green Leftism. To be sure, he does not directly defend his choice of a downmarket car on the grounds that the car is “environmentally friendly,” but “practicality” is often a stalking horse for “good gas mileage,” and “good gas mileage” is often defended on environmentalist grounds. We might conjecture that Gould here is halfway to being a full-fledged Green Lefty of the twenty-twenties, that at a soirée-scene set in the present he would be disclosing his ownership of an electric car; or perhaps, rather, as electric cars are still very expensive and hence still amenable to being mistaken for old-fashioned “status symbols,” disclosing that he was a full-time pedestrian—a conjecture strongly supported by the sympathetic treatment accorded (via the satirical treatment of Robbie’s embarrassment at being associated with her) to the far-abovementioned full-time pedestrian dating-partner of Robbie. But one needn’t insist too strenuously, “lean too heavily,” as they say, on Gould’s formal sinister verdure, for in “lived” quotidian terms contemporary Green Leftism amounts merely to an implacably prescriptive asceticism in the domain of everyday creature comforts (for of course as regards the purely intercorporeal [and intracorporeal!] sins of the flesh today’s Green Lefties are apostles of unbridled sybaritism in the tradition of Hawkeye Pierce and co.), such that the Elliott Gould of ILYK has already caught up with today’s Green Lefties in substance and has only to catch up with them in degree. In contemporary “lived” quotidian terms, the Green Lefties’ agenda takes the form of a relentless carping, canting, nasal plaint of “Do you really need the nice version of Product-or-Activity X? Why don’t you just opt for the shitty version of it, or better yet, opt for a great big glob of shit instead of Product-or-Activity X?”—as in, “Do you really need a heavy-duty clothes dryer? Why don’t you buy a light-duty drying machine, or better yet hang your clothes out to dry, or better yet, never change them so that you never have to wash them or dry them?”; “Do you really need to take a ten-minute shower or to shower every day? Why don’t you just take a five-minute shower twice a week, or better yet, it lieu of showering at all, just step outside whenever it rains?” “Do you really need to change your clothes every day? Why not change them just twice a week, or not at all, or better yet, throw out all your clothes and wear a muumuu woven out of a combination of your own pubic hair and bellybutton lint?” “Do you really need to eat the flesh of real vertebrate animals? Why not subsist on a diet of insects, or better yet, of your own excrement straight from the chute?” “Do you really need to drink distilled water? What don’t you drink tap water, or better yet, your own urine straight from the spigot?” This last Mad Libette in the catalogue makes for a perfect (some would say all-too-conveniently perfect) segue to my second moment-scadlet of ILYK in which “Los Angelisism” is derided precisely on account of its possession of a comparatively high degree of such sophistication and elegance. The scene is once again a soirée hosted by a woman hailing from the cream of Angelenan society (here is as good a place as any [except of course the passage in which I first mentioned the previous soirée], to point out that in even still possessing a society at all, let alone a cream-topped one, the Los Angeles of ILYN is far more sophisticated and elegant than any Occidental city of the 2020s), who for this event has managed to snag the metropolis’s most coveted caterer, a chef whose canapes are second-to-none and doubtless described by more than one guest as “to die for” (albeit most likely not as “TDF” [as “texting” was only just beginning to become a “thing” then]). At a certain point about midway through the episode a particularly bumptious guest (I’m almost certain it was Shrug) finds his way into the kitchen, where he finds the master at work replenishing trays with his masterpieces and has the effrontery to ask him to what his canapes owe their unsurpassable excellence. Although irked by the intruder’s inquisitiveness, the chef is sporting enough to tell him that the excellence is owing to “a secret ingredient,” and most of the rest of the episode is devoted to a guessing-game among the guests regarding this secret ingredient, and all sorts of extremely recherché and expensive commodities like platinum dust and bird-of-paradise brains are tendered as guesses only to suffer a devastating deflation in the concluding seconds when for some reason or other the caterer decides to “go nuclear” and reveal that the SI is nothing other or better than tap water; whereupon everybody naturally starts vomiting like Mr. Creosote into his or her cocktail napkin. Hey, as I’d be the first (and, in the light of my near-solitariness qua ILYK viewer, most likely also last) to admit, I take a certain amount of shame-lack in my withers’ being only lightly wrung by that episode punchline, for although I now happen to drink bottled water almost exclusively (or, rather, to misquote the central personage from the [at least to my mind] last genuinely entertaining television advertising campaign, “I don’t always drink water, but when I do I prefer it from bottles”) owing to certain qualities of plumbing of my present abode that it would be indecorous of me to specify, I have nothing in principle against tap water and indeed consumed it gamely if not exactly enthusiastically throughout my nearly quarter-century of residence in Baltimore (although I plan to avoid drinking any of it there in the future in view of a “recommendation to boil water” from the city’s government that I happened to see about a year-and-a-half ago [and that could not but put me in mind of Tchaikovsky’s supposed death by unboiled water during a cholera epidemic]). Natheless, an aversion to tap water and insistence on drinking bottled water is hardly the most fastidious, extravagant, or other-inconveniencing of pet peccadilloes-cum-pet preferences. It is not like an addiction to caviar as a universal condiment or proper champagne (as opposed to mere “sparkling water” of unspecified provenance) as a bathtub-filler, let alone that most notorious of all Hollywood pet peccadilloes-cum-pet preferences, Jerry Lewis’s refusal to wear the same pair of socks twice. One does not need to be a movie star or even a television star to finance a bottled-water addiction; one can indeed quite comfortably finance a bottled-water addiction on the wages of, say, a roofer (to name a very low-paying blokey livelihood) or a supermarket cashier (to name a very low-paying womanish one). It is about as expensive as a two-pack-a-day chewing-gum habit, and even back at the turn of the millennium, when cigarette taxes were much lighter than in 2023, it was considerably cheaper than a pack-a-day cigarette habit. Such being and having been the case, it can only serve as a satirical target in a satirical schema that posits a properly Spartan existence (even one in the fullest sense!) as a norm, that presents any degree of luxury above the level of biological subsistence as abnormal. And such being and having been the case, must you not at long last give over even trying to defend ILYK qua supposed worthy continuation of Seinfeld? No, but such being and having been the case, I am duty-bound to concede that a sane, decent, and would-be-civilized inhabitant of the early-to-mid 2020s can fully appreciate ILYK only by reading it against the grain, so to speak—in other words, by giving over any attempt to enter into its satirical attitude towards Los Angeles and viewing even (or perhaps even especially) the Angelemes it presents as most outrageous or contemptible as elements of a more civilized system of life than the one that obtains in present-day America (or anywhere else in the present-day Occident). To appreciate ILYK fully for what it has to offer is to see its satirized Los Angelenan side and its normativized New Yorkean side as two halves of a whole that is deserving of normativization in relation to an America of the 2020s that is in turn worthy of satirization—an America in which the distinction between vulgarity and refinement has been obliterated; in which vulgarity and refinement now stand at one end of, not a “spectrum,” but rather a stark antinomy whose opposite pole is insanity, infantilism, and chaos. For just as hypocrisy is the tribute vice pays to virtue, vulgarity is the tribute barbarism pays to civilization. The vulgarian wears a gold lamé suit or has gold plumbing fixtures installed in his bathroom (and yes I am thinking of the bathroom of a particular vulgarian; the most notorious vulgarian now alive; a man who is most ardently loathed not because he is vulgar but because his vulgarity has not a whiff of the prosaified supernatural about it) not only because he knows that gold is expensive but also, and even more significantly, because he appreciates the same beauty of gold that is integral to the sculptures of Cellini (the ostentatiousness of whose autobiography in turn befits the vulgarity to which his medium is ineluctably prone). The vulgarian who keeps Hooked on Classics or a James Last album in constant rotation on his stereo keeps them thereon not only because he lacks the “attention span” to appreciate a full-length symphony but also because he genuinely appreciates the rich sonority and (at least intuitively) the voice-leading capabilities of a symphony orchestra. Accordingly, if there is one type of person who would singularly benefit from a comprehensive viewing of ILYK it is probably the type of American who has been described as the “Blue-state conservative” and (in an appellation that itself reeks of the peculiar rot of our epoch in virtue of its Tolkienian provenance) the “dark elf”; the type of American who sympathizes with the concerns and preoccupations of people in so-called flyover country but says that he cannot tear himself away from the coastal metropolis in which he resides because he is too closely attached to the cultural amenities that (according to him) still abound in coastal metropolises. Of course even in describing such a type in such a fashion, I have, despite having striven to fashion as narrow-circumferenced a conceptual net as possible, cast far too broad a conceptual net, for in reality many a “dark elf”-stroke-“Blue-state conservative” is as lacking in true cultivation as his shitlib compatriots and supposes that easy access to Malaysian, Ethiopian, and Uyghur-Chinese cuisine (I have of course over the years banged on ad nauseam about the low-rentishness of culinary snobbery insgesamt, but any otherwise genuinely cultivated person who insists on its high-rentishness will at least behind closed doors concede that French cuisine is the only cuisine really worth being snobbish about, what with its having a centuries-old tradition of snobbery more than figuratively baked into it) and to reunion concerts by turn-of-the millennium indie-rock bands (regarding which any parenthetical disclaimer is naturally superfluous) constitutes the ne plus ultra of cultural amenity. But presumably at least a more-than-minuscule minority of DEs-cum-BSCs still sincerely appreciate old-school high culture—still like to go to old-school symphony orchestra concerts with programs exhausted by the works of serious composers and unframed by childish gimmicks; to museums displaying the works of serious artists absent disclaiming lectures on their connections to the slave trade; and to opera-performances in which it is possible to draw some connection between what is being sung about and what is happening on stage—and still fancy that this O-S HC is still available in abundance in coastal metropolises, still have yet to realize that the entities doing business under the names of these institutions are merely a congeries of so-called skin suits but poorly concealing their utter lack of affinity with the essential qualities thereof; they still fancy this and have yet to realize that either because they don’t get out as much as they suppose, such that they have not yet even been afforded a proper view of the degeneration, or because, like the god-awfully hackneyed but unavoidable proverbial frog in slowly boiling water, they have been getting out so frequently over such a long stretch of time that they have not yet noticed how much everything has changed for the worse—and for how different a sort of worse than the old one. And lest the defender of coastal metropolises come to suppose that he still has an ace in the hole or t***p card in the so-called arthouse cinemas sited therein, I shall interject here that less than 24 hours before the moment of this writing [4:46 a.m. on December 4, 2023] I saw a film—or, at least the first minute-and-a-half thereof—that exemplifies the skinsuit phenomenon to a nauseating turn and that I believe may fairly be said to typify the offerings of such cinemas inasmuch as I spectated on it via a so-called streaming service that was simultaneously hosting at least a half-dozen movies I had seen at Baltimore’s main [and essentially sole] so-called arthouse venue in the late twenty-teens.  The film was—and is—a 2021 adaptation of Balzac’s novel (or, if one regards each of its parts as a novel in its own right, trilogy) Lost Illusions. The book(s) recount(s) the intertwined life histories of two friends in the French provinces: one an enterprising printer who is trying to come up with a form of book-paper that is sturdier and cheaper than the current standard, the other a poet who longs to see his verses appreciated by discerning readers. The poet moves to Paris where he is quickly distracted from his true calling by the more immediately lucrative livelihood of journalism; his success as a journalist encourages him to live a “champagne lifestyle” and consequently to run up enormous debts, debts that his friend back home, being surety for them, is obliged to discharge; and being unable to discharge them, the friend is obliged to spend a disagreeable term in the local debtor’s prison. The moral-cum- sociopolitical upshot of this plotline, a plotline to which the bifurcation of the protagonists is essential, is of course that in a modern commercial society it is not enough to live a good life oneself, as one’s fortunes are always tied up with people who live emphatically bad lives. Within the abovementioned first minute-and-a-half, the film makes it eyeburstingly and earburstingly clear, via both the mise en scène and an accompanying voiceover, that it has obliterated the just-mentioned bifurcation—that the printer and poet have been merged into a single character, into a poet reduced to the shift of printing his own verses. As soon as my eyes and ears had been burst by the discovery of this act of obliteration, I more than figuratively exclaimed, “Check please!” and switched over to Claude Chabrol’s 1991 adaptation of Madame Bovary, a film which, however dubious its moral-cum-sociopolitical upshot may be simply in virtue of its being an adaptation of Flaubert’s novel (what with the moral-cum-sociopolitical upshot of that novel’s being highly dubious indeed, as Jean Améry [q.v.] eloquently argues in Charles Bovary, Country Doctor) at least possesses the virtue of keeping Emma categorically distinct from her husband. The reader unfamiliar with the Balzac work will doubtless think that the consolidation of the poet and the printer is some minor if regrettable bit of dramaturgical streamlining like Laurence Olivier’s elimination of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern from Hamlet and reassignment of a handful of their lines to Polonius, but I can assure this reader that it is far more serious and far more grotesque than that; that it is at least as egregious as would be the consolidation of George and Kramer in a Seinfeld “reboot,” or of Arthur and Shrug in a reboot of ILYK. “That said,” such an act of dramaturgical brutality is entirely par for the course in Millennials’ treatment of established personages; it is merely another instance of their predilection for wresting such personages entirely free of their established context, whether historical or fictional; it is exactly the kind of thing one would expect from a generation that has delightedly produced and consumed Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Slayer and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, and that in its hierarchy of cinematic modes accords pride of place to Japanese animation, with its blithe and ever-quasi-pornographic mingling of human and animal characteristics in a single personage (e.g., a schoolgirl with cats’ ears and a puppy-dog’s tail), and pointless displacement of characters to alien settings (e.g., Sherlock Holmes to twenty-fourth century Mars).

In 1971, the abovementioned Jean Améry, a man who had spent a great deal of time observing and analyzing the changes and continuities in the Occidental way of life of the mid-to-late twentieth century (and who had recorded the fruits of his observation and analysis in his highly enlightening 1964 book Preface to the Future), delivered a lecture in honor of the hundredth anniversary of Marcel Proust’s birth, a lecture that he concluded by championing continuing attention to Proust work on the grounds that “as long as we are stuck here in and with this epoch, which is every bit as much a late-bourgeois epoch as in Proust’s day, we cannot get by without him.” And at that moment, Améry’s assertion of the essential late-bourgeoisness of the present must have been unchallengeable. After all, the following year, 1972, saw the release of Luis Buñuel’s The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, which proved wildly popular throughout Europe and North America, and pace my preceding strictures on the “narrowcasting” tendencies of cinema, it is hard to imagine that a film that flaunted its monomaniacal obsession with the bourgeoisie in its title would have been an international hit if the bourgeoisie had been a marginal social force, let alone a relic of a bygone age. But as I believe the preceding pages of this essay have at least credibly suggested if not exactly trenchantly proved, we have at some point in the past twenty years ceased to live in a definitively late-bourgeois epoch—an epoch in which while dogged industriousness may not have been universally esteemed, unregenerate laziness was still universally stigmatized; and in which while very few people may have had decent taste, everyone still appreciated beauty within the limits of his aesthetic capacity—and begun to live in a definitely post-bourgeois epoch—an epoch in which sloth and ugliness have become normative; and while I—a Proustophile’s Proustophile who was not even (albeit only barely not even) born in 1971—am certainly not going to sit here, let alone stand there, and say that it is no longer worthwhile to read Proust (even if “in a certain very real sense,” I have already said just that way back in the mid-20-oughties, in the essay “Proprietary Names: the Name / Proprietary Names: the Place” [and inasmuch as the names of the entities inhabiting the trash so ardently beloved of the Millennial generation at least seem to function in a manner not dissimilar to that of proprietary names, one cannot but suspect that the Aufstehen of the proprietary name is implicated in the Untergang of the bourgeois epoch in some fashion {not to mention but hope that that fashion proves rich and coherent enough to yield a sequel-essay to “Proprietary Names: the Name / Proprietary Names: the Place”}]), I am going to sit here (and would be glad to stand there) and say that in order to understand the transition from the bourgeois epoch to the post-bourgeois one we would do best to study the television of the micro-epoch of that transition (why the television and not the cinema or belles lettres thereof I have already made plain several pages ago [and hinted at only a single sentence ago]) and that inasmuch as the tipping-point of that transition seems to be situated at the very tip of the tipping-point between the second and third millennia, we would be best of all served thereunto by studying It’s Like, You Know. And in closing I must dot-connectingly emphasize that the understanding of this transition today will conceivably yield a very different sort of fruit from that yielded by an understanding of the bourgeois world fifty or sixty years ago—and “arguably” a much more fruitful sort of fruit; for in the twilight decades of the bourgeois epoch, an improved understanding of the bourgeois world could perforce merely yield an understanding of how to get along in that moribund world, whereas an understanding of the transition from the bourgeois to the post-bourgeois epoch will perforce allow at least the understanders with residual bourgeois tendencies to perceive what was lost in the transition and thereby, conceivably, to facilitate their less fortunate contemporaries’ “detransitioning” back into proper bourgeois subjects and concomitantly usher in the restoration of the bourgeois world, which if hardly a full-fledged utopia was at least a proper and halfway decent topia.