May 25, 2010
The other day I did something I haven’t done in about ten years. I watched a new episode of The Simpsons as it was being broadcast, commercials and all. Normally I would record it. So let’s say there have been 230 episodes of The Simpsons in the past ten years, and I watched only one of them live.
This particular episode featured the judges from American Idol as themselves. American Idol is one of my favorite shows. So let’s say there are a few hundred shows on television, and maybe five of them qualify as “one of my favorites.” That coincidence is probably why I didn’t flip the channel. I was interested in seeing how the American Idol judges and Ryan Seacrest did with their voice work.
On the show, the animated version of Ellen, voiced by the real Ellen, goes into one of her signature rambles that seems to be going nowhere and surprises you by being funny. The gist of it was that someone was a nut, which makes her think of Filberts, which makes her think of Dilbert, which (she said) is a funny comic if you work in a cubicle.
I imagine that most of you don’t know what it feels like to be watching television while it is watching you back, sort of. It’s creepy as all hell. It literally makes it hard to believe that reality isn’t scripted.
But wait, it gets better. What you don’t know is that Ellen is the TV show I’ve tried hardest to appear on, for book publicity reasons, without any luck. I’m not famous enough to be booked on that sort of show as a celebrity, so I had pitched the idea of some sort of Pictionary contest in which I would be a contestant, as a ringer, and that would be the joke. But that idea never got any traction with Ellen’s producers.
Also by coincidence, Ellen’s wife, Portia, stars on a TV show called Better Off Ted. Critics often compare the show to Dilbert, which as most of you know has a main character called Generic Ted, who looks a lot like the TV Ted. Last season, the show asked for permission to make some extended references to Dilbert in an episode. I was happy to agree. So Ellen’s wife said “Dilbert” on national TV before Ellen did. To my knowledge, that is the first couple to ever both utter the word “Dilbert” on television.
The other day I was thinking about all of the coincidences involved in hearing Ellen mention Dilbert on The Simpsons. I wondered if it was interesting enough to turn into a blog entry. As I pondered the question, the pigeons living under my office eves, or maybe they live in my attic, starting their loud cooing routine that drives me crazy. So I turned on my office TV to its loudest setting for a few minutes, which usually shuts them up so I can work. And what’s on TV?
Our cable provider has music channels. While the music plays, a picture of the artist is displayed on screen. It was Ne-Yo, and the song was Closer. I have seen Ne-Yo perform that song exactly once. It was on Ellen.
Okay, okay, skeptics. I know that the math of life guarantees a bounteous harvest of coincidences. And some of those strings of coincidences might form what looks like a theme. Let’s agree that it’s not magic. But let’s also agree that if you suddenly have the ability to fly, the smart money says you’re dreaming. You can only have so many unlikely events in your life before you reject the reality hypothesis.
My particular coincidence theme in life involves television. The Ellen incident is one of many for me. The usual form of the coincidence is that something unusual will happen to me during the day, such as being bitten by a squirrel, and the first TV show I watch that night will be about a cartoonist who is bitten by a squirrel. It happens so often that it’s a running joke with my wife.
And so I wonder, does television track your life as well? Or is it just me?