Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Tubular: A Cold Draught of Reality

Shallow Center's South Jersey correspondent wrote to discuss a West Wing rerun, the two-part "20 Hours in America," in which Josh, in a bar in Indiana with Toby, seems to be drinking a bottle of Yuengling Lager, our beloved, Philadelphia-area beer. There's a running joke among my brothers (SCSJC and Shallow Center's Washington correspondent) and me regarding the local custom that allows patrons to order Yuengling not by its brand name but by its type. That led to this little Aaron Sorkin parody from SCWC:

And I'm sure the conversation went a little something like this:

Josh: Bartender, I'd like a Lager.

Toby: You can just say "Lager"?

Josh: You can just say "Lager."

Toby: I didn't know you could just say "Lager."

Josh: You could, and I just did, say "Lager."

Donna: What's a "Lager"?

Josh: What's a "Lager"?

Donna: I'm asking you. What's this "Lager"?

Toby: Donna, you can just say "Lager."

Josh: A "lager" is a type of beer, which is an alcoholic beverage brewed from malt and in this case flavored with a relatively small amount of hops. The "Lager" -- that's with a capital L -- is a product of the oldest working brewery in the United States.

Toby: It's a working brewery?

Josh: It's a working brewery.

Toby: Because it would be awkward if it didn't work.

Josh: It would be awkward if it didn't work.

Donna: I like ponies.

Even casual viewers of Sorkin's West Wing work -- not to mention his superlative and tragically underviewed dramedy Sports Night and even TBS staples A Few Good Men and The American President -- will recognize SCWC's jabs as accurate. Still, to me, the rapid-fire dialogue, the frenzied, walking-and-talking pace, and the respectful, intelligent treatment of complex topics (really, most of Sorkin's work isn't about beer) are strengths, not weaknesses. They are points of differentiation, ways to separate his stuff from standard-issue, sex-obsessed, sitcom drivel and underwhelming cops-and-robbers junk.

By the way, when he's not being ironic (and often uncomfortably perceptive) in e-mails to me and my other brother, SCWC spends time being ironic (and often uncomfortably perceptive) on his excellent pop-culture blog, Boats Against the Current.


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