Night Owl Disco Fort

Weekend Express - Going to Chicago


Graham was wrapping his head around the shape of Hell, and the lay of the land, to him, resembled the sets of Night Court and It’s A Living, two sitcoms from his childhood that had been in almost constant broadcast either in new programming or in syndication, and whose characters all appeared to live in the places they worked. The only evidence of the outside world existed in the title sequences of both shows, when scenes from presumably New York were shown for Night Court, and a long montage of the It’s A Living waitresses featured them entering the Bonaventure Hotel accompanied by the theme song of the show, all arm-in-arm, showing up for work simultaneously and ecstatic. But beyond that it was if the cast of characters on both shows lived in ignorance of the existence of the real world, as sheltered as those Amazonian Indian tribes who still thought of the sun and moon as deities. All of that had formed the basis of Graham’s notion of Hell—the sitcoms’ suspension of time and place: Judge Harry always made jokes and would make jokes forever; Dan Fielding, state’s attorney, liked women and wanted women forever; Amy Tompkins worked hard for her tips and would work forever for those tips; and Sonny Mann, the piano player, longed for the waitresses and would long for them forever. The two sitcoms were what immediately came to Graham’s mind whenever someone said the word “existentialism,” which he had not studied much but took from its use to mean something like sophisticated despair. It seemed possible but weird to Graham that the shows’ creators had had this in mind when writing the sitcoms and knew that they were providing a valuable service by acclimatizing viewers to the idea of everlasting entrapment and routine.

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