Last night I was watching That 70's Show in syndication. It's a guilty pleasure. Please don't judge me.
It was an episode from the last season, and Mary Tyler Moore was guest starring as Christine st. George, an anchorwoman on a local news program. Jackie idolized her, of course, and tried unabashedly to gain MTM's approval and a spot on the show. During a moment we could all see coming, Mary exclaimed, "Jackie, you've got... sssssss--spirit! Moxie! .... Gumption? There's a word I'm looking for, but I can't seem to find it. Hmm."
After a small rumble of laughter, I knew for sure. It was an allusion to The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and though I'd watched it on Nick and Nite here and there as a kid, I couldn't place it. Still, I can't be on the outside of a joke. I had to know.
After a few different keyword combinations, I finally found it-- a quote from the very first episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show:
Lou Grant: "You know what, Mary? You've got spunk."
Mary Richards: "Why, thank you, Mr. Grant."
Lou: "I hate spunk."
Can you imagine? What if we'd been making fun of the 70's with That 70's Show in the early 90's instead of the early 2000s? If the joke had been lost on me then, I may have never figured it out-- unless I was willing to go out and buy the series on DVD and watch every episode (in this case I'd have only had to watch the first one, but that wouldn't be the case in most other scenarios)-- but wait, we didn't have that option either, did we?
It seems like a silly example, but the fact is, we have so much more information readily available to us than ever before. Sure, there have always been ways to answer burning questions like, "Why is this joke funny?" "Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow?" and "Who were the members of the Rolling Stones?" but never before have the answers been waiting for us at the desk in the family room, whenever we choose to seek them, 3 pm or 3 am.
We're pretty lucky, and we should definitely find ways to use this readily available information to our absolute advantage.