We love the fact that some of the most memorable episodes of classic TV are ones in which the storyline revolves around a book. Here are a few of my favorite televised book moments, proving that everything’s better when you’ve got something to read:
Friends: Joey finds Rachel’s “dirty book”
The episode starts out normally enough: Joey can’t take a nap on his own couch, because his pet duck has puked all over it after eating Rachel’s face cream. So he gets the idea to sleep in Rachel’s bed while she’s at work. He climbs into her beautifully made bed, shoes and all—then, feeling a lump under the mattress, pulls out a rumpled pulp fiction book about a raunchy affair between Zelda, the vicar’s daughter, and a lowly chimney sweep. He immediately tells Ross and Chandler, and they spend the rest of the episode playacting the parts to embarrass her, as good friends do.
Cheers: Sam ruins a first edition
Ah, Sam and Diane, TV’s most insufferable couple. The episode “I’ll Gladly Pay You Tuesday” is a perfect of example of how infuriating their relationship is. Diane finds a rare first edition of The Sun Also Rises, autographed by Ernest Hemingway, for only $500. She asks Sam for a loan, knowing the book’s true value is way more than $500. Sam gives her the money, not knowing what it’s for, then goes ballistic when he finds out she used it to buy a book. To put him at ease, she gives him the book as collateral until she can pay him back. Though he’s no scholar, Sam starts reading the book, only to drop it in his bathtub, basically destroying its worth. He ends up buying the book back from Diane for $1,000 just so she’ll never find out. Yeah, not a lot of trust in that relationship.
30 Rock: Liz Lemon’s Deal Breaker book
Liz does what many successful self-help authors have done: markets her opinions about men and relationships as knowledgable advice. This lands her in very hot water with the men in her life, since their behaviors have since become “deal breakers” for their wives. It turns out that she subconsciously wrote the bulk of her book using Tracy Jordan’s life as inspiration for deal-breaking behavior. Things like: “If your man has seven cellphones but won’t give you any of their numbers, that’s a deal breaker.” Or, “If your man has a diamond necklace that says ‘Open Marriage,’ that’s a deal breaker.” Tracy gets back at her by buying the rights to her life story and using them to make a porno.
Seinfeld: A coffee table book…about coffee tables!
Who can forget Kramer’s ingenious idea to make a coffee table book about coffee tables, that can itself be used as a coffee table? It’s a million-dollar idea! One that he manages to completely screw up, obviously. Then there was the time that Jerry forgot to return a copy of Tropic of Cancer in high school and is tracked down by the New York Public Library’s slightly crazed chief investigator, Lt. Bookman. Jerry swears he returned the book, but then remembers he lent it to George, who lost it while getting an “atomic wedgie” from their P.E. teacher Mr. Heyman. And then there’s the time George brought a book with him into the bookstore bathroom…
Sex and the City: The scrunchie
Carrie has brilliant advice for her boyfriend who’s writing a novel: sophisticated Manhattan women don’t wear scrunchies. If you have your main character wear a scrunchie in your book, you will lose your savvy readers. Sadly, her boyfriend, Berger, turns out to be one of those weeny types who can’t take constructive criticism, and who proceed to break up with their girlfriends via Post-it note.
Breaking Bad: The Walt Whitman moment
Some of us can remember exactly where we were and how our hearts pounded when Hank sat down to take a number two on Walter White’s toilet. I almost can’t bring myself to give specifics and spoil it for anyone and everyone who should watch Breaking Bad. Key points: a book, a dedication, a panic attack, and the beginning of the end. BUM BUM BUUMMM.
What’s your favorite bookish moment in TV or movie history?