When reruns attack
Nothing takes the taste out of peanut butter quite like unrequited love.
— Charlie Brown (Charles M. Schulz)
Recently I've been watching old TV shows from my youth on various streaming services just for the nostalgia. The latest is Taxi which takes me back to my junior high and high school days. It was a fairly middle-of-the-road show with a couple very memorable characters and, like most shows of the era, some of it holds up over time and some is very dated. Watching it all back-to-back, you notice things that you never did before because either (a) the intervening time between episodes masked it and/or (b) you were 14 and just didn't pay that much attention. For example, one of the characters adopted a son in the middle of season 2 who was never seen, heard from, or even referred to again for the remaining 3 ½ years. Another was going to get marriend and then that whole idea just vanished.
Anyway, it was a humorous although mostly generic sitcom and wasn't really known for being poignant. And if it stumbled into a meaningful moment, it usually recovered by following it up with a laugh. With the exception, that is, of one episode. It's called "Elaine's Secret Admirer" and aired in halfway through season 2.
The premise is that Elaine (Marilu Henner) gets an anonymous romantic poem that reads,
I saw you standing in a Manhattan sunset,
your auburn hair blowing from Atlantic winds.
Your eyes were smiling at thoughts far away,
dancing to sonnets only you could hear.
If I could, I would build you a castle,
in a world in some other time,
a castle I could only imagine,
a castle only you could inspire.
Comedy ensues as she and the other drivers try to figure out who sent it, especially after another one shows up in her locker in the taxi garage. Spoiler alert (do we need to say that for a 40 year old show?!?) - it turns out to have been written by Reverend Jim, played by Christopher Lloyd. Yep, good ol' Doc Brown himself. ("Great Scott!") When she finds this out, we get this line.
Elaine: "I guess I should be happy about one thing. You finally got it through my thick skull that there aren't going to be any castles in my life."
That evening, when she gets home, she finds a sculpture of a castle in her living room. Jim stands up from the middle of it.
Jim: "See? There are castles." Elaine: "This is incredible." Jim: "Thanks. I made it myself." Elaine: "This is the most amazing thing anyone has ever done for me. Thank you."
OK - never mind the creepiness factor of how he – coworker/friend or not – got into her apartment in the first place. They chat briefly and, with a bittersweet look, both tacitly acknowledging that their friendship will never be anything more than that.
Jim: "Could you tell me where I catch the bus from here?" Elaine: "Why didn't you just drive your van over?" Jim: "Well, your castle has about 150,000 miles on it."
It's then that you notice that the castle is made of metal – side panels, bumpers, wheel fenders. (*gulp*) As he's leaving,
Jim: "I'm not every woman's dreamboat." Elaine: "But you are the dearest, sweetest, most wonderful person." Jim: "I think you're right. [beat] Funny thing. There used to be a time when that was enough."
Shut up! I'm not crying. You're crying!