It is conceivable that I may have a reader unfamiliar with TV drinking games. The original is believed to be “Hi Bob”: you watch The Bob Newhart Show and take a sip of alcohol any time someone on the show says “Hi, Bob.” Beer is traditional, as drinking hard liquor this way would be unhealthy. But the most notorious variant is Star Trek drinking games: you watch an episode of Trek and sip your drink whenever a show cliche happens. Folks have been publishing lists of situations that call for a drink since the days of mimeographed fanzines.
I recently stumbled across a particularly witty example of the form.
- A garbled distress call
- Mention of or reference to Shakespeare
- Someone is attempting to compensate
- Someone says “with all due respect...”
- Data is “attempting to do so”
- They cut to Spock for a “no-reaction” shot
That Shakespeare thing alone could hurt you pretty bad.
I get a kick out this kind of thing, because it often reveals little epiphanies about the storytelling tricks of a show. It's not that Star Trek is formulaic, though sometimes it can be. It's that good series television is structured. Consider a West Wing drinking game, which includes “whenever Latin is spoken” and “whenever there's a reference to a musical — two sips if it's Gilbert & Sullivan.”
You may argue that The West Wing is TV and therefore still essentially kitchy, but consider the Shakespeare drinking game you could do:
- Someone tells you where they're from
- A comedy relief character breaks out of blank verse
- People discuss something they're watching offstage
- A character uses a metaphor and then another character elaborately turns it around to mock them
- Someone remarks on the brevity of youth
That right there will get you pretty buzzed. In fact, I find myself wondering if drinking games weren't invented at the Globe Theatre: I wouldn't put it past the Elizabethans.