One of the many fun ways to pass the time while waiting to laugh watching Laid is to spot the various lines and scenes lifted from other shows. Sometimes they’re too generic to seriously attribute to a single source: for example, no-one actually invented the term “ass-clown”, but it’s not exactly in common usage in Australia either. So when writer Marieke Hardy uses it she’s not stealing it from anyone, she’s merely bringing it to the attention of a wider audience. I guess.
Sometimes they’re more of a homage: the sudden brutal car-crash death of a character in episode one echoed a recent, similarly sudden car crash death in an episode of the most recent – but still from well over a year ago – episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm. One of this blog’s readers pointed out that some of the dialogue at the start of episode two of Laid recalls a scene from the HBO comedy series Bored to Death. Another has pointed out that the entire concept of Laid – a young woman has to deal with the fact that all her lovers die – happened to Maggie in quirky US drama Northern Exposure well over a decade ago.
Of course, there’s no such thing as an original idea, it all depends on the execution, using the same concepts is hardly stealing, maybe it’s a tribute, and so on. Nothing we’ve spotted (to date) is even up there with that episode of the Hardy-penned Last Man Standing that had a somewhat similar storyline (a lead character goes out with a hot racist chick then tries to make up for not dumping her by doing good deeds) to an episode of US sitcom Andy Richter Controls the Universe that had shown on Nine around 2am the previous year. No-one seemed to care too much about that one at the time, so we’re hardly kicking up a fuss here.
One thing that is worth pointing out tho, is Hardy’s use of unattributed quotes – that is, using lines from other shows or comedians without saying where they came from. Whether it’s the Anchorman quote in episode 2 (“I’m in a glass case of emotion”), or the Bill Hicks line in an upcoming episode (we won’t spoil it for you here), they’re pretty much the only case where you can firmly say “that came from somewhere else”. And it doesn’t even matter.
No-one seriously expects a character to chime in after the “glass case” line and say “nice Anchorman quote, dude”. It’d ruin the joke, such as it was. Either you recognise the quote and think “ahh, Anchorman, what a funny film” (perhaps swiftly followed by “I wish I was watching it right now instead of this guff”), or you don’t and you laugh at the line itself because it’s a funny line. Or maybe you wonder why a guy sitting on a lawn is talking about being trapped in a glass case.
In a better show than Laid, there’d be subtle, funny ways to make the fact that this is a quote clear. The character might quote movies a lot, so that after a while you’d realise any odd thing he said was probably a quote even if you didn’t know where it came from. The scene itself might recognisably come from another source – shows like Spaced and Community (the paintball episode) or even Seinfeld’s JFK riff make this stuff work all the time. Maybe the show itself would exist in a kind of heightened pop culture-referencing world, maybe the person the quote was said to would make a joke or sneering comment about the quoter’s ability to make up his own dialogue. And so on.
But not Laid. Laid just throws the line out there. If you get the reference, maybe you’ll laugh. If you don’t, maybe you’ll laugh anyway at the strangeness of it. It’s not like it adds anything to our understanding of the character past maybe that he’s a lazy, unoriginal dick. He doesn’t drop more movie quotes and his having watched Anchorman doesn’t come into play again. It’s just a lazy way to get across in a moderately funny fashion that he’s in a bad emotional place.
Whether that laziness is on the part of the character, or on the part of the person who wrote the dialogue for the character, well… it doesn’t really matter, does it? Like everything else in Laid that feels like it’s come from somewhere else, it works just as well either way. Maybe it’s a reference to being lazy; maybe it’s just being lazy. Maybe it’s a reference to a funny scene from somewhere else; maybe it’s just that scene done again. Damn you postmodern deadpan irony, you’ve won this round…