I admit I watch a lot of television. And since I DVR almost all of it to watch as I ride my recumbent bike every morning, I consider my TV time an aide to my overall fitness. (Yep, that’s justification at its finest!)

I also rationalize that all my time in front of the boob tube is “writing research.” From a writer’s perspective, I am often awed by the clever phrase turning and extended metaphors on some of these programs. I find the number of “asides,” that I assume most people don’t get, absolutely phenomenal.

Catching the casual references to Shakespeare, classic television shows, movies, celebrities, and literary characters always make me smile. I feel proud that I am smart enough to be “on the inside.”

A couple weeks ago on NCIS, Autopsy Assistant Jimmy was trying out names for his soon-to-be-born baby. Norman was the name of the deceased on the table in front of him. Ducky started in with the history of the Normans and Normandy Beach. Jimmy thought that kind of responsibility was too much pressure to put on a kid. Ducky suggested “Norm.” Jimmy tried calling out, “Norm!” Then immediately dismissed that idea, saying he’d probably just want to buy him a beer.

This was a reference to a character on the TV sitcom Cheers, which ran from 1982 to 1993. I wonder how many of today’s viewers got the joke. And then I wonder how many of these tongue-in-cheek moments even I am missing!

My mind is like a steel sieve. Some things get trapped in there, and others flow right through. Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of control over which stays put.

Odd phrases and unusual words always claim my attention. Savvy scriptwriters should know this about their audiences, and avoid repeating particularly interesting references. A week apart, I heard two separate mentions of online relationship scams called “catfishing”—one on NCIS, and one on NCIS New Orleans. Come on, people! Those of us who watch both those shows are going to be jarred by the repetition!

Humorous references to the game of “Clue” are frequently used in the shows I watch. I suppose that’s because I watch a lot of “solve this mystery” programs. Again, in just one week, there were mentions of the game on NCIS, How to Get Away with Murder, and Castle. Two of those shows are on ABC, and one on CBS, so I suppose it could be chalked up to “coincidence.”

Except that Leroy Jethro Gibbs and I don’t believe in coincidence.

So I’ll continue to gloat to my cats about my superior listening skills and cultural literacy. Alvin, Simon, and Theo are a cultural reference in themselves. But MY Alvin doesn’t want a hula-hoop for Christmas…