Mitch: “Beanie, you remember Cheese, Rodney’s kid brother?”
Dean Pritchard: “Actually, my name’s not Cheese anymore. It’s Gordon Pritchard.”
Beanie: “Oh, yeah. Cheee-eeeese. Yeah, didn’t we lock you in a dumpster one time?”
Dean Pritchard: “Yeah, I got out.”
Beanie: “Cool man. Good. Glad you did.”
– Oldschool, obviously.
I have a bit of a strange habit: I make lists in my head. I make A LOT of lists – and watching High Fidelity so many times over the years has only served to validate this part of my own personal crazy. For anyone who hasn’t seen it, John Cusack plays the owner of a record store who spends much of his time composing “all time top five” lists; the overall story looks back over his Top Five Most Memorable Break-Ups, but over the course of the film he comes up with some much more obscure excuses for devising lists. As someone who once made a mental list of my Top Three Hottest On-Screen Characters Named Logan, this obviously resonates with me somewhat. (Logan Huntsberger from Gilmore Girls, Logan Echolls from Veronica Mars and, of course, Wolverine. In ascending order of hotness. In case you were wondering. You can probably already tell that I watch an unholy amount of television and movies.)
I like the neatness of it, and how it’s a free hobby that doesn’t involve any sort of movement. I also enjoy the way people’s faces get so confused when I suddenly come out of a reverie to ask them who their Top Three Creepiest Movie Characters would be. (In descending order of creep factor, mine are Alan Cummings in Circle of Friends, Lonny Price in Dirty Dancing, and Emilio Estevez in St. Elmo’s Fire.) In case you haven’t noticed a trend in recent weeks, I also really, really like cheese. This week’s column is therefore a very, very satisfying mash-up of three of my favourite things: list-making, television, and all things cheese related. Here we go. I’m excited.
Top Five Cheese-Related Television Moments
At Number Five: Cheese Shop Sketch, Monty Python’s Flying Circus
Ahhh Monty Python. This sees an overly-verbose John Cleese attempting to buy some cheese from Michael Palin’s character, a “stout yeoman” who is easily the worst cheese shop owner of all time. Cleese, a rather posh and scholarly gentleman, is feeling peckish after a stint in the library, and figures some “fermented curd will do the trick.” No matter what cheese he asks for, Palin’s proprietor has nothing in stock, and his excuses range from the understandable (“Ah! It’s been on order, sir, for two weeks. Was expecting it this morning.”) to the ludicrous (“Ohhh… the cat’s eaten it.”) The music played by the oddly-placed band in the corner becomes louder and more frenetic with Cleese’s mounting frustration, and as he unsuccessfully requests a long list of increasingly obscure (and, in at least one case, fictional) cheeses, he eventually snaps and roars at the band to shut up – shortly before he shoots the owner in the head.
Customer (Cleese): Not much of a cheese shop, really, is it?
Owner (Palin): Finest in the district, Sir.
Customer: And what leads you to that conclusion?
Owner: Well… it’s so clean.
Customer: Well, it’s certainly uncontaminated by cheese.
Cleese’s pointlessly complicated use of language is hilarious, and I love that Michael Palin’s character is named Mr. Wensleydale. I absolutely adore the Monty Python lads. And if that was my local cheese shop, I’d cry.
At Number Four: The Cheese Man, Buffy The Vampire Slayer
The Cheese Man is one of Joss Whedon’s odder additions to the Buffy universe. A small, suited man with a bald head and round, thick-rimmed glasses, he appears in just two episodes, featuring solely in dream sequences. First, in “Restless,” the season four finale, he appears in the dreams of the four main characters, always displaying sliced American cheese. He proudly shows Willow the space he’s made “for the cheese slices,” which he’s carefully arranged on a table, and struts haughtily past Giles with slices of cheese draped on his head and shoulders, declaring “I wear the cheese. It does not wear me.” He warns Xander that a plate of cheese will not protect him, while for Buffy he leans into shot just to dangle cheese slices from his fingers. Much later, in season seven, the Cheese Man makes a brief reappearance in a dream shared by Andrew and Jonathan..
Despite Whedon’s insistence that the Cheese Man is “the only thing in [“Restless”] that means nothing,” many fans have taken the time to come up with some very detailed theories as to what the strange little dude could possibly represent. These include the cheese as a metaphor for Buffy’s isolation as The Chosen One, and the Cheese Man as a representation of Whedon himself admitting how cheesy BtVS actually was. My theory? I think Joss Whedon probably just really likes cheese; in fact, there are copious cheese-related references littered throughout the entire series. Good man, Joss. Another reason to love you. (Making a wise-cracking, ass-kicking teenage girl a significant part of my childhood is right up there too, as is sharing my nickname.)
At Number Three: The Velveteen Rabbit, Friends
Kathy: Um, thank you for the gift.
Chandler: Oh, uh, yeah… I just knew that sometimes when you’re writing, you… you don’t always know the exact time.
Kathy: No, I… I didn’t mean the pen. Thank you for the book.
Chandler: Uh… the book?
Kathy: The Velveteen Rabbit? I kinda had the feeling you had something to do with it.
Chandler: What do you mean?
Kathy: Well, uh, when Joey gave it to me, he said, “This is ’cause I know you like rabbits, and I know you like cheese.”
No matter how many times I see this scene, it never fails to make me laugh out loud. Friends will never get old in my books: it’s the quintessential 90s classic, and Matthew Perry’s comic timing is absolute perfection. T.V. gold. My love for The Velveteen Rabbit doesn’t hurt either.
At Number Two: Night Cheese, 30 Rock
Liz Lemon is one of my personal heroes. The concept of “night cheese” was not, if I’m honest, something new to me; I just hadn’t given my late-night fridge raids their official title. Night cheese. So simple, yet so brilliant. What is it about Tina Fey? There she is, sitting on the couch in a Snuggie, eating what appears to be an entire block of cheese (seriously, I want to go to there) while singing to it… and she’s still one of the Coolest. People. Ever. Lemon’s love of cheese, and overwhelming attachment to food in general, makes me very, very happy, and more than a little hungry.
Aaaaand At Number One: Charlie’s Dinner Date, It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia
In first place, top of the heap, it has to be Philly. Cheese actually comes up quite a lot in this programme, and always because of Charlie’s overwhelming attachment to it. Season five, episode five, “The Waitress Is Getting Married,” is freakin’ genius (like pretty much every other episode); the impending nuptials of The Waitress, long-time focus of Charlie’s creepy and unwanted affections, have led Dennis and Mac to try and find a new girl to distract him. Their efforts are thwarted at every turn by Charlie’s sheer weirdness, culminating in one of the funniest blind-date scenes of all time.
Dennis: What was that? Is that cheese? Have you been eating cheese?
Charlie: (nods nervously)
Mac: How much cheese have you eaten?
Charlie: How much cheese is too much cheese?
Dennis: Any amount of cheese, before a date, is too much cheese!
Charlie (panicked): I had a lot of cheese. I had a block of cheese…
Mac: You ate a block of cheese today?
Charlie: I was very nervous, I started eating cheese, man!
Mac (baffled): Does that calm you down?!
Dennis: Just don’t breathe in her direction, okay, whatever you do.
For the record, there is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING WRONG with eating cheese to calm your nerves. All the cool kids do it, I swear. Don’t judge me.
I still haven’t worked up the courage to try a Grilled Charlie, but someday, man. Someday.
Is there anything I missed? What are your favourite cheesy T.V. moments? Drop me a comment below.