Frank Mulligan: TV or not TV ...

Frank Mulligan

It all started so innocently.

It was just a reference to a “Fawlty Towers” episode. The man was completing a project at work, and a colleague interrupted him to ask if the job had been done.

In effect, the colleague was stopping the man from completing the task to inquire if the task had been completed.

This is just like that “Fawlty Towers” episode, the man thought, where Basil Fawlty is trying to stage a fire drill at the hotel but his wife keeps calling him on the phone and interrupting his progress to inquire how he’s progressing.

At one point, Basil cries out in frustration, “I’m doing it, you stupid woman! I’m doing it!”

At least that’s how the man remembered it. He didn’t share the observation with his colleague, who might not have appreciated being compared to the shrewish Sybil Fawlty.

The thought was like a siren’s call, though.

The man decided to look up “Fawlty Towers” on YouTube. To his delight, he found the episode, called “The Germans,” and many more from the classic ’70s British sitcom starring John Cleese.

It was like being a fat kid in a confectionery store, and the man gorged himself. Later, much later, the man convinced himself it was just a one-time thing.

“That’s that,” he thought to himself. “I’m done.”

But he wasn’t. The next day he was back on “the British Riviera” with Basil, Sybil, Manuel and Polly. The shows were so rich they could be viewed multiple times and still please enormously. “The Builders,” “Gourmet Night,” “The Kipper and the Corpse,” “The Wedding Party,” “Waldorf Salad,” they were all so alluring.

The man felt slightly ashamed at the end of this latest indulgence. He resolved to steel himself against further lapses of will.

But the siren kept on singing. He wondered one day if “The YoungOnes,” the hysterically funny ’80s British sitcom, was on YouTube.

It was. The man went on a “YoungOnes” binge, even a bender. The seeds were sown, and the man proved as arable as Kentucky bottomland.

He began to sink deeper and deeper into a morass of vintage sitcoms, available mere mouse clicks away, 24/7.

The days disappeared into a blur of episodes from The Odd Couple,” “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” “Taxi” and “Barney Miller.”

The man began to dress anachronistically and make topical references to Bobby Riggs, Latka Gravis and Apollo 17. Family, friends and co-workers grew increasingly concerned.

But, as in all these sorts of events, the subject of concern must admit to having a problem. And, thus, the man’s moment of clarity came when he noticed his reflection by the computer monitor’s light in an adjacent windowpane.

He saw himself downloading an episode of “Hogan’s Heroes.” He recoiled in horror –– “Hogan’s Heroes”!

It was time to seek treatment.

Frank Mulligan is an editor in GateHouse Media’s Plymouth, Mass., office, and can be reached at