The next time people carp at you about the state of public education, remind them that there was a time in the early 1990s when one in every three television characters could not read.
And now, you have a party game
The "I can't read" episode is such a tropey trope that my Hazy Pop Culture Memories (trademark chimes!) of people in leather jackets shouting have all bled together. And honestly, no matter the show, it was pretty much the exact same fabulous line reading: "Because I DON'T KNOW HOW TO READ, all right?"
I'm sure that if you were walking around the Valley in 1992, this line could be heard echoing out of acting classes and by huddled lines of auditionees, clutching their sides and wondering how to be "method" about illiteracy while reading. I think Leonardo DiCaprio used the exact same cadence when he admitted he DIDN'T HAVE A HOME TO GO HOME TO on "Growing Pains."
Here are the few that I can remember...
- 3J on "Family Matters" (You forgot about Threej? Your memories are all that are keeping him alive!!!!! Wikipedia him now before he disappears.)
- that VERY OLD episode of "Saved By The Bell" (the Miss Bliss SBTB), where new kid Deke "How Is My Name a Name?" Simmons reveals he can't read because his parents taught him "how not to." OH DEKE.
- that angry handyman on "Kate and Allie." Hey, single ladies? Maybe don't let the angry illiterate handyman into your house. This just doesn't feel right.
- The episode of "The Cosby Show" where Sammy Davis Jr. (!!!!) guested. In my head, he was their grandfather, but Internet research reveals he was just some random patient of Cliff's. Racist, Julieanne.
- The beautifully titled "Why Jordan Can't Read" was the only episode of my "My So Called Life" that I have ever seen. I don't know why, I just couldn't (please) relate (don't) to (kill) Angela (me).
At least they could all watch TELEVSION, right? Television! It's the new Knowing How to Read.
(Let me know if I'm leaving any big ones out, or if this is a phenomenon that occurs on your "iCarlys" and your "Phinneas and Ferbs.")