I haven't been to the beach in years. Not for lack of opportunity — I live 20 minutes from the south shore of Long Island and have spent most of my recent summers unemployed. It's not that I can't go, it's that I won't. Because whenever people go to the beach, something horrible happens.
And no, this isn't a shark attack thing. It's not a sunburn thing or a tidal wave thing or even for fear of the Kraken (although they are just waiting for us to drop our guard.) It is, in fact, the simple, rational fear that going to the beach will result in a traumatizing social situation. Scoff all you want (our articles have scoff-detectors now) but every single person I know who has gone to the beach has wound up involved in some kind of morbidly unpleasant public spectacle.
Okay, it might not quite help that every single person I know is a character on a television program. But you work with what you have.
It must have been written in the television handbook that the "beach episode" should be laden with emotional disaster, because every series since the 1970s has brought its cast members to the shore only to toss them into a horrid, Lord of the Flies-ian explosion of despair. Just in case you've managed to make it through your life enjoying sunlight and the company to the soundtrack of tumbling waves, here's a quick way to nullify your love of all things beach, using the most prominent tool of psychological destruction that America has at its disposal: Television.
So, no one told you life was going to be this way. Clap clap clap clap. You get stung by a jellyfish and then your best friend and future husband has to urinate on you in order to assuage the blinding pain. Clap cl—wait, what?
Yes, naïve vacationers, that’s what happens when you go to the beach. When Monica, Chandler, and the rest of their codependent harem headed out to Montauk for the Season 4 premiere, the future Cougar Townie was the victim of a bloodthirsty invertebrate. But little did she know, the sting would play second fiddle to the lifelong humiliation that comes along with having your neighbor, and the eventual father of your children, pee on your leg as a means of inexpensive painkiller. Also, Joey was there.
There are a few things that are most certainly acceptable to lie about: your weight, being distantly related to David Duchovny (who’s gonna check?) having once seen what was definitely a UFO. But you really shouldn’t lie about being a marine biologist. Because that damned beach will get you.
When George Costanza paid an innocent visit to the shores of Long Island with his new girlfriend — who just happened to be under the impression that he was a marine biologist — what should happen but a whale winding up beached and dying just off the coast. At the behest of a forming crowd, “expert” marine biologist George springs into action, walking brazenly into the hostile tide. He might have saved a whale that day, but his gallant admittance to the truth about his occupation cost him the love of the one that could have been. That damned beach will get you.
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
Granted, everywhere the main cast goes on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia breeds trouble. But their Season 6 voyage to Atlantic City brought things on to an unusual degree of chaos. Mac and Frank drifted off to sea, devoid of rum ham. Dennis and Dee got themselves involved in an assault and robbery. Charlie spent the night of his life with the girl of his dreams… only to have the entire thing turn out to be an ecstasy-induced blackout on her part. Life-threatening danger, multiple felonies, and heartbreak. That’s the beach all over.
Dude got punched in the face.
Thinking about skipping out on work, heading down to the water for some tanning and a light swim? HAVE YOU LEARNED NOTHING?
Back when The Office was a show you weren’t embarrassed to admit that you still watch, Michael Scott took his faithful band of paper suppliers down to the world-renowned beaches of Northern Pennsylvania, and forced them through a physically and mentally exhausting series of competitions to determine who might take his old job after he has been promoted to Dunder Mifflin Corporate. The horrid locale also forced timid Pam Beasley to explode into an aggressive hothead — character development, shmaracter shmevelopment, she’s just unpleasant now.
Six season about how the beach sucks. It might help you finally come to peace with your horribly misguided life choices, but still.
Do you know just how horrible the beach is? It’s the first place the New Girl cast thinks to visit when they discover that Nick Miller might be dying. The dank, morose connotations with the most dastardly geological formation are so overt that the human mind hears “Death!” and immediately jumps to “Beach!”
Nick, Jess, Schmidt, CeCe and… Winston? Was Winston there? Oh, what does it matter. The gang embarks on a nighttime excursion to the shore so that Nick can attack the beehive of remorse that has been his 30 years of life by diving headfirst into the freezing waters of Lake Michigan. This ploy of redemption is shot down immediately by the inherent malaise of the sand-laden hell and its saltwater brethren. No amount of chut-è-ney can sate the emotional starvation burned deep into your soul’s stomach after a nighttime beach trip.
The Brady Bunch
The Brady clan’s three-part trip to Hawaii is a necessary mention on this list of despotic oceanfront outings. Young Bobby happens upon a cursed relic that involves his entire family in a survey of tragedy, involving a near-death experience for Greg, and, quite frankly, nothing else that I actually remember. It’s The Brady Bunch. How much of it can you be expected to actually retain without being considered legally brain damaged?
Although we never found out exactly what happened to the study group when they headed to the beach that fateful St. Patrick's Day, we know that it ended in a popped raft, a friendship-threatening fight, and some very toxic lovemaking between two psychologically damaged peers.
The captain of all horrible television beach excursions. The Cunninghams and perpetual houseguest Arthur Fonzerelli find themselves involved in a television antic so bad, that the entire phenomenon of TV shows being ruined was actually named for it. And where does this particular event take place? If you can’t figure that out by now, then you should really write an angry letter to your synapses. Draped in a leather jacket and propped aboard a high-powered jetski, the Fonz dares to risk his own life and the reputation of a once stellar ABC sitcom to change history forever, shocking audiences worldwide with the episode when Happy Days jumped the shark. Littorally.
Follow Michael Arbeiter on Twitter @MichaelArbeiter.
[Image Credit: NBC]