Episode 620: Why Don’t You Put the Bloodhound in a Little Sherlock Holmes Hat?

On the Overthinking It Podcast, we celebrate Fred Willard by watching him run away with “Best in Show.”

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Peter Fenzel, Mark Lee, and Matthew Wrather pay tribute to the great Fred Willard (c1930s—2020) by overthinking and appreciating him in Best in Show, the Christopher Guest mockumentary about dogs and their people.

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2 Comments on “Episode 620: Why Don’t You Put the Bloodhound in a Little Sherlock Holmes Hat?”

  1. John C Member #

    A lot of the discussion about people acting smart or dumb and the changes to and influence of the mockumentary format remind me of the idea that one of the last basic abilities for children to develop is a “theory of mind.” That is, kids have trouble learning that people might have disjoint sets of information.

    An experiment I heard about was showing kids a short film of two people. The first person puts an object inside of a box, then leaves the room. When the first person is gone, the second person removes the object from the box and puts it behind the couch. The first person comes back for the object, at which point, the experimenter asks the kid where the first person looks. If forget what the age cut-off is, but kids are surprisingly old before they can consistently realize that the first person doesn’t know about the parts of the sequence they weren’t around for.

    I wonder if that’s part of what, for example, makes the mockumentary format so popular. It reads as more sophisticated humor, even though the jokes are usually no different in structure or content than a protagonist insisting that he’s never going to do the silly thing (dressing as a woman being surprisingly common), only to cut to the scene of the protagonist doing it. The big difference is that you need to “keep track” of who knows what information when it’s that weird failure of a Muppet Show reboot.

    Likewise, probably the most memorable gag from “The Princess Bride” (reference complete with slightly overlapping cast…) is the “battle of wits,” where Wally Shawn basically overdoses on theory of mind. Actually, a lot of the movie’s jokes hinge almost entirely on understanding who knows what, but that’s the one point where it’s the most explicit.

    You can even see some of this “theory of mind” difficulty in the stories about people (adults!) harassing fellow customers for wearing masks when they shop. Invariably, the attacker is projecting their own fears, and is embarrassed when the victim points out that they’re trying not to spread anything they might have picked up as a courtesy. I’m guessing the no-mask people weren’t fans of Fred Willard, is what I think I’m saying.


  2. Margo #

    Example of something that may not have aged well:

    If I remember correctly, someone in this film described the Jane Lynch character as looking like “A cocktail waitress on an oil rig.”

    Fuuny? Offensive? Cringey? Accurate?


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