Larry David Hijacks the News

It’s simply amazing — seven years after the last episode of “Seinfeld” aired on NBC, the show’s content is still being regurgitated in the media under the guise of “news.” A few months ago, we got the much-mocked “Man Date” article in the New York Times, in which Jennifer 8. Lee explored the shocking phenomenon that straight men do in fact go on outings together, but if things seem too romantic (a restaurant with candles and soft classical music instead of a steakhouse; a romantic comedy instead of an action flick), then sometimes they feel a little, you know, uncomfortable. Who knew? (Other than Larry David.)

This morning, the “Today Show” brought us a segment that also evokes “Seinfeld” memories and deserves a spot alongside the “Kiss Hello” episode: it’s the Man Hug! The news? Yep, you guessed it: sometimes men hug each other. And sometimes, well, sometimes they don’t.

Al Roker set out to talk with manly men — construction workers and ambulance drivers among them — about their takes on hugging. He also offered some insightful comments of his own, such as this one: “Now, the Man Hug is not an exact science.” Um, as compared to the highly scientific girl-on-girl hug? And later, the declaration aimed at those not yet “on board’ with the Man Hug: “Get used to it. Some experts say the Man Hug is here to stay.” (We’re guessing those experts aren’t scientists — or at least, not those who practice “exact science.”)

To be fair, Roker’s segment made no claim to be the latest in breaking news. And it was fairly tongue-in-cheek itself. (Next: a “Today Show” segment on tongues in cheeks?) For instance, when one Man Hugger demonstrated his greeting of choice on Roker, viewers got a long, zoomed-in shot of the two men embracing as cheesy romantic music swelled in the background.

We do understand that feel-good trend pieces like this one can be fun — who can deny the pleasure of watching two reluctant macho men cave in to feisty onlookers chanting “Hug! Hug!” from the sidewalk? And after too many unnerving stories about bombers in London or confusing updates on Plame leak developments, a simple piece on men hugging can make for a nice change of pace.

But in this case, the segment wasn’t exactly a pace-setter. Indeed, the “Man Hug” piece came on the heels of yet another update on Natalee Holloway (they’re still draining that pond …) and a health report we all hope is true: “Chocolate might just be good for you” — a development reported months ago in the New York Times.

So watching the man-hugs-man segment was sort of like taking a break from ice cream with chocolate mousse. Us, we’re still on the lookout for some steak and a steamy, buttered potato.

Samantha Henig

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Samantha Henig was a CJR Daily intern.