From ‘South Park’ to ‘Knives Out,’ Pop Culture Is Steeped With Sondhei…


Last year, it seemed like everyone was doing Sondheim somehow, in “Marriage Story,” in “Knives Out,” in “Joker,” on “The Morning Show,” on “The Politician.” It was quite a little run for Sondheim fans, but those are far from the only instances — his work is omnipresent television and movies.

Sondheim cameos on “The Simpsons,” sure, and there’s an episode of “South Park” that imagines him in a “bro-down.” Every “Desperate Housewives” episode title is a Sondheim lyric, and Andy does “Sweeney Todd” on “The Office.” On “BoJack Horseman,” a Stephen King musical opens next to a Sondheim revival, but don’t worry: “‘Misery’ loves ‘Company.’”

He comes up on “Reno 911!” and “Grey’s Anatomy,” on “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “30 Rock” and “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.” “The Sopranos.” “Gilmore Girls.” “Taxi.” “Billions.” The Ryan Murphy oeuvre.

Grace sings, badly, from the Sondheim songbook on “Will & Grace,” and Penny’s absentee father on “Happy Endings” charms her with a story about a Sondheim encounter. Billy and Julie on “Difficult People” meet at a “strutting with Sondheim” dance class and later are sentenced to community service for protesting “Bazinga in the Park With George,” a production of “Sunday in the Park With George” starring the cast of “The Big Bang Theory.”

As his books demonstrate, Sondheim has plenty to say about his own thoughts and processes, which is why his appearance on “Inside the Actors Studio” is such a potent episode. (Performances from Liz Callaway and Jim Walton don’t hurt.)

When it comes time to educate viewers on “No One Is Alone,” Sondheim squirms on the bench. “I have read criticisms and heard criticisms of the idea of this song by people who say it’s nonsense, we are all alone,” he says. “But the point is, that’s not the kind of alone this song is about …. Of course we are all in a sense profoundly alone, but not when we are connected with each other. And if you were with a child in a terrible situation, you would not say, ‘Well, let’s face it, we are all terribly alone.’ Not at all.”

To see Sondheim flex in a genuine classroom setting is one reason to be grateful for YouTube. He taught a master class at the Guildhall School in London in 1984, and excerpts from it are online.


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