Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?
I wonder if there is a long con afoot in the Curious George universe. I no longer have any idea who is watching whom, who is the subject and who is the observer. To keep what remains of my sanity, I must believe that someone is in charge, that there is some sort of grand experiment being conducted, and that a Watcher in some sort of Foucaultian Panopticon is gleefully f*cking with his prisoners.
Is this God?
Am I God? Am I the Watcher? The nature of television seems to dictate that this is so, that I myself am the all-powerful, He Who Can End Misery With the Holy Clicker.
But I cannot end it. As a dog returneth to his vomit, so a fool returneth to his folly. A god would be able to stay away, and I am therefore a toad. I will therefore be a toad. Stoned like Stephen, still hanging onto ideology, so soaked with misguided belief that it would take a Crane to get it out. I am the prisoner, not the watcher.
So is there a simpler explanation? Is there an in-universe puppeteer who controls the destinies of all involved, so that my delusions of control and omnipotence are akin to someone reading about an experiment in a scientific journal and irrationally declaring his own hand in the results? If I am not around to hear Curious George chortle and shriek, does he make a sound?
Consider Yorbo. Yorbo is a robot, an ephemeral robot that exists for one episode only. He is dubbed George’s favorite toy by both the Man in the Yellow Hat (MYH) and George himself. If Yorbo has not achieved AI self-awareness, he is very close—Yorbo can understand George’s grunts and chitters as if they were a language, he follows complex commands, and he coherently answers questions. In my own universe, such a robot would be worth many thousands of dollars and exist either in the robotics lab of an American university or the lobby of a Tokyo car dealership.
Curious George takes Yorbo to the beach. When a storm rolls in, George and MYH rush into the house and leave Yorbo in the sand. When George suggests they need to get Yorbo, MYH says it is raining too hard. In fact, Yorbo the sentient robot is not even worth searching for until the storm is over, and by that time he has either been buried in the sand or washed out to sea.
MYH and George go out to look for Yorbo. MYH and George rake up all the seaweed and then just randomly dig holes. A passing beachcomber offers the use of her metal detector, but it soon runs out of batteries. What to do?
Deus ex machina. The Watcher, the Prime Experimenter, appears on MYH’s laptop screen. It is Professor Wiseman. She knows all. Wiseman has been watching. She knows there was a storm. She knows all about Yorbo, bewails his disappearance, and then instructs George on how to build his own metal detector by taping a calculator to an AM radio (I Googled this. It is not bullshit). Wiseman knows what drawer the calculator and tape are in; she knows what shelf upon which the radio can be found.
Wiseman is the panopticon. Her name is neither random nor ironic.
With the help of this gadget, Yorbo is unearthed. He is no worse for the wear, which is a stick in the eye for MYH, who had suggested earlier that water would rust a metal robot. MYH a damn fool. Yorbo jumps with glee at being found and hugs George; together, monkey and robot disappear over a sand dune, playing and living joyfully.
No one ever sees or discusses Yorbo again. Yorbo is Richie Cunningham’s older brother. Yorbo existed for George to love and lose, so that Wiseman might teach a lesson about electronics and engineering.
How do I know? Because friendships and robots and bit players are as impermanent as storms, but George does not forget a lesson. By the very next episode, Curious George is building his own machines.
-Professor Zac Showers