In an age of ubiquitous YouTube clips and insatiable social networkers, we've become accustomed to regular intrusions into our lives by popular-culture memes. Cat videos, Korean pop and re-subtitled excerpts of the film Downfall about the last days of Hitler have all "gone viral" and made their brief mark.
But contrary to internet punditry, this is not a new phenomenon. The death over the weekend of actor Larry Hagman was a reminder of the once-mighty power of television. Hagman was the undisputed star of Dallas, an American soap opera about the Texas oil industry which became a global hit in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and had a modest revival this year.
The drama somehow hit the zeitgeist wherever it was screened, which was just about everywhere. The stories of its influence are legion, even if some of them are apocryphal. Turkey's parliament went into recess so members could watch the Who Shot Jr? episode, a cliffhanger in which an unseen assailant tried to kill Hagman's character; and in 1982, the nomadic Tuareg people reportedly delayed their annual migration across the Sahara for 10 days to watch a Dallas season finale.
We all enjoy escapism and a sense of being part of something bigger. So today, we tip our Stetsons to Larry Hagman for making that possible.