Today, I explain what the idiot ball is in terms of TV writing.
This is a feature called Pop Culture References Dictionary, where I define various terms that I often use in discussions about pop culture that I think are interesting enough to give them their own post.
One of Hank Azaria’s earliest roles was as the token slimy wannabe ladies man best friend (every sitcom seemingly had one back in the day) on Herman’s Head, a FOX sitcom starring William Ragsdale as a research assistant at a major magazine whose inner thoughts are depicted via actors portraying the various parts of his psyche (so, for instance, a guy playing his Intellect would argue with the guy playing Herman’s base desires). Azaria’s future Simpsons co-star, Yeardley Smith, was also on the series (they actually eventually became a couple on the show).
In any event, Azaria coined the term “idiot ball” while working on the show, as he would often ask the writers, “Who’s carrying the idiot ball this week?” What he meant is “Who is acting like an idiot this week to further the plot?”
This is a common trend in TV writing where characters will act out of character (or just plain stupid) in order to move a plot forward. The best TV shows find a way to move plots forward with the characters not acting like idiots.
If you have any suggestions for future entries into the Pop Culture References Dictionary, drop me a line at email@example.com