Television has the blessing and curse of short production schedules, so it’s possible to land a joke about something happening in popular culture, such as Lady Gaga, Twilight, or Twitter hash-tags.
But even if it’s a good joke, it’s not always a good idea.
Looking back at Cheers, Parks and Rec co-creator Michael Schur argues that one of the keys to keeping a show from feeling dated is avoiding topicality — within limits:
We have a couple rules on the show. If possible we never show the year; like, if there’s a banner for some event we never show “Harvest Festival 201″ or something. Because we feel like visually that would be bad; we want people ideally to be watching these shows long into the future and you don’t want to date yourself.
But on my show we are purporting that these are real people doing real things so you can’t help it. One of the essences of Tom Haverford is he loves hip-hop and pop culture and the Fast and the Furious movies and it would be limiting to not have him reference those things. [...] A lot of comedy is about people getting references and recognizing and being able to relate to something.
I love Parks and Rec, but I’ve found myself wondering how well Tom Haverford (Aziz Ansari) will hold up in reruns.
Perhaps in his favor: Even now I don’t get a lot of his references. It’s like Niles and Frasier arguing about sherry or Proust. The comedy comes from the intensity of expression, not what they’re actually saying.